The Berlin Crossing

The Berlin Crossing by Kevin Brophy Read Free Book Online

Book: The Berlin Crossing by Kevin Brophy Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kevin Brophy
Thomas.’
    ‘And you don’t worry enough, Father.’ There was no mistaking the anger in the younger man’s voice. ‘You never did.’
    ‘Thomas, Thomas! What way is this to welcome a caller to our door? Whatever will Herr . . .’ He turned to me. ‘Herr?’
    ‘Ritter,’ I said. ‘Michael Ritter, from Brandenburg.’
    Not a flicker of recognition in the grey eyes.
    ‘Would you like to see our church, Herr Ritter?’ His stooped posture was, or so it seemed, even more bent; the bony, outstretched
     hand was pointing at the church door. ‘It’s been renovated, thanks to my son.’
    ‘No thanks to fellows like this, Father.’
    ‘Thomas—’
    ‘All right, Father. But there’s no heat in there and you’ll catch your death, parading around like this on a cold morning
     without an overcoat.’ The anger gone from the younger man’s voice, replaced by a kind of solicitous tetchiness, like a fussy
     mother clucking over a wayward adolescent.
    ‘Thomas, I assure you I am wearing a long-sleeved undershirt.’ A hint of a smile on the pale, craggy face. ‘And look, I am
     wearing my woollen pullover.’ A childish tug at the grey pullover. ‘My son fusses, Herr Ritter, but his father is a tough
     old bird.’
    I tried to smile but the younger man’s hostility still bristled in the morning air.
    ‘So, you’d like to see our church, Herr Ritter,’ he said again.
    ‘Yes, Pastor Bruck,’ I lied again, and we stepped inside the old building.
    The interior of the church was as run-of-the-mill as its outside. Cream walls, tall gothic windows, rows of dark pews. The
     pews new, the cream walls freshly painted.
    Pastor Bruck noticed that my eyes were drawn to the single stained-glass window, halfway along the right-hand wall. All the
     other windows were of plain, clear glass.
    ‘A sort of miracle, Herr Ritter.’ A hint of amusement in the priest’s voice. ‘That window somehow survived everything –the
     war and everything else. After the war this building was used as a store for a while – lumber, soldiers’ stuff, some of it
     just junk that the army didn’t know what to do with. After some years they left it empty, they didn’t interfere too much when
     I tried to make it into a church again.’ He smiled his pale, almost spooky smile at me, at the window. ‘I couldn’t do much.
     I had no money and no materials. Sometimes faith needs a little help. But that one window remained unbroken. I used to look
     at it and say there must be a reason for that.’ We both stared at it in silence. A nothing window, nondescript as everything
     else here: coloured squares of glass, blue and red and purple and orange, seemingly dropped at random in their metal casings.
     ‘I still don’t know the reason it survived,’ Pastor Bruck was saying.
    ‘Maybe there is no reason,’ I ventured.
    ‘Maybe it’s a symbol, Herr Ritter.’
    I knew I shouldn’t ask, knew what the answer would be.
    ‘Of what?’
    ‘Of our own survival. Of the need to go on. Of the need to struggle.’
    ‘For some the struggle is over now.’ Staring into the grey eyes, angry with myself for starting this, for baring more than
     was necessary. ‘For others the question is whether there’s any point in struggling at all.’
    ‘If we’re sure of the rightness of our cause, then we have a duty to fight for it, Herr Ritter.’
    ‘Try telling that to the Board of my school, Pastor Bruck.’
    We’d been making our stop-start way along the central aisle of the church; now we stood in front of the altar table. A simple
     affair of four marble posts, covered by a green velour cloth with gold tassels and gilt lettering:
My Lord And My God
.
    The sudden, deepening silence that followed my words seemed to emanate from the altar. Or maybe from the regret that welled
     within me. I hadn’t wanted to give myself away, to show my loss to this grey cleric in this church. He and his kind had won;
     his miserable stained glass was a symbol not of

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