Two Bridges

Flash Fiction Challenge 100 – Day 58

Photo by Anggun Tan on UNSPLASH

The name of the town meant ‘two bridges’ in German. My brother spoke little German as far as I could tell. He was also in the Air Force. He was big! Muscular, fit, toned from years spent in a gym and possibly some period of experimenting with anabolic steroids. We were both stationed in Germany during the 1980s; he was in Zweibrucken; I was assigned to Lindsey Air Station, two hours away.

Once, when I was living in Taunusstein, I had picked him up, and we spent the weekend together. When we got to my place, we stopped at the little delicatessen across the parking lot from my apartment building.

Tina was a German woman who worked there. I had a major crush on her since I moved in last year. My language skills were sub-par. She spoke about as much English as I did German. Every time I went in, I would ask her some innocuous question or another. ‘Hast du schwer gearbeiten heute?‘ Have you worked hard today? With flirtation skills like that, it is a little surprising we never married.

I dragged my brother in there with me. He stood just inside the door.

Many people assigned to Germany spend all their time on the base, shop almost only on the post at the ‘BX,’ the Base Exchange. They are reluctant to learn any German besides the phrases please, thank you, hello, and goodbye. I never heard my brother say anything other than danke and bitte when interacting with German people.

I bought us some sandwiches and salads; then we returned to my apartment.

I had been reading a book on hypnotism.

“This seems pretty easy,” I say to myself.

“Huh, … what’s that, bro?” Mark says, waking on my couch.

I had done all the driving, but apparently, the two-hour drive had exhausted him, and he sacked out for a nap right after our lunch of salads and sandwiches.

“Sorry, Mark. I didn’t mean to wake you,” I say from the chair in front of the patio door. “I’m just reading about hypnotism.”

“Bro, you shouldn’t be messing with that stuff. It just invites in dark entities.”

Bless his heart; my brother has always been a more fervent ‘believer’ than me. The older I get, the more I realize that a lot of growth is just about unlearning.

I say nothing to provoke him. I want to have an enjoyable weekend with my brother.

“Come on,” I say. “Some of it is just a trick. A little mental magic that temporarily allows you to act differently than what you think of as ‘who you are.’ Let’s try it? Please? If it doesn’t work, I will never ask to do it again. What do you say?”

I can tell he’s not comfortable with the idea, but we both grew up in a chaotic household with an angry alcoholic father. We both prefer just doing whatever it takes to get along.

“Whatever, man. Sure, fine. You got 15 minutes. If I’m not clucking like a chicken or crawling around barking like I’m a dog by then, I’m going back to sleep.”

The hypnotism worked better than I thought.

But rather than have him cluck like a chicken, I plant the suggestion that he is a fluent German speaker. That he only speaks German.

My jaw dropped as he began speaking rapid-fire German sentences. I say several things to him in English, but he only looks at me uncomprehendingly.

I guess Mark must have fallen asleep watching some German sitcom, and his subconscious remembered it perfectly. That or it’s just gibberish, some imitation of what German sounds like to him. Honestly, my brother speaks so fast I can only pick up a few of the words. I’m no linguist either.

Ich bin hungrig. Holen wir uns noch ein paar Sandwiches aus dem Laden nebenan,” my brother says. He puts on his coat and scarf and walks out of my place. I do not know where he’s going, so I put on my jacket and follow him.

Once in the delicatessen, he walks right up to the counter and begins conversing rapidly with Tina.

I’m feeling a whole gamut of emotions now.

Tina isn’t laughing. She nods her head as my brother taps the display glass case, apparently asking about the items he sees there.

I did it. My brother is speaking fluent German.

Occasionally she laughs like it’s the funniest thing she’s ever heard.

Damn, what have I done?

They talk for over five minutes. During which, I find every fault in Tina’s face and form I can manage. I rewrite history. I never felt an attraction to her, I tell myself. I tell myself I am bored.

Ich gehe mein Hause,” I say to my brother. One of the few phrases I know. I leave the deli and return home.

I jerk awake.

Knocking from the front door. Had I locked it?

I get up; it’s dark. I check my watch. It’s 11:30 PM.

“Sorry, bro,” I say as I open my front door.

She’s here. Tina. My brother with his arm over her shoulder.

Well, damn, this gets better and better.

They’re both intoxicated.

She pushes him into my place, but not before kissing him.

I look away, but not quickly enough.

“Okay, Mark, you win! You can speak German. I’m sorry I judged you. You can drop the charade now, please?”

He looks at me blankly.

Why did I have to add the ‘only speaks German’ to my suggestion?

Guten nacht,” my brother says as he heads to the living room and falls instantly asleep on the couch.

“Please? Can we stop this now?” I say to my brother.

He ignores me. Tina is helping him load his luggage in her little BMW.

Where are they going? I ask them both, but neither of them understands me.

I can’t imagine his superiors will be happy when he doesn’t show up for his work Monday morning. I wave to my brother and Tina as they drive away in her car.

As they turn out of the parking lot, I remember the phrase. I whisper, “Wohin gehst du?” Where are you going?

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