Two Dead Prussians

My grandmother turned up alone and broke in New York because of two dead Prussians. Their names were Werner and Petra Rathskeller and they just happened to be her parents. The three of them lived together on a small farm in an even smaller town just south of the Pragel River until the Bürgermeister’s syphilis flared up, drove him to take up sharpshooting. The deranged mayor forced his carriage driver to haul his crazy ass up and down the countryside so that he could pick off his constituents, believing them to be Frenchmen intent on banging his wife. Werner, Petra, and my grandmother, acting on a not-so-anonymous tip from a blood-caked banker fleeing City Hall, holed up in their hayloft with a weapons cache consisting of a rifle, three pitchforks, and a kerosene lamp. They hid for three days, until the Polizei kicked the barn door down and announced that it was all over, that they had gunned down the Bürgermeister and it was safe to come out and, Oh, by the way, we’re in charge now. Within a week, Werner had liquidated the farm to buy papers and a spot on The Boat, figuring the present was just as good a time as any to crash with some cousins in Rochester, New York. A week later, my grandmother watched Werner and Petra treat the trip across the Atlantic like it was a Carnival Fun Ship cruise, witnessed them down pint after pint of hot buttered rum with barrel splinters in it until sunrise. By the time The Boat pulled into New York Harbor, Petra had fallen overboard trying to catch a hat and Werner succumbed to tuberculosis, sweating to death in the cargo bay alone so as not to infect the others.

Thomas Mundt lives in Chicago. Other sentences he’s strung together can be read now or later in a number of fine print and online journals, predictably collected for your convenience at