Catherine Gillard is one of five contenders for the 2016 City of Fremantle T.A.G. Hungerford Award to be announced at Fremantle Arts Centre on Wednesday 2 November. Here is an extract from her manuscript The Incidental Nazi.
I dropped Georg’s letter into the water. The ink dissolved off the page and tinged the water with a blue hue, unlocking the key at last. Georg was writing for the censors, not me. Now I understood completely.
Without knocking, my mother walked in. She loomed over me in her green silk dressing gown, hair falling about her face in disarray and her eye makeup smudged like bruises.
‘What?’ I protested, picking up the sodden paper and pasting it across my breasts.
Henny snatched Georg’s letter, screwed it up and threw it against the wall. ‘I forbid you to write to him. While you are living in my house, you will do as I say.’
I crossed my arms over my breasts. I suspected she had read the letter before it found its way to me, though I had taken it from the letterbox. She might even have dictated the words to him, forcing him to write them in a bargain for his release.
‘When was your last period?’ she asked.
I blinked a few times at the unexpected question, wondering if Henny knew the answer, because I didn’t.
Georg had admitted that in order to prolong our pleasure, he would postpone his climax by playing the Serenade number 13 in G minor, or Eine Kleine Nachtmusik Romance: Adante. This mental discipline meant that he could also ‘make love safely’. The night before his arrest, however, was one of the occasions the symphony in his head had not reached Mozart’s intended conclusion.
Henny drew her lips into a hard thin line. ‘You stupid little fool!’
I gazed down at my breasts, which seemed to have increased in size, and slid a hand across my belly, which had thickened at the waist.
Henny stomped from the room only to return a short time later, holding a bottle of vodka and two glasses. She poured two measures and drank one down in a few mouthfuls, the cords of her throat pulling with the effort. She handed me the other glass and turned on the hot water tap.
‘What are you doing, Mutter? It’s hot enough!’
‘Don’t be so naïve, Adrienne!’
Confused and still at least partially programmed to obey, I tentatively sipped at the vodka. It was a liquor that needed to either be knocked back straight like medicine or mixed with something to make it palatable. I placed my glass on the edge of the bath.
Her mouth crumpled in distaste. ‘Drink it down, pretend it’s on prescription!’
‘Yow! That’s hot!’ Was she trying to boil me alive? I stood up, my body red from the scalding water.
‘Sit down!’ she commanded. After a moment’s hesitation, I obeyed again. The steam from the bath had plastered Henny’s hair to her head and two large scallops of sweat under her armpits stained her green robe. ‘It’s not that I’m concerned about a blot on the family escutcheon, Liebschen! Lord knows I’ve never shied away from a little scandal or two. I’m doing this for your sake. You don’t want your life ruined by a child at your age. A child the father does not want!’
I picked up my glass and threw it in her direction, just missing her shoulder. It shattered against the bathroom wall, spraying glass and vodka. My mother leant down and slapped me hard.