A journal of narrative writing.
At Brokmeyer’s House

Only a handful of people stepped from the train after midnight in Bielefeld. The station was bright, clean, deserted. Brokmeyer rose from a bench farther along the platform, waved, and walked on over.



They shook hands vigorously.

“How are you?”

“Fine—you are looking tired.”

“I’m beat to shit. We left Paris at noon.”

“Let me take your valise.”

“That’s OK.”

“Well—my car is not so far away.”

They took a concrete ramp to the parking lot. Sharp white lines marked the spaces. In Taylor’s fatigue they seemed raised, phosphorescent. The signs—all in unintelligible German—seemed to bark at him. Beyond the station, the nightlights of Bielefeld gleamed in the downtown darkness.

Brokmeyer’s Volkswagen pulled into the empty main street.

“Your city’s so new.”

“It was built after the war. My parents are away. We have the house to ourselves.”

Taylor tried to sound enthusiastic. “Great.”

The ride was short. Brokmeyer turned left, and the VW labored up a long hill. At

the top was a row of plain, square buildings.

The “house” was actually a condominium, third floor of the last building in the row. Inside, it was spacious, the front door opening into a hallway that ran the length of the building to the kitchen. There were rooms to either side—two bedrooms, a living room, a parlor and a kind of den. The furniture was old but neatly arranged.

“I hope it is comfortable for you,” Brokmeyer said. “I do not know what American homes are like.”

“It’s fine, Ervin. Very nice.” Following Brokmeyer into the kitchen, Taylor put down his suitcase and pulled a chair from the table.

“Well—you have kept your promise.”


“When we met in London you promised to visit—when you finished college and could have money. Now you are here.”

“At last.”


“No thanks. I’ve got a headache. I’m beat to shit.”

Brokmeyer set two glasses on the table anyway. “And Paris?”

“Not so good.”

“Your letter mentioned a girl.”

“Michele. We met in Paris three years ago, before I met you in London.”

“And so?”

“She’s getting married.”

“What did you expect?”

“More than I got.”

Brokmeyer laughed and poured himself some scotch, twisting the bottle at the last instant like a waiter pouring wine. “Then why did you not come sooner to Bielefeld?”

“Paris—it’s a great city. I’m a French teacher now.”

“Yes. You wrote about that.”

Taylor stared at his reflection in the kitchen window. It seemed strange to see it so stationary, not racing along in the dark as it had done on the train.

“You must teach me French,” Brokmeyer laughed. “So I understand Francine.”


“My new girlfriend. She comes in a few days from Brussels.”

“I was hoping for a little peace and quiet.”

“There is time.”

Taylor took the bottle and poured himself some scotch. “The more the merrier.”

“I do not know that expression.”

“No problem. OK. Good fun.”

Brokmeyer smiled and raised his glass as if to toast.

It was four a.m. when they finally went to bed. Taylor took Brokmeyer’s room, while Brokmeyer slept in his parents’ bed across the hall. The scotch put Taylor to sleep instantly.

* * *

It was light even though the blinds were shut. Taylor checked his watch. It was four o’clock again. Either his watch had stopped, or he’d been sleeping for half a day.

He pulled on his jeans and tee shirt and stepped into the hallway, barefoot. The kitchen was awash in yellow sunlight. He checked the doors left and right for Brokmeyer.

The kitchen table was set with wine, cheese, a basket of apples, and half a loaf of French bread. A note—I am in the garden— was signed, flamboyantly, Ricardo. It was a reference to the two girls they had met in London. The skinny one had claimed that Brokmeyer looked like Richard Burton. Afterwards, Taylor took to calling Brokmeyer Ricardo, and Brokmeyer had taken it as a sign of friendship.

The window above the sink was open. Down the hill Bielefeld spread out beneath a perfect blue sky. The Black Forest lined the horizon, a ragged purple stripe. Brokmeyer lay on a lawn chair, a bottle of scotch in his lap, a chessboard on a little table beside him, pieces in place for a game.

“Ervin! Hey!”

Brokmeyer looked up to the kitchen window. “Guten morgen! Bring your breakfast!”