Maria hopped back into bed from her trip to the loo at seven thirty on Monday morning. David saw the huge smile on her face and nodded down. "Was it clean?"
Maria wrapped her arms around him and nodded, as tears rolled down her cheeks, the lump in her throat making it impossible to speak. He held her tightly and rocked. "Let's not jump all the way to a conclusion. We know it's now more likely, but you heard what Edith said — deep emotions. You've been hoping for this as much as I have, and your emotions may have had an effect."
She nodded and swallowed, trying to loosen her throat. Then she nodded again and let out a croaking sound before burying her face into his neck and sighing deeply.
David stroked the back of her head and rocked with her. "I'll stay a while longer, I can think of no need for me in Sonnenhang. The two sergeants have everything humming along smoothly. I'll make a telephone call a bit later to make sure all is well and tell them I'm delayed."
Maria squeezed him tighter and hummed some sounds, then seeing she could again use her vocal cords, she said, "My first lecture isn't until eleven — Anatomy. I can easily skip it; I've made nothing but perfect grades on the tests. She wiggled her body up and kissed his lips. "Let's futter. Just lie here and fuck."
"Let me go pee first, so we don't have to pause along the way."
At ten twenty, David finished his telephone call and joined Maria at the staff table in the kitchen. She looked up from her coffee. "I often eat in here before my morning class. It's easier for them than having to clean the dining room again. The omelettes should be here soon," she said as she poured his coffee.
David sat at the table across from her. "As I had hoped, I caught them at coffee break. Sergeant Perrier reports the tunnelling is progressing without a hitch. Georg has the men practising their pruning on the upper terraces under the guidance of your mother. Neither could see any reason for me to return today."
"So you'll stay again tonight? I'd love that. My emotions seem all over the place."
"I'll think further about it as the day progresses. I'd love to, but I have a feeling I'm shirking my responsibility."
"You've two strong leaders there, from what you've told me. You should let them lead. They've been doing it longer than you have, they're both at least my mother's age."
"You're right — Speaking of your mother, has she written anything to you about her feelings toward Georg?"
"No, why would she?" Maria tilted her head. "He's certainly a fine-looking man. You've seen something?"
"From the beginning. They spend a lot of time together. Subtly, nothing overt. I've lately been wondering if they visit each other at night. They're next door to each other; he's in Greta's former room, and they both seem so relaxed and contented in the morning."
"Oh, my! I'm delighted for her. I must write and ask. I do hope for Mama's sake Georg hasn't been circumcised." Maria's eyes lit up. "I've not told you. I've been lecturing at the Medical School. They loved my paper and asked me to present it to the medical students, the future doctors and those taking postdoctoral training. I've done four presentations now, and there are three more scheduled. The photos project superbly with the epidiascope."
"So you're showing my appendage to the world?" He chuckled. "Cropped like that, the photos are simply anatomy illustrations."
"Most have been appreciative and complimentary, but a few have been very critical, admonishing me, telling me women have no right to delve into such things..." She paused as their omelettes were served, smiling up at the chef. "These look wonderful, as usual. Thank you."
After the chef had left, she continued, "I simply tell them that the penis is a necessary part of continuing the species. If men eagerly share their penises with women, why then cannot women share their objective observations of penises with men?" She giggled. "That usually stops them."
"You love this, don't you? Anatomy, physiology, sexuality. Your eyes always sparkle when you talk of it."
"I cannot see why anyone would not be interested. It's who we are, how we work, what makes us work, what drives us. The drive to procreate is so strong. Religions teach us to deny it, to suppress it. Some like Judaism and Islam go so far as to mutilate every newborn penis to deaden it, to suppress pleasure."
She shook her head and smiled. "You've got me going again on this. I've learned so much researching it. Did you know that in the United States, there's a huge movement among the medical community to circumcise all male infants to prevent their future masturbation?"
"That's news to me. Seems very distorted thinking."
"The United States is now the largest non-religious circumciser on the planet and it's growing exponentially. They're now mutilating more than half of their newborn boys."
"I wasn't aware of that. So it's not just Jews who mutilate penises. The Muslims and the USains also do it."
"There is a lot of information on this in the University's Medical Library. A lot of it is truly sickening, the distorted thinking behind the supposedly learned articles in prestigious medical journals. Many blame the foreskin for all manner of illness, disease and disorder. Much of this comes from the United States."
"They certainly distort a lot. We've discussed that before."
"Their big momentum with circumcision seems to have started with a Doctor Kellogg in the US Midwest in the 1880s. He seemed obsessed with stopping boys from masturbating. Circumcision was his major thrust, but he also wrote of burying the penis and stitching the emptied skin with silver wire. He recommended against using any form of anaesthetic with any of these procedures, saying the attendant pain would be a lesson to the boy. There's even an article he wrote that referred to the benefits of using pure carbolic acid on clitorises to stop young girls from masturbating. Fuck!... Oops!... Sorry, my emotions." She gave him a sheepish look.
"Surely this isn't real. Surely this must be a spoof or a farce."
"Sadly, it is real. I've found dozens of articles and research reports published in medical journals — the Lancet, the American Medical Association Journal and many of the other prestigious ones."
"Wow! Seems unbelievable. It appears you've spent a lot of time doing research."
"I've had a lot of time with you being away." She pouted, then looked down at her half-finished omelette. "I should finish this, I may be eating for two." She blew out a big breath. "Oh, God! I hope I am."
David put a hand on hers and gently squeezed. "I've not seen your emotions like this before. Normally when you reach this part of your cycle, you're much more sombre. Eat up, you both need it."
Maria burst into tears and tried to speak, but only a croak came out. She slowly nodded her head and mouthed a silent I must be, as David rose from his chair and knelt beside her.
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In the early months of the First World War, a young Canadian soldier uses quick thinking and ingenuity to evade capture after being wounded fighting in Flanders. While escaping through Germany to the Swiss border, he becomes intimately entwined with...