• 2015 Charter Oak Award for Best Historical •

Winners & Finalists 2015

Winners & Finalists for 2015 Charter Oak Award for Best Historical

First Place: “My Father Tells Us about Leaving Vilnius” by Lyn Lifshin
Second Place: “The Romanov Family Portrait” by Christina Elaine Collins
Third Place: “Eva” by Laura Elizabeth Woollett
Fourth Place: “Titanic” by Sean Brendan-Brown
Fifth Place: “Lynchable Offenses in Alabama, 1889–1920” by Jesseca Cornelson
Sixth Place: “The Dictionary” by Claudia Serea
Seventh Place: “The Diabolical Voodoo Experiments of Harry Smith, Folk Music Anthologist” by Ed Hamilton
Eighth Place: “Gorsas’ Guillotine: A Nonfiction Narrative of Wordsworth and Carlyle” by James O’Brien
Ninth Place: “The Ballad of Augustin Lefavre” by R. Joseph Capet
Tenth Place: “No Pasarán!” by Luther Jett
Eleventh Place: “Ode to the Couches of the 1950s” by Brian Le Lay
Twelfth Place: “Strathcona Park” by Pearl Pirie

2015 Charter Oak Award Judges

Lynn Alexander holds degrees in social welfare, nonprofit and arts management, and public policy; is editor and publisher at Full of Crow Press; is author of Flesh Made Widow and Prologue to Mariamne; is an annual literary-event curator for the Oakland Beast Lit Crawl and the Cleveland Lit Crawl; is co-founder and host of San Francisco’s annual Toxic Abatement Poetry Festival; and has published a variety of print zines, hosted radio shows, and edited fiction and poetry for various independent presses.


Harry Calhoun passed away on October 31, 2015. Before that, Harry survived three broken ribs and three marriages. He endured countless jobs, wrote a ton of articles and other works, and had a few dozen books and chapbooks of poetry published. His books and chapbooks include I knew Bukowski like you knew a rare leaf; The Black Dog and the Road; Something Real; Near daybreak, with a nod to Frost; Retreating Aggressively into the Dark; The Insomnia Poems; Maintenance and Death; Retro; How Love Conquers the World; and Failure Is Unimportant. His career has included Pushcart Prize nominations, a Sundress Best of the Net nomination, and publications in Lily, Abbey, Orange Room Review, Gutter Eloquence, Faircloth Review, Thunder Sandwich, and others. Harry lived in Raleigh with his wife, Trina, and his dogs, Hamlet and Harriet.


Paula Cary is a poet, living with a wannabe pirate in Green Cove Springs, Florida. Her chapbooks include Agapornis Swinderniana (Dancing Girl Press, 2012) and Sister, Blood and Bone (Blood Pudding Press, 2013). She reviews other writers at her blog, Poet Hound, and she hopes to spread the love of poetry through her work online and through her sidewalk-chalk art on her driveway.


Jeff Pfaller is a novelist and short-story writer; co-founder and fiction editor of the literary journal, Midwestern Gothic; and co-publisher of MG Press—publications that spotlight the gorgeous, but oft-overlooked, Midwest.


Russell Streur is operator of the world’s original online poetry bar, The Camel Saloon; two-time recipient of awards for excellence from the Georgia Poetry Society; widely published in numerous journals; and author of The Muse of Many Names and Table of Discontents.

2015 First Place Winner: “My Father Tells Us about Leaving Vilnius” by Lyn Lifshin

My Father Tells Us about Leaving Vilnius

On the night we left Vilnius, I had to bring goats
next door in the moon. Since I was not the youngest, I
couldn’t wait pressed under a shawl of coarse cotton
close to Mama’s breast as she whispered, “Hurry,” in Yiddish.
Her ankles were swollen from ten babies. Though she was
only thirty, her waist was thick, her lank hair hung in

strings under the babushka she swore she would burn
in New York City. She dreamed others pointed and snickered
near the tenement, that a neighbor borrowed the only bowl
she brought that was her mother’s and broke it. That night,
every move had to be secret. In rooms with no heat,
no one put on muddy shoes or talked. It was forbidden to leave,

a law we broke like the skin of ice on pails of milk. Years from
then, a daughter would write that I didn’t have a word for
America yet, that night of a new moon. Mother pressed my
brother to her, warned everyone even the babies must not make
a sound. Frozen branches creaked. I shivered at men with
guns near straw roofs on fire. It took our old samovar

every coin to bribe someone to take us to the train. “Pretend to be
sleeping,” father whispered, as the conductor moved near. Mother
stuffed cotton in the baby’s mouth. She held the mortar and
pestle wrapped in my quilt of feathers closer, told me I would
sleep in this soft blue in the years ahead. But that night, I
was knocked sideways into ribs of the boat, so seasick I
couldn’t swallow the orange someone threw from an upstairs
bunk, though it was bright as sun and smelled of a new country I
could only imagine, though never how my mother would become
a stranger to herself there, forget why we risked dogs and guns to come.




Lyn Lifshin lives in Vienna, Virginia, and has written more than 125 books and edited four anthologies of women writers. Her poems have appeared in numerous poetry and literary magazines in the U.S., and she has given more than 700 readings. Lyn has appeared at Dartmouth, Skidmore, Cornell University, Shakespeare Library, Whitney Museum, and Huntington Library, and has been Poet-in-Residence at the University of Rochester, Antioch, and Colorado Mountain College. She is the winner of numerous awards, including the Jack Kerouac Award for her book, Kiss the Skin Off. She is also the author of Another Woman Who Looks Like Me (Black Sparrow Press), the prize-winning The Licorice Daughter: My Year with Ruffian (Texas Review Press), Before It’s Light (Black Sparrow), Cold Comfort (Black Sparrow), Persephone (Red Hen), A Girl Goes into the Woods (NYQ Books), and many more. Find her at lynlifshin.com.

2015 Second Place Winner: “The Romanov Family Portrait” by Christina Elaine Collins

The Romanov Family Portrait

At midnight,
gunfire breathes on the prison house. Yurovsky,
leader of the executioners, focuses on the brow
of the family doctor. He explains:
In view of the unrest in the town,
it has become necessary
to move the Romanov family
downstairs.


A barred window
ornaments a bare room, eleven feet by thirteen. Yurovsky
leads them in for a painless
photograph: first Nicholas, carrying his frail
son; then Alexandra and the girls, following
in worthless dresses, hoping they might disappear
into a ballroom. Sugarcoated
bullets spurt from the leader’s lips: Please, you stand
here, and you here … That’s it,
in a row.


The family waits
with shoulders back, grander still
in degradation. A family photograph
might yet lift Nicky’s drooping
mustache—a reason to smile. He stands close to
the ones he loves
more than the country
he lost.

Time
to summon the photographer. At Yurovsky’s
orders he enters, without a camera. He is
eleven men armed with revolvers. Yurovsky
looms before the last czar, a scrap of paper
in his palm, his voice calm.
In view of the fact
that your relatives
Smile for the family portrait.
are continuing their attack
on Soviet Russia,
This moment will live, but
the Ural Executive Committee
has decided
you will not.




Christina Elaine Collins is an MFA candidate and Honors Award recipient in fiction at George Mason University. Her stories and poems have appeared in various literary periodicals and anthologies, including Jabberwock Review, Weave Magazine, and NonBinary Review. In addition to three Pushcart Prize nominations, she has received Finalist and Special Mention awards in several literary competitions such as the 2014 Katherine Paterson Prize at Hunger Mountain, the Heavy Feather Review 2013 Featured Fiction Chapbook Contest, and the Gambling the Aisle 2013 Chapbook Competition. She has been a writer-in-residence at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, as well as the Art Commune program in Armenia.

2015 Third Place Winner: “Eva” by Laura Elizabeth Woollett

Eva

Munich

I never thought working at Photohaus Hoffmann would be so boring. In the three weeks I’ve been here, I haven’t once been asked to get behind a camera, let alone in front of one. Instead, Mr. Hoffmann has me sifting through files and selling rolls of film. When important clients come in, he tells me to make them comfortable: to fetch them coffee, beer, teacakes, whatever they please. These clients are invariably fat old men from the National Socialist Party. None of them look all that important to me.

It’s late, but I still have filing to do, and Hoffmann is expecting one of his important clients. He’s given me a ladder so I can reach the files on the top shelf, and I’m teetering on its rungs like a ballerina. It probably wasn’t a good idea to shorten my skirt before leaving for work this morning—I have a feeling the hem is uneven, and the amount of leg I’m showing is almost indecent. I hear a bell tinkle at the front of the shop, some manly murmurs and rustlings. I don’t need eyes on the back of my head to see that Hoffmann’s important client has arrived and that the two of them are settling down on the far side of the room, out of earshot but in view of the ladder, my legs.

I’ve been told that I have nice legs. My big sister, Ilse, giving me pointers on how to dress, says, “You’re ten pounds too heavy, and your bust is small like mine, but as long as you’re showing off your legs, no man will notice the rest.” On the streetcar, men are forever brushing up against my legs or dropping coins by my feet so they can get a better look at me. It doesn’t surprise me then, given the shortness of my hemline, to feel Hoffmann’s important client staring at that part of me. Still, it’s embarrassing to be looked at so intently when I don’t know who’s doing the looking. My face is bright red before I’ve even climbed down from the ladder.

They’re standing up, crinkled and ungainly as a pair of elephants. The important client wears a pale English raincoat and clutches an ugly felt hat. He looks damp and smudged, with slick hair and a funny little square mustache. Though he isn’t fat, there’s something oddly soft about his body and the way his raincoat flares out at his hips.

“Mr. Wolf,” Hoffmann announces his client, smiling like he knows something I don’t. “Our good little Miss Eva!”

*****


The men invite me to dine with them. I know this must have something to do with Mr. Wolf looking at my legs and that no isn’t really an option, when it comes to important clients. Besides, it’s late enough for dinner, and my stomach’s growling from the smell of the beer and sausages Hoffmann got me to fetch from the corner pub. I guess it was a bad idea to skip lunch, diet or no diet.

At the backroom table, I’m aware of every clink of our cutlery, of the crawlings of Mr. Wolf’s mustache as he chews, and the salty stink of the sausages. I try to keep my eyes on my plate, but Mr. Wolf is eating me up with his own eyes, which are the deep blue of mountain lakes, wild gentians. He has questions.

“How old are you, Miss Braun? Only seventeen? Good … good. And where did you go to school? A convent? I should have known … Convent girls have the sweetest manners. Miss Braun, do you like Wagner? You prefer modern music? Jazz? I’m afraid it’s all primitive noise to me. You say it’s fun to dance to? Far be it from me to keep a young girl from dancing! I imagine you are a very fine dancer, Miss Braun …”

I don’t know what to make of all this attention, and Hoffmann is no help. He listens on with glinting eyes and swills his beer, sitting back to belch and to feed Mr. Wolf the occasional tidbit about me: that I’m a fine little worker, that I’ve shown an interest in learning about photography, that he intends to let me do some modeling in the next few weeks—it would be a waste not to put such a pretty face to good use. They laugh at this.

They laugh at all sorts of things, like when I venture, “I’d like to do what Mr. Hoffmann does someday. Only, I want to take pictures of fashionable ladies, not politicians.” I don’t know what’s so funny but laugh along with them anyway.

When supper’s over, Mr. Wolf rises and smoothes down his raincoat, which he kept on all through dinner. Hat under arm, he reaches for my hand, tickling it with his mustache as he bends down to kiss it. The parting of his sleek, black hair is dusted with dandruff. “May I offer you a ride home, Miss Braun? My driver is just outside.”

I cast a glance at the dark shop windows, the shiny black Mercedes parked outside them. “No thank you, sir. I still have some filing to do.”

I’m clearing the table when Hoffmann comes back in from the street, shaking his head at me. “You really have no idea who that gentleman is, Miss Eva? No idea at all … ?”

*****


A few days later, a bouquet of yellow orchids turns up on my desk, together with an autographed portrait of Mr. Wolf in uniform. Mr. Wolf looks better in the portrait than in person. I can’t tell if this is because of his uniform or Hoffmann’s skill with a camera.

Freya, one of the other girls at work, pales with envy when she sees the flowers. “Oh, that man is a charmer! He must like you. I only got a portrait when I first started here.” Freya is twenty-two and bosomy. Her hair is a few shades darker than my own. She doesn’t have my legs.

I like to preserve the things I pick up from day to day, like theater stubs and calling cards and colored ribbons. I do this with Mr. Wolf’s gifts, pressing an orchid inside my Bible and tucking his portrait away in the lining of my drawer. I know Papa wouldn’t be happy if he found Mr. Wolf’s portrait, and this is exciting to me. At the dinner table, when I ask him if he’s heard of Mr. Wolf, he flares up instantly.

“That man? He’s a dilettante, a fool who thinks he’s omniscient. He thinks he’s going to reform the world. Pah! I wouldn’t trust him to run a classroom, let alone a country …” Papa is a teacher and often speaks in classroom analogies.

Hoffmann has better things to say about Mr. Wolf. “He is a visionary,” he tells me. “He is the future of Germany. You won’t find a greater patriot, a better orator, a man of finer artistic sentiments! Consider it an honor, Miss Eva, to have caught the eye of a genius like him.”

The more I think about Hoffmann’s words, the more I believe them. In the darkroom, I’m haunted by Mr. Wolf’s face swimming in red chemicals. I’m haunted by it drying out on the rack and glowering at me from newsstands as I shuffle to and from work. I’m even haunted by it when I look at my reflection—short curls, chubby cheeks, soft belly, nice legs—and try to figure out if I’m beautiful or just a convent-bred nobody.

*****


When I’m invited to dine at Hoffmann’s house, I don’t expect Mr. Wolf to be there, and turn pink at the sight of him tramping into the dining room in his raincoat and heavy boots. As well as his felt hat, he’s carrying a whip. His eyes goggle and moisten when he sees me, and he grips his whip tighter, licking his lips and rapping himself lightly on the thigh. I rise and present my hand to be kissed. Hoffmann’s daughter, Henny, sixteen and seated beside me, does the same.

I’m glad to have Henny next to me at the table. We have a lot in common, and she’s pretty in a thin-armed, gap-toothed way. Aside from her light eyes and freckles, she looks nothing like her father, with his drinker’s flushed face and yellowy-white hair. Throughout dinner, we’re able to avoid the talk of Hoffmann and Mr. Wolf by whispering and giggling together. I ask her what she thinks of Mr. Wolf, and she answers in a hushed, excited voice with something astounding.

“Evie, can I tell you a secret? He asked if he could kiss me once. It was a few years ago. I was in my nightdress.”

I gasp. “Did you let him?”

“Of course not!” Henny cringes. “He’s so old.”

Across the table, Mr. Wolf is looking at us somberly and fingering his whip. I meet his gaze and feel myself blushing once again, regardless of how old he is. Hoffmann knocks back the contents of his glass and asks what we two little misses are whispering about.

“Clothes and shoes,” we answer together, then collapse into giggles.

*****


After a dessert of apple cake and cream, we filter toward the anteroom to say our farewells. I’ve already donned my winter coat and am brushing my lips to Henny’s warm cheek, when Mr. Wolf appears at my elbow.

“Miss Braun, Mr. Hoffmann tells me you’re planning on walking home in this cold weather. I won’t have it. My driver will take you right to your doorstep.”

I open my mouth to protest. I close it again. Mr. Wolf has already put his hat on and is offering me his arm. Under his other arm, he tucks his whip. As I link arms with him, Henny catches my eye over his shoulder and pulls a kissy-face.

Outside, a dapper chauffeur waits by the Mercedes, cap dusted with snowflakes as delicate as Mr. Wolf’s dandruff. The driver salutes Mr. Wolf, who in turn raises his palm and says, “Good evening, Emil. Miss Braun would like to be taken home. She’ll tell you where to go.”

I hesitate, before deciding on a location far enough from my front door for the neighbors not to see. “Thank you. Take me to the corner of Elisabeth Street and Teng Street, please.”

Moonlight stripes my sleeves as the Mercedes winds out of narrow Schnorr Street. I keep my eyes fixed on the back of Emil’s head but can’t help being aware of Mr. Wolf’s sturdy presence nearby. I shiver involuntarily as a tramcar rattles alongside us on Norden Street.

“Are you cold, Miss Braun?” Mr. Wolf inquires.

“No, but thank you, sir. It’s just that sound always spooks me. I’m sure it’s what ghosts must sound like.” I feel like an idiot for saying this, but Mr. Wolf chuckles warmly.

“You are safe from the ghosts with me, Miss Braun.”

I never realized before how calming Mr. Wolf’s voice is, low and slightly rasping. Still, it’s not easy to feel calm with his blue eyes savoring me like I’m a slice of apple cake with cream. Gooseflesh tingles on my throat. When I breathe out, a cloud of mist follows.

At the corner of Elisabeth Street and Teng Street, the Mercedes comes to a halt. Emil steps out, and Mr. Wolf sidles closer to me along the leather seat. He takes off his hat.

My mind numbs. I think of what he asked Henny, what he’s surely about to ask me. I can almost smell the sweet tea and apple cake on his breath, the foul base note of his saliva. The thought of saying no goes in and out of me like a swift, poisoned blade. I focus on his mustache.

Mr. Wolf bows to my hand. There’s a tickle of coarse, black fur on soft skin, a puckered wetness on my knuckles. “Goodnight, Miss Braun. May we meet again soon.”

In another instant, Emil is holding the door open for me. The cold is hitting my cheeks, and my heart is beating somewhere between my legs. I move my lips, but only the snow and stars can hear me whisper back to him, “Goodnight, sir.”

*****


I can see Mr. Wolf on the other side of the studio, leaning over Hoffmann’s desk with a magnifying glass to his eye. In his baggy blue suit, he looks as lumpy as a sack of potatoes, yet there’s something adorable about his form. I’ve already thanked him for the little box of marzipan fruits that he brought to my desk and the compliments that came with them. I’ve already offered him a taste of these fruits and watched as he lifted a tiny, perfect peach to his lips, observing sweetly, “Peaches and cream—just like your complexion, Miss Braun.”

Now he’s absorbed in business, and it’s up to me to catch his eye before somebody else does. I rise from my desk and smooth my skirt, before clicking on my heels toward the filing shelf closest to Hoffmann’s desk. Retrieving one of the files, I look askance at the men. Under the bright table lamp, they are murmuring over some prints of Mr. Wolf. I bite my lip. I let the file slip from my clasp and, with a gasp, bend to retrieve it. My skirt tightens over my hips. Their heads swivel.

“Miss Braun,” Mr. Wolf says with a smile, “perhaps you can help us reach a decision.”

“Yes, sir?”

“I always like to hear a lady’s opinion on these things. After all, women are among my staunchest supporters.” His eyes shine a deeper shade of blue as he says this. “Miss Braun, are you old enough to vote yet?”

“Yes, sir. I turned eighteen in February.”

“Come closer, my child. Into the light. Good girl. And which of these men, Miss Braun, would you be most inclined to give your vote to?”

I can feel his eyes on the back of my neck as my short curls fall forward, blazing from brown to gold in the heat of the desk lamp. The same eyes bore into me from the photographs on the desk, making my breath grow shorter and my cheeks flare up.

“This one,” I say, pointing to a picture in which he stares straight at the camera, as darkly enigmatic as a matinee idol. He’s wearing a dark jacket and a National Socialist Party badge, which I know to be red, white, and black, though the photo doesn’t show this. I’ve been given one of these badges myself but don’t dare wear it, lest my father have a heart attack.

Mr. Wolf seems pleased with this decision. He takes a step back and inhales deeply. I’m afraid he can smell my moist, nervous heat, but if he does, it only pleases him further. “I agree, Miss Braun. You are very discerning.” He steps forward again, glances down at the photo, and passes an unseen hand down the length of my body. “Mr. Hoffmann, be sure to make a copy of this picture for Miss Braun.”

Back at my desk, I’m still tingling from his caress. I take a marzipan pear from the box and slip it into my mouth. Its sweetness sears my cheeks.

*****



Braunhaus

The postman comes six days a week. I wait outside the gate for him, smoking against the wall and looking at the inky blue clouds, the pavement dappled with blue shade. Most days, my little sister, Gretl, waits with me, swinging her legs from the wall top and chattering on about her latest flirts. With Wolf away, there’s nothing much to do but wait for news from Berlin.

It’s summer, fine weather for waiting. Negus and Stasi start yipping on the other side of the gate as the postman nears our house, number twelve on sleepy Wasserburger Street. Wolf christened this place Braunhaus because of its cute brown-tiled roof and because it’s a home for us Braun girls. He was the one who suggested I move Gretl in with me, so I don’t get lonely out here in the suburbs when he’s away on business.

The postman greets us both as Miss Braun. Like a lot of people, I don’t think he can tell the difference between Gretl and me, so alike with our light brown curls and flowery dresses. As he reaches into the mailbag for our correspondence, I catch a whiff of sweat from his uniform. He hands me a wad of envelopes, and my hopes rise, then fall when I see there’s nothing but bills and a letter from Herta, probably discussing her wedding plans.

“Nothing worthwhile,” I sigh to the postman. I hand him a handful of coins and an eggshell-blue envelope to post to Berlin. It’s the second such envelope I’ve given him this week.

*****


I know Wolf doesn’t have much time for letter writing, but is it too much to hope for a scribbled sentence or two? Wolf says that he has to be careful what he sends me, that his correspondence is constantly being monitored. If you ask me, he’s just making excuses. Berlin is full of society girls, like that English Valkyrie whose legs he’s always praising. It’s no wonder he doesn’t have time to write to me.

“Don’t worry, Evie. Letters don’t mean anything. It’s better that he phones you,” Gretl offers presumptuously.

It’s really too much to be getting romantic advice from my little sister—a total fledgling, for all her flirts. “Oh, I’m not worried about that,” I bluff. “I just thought he’d be sending me a check this week. He knows I wanted to order some new shoes to replace the ones Stasi chewed up.” At this very moment, Stasi is sniffing at my cork-heeled sandals, her little black tail waving wildly.

Coming in from the garden, everything is dim and bloodless. “Liesl, bring some mineral water and apple juice upstairs to me and Gretl,” I call to the maid, who’s rubbing at some invisible blotch on the kitchen bench. “And set out some water for Negus and Stasi.” It’s almost midday, but we prefer to take lunch later in the afternoon on the flagstone patio, where we can play ping-pong and throw sticks for the dogs. Some days, it’s all I can do not to swallow a bottle of sleeping pills instead.

I’ve stripped down to my bra and silk petticoat when Liesl comes up with a tray full of drinks and tinkling ice cubes. The dogs scurry after her, their black beards dripping, and spring onto the bed where Gretl sifts through my discarded outfits.

“… If Herta can’t come swimming,” Gretl says, “we should ask Marion. You know, I haven’t seen her since the ball last month. Can I have this? You never wear it. Besides, I look better in burgundy. Evie, I wish you’d come with me tonight. Papa’s going to give me an earful if I’m the only one. No, Ilse doesn’t count. She always agrees with him …”

As she talks on, I swivel in front of the mirror, sucking in my stomach so my ribs almost show. Wolf will probably complain that I’m losing weight, but if he cares so much, he can come home and buy me dinner at the Osteria every night. I shed my petticoat and reach into my wardrobe for a pair of light linen slacks, a black silk blouse to go with them. From the wall, Wolf’s portrait sternly watches me dress. Again, if he disapproves, he should come home and do something about it.

*****


While Gretl dines at our parents’ house, I practice my yoga on the upstairs landing. I’ve been doing yoga for over a year and am more flexible now than I was as a chubby little schoolgirl, performing handstands in the convent gymnasium. I’m wearing a sleek, white leotard and balancing on one foot. I stretch my other foot up behind my head, so I’m poised in a sort of standing backbend. Gripping my toes, I fix my stare on a watercolor hanging in the hall. Wolf painted it years ago, before I was even born. It’s while I’m in this position that the phone starts to trill. I drop my pose and hurtle toward my bedroom, catching the receiver midway through its second ring.

“Wolf?” I answer the phone breathlessly.

“Miss Eva! Get back to work!” Hoffmann blusters on the other end of the line, sounding as sloshed as usual. I wait for him to finish chuckling, clutching the phone to my ear and cursing myself for getting my hopes up once again. At last, the joke has run its course. “No, no, Miss Eva. Don’t listen to me. But you have a television? Do your old boss a favor, and turn on the television.”

“But it’s all the way downstairs, Mr. Hoffmann …”

“No buts, Missy. Pronto, pronto!”

I set the receiver down on the nightstand and scramble downstairs. The TV was another gift, like my dogs and ping-pong set. It’s supposed to keep me amused at night but mostly just reminds me how dull it is around here. All broadcasts come from Berlin.

I kneel before the box and turn its dials, watching the screen flicker into life. Wolf is there in miniature, decked out in his clean-cut tunic, breeches, and peaked visor cap, and marching toward the Mercedes. He looks at once grand and diminutive.

Our Leader is getting into his car …” says the voiceover. “… He is bidding farewell to the people. Their cries are thunderous as they strain to catch a final glimpse …” The camera pans over the crowd, who are cheering and saluting, their faces crumpled with an emotion that might be love, terror, or disbelief. There is a final shot of Wolf, standing in his Mercedes at the head of the motorcade. Then, the newsreel cuts out, and the night’s programs begin: teenaged girls doing gymnastics in costumes as brief as my own. I turn off the television and rush back upstairs to the downturned receiver.

“Hello? Are you there, Mr. Hoffmann?” I can practically smell the smoke and booze on the other end of the line, listening to the background grunts of laughter. It’s impossible to tell whether Wolf’s laugh is among them. “Mr. Hoffmann?” I call again, more insistently.

My old boss’ voice emerges from the smoke, so loud that I flinch upon hearing it. “Miss Eva! Isn’t it wonderful? Like having him right there in the room with you!”

“It’s something,” I concede. I slip a cigarette out of the mono-grammed silver case on my nightstand and keep it poised between my fingers, unlit. Wolf hates me smoking and can tell when I am, even over the phone. “Mr. Hoffmann, is he there with you?”

“Our Leader?” Hoffmann bellows with laughter. “He’s gone to the ballet with Lady Mitford!”

The Valkyrie. I sigh. As if there weren’t enough legs to admire in the ballet. “When will he be back?” I inquire, blindly reaching for my lighter, which is also silver and monogrammed with a clover-like E. B.

“Ah, Miss Eva! You ask too many questions. No one can predict the comings and goings of our good Leader.”

*****


All I see is the blood of my shut eyelids, the white beat of sunlight overhead. I pluck a red grape from the fruit bowl. I crush it beneath my tongue. It’s too warm and tastes ashy from my last cigarette. I think of the grape seeds sitting inside my stomach. If I were pregnant, he’d have to wed me. If I were pregnant, he wouldn’t leave me for so many weeks. I touch the fabric of my flat stomach. If I were pregnant, maybe I wouldn’t feel so empty.

Gretl is pinging the white ball against the table. The dogs are yapping and jumping to reach the hollow rattle. Gretl is determined to give me a headache, since I’ve refused to play stupid games with her. She doesn’t understand that no amount of ping-pong or ball-tossing can make me forget that he’s at the center of the world, while I’m stuck here in nowheresville.

The dogs are still yapping, though no longer at Gretl, when Liesl steps onto the patio in her sensible shoes and apron. “Miss Eva, you’ve got a delivery,” she says. I look up, shading my eyes.

Gretl drops the ball and claps her hands, shrieking gleefully, “Evie, Evie! It’s from Berlin! Open it; open it!”

The package is large, but when I knife it open, most of it’s filled with red tissue paper. I toss the paper aside, letting the dogs run off with it in carnation-like bunches. Inside the box is a plush pelican with soft gray wings and cool marble eyes. I remember what they taught us at the convent about the piety of the pelican, nursing its young on its own blood. This isn’t the first plush animal Wolf’s given me.

“A pelican!” Gretl laughs and snatches up the toy. “How funny! Look at his big beak.”

“There’s also a telegram for you, Miss Eva,” Liesl interjects, lowering her eyes and holding out a slip of paper. I don’t give a damn if she’s read it. I seize it as quickly as Negus and Stasi did the tissue paper.

The message is simple, but enough to have me leaping up from my recliner the moment I’ve skimmed it: Leaving Berlin tomorrow. Braunhaus on Thursday. Love, Wolf. All at once, the sun is beating to the rhythm of my heart. The sky is blue. The grass is green. I swoop the pelican up from Gretl’s hands, examining its pretty eyes and wings.

“Well, what shall we call this fellow? Our Leader will want to hear its name when he comes by on Thursday.”

*****


I am preening on a rocky ledge beside the waterfall. Gretl is panting and splashing around in the foam. Marion soaks in the shallows, making circles with her toe on the water’s surface. Though all of us brought swimsuits, we prefer to go naked. Midweek, we can usually count on this part of the lake being deserted.

Wolf doesn’t approve of me sunbathing nude, but I’m sure he’d change his mind if he could see what a pretty picture we make. I’d like to take some pictures of Gretl and Marion, only my camera is all the way over on the shore, peeking out of my woven beach bag. Our picnic also waits onshore: fresh cherries and rye bread and flagons of sweet white wine. The only thing separating Wolf and me now is a day in the sun, a stretch of glittering water.

Wolf won’t go near the water. He thinks it’s shameful for a man his age to be seen wearing anything less than a two-piece suit or a uniform. “It is beneath one’s dignity,” he says. “Unless one is young and beautiful like you, my pet, one shouldn’t be seen without clothes on.” Even alone with me, Wolf refuses to strip past his shirt and socks. This is just one of the many eccentricities I must put up with, loving him.

I’ve already given Liesl instructions for tomorrow. In the morning, she’ll clean the house and draw a hot bath for me with lots of scent and bubbles. After that, my driver will take her to Rischart for a Black Forest cake to serve with the cherry tea Wolf likes so much. Around midday, she’ll set my hair and help me dress. I don’t know what I’ll be wearing yet, but will probably choose a pretty frock; Wolf loves seeing me in frocks, especially the kind with full skirts and modest necklines. For my nightstand, she’ll get a bouquet of yellow orchids. My bed will be decked out with fresh silk sheets.

There’s a rowboat bobbing on the far side of the lake, lacquered red against the pine-green waters. I squint and can almost make out the young male rowers, shading their eyes and squinting back at us. One of them points in our direction and calls something out, but his voice is lost on the air. I doubt they can see us any better than we can see them, and this makes me bold.

“Look out, girls. We have an audience!” I call to Gretl and Marion. Gretl shrieks and keeps thrashing about in the white water. Marion lets out a peal of laughter and stands up, a dripping blond nymph. She blows a kiss to the rowers.

I laugh, too, and slide back into the water as easily as a mermaid would, skimming the bottom of the lake until I reach the falls. When I surface at my sister’s side, my heart is pumping, my face kissed by mist. Wolf says there’s nothing more virtuous in the world than being young and strong and fair-haired. In this moment, I know exactly what he means.

*****



Berghof

The price of having Wolf sleep beside me is waking to a bedroom that smells of sulfur. It’s a price I’m willing to pay, squinting at the midday sunlight filtering through the silk curtains. Asleep, he looks less like a wolf than an old white cat, the kind you see dozing heavily on garden walls. He’s getting older, and his dark hair has turned a mousy gray, shot with silver at the temples. Wolf likes to blame these silver hairs on his generals, who give him more grief these days than anyone else.

I sit up in bed, sheets bunched about my lap. I’d like to smoke, but of course, it’s forbidden in here, more than any other room at the Berghof. There’s a fresh, rotten smell from his side of the bed and he begins to stir, groping sightlessly for my thigh.

“My pet,” he murmurs, or rather rasps. He’s been calling me this name for years in private. In public, I’m still Miss Braun.

Wolf keeps his nightshirt on as he rolls onto me, raising my nightgown to my armpits. I accept his tight-jawed kiss and open my legs obligingly, wrapping them lotus-like around his back. I know many of the wives here make fun of my yoga and gymnastics, but they’re just bitter frumps who walk around like they’ve got ice in their drawers half the time. Even with legs as limber as mine, however, it doesn’t last for long. Wolf’s love is like a fish leaping into a rowboat, thrashing for some moments, then sliding back into the deep, blue water.

He rings for breakfast as I repair to our bathroom, leaving the door open while I wash my insides with vinegar. Vinegar kills the stuff that makes babies. Wolf can’t risk me having a baby, not while he’s our Leader and Germany needs saving. When I emerge in my dressing gown, my hair is fluffy and golden and my face freshly scrubbed. Breakfast awaits us on the balcony: strong coffee and buttery bread for me; milk, cocoa, and chocolate biscuits for Wolf.

Wolf’s balcony has the best mountain views in the Berghof and is off-limits to everyone but us. Sometimes, I imagine there are snipers in the mountains, but this thought doesn’t scare me. If anything, I like the idea of being spotted breakfasting in the sunshine with the most powerful man on Earth. I could die happy sitting right here with Wolf.

He’s dipping his biscuits in the cocoa, raising them to his lips with a trembling hand. Crumbs and droplets rain onto his nightshirt, soiling its white cotton. “Wolf, you’re wolfing down your food again,” I chide him tenderly. I reach out to brush some crumbs from his mustache.

He catches my fingertips in his mouth. “I’ll wolf you down, my pet, if you’re not careful.”

*****


I’m dressed for flower-picking in a peasant dirndl: frilly white blouse, red gingham bodice, full blue skirt, red-striped apron. Gretl and Herta also wear dirndls, in matching shades of red and blue. Gretl’s apron is knotted to the left to show that she’s single. Mine and Herta’s are knotted to the right to show that we’re not. Unlike Herta, I don’t have a wedding ring. I do have a diamond wristwatch, which Wolf gave me for my birthday three years ago. I’m willing to bet I’m the only woman in Germany who wears her dirndl with a diamond wristwatch.

The irises grow waist-high and are a deep purple-blue, like Wolf’s eyes. They smell soft and nice, like lipstick. When I bend down to pick the irises, their soft smell mixes with the damp of the soil. I gather them up in the crook of my elbow, angled skyward like a stage lady’s bouquet.

The sun is already high, making my diamonds cloud over and my perfume melt away. Wolf’s conference is probably close to finishing, and I’d hate to be absent from the terrace when he comes out, done with his boring business and ready to pay court to us ladies. One day last spring, I was late coming in from the meadows and found Wolf ensnared in conversation with Mrs. Propaganda. He didn’t kiss my hand that day and gave her his arm when it was time to go in for lunch.

I turn to look at Herta. She smiles at me and nods, as if she’s read my mind. Herta places a final iris onto her neat bouquet.

“Come, Gretl!” I call to my sister, who is further afield, sloppily bundling together as many flowers as she can carry. She turns around with a stupid look on her face, then gallops over, clutching her bouquet to her chest. Several flowers drop away as she runs.

We just have time to hand our irises over to the help and ask for some iced water, when Wolf’s approach is announced. The secretaries who are smoking under the striped canvas umbrellas stub out their cigarettes, while Mrs. Propaganda and the other snobby wives herd together their children and start dabbing at their faces. Mrs. Propaganda has six perfect blond children, and Wolf admires her very much because of this. I don’t know why this is such a big deal. If I had the chance, I’d give him twice as many children, better and blonder than hers.

Wolf steps into the sunlight, dressed in his gray uniform and military cap. We immediately draw in our stomachs and thrust out our chests, clasping our hands in front of our skirts and smiling prettily. Wolf walks with a slight stoop but looks happy, crinkling his eyes to smile back at us. His faithful Blondi is also happy, wagging her tail and strolling at his side. She sits down as he comes level with us, taking in our flushed cheeks and dirndls.

“What’s this? Three maidens fresh from the fields!”

We titter appreciatively, though even Gretl is hardly a maiden anymore, nearing twenty-seven. “Hail, my Leader.” I curtsy and present my hand to be kissed. He swoops down on it, blue eyes tugging at my own like magnets.

“Miss Braun, that costume suits you very well. But where are your little admirers?”

He means Negus and Stasi. “They’re in my suite with Liesl, my Leader. I didn’t want them running in the fields where there might be snakes.”

“Mind you watch out for snakes, Miss Braun.”

“I will, my Leader.”

“That goes for all you ladies. Little Miss Braun, you’re looking radiant, just like your sister.”

Wolf moves on to Gretl, who curtsies and greets him with a squeaky, “Hail, my Leader.”

After Gretl, he kisses Herta and the secretaries, then crosses the terrace toward Mrs. Propaganda and the other wives. He bends to kiss their hands and pinch the cheeks of their children—little girls in braids and frilly dresses, little boys in sailor suits or lederhosen. He gestures for the children to watch as Blondi performs her tricks: standing on her hind legs, turning in circles, howling like a wolf. Wolf joins in her howling and a child cries; the mothers laugh and clap their hands. The rest of us ladies start clapping with them. To applaud Blondi is to applaud Wolf, and Wolf thrives on being applauded.

*****


We are standing outside the Teehaus, waving as the black Mercedes carrying Wolf and Blondi winds downhill into the low, golden sun. At this time of the day, Wolf always likes to be left alone, but that doesn’t make me any happier to see him going. As soon as he goes, it’s as if all the light has gone from the sky. The relief of no longer having to suck in my stomach and stick out my chest is also a deflation, as my body slackens like a punctured balloon.

But I did get some nice photographs today. Wolf walking in front with all the men. Wolf standing at the lookout with Blondi. Wolf inside the Teehaus, smiling down at his plate of cake as Gretl grins beside him, pretty in one of my old polka-dotted frocks. I try to take as many photographs as I can while Wolf is here, so I have something to calm my nerves when he’s off touring Europe, making me crazy with fear for his life.

When all the fighting is over, Wolf says we can move to Linz together and live in a beautiful mansion, much more intimate than the Berghof. Only our best friends will visit us—no humorless generals or foreign ministers. He says that we’ll marry and that I’ll be his wife for the rest of his days, children or no children. He says that everyone will know the story of our great love.

For now, all I can do is keep him in love with me. I’ve swapped my dirndl for one of the fluttery tea dresses Wolf loves to see me in, white with blue flowers and a sweetheart neckline. As soon as we return to the Berghof, I’ll start getting dolled up for dinner. It’s late afternoon already and the sun is setting, almost touching the hazy blue mountains. Negus and Stasi seem intent on lingering, stopping to sniff every other pine trunk and wildflower.

“Evie, if you’re not wearing the purple gown with the beading tonight, can I?” Gretl pleads, tugging on Negus’ leash. Negus rears away from the buttercups he’s nosing.

“I thought you wanted to wear the brown taffeta.”

“I changed my mind. Please, Evie, please!”

“Okay, but if any of those beads come off …”

“Thank you, Evie!” Gretl beams and winks at Herta. “Bruno says I look en-chant-ing in purple.”

At the end of his leash, Negus has started sniffing again and is circling in the grass suspiciously. “Oh, no,” Gretl pegs her nose with her fingers and turns away, putting as much distance between herself and Negus as she can. While we wait for Negus to finish his business, one of Wolf’s adjutants catches up to us. He’s a handsome, young man called Hans, who Gretl has been known to flirt with, though she’s too embarrassed to flirt right now. Anyway, Hans seems more interested in speaking to me.

“Miss Braun, may I walk with you for a moment?” Hans stands up straight but looks nervous, eyes darting moistly from me to my companions to the path ahead.

“Of course!” I smile broadly and give him my arm, casting a glance back at Negus and my companions. “At this rate, we’ll never make it back in time for dinner.”

Hans smiles grimly and walks ahead with me a few paces, commenting on the beautiful weather and mountain air. His arm feels pleasantly muscular against my own, but I don’t know what to make of it or the silence that comes over him once he’s run out of small talk.

He clears his throat. “Miss Braun, our Leader has asked me to pass on a message. He says that your presence won’t be required at the table tonight.”

I should have expected this; Wolf’s adjutants never come to me with anything but the news he doesn’t want to tell me himself. All the same, my heart feels as if it’s just been tossed off the top of a mountain. “Oh?” I manage.

“Our Leader sends his regrets. There have been some new arrivals, and only the officials and their wives will be in attendance. Of course, dinner will be brought to your suite at the usual time. And champagne, if you and your companions should desire it …”

“Thank you, Hans. Tell our Leader I understand perfectly.” I come to a stop and let my arm fall from his clasp. He salutes me.

“It has been a pleasure, Miss Braun,” he says stiffly. “Forgive me if I’ve kept you too long from the other ladies.”

“Not at all.”

With a click of his heels, he sallies up the path in his smart uniform—just another man too honorable to acknowledge my existence.

*****


Not a whiff of Wolf remains in my suite, which has been aired out and crammed with irises in crystal vases. I’m cuddled up on the corner of my sofa with my menagerie of stuffed animals. Among them is the pelican Wolf bought me when he was in Berlin five summers ago, a blond lion, a black bear, a green tortoise, and a silver wolf. I hug the wolf with one hand. I hold my champagne with the other. Herta stands by the birdcage, smiling and chirping through the bars at my pair of bullfinches. Gretl is sprawled on the floor in her stocking feet, flicking through movie magazines.

“Mwa!” She smooches a glossy photograph of Viktor Staal, looking stern and chiseled in a herringbone suit. “There’s my future husband.”

“He was very handsome in Love School,” Herta agrees from across the room.

“His new film sounds so dreamy. Evie, can’t you get us an advance screening?”

I roll my eyes and take a sip of champagne. “That’s up to Mr. Propaganda.”

“Ugh.” Gretl wrinkles her nose, reaching for her own glass, which is perched dangerously atop a pile of old magazines. “I don’t want to ask him for any more favors.”

“As if you ever do the asking.”

“Sourpuss.” Gretl knows I’m in a bad mood but, as usual, won’t let up. “It’s only because you’re so good at asking, Evie.” She flips a page and has another thought. “If the guests tonight are movie stars, I’ll just die.”

“I don’t think they’re movie stars.” Herta turns from the cage, hand on hip.

“Why not? Our Leader likes talking to movie stars.”

“Hans said the dinner was for officials,” I remind Gretl. “And our Leader is never as secretive about film stars as he is about politicians.”

“Well, that’s okay, then. I’d rather look at pictures of movie stars than listen to boring politicians.”

Maybe I would, too, if I hadn’t read all these magazines a million times, and if I didn’t know Wolf would be there, at his most charming for the new arrivals. When I was a stupid little teenager, he used to put on his charm for me all over Munich, quite happy to be seen dining with a pretty, young girl. Now that I’m close to him, I have to stay hidden, though heaven knows I’m more elegant than I was back then. I’m the only woman in Germany who wears her dirndl with a diamond wristwatch, the only woman who’s seen the view from his balcony.

*****



Berlin

Wolf tells me not to come to Berlin. He tells me I’m too precious to set foot in the capital until it’s been razed and built anew, with wide avenues and a dome bigger than any in Italy. It’s not that long since Wolf was keeping me away from Berlin for other reasons.

“You’re not made for society life, my pet,” he used to say to me. “You’re a delicate flower, and Berlin society is a dung heap.”

I’m lifting dresses from my wardrobe and folding them into my open valise. I choose bright dresses printed with small flowers, polka-dotted dresses, dresses to remind whatever’s left of society that it’s spring, even if the sky is white with smoke and the trees are stripped of leaves. I choose dresses with starched cuffs and collars, which make me look younger than my thirty-three years. I choose a dress that’s a favorite of Wolf’s: darkest blue silk taffeta, embroidered with sequins. I call for another valise and haul my fox and mink out of the closet; furs are always elegant, and I don’t know how cold it’s going to be in Berlin.

The rest of my clothes can go to Gretl and Ilse, who’ll need them more than I will. I’ve told Gretl to bury all of Wolf’s letters to me. Though there aren’t many of them, they’re too precious to destroy or have anyone else read. Negus and Stasi are to stay behind in Munich; they could never cope with all the sirens and shooting that’s going on in the capital. My parents say I should stay behind, too, but I know my place is with Wolf.

“He needs me,” I insist. “And I can’t very well abandon our Leader, after everything he’s done for me.”

Papa doesn’t exactly approve of the things Wolf has done for me, but after all this time, he’s resigned himself to them. I’ve spent half my life loving Wolf, living in sin for his sake, and there’s nothing Mama or Papa can do to change this. In fact, I’d gladly tear the first half of my life away from them, if it meant giving those years to Wolf, instead.

On the midnight train, I travel north with the window shutters down. I don’t believe in seeing more ugliness than I need to and prefer to keep the curtains closed, even when I travel by daylight. Cradled in my couchette, I let the train rock me deeper and deeper into my dreams of Wolf. Wolf victorious. Wolf asking for my hand in marriage. Wolf telling the world about our great love. When I awake just outside Berlin, there’s nothing to see but dust above the city, and a platform crowded with deserters waiting to go south.

*****


“My pet!” Wolf’s eyes light up like a child’s when I’m brought to his study at the Chancellery, a grand room done up in red marble with golden eagles perched above the doors.

I blush at being called this in front of the officers, who are grimly milling around the crimson tabletop. Wolf starts to get up from his armchair laboriously, but he’s shaky on his feet these days, and I’m quick to fly to his elbow and help him settle down again.

From Wolf’s desk, there’s a view of the winter garden with its shimmering gray pond and heaps of dirty snow. Slumped in his chair, Wolf reaches no higher than the waistband of my skirt. He lowers rather than raises my hand to his lips, wetting it with his kiss and squeezing it limply.

“But, my pet, you shouldn’t have come! It’s not safe. You must go back immediately.” His voice is no more than a rasping whisper.

“Nonsense, my Leader. I have everything I need right here.” I smile down at him.

My luggage has been set down in the suite adjoining Wolf’s apartment. Though the room is comfortable enough, I don’t unpack—merely unlock my valise and select an evening dress to replace my traveling suit. As Liesl draws a bath for me in the red marble tub, I look up at the ceiling and listen out for the distant whirs and rumblings of the fighting outside. If I don’t think about these noises too much, they’re just a trembling in my blood, a shadow on my brain. They’re a threat that can be lived with, like cancer or old age.

Wolf is turning fifty-six soon but looks closer to seventy, hunched beside me at the Chancellery dining table. I used to make fun of him for hunching like an old man, back when he was a vigorous fifty-year old. Now, it makes my eyes sting to think of how frail he is, the cruelty of those who’ve made him age so quickly. He eats noodles with tomato sauce. He gets flecks of sauce in his mustache, which I dab away discreetly once he’s done with his plate. Everyone looks away, down into their champagne glasses, when I do this. I guess they feel guilty for taking so much away from him, speeding up his old age.

Before leaving Munich, I got Hoffmann to take one last portrait of me for Wolf’s birthday. I’ve given Wolf self-portraits for almost every birthday since I’ve known him: he says there’s no better gift I can give him than myself. In this portrait, I’m wearing a flowing white dress and looking soft, romantic, bridal. Someone has to remind Wolf that there’s beauty in the world worth staying alive for.

*****


My feet are planted firmly in the dust, set wide apart in their burgundy suede high heels. I’m not cold, though the weather is raw, and my coat is flapping open at my knees. The gunfire in the east is closer than it was a few days ago but sounds softer through my earmuffs, as I narrow my eyes at the empty champagne bottle. The pistol was a gift from Wolf: small and serviceable, perfect for a woman. I squeeze the trigger, and the bottle shatters at the neck, its green shards the only bit of spring in the garden.

I squeal and clap my hands, calling across the courtyard to the secretaries, “Did you see that? Right in the throat!”

By the doors to the Chancellery, men in uniforms mount guard. Mrs. Propaganda smokes between them, broad-hipped and immaculate in her white suit and pearls. She arrived here with her children a few days ago and will be staying with us until the end. She told me as much herself. Now that all the other wives have fled south to their country houses, Mrs. Propaganda sees fit to confide in me.

When she heard that the secretaries and I were going out for target practice, Mrs. Propaganda said coolly, “I’d rather shoot myself than even set eyes on a Russian soldier.”

I actually agree with her, but either way, I think it’s best to be a steady shot. Besides, it’s a good way to pass the time while I wait for Otto to move my things down from the fractured Chancellery building and into the shelter below ground. There were air raids last night, and it’s now possible to see the heavens from my suite.

I hand the pistol to Miss Christian, who steps forward and takes aim. At the same moment, Otto emerges with four leather valises piled up in his arms, followed by Liesl, who bears a pair of matching hatboxes.

“Miss Eva, are you ready to go down?” Liesl’s high voice carries through the open air.

“Just a moment, Liesl.” I smile and gesture at Miss Christian and the bottles.

Miss Christian pulls the trigger. Another champagne bottle shatters, sending shivers up my spine. She turns around, flushed and grinning, and hands the pistol back to me. Its weight is warm and small in my clasp, like one of Blondi’s newborn puppies.

The other secretaries coo with admiration. “You did it! You shot him dead.” When a bomb thunders somewhere to the east, not one of us flinches.

I place my pistol in its case: elegant and silver, lined with velvet, engraved with my signature E. B. Tucking the case under my arm, I turn to Liesl. “I’m ready. I guess we’d better go down, if we want to make it to the underworld in time for tea.”

Otto leads us out of the winter garden through a damp, narrow corridor. His shoulders are broad and tense under his uniform shirt; a young man’s shoulders, not at all like Wolf’s. At this time of the afternoon, Wolf will probably be down in the kennel, cuddling the pups and talking to them in a voice so whispery only they can hear it. Now that so many of Wolf’s men are fleeing Berlin, dogs and women are his only comfort.

Passing through the cellars, I spy case upon case of champagne; enough to last us all a year, even if we’re never sober. The pantries are stocked with canned fruit in syrup, canned tomatoes, cans of rich black caviar. When we reach the metal door that opens to the underground staircase, we’re greeted by armed guards. They ask to see our papers.

For him, I am descending to a place that the bombs can’t touch, a place where night and day are the same, and where I will always be loved. The guards step aside. Before me, the ground opens up.




Laura Elizabeth Woollett is a Perth-born author, editor, and aspiring screenwriter, living in Melbourne, Australia. Her first novel, The Wood of Suicides, was published in 2014 by The Permanent Press, and her short story collection, The Love of a Bad Man, was published in August 2016 by Scribe Australia. Since 2012, she has been a fiction editor for Voiceworks. Find her at her website.

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