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The Angel Of Death
This is creative non-fiction relating to my travels in Europe. It is part of a much larger body of ongoing writing.
Robert Guskind is an award-winning reporter and globe-trotting adventurer who is currently at work on a book about his travels and tribulations. He is a regular contributor at www.cherrybleeds.com and www.undergroundvoices.com.
|AUTHOR'S OTHER TITLES (1)
Tijuana Trolley (Non-Fiction) This is an excerpt from a work that is currently in progress. This passage details events in the Baja California in the winter of 1994-95. It is part of a much larger work. [973 words]
The Angel Of Death
At first glance, the woman sitting near me does not exude death or a fatal attraction to misfortune.
I would avoid her if she did.
She is a willowy blonde with short hair who is wearing a black dress and looks to be in her early thirties.
Like me, she’s sitting alone, eating dinner in a cavernous Swiss German place in Zurich on the Left Bank of the Limmat River, the part of town where the Swiss banks and expensive shops are located.
I wandered in here after checking out the nearby James Joyce Pub—which was Jury’s in Dublin and figured in Ulysses and was moved in its entirety to Zurich in the 1970s—where I downed a couple of grotesquely overpriced shots of Irish whisky.
I nibble on some rosti and drink my beer.
I look over at the female dining alone at the next table. I’ve been traveling by myself for a couple of weeks and have been on my own in Zurich for a few days.
I’m dying for some conversation, even a tortured one in broken English, and she’s there and alone.
Nature abhors nothing more than a vacuum.
She looks at me looking at her and looks down at her plate.
I look at her again.
She looks at me.
“Do you speak English?” I say.
Lame as it may be, “Do you speak English?” is one of the best opening lines in Europe, except with chicks who don’t speak English, who’ll simply say no or nein or nyet or whatever.
My European pick up strategy, however, may or may not be getting me anyplace that I ultimately want to go.
“Ja,” she says. “I am speaking little bit. American you is?”
“Yeah,” I say. “Are you from Zurich?”
“Not from the zity, but from outside the zity.”
“I’m from Washington, DC. My name is Bob.”
“I am Yolanda.”
“Nice to meet you.”
“We talk?” she says. “I practice the English with you.”
“Sure,” I say. “Do you want to join me?”
She picks up her plate and glass of wine and sits down at my table.
Yolanda tells me that she works for an accounting firm doing administrative work.
She asks me how I like Zurich and I tell her that I think it’s an okay town, although I like the much more low key neighborhood on the other side of the Limmat River a lot more than this one. We talk for nearly an hour. The conversation’s pleasant enough that I ask her if she wants to go to a café for some coffee or beer.
She looks like she’s going to say yes, but glances at her watch and gasps.
“I must go,” she says. “Already, I miss one train and soon I miss another. I am expected at the flat. If you wish, tomorrow we meet.”
“Sure,” I say. “Why not.”
“At what hotel you stays?”
The Helmhaus is a comfortable place not far from here on the other side of the river.
“Ja,” she says. “I know this place. I meet you there at 18:00?”
“Sure. I’m in room 409.”
She writes down the number.
I watch her leave the restaurant.
At six on the nose the next day, the front desk rings and says that Yolanda is downstairs. I tell them to send her up.
I invite Yolanda in. She slips off her shoes and sits in a chair next to me in front of a window with a view of some nearby rooftops.
I offer her a beer from the mini-bar and crack one open for myself too.
I tell her about my day wandering the streets of Zurich. She tells me about hers.
She asks if I have a girlfriend.
I tell her that I did until about six weeks ago, but that I’m single again.
“I am sharing the flat with the man who has the epilepsy,” she says.
“Is he your boyfriend?” I ask.
“We are together, ja. He falled down on the floor and broked his left skull.”
“Years ago he got mixed up in the gun and the knife battle. Five people left their life.”
“He killed five people?” I ask.
“No. He is not doing the killing of the people. Was many people at this battle. He is in the prison for ten years.”
“Why did the fight happen?”
“A woman had infected this man with the syphilis and that is why they attacked.”
I’m very unclear about who attacked whom—and I’m not sure I want to know—but if I’m getting the gist of Yolanda’s sordid tale of woe, five Swiss people died because a woman gave a guy VD.
The Swiss reputation for being polite and peaceful people interested mostly in making money is an exaggeration, if not a lot of hype.
“He is trying to forget these tragic events,” Yolanda says. “After the prison, it is the trial by the ordeal. For five years, he was in the wheelchair.”
I get up and retrieve a bottle of grappa I bought in Italy from one of my bags. I was going to bring it home, but I feel a strong urge for a big, stiff drink.
I sit down, crack open the bottle and pour a healthy amount into a glass. Yolanda’s story is the best argument for drunkenness I’ve ever run across.
“He falled and broked his skull when he comes home from the prison,” Yolanda continues. “He was a skilled mechanic. When he was younger he wanted to study the medicine. All my relations they want that I desert this man because he rescued the memories from the oblivion and drinks burdened with guilt.”
I take another hit of grappa. I’m not feeling so blithe myself.
“He is the godfather to a child whose father was killed on the motorbike,” Yolanda says. “The godmother of this child is got the screw loose. She phoned at midnight anonymously. We report her to the police.”
“She maked the threat on us. In the past, the godparents lived together. My godfather made the suicide with the carbine.”
I picture death, shrouded in black, walking down the beach like in The Seventh Seal.
“My uncle was the banker in Bern,” Yolanda says. “From the cirrhosis he is died. To the mistress in Geneve he leaves all the money. This woman is very much more young than my uncle. All of the people discusses this. Her father sells the paintings but makes the money bringing the heroin from Bulgaria to Switzerland. By bus the drugs come to Zurich from Sofia. The father of the mistress is catched by police and everyone sees this on the television and the newspaper. The name of the family is disgraced in the shame.”
“Your name?” I ask.
“Ja,” she says. “My aunt dies in the car accident on the autobahn in Germany near Manheim after the uncle dies from the cirrhosis and the story of the mistress is on the television. The police says she makes the suicide with the car. In the other car, are three people left without the life.”
“That’s a very sad story,” I say, taking another big hit of liquor. “I’m very sorry.”
“There is more.”
I’m sure there is, but if I hear any more right now, I’m going to go on a three-day bender of heavy drinking burdened with guilt. My thoughts about sleeping with Yolanda have evaporated. If I have sex with this person, they’ll probably find me floating in the river in the morning.
“Maybe you could tell me more tomorrow?” I say, looking at my watch. “I’m supposed to have dinner with a friend.”
It is a terrible lie. I’ll probably spend the night getting drunk alone, but it beats the alternative.
“I had wished we could have the dinner together,” Yolanda says.
That would be nice if Yolanda wasn’t the Angel of Death.
I invite her to stop by tomorrow, when I have no intention of being around, and walk her to the door.
She kisses me on the cheek and, then, she is gone.
I lock the door. It’s best to stay in tonight.
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"I Loved It. This Is Gia, yes Gia your sister and I have been trying to find you. Congrats on your personal celebration and professional accomplishments. Miss you, love you. Gia Rose Guskind." -- Gia Rose Guskind, East Meadow , ny, 11554.
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© 2004 Robert Guskind
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