The Berlin Crossing

The Berlin Crossing by Kevin Brophy Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: The Berlin Crossing by Kevin Brophy Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kevin Brophy
    ‘Thomas, please.’
    ‘Why do you listen to these bastards, Father? You heard him – Party card and Education Committee member . . .’
    I saw the clenching of the fist, saw the muscled arm being raised.
    ‘Thomas, don’t.’
    I tried to get my head out of the way but I was stuck in the confined space of the pew. Thomas’s fist caught me on the side
     of the head; I heard Pastor Bruck’s beseeching cry of alarm as I fell and my head struck the stone floor and there was a ringing
     in my ears as the darkness enveloped me.

    A voice in my ears, soft but insistent.
    ‘Herr Ritter! Herr Ritter!’
    The voice faint, but coming closer.
    ‘Herr Ritter!’
    A gentle tapping on my face, fingers on my cheek, cold fingers but soft, unlike the hard wood pushing against my spine. I
     blinked my eyes open. The high, vaulted ceiling of the church focused into vision as I went on blinking. The ringing in my
     ears was gone but my head hurt as though it had been kicked.
    ‘Herr Ritter, can you hear me? Say something.’
    Pastor Bruck was kneeling on the stone floor beside the pew on which I lay stretched. Close to, his face looked older, the
     skin almost transparent, like old hide stretched in the wind. The grey eyes under the high bony forehead were wide with concern.
    ‘I hear you, Pastor Bruck.’
    ‘Thank God.’
    I tried to lift my head but his bony hand pushed against me.
    ‘Gently, Herr Ritter, you’re bleeding.’ His hand around mine, guiding it to my forehead. ‘Press on this.’
    I felt the cloth under my fingers and instinctively lifted it to look. A white handkerchief, stained with the darkness of
     blood. Pastor Bruck took my hand again.
    ‘It’s better if you hold it against the wound,’ he said, ‘and try to sit up slowly.’
    I lifted my head, put my hand on the edge of the seat, levered myself slowly up into a sitting position. The pews had been
     pushed apart; Pastor Bruck looked up at me from his kneeling position on the stone floor. I looked from him to his suit jacket
     on the seat beside me, where my head had been resting. And then I looked around, slowly, pushing the handkerchief against
     the cut over my left eye, as though the stained cloth could stop both the flow of blood and the banging inside my head. And
     then I looked around again. Just to be sure.
    ‘Thomas is not here, Herr Ritter. I told him to leave us.’
    I said nothing
    ‘He gets upset, Herr Ritter. I apologize for him.’
    ‘He’s a fucking animal.’
    Pastor Bruck looked at me, saying nothing, but his pale, cheesecloth skin grew darker – with shame, with anger, perhaps both.
     I flinched before the grey, staring eyes.
    ‘Perhaps we should go outside, Herr Ritter.’ A shrug of the wide, thin shoulders in the grey clerical shirt. ‘We have no heating
     in the church yet, it’s probably better for you to be outside.’
    ‘That’s what your son said to you, Pastor Bruck, when he was fussing about you.’
    ‘Yes,’ the priest said. ‘My son fusses about me, Herr Ritter, it’s true. He has seen much, maybe too much, things that a boy
     shouldn’t have to see.’ The church door groaned as he pushed and held it open for me. I blinked in the pale, wintry sunlight.
     The mallet and noticeboard lay on the ground but of Thomas Bruck there was no sign. ‘Thomas finds it difficult to believe
     that the old days are gone, he’s afraid that someone is going to come and . . .’ he spread his arms, encompassing the old stone
     building and the churchyard, ‘and take all this away from us, Herr Ritter.’
    ‘That’s not very likely, is it, Pastor Bruck?’ I couldn’t keep the sourness out of my voice.
    ‘That’s what I tell him.’ He stopped and laid his bony hand on my arm. ‘I know that’s not what
want, Herr Ritter, but I have to speak the truth as I see it.’
truth? Is there no room for
truth in this new world?’
    ‘The old question, Herr Ritter.’ The smile almost sorrowful.

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