Each day here at Pastor Writers Camp we are given writing prompts. Then the next day we are told to cut half out. Then the next day to make a poem from the scraps that are left. It’s been a terrific week with some great people. For those who are going to ask me what I did at “camp” this week, the following posts will be some of those short pieces. Some are shorter than others!
This piece grew from a prompt “Write about something you told no one.”
I was ready to lay my head on the cutting block when I knocked on Dr. Krodel’s door
that evening. Krodel’s Luther class was required of all deaconess students. He spoke
with in authoritarian tones with a thick German accent, clearly derisive of these
deaconess wannabees who composed most of his students. Innocents nodded and
smiled, thinking that was a term of endearment that just flew over their heads. After five
years of German, I was not innocent..
I dropped my course load to 16 credits for that term. The stakes were high. I was naive
to think I could change his mind about deaconesses: sweet girls, kind hearts, not very bright. Pop quizzes and weekly tests buzzed past us, looking for tender exposed flesh. I studied as best as I knew how, believing it would be enough. The major paper was 50% of our grade, and I had twelve weeks to immerse myself in my juicy assigned topic:: Luther’s Understanding of Scripture as the Word of God. There was always one more article, one more book, one more idea to explore. Writing the paper should have been a cinch.
It was not.
I stared at the typewriter keys. I sifted notebooks and note cards, piled in an order that made no sense to me now. I started. I stopped. I poured more coffee. I got sick. Another night, more of the same. There was more snot than thought iin my head. Four hours before class and the deadline, I went to bed and sobbed into my pillow.
Now I stood outside his office door, not only having missed the deadline but class as well.
“Enter.” His voice was flat, matter of fact. He said nothing as I took the seat across his desk.
I readied my neck for the blade.
“You don’t need any excuses, so I’m not going to offer any. I’m sick, I’ve been awake all night, and I’m still not finished with my paper. If you still want it, I will finish it by Friday. If not, tell me now and I’ll take the consequence.”
I do not know where I found the sass.
He turned away to look at the snow falling outside the window. He took a deep draw on his pipe, tamped it, and drew in again.
He did not turn back as he asked,
“Tell me, how old are you?”
I felt like 9 or 10, but I said 17.
Another deep draw on his pipe, slowly exhaled.
“You are young to be in my class”.
I waited for him to suggest maybe I was too young, maybe as immature as I felt waiting for him to lecture me.
“I was young, like you.”
His eyes remained turned out the window, unfocused on the blowing snow.
“I was 19 and a theology student in Germany. We were sent home anticipating an air raid”.
Anther puff. Another exhaled breath. Another tamp tamp tamp.
“I didn’t make it home before the planes came. A bomb fell on a house in front of me. I heard screams. I ran into the house. There was a young woman. A young pregnant woman…very badly injured.”
Now he turned his chair to face me.
“Do you know why I make you do these things, write papers, read books, make you memorize all those verses of Dear Christians One and All Rejoice,?”
I think I flinched. I did not do very well on that quiz.
“I held that woman in my arms as she died. What can you possibly say that is true at a time like that? Do you have the words there”–he pointed to his hear and to his forehead –” to speak the Gospel to that woman?”
He didn’t want an answer. He turned away again.
“This paper you did not turn in, do you think it will tell me the Gospel that woman needed to hear?”
I didn’t know what to say, and he didn’t seem to expect anything.
“If you think it can, finish it and turn it in next Monday”.
He turned to shuffle papers on his desk, still not looking at me.
“Don’t go telling the others about this or they will think Krodel is going soft.
I was waved on. I did not tell the others. Anyone else either. He accepted my paper on Monday.
Tears mingled with snow and froze on my eyelashes as I walked back to Deaconess Hall.
I got well.