Franz’s Oath of Dough and Fury

8 minutes read

Franz walked to the city walls, shuffling his feet slowly and carefully over the sun-warmed cobbles. He had suddenly thought about going to church. Everyone went to church just about every day now, it seemed. When the end was literally just outside the gates, it was good to get things in order with your maker, Franz reckoned.

Suddenly, there was a shuddering in the distance, a slight whistling, and then nothing. Franz looked up in the sudden quiet to see one, two, three, four cannonballs sailing above him, tiny blobs against the clear, bright blue sky, hurtling towards the spires of St Stephen’s Cathedral. And then loud crashes of glass and stone, and the screams that followed.

In the last few days, the Turks had been shooting at just about every spire in the city in range. It was assumed that they didn’t know what was on the other side of the wall they shot at every day and were probably just bored; others thought that they were trying to destroy Christianity in every way possible. This was a particularly popular line of thought among those who came to pray there every day, as Franz did, when the bells summoned them first thing in the morning. It was there in church every morning, after he had finished baking what he could for the night, that Franz was on his knees his hands folded, fingers digging into each palm, that he knew he had to do something about these damned Turks.

As as he listened to the muffled sobs of the shocked and shattered congregation, today was no exception.

Leaving prayers, Franz made his way down the cathedral steps. Still in prayer, his hands unconsciously beat the flour out of his trousers – his wife would have shrieked to have seen him go to worship in such a state. Franz made his way towards the inner steps of the perilous battlements above the Löbl bastion. As he got closer and closer to the walls, he noticed that men were more and more covered in blood, soot and exhaustion. Some still had the light brown uniforms and hats of the city garrison, while many others wore mainly bandages, blood and grief. The now few fit-for-battle, the young boys who had probably never seen a hair grow on their chin, and the old, all manned what was left of the brick, stone and mortar that stood between civilisation and the turbaned sodomites. Pale with exhaustion, fear and determination, all wore crosses proudly on their chests, daring the Turkish musket balls and arrows.

Franz had just started to pray for their immortal souls, when he was interrupted.

"Hey, out of the way, fat boy,” said a musketeer. “We’ve got a war on and if you don’t have anything to feed us with, get the hell out of it before we run out of grenades and throw you on the Turks.”

This caused a tired wave of laughter. “That’ll show them. Oh, no! The deadly Austrian fat baker attack! Ooh ooh,” said an acne-scarred youth, holding a musket far too professionally for one so young.

The men stopped, exchanging smirks and chuckles. Franz was doing his best to not pay attention. They tried another tactic.

“Yeah, what we actually need is for this baker to get dysentery and then we can roll his shitting fat ass down through this breach on these fucking Turks,” said a man in a dented and dirty cuirass. The officer had, at one time, surely been noble, courteous and uncorrupted by his environs.

Everyone stared at Franz: some laughed, one giggled uncontrollably; others shook their heads like they would at a teenager who swore in church. He did look like quite a prick, white and serene like a saint, his apron and just about everything else dusted in white.

He also very quickly thought about where he was standing as someone not too far away fell dead in a faint and pitiful slump against the stone battlement. Nobody seemed to watch or mind.

All about him men rushed seemingly in slow motion, moving urgently in ungainly crouched positions from battlement to battlement, carrying muskets, grenades, rocks, cannonballs – just about anything, but always something. A young man brushed by, wiping the sweat from his brow and pulling his shirt back by the collar to scratch his dirt-covered neck. For a second that could have lasted for ever, he shut his eyes together as hard as he could, grabbing and squeezing the wooden cross that hung around his neck.

Franz stood, hands empty, amidst the desperate and all but defeated sorry sack of a garrison. He stepped over to battlement, skirting around a soldier with a slouched, feathered hat on his lap, who was holding a dirty rag to a hole in his side, out of which blood was pouring on to the ground.

“And what about those pricks down there?" He half laughed, half winced. Blood continued to seep out from under him.

“Yes, I will do something. I will, by God in Heaven I will,” Franz swore. He stepped to the wall swearing on his mother, his mother’s mother, her mother and all the other mothers that might be before him, that he would fuck these Turks in one way or another. Thankfully his wife never became a mother so he wouldn’t have to swear by her.

He looked out at the endless web of Ottoman trenches that seemed to go on and on. Beyond the hills that ringed the valley, were endless columns of smoke. The land seemed to be from the walls to the horizon constantly moving, bubbling with bobbing turbans and exotic assortments of caps – white, red, blue, green – as they swarmed about like ants on holiday. The siegers’ camp rose in the distant background, tents and men as far as the eye could see.

The Turks had completely swallowed the horizon.

Franz had never actually seen this – nobody went to the tops of the walls unless to fight or shit. He looked to what was left of Austria, to what was left of the Austrians, clinging to their lives with a tired determination to defy the invaders to the last.

"Wow, we’re fucked,” Franz blurted out. He quickly crossed himself, praying for forgiveness embarrassed about his sudden cursing.

"Yeah, we are. But would you look at their banners?” asked a young man of no more than 18, who stood up from his work of filling various little sacks, cylinders and metal balls with gunpowder. By the looks of it, he had been an apprentice craftsman before being volunteered by his master for the walls. “Can you see them down there? Look, a fucking heron! How tough is that? Are you scared of a heron? What are these people thinking?” He swore and spat. “I guess the Vizier’s thing is tulips. Tulips. Are you fucking kidding?”

“What’s a tulip?” asked Franz. He liked the way the word sounded and hoped it was something nice.

“It’s a flower, a fucking flower! We’re having our asses kicked by flowers. Shit, we don’t even have this flower!” the young apprentice concluded in anger.

It was all clear to Franz now, why he had chosen to walk to the walls that day. There they fought for Vienna, his Vienna, and for Christ. They fought for the smells of his baking, for good memories of eggs, milk and butter, for the right to create sugary confections in freedom, and to eat bacon. Ah, yes, to eat bacon, pork, speck, salami, shoulder, loin and crispy crackling! He would bake for freedom and for God, and they would win.

Franz dropped to his knees clutching his chubby hands together in anger and began to pray. The early Christians had dropped to their knees in the Coliseum before the lions and said something amazing that would be remembered through the ages to come as they ascended to Heaven.

It was almost like that.

“I will fuck you, Turks,” he shouted, louder than he ever had before, inflating his lungs and pushing out his chest to even beyond the bulge of his gut, which was straining over his apron as he stood. “I will fuck you! My baking will fuck you!”

As he shuddered with his intense rage, a pall of flour fell from his clothes and formed a halo on the ground about him.

He would create something that would immortalise him: everyone from Trieste to Pressburg, in all the languages of the empire, would eat and praise his delicious pastries, and remember the day when he not only saved the city of Vienna, but also the Empire and Christendom.

And if that didn’t work out, well … he could always convert, beg to bake for the Sultan and hope not to get raped by the hairy men in his dreams or that they would at least be gentle.


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