Dog Years

Dog Years by Günter Grass & Ralph Manheim

Book: Dog Years by Günter Grass & Ralph Manheim Read Free Book Online
Authors: Günter Grass & Ralph Manheim
times, they never got any farther than Steegen or at the farthest Ladekopp. Only in the following winter, which for a builder of scarecrows was naturally bound to be the quiet, truly creative season, did Eduard Amsel find occasion to take the measurements of those headless people: and that was how he came to build his first mechanical scarecrows, an undertaking that used up an appreciable part of the fortune in Matern’s leather pouch.

    This thaw is drilling a hole in Brauxel’s head. The water is dripping on the zinc ledge outside his window. Since there are windowless rooms available in the administration building, Brauksel could easily avoid this therapy; but Brauchsel stays put and welcomes the hole in his head: celluloid, celluloid—if you’ve got to be a doll, you may as well be a doll with little holes in your dry celluloid forehead. For Brauxel once lived through a thaw and underwent a transformation beneath the water dripping from a dwindling snow man; but before that, many many thaws ago, the Vistula flowed under a thick sheet of ice traversed by horse-drawn sleighs. The young people of the nearby fishing villages tried their hand at sailing on curved skates known as Schlaifjen. Two by two—a bedsheet nailed to roofing laths would fill with wind and send them whipping over the ice. Every mouth steamed. Snow was in the way and had to be shoveled. Behind the dunes, barren and fertile land was topped with the same snow. Snow on both dikes. The snow on the beach blended into the snow on the ice sheet that covered the rimless sea and its fish. Under a crooked snow cap, for the snow was falling from the east, the Matern windmill stood splay-footed on its round white hummock amid white fields distinguishable only by their unyielding fences, and milled. Napoleon’s poplars sugar-coated. A Sunday painter had covered the scrub pines with white sizing fresh from the tube. When the snow turned gray, the mill was stopped for the day and turned out of the wind. Miller and miller’s man went home. The lopsided miller stepped in the miller’s man’s footsteps. Senta the black dog, nervous since her puppies had been sold, was following trails of her own and biting into the snow. Across from the mill, on a fence that they had previously kicked clear of snow with the heels of their boots, sat Walter Matern and Eduard Amsel mufflered and mittened.
    For a while they were silent straight ahead. Then they conversed in obscure technical terms. They talked about mills with runners and chasers, Dutch “smock” mills, without jack or tailpole but with three sets of runners and an extra set of burrs. They talked about vanes and sails and stabilizers which adjust themselves to the wind velocity. There were worm drives and rollers and oak levers and rods. There were relationships between drum and brake. Only children sing unwittingly: The mill turns slow, the mill turns faster. Amsel and Walter Matern did not sing, but knew why and when a mill: The mill turns slow and the mill turns faster when the brake puts slight or heavy pressure on the wheel shaft. Even when snow was falling, the mill turned evenly amid the fitful snow squalls, provided the wind kept up a good twenty-five feet a second. Nothing looks quite like a mill turning in a snowfall; not even a fire engine called upon to extinguish a burning water tower in the rain.
    But when the mill was stopped for the day and the sails stood silhouetted in the falling snow, it turned out—but only because Amsel screwed up his eyes—that the mill was not yet slated for a rest. Silently the snow, now gray now white now black, drove across from the great dune. The poplars on the highway floated. In Lührmann’s taproom light was burning egg-yellow. No train ringing on the bend. The wind grew biting. Bushes whimpered. Amsel glowed. His friend dozed. Amsel saw something. His friend saw nothing. Amsel’s little fingers rubbed each other in his mittens, slipped out,

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