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240 51 The days become gray, cold, and damp. The glow from the flickering fire in the stove filters through the little gaps of the cooking rings, throwing dancing darts of light on the kitchen ceiling. The water in the kettle is softly humming. In the cellar, the jars are full and the potatoes are stored. Vegetables in the stoneware pots are covered with a cloth, a plate of wood, and a heavy stone. Carrots are bedded in sand, and the coal sludge glistens below the cellar window; winter can come! Maria sits at the window watching the gray world sink into dusk. In Mrs. Woopen’s garden across the road, black, bare branches stand stiffly. Lights go on in the houses. Now and then, someone walks along the street. Maria cannot recognize who it is. She doesn’t switch the light on yet. She likes sitting quietly at the window on evenings like this. Every so often, she glances at the door to see if someone comes in. She does not always feel the draft when the door opens. When that happens, the visitor knocks on the table, stamps on the floor, switches the light on, or suddenly stands in front of her in the dim room like a black shadow. At first she is startled, but then she immediately welcomes the visitor. This evening, nobody comes. Maria places her hands on her rounded belly. She can feel her child moving. She has so much to think about. She remembers lunchtime that day. After having finished his meal, Wilhelm pushed his plate to the middle of the table and played the piano on the table top. They had seen in the movies how that is done. He pounded out wild chords on imaginary keys, made his fingers fly furiously up and down in passages and runs, threw his hands up in the air, and crashed them down on the keys again. The upper part of his body swayed to and fro, and his hair fell over his forehead. At the end of this powerful musical performance, he rose to his feet with a smile and bowed low before ­ Maria, who was applauding .Then he took a step back in order to conduct. He fixed his eyes sternly Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 240 4/26/2017 12:17:47 PM The Stories They Told Me 241 on the great orchestra, rapped his baton on the stand, raised his hand for the upbeat, and began to conduct the unknown music, softly and smoothly. He swayed to the rhythm.His hands brought in the individual instruments, checked the volume here, and drew out the sound there. Ever mightier, his arms swayed and his whole body shook as he turned and twisted with the rhythm. His hands coaxed and rejected. Wilhelm acted out every detail he had seen as a child, when he watched the choir conductor from the gallery in the church. His facial expressions went through the whole scale of emotions: sorrow, ecstasy, joy, tenderness, passion. He cocked his ear as if listening to the very softest tones. Then, with fire in his eyes, he drove the orchestra into a powerful, sweeping, magnificent finale. With dramatic dignity, as if exhausted,Wilhelm tossed back his hair and bowed to all sides. Maria had watched this performance in amazement and laughter, admiring Wilhelm’s magnificent authoritative gesture when he wiped his brow and neck with the paint-plastered, turpentine-laced handkerchief. Was he not just like a great conductor? When Wilhelm sat at the table again, he told Maria that he would like his son to be famous, celebrated by all the people, a shining star. Everybody would be in awe, and the papers would write What? Parents are deaf?! How proud that would make the two of them! Maria shook her head and laughed. She replied,“If a son, then painter like you, to help you!” A son, a partner at work? Wilhelm can see that—that would be nice. But wouldn’t it be much better to have a daughter? A daughter can be dressed up so prettily. He would buy her the finest dresses from the best shops in Aachen. He would go for walks with her and say,“My daughter!” Perhaps she will be able to sing beautifully! All the people in the whole world would listen to their daughter singing. Wilhelm was so excited, he stood up again and mimed a singer singing her heart out...


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MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
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