Ich genieße es!

In the morning I sat with Eberhard’s cat under the covered patio out back as the trash collectors wound their way up the small roads to the village. He’d built a series of ladders for the cat to climb from the ground floor to the second one and the ladders had an Alpine, rustic look. One of the rungs had come undone and Eberhard reset it with an antique-looking hammer, smoking. I’d never thought to do such a thing for our cat back home, and wondered if I should.

His mom’s house had the same quality as any old person’s home I’d seen. Closed up and stale feeling, handmade cards from grandkids tacked to the walls. I sat in the corner where the morning sun came through admiring her orchids but soon the flies got to me. And something ominous about flies and the elderly.

Eberhard put me up in the house across the road his now-deceased sister Waltraud had bought from their long-deceased aunt Ruth. The house had been empty for years, was built in the 1960s, smelled of either mildew or mothballs, each vying for dominance. It was hard to close the door and turn off the lights and fall asleep alone. I had my phone and power adaptor and held them like a crucifix. And put my phone on airplane mode so I could distract myself with music, and balanced it on top of a small lamp Eberhard placed beside the bed.

Though it was no duvet you were supposed to do something with the sheet and blanket combo, as if the blanket fit into the sheet like a burrito, but it was a configuration I’d never seen before so I just bunched it all together and made the best of it. There was no opening of the windows in this house either, though I tried, and lay there imagining what kind of spirits lurked there, what they’d make of mine. Nothing arose though and I was glad for that, and slept a dreamless sleep by the light of Eberhard’s house across the street.

We had sat out late on the bench by his backhaus talking with the neighbor Frank, Frank who was German but rivaled my own English speaking skills, far surpassing my knowledge of literature, science, and linguistics. In fact he recited the better part of a William Wordsworth poem in both English and Deutsch, to which neither my mom, Eberhard nor I had anything to say other than wow, that’s something. Eberhard, a simple man and retired cop, could only look on in disgust. And I felt a bit of a dolt myself, disgusted by my own shortcomings. More so when he asked me to describe what I write, and had I been published? And what would happen if he ever actually read my blog, and called me out for writing about Eberhard’s mom.

I wondered about it as I walked the cornfields in the morning, replaying what I’d said about publishing and resigning myself to the likelihood I never would, and did I feel bad about it? (not really), and should I feel bad about the fact that I didn’t feel bad? (most likely). And what kind of fighting spirit did I have, anyways? Had it found another host?

When the light came up through the windows in the abandoned house and I was still alive I felt emboldened, so much so I decided to shower, then roamed about in my underwear brushing my teeth, humming, surveying the bottles of Italian aperitifs and wine staged on the floor in boxes on the kitchen floor. I’d made it through the night unbothered by that, or anything else. And took stock of where I was in my visit, Donnerstag, and what we’d do for lunch.

The cat was finally up and making sounds at me with her mouth, kneading the rug on the patio. I surveyed the window sills: pieces of driftwood Eberhard had collected as possible sculptures now abandoned, leaning, a petunia in a moss pot shaped like a duck, a makeshift ashtray from a jar that said Ich genieße es! “I enjoy it.” Far off a rooster crowed, a trash collector’s truck beeped backwards, a jet passed, reminding me soon I’ll be up there too.

Categories: Memoir, travel, writing

Tags: , ,

20 replies

  1. Ah, the coffin-like pleasures of an old ashtray.
    I, on the other side of time, spent a pleasant two hours with an 88 year old who is going blind and suffers hallucinations because his truly constructive mind tries to fill in all the gaps.
    He showed me the Jag he can’t drive anymore, the one he did 250kph in with his retired policeman friend in the passenger seat, up the back of Hay NSW where it is flatflatfat and empty. The house was well organised and pleasant all-around. Just saying it can be like that on the other side of the world where not all police quote Wordsworth.
    I hope my reading of this piece erred on the grim side and that you enjoyed the better part of being there.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I did check him out; you led me there. I must dip in again…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The empty houses of dead people. Love that line ‘what they’d make of me’. A little grave humour. And at the end a portent of departure.
    I’m enjoying your visit, Bill.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mildew and mothballs and fast shut windows, oh heavens! All my senses are in hyper-allergenic mode even at this distance. No wonder you clutched your phone like a crucifix. Seriously though, I’m thinking the rustic beauty described in your German sketches is vying with some sense of mysterious (sinister?) depths. Stagnant over-shaded pools spring to mind despite the late summer glow of cornfields and sun-dappled forest paths, or the everyday sounds of beeping trash carts. There’s such a sense of agedness (old persons apart), of agedness accreting, silting up, even in a house built in the ’60s. There is much, much more here than meets the eye. I’m thinking Lily comes into it too. Somehow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well I just wrote the most heartfelt reply that did not transmit, be damned! Was so touched by what you said Tish, and perhaps it’s being cooped up for so long as so many of us have, clamped up by the depression from all “this,” the world and so on. Feel so good and alive again to be open to all this beauty here, perhaps reconnecting with the beauty I can share through writing with beautiful people like you. There, let’s see if this sticks. Thanks for being there and saying this Tish, means so much to me. Best, Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  5. HA excellent passage, I love the image of you clutching the phone & charger to ward off evil. My Pennsylvania German grandmother would’ve had a stinky asafetida bag around her neck “deiwelsdreck”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Parker! Ahoy mate! Lovely to see that old coin of yours flash on my phone gestern. And happy you like this. I’m deeply rooted in the PA Dutch myself as I think you know, that bag word thingy sounds dimly familiar. Happy you liked the image. It’s all true I swear! I had something about an exorcism in there first but took it out. No need to get carried away right?! Hope you’re well and enjoying the remains of the season as it were. Bill


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