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Saturday, May 16, 2009

four by four by four

I took off to Stuttgart the other day. Just like that? – yeah, just like that; I had to go see someone. I spent two hours on the side of the road with a cardboard sign in my hands. S-T-U-T-T-G-A-R-T, it said in calligraphy – I have a pen-set from way back and plenty of time to kill – I even did some medieval shit on the first letter, some coils and frills and whatnot which I figured would attract the more enlightened drivers. But waving it around, it occurred to me that this much skill could attract the wrong kind of dude. It was getting on ten o’clock and suddenly I had this frightful image of a moustache-lipped Bavarian with leather gloves, leather cap, leather... I started heading back, but a car stopped – a Fiesta – and I got in.

(What the fu— Labas! You just got back, man.)

(Yeah, so?)

(Don’t you have stuff to do?)

(I have stuff to do, yeah... in Stuttgart.)

(Ha ha ha, very funny, ha ha ha. What do you have to do in Belgium you can’t do here?)

(It’s in Germany Brendan. Stuttgart’s in Germany.)

I love Bren – God bless him.

The Fiesta was tiny and dark. A large primate was at the wheel. Big, tattooed, bald, Aryan stock – think sauerkraut and Autobahn – I didn’t say Nazi, I said Aryan – that’s still a legitimate word last I checked anyway, not to worry, I don’t think this guy’s history or sense of himself goes back much further than the 2006 Fussball Weltmeisterschaft and the trauma of Germany’s defeat on home ground. Everything before that is unknowable or beer-soaked beyond recognition.

My name is Lui – Lui Labas.

I’m Jürg!

I know, I said.

That was stupid. The tiny car suddenly swerved way out as Jürg’s heavy Aryan head swung towards me. Woher wissen sie das?! How do you know?!

It says on your arm, Jürg. Take it easy, It’s written on your arm.

Ah, Ach zo, Ja. Das ist correct. Ja, ja. And the Fiesta settled back into its lane.

All the rest of his tattoos were basically doodles, scattered and incoherent, but his name – JURG – was written in clean, Gothic letters – you guessed it, calligraphy. And like my S, his J was a clutter of coils, frills and illumination, a beautiful piece of work, unexpected on such an undignified arm.

Eventually we got to talking,

...I wurk in nightlife, ja.

At the bar or something?

Nein. Nightlife-security, ja. Und also ze administration, ja, ze treasury.

The what?

Ze treasury.

Jürg has a lot of flaccid muscle he probably doesn’t use much but which I’m sure is integral to his services for “ze treasury”. I didn’t know what he was talking about and I didn’t want to ask. He said nightlife another twenty times before he finally mentioned the word girls: Ze treasury, is depending on how many girls are on ze floor, ja. Jürg shifted into fifth gear. What girls, Jürg, what floor? Then Jürg showed me his teeth and lifted his big hand – like some German, multi-grained loaf off the top shelf – to remind me once more – stupid Croat that I am – that he works in NIGHTLIFE. Yes, yes, yes, I got it Jürg, but something doesn’t square, man. We’re sitting in a Ford Fiesta, a diesel; we’re barely breaking 110 kph, we’re sputtering forth. What kind of joint do you run? Donations from your clientele to The Treasury must be very ungenerous. Where’s the Merc 600SL? In my hometown Zagreb, among contraband runners and pimps, you would be a disgrace,
Jürg, a laughing stock. What treasury is this!? But I kept quiet, and finally he changed the subject

Und you, why you going to Stuttgart, ja?

For work.

Ach zo. Wat wurk?

um... mostly manual.

Mechanisch, ja?

Yes, mechanical , yes,

ja, ja, sehr gut.

What the hell. I’m a liar.

I was stumped. I've lost the concept of work. My work these days is purely internal: a beating heart, the limbs on my body that, by necessity, I move from A to B; my work is the flurry of ideas that batter my brain; channeling them and filing them is work; my work... um... my work was getting to Stuttgart... and maybe Jürg was about to offer me a job at ze treasury or – fuck-a-duck – running the floor! Imagine that. I thought of his multigrain-hand giving directions, the eruption of tattoos across his arms, I thought of calling him boss from behind the bar, but then my mind slipped and for the next ten seconds all I could think of was my new cube of space in Rotterdam, my new home – four by four by four – now rid of rats, spacious and grand, and right then – caught in Jürg’s Fiesta – I felt like an emperor and the think-space in my mind filled the cube to perfection, fully, every patch of space – four by four by four – in length, in width, in height, and finally, in the last seconds, in an other dimension too.