“Escape” — Excerpt from Book 1: “Perceval”

 (copyright C. C. Yager.  Please do not copy, print or reproduce without written permission from the author.)

Outside on a deserted, shadowy Boesendorferstrasse, the vermilion and beige Musikverein concert hall loomed opposite the rear of the hotel.  Evan checked to his left.  Stacked, bulging canvas bags supporting metal beams surrounded a mound of gravel and dirt.  Beyond the dirt stood the hotel’s three large garbage dumpsters like open fish mouths pointed at the night sky.

First, he smeared dirt over his face, hands and clothes from the mound.  Stepping beyond the dirt, he checked the first dumpster: recycled bottles.  Paper and cardboard containers filled the second.  The third stank and offered what he wanted: food waste.  He hid the Scotch bottle behind the dumpster and hoisted himself up and over its side.  The hotel’s back door burst open.  He ducked down, his feet sinking into the squishy muck.

Scheisse,” a woman said.

Evan peered over the dumpster’s side.  A mini dress of transparent gold material shimmered over the woman’s naked body.  She riffled through her purse, muttering to herself, swaying on stiletto heels.  One of Richard’s luscious Fraeuleins.  She stumbled across the street, still looking in her purse, headed toward Canovagasse.

The garbage.  Holding his breath, Evan smeared the rotting, slimy food on his face, his neck, and rolled in it.  When he climbed out of the dumpster, his eyes watered from the stench and he felt queasy.  He retrieved the Scotch bottle.

At the corner, Evan peered around the hotel’s wall.  Halfway up Dumbastrasse, the Arts Council guard Dave leaned against the hotel, smoking a cigarette, nonchalant, confident, the only other human on the street.  Although Evan had imagined this moment over and over, the reality terrified him.  Dave flicked ash onto the sidewalk.  A snatch of music came into Evan’s mind, something his mother had sung to him in German when he was a boy.  She’d told him it came from Die Dreigroschenoper, The Three Penny Opera, by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, and the dirge-like ballad told the story of a dangerous man, a shark of a killer.  At Juilliard, he’d learned the jazzy American version of the song in English: “Mack the Knife.”

Evan pulled the old bush hat down on his forehead and stooped as he ambled drunkenly across the sidewalk under a streetlight.  He sang in German the ballad about the shark with razor teeth.  Dave noticed him, straightened with interest.

“Hey!” Dave called.

Evan swayed across the street, swinging the Scotch bottle, slurring the song louder, the part about a corpse on the street and a shadow flitting around a corner, as he reached the opposite curb.

“Hey, you bum!  You know what we’d do with you in America?”

Evan heard Dave’s running footsteps behind him.  He couldn’t react, couldn’t show his face.  Dave shoved him to the ground.  The click of his switchblade punctuated his gleeful laughter.

“I’ll tattoo your heart with my little switchblade.”

Evan hid his face, whimpered into his hunched shoulder as Dave grabbed him.

“Oh!  You stink like shit!”  Dave released him and backed away with, “Drunken shit.  I’d call a street cleaner van for you in America.”  He slapped his hand on his jeans, rubbing it against the denim.

Evan’s heart raced and his whole body had gone weak and wobbly.  He crawled to the next corner where he used a building wall to steady himself as he stood.  He glanced back.  Dave walked toward the hotel, throwing stones in the Musikverein’s direction.  Dave had believed he was a drunken bum.  Evan smiled.  He walked toward the brighter Ringstrasse, the curved, tree-lined boulevard that encircled Vienna’s oldest district.

(copyright protected: do not copy, print out or reproduce in any way without the author’s written permission.)

***The Synopsis for Perceval can be found on the “Synopses” page.***


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