after language, the novel that isn't Part 27
Written by William Kherbek on Monday the 17th of October 2011
At the 'stronghouse' as it's known.
Hard to adjust. Watson's weakness: not a strength. At first they mistake him
for some kind of Brazillian martial arts experts. Vlad even asks if he studied
"It's just a rumour.”
it's clear: Watson's a prop. Zen-like respect: vanishes overnight. Watson gets
a dressing down or two over fridge etiquette. Klaus does his best to help him
integrate. Asks him about Ferrigno, et al. Watson hips them to Hulk clips on
YouTube. He's better regarded. Comes to serve a useful role: back-sitter
general. Not as easy as you'd think: Berlin hours, nothing like normal hours.
The days never quite begin or end, more of a continuous loop, Mobius time.
Everyone has their routine, unbreakable: Klaus likes to jog at night along the
black tape of the S-Bahn tracks, Watson in place watching the city bounce along.
sense of community: not entirely lacking. Somewhat dormy. Late night discussions
centre on the obvious: Who was the strongest of all.
In his day, it was probably Capes. Now he raises canaries.
nods extended in the direction of the Magnus Ascendency: ver Magnusson and von
Samuelson. No serious consideration extended to Sigmarsson. Klaus: burns, uses
it. Ill fated joke about having stupid glasses from Tycho-the Belgian. Klaus
after the jog and the protein injection, they sit in the cramped main room, the
topic: how to design societies so the population would be stronger.
Ludwig, Bavarian: "Inspirational
figures. Every child should know about Marius Pudzianowski.”
Stige, MA: exercise psychology: "It
is not enough to aspire, one must also suffer. Encouraging the anguish of
perceptible weakness cannot be discounted.”
Vlad thinks whey shakes at primary
Tycho's semi-skeptical it can be
done: "A strong boy is a strong boy-of course I don't rule out some excellently
strong women would be produced in an ideal society, but to begin training so
young, the burn out rate, I don't like to think of it.”
Klaus' position, surprisingly murky:
"This is a question that has
troubled me for many years. I would ask myself why does Germany never have a
good contestant? I realize now that there is more than the cardio issue to
think of. I realize it is about how we live in Germany. Though it is pain, I
now believe I do not want to live in a society that encourages strong men.”
Gasps at the heresy.
Ludwig: "More of your joking, Klaus?
As with Sigmarsson?”
Klaus: manages to control it. Just.
"Think of the greatest men, excepting the Scandinavians, who are a class unto
Stige: "You cannot discount the most
Klaus: "You are speaking of the
social conditions that must prevail. Those men, Magnus and Magnus, were subject
to unique weather conditions that cannot be reproduced in non- Scandinavian
countries, one cannot engineer Portugal to become similar to Finland...”
Skeptic Stige: "Hardly relevant. Nevertheless,
"Strong men come from weak
societies, think of the other greats, Kazmeyer, Gerrit Badenhorst, Riku
Kuri-places where social tensions are extreme, where everyone is permitted to
hate and mistrust.”
Roger: "Angry white faces.”
"There is an element of racism. I would not deny this. Think of
Badenhorst, coming of age in apartheid South Africa, think of the Latvians. I
speak of Sigmarsson as a Viking warrior, perhaps there is too much of the world
of the Vikings in our sport. The myths of purity. One notes how rare it is for
our strongmen to represent their country at the Olympics. Perhaps talk of
purity is misplaced.
I would imagine the next generation of strongmen will come from a place where
one could see angry white faces, perhaps from Zimbabwe, even.”
Strikes a chord.
"I don't know if I would raise my
son to be a strong man, there is a great price that comes with the drive
required, it is my life, it is our life but we cannot dream others should want
to live it.”
excuses himself, switches on the house computer, checks Welt for news of
Highfill. Nothing. Watson plans a trip to Plotzensee tomorrow, just to
investigate. Just to investigate.
Klaus and Ludwig, going at it. Stige
"Aren't you going to try to stop
"It is a valuable contest. And
besides, they will wear themselves out soon.”
Underestimates Klaus' cardio regime.
Ludwig taps out in pain. Can't risk muscle tears. Made to say "Sigmarsson was
strongest, Sigmarsson was strongest...”
Time to call it a night.
The organisers: receptive. Some
skepticism at first, but then, a gimlet or two later, the certainty of a
notarized waiver of liability dangled, they came around. "Very freeing,” was
their term. He couldn't fail to agree.
After all he's been through, that he was still
nervous when he asked: almost sweet. They spent the night plotting, the salty
flavor of it still seers his lips nearly a week later. Here's how it will g
He'll be in the audience, just as normal (brotchen optional, gimlet optional
though some liquid is advisable, the spectacle of spillage: a real crowd
pleaser), then, after a grueling twenty minutes of touch and go, Macho Ludwig
will throw RANKIN Roger the Cabin Boy-last minute replacement for Pantagruel-out
of the enclosure. The expected showboating, Ludwig partisans rejoicing, but
then RANKIN Roger will pull Ludwig out on to the concrete. Some scuffling. Then
some spillover. The organizers will reserve a section for friends who want a
piece of the action. "Expect meat showers” will be the code word. Then, in the
melee, he'll be drawn in. Perhaps ministering to Ludwig at first, (his hope),
or perhaps some other way, that much is unclear, though no doubt it will all be
clear enough when the time comes. Then things will take a turn, perhaps Ludwig
will mistake him for RANKIN Roger, yes, such a natural progression, the
confusion of the battered hero. Ludwig will attack the AUDIENCE MEMBER (as
he'll be known in the script), but Ludwig will be in for a surprise. The
AUDIENCE MEMBER will throw a punch of his own, Ludwig will be stunned, will
stagger back toward the enclosure, RANKIN Roger, possibly laid out, from
earlier violence, possibly incapable of understanding the gravity of the event
will not intervene. Ludwig and the AUDIENCE MEMBER will do battle in the ring
itself, amid the grime and sweat ghosts that scar it. The referee, God help
him, will try to restore some kind of order, some kind of stability to the
calamity, but Ludwig, with a single, brutal sweep of his arm, will lay the
mincing referee out cold. Pandemonium would have known nothing like it, Ludwig
and the AUDIENCE MEMBER locked in collar-elbow tie up, matching each other blow
for blow until-inevitably-Ludwig gets the upper hand. Struggling, the AUDIENCE
MEMBER will suffer under elbow drops, under clotheslines, under sleeper holds,
until, within an inch of his life, he collapses on the rotten smelling canvas
of the ring. And then the step-over.
Nothing will be the same after,
Macho Ludwig, considering his future beyond this instance of madness will go
from face to heel in a second, perhaps irrevocably. Just as well, there are
interesting scripts to be written.
Roger the Cabin Boy? What will become of him? The best guesses are that he'll
be recycled under another name, not a great character to begin with, part
caribe-pirate, part dancehall hero, never gelled. As for the AUDIENCE MEMBER,
his will be a unique suffering. As he's borne from the ring on a stretcher when 'Security' finally intervenes, spent from the
anguish, he'll have only a single thought in his head: Tomorrow.
Tomorrow the death of Nathan
Another visitation. Highfill
recumbent, reading the heavily redacted copy of Charlie Hebdo Uwe sent him,
somehow they let it through (Uwe wrote: "I hope you like it; I don't remember
if you're left-wing or right-wing, but I guess they don't either, so it'll be
okay. I'll send some copies of the mag to you too. I'm sure you need them by
now. Ha ha!” Oskar had crossed the last sentence out with an X so that Highfill
could still read it. Thanks.). Hebd includes a Highfill caricature. Jowly.
Simpering. Accompanying article: redacted in black. It's always like this,
people give him information he can't comprehend, can't approach. Forgets why
he's inside sometimes, so many possibilities. Luna floating in dreams, Brocken
moments come back from time to time. In a sense, he figures, that is why he's
Prison time hasn't done much for him. Kind of adjusting.
He reads, plays chess with the librarian, feels every bone-creak in the
night-cold. Highfill-blanket: plastic. Still on suicide watch. Suicide watch:
could drive him over the edge into suicidal thoughts.
Oskar leads the lawyer to him.
Highfill grunts greeting. Lawyer
removes chapeau and shoes. Then socks.
"Can I come to your house and do
"Herr Highfill, at my age,
circulation is a concern not to be taken lightly.”
Dossier: drops on Highfill's writing
"I have very good news.”
The very good news: The Chancellor
is circling the drain. Government could fall in days.
"...with a new chancellor in place,
matters may rest very differently, it's possible that a pardon could arrive
within weeks. Think of it, faster even than a trial.”
"How did I get so lucky?”
"Luck has very little to do with it
Herr Highfill. May I recline briefly?”
Highfill stands. The terror of
freedom. For the first time he lets himself contemplate it as Lawyer expatiates
("Are you familiar with the memoirs of Winston
Churchill, Herr Highfill. They tell a very different story of the man
than the cuddly...”). The thought of Ganglion prowling, surfaces briefly. It hits
hard: maybe he's safer inside.
"...of course the fin de siècle period
was characterised by the kind of decadence we would now describe as refined.
Herr Highfill, you won't consider massaging my shoulders a bit will you? The
Another shadow economy. The
interregnum before the plan. Plan Highfill. Liberate or lose all. He's been living
on Mixed Berry flavour protein shakes (nobody else likes them, he makes
due). Pointless to look for work:
economy stagnant as a car park puddle, besides: Watson's an alien. The
strongmen faced with similar problems found a modus Vivendi, Roger suggests he
consider it to illegal wrestling events.
not a bruiser.
There are other ways to participate.
For example: It's hard to find referees.
The pros sneer.
The strong men sneer back:
Stige: "A class of people completely
irrational and immobile, their archaic notions of rules of decorum. It is as if
they don't understand that the free fighting is where the true art form lies...”
They take him to the gym. Onkle Toms
Hutte. Chill and fetor. Old punching bags like beached dolphins in a dim
corner. The ring: death trap.
Has to buy a collared shirt.
Has to wear a mask too.
How could it have happened? Klaus
squats on the air mattress, his knees ringed by his elbows. The cell-phone
buzzes beside him. Watson finds him on the way out the door for the morning
"He was in perfect health.”
Watson crouches. It's serious. It's
"I should never have given him
such a name. He was doomed.”
Klaus is in the ring tonight. Set to
fight Ludwig. Won't be much of a match: Klaus can barely stand.
"He'll never see me win...”
A tear meanders. A. tear.
Facile Watson: "It's okay, Klaus,
Klaus offers a silencing finger.
Watson complies. Then,
"Could you do it once more, just so
I can think of him?”
Brief perplexion, then the light
bulb comes on. Of course.
The best laid plans.
the river at night. Then daylight's brutality steals in. Niger mud: beautiful,
loamy murk. Easy to imagine this river as a primordial cradle. The Nile, its
civilisation, its monuments perhaps are grander, but standing on the Niger
banks at the prospect of yet another new beginning was redolent of something
far deeper. The Church accepted Darwin's theory much sooner than Protestant
denominations, there was a time when he would have felt it an overcorrection
for the Galliean debacle, but now he understands what Pius XII must have felt
at the time. At night he sustains himself with thoughts along this line, that a
civilisation, perhaps the first may have arisen here, a cul-de-sac of human
endeavour bounded by the restless, erasing desert, as elegant and sophisticated
as any, and yet so fragile. So very fragile.
he saw the police in formation he knew Highfill had betrayed them. At first his
heart stung, his breathing became reed thin. He thought he might collapse there
as he saw the police, ringed with armoured vehicles advancing behind shields
and riot-masks, but something permitted him to continue, perhaps nothing more
sophisticated than the workings of his organism, perhaps something larger, a
determination to see a thing to its end however bleak.
The teargas and the petrol bombs.
The image of the bridge collapsing, the dying Doppler of car horns as they
spilled into the darkness. The hideous shriek of water disturbed by human
endings. He knew their cause was lost, they themselves likely too, and so this
is when it happened. He pulled Ganglion to the side by the vehicle. The
engorged, sun-wasted jowls of the Russian,
"Your fucking monkey farm is shit! Your little butt-buddy in the
embassy is shit. If you want to live then you will listen-"
he directed the Russian's gaze to nonexistent police helicopters in the
distance and he fired. His first ending. His panic was as profound as his rage.
Who doused the vehicle in gasoline and watched it immolate, the giant fireball
pushing the police back as none of the men had seemed able to do when the time
came? It was him, of course, but as he looked back on the event, sleeping in
the desert weeks later, he asked if it could have been. He seemed to observe
the entire conflagration from a distance, as if from the observation bay of one
of those nonexistent police choppers roaring over Bamako.
Watson in the ring. He commands a
certain authority behind the black leather mask. Found in a shop in
FriedrichStrasse. One of the better afternoons really, the prospect of money,
the frisson of Masochismus. The delicate rebalancing of responsibility and
depravity. Takes it with him during the day: at coffee shops, in museums.
Discreet in a jean-pocket. Touches it from time to time. Maybe for luck. Enjoys
playing with the zipper before matches. Tonight: Watson in the green room
sipping a Lowenbrau from a wan plastic cup, zipping and unzipping. Ludwig is in
action tonight, Roger pinch hits for Klaus. Watson left him in a daze. Told him
to get sleep. Sigmarsson would want him to take the day off training.
"Yes,” Watson whispered, "Genau: Jon
The snarl of the zipper as it
catches his lip. The helplessness that overcomes him as the pain sings its
sharp notes through his sinuses and bones. The dropping of the Lowenbrau, the
reproof-report of the plastic on the echoing concrete. The wandering sea of
beer, its frothy shallows. The loneliness of extricating himself. He looks in
the mirror. Not pretty. Blood ribbons. Considers his options. Opts for zipped.
The ring beckons.
Nobody told Watson. They're brawling
on the apron, then the spillover, sausage, beer, ketchup-maybe blood-ketchup,
maybe real blood, he can't say. Shit
hurled fanward now obeys Murphy's Laws of physics. Cordon collapses. Zones
breached. No one safe. Ludwig fragging? Can't be.