after language, the novel that isn't Part 23
Written by William Kherbek on Monday the 17th of October 2011
hands with Jan, with Ptacek, the collective. To help Highfill, to save Highfill
is to save (at least to try to...)Radvanice.
And so Watson decides. Rises from
the bed, breaks open his piggy bank (in fact a Gregor Samsa Beetle Bank). Waves
to Stich. Stich grunts 'dobri denn...”
Watson in the world, pushes through
the crowd, budgeting along the way, on the train to Holoscevice. Has enough to
get to Dresden and live for three days. He'll work it out there.
He'll work it all out there.
Buys a Pilsner Urquell for the
Thinks of Jan.
Stops thinking of Jan.
Thinks of Jan.
Chases it away.
Highfill after 'exercise': dour,
bearded. Been denied razors, possible suicide risk. Highfill dangles,
arraignment forthcoming. Some legal issues to settle before charges can be
officially brought. Meagre joys: after dinner chats with Oskar, his main
jailer, flicking through Stern before lights out. Late on a Sunday, ten minutes
before lockdown. Highfill flicks a Stern leaf, sees a curious image: Memorial
for a certain 'Graf Offendorf', conservative politicians gathered. Beside FM, a
familiar face. Could it be true? Grainy-ish photo, main focus: Oldster on the
podium: Technology minister or something, but the face, it has to be her...Asks
Oskar for a magnifying glass.
She was sickened to be there. She
remembered the life of Count Offendorf well enough, mentor to Grubenstein, that
was him at the podium,1980s Finance Viking. Political life: scandal swaddled.
Insider trades, junk-bondery, introduced the phrase 'slush-fund' to German
lexicon. Retired to country life, shooting things (presumably). Passed away
aged 106. Im schlaf. Of course.
Ludo was invited, she knew what that meant.
In the end: more fun than she'd thought.
Truffles, good champagne, a bit too much, resulted in her crossing a certain
line: fucked with Grubenstein during his speech, suggested a few words at less
than appropriate moments, e.g. 'freiheit'/'putz': a few gasps. She sputtered.
Ludo nudged her: very unprofessional.
blamed the champagne. Some. Hence the Stern attention.
Watson in Dresden. Outside the
station, Neustatt. Apropos. He's sobering now. The idea: what on earth was?
Stich on the couch: doesn't know the truth. Eva: expects him to barback.
Probably thinks he's sick. Probably worries...
Jan: Safely in...prison....
The passport guy at Bad Shandau, welcomed him
to Germany. Station: glacier silent. Watson stares at the massive clock: Night.
Has enough to live for three days, maybe, if he's the luckiest of the lucky.
Watson wanders station: shuttered shops, moon-glint off silver railings.
Chain-food: behind shutters, inaccessible. Newsagents, bookshops, all empty,
encased and frozen. Last of the passengers from his train are filing out into
the street. Watson follows, why? Idealess. Long way to Berlin. Pointless
trudging, down the Hainstrasse, the Hofgarten, the empty night park: familiar
enough, night parks. Watson's weary burden: seeks laying down. Past
KleineMarienBrucke. Watson stumbles down the uneven mud near MarienBrucke, dark
blue water, scary-soothing, like unknown purring. Watson scrunches, under
overpass. Can hear the cars clunking overhead. Forgot luggage. Forgot blankets.
Shrubbery seeking. Vague pillow. Watson on a ragged bed of leaves.
What a choice. He thinks of Highfill
in his prison. Highfill pain. I'll come to you Highfill, he thinks. I'll come.
But now, the rubble of the day lays him out. Watson stares at the dark bridge
canopy. Listen to the water, passing down through the roots and rocks. Maybe
have happened, otherwise he wouldn't have woke like this: the crash of a
massive body beside him. Night-jogger: what the fuck? Feeling mutual. Watson
panic, strong faced man. Cut and buzzcut.
"Was machst du?”
"You shouldn't be sleeping here...”
"Phil Phister is American.”
Phil Phister is American. Changes
the dynamic. Meat-palm, slaps Watson chest under a heavy 'how's about that'
tee-hee. Does Watson follow the sport? Strongman stuff?
That's the mission: Klaus the
Strongman: redeem Germany's fortunes. Scandinavian dominated. Klaus thinks it's
a Dresdener's turn. Cardio events: kill the German contenders every year.
Strong but not fit. Klaus won't make that mistake. Night jogs to avoid
'gawkers'. Klaus: a big Dresdener. Daytime: Concentrates on the Maritime
Medley. Does Watson lift?
Watson holiday making?
Elements of that.
"Yes, I'd do the same thing, a hotel
it's not true life. But you must admit, it's somewhat unclean down here.”
offer: If Watson jogs with him, he can sleep on the roof of Klaus's building.
"The stars are like lace there...”
Watson slogs. Klaus: might redeem
Germany yet. Agile for a big man. Singlet: reveals vast tectonic lats. Watson
follows. Klaus assesses the field:
"Strong boys from Munchen...Leipzig...”
Somehow Watson endures. Klaus
shouted back questions: First time in Germany? Seen the AltStatt?
Only answers: Watson wheezes.
Over the bridge. Along the Elbe
banks, the black water, past the Starclub, pavement scruffs...
Klaus's flat: predictably Spartan:
Chair. Weights. Cardio devices. Radio. Parrot. Nice cage...
"He is good company.”
Klaus mixing potions, powders, whey
Maybe some water...
Klaus chugging the potion, indicates
chair. Watson wimpling.
Watson jerks. Klaus indicates
"I call him Sigmarsson. He was a
hero. He died in the gym...”
"Stark! Kraft! Macht!”
"He helps to inspire me. Don't you
"Versager! Schwake ist
Klaus chugs more. Formal
introductions. Klaus does a few press-offs against kitchen counter.
"Perhaps you can help me,
"Could you sit on my back? I have
200 press-ups tonight.”
After the shrug, Watson situates.
Das is gut.
Watson girds his knees in, socks on
the Klaus-lat. 100: Watson silent; Klaus also silent. 110. Watson: silent;
occasional Klaus-grunt. 130: The grunting now a regular feature. 150: Grunt
becomes roar. 155: The limit.
Would Watson please remove himself?
Klaus face down on the kitchen
floor. Watson hears the seething.
156-170: Relatively trouble-free.
171-180: Grunts boil into barks. 180-190: Roar, grunt, roar, shriek. Watson
topples. Klaus punches the floor.
The clearing of the Watson throat:
inaudible above dueling 'Scheisses...”
"Einmal mehr, Jeffreedom!”
190-200: relatively trouble-free.
Almost a hollow victory. Jeffreedom dismounts. Returns to his seat. Klaus:
florid. Sigmarsson: attacking a cuttlebone, indifferent.
"Yes. Jeffreedom, yes...”
Post-press-up small talk
reticulates: Watson's on his way to Berlin, just passing through, etc.
"Your silence is deep and powerful,
Jeffreedom. One works out with many types of men, sometimes with women,
everyone has a different style, but the quiet I felt when you were on my back,
there was a quality of radiance to it.”
"I have had many partners, but I
have never felt the serenity that I felt tonight. It is possible that is why I
couldn't make 200 the first time. Yes, that is very possible. It was as if my
senses were overloaded, I was overcome by the peacefulness of it. I am
"Kraftig. Scheisse. Einmal mehr!”
"Jeffreedom, may I ask you
"Would you consider being my workout
partner? I mean full-time. I have a tournament in September in Berlin. I can
take you there.”
"As your trainer?”
"As my trainer.”
"Klaus, I don't have-"
"That doesn't matter. It is
something beyond training, something spiritual.”
"You'll take me to Berlin?”
"I will take you to Berlin.”
It was agreed. Klaus devised a
regime: The ultimate cardio trial: Watson in a harness, guiding Klaus as he
jogged from Dresden to Berlin. Watson would be 'a mobile Sigmarsson”.
August wind, august stars. Elbe eats
the starlight. Watson in a futon on Klaus' roof, contemplating the trip.
Berlin. Highfill. Sigmarsson. Watson. Klaus. Strange hierarchies. Then sleep
Highfill's window: looks out on the
exercise ground. Trees, sky, concrete. It's morgen. He's waiting on the
magnifying glass. Was it witch-work, the extradition? Panic has struck more
than once. Highfill sleep was fragmentary: several bolt-upright moments. Death
shudders. Dreams of Ganglion. Ganglion's face against his, Ganglion pores,
leaking with alco-sweat, Ganglion wens: visible, purple, superating. "I thought
you died...” "This time the matter will be clearer...” Highfill paced for an hour.
Sunrise leaked. Now he's looking out on the empty yard. Could be a sad kind of
playground, no swings, no monkey bars. He's seen them worse, back home, out in
East Los Angeles, a naked tether-ball pole, some faded hopscotch pitches: the
only accoutrements. If he gets out: maybe he'll give them some money. Not that
he remembers the name of the place...
When the lights come on, relief
seems to settle: Ganglion can't come to him in daylight. He never naps, can't
put the illusion at risk.
Thoughts of the witch. He could cry.
Crying and prison: losing combination. He holds it in. He reaches for the
Stern: gala too badly lit for conclusions. That Face: perhaps too wan,
remembers a healthy witch.
Decides it's impossible. Social
Democratic Witch. Charming naivety really, if she only knew how markets worked,
she'd-he chases it away.
are tears. Highfill wipes them on Stern pages. Tear smudges: threaten the image. Highfill
composes himself. Luna free and he in prison: the thought scours his
heart-flesh. Still: Was this not always the case? Even when they met. He:
Cassocked in his regrets, in his crimes, his inherent 'Nathan Highfill-ness',
She: Eine Freigeistin. Her skin in the air on Brocken...
Please don't think of that...
Highfill reclines. Morning prison
sounds, mop-swish, plastic wheels creaking and scudding, mop-slosh, roll call.
Occasional metallic thuds.
When Oskar arrives Highfill draws
Coffee in styrofoam.
Oskar reminds him of his meeting
with the warden in the afternoon.
Highfill nods behind the coffee
steam. Oskar turns to move along the 'Special Prisoners Wing'. Highfill's
forgotten when he hears Oskar calling to him.
"Oh, Herr Highfill, I almost
Thick and heavy, rectangular,
unbreakable-seeming: his magnifying glass.
"Don't tell anyone. It's mine...”
Highfill understands loyalty.
In Berlin, provided he can afford
them, all the pleasures of life are accessible to a man. Something has changed
in him. Since the desert. Now, what he would have called his 'resolve' has
somehow been broken. Where he once resisted, he now looks upon his needs-are
they 'needs'? Are they not merely 'desires'?-the way he would have looked at
paying slight overhead for a much desired financial transaction. Perhaps this
is what his 'needs' have become, an outcome to a financial transaction, a tax
Knowing this, he hates them even
more deeply. Yes, that is what they are-he bites his sandwich-they are taxes.
Thou art indeed just...The boys come by. Late summer, walking along the Spree. In
the afternoons they are shirtless, the wind plays all manner of games with
their hair. He bites his sandwiches. Once in a while someone looks over at him,
in his cotton trousers and shirt, his straw hat often beside him, beside his
smart brief case. He looks back-always-and sometimes this is the end of it;
other times, it is not.
Visitor's day. Not expecting much. Seen
his willowy lawyer a few times. Fresh from Humboldt, maybe twenty six. He
babbles messages of hope. Highfill returns mumbles and sighs. Not looking
forward to the next meeting. Arraignment.
though, Highfill turns, tosses, picks through Stern, basks in the eerie glow of
the overwhelming fact: It's her. All questions are deceased now.
she's behind All of This: strikes him the real tragedy, even as he drinks
jail-coffee, grit by filthy grit.
Game? No idea. A conservative witch after all. He can't annihilate the
memories, Hamburg streetlight halos bathing her face, her body so small-seeming
as it floated above him that night, the sheet hanging down, covering him too.
Eyes he'd have called childish then, now 'innocent' as she fucked with his FAZ.
What had happened? Was it him? Could he flatter the subtly of the arguments
that haunted his own mind, the mind she opened like a fresh melon and ingested,
to think that exposure to them made the change? Or had those beliefs, the ones
she funky-derided, could they have lain inside her the whole time, coiled like
a basket-snake, Highfill the charmer, on the lute no doubt... What is it to know
another person? Even to have seen all the machinery inside the ghost, every
neuron, every threadline of dendrite, every synaptic chasm...
Oskar-shuffle, stirs him. Oskar jovial:
"Herr Highfill, you have a visitor.”