For All Nails #23: Someone in Nancy
By Randy McDonald
Michel Mueller had heard of the riots in Paris before he went strolling; so did everyone else in Nancy. The boches couldn't hide the news from their subjects in Lorraine, no matter how much pressure they and their traitors inside Lorraine placed on the patriotic journals. What good would it do to keep the Courrier de la Moselle quiet when you could cross the border into Austrasia FN1 or the real Germany -- Strassburg FN2, or Saarbrucken -- and hear the locals talking about the unexpected events with their obtuse German tongues? And certainly all of the students at the College lotharingien were expected to be as aware of the wider world as any students could be.
The sky was grey, as it always was in Lorraine. When he was young and romantic, Michel liked to think that the grim damp weather of Nancy was nature's way of emphasizing with its poor beloved conquered French. He had given that up, though, on the same day that he had been expelled from the Collège for "political activities unbecoming a student" (as the authorities called it), or for being a French patriot as no one in Nancy dared deny outside censor's earshot. Lorraine -- all of Lorraine, even the old Austrasian lands -- was as French as Champagne or Normandy, and the Germans knew that even though they couldn't admit it.
Oh, Michel knew as he ambled down the street, that fucking Chancellor (he refused even to think the bastard's name) might have driven his Maman and thousands of other loyal French from sacred Metz FN3, but even that butcher wasn't stupid enough as to try to destroy all of French (so French!) Lorraine. So they called it a kingdom, gave it a puppet king and a puppet legislature, ran down Lorraine's mines and steel mills to try to break the locals to the German yoke, claimed that the royal palaces built by a long-dead Pole were proof of Lorraine's German affinities. FN4 None of that empty rhetoric could ever deny the fact that Lorraine was French.
That the German Empire's army bases were located not on the French frontier but outside each and every one of Lorraine's metropoles was proof that the Germans knew their lies. Oh, yes they allowed Lorrainers to have their own king, and their own national diet to deal (badly) with Lorraine's parochial affairs, and their own two dozen parliamentarians in the German diet to represent Lorraine's interests. Oh, yes, the Germans pretended that the Lorrainers should be grateful to have German funding at their beck and call, and to protect them from France's instability. None of that changed the fact, Michel knew painfully, that it was German laws not French laws which applied to Lorrainers; none of it ignored the hold of the barbarian Teutons on civilized Latin France, none of it.
A quarter of Lorraine's men were unemployed--even the Courrier had to admit that. There were always crowds milling down the old streets kept with German blood money, looking for a cheap boîte where they could drink some beer and listen to Amerloque popular music as they drifted away. Since the riots in Paris had begun, he had fancied that these men might be ready to rise up against the boches and free their homeland, if only there was a leader or someone. In his younger days, he had fancied himself a leader. As a workman shabbily dressed in an old miner's uniform stumbled half-drunk past him, holding onto each streetlight pole as he ambled, Michel resisted the urge to spit on the pavement after the drunkard. How could any good Frenchman be that?
Where the rue Poniatowski turned the corner, a locomobile drove by. Michel only noticed after it had passed that emblazoned on its sides was the Lorraine Wittelsbach's family crest, and he simply stood still and watched as a whole line of cars passed by. He wondered who could be inside--the king, maybe? Back from his mistresses?
Michel never really knew afterwards just what he had done. He didn't remember seizing the loose paving stone out of the sidewalk, or hoisting it in his hand as the photograph taken by a passing tourist clearly proved, as the German federal policeman pressed the enlarged image against his face before hitting him, again. Michel did remember, only needed remember, the act of throwing that first paving stone at the royal household locomobile, and the way that the windshield shattered inward onto the driver even as the vehicle's brakes screeched into a lamppost. That one stone was all that was needed, for Michel and for Nancy.
Forward to FAN #24: That's Not Cricket!
Forward to 21 July 1974: Sour Krauts.
Return to For All Nails.