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.