LONG LOST FRIEND
This book is partly derived from a work published by a Gypsy, and partly from secret writings, and collected with much pain and trouble, from all parts of the world.
The land was fertile and cheap and blood-soaked. They were warned by the locals not to build on top of old Shawnee burial mounds but their bricks were strong and red and the house was built by a hard drinking, hard loving family of German immigrants in a small town in what would one day become Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Built two months after the Revolution ended, after Cornwallis surrendered to Washington at Yorktown and the newly crowned American aristocracy were sipping home brewed beer and setting their thoughts to pen and parchment a few miles east in Philadelphia.
Rudolf and Elsie Schmidt lived peacefully with the Shawnee spirits in their new red brick home, as did their children after them and their children's children after them and so forth until 1858 when Irwin and Ingrid Schmidt opened their doors in secret to aid the underground railroad as part of the most dangerous and infamous route from bondage to freedom, zigzaging from Atlanta all the way up the east coast, with a quick one-hop across the Mason-Dixon then straight up into Canada through New York.
The stars were quiet and the moon was almost full but not quite. Two hand-dipped candles were burning deep on the Schmidt's windowsill when three dirty men appeared on their front porch with loaded shot guns and unkempt mustaches. The couple was upstairs. Naked. Exchanging oral sex while the other read passages from the King James Bible. Ingrid went first, letting Irwin suck and lick and chew and bite on her clit while she read from the book of Revelations. Then they switched and Irwin came deep in the back of her throat sometime during the second chapter of Leviticus and neither of them heard the noise downstairs until Ingrid, still pale and chubby and undressed, grabbed a lantern and headed down the hallway towards the water basin to wash Satan from her teeth and tongue.
She gargled and spit and descended the staircase still soft and naked. Irwin stayed behind, lecturing himself on the finer points of Mosaic Law while putting his clothes back on, socks first. He was a thin man, but strong. He met Ingrid after beating her brother very severely in a fist fight at the Cross Keys Tavern on account of unpaid debts. The debts being Irwin's. Ingrid moved into the strong red brick house that very night, where she's stayed, devoted.
Even with the lantern it was hard to see. She finally found the front door after several minutes of fumbling. The candles were still burning in the windowsill. She walked around the side of the house and opened the cellar door calling out quietly for the men she kept hidden in the dark. When she got no answer she tiptoed down the stairs to meet them. She found them in the same spot she left them two hours prior, cowering in the corner behind stacked boxes of canning jars, starved and shirtless beneath the hand-sewn quilt Irwin's mother made them six months before she died of Cholera.
"Come on out, boys. Let's get you fed before you go."
The two men, both runaway slaves, one large and one small, came out from behind the boxes and stood in front of Ingrid while she ran her hands over the open cuts and old scars on their chests and shoulders. Tears fell from her cheeks as she stood close and pressed her tits against the larger man's chest and licked her finger and used the tip to trace a fresh wound from his abdomen down below his waist line. She grabbed his dick and squeezed until it grew in her palm then she cried harder and let it go. She took a step back and slapped both men across the face and looked around the cellar for something to cover herself, which she found in the form of an old dress packed away in a pile of other old dresses left by an Eva Schmidt some years ago.
"The gentleman will be here shortly with your food."
When she heard footsteps coming from the top of the stairs she took the lantern and met them near the bottom.
"Well, I'll be a sonofabitch. What do we have here, fellas?" All three of them laughed. One of them spit on the floor. "Looks like we found us a nigger nest."
The shortest and dirtiest of the three men snatched Ingrid by the back of her hair and kissed her on the cheek before clutching her face and shoving it away.
"I thought you and Mr. Schmidt were respectable folks. But now I see different."
"Do we have to do this every goddam time, Jacob? Just give me the money and get out of here before Irwin catches you and makes a fuss."
"Money?" He looked the runaways up and down. "I ain't paying you for these scrawny sons of bitches."
"I can't help the size of these boys before they get here. Now pay up and get your rotten asses out of here."
"Give me a kiss and we'll square up and I'll be gone."
"One quick one if you promise to get the hell out of here."
"What's your hurry?" He looked over at the larger of the two slaves. "Oh, I get it. You already had one of these bulls take you for a ride." The men laughed. "Am I right?"
She kissed him and bit his bottom lip when she pulled away. "Well somebody has to and I know it won't be your limp little pecker."
"Woman, you talk like that to a man and ---"
The door to the cellar opened up and Irwin called down after Ingrid.
"Everything alright down there?"
"Go on back in the house. I'm almost done getting these boys fed."
Irwin stood standing with the door open. No sounds or words or breathing came from anywhere until he walked down the stairs with a hunting rifle in one hand and a kerosene lamp in the other and set them both on the basement floor, then picked his gun back up, aimed it steady on Jacob's throat, and took two steps towards all three men, never looking away.
"You gonna kill your own brother over this whore and a couple of coons?"
"Yes I am."
It was nearing sundown on the second day of battle when three Confederate soldiers, under the fierce command of General Lee, abandoned the general and Little Round Top and left quietly through the trees of Gettysburg bound for anywhere but northern Virginia. Without a compass, their sense of direction was misguided by the hollowness of their stomachs, causing them to settle prematurely on a small town bed & breakfast, owned by the widow Schmidt, in a small town northeast of Gettysburg.
Ingrid turned her strong red brick house into the Schmidt Family Bed & Breakfast a year and a half after Irwin took a hunting knife deep in his abdomen defending her honor on the basement floor. Locals and out-of-towners alike came around quite frequently as the house, by then, was well known as the only place for miles where loose women, gambling, and a home cooked meal all came complimentary with a one night stay. Ingrid worked the rooms herself for the first year until she earned enough to hire two Spanish runaways, Alba and Adora, both heavy and hair-lipped and underage. Both without parents or inhibitions or their left ears which they kept hidden beneath unusually long black hair. Stories of the two sisters transformed from local town legends to oft told tales spread all across the state and later the entire nation, eventually reaching the wide open western frontier and the California gold miners who stopped at the Schmidt house on their way back east before returning to their wives and children. Some of the men never did make it home.
The Confederates arrived shortly after 3am. Well-worn, king-sized beds and oversized plates of beef and buttered noodles awaited them in their room. Alba was there as well, freshly bathed and scented, lying naked on a deer skin rug waiting to be shared. Adora was busy with Esteban, a Swiss banker, while Ingrid spent the night on all fours, entertaining Pedro, a house regular and Mexican bullfighter; a gambler notorious for losing much more than he won. He drank two bottles of rot gut Tequila, dropped hand after hand in blackjack, then paid in solid silver to take his frustrations out properly on a white woman, the way his father taught him.
"Look here boys, we got us a one-eared little deaf girl."
"Should we split her down the middle? Each of us get our own piece?"
"Let's slice her open like a mule."
Their knives were sharp and shiny with hand-carved handles made of hickory and East Indian elephant tusks and they held them too tightly as their knuckles turned white and bloodless while they unbuckled their belts and trousers and had their way with her one after another. Afterwards, Ingrid brought them three more plates of beef and buttered noodles and they ate in silence as Alba fell asleep at their feet.
"What do you say, boys? Should we show that little Spanish girl another good time?"
"No. Let that pony rest for the night. She'll be faster in the morning."
The soldiers slept soundly. Alba was gone when they finally woke the following afternoon and none of them cared enough to find her. They dressed without bathing and went downstairs to find food before heading further north. Pedro and Esteban were slow sipping a thick Russian stout, discussing the growing conflict at the Mexican-American border and Austria's influence in the longevity of the Thirty Years War, when the Confederates saw them at the table and joined them for beer and poker and local cigars. The two men grew quiet when the soldiers sat down. They ate their sausage and sauerkraut in silence until Alba and Adora cleared the plates and handed them a fresh deck of cards which the Confederates demanded.
"I'm not putting money on the table with for this no good goddam cholo to steal it."
"Hold your tongue senor or I'll cut it right out of your mouth."
"Oh, will you now, you son of a bitch?"
Pedro pulled out a Bowie Knife from underneath the table. The cross guard was gold and the blade was dull and Esteban sat quietly drinking his stout while one of the soldiers shot the bullfighter in the chest with a nickel-plated service pistol and nobody left the table or looked twice at Pedro, half slouched and bleeding and dead in his chair, before dealing the cards and beginning their game. The banker folded more hands then he played and the game ended when Esteban declared he was out of money, and one of the soldiers, not the one who shot Pedro, shot the banker with a similar nickel-plated service pistol and determined that, yes, he was indeed out of money. They emptied Pedro's pockets of all his silver and left both men lifeless at the card table where Ingrid found them an hour later. Ingrid knelt next to Pedro and wept as the soldiers gathered the last of their things and headed north into upstate New York where they would be captured a year later and executed for treason.
The Schmidt house was silent as night fell slowly on the evening of the Spring equinox. Ingrid was cold and unconscious in her bed, nearing full term as Alba and Adora went to find help to deliver the baby. Dr. Harrison, a frequent patron of the Schmidt house, was sitting alone at the kitchen table, leafing through the Intelligencer Journal, waiting for his wife to bring him his dinner when the girls arrived tired and barefoot on his doorstep. Mrs. Harrison, well aware of her husband's exploits, answered the door only to inform the girls that the good doctor doesn't treat whores or Spaniards and neither would any God-fearing doctor in this town or any other. Alba, also pregnant and visibly showing, held her arms around her stomach in great pain and begged for kindness and Christian mercy, not for her, but for Ingrid.
"Heavenly Father doesn't show mercy to heathens, lest they repent and change their ways."
Dr. Harrison peeked out the front window at the two girls then sipped his luke-warm coffee and looked away before their eyes met. Alba took a dozen or so steps off the front porch and fell to her knees beneath a mulberry tree. Adora cried for help as the stars looked on and the song sparrows sang in mimicry. The doctor stood from his chair and walked to the closet for his medical bag.
"Where are you going?"
"She's dying. What am I to do?"
"Nothing. You will do nothing."
The doctor did nothing.
Helga Feuer, a locally renowned midwife and mystic healer, shunned by the Amish and Mennonite communities for reviving a heifer a full day after an aged farmer had legally declared her dead, heard the screams and delivered Alba's baby, an eight pound Confederate bastard child, beneath the mulberry tree on the Harrisons' front lawn. The baby was blue and breathless and Alba was bleeding heavily as Helga pressed her lips to the newborn's lips then softly inhaled and exhaled until the baby breathed on his own. She drew one last breathe from the infant then leaned in close between Alba's legs and exhaled into her. Pison, Gihon, Hedekiel, Phea. Helga spit into her hands, rubbed them together, then stuck them back inside the girl. Pison, Gihon, Hedekiel, Phea. The bleeding stopped.
Alba hated her son immediately. She hated him in the womb before he fought his way out of her, brutal and needy. She hated him in her arms as she nudged him toward her nipple to nurse, clumsy and greedy. She took him off early. Starved him. Handed him to Adora as the three women headed to the Schmidt house to check on Ingrid who was still cold and unconscious on her bed when they arrived. Adora handed the baby back to her sister and went downstairs to boil an egg. When the egg was hot but still soft she poked three holes in it and set it outside on top of an ant hill until it was thoroughly covered with insects, then she brought it back inside, still hot and soft and cracked it open and dropped it in the same water she used to boil it. She simmered and stirred for three more minutes then brought the pot upstairs, all done as Helga instructed.
"Open the girl's mouth."
Helga poured as Adora squeezed Ingrid's cheeks together to keep them open. The water ran out of her mouth, down her neck and chest, and soaked into the pillow and blanket beneath her. Helga took the egg and cracked it into her palms and rubbed it on top of Ingrid's belly, roughly massaging it into the skin. She pulled a twig from her cloak and made the sign of the cross on top of Ingrid's stomach again and again until the skin broke and blood rose up to meet the runny yolk and the twig gouged deeper and deeper. Adora poured the rest of the water into Ingrid's mouth until she spit it back up and coughed and screamed and passed out again as Helga dug further into her stomach until she pierced through, slicing into the womb and removing the still born baby. Adora wept then ran out of the bedroom and vomited in the hallway. Helga had never resurrected a human and knew better than to try.
"Give me the baby."
"He's gone, my child. An angel."
Alba handed her newborn bastard child over to Helga who in turn tucked him tightly into Ingrid.
Both women stood calmly as the moon and stars gave way to the sun and the beauty of child birth crumbled all around them. Ingrid woke the next morning to a clumsy and brutal baby boy feeding from her breast.
Ingrid hung on cold and unconscious through the passing of two full moons but no longer. Wolfgang was feeding when her heart stopped beating. Alba let him chew and suck until Ingrid's dead nipples went dry and she was forced to resume her maternal duties. Wolfgang took naturally to his new mother's tit. The brutality and discomfort she sensed during their first attempt had vanished with the passing of Ingrid, but the hatred she felt towards him did not. She stopped washing or holding or feeding him until starvation was imminent. Then she let him suck. Then she withdrew.
Fifteen years this went on.
"I'm not your mother, Wolfgang, stop calling me that. Your mother died a selfish, pitiful whore."
"Is that why you hate me? Because my mother has wronged you?"
"Wronged me? That bitch could never wrong me. No, boy. I hate you for being born."
"I'm sorry, mother."
Alba slapped him hard across the mouth, swelling his bottom lip, drawing blood from the inside out. Wolfgang stood tall. Taller than Alba or Adora, taller than his Confederate father who died at the end of a Union noose, taller than the roof of the basement where he slept next to Chita, bedless and blanketless on the cold concrete floor, where Irwin Schmidt was knifed to death and the Shawnee spirits still lie in waiting. Tall enough to frighten his mother when he stepped closer than he'd ever stepped. Spoke softer than he'd ever spoke. His words and blood and spit leaving his lips and finding hers.
"I love you, mother."
She slapped him harder in the same spot and both lips started to bleed. He took a final step closer, forcing her body hard against the wall. He brushed away her long black hair and pressed his lips to her missing ear and let his blood run down the side of her face, into her mouth, until she stopped resisting.
"I love you, mother."
"I'm not your mother, you brute bastard. Let me go before I kill you in your sleep."
Adora started down the hallway when she heard the unlit lantern fall from the end table and shatter and lose itself in the cracks of the wooden floorboards. She stepped on a small shard of glass and pierced her foot deep enough to bleed then rubbed it down with tobacco and elder leaf salve she made last summer by frying them in butter and canning it for such occasions. Wolfgang stepped away from Alba when he heard the footsteps and further commotion and they both left the room to look after Adora's foot which by then had mostly healed.
"What's wrong, Wolfie?"
"Don't pity that boy, you imbecile. Clean that blood from the floor before it sets."
"I'm making supper. Unlock Chita and send her up."
"You heard her, boy. Go fetch that flea-bitten half-wit."
The basement floor flooded two weeks prior. Chita and Wolfgang slept side by side on a small bed built from wooden crates and covered with straw and a well-worn horse blanket. All bartered from a crippled Swiss farmer for a full hour of anal sex with Adora while Wolfgang and the farmer's two equally crippled sons looked on. The top of the crates were high enough off the floor to keep them from getting wet but the dampness kept Chita's nose and lungs and throat full of sickness which made her useless to the women upstairs. She was a half-sister sent to Alba and Adora at their request a few years after Ingrid's death.
Chita was six when she showed up ten years prior on the front porch, hungry and barefoot and too young to revive the brothel like the women had hoped. By then the Schmidt Family Bed & Breakfast was closed to the sex trade except the few times when goods or services were exchanged for an hour with Adora, the more gracious and understanding of the two sisters. Cards and whiskey and cigars; however, were always on the table.
Wolfgang was careful not to wake her before descending the stairs. He knew there'd be trouble if he didn't return with Chita behind him but her breathing was thick and heavy when he leaned in close to kiss her cheek. He climbed the stairs alone and locked the door then returned to bed and wiped the sick from her face before climbing in beside her and falling asleep with his body pressed softly into hers, absorbing her sweat and mucus. Her heat. Her. He'd loved her from the moment he first saw her, sitting crossed-legged on the table top, her long black hair cut clean to the scalp to rid her of lice. She was stripped and scrubbed fiercely and doused with talcum powder then sent to the basement undressed to clean the floor and organize the shelves until exhaustion allowed her to sleep soundly.
The knocking was faint and went unheard until Alba's anger caused it to get louder.
“I know you hear me down there. Wake your little whore and get up here.”
Wolfgang kissed Chita on her neck and forehead before getting dressed and unlocking the door for Alba who came quickly downstairs with a worn leather horsewhip she intended to use. The basement was dark and damp and Alba lost her footing and fell head first into a crate of sewing supplies and sprained her wrist when she tried to get up, but fell backwards instead, because she wouldn't let go of the horsewhip and because her wrists couldn't hold her weight which now exceeded her sister's by forty pounds. Wolfgang offered his hand which she refused.
“I told you to make her clean up your mess in the kitchen.”
“She's sick, mother. You know that. Let me take her upstairs into one of the bedrooms.”
The whip cracked clean and crisp against his neck.
“I'm not telling you again to stop calling me that. Now let's go upstairs and bandage you up.”
Still in the dark, he found his way back upstairs, feeling his way along the shelves and walls, stepping on the sharp sewing supplies Alba managed to avoid. She waited for Wolfgang to exit then locked the door behind him and headed back down the stairs, passed the sewing supplies, to the side of the bed where Chita lay and lowered the covers before raising the girl's dress around her neck and whipping her bare flesh, once, twice, more, until the skin above her ribs and breasts and thighs were swollen and sliced clean through. The girl never moved. Never woke. Alba lowered Chita's dress and pressed it hard against the lacerations, letting the blood soak into the fabric. She wrapped the horsewhip hard around her throat and pulled tight until the girl turned blue and stopped breathing, then felt her way back to the top of the staircase, unlocked the door, and walked to the kitchen where she found Wolfgang and Adora sweeping up the glass from the lantern. She knelt down beside Wolfgang and kissed him on top of his head before wiping the girl's blood across his lips.
“It's ok now. You can call me mother.”
Ten years had passed since Chita's death. The strong red bricks of the Schmidt Family Bed & Breakfast were now deteriorating. Alba's forty excess pounds turned to a hundred and forty excess pounds making her unable to walk without waddling or flapping the fat from her arms and jowls and ass that everyone from Gettysburg to the California coast once coveted. Laughing and taunting from the townsfolk and another sixty pounds in less than six months caused her to stay locked in her bedroom where only Adora came calling to wash her and feed her and change her makeshift bedpan which was once used to store pig food by the crippled Swiss farmer but was given to Adora in exchange for services rendered to the crippled farmer's now fully-grown once crippled son. Services which Adora had already been providing him for some time; for at least nine months in fact, as she was weeks away birthing a crippled Swiss baby.
One night, two years prior, under cover of a quarter moon, Wolfgang followed the Harris Nickel Plate Circus out of town after falling in love with Ella the Camel Girl, thusly named because her knees bent backwards causing her to walk on all fours. Ella was thirteen when she met Wolfgang who was tall and gruff and waiting in line for over an hour to catch a glimpse of her from behind a glass, beneath a poorly made cotton canvas top. She was down on all fours, dressed proper in an ocean blue Swiss Batiste and fine lace dress, walking barefoot beside an underfed and flea infested dromedary camel. Her hair was long and dark and her smile was beautiful. He waited in line over and over again until well after midnight when the lights were off and the show was over and strong men with strange markings and scars gouged by weapons he didn't recognize told him it was time to go.
"Please, I have money. Let me see her."
The strong men laughed.
"Looks like we got another one. I'll never know why you boys want to get ahold of that mut in there. She looks like a goddam greyhound."
"Maybe they get it in their heads they'll get to ride her."
More laughing. Wolfgang threw a punch at the man closest to him who caught his fist and threw him to the ground amidst even more laughter.
"How about we make you a deal? You clean up all this shit and we'll let you pet her. Fair?"
Most of the shit belonged to Gypsy, an enormous Asian elephant who would kill three men in her career, including her handler, Jimmy the Bum, Rita the Monkey Midget, George the Elephant Man, and her trainer, Whiskey Red. Gypsy trampled Red to death in broad daylight in Valdosta, Georgia much later on in 1902. He was drunk and tumbled off of Gypsy, down into the street where he was crushed into blood and bone. Gypsy was sent into the swamp and executed by gun shot while onlookers waited nervously as her forty-seven pound heart stopped beating, then they dismembered her and took home body parts as souvenirs.
Wolfgang spent most of the night shoveling Gypsy's shit into a large red wheelbarrow and dumping it onto the back of a wood framed flatbed trailer. The sun rose before Wolfgang was finished and the next day's circus acts began almost immediately so he repeated all of his actions from the day before. A week passed like this. Then a month. A year. Fifty-seven cities, mostly Midwestern or Southern, but every now and then he made it back East. In a year's time he was only able to admire Ella from afar, always with the heavy glass window separating them. He tried several times to sneak into her quarters but was always met by two of the strong men and promptly sent away. Until one cold night, in a small Mormon town just east of Buffalo, he discovered that once a week for twenty minutes she went unescorted to a small tent that was set up the same day Ella would arrive and was taken down the following morning.
Wolfgang changed his routine without being noticed. He rearranged his work schedule so he would be cleaning up around Ella's mystery tent at the same time she would be coming and going. The first four weeks he carefully surveyed the area, taking note of who came and went. What they were doing. Why. He never looked inside until the fifth week when he was sure no one would notice. And they didn't. He opened the tent flap and stood silent, then closed it and vomited into his red wheelbarrow and walked away from the circus, from Ella and Gypsy and the two strongmen, back towards the Schmidt House.