Kamis, 08 Maret 2012

THE BOUQUET OF RUINS by Peter Nolan Smith

Bsirs was in decline. The nightclub on Epperdorfer Weg was on the outs. Hamburg’s long white nights of the summer solstice had given way to the fiercely short days of winter. Rain, darkness, and cold ruled the days and nights. High school students stayed home on the weeknights. The northern city’s intelligentsia avoided the sleek nightclub on Eppendorfer Weg. Painters gave way to pimps and the catalogue models were replaced by off-duty prostitutes from the Reeperbahn. Neither liked to pay for their drinks and my share of the profits shrank to nothing. It was time to head south for the season.

Paris.

Spain.

Thailand.

I informed Astrid about my impending departure. I had been seeing the curvy blonde since October. The twenty year-old had a dramatic overbite and a aquiline nose. Astrid did it all. Bidding her 'auf wiedersehen' was the right thing to do.

The next night SS Tommy presented a bill. The 6-foot bulldog was the primary enforcer for the GMbH. These pimps ran the Eroscenter. They had 200 women. Each woman was required to have sex five times a night. The price was 200 DMs. 200 times 5 equaled 1000 times 200 came to $100,000 a night in earnings.

SS Tommy owned three Ferraris.

“What’s this?” I looked at the bill. It was 10,000 DMs for sexual services with each act itemized by date.

“Sex with Astrid.” SS Tommy's scarred finger jabbed the top of the ‘rechtung’.

“She never said anything about working for you,” I said in German with a Boston accent.

I had studied the language in high school and college. Bruder Karl had never mentioned ‘lick arsh’ in his classes, but I could read most of the fees. 200 DMs for Schwanzlutschen seemed steep.

“Everyone in Hamburg works for someone.” SS Tommy wasn’t a man built for haggling. Zuhalters had quick tempers and SS Tommy was renown for his short fuse.

I had to offer him a gesture.

“Here are the keys to my car.”

SS Tommy took the car keys for 5000 DMs. I had paid 7000 six months ago.

“Where’s it parked?” SS Tommy was suspicious. I was giving him what he wanted without a fight.

“At the mechanic shop on Mittelweg.”

Two days earlier I had driven the BMW into a tree. The chassis was bent. The orange 2002 was still in the forest waiting a tow. In my mind the car was a write-off.

“Morgen 5000 mehr.” SS Tommy grabbed my arm.

“Of course.” My shoulder went dead. His fingers dug into my flesh. The pain radiated through my body. He wanted money not a car.

"Tomorrow, sure." I rubbed life back into my arm, as he left the club. Everyone avoided me, as if I had the plague. No one had friends, when SS Tommy was your enemy.

I had 5000 DMs were under the bed of my apartment in Milchstrasse. SS Tommy wasn’t getting a pfennig.

That evening Astrid came to my apartment. We had sex for an hour. I wondered what was the lingerie model's take on the 10000 DMs of sin. Betrayal and revenge are a heady aphrodisiac. I never mentioned SS Tommy to Astrid. This was pleasure for me and business for her.

At midnight she kissed me good night like a girlfriend.

I asked for her panties.

She was happy to give them and I said that I would see her tomorrow.

A minute after her taxi disappeared down Mittelweg, I packed my bags and left a note on the kitchen table to SS Tommy.

The bed, chairs, table, and everything else were his.

I was taking the first train to anywhere.

I caught a taxi to the Bahnhof. Luck was on my side. There was a 2:34am night train to Paris. I hid on the platform like a spy fleeing Nazi Germany. The southbound train pulled out of the station on time. My compartment was empty. I didn’t sleep until we passed through Dutch customs. The train stopped at every station. The towns and cities sounded like battlefields.

Dawn brightened the gray skies on a landscape of ruined steel factories. The industries destroyed by Japanese competition. The decay stretched from border to border into Belgium. The wet of the winter carried the corruption of rust and concrete. Northern Europe bore the scars of capitalism's collapse like a fighter down on his knees.

Charleroi was not the Europe of tourists.

Bad times were the future.

I pulled out Astrid's panties. They were silk and made French. My ETA in Paris was 9:23am. I dreamed about a cafe du lait, croisssant, and a Calvados at the Deux-Magots. I would take a room at the Hotel Lousiana. SS Tommy would never find me there. I inhaled Astrid's fading fragrance; cinnamon and sweat with a tang of herring.

We had a good thing for a few months.

I would never think of her body as ruins.

Not when I held her panties in my hand.

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