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Chris Manno

Writing and Teaching 

Sanctuary Moon Sample

 

Sanctuary Moon sample

Tessa Leonard lands in 1938 Salzburg, her childhood home that has been subtly, dangerously changed by the threat of imminent Nazi takeover:

            She felt the old city coursing up through her bones like sap in an evergreen, rising from her feet that resumed the second nature of careful steps over damp, rounded cobblestone. And the smells! Baking here; pungent, vegetable-soup-like smells from the Augustiner Brewery drifting on the cool, damp fall breeze there; the Metzgerei next door with savory scents of sausages and cold cuts ready for a sandwich to go; the sweetness of confections and robust coffee from a Konditerei on every corner.

She wrapped herself in the coziness of aged but immaculately kept shop fronts and swinging, ornate hanging signs poked out from narrow lanes tall-shouldered by buildings ever so slightly askew from the settling of ages. There were the show windows of fashion and furniture and things you’d want to have, and as many displayd things you’d want to eat. She almost felt as if she should hold an adult’s hand, such was the resurrection of a child’s instinct coupled with the sensations of her homeland nearly a century removed.

            But relentless adulthood inevitably trumped long ago childhood: Tessa wore the Red Cross armband and carried the identification badge around her neck, papers—authentic, laser-printed forgeries—in her valise, trolling her hometown as an Auslander, a foreigner. Add to that, the growing mistrust of a professional historian: was she seeing this through the veils of nostalgia, from what she was told or read that this past time was like—or from the reality of the day?

            Regardless, the paradox remained, casting doubt on the historical certainty with which she’d stepped off the Chronus. Because it was, but at the same time, was not the Salzburg of her youth, or maybe it was just the adult eye reborn in a childhood memory. On a familiar stage set with theatrical baroque architectural masterpieces there was a dangerous electricity, subtle but palpable, a static spark in the ageless city, an elusive current in the people who glanced and nodded, in the buildings she passed and the overall Alt Stadt essence: people’s very eyes were freighted with a certain knowing, a subtext she couldn’t quite decipher but which felt dangerous. It wasn’t just the Red Cross identity she wore and the Auslander pose she struck. There was a latent, communal “knowing” she couldn’t quite attain that felt almost conspiratorial, in a sinister way.

            That sense swelled and fleshed itself out in subtle cues—a handwritten sign with an obscenity on a door; “Juda - verrecke,” Jew - perish, or worse painted on a wall. Here and there a storefront empty, which wasn’t unthinkable as businesses moved out or in. But a shattered pane, or boarded up front, or evidence of a fire at some point, all whispered a silent warning. Scary, wrongful voltage in the air, in the glances of strangers as if seeking the return look that confirmed a shared secret, an ominous promise to be kept. And somehow, this “new” city of old, in the time of Anschluss and war, knew her not as one of their own, child of their time, though she most certainly was. Rumpled hills, winding streets, ornate structures, all overseen by the brooding fortress on the mountain: they no longer owned her, nor belonged to her. Tessa shivered as she walked.

            She cut through the square, past the life-sized chess set, in the elongated shadow of the towering, ornate glockenspiel and the majestic baroque Dom. She’d be early for a late dinner, or at least for the time they’d set. She strode purposefully, mindful of the risk of a turned ankle on slick cobblestone in what passed for women’s dress shoes in 1938.

            Once inside Peterskeller, she chose a table off to the side. People sat in groups at larger tables, as was the essence of Gemutlichkeit: introduce yourself, sit down, drink and break bread. But she preferred a discreet table near the far corner, which is where she’d told him she’d be. She ordered a beer and waited. A moment later, there he was, striding across the cavernous room. --Sanctuary Moon Copyright 2016 Chris Manno, All Rights Reserved

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