Dog Years

Dog Years by Günter Grass

Book: Dog Years by Günter Grass Read Free Book Online
Authors: Günter Grass
twelve headless nuns and the twelve knights with their heads and helmets under their arms, who in four coaches -- two drawn by white, two drawn by black horses -- drove through Tiegenhof over resounding cobbles, stopped outside a deserted inn, and twelve and twelve went in: Music broke loose. Woodwinds brasses plucked strings. Tongues fluttered and voices twanged expertly. Sinful songs with sinful refrains from male throats -- the heads and helmets under the sharply bent arms of the knights -- alternated with the watery litanies of pious women. Then it was the turn of the headless nuns. From heads held out in hands a part song poured forth, obscene words to an obscene tune, and there was dancing and stamping and squealing and reeling. And in between, a humble shuffling procession cast headless shadows twelve and twelve through the windows of the inn and out on the paving stones, until once again leching and retching, roaring and stamping loosened the mortar and the dowels of the house. Finally toward morning, just before cockcrow, the four coaches with black horses and white horses drove up without coachmen. And twelve clanking knights, giving off clouds of rust, veils billowing on top, left the inn at Tiegenhof with maggot-pale nuns' faces. And twelve nuns, wearing knights' helmets with closed visors over their habits, left the bin. Into the four coaches, white horses black horses, they mounted six and six and six and six, but not mixed -- they had already exchanged heads -- and rode through the cowed village, and again the cobblestones resounded. To this day, said Grandma Matern, before spinning the story out some more, directing the coaches to other places and making them draw up outside chapels and castles -- they say that to this day pious hymns and blasphemous prayers can be heard farting from the fireplace of that weird inn, where nobody is willing to live.
    Thereupon the two friends would gladly have gone to Tiegenhof. But though they started out a number of 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

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