The Castle in the Forest

Free The Castle in the Forest by Norman Mailer

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Authors: Norman Mailer
Tags: Fiction, Literary
had bought Fanni’s coffin months before she died. The townspeople were saying no less than that he had found a true bargain in advance (a mahogany job confiscated from a smuggler at the Customs gate). In truth, he had only bought the damned crate ten days before her death. It was not as if he had sat on it for months. So he could not forgive the gossip. Moreover, the tragedy of death was overrated. So many times, it was like saying goodbye to a friend who has outworn every welcome. He did not plan to visit the cemetery too often. His eyes were on Klara for tonight. By evening, after the funeral, he could not stop looking at her. Those blue eyes—so much like the diamond in the museum!
    In bed on that hot August night, Klara’s life received another life. It had traveled directly to her heart, or so she felt. For her soul
    seemed to reside now right there beneath her heart, and she came close to falling into darkness from the pleasure—except that the pleasure went on and on. Now it did not stop. She belonged to the Devil. He had dug into her with the most evil enjoyment she had ever known, and so her guilt in the morning was as heavy as a waterlogged tree. She had a dreadful moment on realizing that part of her delight had come because Fanni was gone. Yes. All the love she had felt for the long-sick friend had vanished into this unholy glee, this long-withheld and so nasty joy that she could at last release because the woman who banished her for four years was dead. Now she could be the wife.
    She became pregnant. No surprise.
    She never indicated that she wanted him to marry her, but he knew. “A man can be a fool,” Alois liked to say, “yet even a fool must be able to learn from experience. Only by this, should he be judged.” So Alois knew that he must be responsive to this new duty.
    Besides, he wanted to get married. The displeasure of the good people of Braunau had gotten under his skin. Literally. An intolerable itch now bothered him and sometimes would last for as long as an hour. It had to be the thoughts of the townspeople. For the first time, he considered the possibility that any anonymous letters written to the Finance-Watch about him were not necessarily going to be thrown away by the officials who received them. Inquiries could well ensue. Such matters moved slowly, but now that Klara was pregnant, it could prove an offensive sight if, in four or five months, she could not step into the street due to the size of her belly. That would put no honey into the letters sent to the Finance-Watch.
    He could also say to himself that for the first time he did have some liking for the woman he would marry. Anna Glassl had satisfied his sense of rank—no question there—but he did not enjoy the Pale smell of her perfume. And Fanni, to say the least of the worst, was like a wild woman in her shifts of mood. Klara, however, was calm and knew where she came from. He had to like how she took care of his children, and if she gave him a big family, well, nothing
    too terrible about that. It would shut the mouths of the townspeople.
    In any event, what with children dying so often, a large family was one more form of insurance. Lose a few, and you still had others.
    On the other hand, technically, he and Klara were cousins. When Alois made his first inquiries at the Braunau parish house, he discovered that he would have to file an application.
    Now Alois had to worry about the lie that had been certified near to nine years ago when he had traveled to Strones with Johann Nepomuk and the three witnesses. Could that stand in the way of a quick marriage? On official paper he was Johann Georg Hiedler’s son, and therefore was Klara’s cousin, one step removed. Might that be too close? If he would now claim that Johann Georg was in no way his father, he would have to go back to being Alois Schicklgruber. Not to be contemplated! So he and Klara would have to take the long step of asking for an ecclesiastical decision.
    In

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