Tuesday, 8 May 2018
A Round Tuit
This week, judging by its predecessor's campaign, No Good Deed is due for a dwell in the doldrums. It's just over 3 weeks in, very nearly four. As usual, people with busy lives just haven't got around to it. I know they will, but - after all - if the target remains 75% away from completion with ten of the twelve weeks gone in six weeks time, No Good Deed will never see the light of day. I could, of course, bombard people's in-boxes until "I plead therefore I spam", but I shan't do so. However, like many things, a crowdfunding campaign is about momentum (small 'm', please note), so if any of you lovely people who have already lent a hand know anyone who might be interested, please feel free to tell them about Moffat's next adventure. By the way, I've printed off a few of these "round tuits" to give to people I've asked in person to back NGD.
Anyway, enough of that... here is a piece of flash-fiction, free, gratis and for nothing. Very few stories I'll put on here will be in the style of Moffat World (there's an idea for a Theme Park), but I hope you enjoy this one anyway.
Der Verschwundene (The Disappeared)
Later I would think of him as "Cotton-Eyed Joe". After a stupid novelty song that had been in the charts when I had last lived in Germany. There was nothing that unusual about him, apart from what he was wearing. His clothes were the traditional builder’s costume - and a little threadbare. I presumed that he must have bought them from the stalls in the Museuminsel Flea Market, where it would not have been cheap to buy an authentic Kluft. I couldn’t imagine why he had. He didn’t look like a bricklayer or a mason. He’d fiddled with his black hat since I’d entered his compartment at Berlin Central. I watched him turning the brim through his hands as though it were a rosary. He might have been thirty or sixty and he looked thin.
I’d felt strange not beginning a journey from Berlin Zoo. I was on my way to Damgarten. In no hurry, I’d chosen to book a ticket on the stopping train north out of Berlin, with a change at Rostock. The Deutsche Bahn still ran some stock that I had travelled on throughout the 80’s, though the only permitted destinations had been in what was then called West Germany. This carriage, however, would have been thirty years old even then.
The suburbs drifted by. There was still a lot of dull concrete a quarter-century after the wall came down. Eventually the buildings thinned out and the rain turned the flat grassland grey and the forest black. I was nodding off when the train stopped. We were at the edge of the dark woods. I checked my mobile, which told me that I was north of Oranienburg - or that I had been when the signal dropped out. The man stood up, placed his wide brimmed hat precisely on his head and made a very slight bow, before stepping out of the compartment and into the passageway. There were no passengers to impede his progress to the carriage door, or my view as he made his way to it.
The dark edge of the trees was around one hundred metres from the track. Doubtless there was a rule dictating how near the tracks might pass whatever kind of tree was growing there. The man was striding towards the trees, back straight, the one hand clamping his hat to his head his only concession to the driving rain. It did not take him long to cross the field to the woods. He didn’t stumble once and it must have been slippery underfoot. He was gone and the train began to move.
There was an announcement by the train guard: something about a delay, an obstruction on the line. I glanced down at my phone’s screen and pressed the icon to get my location. ‘Sachsenhausen.’ It read.
Where did he come from?
Where did he go?
The inane song’s melody with its fiddle and stomp chorus filled my head and although I might have known the answers to both questions, it was better not to think about them.
Notes: "Kluft" is a journeyman's "uniform", I suppose. It's still worn today by carpenters, builders and others in certain parts of Germany.
Cotton-Eyed Joe is an American Folk song dating back before the US Civil War. The version I refer to was recorded rather manically by the Swedish band called Rednex (!). That's the lot in the video up at the top. If you're wondering what this story is actually doing here, "Cotton Eyed Joe" is referred to by someone who makes an appearance No Good Deed. In his novel, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn", it is described as "an old, familiar air."
Thank you for reading, my friends.