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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Missing Persons. By John von Daler

                         Sometimes he would awaken from a dream and he would flow back into life like a murky little tributary spilling dredged muck into the clear main stream.

                He woke up in that way when she opened the door of the compartment. For a moment she seemed to extend from the dream he had been having, because she looked more like an ideal than a real person. Her black hair, curly and long, her green eyes that looked clear and perceptive, and her white, almost transparent skin all united to make him think of heroines in novels he had read. Anna Karenina! he ventured, keeping the thought to himself as she settled herself in the middle of the empty seats across from him. She smiled familiarly to him. It had to be a dream.
                After she had arranged her things beside her she pulled out a book and eyeing his book she said, "What are you reading?"
                "A Danish author called Frank Jæger, but in English. On my way to Copenhagen."
                "Oh." She looked at her book. By way of keeping things even she showed it to him.
                "Gogol. Dead Souls." Anna Karenina reading Gogol!
                "Hmm. Sounds heavy."
                "Don't know yet. But..." and then she looked up at him quickly, "Copenhagen? You are going to Copenhagen? On this train?"
                "Yep. Just four more hours."
                "Excuse me for intruding, but don't you know that this train leaves in five minutes and is headed toward Moscow?"
                Now the dream was turning bad.
                "No, no. I saw the sign in Paris. Copenhagen Express. Stops only here in Hamburg."
                "You bet!" She turned toward the window. "Those cars got uncoupled just as I came onboard. This car is headed through East Germany to Moscow. If you want to get to Copenhagen you'd better get off quickly!"
                "But I thought all the cars went the same place!"
                She narrowed her eyes as if trying to figure out how he could make such a simple mistake. Then she shook her head.
                "I'd get off if I were you..."
                He started pulling down his suitcase from the rack and putting on his jacket at the same time. The sleep just would not let go. Then he tried to wedge everything through the compartment door at the same time. After mashing through, he looked back at her from the aisle.
                "Thanks! Guess you saved my life!" As she smiled back at him from her seat he was thinking, or changed my life forever, since I just found you and lost you at the same time...
               And then he found himself on the platform in Hamburg. The train pulled away, sure enough, with Moscow written on the side. The dream lifted with the train and was gone.
                He tugged at the heavy bag and went to find a timetable for the next train to Copenhagen. In the center of this huge empty space covered by a tilted, dark ceiling he found some clicking information boards and saw that the next train left in an hour. Almost midnight and an hour to waste.
              "Can I help you with something?" A little man with curly red hair stood in front of him. The man was about twice his age and looked at home, his hands in his pockets, shirt sleeved, sandals on his feet.
                " Just missed the train to Copenhagen. I can't really be helped. I'll just have to wait it out until the next one leaves."
                "You're American, right? So am I. Let me buy you a cup of coffee while you're waiting." The man stuck his fingers into his pocket. "Yep, got just enough marks to buy us some coffee."
                They walked slowly over to a little café with chairs and tables where you could watch the passengers on their way to various local trains. At this hour they were tipsy. They found a table at the edge of the aisle. The man left to get coffee and came back with two mugs.
                The story of Copenhagen, his blond, Danish girl friend, and college, got told quickly enough. Then somehow they got into music and composers and Menotti was mentioned.
                "We had a family tradition of listening to Amahl every Christmas. But we also own some of the one-act operas, The Telephone and another opera on the same LP."
                "I've sung some of them," said the man and bent his head down toward his coffee mug. "He's wonderful, Menotti." When he looked up again his eyes were wet, bleary. He looks like he is saying one thing and thinking another, thought the young man. Don't we all.
              "I feel very much on a wave length with Menotti. It feels like we think alike."
                "Me, too," said the young man, "He writes such beautiful melodies."
                There was a little silence.
                Then they talked of home towns, of the man's job as a tenor at the Hamburg Opera, of colleges. As they talked the older man would dream off, start to say something and stop, losing the thread of their conversation. He looked often at his watch. He watched the young man through his wet eyes.
                While he talked the older man's hands often quivered in the air like butterflies that cannot decide where to land.
                Finally the young man checked the station clock and decided to find his train.
                "Thanks for the coffee!" He picked up his bag and stuck out his hand.
                The older man took the hand awkwardly, as if he were receiving stolen goods in a public place. He looked up and down the young man and caught sight of the book sticking out of his pocket.
                "What are you reading?" he asked.
                "Oh, a Danish author named Frank Jæger."
                "You should read Thomas Mann," said the older man as he backed away into the station again, almost like a courtier leaving a king,               
                "Try Death in Venice!" he shouted as the young man hurried off to the train to Copenhagen.

You should read
John von Daler!
Try "Pieces",
he shouted.
Or click on
the picture below!

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