2 years. 9 months. 24 days. 168,902 potatoes. Possibly 168,903. Many, many potatoes.How he hated them, rough, plain, with filthy skins and tumorous eyes. He dreamed of them in the ground and out, planted and harvested, peeled and cooked. They were ubiquitous, dense and earthy, central to every meal. Too often, because he was still clumsy and unaccustomed, the wickedly sharp knife slipped in his fingers. His rusty blood would stain- that taint again- the naked tubers. They were freckled and pasty as Irishmen. Disgusting.He rolled his lip against his teeth, felt the reassuring tug of his tiny little moustache, and refocused on his work. It was enough to comfort him, never mind that it was attached by a patch of spirit gum. It reminded him of better times. He’d done many things to survive. The inside of his left forearm arm bore a letter ‘H’ and a string of 5 numbers in dark blue ink. He lived and dressed as a servant woman. He permitted the farm foreman what liberties he demanded in exchange for safety. Terrible things, yet the two that stung the most, that truly pained him deep in his soul, were the loss of his moustache- that last symbol of power and majesty- and having to swallow vichyssoise, or mash, or caldo verde, all of them made, however incidentally, with his blood.
He reminded himself to keep his knees pinched together. The skirt could easily become a chute for the potatoes in his lap if he forgot himself. He cut into the next jacket. 168,903 or 4? He reminded himself that it was like a hero cycle. A true king must suffer, and expiate his weakness before he could confront his enemies and dance on their bones. Ulysses languished for years as a sex slave before he won his freedom. Perhaps he even peeled his share of potatoes. A shame that proper Germanic heroes wouldn’t work here. They didn’t suffer, they merely died. Dying he refused to do so necessity demanded he seek his heroes in other cultures.
Work boots stomped up the steps and onto the porch. He could feel the vibration through his shoes.
“Dolores!” It was Guilherme, in from the fields. He dropped the potato to his lap and snatched at the moustache. It tugged hard at his lip, finally parted with a slow stinging zzzzzzzip! and he tucked it into the cuff of his sleeve. He fumbled with the vegetable and hunched over his work. The door at his back swung open with a long creak and he felt the weight of the foreman’s hand on his shoulder. “There you are. What’s for dinner?”
“I thought a potato omelet and greens.” He said, pitching his voice higher as Guilherme demanded. He held his breath until the foreman grunted assent and stomped away, probably on his way to the parlor for his pipe. Adolph sighed and finished the potato quickly. Each day was a triumph of the will, he reminded himself: one day survived, one day conquered. One day closer to his eventual resurrection. He stared blindly at the window-framed view of the Braganca district with its sloping green hills. He would endure.
It was a very long way from Berchtesgaden.