after language, the novel that isn't Part 25
Written by William Kherbek on Monday the 17th of October 2011
"Herr Highfill, I
expect I will spend ten years in this prison no matter what.”
"I suppose what the man says makes
sense, it will be very difficult for you to fight your case. I read the
newspapers, Herr Highfill, we have so many sitting in the offices, they all
come here, we have to read them to delete the prohibited parts, you understand
surely...But yes, I would agree, your case
looks hopeless. Perhaps it is better to spend some time in prison.”
"It's against my nature.”
"So you may think.”
"My believe in freedom-"
"Has brought us together. That is
often the case...”
Any files under the mattress?
Weapons? Guitar strings?
"You are on suicide watch still,
Herr Highfill, how quickly one forgets.”
"Do you consider yourself free,
"An imprisoned jailer? That reminds
me of a song I used to like at university...”
"When I was with the President-"
"Presidents are no more free than I
am, Herr Highfill, that much you can be certain of.”
"We had a discussion about the roots
of the concept of individual liberty.”
"This is your President from 2000?”
"This is perhaps one of your tall
stories, Herr Highfill?”
"He was a very thoughtful man,
Oskar. His reputation...People hate, Oskar, they hate what they cannot
understand. He was a great listener. He never interrupted. I explained to him
that the roots of individual liberty were conceived during the Romantic period,
by German thinkers no less, Humboldt, Schlegel. I explained how the roots of
our capacity to be free are both instantiated and recapitulated by our ability
to express ourselves in language-"
"And what was the President's
"He nodded thoughtfully to that, I
could see he was taking it all in, coolly nodding in his chair. He never
disputed a point, he just let it pass through him like a wave. He was a very
"Herr Highfill, if I didn't know
better I would think you were trying to escape by making me laugh so much,”
pause for guffaws. Oskar straightens. Can't take it: more guffaws. Highfill:
stung at first, had Oskar down for centre-right at least, then, as the
laugh-breach lengthens, he finds himself willing it to continue. The sound of laughter,
even Alan's acidic variation: it's been months...
At long last, "Please continue your story,
Herr Highfill, I believe I can take it now.”
"Wherever freedom of speech is
repressed, man's fundamental nature is annihilated, the mitigation of speech is
the crime from which all other crimes spring forth, Oskar, he understood, he
felt it in his bones. To permit its repression, is to permit the death of
"And this was before...”
"Yes, before the war...”
Oskar feels absently under the sink
pipes. Stares Highfill down. Straightens up. Highfill senses a change.
"Herr Highfill, I begin to believe
they should never let you out of here.”
Cell-clank. Plastic sack hisses
along the corridor. Oskar shuffles.
Highfill: Doesn't get a good-bye
Watson harnessed. Took some doing,
some studying. The awkwardness of running with a man on one's back: hard to
overcome. There were preliminary trials, Watson piggy-backed for a few
Elbe-jogs: Too much, Klaus collapsed a few times from all the weight shifting.
"Never! Never apologise, Jeffreedom.
This failure is necessary, it is justice for my arrogance, my witlessness. We
will find another way...”
Nope. Awkwardness comparable. Injury
Watson in a wagon?
Nope. Extra weight: barely
noticeable, plus, stupid looking.
They hit on it mid-press up. Watson
on a lat-island. Klaus crying: Yes! YESSS!
"That's only 160.”
"I have a solution (exhale).
(inhale) A solution (exhale) (inhale) for Berlin!(exhale)”
After 201 (Klaus felt frisky),
explanations. They'd go to a leather shop in the centre of town, Klaus knew a
'magnificent place', best weightlifting gloves in Germany, possibly central
Europe as a whole; he'd have a harness crafted. Watson would sit, yes, and play
the Sigmarsson Role all the way to Berlin. Stimmt?
What of Sigmarsson?
"My uncle will take him.”
Next morning, Klaus and Watson in
the leather shop, amid bikers and fetishists. Keeping their distance from each
other they caress, smell, chin-stroke. Klaus finds his man, Herr Dietrich. A
sharp blade of greeting,
"Guten Morgen, Alte!”
Herr Dietrich, happy to see Klaus
too. Hand clasp, Herr Dietrich, apprehensive, drawn in for a bear hug.
Amid joint-pops: "New gloves, Herr Frieden?”
"No, no, a special job. A very
Klaus disappears into a long
explanation. Watson nods along. A good pseudo-parrot...
"I think we shall have no problem at
all with that, if this is our friend, Herr Watson, perhaps he could allow me to
make bold with my tape?”
"If I may, what do you expect our
friend Herr Watson to be wearing while he is contained?”
"I imagine a singlet, like myself of
Herr Dietrich seeks Watson's
approval. Singlet plan: green-lit.
"The office might be a more
comfortable place for the recording.”
Watson in briefs and socks. Watson
measured, waist, shoulders, biceps, inseam. Herr Dietrich hums approvingly
during. The coldness of the leather against Watson's leg-pallor: shocking,
public, somewhat funky-fresh.
Takes a week, but when it comes,
it's a thing of beauty, even Watson admits. Loose in the right places, form
hugging in others. Silk lining. Watson could sleep in it. Does.
They test it on an Elbe-jog. Das
CarIdioten: chuck soft-drink at them. Nails Watson: limeade; not bad. Klaus a
bit sticky. Enraged. Delighted.
"I hadn't counted on the persistence
and creativity of the abuse.”
Neither had Watson.
Feels it will up the intensity:
"Serendipity', I believe it is called in English.”
The journey begins at first
Visitor's day. Highfill reclining.
Oskar appears, forced into polysyllabicism: 'Besucher' No fault of his own.
Their relationship: seriously deteriorating. Highfill's heavy exhalation. Knows
it's more politics. Hasn't spoken to lawyer-kid since arraignment. Even then:
perfunctory, professional, no chit-chatter. Politics...Probably the same guy.
Hasn't made up his mind. Stands quickly, doesn't want to piss Oskar off any
more than necessary. Prison sounds along the corridor: nothing surprising,
vertiginous metallic echoes, some cleaner whistling.
Oskar deposits Highfill. No
inklings. Highfill as still as at his arraignment...I understand the charges your
Highfill: barely functional.
"How did you-Where did you-When...”
Uwe incredulous: "On the news of
course. For days it was everywhere...”
thankful he hasn't seen the tabloids.
couldn't believe it at first but then, I thought, 'He had many depths, many
"I'm sorry Uwe.”
"About the guys?”
"You did say you'd email, ( )
was very upset. 'He's forgotten us so quickly?'”
weepy. The mag: Not the same without Highfill/Hollande. He had such a spark, such
a way to turn a pun in on itself...Uwe says he'll find a way to get him back on
if he ever gets out. If not, maybe they'll start a magazine together, that
would be good wouldn't it? Yes, that's how it should be, Uwe kind of loses it,
sobs through the German equivalent of 'conjugal visit' ("Warschienlich Ich kanne festsetzen eine ehelich Bes-sob-uch...mit eine
Fraulein von Die Abteilung-sob-kreativ...”).
won't be necessary. Highfill has plenty to keep him busy. Uwe wants him to know
they're all on his side down at the magazine. ( ), Konrad, even Erich-Highfill
remembers Erich of course, doesn't he? How could he forget. Laughter mingles
don't even understand it, it's all part of the new government, they're sending
all these soldiers and mercenaries everywhere. The idiot minister, he thinks he
can be Chanzellor one day, this will be his big success...”
Highfill sees it now: Machtkampf:
power struggle. Schneidermann-treacherous bishop, no doubt-seeks a pawn.
Highfill: had it with Pawn Days. But, pawns are surprisingly powerful pieces,
come to think of it...
Visiting Hours: Over. Oskar, not
inclined to be lenient. Highfill stands, hand on glass. Uwe suddenly remembers:
stands, thrusts open his frayed denim jacket.
Highfill touched: Bayern jersey:
Highfill's-well, Hollande's-name in the place of Bayern's corporate sponsor.
Uwe wipes tear(s).
Oskar taps Highfill on the arm, gruff-gentle. Flash of the Old Oskar...
promises to get the guys from the mag to visit him. He'll have so many friends
coming down they won't know what to do...
It's time to go.
telephone day. Phone allowances have been accreting. Oskar reminded him: It's
use it or lose it. Highfill what-the-hells: dials Alan.
Good to hear your voice. Where's your German accent? I thought you'd have one
by now. You know, I've been thinking about you, they wouldn't let me send you a
What are you talking about? Your intel isn't as good as it used to be, Alan...”
no, I know, sent it with a file inside. Thought we'd all laugh about it later.
You know Germans though, didn't get the joke...”
"They want me to plead guilty, Alan.”
"Of course they do.”
say maybe they'd reduce the charge to-I don't know, whatever the German
equivalent of Involuntary Manslaughter is, concurrent sentences...”
years, maybe two if I'm lucky.”
you've always been a lucky guy, Todge, but I don't know; sounds fishy to me,
there's always an ulterior motive. What kind of lawyer'd they give you, anyway?”
Knows his stuff though. Thinks I should take the deal.”
course he does, Todge, he works for them too you know. Look, you want me to
make some calls over here?”
"I'm thinking we can get you a real lawyer. Why waste two years of
your life, right? ”
"You'd do that for me?”
think the publishers would. Well, technically, not the publishers, they
officially don't want anything to do with you, but-you know how it is, Todge,
there are people there who know what time it is, they'll be reasonable. We
could set up a holding company sort out your legal bills that way.”
always an ulterior motive, no?”
if you're free, who cares?”
for the cake.”
problem, Todge, pleasure was all mine. Pretty smashed by the time it got back
to me. Stale too. Would have been damn tasty.”
upon Harness: Watson Klaus' burden, Watson's: provisions: whey powder, water,
bags of nuts, sleeping mats. Watson rucksacks first, then Klaus rucksacks him.
along the Elbe, the Klaus warms up, it of
stretching, then Watson mounts. The routine: first hour: walking; second hour:
power-walking; then lunch break. After lunch: warm up: mix of power/normal
walking 1 hour; full-pelt: 1 hour if possible, then 1 hour cool-down, normal
walking, then make camp. Repeat nach Berlin.
Strange ride. Watson bobs. Klaus-lats chug. Klaus figures urban environments are good,
plenty of aggression, in the hinterlands: Watson must take over. Klaus wants it
vicious, wounding. Watson dreads. Sticks to Sigmarsson's script. They'll follow
the Elbe out of Dresden, then head toward Cottbus. 200 km maybe all in.
Thank God I'm never going to send
this letter. I don't even know how long it's been since I've seen you. I was
someone else then. I wonder if you think of me, or if D'James is keeping you
busy. How would I explain what I'm doing now to you? I think you would
understand, you understand better than anyone the complexities of loyalty.
Tonight I am in Germany, though I know this is a journey I could only take
alone, tonight, here in the forest, I wish you could be with me (there's
another person here, but we're just...running buddies), that you could feel the
coldness of the night time grass, the harsh rightness of the earth as you lie
down upon it.
there. Smoother ride than he'd thought. Tonight they pull into Cottbus. They
can follow the Spree after.
could use a shower. Whey packet-reload: necessary too. The prospect of leaving
the harness: too much to endure. Every itch is magnified proportionally in
distance to Cottbus.
The roads, the lights, the town gathers. Watson almost yelps with pleasure.
Shouts: "Versager!” a bit too joyously. Klaus glowers. The last mile, a long
cool down. Soon they're in the Altmarkt. Pastel buildings, like a cartoon
mountain range. Cottbussers: politer than Dresdeners, no soda baths, no
untranslatable insults. Web of stares: pretty much inevitable. Klaus bellows
when they reach the town centre. More stares. Watson dismounts. Stretches his
singlet to protect modesty.
Watson: "Let's eat.”
bellow. Klaus throws his arms up:
triumph! Strutting in the square, amid the parked cars. They could be bowing.
Watson takes it as a yes.
Hotelier semi-petrified. Klaus: still in the zone, trying to control
"Eine DOPPELZIMMER! Yes!”
delivered from a quaking hand. Klaus first in the shower. It calms him.
Deflated seeming on emergence. Grin: shot Watson's way.