“Please don’t send me to the Gulag for saying this,” the elderly man whispered across a
splintered wooden table tucked away in a corner of the local police station, fearful memories of the
early Soviet occupation still replaying in his head. The never ending rapes of German women and girls,
relocations, more train rides that did not end well. Comeuppance, perhaps? These were not financial
reparations by any means, but psychological and spiritual revenge. It was about submitting and being
dominated. The farmer, now mayor, did so peacefully as a lamb, in order to return to some semblance
of sanity, which to him, was working in the fields. It was physically exhausting, yes, but also a
calm and soothing way of life, and he worked at it doggedly, like a cart horse with blinders on. To the
mayor, stability- through ignorance - was bliss. His current responsibility- a man – recently moving
into his small, East German town, that he ruled, for show only(or so he thought) was ruining that bliss.
The station was a converted barn that once housed livestock and emitted a pungent porcine
odor, especially when the doors were closed and windows shut as they were that afternoon to keep out
the cold. A peasant farmer descended from a long line of peasant farmers, the old man had long been
counted on to not think too much, ask any questions, or complain, yet he found himself complaining
today. If it wasn’t for his hysterical wife beating him with a broom the day before and insisting he do
something about the crisis in their small town, he would not have sent the urgent message to Berlin. This
was a man who’s only affectation was an occasional cup of real coffee to help him through a long, hard,
work day – one of the perks of being mayor. He did not drink, nor smoke, and other than the coffee,
which, how could you blame the guy for wanting real coffee, could not be “bought.” He loved patriarchy
and deferred easily to his younger superiors, such as the well-dressed man who sat
across from him. This obedience was why he was the incumbent mayor for the past thirty years.
It was cooler than normal that November and the gloomy grey sky outside and chill in the air
made one think it was about to snow. Only massive amounts of cigarette smoke could mask the stench
of the old slaughterhouse. The Lieutenant, who sat across from the old man, winced after the smell
entered his large nostrils and proceeded to light up. Feigning interest, he force himself to stare right
back at the mayor, who was wearing a soiled and dusty tweed coat, with brown dirt visible underneath
his seventy-five year old fingers, the remnants of having picked turnips out of the ground just that
morning, his jet black hair slicked back with sweat and grease, trying to make a good impression, his
cobalt blue eyes red with dust, beads of sweat forming above his brow and descending down the deeply
cut lines of his bright red cheeks and a nose rosy with burst capillaries, “but he’s horrible.”
The mayor looked around the open police headquarters, hoping no one else had heard him.
“He is a…special case, yes,” the Lieutenant agreed, nodding his head.
“Comrade, please forgive me, I want to do my part for the party, I do, really I do. I will do it,
gladly, but it’s just that we’re a small, quiet town of farmers, working hard to produce for the people of
East Germany. We’re old fashioned and simple and know not of city ways - especially sex, drugs and rock
and roll. The people here, they hate him.”
The Lieutenant, twenty-five years younger than the mayor, had won awards for calming down
shaky and scared snipers on the East side of the Berlin Wall. That’s why he had been hand-picked by
Moscow to work a “special case” some fifteen years ago - he webbed words laced with catnip that never
failed to seduce and subdue the listener. He didn’t care much for politics. Politics – Fascism specifically –
had been the ruin of his entire family. How could his parents have been so foolish as to believe in
anyone other than themselves?
In person and by his military service record, the Lieutenant appeared to be the most devout and
by the book spy for the Stasi - the East German Secret Police where everything was green-lighted and
under direct order from the KGB in Moscow, but every single thing Lieutenant Kristopher Schroeder did
every single day, was for himself – period. It was the only motivating factor in his getting out of bed
every morning – to take care of himself – to survive, like he did selling metal scraps he stole from
abandoned farm equipment to buy food after the War ended and he was homeless, orphaned and
alone. His nanny had spoken both Russian and Polish to him as a child, so Kristopher spent most of his
time in the Russian quadrant of Berlin hustling in the black market. It was a relief to speak a language
other than his mother-tongue, German. There was something about disassociating himself with Hitler,
Fascism, mass destruction and death – that warranted a new beginning. The Soviets promised they were
the peace keepers. Most East German citizens felt they had no choice but to be there, “on the other
side” but some, like Kristopher, wanted to be. The “old” Germany was marked with so much failure. At
least the “new” Germany, on the East Side, for what it lacked in freedom and civil liberty, it made up
for as a place to break free and begin again for those who remembered the past, a humiliating past.
How much longer would this East side last? Where would he go if the wall actually fell as was predicted?
What new set of liars would he have to bow to?
He hated his parents, he hated his grandparents, his aunts, his uncles, his cousins, all fools, he
would tell himself. Even with all of this sour bitterness, like the taste of molded bread he ate huddled
fireside in the freezing cold next to shattered glass and empty cathedrals in the decrepit and
post-apocalyptic looking Berlin, he didn’t want to hate Germany, the land, the salt of the earth people,
the peasants, like this mayor, people who worked with their hands and whose downfall was their
susceptibility to be used as simple minded minions serving a blood thirsty cult not of their own
invention, of which they would pay the price for generations forward.
He was a great, great, spy - the best – and turned the most sought after assets from the West to
his side, the peace side, the East side. He allowed himself to be led by this new group of blind
politicos, but he would never be the fool. He knew exactly how the system worked and he would not
invest or sacrifice anything into it, that he did not receive back two-fold. He leveraged his talents
for his own good, his own personal prosperity, and definitely not on behalf of a mustached charismatic
leader, a buffoon. Even the new, mustached buffoons. No, Kristopher existed only for himself. His only
responsibility being one over the hill, ex-pat Englishman, causing trouble for the folks of yet another
quaint East German town, a one-hit wonder, seventh in line to the Earl of Glastonbury, Lord Richard
Lionel Albert Wickham aka Spotted Dick.
“Mayor,” the Lieutenant began calmly, “thank you for being so candid with me. I told you to
contact me anytime you needed me, so here I am, all the way from Berlin, just to see you!”
“And him, The Englishman – I hope. The people…”
“Yes, him, too.”
“Good, thank you.” The mayor seemed relieved. He wondered if the Lieutenant understood that
he neither needed nor wanted to be so important to his country - to the fate of world peace – the fate
of communism in the East. He just wanted to be left alone with his chubby, raven haired wife who kept
him warm at night.
“I will do what I can to get a handle on the situation. I will. Oh, and, I’ve brought some coffee
and that anti-itch cream you like for your wife.”
The Lieutenant opened his brief case and passed the two items across the table. The mayor
went to grab them and the Lieutenant placed his hand, like a Lion’s giant paw, on top of the mayor’s
hard worked, wrinkled, calloused hands.
“You are providing the most important service in all of the country. Remember that. I chose you.
(he had to remember the Mayor’s first name but blanked for a moment, too much vodka on the train
ride that morning - Boris? Karl?)There will be parades and a statue of you in the town square one day. Understand?”
“I, I just don’t understand how he could be so important to peace?”
“Don’t worry about understanding. That is what the party is for. Just please keep him safe and
happy a little while longer, that is all, I promise. Believe me, I know how difficult he can be, I, myself,
have been waiting a long time for him to finally be useful.”
The Lieutenant ceased clutching the mayor’s hand and lit up a cigarette.
“Thank you comrade. Especially for travelling all the way here. It is a great honor to serve this
great country. To help bring peace!”
“To peace,” the Lieutenant nodded, exhaling cigarette smoke across the scratchy table. “Peace.”
Yours and mine, he thought.
A Pool Hustler's Daughter grows up in subterranean America. She dreams big, hustles daily and loves her Daddy. With empathy, fascination and grace she navigates and inhabits every tier of society; sees beauty and hope and magic in all things; respects and lives by the "mitzvah."
A Pool Hustler's Daughter calculates the trifecta payout at the racetrack, hides money on three parts of her body, has an arsenal of "Uncles," and keeps a baseball bat by the front door. She values friendship, loyalty and experiences over "things." Like her father, she seeks to learn "The secrets of the universe" and believes "Life ain't on the square." She applauds the self-made and those who learn to "overcome" their circumstances. Her door is always open for a sofa to sleep on, a hot meal, or an eager listener for a life story.