Tomahawk: Chapter 9: Progress

It heavily rained the next day. I awoke in the morning with a headache and I was sure I was running a temperature. Mama heard me sniffle and came right over to inspect her patient. She took nursing very seriously and , in her way, she was very good at it, although she was a little to energetic about it for my taste. I was confined to bed and fed bitter Lindenblossom tea and honey. I hated the musty taste of that tea. But she sat by the side of my bed and did not take her eyes off me until I swallowed every last drop of that repulsive green liquid . Then she applied lukewarm compresses to my neck. I think Mama’s theory was that unaffected parts must be treated in order to make sure they remained neutral because so far I had not complained of sore throat.

I endured het treatment methods stoically like a good Spartan boy. I might even have enjoyed them a little and, by and large, the cold was not an unpleasant interlude for me . Papa’s revelation about an earlier departure date had stunned me. We needed to get back to Tomahawk and finish our work. There was precious little time. Outside, great sheets of rain shattered themselves against the red tile of the low apartment building across the street. From time to time the wind moaned angrily in the stove pipe. I snuggled deeper under my feather-stuffed cover and listened to the fierce rain breaking against the window panes. Tomorrow we can start to work on Tomahawk again We could walk along the stone revetments so we would not leave tracks. Tad would bring the pumps and the bicycle gears down. Two or three trips should do it, if he uses his father’s big rucksack. Then I closed my eyes and clenched my jaws and tried to send Tad telepathic messages. Its all in the way that you squeeze your jaw muscles. I felt sure I got through to Tad.

Next to my bed was Hangenbauer’s Practical Physics of Diving. I had tried very hard to read it, but it was too difficult for me. I did not have the science or the math to fully understand the principals discussed. There were long words whose meanings I could only guess at. But somehow I had to find out more about diving before we got Tomahawk underway. In our friendship, I am the worrier. The one who sweats the details. Tad, on the other hand, is the imaginative one. At times, his indestructible , boundless confidence was very hard to take. He once explained to me in all seriousness that God has bestowed special abilities on him and that success was always his if he willed it hard enough. Everything has gone alright for Tad in the past , therefore everything would go alright in the future. He said he was a vessel chartered by fate. Honestly, he did! in addition he had a strong aversion to textbooks or any other printed works that smacked of school and that had kept Tad from thinking seriously about how to make Tomahawk work as a submarine.

I lay in bed and leafed idly through the crowded algebra – riddled pages of Hangenbauer. It was miraculous that my plans, and the plumbing of Tomahawk that we had already built, made as much sense to me as they did. We had been guided only by several cross-sectional drawings of a submarine that had been built during the American War of Independence by Bunshell. But I thought I knew pretty clearly what would happen when we let water through these pieces of copper tubing into the dive tanks and I knew what we had to do to pump the water out again. What really worried me was numbers. Weight , volume, displacement! I knew these were important but I did not know how to deal with them., The formulas I found were completely beyond my reach. This could be very serious and I wished that Tad would worry with me about it . may be the boat had too much volume and was too light . the two hot water tanks were probably too small and Tomahawk might not go down far enough when the tanks were flooded. Because of this I had designed two ballast boxes that we could fill with stones and attach to the outside of Tomahawk. But then these boxes might be too heavy and we would never come up again. So I though of a way to release them from the inside of the boat by twisting some threaded steel rods that were seated in the ballast boxes. Gustl, under the influence of the last of the Kuemmel had cut and threaded eight of these rods last week.

At 7:30 AM on November 13th, Tad arrived at our apartment. I could have crawled under the bed when I heard Tad ask Mama whether I was up yet and ready for our midwinter outing to the Kahlenberg.

Mama came into the room with Tad , shaking her head as she looked out od the window. A light drizzle was still falling on the city. The cobblestoned streets, still not well lighted , despite the lifting of the blackout , looked dark and cold. Mama’s doubts were clearly apparent in her voice.

“Today , you are planning to go on an outing?” she asked. “Even if Hugi were well, I wouldn’t let him go into the woods on a nasty day like this .” I am sure that Mama would have  said something stronger but the fact that Tad was a gentle inhibited her. She liked Tad. She thought of him to be a warm boy , although she had complained about his alarmingly extravagant language. But she had told me several times that it was not a good idea for him and Tad to be so close. I couldn’t decide whether that was because she saw our continued friendship to be dangerous , our whether she sensed that Tad was the instigator of some secret undertaking ,some boyish foolishness that could get us into trouble. Tad came to my bedside . I grinned when I saw the rucksack on his back.

“You must have gotten the thought waves I sent you yesterday,” I said as soon as Mama had left the room.

“Naturally” replied Tad, “Let’s have a little palaver.”

The pumps looked entirely too potent and military for me to have anything to do with them in the streets of Vienna. We agreed it would be a lot safer if Tad carried them down to the inundation area by himself. If a Jew were found in possession of all that strange hardware there could be serious trouble.

“If I am stopped and questioned said Tad ,”I will say that I am trying to build a submarine.” That, he thought, would go over well even with the SS. What could be more patriotic for an Aryan boy than to build a submarine for himself so that he could emulate the exploits of Ritterkreuzwinner Commander Prien , the hero of Scapa Flow.

Despite my joy in seeing my telephatic mesaage promptly answered , I was pretty miserable. I felt weak and hot. I had the shivers and my nose was running, as Tad said, like a waterfall. It clearly was not a good idea for me to make the long trek to the fisherman’s hut. And so , to Mama’s relief , Tad left by himself for the great midwinter Kahlenberg outing at ten o’ clock.  By seven o’clock that evening, he stopped by the apartment again to report that the pumps and the other gear were safely at the hut. The news had immense therapeutic value. I whistled aloud and asked for plain tea with sugar , and , privately , I resolved to go down to the river the next morning. I am sure Mama wondered what Tad whispered into my ear that brought on such remarkable improvements in my health.

Even strong resolutions go astray. I did not get to the inundation are the next day. . The delay was not due to my cold but rather all three of us Flossels being summoned to the Jewish Community Center for processing . A Jewish doctor gave all the people who were salted for the transport a thorough physical examination with an SS officer present even for the women. Each family was interviewed by two dignified Jewish functionaries assisted by a scribe who wrote detailed protocols. What I liked best was that I was given an intelligence test. My only regret was that the psychologist , a tall, blue-eyed woman,  would not even give me  a hint of my score. She became very mysterious when I asked her the purpose of the test. Papa was very about all this because he saw this carrying-on as a sign hat the plans for the transport to Poland were going forward as scheduled. He was clearly ready to go. Now he began to worry that something about us Flossels may have been unsatisfactory on the physical examination or the interview and that might cause us to be taken off the transport.  Tad , on the other hand, tried to convince me that the intelligence test meant that they were planning to send me back to school as soon as I arrived in Poland.

It had turned very cold when we finally got down to the hut again and the ground was covered by a frozen crust. I was very pleased. At least there would be no footprints to draw attention to the willow grove that now, without its leave s, barely concealed our hut from the dirt path that paralleled the river.

The pumps worked well. Tad broke trough the thin clear ice that had formed at the edge of the river and dropped the end of the garden hose into the water. We set the pumps in reverse and began pedalling to suck water into the dive tanks. Fist with surprise and then with alarm, we watched as the boat groaned deeper into its roller cradle.

“Not a shrews on our part,” said I , ever the engineer. “First, the weight of the water might rip the tanks off the sides of the boat. Second, if these pumps don’t work in blowing out the tanks , the water inside will freeze by evening and crack the seams of the tanks wide open. Don’t you remember Professor Rosenkranz’s demonstration when we froze the filled milk bottle and it broke?

Dark prophecy! When we began to pedal again, the pumps offered no resistance. No water came out of the tanks. Tad frantically checked for leaks, rapped the valves and the pumps with the handle of his screwdriver, and then held his thumbs in his fists in the ancient Viennese appeal for good luck. I kept repeating the blow out procedure over and over again. Nothing! I was ready to bawl but then I suddenly remembered something.

Like an ass I had forgotten to close the front valves. The pumps were pushing out air there instead of forcing out the water. With a sigh of relief I got up and closed the valve on the right pump cylinder and Tad promptly followed my example on the other side. Instantly the pumps resisted. We stood on the bicycle pedals. With an obscene squish, water spurted out of the exit ports.

“Stand by for surfacing” ordered Commander Sagerer, “prepare to man the 7.5-centimetre cannon.”

It took heavy pedalling. The pumps strained and squeaked. Soon both the tanks were empty. I tapped the sides of the tanks and opened the drain valves . Empty for sure!

“Fabulous” panted Tad, leaning exhausted against the side of the boat, “It’s doing just what you said .We built ourselves a genuine submarine.”

“Yea,” said I, ”it dives and surfaces like a yo-yo inside a dry fisherman’s hut. Submarines unfortunately have to work in real wet water without drowning their crew.” Tad looked at me , shook his head , and did a very curious thing.

“Hugi, my friend,” he said , grabbing my shoulders, “what am I going to do with you? You are much too young to be such a sour ball.” And then leaned over and kissed me on my sweaty cheek.

About 34orion

Winston Churchill once said that if you were not a liberal when you were young you had no heart, and if you were not a conservative when you were older then you had no brain. I know I have both so what does that make me?
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