Brüderchen lets himself in (time of day?), wipes his feet on the doormat, hangs up his dripping coat. His brother Tatar will be in his chair by the window. As always. In the kitchen, he prepares a pot of tea. The custard creams are soft but they will have to do. He checks the pills dispenser. Reads the note from the nurse. Good. It is all as it should be. Windows could do with a good wash but of course not on a day like this.
T : Brüderchen ! Back already.
Brüderchen places the tray on a table between them. Places, then, a hand on his brother’s shoulder.
How are we ?
T : Still here ! Still wondering how one can help oneself in a way that moves forward instead of merely being flight.
He reaches for a cup of tea. Gestures for a bit more milk and another lump of sugar, why not?
B : You think too much. Wait.
He hands his brother the cup. Their cups don’t match. One he recognizes from mother’s buffet. Limoges, no less. The other no doubt from some Bavarian pottery work. Sleek, white, with a smoothness of curve that seems at odds with a German temperament but upon a second glance, yes, there was a certain coldness of aesthetic.
T : No one’s right or wrong once the odds are set and I’ve found the next stone to jump onto, dear brother.
B : You’re doing this on purpose.
T : Sorry Lawrence !
He laughs. It is a laugh bordering on a cackle as he remembers the game he once played with the children. His eyes drift to his brother’s shoes. Brown shoes. Dark green socks. He reaches down the side of his chair for his book. His memoir. His brother’s face prepares itself.
DO AS THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE
A poor man who had lost all he had cherished set up home on the street not too far from a church. Every day the good people of the neighbourhood walked by. The priest walked by. The doctor walked by. The citizens with their secure salaries walked by the poor man who had lost all he had cherished and so had set up home on the street.
One day a newcomer, just moved in on the first floor across the road, saw the poor man who had lost all he had cherished. When she walked by, she said Hello. The poor man replied. The next time she asked How are you? The poor man replied with a laugh.
Often when the newcomer came home, there he was the poor man, skin and bones rattling inside a threadbare coat pinned to a thick strip of cardboard by what was left of his rump.
His name, he said, was Jonny. He said It’s actually something else but you can’t pronounce it, so everyone calls me Jonny. Jonny was not from these parts. Through fate or malice he had ended up here far from his native land in Eastern Europe. Sometimes he wasn’t sitting there when she walked by and her thoughts would stretch out to him, wondering whether he were still alive.
One day it was so terribly cold she brought him a hat. On another it was so terribly windy she gave him two jumpers, of which he pulled on one and cushioned his arse with the other. One day Jonny was no longer there and she was worried indeed. Relieved she was to see him the following morning as she stood on her balcony after checking the cupboards to see what was absolutely necessary, for she was but a poor student herself and every cent counted.
On her way to Iceland with a small knapsack for her groceries she said Hello. Cold was the morning but the walk would do her good and the bus-fare saved could be better spent.
He was no longer there upon her return. Great was her disappointment. Three times she stepped onto her balcony, only to have to confirm: the spot across the road remained vacant.
Shortly before the good people of the town began to return to their ordered evenings, the poor man who had lost all he had cherished placed his cardboard, his jumper and his illegible plastic bag on their spot not too far from the church.
Hello Jonny, how are you?
Jonny looked up to see the newcomer stamping her feet to cheat the cold.
I bought you a frozen pizza. I’ll bring it down in a bit.
Thanks. Kind of you. But I’d rather a cup of coffee if it’s alright.
The two old men exchange a glance; a brothers’ glance. We are left behind.
T : A fistful of ideas clutched at and shoved upon you. Influencing the core and making its peace unbearable. Only by then it is monstrous… But who cares ?
Soft custard creams and weak tea for yesterday’s gourmet. He turns the page.
ON THE ROCKS
there was this young woman who lived in a shoe with hubby & 4 kids (churchy they were too); sunday in choir, weekdays for hire, marriage needs patching? by God she’s your man!
monday at 10? candles & Rescue®, Bach blossoms or prayers? the power the glory o’ the goodbook? what then?
in fine catholic fashion (i.e.) modest in passion you’ll wend your way home to subdue to His will
thursday at 3? oh, school, silly me; friday at two ought to do? till then duty awaits, there’s 1)wifedom to kill 2)orgasms to fake 3)tempting stashes for pills to update
our catholic counsellor locks up – gotta dash – her lover is waiting to open her latch, they’re cousins but so what, he’s better than him, believe me, King doth cum
– and’s partial to rim –
He was supposed to be an old man, sinking into himself as he returned to the soil, the imprint of his rump in the musty armchair that would end up in a flea market, after that in student digs. He should be repenting like everyone else. Not. This.
T : I don’t have the strength for insignificance. I’ll leave the rest of you to be ordinary.
The old hate flickered, he’s a wimp, he thought. Nothing has he dared.
B : You and your cosmic ambitions. A pile of dust and dark matter. It doesn’t matter.
T : That’s grand, coming from you of all people. Would you dare to say that in your finery on a Sunday ? You’ve always been a bit of a coward, haven’t you. You don’t believe the half of what you say or do. Remember the big boy from next door? I don’t know why I even bother with you but who else have I got ? The women, constantly colliding with their sentiments? Come off it. They don’t know how to listen. If only we could send them to war, they’d come back being useful. No, Brüderchen. I have only you.
If I think of myself as Queen B it becomes more bearable…
B : You think too much. Who cares. Maybe I do. Just a little bit. Maybe I don’t. If you weren’t such a self-centred creature, if you cared only a fraction for those whom you want so much to care for you, and for the world as opposed to what the world can give you, then you wouldn’t care that the world doesn’t care.
T : JesusTalk, Brüderchen. If this is so then I must confess that I do not love this world. I love one or two bees, let’s say, but the world ? I do not love it.
B : Love begins where it becomes unconditional, don’t you think?
What he had given, over the years ! He had no reason for self-reproach. Or pity. This place had a bad effect on him. He could already imagine the house, sold, renovated, filled with the colour and life of young souls with new dreams, with tomorrow, not pampers for adults, crumbs in the cupboards. Pills. Lies.
B : You were saying : you’re not writing for the world but for a few bees in it. Think about whether you love your one or two bees enough to make honey.
T : Brüderchen ?
B : Hmmm ?
T : Say Motherfucker
B : Motherfucker ?
T : Louder
B : Why ?
T : Do you remember Lake Hanau?
B : Of course I do. Do you remember Ciudad?
He might as well make himself useful. Kitchen was a mess. Holes in the rubber gloves but no one threw them away. He’d take the bin out with him when he went. With a bit of luck his brother would be sleeping by the time he’d finished.
human desires are like the world of the dead – there is always room for more.
I was there. I was there when she died. Can’t you remember? Too many were there, who didn’t care, just there to appear to care. And to eat at our expense.
She was beautiful. Beauty in a woman without good judgement is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout.
Hanau. Everyday, a soul-shaking memory emerges again from somewhere unknown.
The rooms upstairs were never used now. The bed had been brought downstairs. Quick sweep. The smell of old carpet. There was bound to be perfectly good oiled floorboards underneath. He did like the chimney places. Remember how much we hated having to go out to fetch the wood? Remember when there was no wood left and mother wouldn’t ask where we’d brought it home from?
The big boy from next door.
Bacterial hologram on the loo seat like a tie-dye (even worse underneath), couldn’t be from either of them. Could only be the nurse. She wasn’t being paid to clean or offer polite conversation but for other services and she was always in a hurry, he supposed. He put the useless gloves on for this job. They had a disgusting cold wetness on the inside.
He was sleeping. Thank goodness. The diary had fallen to the floor:
heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away
think before you speak, and don’t make any rash promises to God. He is in heaven and you are on earth, so don’t say any more than you have to.
doubt opens up succulent warmwounds presaging nothing that can be held within words
I’m afraid only eyes are worth this quick story
because words are like nomads, they come and go
Brüderchen is everything to me. Never let him know.
Well well well…
It was in the news: a man their mother knew strangled his wife, raped her post mortem, buried her in their cellar (is it rape if she’s dead?). A ten ton Tessa, how did he, half her size, get her down the stairs? Neighbours knew nothing. Of course. Life goes on, don’t it hurry. People like you and me. Like those dashing past this very window, Brüderchen thought, fleeing their own private skeletons.
He heard him fart in his sleep. It would be too rude to leave without saying goodbye properly. He made more noise than need be (bustling by the window. How can I make the world outside come in through his eyes?). When that didn’t work, he shook his brother.
T : Brüderchen ?
B : Hmmm ?
T : Will you say it once, from the pulpit ? Once. For me. For Queen B ?