We're back with Jozef in the Austro-Hungarian hussars, but right now he's striving not against enemy fire but family secrets and a love affair which may not be going as he'd like.
I was sick last week, and that made it impossible to pull the kind of consistent late nights that seem to be essential to getting work done. The novel now weights in at 216k words. I'm consistently running a bit long right now. Wrapping up Jozef will take two more installments totaling around 10k. Then we go back to Natalie, which should bring the novel to nearly 240k, right there. The final three shorter chapters will bring that total to 255-260. And at the rate I'm going, my best shot is to be done by the end of January.
However, I have lots of time off coming. Expect this chapter done before the new year, and hopefully some of Natalie as well. I hope you enjoy it.
Veszprém, Austria-Hungary. December 5th, 1914. Uncle Henrik poured brandy into two glasses and handed one of them to Jozef.
“It’s good to have you here again, my boy. And for a whole week. I trust the leave wasn’t too hard to come by? We were starting to think you didn’t care for us anymore. It’s been nearly a month.”
“No difficulty. Rittmeister Koell sends his compliments to you.”
In truth, the Rittmeister had been all too willing to let him go on a week long pass. In the middle of November, as the army scraped for men to fill the ranks in the winter counter-attack in Galicia, Oberstleutnant Zingler had at last been gratified in his ambitions and received orders to take half the regiment to the front as replacements for active duty regiments badly mauled in the autumn’s fighting. The squadrons had been reformed based on age and fitness so that three, consisting of the most battle-ready men could move out. Two of the cadets had received their commissions and left with the replacement squadrons. Three others had received orders to join various other units. One was laid up in the barracks with a broken pelvis, the result of a bad fall while riding. And that left Jozef, the sole cadet in a half reserve unit in which remained only the officers who had been deemed unfit for frontline duty or had successfully used connections to continue their quiet existence far from the cannon’s roar.
It had been a day full of chaos and excitement as horses, equipment, and at last men were loaded on the rail cars, but a grim one for Jozef who had to watch as a spectator like the many wives and lovers who had turned out to see their men off. At last, he had gone back to his room and begun to draft a third letter to the commission board, asking to be given an assignment to a front line unit. What could he say that he had not already said in the previous two? Beg? Demand? Claim influence? He had been crumpling another draft when an orderly from the communications office had come in with a folded blue piece of paper, a telegram.
Worth a Thousand Words: Chrysanthemums
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