Love and Chaos Part 4(c) Chris 1

23rd December 2020

Berlin 2020 with the Cathedral (left) and the TV Tower. Photo by Martin O’Shea

Part Four. Berlin. Summer 1994

Chris wore a cotton top with white and purple horizontal stripes, faded black jeans and Converse All Star sneakers. Richard wore his slim-cut blue Levi’s and a light, dull-green, woollen jumper with brown, leather waistcoat that Chris had picked up from one of Berlin’s many second-hand clothes stores. They looked cool and felt cool, Richard thinking he looked a little like Kurt Cobain on the ‘Unplugged’ show, and planned to grow his hair out. Possibly bleach it.

They met Monika at a bar for brunch at the area Richard now knew as the Wasserturm, or Water Tower. The Sunday afternoon pavements were covered with chairs and tables, children running and dogs hunting stray food. All the bars were busy, but Monika had saved two seats and waved to them.

Richard had been in Berlin for just over a week and had been out drinking with Chris nearly every night. The previous Friday, The Gang had meet up, this time going around the bars in the northern part of Prenzlauer Berg, around Schönhauser Allee U-Bahn, where Chris lived. Gabi had driven over with Lorelei, both seeming relieved to be away from their boyfriends. Andreas was there with Silke and Nice Guy Kai. Some other friends had turned up, and it seemed that Monika knew every waitress and barman in Berlin and that all the women were really cute, and all the men were really friendly. Richard mentioned this to Andreas;

“You haven’t been here long. Just wait.”

There was only one downer. How to behave to Lorelei, because there was no sense in hiding it; he was totally in love. Meeting her caused all the emotions to collide like a ‘super-charged particle accelerator’ as he himself described it. There was the initial excitement that almost caused his heart to burst, the gasping for air, as the tension grabbed him by the throat. Then came the terrifying doubts, wondering how she felt and how he should act and react to her. How to play it cool, when he just wanted to go over and confess his love and throw himself at her cute, little, painted-toenailed, feet. And he wanted to kiss her so much, he thought he would go crazy.

The subject of today’s lunchtime summit.

“You know how I think it went ?” asked Chris, referring to the previous evening, “Brilliantly. She digs you. Big time.”

“But the boyfriend ?”

“No, I don’t think you have to worry. They are like flatmates. They share a bed, but make nothing.”

Richard thanked Monika for the information, before Chris continued,

“And she laughed at all your jokes. Even the ones I didn’t even get.”

“She was just being polite.”

“Oh, right. C’mon, she’s into you.”

“I hope so.”

Monika silently ate her lunch, then was relieved to be able to change the subject.

“Oh, next Saturday, Erika is giving a performance. I said we’d go.”

“Sure.”

“Yeah, cool. Who’s Erika ?”

Chris answered,

“Barmaid slash Performance artist. Does … kinda improvised … what would you say, Moni ?”

“Performances.”

“Exactly ! She … ah, you’ll see. Oh, Arizona may come. He wants to hang out with us.”

“Arizona ? Oh, from your studio. Don’t think I met him last time.”

“No, he’s cool. Little bit older than us, mid-thirties. Bit of a character. You’ll see.”

After a lunch of sausage and eggs, fruit and the obligatory Sekt, Monika left, as she had to get home to work on some dress she was making. One of several ways she earned money. Chris explained, as they took a stroll,

“Some mornings she gets up and cleans a bar, sometimes works the door in a club, sometimes hands out flyers, sometimes does check-out in a small supermarket, sometimes does dressmaking, alterations, sometimes does haircuts . . . you know.”

“How do you keep up ?”

“It’s not easy. I need something like a periodic table, like all those chemistry dorks used to have on their walls.”

They walked up Rykestr, turning around and seeing the TV Tower loom over the Wasserturm, through the trees of the park. Then a turn into the main Danziger Str, and one block east to the Ernst Thälmann park with its massive statue.

“These girls are amazing,” said Richard. “Silke, Gabi, Moni … Lorelei. Oh, man ! They should form a band. Just look at them: Moni with short, black hair, Silke; spikey, Gabi; curly, dirty blond and Lorelei’s luscious locks. Forget All Saints, it would be the hottest chick band, ever !”

“I know. Amazing, isn’t it ? I thought after Ute, that’s it. But it worked out just fine.”

“Advice, c’mon, spill; how do I get Lorelei ? What moves did you pull on Moni ?”

“Oh, it was a breeze, baby, couldn’t be easier. Ute dumped me. There I was, allein in einer grossen Stadt (alone in a big city), got a shitty job, no money, live in squalor and just lost the love of my life. Began going out with some of the Biberkopf staff after work, drinking. At one bar, I meet Monika. She asks why I’m looking so sad. Got so much sympathy … that, my friend, is how to get women.”

“Act all pathetic and make them pity you ?”

“Hey, I’m the one with the girlfriend, remember ?”

“But I’ve got no one to dump me.”

“Well, that can be easily solved.”

“Could always leak it that I was dumped in London … came here to forget my pain … ?”

“See … now you’re thinking. And that, Amigo, calls for a drink.”

Chris had taken some days off from Biberkopf to be with Richard, but was now working five nights a week, as well as occasional days at the studio. The following Saturday, after seeing Erika’s performance, Lorelei asked Richard,

“What do you do all day ?”

They had meet at a new café in one of Prenzlauer Berg’s back streets. It was the familiar converted shop space, a plain room with large, wooden tables, and just candles and ashtrays for decoration. Soundgarden on the CD player. The barman with two or three friends at the bar. It was very quiet, but was still very early for Berlin.


The gang, on the night of Erika’s show, was without Silke, who was working, but with Nice Guy Kai and one of his new girlfriends.

From the bar, they drove to Kreutzberg, Pearl Jam pounding out of Monika’s car stereo as she twisted and turned around Alexanderplatz.

Another Hinterhof, south of the river. A mixture of junk and broken furniture, some sorry-looking plants, broken glass, empty beer crates and cigarette butts. Twenty or so people, standing around, drinking, smoking, laughing, shouting.

Erika’s show was through one of the doors that led off into a basement, but was locked. It was Berlin, performances were not expected to start on time.

The Gang all got another drink, passed around cigarettes and talked. Richard was unable to get any idea of what the performance would involve, but enjoyed seeing the individual reactions, Andreas and Kai appearing very cynical, Monika supportive and Chris nonsensical.

A man walked into the Hof, alone, dressed in leather trousers, with a mauve T-shirt and bottle-green, velvet jacket. He wore yellow-tinted glasses, had thick sideburns and a four-day growth of beard. He looked around, then waved to Chris.

Arizona Al.

Introductions were made, then a door opened and people began paying the entrance and descending into the converted performance space.

Inside, the walls were painted bright orange with various murals showing scenes derived from Bruegel and Bosch; sinners being devoured by demons, or put into lakes of fire. Arizona Al was somewhat taken aback and was particularly struck by one group in a corner, showing four men who appeared to be musicians, though their instruments were more like weapons. There was a blond woman next to them, who appeared to be in severe discomfort. He pointed it out to Chris and asked what it was.

“Don’t know. Kinda spooky, isn’t it ?”

“Yeah, like, man, what’s going on ? This some kinda devil-freak joint ?”

Chris was about to mention the illustration to the others, when the background music abruptly cut out. People began turning to face the small, central stage area, and moving forward.

Erika marched onto the stage, commanding everyone’s attention. She had curly, auburn hair, which was moused and thick. Her face was brightly made-up, thick, red lips and long lashes. She wore a black and white basque, fishnet stockings and high heels.

She made sure everyone was looking at her, before walking around the stage, striking a pose, and clicking her fingers. On cue, the music began, Marlene Dietrich numbers, which she mimed along to, or acted out.

During ‘Kisses Sweeter Than Wine’, she was joined onstage by a friend, also in lingerie, but with short, brown hair and a few layers less of make-up. They performed a mime about falling in love and raising a happy family, Erika taking the male role.

The opening line, about a young man who had never been kissed, brought sighs of sympathy from Gabi and Lorelei, and made Richard feel uncomfortable, in case The Gang thought it applied to him.

Arizona Al, like Chris, Richard, Kai and all the other men in the audience, was just enjoying the sight of what he referred to as “Two smokin’ babes,” cavorting around.

After twenty minutes, the show was over and Eighties German pop music helped to clear the space.

Outside, people got drinks from a bar area and stood around in small groups. That was when Lorelei asked Richard how he spent his days.

“I get up early, fix myself breakfast, and go back to bed. I read a lot, walk around, wait for Chris to come back, then go to the local bars. Of course, I spend a lot of time thinking about you.”

Lorelei smiled, then turned away.


Erika came up to them, dressed as she had been on stage, but with a leather jacket now over her shoulders.

They all told her how much they had enjoyed the show.

“Very nice,” said Chris, with a knowing glance at Monika.

Al introduced himself, then had some questions about the practicalities of performing, whom to ask, how much could be made.

“Yeah, don’t want to monopolize you, know you got a lot of people to see, just one more question, don’t know if you’d know, but there’s this picture in the corner, it’s like four dudes and some blonde chick and, I don’t know, it’s kinda … weird, you know, like … “

He made a gesture of terror and fear. The others had all stopped talking to hear, and see, Al’s own performance, knowing that Erika only had basic English. She was silent for some seconds, trying to process the inquiry, then she understood, and looked to Kai for confirmation.

“Oh, Ja, that’s based on an old German folk … “

“Legend. Folk tale.” Kai to her aid.

“Genau (exactly)a folk legend. It’s from the Medieval times and is from the Black Forest area. It’s called The Concert Of Grotesques. Do you know it ? It’s a great story …

Love and Chaos Part 2(B) Chris 1

23rd November 2020

Image by Harald Ansorge

Part Two. Berlin. November 1993

“Richard … hey, I’m so sorry,” laughed Chris. “This is Ute.”

She put her hand out, and Richard quickly sat up, automatically patted down his hair, and said ‘Hello’. He attempted to rise, but was weighed down by blankets and clothes. He was the one who had been waiting all day, yet it was he that felt he had to apologise, for his appearance.

“What happened to you? Been bashing people?”

“No, not yet,” he replied with a little too much acid in the voice. He continued, toning down his manner, “Some idiot knocked me with his bag at Stadmitte. Hey, good to see you. At last. Hi Ute, vie gehts ?”

“Oh, you can German ?”

“Yeah. I know, ’Vie gehts ?’, ‘Geschlossen’, ‘Eine Turkische Pizza, bitte.’ All the important words.”

Ute spoke with genuine concern,

“And what is with your eye ? You need something for it ?”

“No, no, it’ll be all right.”

Chris stood there, hiding his guilt behind a wide smile that strained his jaw muscles. He suggested that they all go to Kinski’s, and after Richard gathered himself together, they left the flat.

Chris had woken late that morning in Ute’s Mitte flat, the Ofen still radiating heat. He was in a warm bed, next to a hot woman and was going to make the most of it.

After making love again, Ute rolled a joint, sparked up and passed it over to Chris.

“Don’t you have to go and meet Richard ? What time is his flight ?”

For Chris to be on time, he would have had to get up and leave immediately which he felt, considering his surrounding, was a ludicrous thing to do.

“No, he has keys. He knows his way around Berlin.”

“You sure ? I can drive you there. I’m free all day ?”

“No, don’t worry, he’ll be OK, my Darling ! You are so sweeeeetttt.”

They finished the joint and went back to sleep. When they eventually woke, dressed and got into Ute’s car, it was already late evening.

Jens was working the bar, and the Café was half full, but not with anyone Richard recognised. The music was some generic sub Sonic Youth guitar noise, played too loudly to make conversation easy.

Chris, still with his embarrassed smile, got the drinks while Richard sat and made small talk with Ute. She was small, with dark blonde hair, tied back in a ponytail.

After a beer, she got up to leave, and Richard discretely averted his eyes, while they kissed.

She left the bar, and Chris turned to Richard,

“Wow, what a girl ! I can’t believe I’m with her. Really ! Hey, was it OK, to get to the flat ? It’s just been crazy the last couple of weeks”

“Yeah, it was … if I’d have known, it would have been better. “

“Sorry, sorry. Tonight, the drinks are on me.’

“Oh, you better believe it. If we’re allowed to drink here with that bastard working. Don’t think he likes us.”

“Yeah, bit of a prick, isn’t he ? We’ll be OK. If, not, there’s plenty more bars. Quite a few down the end of this street.”

“Been exploring ?”

“In the interests of science. Gaptooth took me to one, run by Russians. The Czar Bar. Pretty rough in there.”

“What, fights ?”

“No, everyone’s too pissed to fight. It’s just … oh, you’ll see. Pretty basic. You don’t want to go to the toilet in there.”

“Well, I might.”

“No, trust me, you wouldn’t. So, Ute … what do you think ?”


“Yeah, she’s all right.”

“ ‘All right ‘ ? Are you blind ?”

“Half blind ! I’m joking with you. Getting my own back for waiting in a cold flat all day. Hey, what is with the weather ? It’s bloody freezing.”

“No, it’s not.”

“It fucking well is !”

“No, don’t say that. I used to and everyone says, ‘no, wait until it gets really cold.’”

“It’s going to get colder ?” Chris just nodded. “Shit. What do we do ? I only have a few jumpers.”

“Don’t worry about that, got it covered. You can borrow my stuff.”

“That army coat’s good. Fur lining.”

“Going to need it.”

“Because this isn’t cold, wait until it gets really cold.”

“It’s like some kind of pride thing with them, ‘we can survive the cold’. How was Tempelhof ? Did you see the eagles ? And the Luftbrucke ?”

“On the corners ? Yeah. Looks like something out of a war movie.”

“Yeah, the Nazis built it, it’s one of the few Nazi buildings still in Berlin. Speer designed it. The Americans took it over and then had a problem about the eagles, because apart from the Nazi connotations, the eagle is also an American symbol, so they left them. Then they used Tempelhof for the airlift, dropping food and fuel over Berlin.”

“Someone’s been reading up.”

“Too cold to do anything else. Well, nearly anything else.”

“By which we segue way back into Ute. So, what’s the story ?”

“First … more drinks.”

Chris knew how to set up dramatic tension and took his time, going to the toilet, buying cigarettes from the machine and getting two more beers, creating sufficient expectation for the story, which was known to Richard only in barest outline. Chris had the stage and knew how to keep it.

He began filling in the background. Marina now worked at a bar in Schöneberg, the co-owner was her aunt, not really an aunt, but, well, it was complex, and the Spüler (the washer-uper), had quit, or been asked to leave, because he had fought with one of the cooks, threatening to put his head into the deep-fat fryer, so there was an immediate opening and the job paid cash, every night, 12 Marks per hour, working from seven till round about midnight. With the studio in the afternoon, and then five days a week at the Bar Biberkopf, Chris was making the best money of his life. Richard commended him then tried to steer him back on course.

“Right, yes, Ute. So I’m working one night, and I get there early, have a coffee, maybe ten, fifteen minutes before seven, create a good impression by my timekeeping, because my actual work isn’t going to impress anyone. Sitting along the bar are two girls. I kinda recognised one, she was one of the barman’s girlfriends, but the other one … wow !”

“Ute ?”

“You betcha ! Then they get up to play pool, and we’re making eye contact, she hits a great pot, OK, pure luck, but what the heck, gives me a chance to say, ‘great pot’. She smiled and did this curtsey … I was gone, daddy, gone, knocked out, loaded.”

Chris still seemed mesmerised by the memory of it, as he took a long drag on his cigarette and stared into the distance. Richard coughed.

“What ? Oh, yeah, so, just when I’m about to make my move, play it all cool, the cook comes out and shouts at me, ‘ain’t you working tonight ?’ because it’s like four seconds after seven. Then Ute looked up, made a gesture of pity, and smiled at me. She smiled at me.”

“Ah, I love it when women smile at me.”

“You know what I mean, then ?”

“Theoretically.”

“You think I can work after that ? I’m putting old food in the sink, plates in the trash. I’m just thinking about Ute, and when I can take a break, so as to see her. And, of course, tonight’s really busy, restaurant’s filling up, plates piling up. Then the cook sends me to get some shit in the cellar, which means going back into the bar, so I see her, I play it all cool, she looks over and … another smile. So, that’s it, I’m beaming, Cheshire Cat smile, all night. Not so the cook.”

“Not happy ?”

“The German work ethic don’t apply to cooks, ’cause those fuckers hate having to do shit. He’s getting more and more orders, getting more and more angry, starts kicking the fridge, the pots …“

“You ?”

“I’ve learnt to get outter the way. Point is, I have to keep working, so I can’t mossey into the bar. Now I panic; what if she leaves and I never see her again ? Eventually, I get a break and get some food.”

“What’s it like ?”

“Well, it’s the same as customer food, so it’s pretty grim. But I eat it at the bar … next to Ute. And after I finish, she gives me a cigarette. Gauloise. Blue. Now I’m thinking what to do, should I stay after work and have a drink, or play it cool and leave, but I want her to know, without knowing too much … you follow ?”

“All the way.”

“So, later, I’m about to leave, when I see Ute sitting on the first bar stool, and I have to get my money, so I’m about to go up to her, make my move, when Georg comes over, and starts stroking her hair.”

“And Georg is … ?”

“Oh, yeah, he’s the barman that night. Now, Germans are more physical, they’re always touching each other, you know, it can be kind of, ‘Whoa, Nelly, this isn’t a petting zoo,’ so I don’t read too much into it, but then he whispered something in her ear, and she laughs.”

“That’s not good.”

“It’s a disaster. I mean, touch away, but making her laugh. I knew something was up.”

“So you … what ?”

“What could I do ? Hey, Johnny Cash, ‘what could I do ?’ Life’s a piece of piss for a Spüler named Chris. I got my money and left, hoping that Ute would follow me out with her eyes.”

“And did she ?”

“Well, how do I know ? I had my back to her. Anyway, I hit Kinski’s and I hit it hard that night. Probably why I had the fire and almost died.”

At this point, as Richard could have predicted, Chris broke off, ostensibly to take a drink and light a new cigarette, but really to build excitement. Richard refused to ask, waiting to see how long it would take Chris to follow up. Then Chris recognised some new people who had walked in, and began speaking to them. But if Richard was curious, he knew that Chris must be equally anxious to get to finish his ever-evolving tale.

It was Richard who put an end to the impasse, wanting to get the story out of the way, so that they could get on with the serious drinking, because after the day he had spent, he was in the mood to get seriously drunk. He also knew that his non-story with Claire was a pathetic non-starter and Chris had lived enough for the both of them.

“To recap, Ute is with Georg, you drown you sorrows and end up in a ring of fire. Tonight’s session is brought to you by the songs of Johnny Cash.”

“What do you want to hear first ? The Ute saga, how our hero killed the evil beast and saved the princess, or how I battled the all-consuming fire, representing the flames of my passion ? Pretty symbolic stuff, hey ?”

“Don’t get cocky ! Get on with it. Tell me in chronological order. So, you come here, get hammered, go home and … ?”

“And start a fire in the Ofen. You’ve seen all the wood in the flat ?”

“Couldn’t miss it, Noah. You building an ark or something ?”

“Hey, 5th of November, how about that ? Oh, we can look out for more wood, later.”

“Sounds fun.”

“So, I’m getting the Ofen working, got to sit there, burning paper and small bits of wood, to get it started, then bigger pieces, but not too big, or it’ll just put out the flame, and I’m falling asleep, but got to get the Ofen working or I’ll die from exposure, so I keep putting more wood in, opening the vents slowly, let air in, more paper, wood, finally, it’s going, roaring fire and I can start to feel the heat. I load it up and put in a big piece of wood, so big it sticks half way out. I’m thinking that it’ll burn for an hour or so, and that’ll be enough. I just crash, clothes on, shoes on, the works. Next thing I know, I’m woken by the sound of cracking, like logs on a fire. There’s black smoke in the room. There’s a fucking fire outside of the Ofen.”

“What did you do ? Weren’t you still drunk ?”

“Not for long. Nothing like a forest fire in the house to sober a guy up. Well, I panicked, of course, then ran out of the house. I was fully clothed, so it was OK.”

“But the fire .. ?”

“Still raging, yeah. So I have to go back in and put it out, but I’ve got no bucket now, because it was full of purple vomit, so I pick up the log and try to get it into the Ofen.”

“Wasn’t it hot ?”

“Fucking burning ! I scorched my hands, so I put on the gloves, picked it up quickly and carefully and shoved it in, stamping out the flames on the floor … the log had fallen onto some wood and paper and ignited them. Then I had to open the windows, because the room’s full of black smoke, so all the heat goes in seconds and it’s Siberia in there. “

“Fucking Hell ! You were so lucky. The paper fire. Could have had a Django situation.”

“Which is ?”

“Django Reinhardt, the Gipsy guitarist. When he was young, he fell asleep in his caravan and a candle fell onto some paper flowers his wife had made. Whole thing goes up, he gets injured, gets burnt so badly that he’s unable to use two fingers of his left hand. Then he goes on to be one of the greatest guitar players the world’s ever known.”

“So … what’s your point ? ”

“That you were lucky.”

“I was lucky, yeah. The next day’s Saturday, which means that I’m not working, I won’t be back at Biberkopf until Monday and I don’t even know when or if I’ll ever see Ute’s again. Anyway, I close the windows in the morning, and just stay in bed, or couch to be precise, under blankets, because I’m really hung over. By evening, I’m up and decide to see a movie at Babylon, we’ll have to go, by the way, nice cinema, English films, you can get a beer, and I get there early and choose my place, middle row, middle seat. It’s Saturday, so it’s busy and it’s not so large, it’s filling up. I begin to notice that all seats are taken except the ones directly around me.”

“Odd.”

“Very. And it’s only when there are absolutely no more seats available that people sit next to me, and even then, they’re on the edge of the seat, leaning away.’

“Well, living without a shower, you have to overcompensate with the deodorant. Just a tip.”

“It was the bloody coat. All my clothes in fact. My hair. I stank like an old bonfire.”

“Pretty embarrassing.”

“Yeah, well, it’s only Berlin. Everyone stinks. After walking around for a day or two, the smell filtered out of the coat, and I tried to open the windows a bit, but it was too savage. Right fire story over, on to Ute. And, once again, Marina to the rescue.”

“That woman is your lifeline.”

“Yeah, I had a situation with Ross about that.”

“Oh, he found out about … or … what ?”

“No, he doesn’t know anything. How true. No, I mean, I was at the bar one night, before my shift and Marina’s working, so Ross pops in, and he sits there, with his beer, all pompous, all, ‘keeping an eye on my lassie’, when, just to have something to say to him as much as anything, I call Marina my fixer, you know, one who fixes things.”

“I know.”

“Well, he looks at me all blank. Says nothing. Then he goes all aggressive, and asks , ‘what ?’ So I repeat, repeat and clarify, two-pronged attack. ‘Oh’, he says, ‘I thought you said she was a Vixer.’ Which means ‘wanker’. If anyone was a wanker, it sure wasn’t Marina. Well, he fucks off, and I get a few seconds of Marina time and try to get the low-down on Ute. Marina saw through it immediately, all smiling and stroking my arm.”

“That petting zoo can stay open twenty-four hours.”

“Well, er … I’ve moved on from Marina. Lovely girl, but … I think it’s just seeing her with that arsehole. It’s killed the passion. Still lovely and great and all, but no romantic feelings.”

“And still great breasts.”

Chris wasn’t quite sure how to respond, having a faint recollection of a late night conversation about Marina’s attributes.

“Yeah, anyway, she’s my man on the inside. Here’s the deal. Ute’s an art student. Single. Georg … bit of a situation; he’s smitten, big time, he thinks he’s onto the real deal. No dice.”

“That’ll be the letter where you told me she’d dumped the boyfriend.”

“Right. Only they never were going out. Now, things are working in parallel. Walter, the owner, has made the schedule so that George now works mainly weekends. Ute comes in only on weekdays. I arrive early to spend time with Ute, because she sometimes comes with her friend after college. Sometimes without her friend.”

Here Chris winked before continuing,

“So we’re hanging out, talking, smoking, drinking. She lives in Mitte, and one night, I stay behind to have a drink, all free, by the way, and she offers me a lift home, because Schöneberg is miles away, and I invite her for a drink. Not here, I thought I’d better suggest a normal bar, but she says, ‘no’, prefers these kind of joints, and takes me to one she knows, in some back street. We’re getting on really well. Then she invited me to a movie. She comes to pick me up and, ring those bells, she turns up in this stunning, black number. She meant business and was taking no prisoners. And so … unconditional surrender.”

“What was the movie ?”

“Ah, who cares ? Now, to go back a bit. Georg. Nice guy, I like him. He’s not so big, but he works out, does karate, I think, something that involves kicking people and breaking wood. We were in the changing room once, and we took his shirt off, and even his muscles had muscles. Not the guy you want to fuck with.”


“Or steal a girl from.”

“She never was his girl. But, smalltown Berlin, Georg’s found out about me and Ute … and that night, we’re working together.”

“Doesn’t sound good.”

“I get to work, and there’s just … this vibe, like an electric fence or one of those freaky, bug-zapping, blue lights they have in kitchens, normal kitchens that is, because what they use in Biberkopf is a roll of Sellotape, which gets encrusted with squirming flies. Georg’s looking mean and slamming people’s drinks down. Also, not entirely sober.“

This seemed a good point for fresh beers.

“Where was I ? Oh, right. I’m in the kitchen, and we have all the noise of my machine, water running, the cooker with eight rings a-blazing, soup a-boiling, chips a-frying, and so on, plus the radio’s always on. Plus background noise of a busy bar slash restaurant. Yet … yet, above all this din, I hear it. The cook hears it, even stops working and pokes his fat head out of the kitchen. Massive screaming match between Georg and Walter. Unfortunately, no subtitles. I’d have loved to pick up a carrot and nonchalantly chew on it, inquiring of a bilingual passer-by what was happening, but thought it best to keep working, because they’d find someway of blaming me. Bang, sound of door slamming. Georg went into the changing room. Puts his coat on, comes out, slams the door again and … that’s it … Haven’t seen him since.”

“Did you find out what they argued about ?”

“Georg blamed Walter for destroying his life, Walter accused him of being a no-good alcoholic. And so on. Couple of massive German customers stand up, gather around, but do nothing, just stand there, all serious, probably hoping for free drinks. Quite a night. So, that’s what you’ve missed. One more thing, Melanie’s coming over. Should be here in a couple of days and bringing a friend with her.”

“Will ?”

“Yes. How did you know ?”