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Berlin Blues by Ray Adams is sure to entertain the reader. It will certainly make you laugh and may even make you cry a little as you follow the adventures of several young American GI’s and their older counterparts. Every chapter is set in Berlin, the capital of the Cold War. Berlin Blues is divided into two books because it explores two very distinct periods in life: youth and middle age.
In the first book, “Creating Memories,” the characters of D.T., Chingón, Tim, Neeto, Jerry, Diablo Jake, Hos, and King Bee are all young soldiers stationed in West Berlin trying to learn about life, find love, and pursue happiness. Book One keeps a light and humorous tone as the young soldiers romp and stomp through the cobblestone streets of Berlin, discovering who they are and having a good time doing it.
In the second book, “Unearthing Memories,” three of them – D.T., Neeto, and Tim – return to Berlin to reunite with memories of their youthful past. Book Two takes on a more serious tone than Book One, as the characters attempt to understand who they are today through reuniting with their past lives in Berlin.
Below, the reader will find descriptions of all fifteen chapters in the book as well as a sample of writing from each one.
Chapter One: Welcome to West Berlin
D.T. and several of his buddies arrive at Andrews Barracks (pictured above) in West Berlin. They are welcomed by Company Commander Book, who gives the men a surrealistic pep talk about how valuable their service at Field Station Berlin will be. In summing up his speech, the Captain says, “Remember, U-bahn good, S-bahn bad, the GI bars are dens of iniquity and should be avoided, East Germans look just like West Germans, I want you men looking sharp, and Military Intelligence will look for cotton panties.” This talk is greeted with extreme enthusiasm on the part of the men, especially by Chingón, who greatly admires the captain’s use of metaphors.
Excerpt from Chapter One: Welcome to West Berlin
“There’s another bar you should avoid,” Captain Book said. “The Golden Sun is right across the street and a lot of GI’s from Andrews go there. I’m sure it’s filled with Commie agents the way a bait can is with worms. And watch out for the girls, men! East German girls look just like West German girls. They have to wear cotton panties and don’t have Kotex or Tampons because the economy sucks in the East. But if they come here, their government will pay for the right equipment, so be careful. Any of those little vixens wearing satin panties could be a spy.”
Chingón immediately stood up and was recognized by the captain. “Captain,” he said, “would you say that it is our duty to root out these East German rotten Commie girl spies and report them to the proper authorities in the 54th?”
“Good question, young trooper. But no, we thankfully don’t have to do that. Military Intelligence has specialists who are doing that job for us, and we just have to concentrate on fulfilling our mission, thank God.”
“Thank you, sir,” Chingón said out loud, then whispered to D.T. “I guess the guys in Military Intelligence are more intelligent than I gave them credit for.” D..T. wondered if he would make a good spy. Would he be up for rooting around in the girl spies’ panties to find out whether they were from the East or the West? He smiled, knowing that even if he wasn’t a good spy now, he could become one with the right on-the-job training.
Chapter Two: The Lounge
D.T. and his buddies don’t waste any time checking out the dens of iniquity mentioned by Captain Book in his short talk. Right after their first night on the job at Site 3 or Teufelsberg, their old friend Hos takes them down to the notorious Linda’s Lounge. They soon meet charming frauleins such as Martina, Linda, Klaudia, Evelina, and Black Monika. Chingón comes close to starting a fight with some MP’s when he fills the lounge with a horrendous Basque yell. Big Monika and Heidi bring new life into the place with their entrance. Later Monika does an impromptu strip tease on top of one of the tables with a local giant called Peewee.
Excerpt from Chapter Two: The Lounge
“So, Peewee, dance with me” Monika said.
“Damn it, Monika, you know I can’t dance. Maybe at a wedding or something, but I ain’t heard nothing about no weddings in Linda’s lately.”
“Maybe we get married tonight.”
“I ain’t got no ring for you, Monika. How can we get married with no ring?”
“Look at that ring from my beer glass, Peewee. How’s that? Don’t tell me you’re just another chicken shit.”
“One thing I ain’t and that’s a chicken shit.”
“Then prove it. Get up on the table with me.” Monika used her chair to climb on top of the table. Michler and Quinn quickly moved beer bottles, glasses, and ashtrays out of her way. Peewee rose to the challenge and climbed up on the table. “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones came on the jukebox.
“O.K.,” Monika said. “That’s good music. Let’s do a strip tease.”
Peewee stared at his table-top partner. He was clearly drunk, but perhaps had not quite gone over the edge. On the other hand, the words “strip tease” had a magical effect on the many drunken GI’s in the Lounge.
“Take it off, take it all off!” they chanted. “Don’t be a chicken shit. Take it all off. We want a strip tease. We want a strip tease.”
Monika played to the crowd, taking off one of her calf-high boots and throwing it into the middle of the room. This induced a spree of wild cheering and applause. Peewee joined in the fun by unlacing and taking off one shoe. In a few moments, the two were both barefoot, dancing drunkenly around each other. It was difficult for them to stay vertical, but Monika would hold Peewee up and sometimes he would support her. Before long, Peewee’s shirt and t-shirt went flying into the cheering crowd. Monika coyly unbuttoned her dress, whipping the juiced up masses into a frenzy.
Artwork by Noel Gonzalez http://noelgonzalez.com/contact.html
Chapter Three: A Junkyard Angel
D.T. has now made Linda’s Lounge his home away from home and likes to sit there and daydream while drinking an occasional beer. One day his thoughts are interrupted by an exceptional woman who comes in and plays a Bob Dylan song on the jukebox. At one point she smiles at D.T., making him feel that she is the woman he will marry and have children with. The only problem is: he has to meet her first. Unfortunately, she is gone and on her way to a nearby bus stop by the time he works up the courage to approach her. Will D.T. catch up to her and make her see that his future life depends on her?
Excerpt from Chapter Three: A Junkyard Angle
He was so lost in thought that he hardly noticed the door opening and someone slipping by him. When he glimpsed the strange woman at the bar, it was as though she had magically materialized out of a fog. Once they found her, his eyes refused to look anywhere else, just as though they were being caressed by this vision. She moved like a feral cat, her tiger-skinned patterned dress flowing voluptuously over her thighs. There was a small sparkle of gold in one of her gray eyes, and her long raven hair whipped around her shoulders when she laughed at something Dagmar said. The stripes on her dress mesmerized him as they slid up and down her slim body while she whirled like a dervish to a song the crazy fraulein had played. Her pert breasts pushed so hard against her dress that he was sure he heard her nipples begging to be set free. Let me liberate you, dear twins. Let me be the one.
She swished the cognac in her glass, held it close to her nose, briefly closing her eyes as she inhaled the strong aroma. Her tongue flicked out in a quick reconnaissance movement, and her eyes twinkled as she swallowed. She dropped a coin in the old Wurlitzer and selected a song. D.T. immediately recognized one of his favorites: Bob Dylan’s “From a Buick 6.” She danced in front of the jukebox, her nyloned legs flashing coffee brown in Linda’s dim light. Drops of cognac flew from her glass and hit the floor as she spun her white arms in the air.
As he gazed upon her, D.T. decided she was like the woman in the song. Yes, that was it. She was a junkyard angel. His very own junkyard angel. And he loved her. His heart soared when the junkyard angel’s eyes caught his for one brief moment and she smiled at him. That’s when he knew. She really was his junkyard angel. No doubt about it. And she knew it, too.
In that moment, his future revealed itself to him every bit as clearly as the vision of loveliness that danced before his eyes. He and his junkyard angel would get married. Probably in another month. He would teach her Russian, she him German. They would have a boy and a girl and two dogs.
Chapter Four: Slava and Dimka
D.T. loves his job as a voice intercept operator, Russian language specialist. He has the responsibility of listening to tapes of Russian soldiers talking on the radio and typing out the essence of their conversations. One night he runs across a special conversation that he never wants to lose. Two Russian operators named Slava and Dimka fill the air with such beautiful bullshit that D.T. is totally taken by it. They tell a tale of Dimka’s visit to Novgorod and his adventures with off beat characters such as Benzinin, Narisky, Lakeyev, and Chinovnikov, all this taking place while two travelers from Yugoslavia are stranded at a gas station.
Excerpt from Chapter Four: Slava and Dimka
DIMKA: Then who should speak up, but that madman Narisky himself. I have found a sunflower seed in my pocket, he says. And that will be our snack.
SLAVA: A sunflower seed? What can five comrades do with that? Why if they split it up, there wouldn’t even be enough to pick their teeth.
DIMKA: You sound like Benzinin. He says, why if we cut it into five pieces, there won’t be enough to taste on the way down. And how, he says, will it fortify us against the later onslaught of vodka?
SLAVA: Well, this time Pyotr Vladimich is right, Dimka, and I’m right to stand with him. Who ever heard of five comrades using one seed for a snack?
DIMKA: We will sniff it, says Narisky. I thought you were a man of the world, he says to Benzinin. But it seems somewhere in your family’s history, a muzhik slipped into the big house one night. We will sniff it and pass it on, he says, and that – the devil take it – will be our snack. He starts, but it goes right up his pomegranate nose and stays there. He turns the same color as his nose, so a South Slav comrade pounds him on the back, forcing the seed to fly out and explode on the dirty floor. I would never sniff that seed after it hit the floor, not even if all the demons of hell were egging me on. But no worry, the seed smashes into a thousand pieces. Now Benzinin gives Narisky the devil. So, Bogdan Miroslavich, he says, clearly your nose is a greedy capitalistic pig. It is obviously a contradictory remnant of the capitalistic past, he says. Look at what it did to our only snack, the selfish moneybags! Narisky’s face got a look as sad as a peasant girl when her old husband comes home while she is entertaining a young collective farmer.
Chapter Five: VW Love
Tim is busy seeking love in his off time from working on the Hill or Teufelsberg. He has purchased an old VW with many eccentricities, but it gets him around West Berlin to the spots where the frauleins hang out. Eventually he meets Greta who is not indifferent to his advances. After a marvelous day together by a picturesque lake, the two use the old VW as a love nest. Tim soon finds out that the game of love is not so much spiritual as the poets say it is, but is much more about logistics. .
Excerpt from Chapter Five: VW Love
Tim greatly enjoyed spending time in the outdoors and he found this easy to do in the West Berlin of the late 60’s. He biked on cobblestone streets to his Eden of Schlachtensee, a long narrow lake near the Grunewald Forest. It was his favorite getaway, and he passed many hours here. The biking life suited him perfectly well, but Berlin was a big city and he saved his money and one day bought a vintage VW beetle.
The little brown bug had more than a few idiosyncrasies, such as a hole in the backseat floor and a screwy electrical hookup that caused the radio to play when the wipers were turned on. Many times it would just die on him for no apparent reason. But he loved it, and drove it all over West Berlin, discovering new bars and searching for frauleins willing to go for a ride with him.
Schlachtensee still remained his favorite destination. He got quite turned on watching fraulelins change into bathing suits, all the while daydreaming about their red-budded breasts and the hairy bushes between their legs. Sometimes they acted quite modest and tried to cover their nude bodies, but many times they didn’t seem to care about the rude stares of a horny GI. Tim would give these less modest frauleins a good looking over before he tried to start a conversation. His favorite line was to ask the young lady if the water was warm. Usually they just laughed at him and said the water made them too cold to have sex with an American GI. Not very often, but occasionally, he got one to have a cup of coffee or a beer with him. But that was it. Until he met Greta.
She was a little heavy in the hips and butt, and her legs were short, but her breasts were large and well-formed. Her hair had clearly been dyed, as the dark roots were almost the same color as her full patch of pubic hair. They swam together for a while, then came back to their clothes.
Artwork by Noel Gonzalez http://noelgonzalez.com/contact.html
Chapter Six: A Tale Told by an Orange
Is the orange a fantasy, a hallucination, or something supernatural? D.T. never figures it out, but the little orange certainly makes his life change. D.T. is engaged in his favorite activity – drinking in Linda’s Lounge – and listening to a popular French song about a man stealing an orange. When he passes out, he meets Najuanito, a Valencia orange, who tells him the story of the song. This moves D.T. to such an extent that it eventually affects his life after his Army days are over.
Excerpt from Chapter Six: A Tale Told by an Orange
“I am a Valencia orange. Yes, I am from España. But we Valencias, we are very popular, so we go everywhere in the world. Sometimes to the United eStates, perhaps to Africa, or Asia, or maybe Berlin, and even some of us end up in Paris, which is not that far from Valencia. This estory is about one of my ancestors who went to Paris after he was picked and packed.
“How did he like Paris? Was it as great as they say it is?” D.T. said.
“I think every young orange should go to Paris. And my ancestor, well he loved it. He found himself in one of the busiest market places in the entire city, very close to the Rio Seine. Everywhere you looked: estalls and estalls of fruits. Fresh cherries, boysenberries, blueberries, apples, pears, peaches, and many more. And of course, our close relatives – lemons, limes, and grapefruits. And this is not to mention the vegetables, the nuts, the fresh meat, the fish, and the poultry. And naturally, people everywhere shopping, selling, looking, yelling, haggling, and claro, those who watch for chances to take what is not theirs. Ah, sí, Señor, it is a sad fact, but unfortunately la verdad.”
“And what about Gilbert, was he here, at this market? My God, little orange, you’re making me hungry. By the way, what’s your name?”
“Ah, you may call me Najuanito. And sí, Gilbert was there. He was walking around, admiring all the food. It is displayed so beautifully there at the market. The merchants water it to keep it fresh, and they even polish most of their wares, so everything looks so pretty. Well, Gilbert, he is a man with a heart. And he sees a little girl, walking around barefoot. And this little girl, she is very pretty, but there is dirt on her face and she looks hungry. And when she stands next to Gilbert, he thinks he hears her stomach make noises. So, just then, he is right by the stand where my ancestor is waiting to be chosen by someone who loves oranges. And Gilbert, he is the one who picks my ancestor. And then he hands this Valencia to the little girl. And what do you think she says to him, amigo?”
Artwork by Noel Gonzalez http://noelgonzalez.com/contact.html
Chapter Seven: Two Posses
This chapter connects the story of a tough sheriff in a Colorado mining town of the 1890’s with one about his grandson, a GI named Chingón who has trouble getting ready for an inspection, but who would never pass up an opportunity to come to the aid of a damsel in distress.
Excerpt from Chapter Seven: Two Posses
“Lordie, Lordie, if that ain’t the biggest bunch of flabbergasted, bushwhacked, rattlebrained, sidewindin’ polecats I ever seen in my life,” Bob the Broom said.
Bear Paws let out a chilling Crow war cry. One of the prisoners cringed and said, “I almost wish that Indian had scalped me. ‘Cause I know I’ll never get my hair clean again.”
The young men were eventually bailed out and released on their own recognizance, but that night marked the end of their bad behavior in the Gardens. For years afterward, many of those who had once yearned to be roughnecks would shiver and tremble whenever they passed a spittoon.
And nothing ever came back to haunt Coldhearted Charlie. If the fathers of these rich boys had seen the dead or terribly injured bodies of their beloved sons, there is no telling what sort of revenge they may have plotted against Bart and Charlie. But when all they saw was their sons locked up and covered with a grotesque gravy of brown, gummy spit, cigar butts, and ashes, their first reaction was to snicker. And indeed, they showed their amusement in a manner that befitted men who had so much wealth. Their laughs would begin as an ominous rumble somewhere in the depths of their bloated bodies, then slowly shake up from the throat, only to erupt in uncontrollable spasms that sent spit shooting through their open mouths. But what was downright dangerous in these volcanic explosions of mirth was the effect on the men’s considerable girth. The layers of fat accumulated through a life of easy living would quiver, quaver, and dance a jig, causing their shirts to expand with extreme tension until their buttons turned into missiles that posed a grave danger to the eyes and other sensitive body parts of passersby.
Artwork by Noel Gonzalez http://noelgonzalez.com/contact.html
Chapter Eight: Drunk as a Rhino
Venus, the goddess of love, takes over in this chapter. Tim is still searching for love in Berlin when Venus whispers in his ear. This starts him on a mad, drunken, and hungover race for the affections of a waitress called Jimpat. Eventually, he will have to work his way through a labyrinth of broken promises, GI bars, elusive love, greedy cleaning ladies, and an aggressive rhino. Is Venus speaking the truth or will a harsh reality destroy Tim’s visions of love?
Excerpt from Chapter Eight: Drunk as a Rhino
His companions were nowhere in sight when he left the WC. He trotted left, by the giraffes, then tried going to the right, past the elephants, but he saw nothing but German families and vendors. And one more thing, something that threatened his very life. A big rhino was no more than thirty yards away, pounding the ground with one huge foot, then the other. It was looking directly at him in what he judged to be an ominous, angry manner. He had no doubt that if the monster charged, it could reach and gore him in less than four seconds. He told himself to calm down. After all, it had to be safely behind a fence. Surely he was perfectly safe. The only thing was, he could see absolutely no fence or any other barrier between himself and the massive beast. He then became aware there was a new odor in the air. Now his sweat oozed not only the smell of stale beer and tequila, it also stank of pure fear.
He looked at the rhino, mesmerized, as his mind filled with scenes from his life. He saw himself falling off a tricycle and hurting his knee. There he was at the high school prom, dancing with Janie Winter. Now he held a rifle and crawled on his belly through the barbed wire entanglement in basic training. He saw the face of his First Sergeant at Ft. Devens. He was drinking beer with D.T. and King Bee at Linda’s Lounge.
The rhino stared at him, its huge body poised on the edge of sudden motion. Its muscles tightened as it lowered its head as though to charge. The two deadly horns pointed directly at Tim’s chest. The gigantic legs twitched, as though filling with kinetic energy. Tim cringed, knowing he had but a few seconds left to live. He tried to move, but his feet were glued to the ground, his body paralyzed. The smell of his own fear was now overpowering. At least he had just used the restroom.
He told himself not to panic, knowing that if the beast sensed his fright, it would charge and kill him. What a pathetic way to go. He would die young, alone, and hungover in a foreign country far from those who loved him.
Chapter Nine: Finding Kant
D.T. decides to visit a bar in downtown Berlin where American tourists hang out. While there, he meets a young American woman and her two young male friends. He invites them to see what an American GI bar is like and takes them to Linda’s Lounge. This has to be a culture shock for the American tourists as they meet characters like Martina, King Bee, Black Monika, and Evelina. One of the guys falls in love with Evelina and goes in a small side room to study German philosophers such as Kant with her. Meanwhile, as is his wont, D.T. fills the air with bullshit.
Excerpt from Chapter Nine: Finding Kant
“I always thought Germany was famous for good beer,” Katie said.
“Germany is,” D.T. said, “but not Linda’s. This place is much better known for its colorful characters.”
Martina rushed in the swinging doors, looking cute but disheveled. Her hair was wild and uncombed, her big eyes wide open in an agitated face. Words poured out of her mouth even before her headlong dash brought her to their table.
“D.T.,” she said, trying to catch her breath. “You won’t believe what happened. My ex-husband. Well, you know, the MP one. He came to my house a half hour ago and tried to rape me!”
“What?” D.T. said. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah, he couldn’t do it, the son of a bitch. Why the hell would he expect to do it now, I would never know. He couldn’t do it when we were married. What was he thinking? Of course, that was the other thing he was never any good at. Thinking, I mean. The jerk.”
“What did he do?” D.T. said.
“He cut my telephone wires and kicked in the door and came into my house with nothing on – except his .45. He had that in his hand. I guess it was loaded. I think he was threatening me. I told him he had the wrong gun in his hand, but he didn’t get it, the idiot. Hell, I must be an idiot to ever have married that rhubarb brain. He told me he was tired of all the other GI’s getting it, and him not getting any, and he was going to put a stop to it. I asked the stupid jerk how. Was he going to kill me? No, I’ll just point the gun at you and we’ll get it on. Take off your clothes. Hell no, I said. I’m dressed for Linda’s and these clothes ain’t comin’ off for you or nobody. He pointed the gun and me and said, ‘Do it or I’ll kill you.’ Can you believe that, D.T.?”
Chapter Ten: Return to Teufelsberg: The Devil’s Rear End
Forty years after their days of romping and stomping, D.T., Neeto, and Tim return to Berlin to revisit the scenes from their youth. On the second day, they go to Teufelsberg, or Site 3, or the Hill, where they once worked fighting the Cold War for the U.S. Army. They meet a homeless German who spends much of his time at a Teufelsberg that is now abandoned and in ruins. He acts as their guide and shows them how the site changed after they left, then takes them on a tour of a mysterious and hidden part of Devil’s Mountain that they never knew existed. They soon learn about a dark side of the officers who once gave them orders.
Excerpt from Chapter Ten: Return to Teufelsberg: The Devil’s Rear End
D.T. told them how he had once broken his I.D. Badge and had to get it replaced at Security Headquarters at Andrews Barracks.
“The jerks in Security tired to make me feel like I was a traitor to my country or something even worse, just for accidentally breaking a stupid plastic badge. But being there, I saw something they didn’t want me to see. At that time, there was a blind man who frequently came to Linda’s Lounge. Now this blind man only spoke German, wore dark glasses, acted like he couldn’t see, and even had a German Shepherd guide dog. He never talked to any of the GI’s, only the bartender and that in German. Mostly he kept to himself while he sipped a beer. I never heard him use English. Now when I was in the Security Office, I saw that SOB. Only he wasn’t wearing any dark glasses and I saw him making a report – in English, mind you – to a Security Officer. Man, when he saw me looking at him, he practically jumped out of his skin. His eyes got as big as Big Monika’s hips.”
“They were spying on us,” Neeto said. He looked disgusted and spat on the littered grass.
“I never saw that SOB in Linda’s again,” D.T. said. “but I bet they got someone else to take his place, maybe pretending to be a German worker or something like that.”
The three of them filled the air with curses.
“Are you Americans always so noisy?” The voice seemed to come out of nowhere and made the three of them jump.
They soon spotted a man sitting against a graffiti-covered wall about thirty yards away. He had undoubtedly been there the whole time they were talking, but remained invisible because he was so quiet and motionless.
Chapter Eleven: Picnic and Peyote
In 1966, Neeto put a poem in a bottle and buried it in a special ceremony at a picnic in an isolated part of Berlin.. Now, forty years later, he has lost all other copies of the poem and feels he must find it to be whole again. He and his friends – D.T. and Tim – try to invoke the spirit of their dead companion Jerry, the only soul who might know the location of the tree where the poem is buried. To do this, they use peyote in a ceremony as they tell tales of their fallen comrade. But will they induce a vision and will Jerry’s spirit lead them to the site they seek?
Excerpt from Chapter Eleven: Picnic and Peyote
This was the very place where he had buried the bottle with his poem in it. He dug in the cool earth with his bare hands, knowing the bottle was not far beneath the surface. His hands felt something smooth and hard. Could it be glass? He scooped out earth faster and faster, like an excited dog, his breath bursting from his mouth, forming foggy cloudlets in the air. His hands trembled when he actually clutched the bottle. His entire body quivered. It was a dream come true. He would once again read the poem from his youth. He would make it the lead in his newest book. The Leaf Poems. Yes, that would be a nice name. The bottle was covered in dirt, but he knew what had to be inside. He pulled out the musty cork and shook the bottle, but no paper fell out, only a flash of something blue, more like pure energy than a solid object. There was speech inside his head, as though the blue substance was communicating directly with him, using some form of telepathy.
Good to see you again, Neeto.
He both heard and felt the words.
Good to see you, blue substance, he said inside his head. But who exactly are you?
I am your soul. When you left your poem in the bottle, you left me with it.
No wonder I’ve felt so unfulfilled all these years. But now we’re back together, little soul. And for the rest of eternity.
Not so fast, my impetuous soul mate. Eternity is a long time. I don’t think I can promise you eternity.
But you’re my soul. You belong to me.
There was a time. A time long ago when I did. But you deserted me. And that changed things. Don’t you understand?
No, no, that can’t be. It just can’t be.
Artwork by Noel Gonzalez http://noelgonzalez.com/contact.html
Chapter Twelve: Marco Sturm to the Rescue
Tim and Neeto have gone back to the States and D.T. wants to attend a hockey game in the former East Berlin. Unfortunately, he runs into a pack of angry skinheads. His taste in clothing apparently saves him, but he soon finds out he faces much more danger from the devil inside him than he does from the tattooed Germans.
Excerpt from Chapter Twelve: Marco Sturm to the Rescue
One station seemed to be a graveyard for old S-bahn cars, sitting on tracks like abandoned toys. Bright graffiti screamed out from their sides like threats made in a dark alley. He wondered what he was getting into. He had grown nervous by the time the train pulled into Wartenburg, a stop that looked just like what it was: the end of the line.
Where were all the crowds? He’d planned on following them to the hockey game. He checked the guidebook. Yes, this was the stop for the hockey arena. But he only saw housing tracts, buses, and a few distracted pedestrians. No one wearing a hockey jersey. It puzzled him. He sat down at a bus stop, pulling out a map of Berlin to search for the arena.
He squinted, trying to spot the stadium. He saw nothing but street names. What hadn’t he asked the hotel clerk to print out a map for him? It would have been so easy. He must have been thinking of something else. He had to admit he was lost, not knowing whether to go north or south, east or west. He looked up from the map and felt a small shudder of fear run through him.
Six hard-looking young men with shaven heads, wearing leather jackets and jackboots, strutted down the sidewalk towards the bus stop. They were talking loudly in German, as though arguing about something. His head ached as he remembered a passage from the guidebook. “If you see skinheads in leather jackets and jackboots, turn and run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.” He looked around, seeing nowhere to go. The bus stop’s glass and metal structure hemmed him in on three sides. An old memory flashed through his mind. He’d been fifteen years old, walking down Troost Avenue in Kansas City, doing nothing much, minding his own business. Two tall teenagers in leather jackets stopped him, claiming they’d recently seen him causing trouble at the Isis Theater. It was a lie. The called him names and forced him to get down on his belly and lick the filthy sidewalk with his tongue. They thought this was funny. They kicked him and walked away, laughing even harder.
Artwork by Noel Gonzalez http://noelgonzalez.com/contact.html
Chapter Thirteen: Coffee with a Lady
D.T. is in a café in Berlin by himself when a woman walks in who reminds him of scenes from his past. But can he get past her cold exterior to find out the true story of how they might be connected? He feels he must because only one of them knows the beginning and only one of them knows the ending.
Excerpt from Chapter Thirteen: Coffee with a Lady
D.T. continued his story. “She threw her drink right at his nose, scoring a direct hit. His face turned red. He sent out hate waves so strong everyone in the bar could feel them. He called her a horrible name I don’t want to repeat. I was in a state of despair. They had crossed into an area I could no longer understand.”
“I had to leave. And I did. I walked out the door and went to the Golden Sun. I had a beer, then returned to the barracks.”
She said nothing, but there was no joy on her face, no sign that she found anything charming in this story from the past.
So D.T. wasn’t there to witness what happened between Chingón and Martina. And when he heard about it, he was unable to imagine how it could have. Martina told him the next day.
“D.T.,” she said. “You won’t believe this shit.” She was laughing, but the stains of tears ran down her face.
The woman’s mouth was slightly open as she listened to D.T., her chin resting on her hand.
“Unfortunately, I did believe her. Chingón was my roommate, after all. I woke up that morning when he dragged his useless carcass into the room. He looked like a tom cat back from a good night in the alley. I smelled her perfume all over him. I almost threw up.”
“I asked him if he was the worthless hypocrite I thought he was. I even called him an asshole. He slapped my face a couple of times.” Her body jerked at his words.
“He always did that when he was proud of himself. Then he let loose one of his evil Chingón chuckles.”
He paused, looking at the table. He was unsure about continuing.
“What did he say?” He had to wonder if she truly wanted to know. But he went ahead and told her. After all, she had asked.
Chapter Fourteen: A Cold War State of Mind
D..T. is back in Berlin on his own for a visit to the barracks where he once lived. He is lucky enough to get a young female clerk to give him a tour of the former Andrews – now the German National Archives. The tour fills him with old memories and ghosts from the past, but he also sees this experience as an opportunity to unburden himself of a guilt he has been carrying with him for quite some time. Throughout the chapter he fights the fear he has of revealing his inner self to a stranger, but will his need prevail in the end? And what other truths will he discover about himself?
Excerpt from Chapter Fourteen: A Cold War State of Mind
“You Americans are so crazy,” she said.
“Maybe, sometimes,” D.T. said. “Once, Chingón, my roommate, and I came back from a GI bar quite drunk at 3 AM. We had to get up early and Chingón set his alarm clock. But when it rang, he was still half drunk and couldn’t manage to shut it off. He got mad and threw it as hard as he could, breaking one of the room’s windows.”
“This woke me up, and I picked up an orange and tossed it at the other window, also breaking that one.”
“Why did you do that?” she said.
“I guess it was an act of solidarity. But it meant we both had to explain things to the First Sergeant. We tried blaming it on a fly. I told the First Sergeant a fly climbed up Chingón’s nose. He shooed it away, then tried to hit it with the clock. He got the window. I then threw the orange and broke the other window.”
“The First Sergeant wanted to know what happened to the fly. Chingón showed him a dead fly in a matchbox, saying, ‘We killed the Communist SOB and put its corpse in this humble coffin.’”
“That is crazy,” she said, laughing.
“The First Sergeant made us replace the broken windows, but then he told us that since the molester of American troops – meaning the fly – was killed on U.S. Army property, it deserved a military funeral. So we wore our dress greens, with the First Sergeant and the Company Commander both in attendance at the ceremony. We played a cassette tape of taps, and afterward, we covered the coffin with dirt.”
She smiled, undoubtedly imagining the scene.
“So you see,” D.T. said. “This little piece of earth here really is a burial ground.”
Barns and Noble Nook:
Ray Adams, Author of Berlin Blues
Ray Adams is well acquainted with Cold War times in West Berlin, the subject of the first part of Berlin Blues. He served as a voice intercept operator, Russian language specialist, working on top of Devil’s Mountain in West Berlin during the Cold War period. His job — and those of his close friends — was to listen to and interpret Russian military broadcasts. He later returned to the University of Kansas where he picked up an M.A. in Slavic Languages and Literature. He has island hopped in the Adriatic, trekked at Macchu Picchu, hitchhiked in Mexico, camped out in the Soviet Union, and tutored students in algebra on the Navajo Reservation.
Ray has written a diverse range of stories other than those that appear in Berlin Blues. “Melding Ceremony” is about a future where a fan’s team becomes more important than life itself. “Blood on the Wall” is the story of an average East German worker who decides he must flee his country when the secret police harass him following the unexprected death of his wife and child. “Pile ’em High” sees the author struggling with his own characters while also attempting to gain equal rights for adverbs. “Cold War Oddity” is a tale about American tourists who fall into what seems like a Soviet rabbit hole when they purchase some bad gas. He has also completed a novel about a racially divided city in the 1950’s called Selling for the Blind.
Ray writes about his other main interest — bridge — at raysbridgeblog.wordpress.com in weekly blogs that explore the humorous side of bridge. If Ray is not chained to his word processor churning out stories, you just might find him playing tournament bridge.