Martha was a minx! Everybody knew it –Hermann did, too!
Hermann‘s siblings were more than happy that he had finally agreed to take it. None of them would have wanted the farm: Franz preferred to work as a carpenter in the neighbouring village of W, and Klara and Maria had married into other, better-run farms in the neighbourhood. For those farmers, the two were really lucky strikes. How many women still wanted to be farmer’s wives these days?
Neither did Martha!
Still, she married Hermann. After all, she was no longer the best of catches and already had an illegitimate son who lived with an aunt.
Hermann was as proud as a peacock when Martha declared she wanted him and no other. Never in his life would he have thought such a thing possible…
Well, there was a farm he came with, wasn’t there?
Martha’s father had been a roofer and her mother had always seen to it that something nourishing was ready for him to eat when he came home from a hard day’s work in the evening. Regardless, he had – due to the tiniest bit of clumsiness – fallen off one of the steep church roofs one morning.
From then on, Martha’s mother had to pull through for herself and her daughter – who grew into an ever more attractive and well-rounded figure – by cleaning and cooking for others.
Martha swore to herself that she was going to marry a man who had more than her father. One who was able to fulfill her wishes. She did not want to clean away other people’s dirt like her mother had been forced to.
Perhaps Martha looked so appealing to Hermann because she neither looked like a farmer, nor ever wanted to be one?
Her skin was like satin and light and there were none of the countrified frost spots in her face that would glow when she danced.
She knew how to make herself look attractive and could just as well have worked in the city as a salesperson, or in a bar.
Over his constant assurance that he could not care less about her, Hermann – regardless of the warnings given by his siblings and few friends – probably missed the crucial moment. It came as a surprise to everyone when, at harvest time of all times, he found himself one day standing in front of the altar with Martha!
From day one, she made it clear to her Herman – for whom this did not really come as a surprise – that she was never going to play farmer’s wife for him.
She had other plans and quickly saw to it that her name was entered in the land charge register, so she could at long last get the credit from the bank at W. that she needed for opening the first bar in W!
Her advisor at the bank had shown her during very personal discussions what a goldmine the bar one of his friends was just developing was going to be. There was an opening for her to join if she approached the affair with him and the right kind of power, instead of always letting herself be dissuaded by the constantly weary Herrmann. With the farm as guarantee, everything was possible!
But not for very long. Then the bar dream was finished!
But Martha had planned ahead and kept some reserves for hard times.
And Dario, whom she had met at the bar, showed her what could be done with the money in Southern Spain.
Since Hermann‘s shabby farm had never rendered the sort of profit he had claimed it would, it only served him right if he was now left stranded with all the accumulated debt.
She said her time was too precious for her, she had no use for a loser like Hermann. As always, he kept quiet and she disappeared from the farm driving an old Mercedes. It had been a long time since the farm had last seen pigs or cows, and even the hey and straw had been sold a long time ago …
Deep inside, Hermann even admitted that Martha was right. Even if her leaving him – cut him in two!
Without further thought, Hermann worked even harder, ruined his hip and his right knee (which had been hurting all along) and continued in silence. …
Once in a while, his sister Klara came, did some laundry, cleaned the kitchen and twice each year the windows in the bedroom and living room.…
And then – after twenty-three years – Martha suddenly stood in this very same sitting room one evening.…
Dried out like her already dead mother!
Hermann lay on the sofa in front of the TV set, gave her a cursory glance, took a long swig from a beer bottle that sat at a convenient distance on the floor next to the sofa and stared at the screen …
“Do you not remember me?“
“I know you well enough!“
“And you have nothing to say?“
“May I sit down…?“
“Get yourself a bottle of beer!“
“Thank you, but thank you no!“
“All of a sudden…?“
“Aren’t you going to ask why?“
“I guess you are going to tell me!“
“I – I am suffering from cancer …!“
“Is that also my fault?“
“No, but I do not know where to go?“
“Because I am so ashamed – for everything I did!“
“Is that so?…“!
“Yes, I am really ashamed …“
“Who are you ashamed to face?“
“Your siblings and the others“
“And not me?“
“Well, it is the truth, Hermann.“
“You do not look too good. Are you hungry …?“
“No – I cannot eat normal food any more“
“So where is the problem?“
“The intestines …“
“Hm – I understand…“
“I have no strength left, Hermann“
“Stupid. I mean I am really talking the truth…“
“So am I…“
“Are you sending me away, Hermann?“
“No, make the bed in our bedchamber. You know where to find everything. If you want me to, I can help you …?“
“I can manage. You finish your beer, Hermann“
When Martha had finished making her half of the long-abandoned marriage bed, she lay down in it. From that day, she never got up again.
And when, even on Christmas Eve, she kept moaning and giving short yells of pain, he stroked her with his callous hands – until she fell totally silent…
(Translated by EG)
Zum Bild: Martina Roth, Acryl on Canvas, 70 x90 cm
And on Thursday, December, 15th, 2011, there will, after all, be yet another episode with “Carl and Gerlinde”…