Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1783652-Midnight-Train-to-Amsterdam-Part-Five
by arwen
Rated: 13+ · Novella · Drama · #1783652
An incident with an ice cream man in a foreign country.
“Hans?” This surprised him.

“Well, I only say that because I go to school with one.” She said.

This only succeeded in drawing the boy in closer, “Yes?” This interested him, a fellow countryman in a place he wanted to visit. “Unusual for American to be called after German.”

“No, Hans isn’t a German, he’s Dutch like you. Only, not like you.” She waved her hands in front of her face to indicate a transformation. “He has the whole Dutch thing going on. The blond hair, blue eyes. Even that Dutch boy cap, you know?”

“Fiddler cap?” The boy touched his head as if he felt one there still.

“Yeah, that thing.”

“So. And, what else?” He asked as he imagined it, Hans in the traditional hat.

Within the boy’s mind, the blond and blue eyed, Hans, began to dance in wooden shoes out in a field of tulips. In the distance a windmill was pumping water. Hans, the typical Dutch boy there in the field, with all the things that the world seems to think did define the Dutch. This Hans, in all his glory, was proving to America, that what they had always believed about the Dutch, was true.

“A real Dutch boy would know better.” Thought the boy.

He knew that the Dutch were beyond these symbols that supposedly defined them. They were beyond the philosophies and the paintings and the fine lenses. They were the heart of the land that would never give into the water wolf. They were a proud people that didn’t know the meaning of ‘it can’t be done’ because they would always figure out, not, how ‘it could be done,’ but ‘when it would be finished’. It was something this Dutch boy, Hans had obviously lost sight of or, maybe he had never even learned. And, as the boy saw Hans, dancing out there in the field of tulips, he thought the Dutch boy, might as well have been wearing tap shoes.

“Big guy too.” She added as she held her hand stretched out quite a ways above her head.

“You sound personally acquainted with him.” The boy commented as considered the girl’s connection with Hans. He wanted to determine the affiliation that she had with this Dutch imposter. He was curious about just how much of the Hans façade the girl might have belief in.

“Mainly his sister. She is my friend.” She clarified.

“Does she have a Dutch name too?” The boy now wondered if the sister to Hans wore the traditional Dutch girl hat for fun too.

“I don’t know, I think Bernadette is French.” The girl suggested.

“I believe it is, yes.”

“Oh, and, I haven’t even told you the best part yet.” The girl announced in delight as she dangled the choice bit of information just out of the boy’s reach.

The boy thought, “The part that defines. What unusualness defines imposter Dutch boy?”

Then, the girl delivered the crucial piece of information that would forever seal Hans within the Hell that the boy reserved for Dutch myths.

“Their last name is Brinker.” The girl announced merrily. It had hit its mark and now she waited for the effect to slide home.

He mouthed the incredulous absurdness of the idea to himself, “Hans Brinker?” It was a horror that stunned him. “No, not serious.” His voice catapulted out.

“Yeah, seriously, it is their last name and, my friend, she goes by, Bernie.”

“Bernie Brinker? That is bad.” It surprised the boy that he thought this was probably worse. What was wrong with Dutch parents to give a girl the name of a French boy? Then, a childhood of falseness sliced through the ice pond that appeared in his mind. The idea was purely painful and it almost choked his voice as he delivered it, “Tell me, does he own skates, this Hans?”

“Actually he’s a boarder.”

A vision of Hans pivoting on a board while sliding across an ice pond entered his thoughts. But, the boy only replied with an observation, “Is contemporary. Hans Brinker, from blade to deck.” He could not imagine anything more ludicrous than the imposter Hans in skater shoes, pads, hanging onto the fiddler cap with his hand so that it wouldn’t blow off his head while flying off of a ramp.

“They immigrated when I was in sixth grade.” She added further characteristics to Hans.

“Quite a few Dutch immigrate. Is farming situation here.” He confirmed as if quoting from statistics. “Water wolf of North Sea howl. Flooding of polders. Saturate land. Farming no use. Relocation by government? Time consuming, costly, dissatisfaction. No, rather try America.

“Yeah, Bernie’s dad is a farmer in America, although I don’t think he’s doing much better.” The girl commented as she thought about taking another sip of coffee. Suddenly she scooped her long hair and settled it behind her shoulders.

The boy watched as the girl’s hair cascaded into place, then he took another puff his cigarette, and commented, “But he get his dream.”

“I guess.” She said absently, and, then something occurred to her, “Hey, how did you know what compartment I was in?”

“When I got on train, you and big guy in front of me.”

“Well, I’m glad that you came and got me for coffee.” She said as she widened her eyes to make a point.

“You are welcome, Amerika,” He said, as he sent the thanks with a gentle smile that had found him.

“Yeah, I think you saved me,” She said gratefully as she rolled her eyes. “That guy was all like, do this and he was short tempered and intensely creepy.”

Having seen the way that the guy had practically herded the girl on the train, the boy now listened with increasing interest at the way the girl was describing the guy’s behavior toward her. Again, the boy waved his cigarette slightly in the direction of the girl. Then, as he made his remark, he gradually turned his eyes so that she would follow them, “Is behind you. Do not turn. It will amuse you, he does not look happy. You sit here with me, not him.”

“Good,” She retorted as she quickly crossed her arms as in a protective behavior. “then it won’t be a shock to him when I don’t greet him all smiles back in the compartment. Like, how was your day dear? Oh, can I take your shoes, and look the dog brought your slippers.” She rolled her eyes again, “I mean, like, is he for real? If I didn’t know better I wouldn’t think he was who he says he is. As, I think about it more, he even seems familiar, in fact,” her mouth dropped open, “why didn’t I think about this before? He kind of resembles the Italienische Eis man that I had a run in with in Germany. It is like he’s haunting me or something.”

“You create disappointment for Italiensche Eis guy, yes?”

“Yeah, disappointment, that’s a good way to look at it?” She replied sarcastically, as if, the boy was only touching on it mildly.

“Yes…. He almost couldn’t wait. But the way the girl had briefly glanced into her lap, the boy thought he had recognized a hint of feeling guilty. “What about this?”

“Well,” She began and shifted her eyes to the side. “Every afternoon, the Italienisch eis guy came by my German family’s apartment building. My German sister, Karin had told me that the guy hated Americans but she sent me down to the parking lot anyway, to buy my six-year-old little brother, Marco, an ice cream. After I bought him the eis, I had just turned to go back upstairs, when the eis guy stopped me. I thought, ‘Great, now he’s going to hassle me about being an American, thank you Karin.’ Anyway, so, my back still turned to him, I breathed a big sigh and prepared my diplomacy along with the nicest smile that I could manufacture. I turned around and confirmed for him that I was the American girl. I could tell that Marco was waiting, actually hoping for a big scene. The expression on Marco’s face told that this was going to be more exciting for him than mud after a downpour, you know.”

As the boy listened he got an image of the young, Marco. A quiet, well-mannered, strict, unassuming, platinum blond hair little boy with piercing blue eyes. But, he was a little boy with a submerged temper. One that he could pull out of the bag in surprise and brandish around like a live cobra. With it, he would threaten every one within range. His effect was stunning. It would cause every one to freeze and wait. Wait in suspension for the boisterous booming that would never come out of him otherwise, until that moment. When it did it came out of him in a deafening roar. To add to this, if he still did not get his way after this, he would slam things around. Which, when he did get his way, he would allow a mischievous little smile to pull up through his lips, all hidden from adult view of course. Next, he picked up the new toy that he had just wailed over to get. Then, he would take the toy and place it in the corner of the living room and walk away, as if he really hadn’t wanted it all along anyway. All this time not one adult would have realized what he’d really wanted. The boy had realized what it was. Marco had wanted to extend him self fully into the challenge presented him so that he could thoroughly crush it in a rebellion. Yes, the boy was sure he understood Marco pretty well. As the image of Marco slipped away from his thoughts he returned to the girl’s elocuted reenactment of the event.

The girl continued, “The eis guy asked me if he could ask me a question. Nervously, I said, ok. Then, he strolled over to his cart and started to point down into the barrels at the eis flavors. He asked me to tell him their names in English. I thought, ‘Ok, he didn’t jump my ass, I think I can do that.’ So, while he pointed to them, I named off….vanilla, chocolate and strawberry…. Then, he pointed to one more. Once, all ready, this summer, I had the misfortune of trying it. It was some horrible flavor of the month. It tasted like licorice, pineapple, Roca revel. It was way nasty and, well, it was the color of something that fell out of a cow’s butt.”

The irreverence in her statement shocked him, and, because it did, it became the very thing that allowed the boy to laugh. But, only, just a bit. The girl then raised up her hand and the boy followed it with his eyes up into beyond some imagined loft height.

“Suddenly this electricity rose up through me and my feet began to feel springy. It put a sheen of merriment over my eye. Just the thought of it made me split with laughter inside. It was like some imp bounced around in me. My only thought was, could I pull it off with a straight face. Did I even dare try? And, more to the point could I, the master of missed timing, get it out right. Then, of course there would be the residual effect that I would never be able to know the consequence of.”

“Consequence?” His unconscious thought suddenly became audible.

“You’ll see in a minute,” As she said, but the mischievous glitter was still raining through her eyes. “So, while the Italienische eis guy waited, an annoying smile hanging from his face, I smiled innocently and sweetly. I told him the flavor he was pointing to, the flavor of the month, well, in English, it was called, shit.”

“Shit?” He made it audible in his thoughts. The girl’s continued irreverence seemed to amaze and entice him all at the same time. He did not expect to her say such a thing. As he heard what she said, he felt as if he had been lured to her tangential answer by a treasure map. As he followed it, he had been led to discover that the treasure he thought was fake, was actually very valuable. If ever he had never been there before, he found he was there now. He found he was quite enchanted. “No….really? You told him it was, shit? Does not surprise me of this. We have such disasters in taste experiments here.”

“Really, well doesn’t surprise me. But, yes, I did tell him that, because, that’s exactly what that concocted flavor tasted like. Anyway…I was so glad Marco didn’t know English, or even a curse word in it. I did figure, though, that the guy would be proud of what he had learned and, he would want to parade it around in front of some other American some where down the line. He would want to dazzle them with his cleverness for learning the little important things that put the finishing touches on his trade.” The girl paused in her lively ramble and sighed reflectively. “But, also I realized that my little trick on him had just succeeded in giving him yet another reason to hate Americans.”

“That he already hate, does not change with you.” The boy observed.

“ I walked back to the apartment, eis was melting down the front of Marco’s shirt. His face had fallen and was he dragging his feet. It seemed to me that he was disappointed because there had been no bloodshed.”

In his mind the boy got an image. Young Marco politely was threatening the girl with something if she did not attempt to buy him another eis the next day. He would be doing so, to implement his secret campaign to have another shot at creating something that would cause the bloodshed. It was because he had a need to quench his desire to find out something; whether the American could bleed.

Thinking about what the boy had just said, the girl took a breath and became silent for a minute. The boy wondered if that was the end of the story, until she sighed. He waited for her to readjust the string on a package so that it would remain secure until it reached its final destination.

“That night,” She continued. And, as she did, she paused in between phrases, to lay out each element that drew the story to its significant point, “as I lay in bed, engaged in my nightly battle with the midnight sun, I became immersed in another battle, this one with my conscious.”

He noticed her reflection in the train window. A streak of light had slashed through her eyes that had been averted to some obscure point along the edge of the table. They had become luminous and, within the ghostly appearance that enveloped them, they had grown in size. Her eyebrows were arched as if she was trying to see through into something that would reveal an awful painful truth about her self. As he became absorbed in that reflection of her, he almost didn’t want to follow her to the place she would go. He actually sensed that he knew what she was going to say this time.

“ I began to realize, that what I had done to the eis guy was the antithesis of what I was there in Germany for. I had responded to an assumption that I had made. I wasn’t proud of that. I should not have assumed he was going to attack me, verbally. And, because I did assume that, I managed to throw away the one skill I could have used, diplomacy. I could have inquired about his reason for wanting to know the names of the eis flavors. Then, I could have used that reason to form mutual associations so that we could meet on a common ground that would promote understanding. Instead, what did I do? I resorted to trickery. I did so, to put up an offense so that I didn’t have to go on the defense. Poor eis guy,” She had changed, the liveliness had winnowed away, now she barely shook her head in her heartfelt regret. “I felt tremendous guilt. And, because I had engaged in selfishness, I had lost the opportunity to make a difference in the display of any positive action I might make. It is possible, that, by my example, I would have been able to convince him that not all Americans were bad. I might have even been able to lift him up, out of the stereotype that had created his prejudice.”

The steady stream of animation had slowed in the girl’s quieted voice. Now the boy was held rapt in the almost reverent invocation that was issuing from her eyes. They were held to an imagined spot that he thought that he could almost feel, but, yet, he could not quite visualize. It gave him the sense that she would now say something that he, too, had knowledge of. As though he would return there. The thought of such began to pervade him. So, he prepared to hold her words within his heart to allow him to willingly reach into that time with her.

“I imagined how it should have been. Him, enthusiastic and happy, as he revealed to others, the information that someone had taken the time to tell him. That, someone, had cared enough to tell him, that strawberry still had the same taste, even if, the words to describe it were different through out the world. He would think on this person every time he sold another eis. He would remember, how this one American, had earned a special place in his heart. She had, because she had proven to him, that language, was the very thing that described the flavors in life. That, variety of perspectives was the thing that kept the exchange of ideas between people, interesting.” The girl paused again. Slowly she inhaled and, allowed her eyes to be drawn back into his, so that she could reveal the awful truth of she knew about herself. She continued, “But, instead, because of me, the Italienische eis guy would face shock and ridicule. His ignorance would be measured by the very people that he depended upon to buy his product, so, that he could garner a wage. Then, as I thought on this even more, I visualized how hatred in his eyes would grow. I saw how it would spread out in even wilder proportions. It would be a hatred that would grow to encompass all Americans. All, because of that one memory that festered within him; he had been the object of a capricious whim. It would gnaw on him. So eventually, he would go to his friends and, spill the account of this betrayal. He would extend the details of how he was willfully tricked. And, then, upon hearing of his plight, these friends would deem me, the infidel, worthy, deserving of the recapitulation of their rage, too. As the bet decke began to smother me, I could see each new link snapping together into a length that would stretch on and on, down a long line, until, it culminated into the point of a reaction. Then, as I stared up, falling into the flickering midnight sun rays bouncing around, the ceiling combusted. Drywall burst into flame and crashed into the room. Scorched walls crumbled in with unexpected revelations. Interest in a cause dragged the world into an inferno. It was nothing anybody could have stopped. It was going to happen eventually. And, in my folly I would come to stand beside him, an equal in his loving wrath. And, as we waited, we would witness the destruction of the planet from deep within the ignition of the holocaust. Both of us knee deep in the incineration of the human race brought about by the inability to embrace the differences that make us all commensurate.”

The boy released what was left of the breath that he held onto. Rattled to a depth, he dragged his hand across his forehead to wipe away the sweat that had appeared there. It was as if he was straining against every chain that society had locked to his ankles. How did she see that? He was determined to find out what fathom she had hauled that up from, but the only thing he could think to say as he tried to recover was, “Where did the Italiensche eis guy go?”

“I don’t know, Karin bought Marco’s eis after that. The day that I told him about that flavor, was the last time I saw him.” She said oblivious of what she’d resurrected in him.

“No, that you just said. It came from where?”

“Well, it is just what I thought about when I felt so awful.” She said still feeling the effect of her inappropriate action in the incident.

The boy looked at her. It was true. She knew not of what she said. For a moment he considered, maybe what she had spoken, he hadn’t really heard. Or, maybe what he had heard was the spirits coming through her. It had happened to him before. He was aware of how the spirits floated in and around him. It was an awareness that he seemed to always have had, as well. Now, that this had happened, he felt that he would have to pay closer attention to what she had to say. Thinking about this, he remembered something. There had been a mix up at his father’s bakery, a missed delivery of flour that had to be waited on. A delay that caused him to have to take a later train. This train, that he was now on. As he sat there, thinking about it all, something slipped into his consciousness.

In his childhood he was walking beside her again, as she held his hand. He could hear the clack of her officious heels, advancing them up the long dark corridor. He could hear the rustle of her suit, and with every stride she took the fabric made a sliding sound, and, as it did, it emitted the scent of roses into the atmosphere. She had just gently reminded him to keep his fingers away from his nose. She was a bit strict, but he enjoyed the music in her voice. At the end of the hall she took him down a flight of stairs. Her heels reverberated throughout the stairwell. On another floor she brought him to a door. After she opened it, she smiled at him knowingly, Barely touching him on the shoulder, she eased him on, into the room with her polite wishes. Then, carefully, respectfully, she closed the door. As the boy paced slowly across the room, he discovered that he had been expected. Someone told him to come closer, that they wanted to have a look at him. The boy was asked what he thought about the weather. He was asked about the function of the stars in the sky. He was prompted to tell of a time that he spent in the mountains, prior to when he was not much younger than he was there, at that moment, with this someone. Before he and, the, someone were finished in their conversation, the sun had followed the sky along into its darkening. At some point the boy was told, that he was now allowed to leave, unaccompanied, as he would end up where he was suppose to go. But, not to worry about how he would get there.

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