Printer Friendly

Plants and ghosts.

On November 8, 1935, blind and eighty-nine years old, Elizabeth Nietzsche--sister of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche--died atop her bed fully clothed, the little triangular head of her fox-fur neatly nipped to its tail. This was not before dictating to her secretary a lengthy, hagiographic review of Mein Kampf, to be sent directly to the Fuhrer himself (Those wonderful and deeply strong perceptions and insights into the new creation of the German character took hold of me, so that I would advise anyone who is an invalid to sink themselves into the individual chapters of this wonderful book). Hitler responded--to her death--with a state memorial service. A veritable Who's Who of SS and the vatic intelligentsia of the Reich (Heidegger, Goebbels, Tuscht--a mediocre serialist composer and student of Webern) were in attendance. Columns of tan-uniformed Hitler Youth collapsed along the streets. A procession of sheened black Mercedes surged down TielstraBe. A Palestrina Mass was performed. The Fuhrer wept . After all, this was sister to the spiritual son of the Third Reich, mother of the fatherland: an incestuous, slitherlingly reptilian Gorgon's knot of associations and implications.

A cataract extraction slid her to her grave: a visual haze, ocular pain; opthalmaplegia. Infection, blindness; death. The cataracts were the result of years spent under the ballpeen glare of the Paraguayan sun. On March 5, 1888, Elizabeth Forster, nee Nietzsche, glided down the Aguaraya umi, a branch off the silted River Paraguay, into her tiny anti-Semite settlement of Nueva Germania. A reception ensued mirroring splendor that was to be hers funereally fifty-seven years later: plumed grey horses imported from Europe, bedecked in red-and-white rosettes; multi-gun salvoes; a rickety mahogany wagon with a tiny red velvet throne; tow-headed babies to receive the Queen's kiss. A settler, drunk and enthusiastic, drowned in the scum-drecked river. From the remaining colonists--who, by dusk, were swilled in Riesling--the fatherland's anthem unfurled and howled through the scrim of night and ungovernable vegetation.

An extracted, aged cataract is a jewel of amber: yellow, semitransparent. Are visions trapped in the lens ocularis like a seedling or mosquito in sap? Ah! Pupa of translucency!

Friedrich Nietzsche of the late eighteen-seventies, Maldrich daguerrotype from the Goethe-Schiller Archives, a profile shot, whisk broom of a moustache--was razor-released from a library dust-jacket. He--housed in a cheap black plastic frame; I--lodged in a damp and porous university dormitory. My roommate, who was as I was--a Negro--greeted me thusly, eyed me suspiciously, couldn't understand why there was to be some ancient, unrelated Caucasian gazing down upon us from the wall. I ignored him. I began in Psychology, began again in Philosophy, German (Boston College), unmatriculated, moved into my mother's home in Toledo (father, deceased: coitus interuptus; neighbor's hunting rifle), was welcomed, gained much weight, married a comedienne.

fred@nietzsche.com

She was of Jewish extraction, claiming to be somewhere remotely kin to Kafka. As is wont to be the case in ownership, she resembled our pet, a Doberman, both with severe black hair, narrow heads, and pointy teeth; he with glimmering fulvous eyes, hers, though, an empty blue. The dog was deliciously vicious--answering to Satan--and we took delight when proselytizers and their merry flock of kiddies pounded the knocker, distressing the dog to slaver and lunge against the door. I'd scream, "DOWN, SATAN, DOWN!" and there'd be the scuffle of feet, the receded mewling of some cherub, and, through the blinds, the torpid flutter of splayed pamphlets strewn about the lawn. Mother, a mousy, demure woman, would skitter about the house in a panic.

The wife: steely, removed, neurotic. Mother skittered from her, too. Marriage, our marriage, our miscegenational marriage, fed the wife comedically. She scribbled jokes compulsively on a taupe roll of dispenser paper. "A black man with a beautiful green parrot perched on his shoulder comes into a bar. The bartender, admiring, says, 'Damn! That's a beauty! Where'd you get'm?' 'Africa!' says the parrot." For the duration of her act I'd sit in rictus at the back of the Ha! Ha! Lounge, and she would point me out, acknowledge me as her love, her husband. She wanted no children from us, though--"No issue!" Twice, that I know of, the products of lapsed practice ballooned a cranberry colored medical waste bag.

Sadly, she died: bloom of youth. "Liquid tumor," she christened it--leukemia. She incorporated it into her act (The Grim Reaper, making his rounds, knocked on the door of a young, voluptuous vixen. "Look at me!" she exclaimed, cupping her breasts, "the prime of my life!" She studied him for a while. "Let's make a deal. If I don't give you the best lay you ever had you can take me right here. If I do, though, you don't come back for me till I'm an old hag." Death thought about it and then agreed. Afterwards, lying next to him and smoking a cigarette she turned to him and said, "Damn, now I see why they call it a 'little death'"--typical of those Eastern Europeans: Nothing's left to waste). Mother, curiously, soon followed. I was left with two very large insurance policies. With the money from their deaths, opportunity presented itself and I flourished, gamboled, and gambled well with portfolios.

Friedrich persisted in dotting the bedroom wall. (Franz briefly occupied a place on the night stand when the wife was alive. She, however, as part of imbricated literary foreplay, wanted to hurl spit at the portrait during the old heave-ho; too complicated--he was stowed.) In my loneliness I found His Voice on The Web.

There are five hundred and twenty-six Nietzsche sites. Depending upon the search engine used one can find oneself pixel-to-pixel with a paranoia-riddled dysfunctionate, extolling the virtues of Rest and Recreation at a Klan enclave in Idaho. There are, though, true scholars--historians, biographers, philosophers--through whom the disconsolate can ghost the chat. Through them led the path to Ottilie Forster-Nietzsche.

A Handful of Lint

Bernhard and Elisabeth Forster wooed seventeen little Teutons into the jungles of Paraguay. It was to be an Aryan Eden. However, fortune fell, capital evaporated, Bernhard poisoned himself with strychnine. The Fuhrer, in condolence, had a packet of German soil sent to be strewn atop his grave.

"It was lint." The sentence unraveled across the screen like a loose yarn hooked upon a nail. I'd been eaves-dropping all that day on a Babelesque free-for-all. "They report it as German dirt--Schmutz--but, the satchel, aboard the 1935 vessel Klingsdorfer--and I've this from a good source--was lost. What they put atop his grave was scooped from the engine room filters."

"You're LYING!" (Vituperative pounce and response.) "What's your source material? And it's Bode not Schmutz."

Icon blinking; suspicions weighed. "Hamburg Seafarer Institute, archival correspondence. And Der Stern. January, 1988. 'Nueva Germania: A hundred year anniversary: What descendants are doing.'"

"You know," the challenger offered, under the computer rubric Salome, "Nietzsche and Forster had another daughter. Who had a daughter. Who then had another daughter." (Eyebrow arched--mine. It'd been my understanding that the bumptious duo had only one child, a little girl who'd, sadly, succumbed at the end of their voyage.) "And the colony's now some Latin American hellhole."

"That's crap about a descendent of Nietzsche in Paraguay. All conjecture! What are your sources? Pissant scholarship!"

Thus was the pinging about the screen. An electronic meadow with dandelion fairies of Nietzschean arcana blown this way and that, plucked from the cathode gloaming. For example: The whole of Friedrich's life was void of a single sexual encounter, though there are witnesses of him in the street begging marriage from his concierge (long brown skirt in tatters); noted on January 3, 1898--while on his perambulations about the Piazza Carlo Alberto in Turin, he collapsed before a cabman savaging his horse, regaining consciousness but never reason; that during his third bout of pneumonia, Elizabeth, whom he would grow to detest, laid her arthritic hands upon his chest and henceforth, "translated" The Will to Power (always suspected apocrypha) from the fremitus; of his frequent masturbations: He would mix the emissions with Castleman's ecru noire in the writing of Thus Spoke Zarathustra; that he was not anti-Semitic; that he believed in the mixing of races.

A Journey

The latter was very important to me, the "mixing of races." Nietzsche looked to the Greeks as a model along these lines; a churning of the bloodlines creating the Superman. He wasn't racist; his sister hated the Jews.

I dreamt Parsifal. Nights in descent, clippity-clop down the crags on the back of Dionysus, chaos reborn in the last man. But my reflection superimposed upon Friedrich's portrait was a poor fit. Where Zarathustra gave birth to stars, the slave markings smudged the glass: The black hole involuted, not worthy even to lick the soles of the ceorl ...

"But he who is wisest among you, he is only a discord and hybrid of plant and ghost," Zarathustra speaks. Plants have no carnality; ghosts only appetite and memory.

I've only the appetitive function, a poor cousin to ectoplasm.

Such said, two important confrontations allowed me to burst through the chrysalis of this self-loathing: my double and Kim Bassinger.

The confrontation with Ms. Bassinger was purely contextual, having never met the woman. Several years ago, Kim Bassinger (actress, millionairess) had purchased a microbespeck, dust-ridden town in Texas. Unfortunately the purchased population and Ms. Bassinger fell into litigation, but there alighted upon my fragile id the idea of combining an impoverished outpost in Latin America with American dollars. Viatical windfall would equal enticement would equal embrace of the heirs of Nueva Germania. And why would this be so important? It's the equivalent of why some rube oil baron purchases an English title; more so: A culled Caucasian gene-pool is what I'd have, gazed into like an aquarium, in which there'd be manifest a little power, tapping the glass, perturbing the guppies.

The Double. My Double. I caught sight of him at the food court in the mall, just as I was leaving the travel agency. A bad Xerox: complexion an eraser-smudge grey; hair in umbilicated cornrows, lips a piebald swirl--pink and brown. He was nervously digging at a crescent of spilled Coca-Cola with a fingernail. There was a loud crack behind me, a distraction, and as I turned two burly, sweat-matted mall security twins were wrestling a pimply faced teenager on top of a table that had collapsed. When I'd turned back to face him he was gone.

It would be interesting someday for science to parse the experience of autoscopy, the meeting of one's double. A doppe1ganger episode occurs usually late at night, the experience more common in patients with lesions in the parieto-occipital region of the brain. It is described to be "like a film projected on glass," though not blurred or misty. My double resembled me as an ontogenic laggard: eyes hooded, ears small, incomplete whorls--all in all, though, a passable facsimile. Be he a projection of my pride's inversion (drearily concrete as a brain tumor) or my homunculus, separated at birth, I was liberated: here, a vulgar and obnoxious ass preening about upon whom I might surrender my ugliness. Blatantly, outmodedly Freudian but quite helpful.

Of the trip over little need be said: turquoise sea, an airplane shadow skimming over islands; there was a boat that may have sent off a distress flare, but in the bright tropical sunlight, I couldn't tell. Soldiers in tan uniforms churned through the airport in Asuncion upon my arrival. One followed me into the restroom for either a shakedown or an assignation. He talked so slowly and deliberately that I noticed he had whorls of hair on his tongue. I gestured that I couldn't understand Spanish and hastily departed before pistol--again, Freudian or otherwise--could be drawn.

Arrangements had been made for me to meet an intermediary from the colony in the lobby of the Hotel Arrigipa. I was dressed casually-- white shirt, brown khakis--but I still stood out from the general pool of logoed t-shirts and baseball caps. I should note that the overall complexion of the world in Paraguay is brown, and that the hotel was only a block or two from the docks added to the number of Negro Paraguayans seen. The white canvas fan overhead did not stir, dust and cobwebs crisscrossed the interstices, and a fat dollop of a spider dangled from the hub in front of my proboscis until I batted it away with a rolled Forbes. "Senor Johnson! You must be Senor Johnson!" was shouted at me in English. Squinting past the dim light of bar into side tables I happened upon a man frantically bouncing up and down in a wheelchair to attract my attention. At attention next to him was a winsome albino young man, probably in his late teens, adorned with a broad-brimmed cowboy hat, a mane of pale white hair, and a white serape: viscous replicant of Clint Eastwood. "Mr. Johnson," correcting himself as he rolled toward me, "Hector Schmidt. You are the representative from Clearmore Enterprises in the States, yes? Welcome to Asuncion!" A scoliotic, pallid man with a sweaty helmet of black hair and a sternum puckered like the halves of a clamshell, he extended both his hands up to me as if to be pulled up from his chair. He introduced his companion as Emile. "Your boss will be coming, yes? We are very excited at the prospect of bringing New Germany to the world stage." (Confession: As said representative, I was to market New Germany as a commercial venture or, at the least, a new tourist attraction.)

"No. Only me." He immediately withered in disappointment. "They've given me the go-ahead, though, if things check out, to immediately fund whatever is needed." He began beaming, extended and bobbed like a snake, before curling back into his chair.

The next day we were to leave on an open skiff down the Paraguay River for New Germany. At the time I'd arrived at the foul-smelling dock, Herr Schmidt had been strapped to a wooden crate under a hole-riddled awning. He was shirtless, exceedingly pale, a quivering tendril of a man trying to dodge a patch of sun that persisted in dappling his face. His wheelchair had already been collapsed and was wedged between several large burlap sacks of rice. These, along with a stack of eight car batteries, a bolt of gingham, a VCR, and twelve videocassettes of the television program Baywatch (German-dubbed) I had been requested to purchase. The deckhands were two Hispanic men in their early twenties in voluminous sneakers, backwards baseball caps, and t-shirts, one with Mike Tyson and the other with a family-portrait grouping of the rock group Kiss. The silhouette of the captain of the skiff occupied the window and never budged.

Simultaneous aural assault: "Mr. Johnson, Mr. Johnson!"--per Hector Schmidt, uncurled and extending toward me like the tuber of a mollusk--and "HEY, MAN!" baritoned from behind. "Just had to follow me down here!" I about-faced, and it was him: braids replaced by a processed pageboy, teale-and-black basketball jersey, baggy olive-drab shorts. Most eye-catching were his athletic shoes with neon green stripes and blue soles. Under each arm he carried the yellow-plaid seat cushions of an airline. "TWA. 'Flotation devices.' And when you ride these fucked up boats, man, you be glad you got 'em."

One of the deckhands approached us jabbering in Spanish. To my surprise my double responded fluently. "Time to git," he said, turning to me.

Aboard, the man with Mike Tyson glaring from his chest approached me. "Where you goin'?" he asked in halting English.

"Nueva Germania."

He looked at me quizzically. "Nueva Germania?" Suddenly he responded. "Ah! Tacaruty." He caught the eye of his associate. Leeringly he glanced over the two of us. "Gringa Blanca!" Before stepping onto the prow he lewdly thrust his hips back and forth and said, what sounded to me like Ole!

"You hear that motherfucker?" Again: my double.

"He said, o1e, what bullfighters--"

"I know what the fuck ole means. He didn't say ole he said 'O.J.' The little fucker just said somethin' about us, white women, and 'O.J.'--The Juice, man. Sons-of-bitches."

Moorings untied. Farewells waved. Bobbing near the creosote staves, between the dock and the skiff, was a bloated night-colored thing the size and shape of a large farm animal. The silhouette through the cabin window remained immobile; a brown hand did reach through, though, and crabbed a tape into the cassette player on the sill. Against expectations, a eunuch-falsetto warbled "Making Whoopee." Outside of the sacks of rice, there was nothing but the wooden benches upon which to plant my seat, and after an hour or so I began fiercely to covet Prince Valiant's airline cushions.

Nietzsche's Prayer

No one converses with me beside myself and my voice reaches me as the voice of one dying. With thee, beloved voice, with thee, the last remembered breath of all human happiness, let me discourse, even if it is only for one hour. Because of thee, I delude myself as to my solitude and lie my way back to multiplicity and love, for my heart shies a way from believing love is dead. It cannot bear the icy shivers of loneliest solitude. It compels me to speak as though I were Two.

The above: an unused note from an early, unfinished essay, "Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks"; 1873. From this point in his life onward Nietzsche surrendered his will to the total domination of his sister. I've held this passage to be a prayer; a psalm. Wall-eyed Elizabeth (congenital; in German, Silberblick, the 'silver view') saw obliquely the genius of her brother, saw a heart to be turned inside out. He was god-hungry, his problem. His sister fed him wind.

Nietzsche had made the voyage with me, trussed in his black frame with a black ribbon like an Italian war widow's photograph.

"A great man," Hector said.

He made the same remark again, this time from a divan in a room, pointing to a photo of Nietzsche askew a moist wall. We were in the parlor of his uncle's home. Cages of birds were on the floor and against the wall throughout the house. Knotting the floor were mounds of feathers and wet bird-lime. Everything eyed me suspiciously. Two old men with withered dugs sat against the wall under an apparent paint-by-numbers portrait of Hitler (the right lower corner still numerated and bare.) "Are you a Nietzschean?" Hector asked in German. "We are all Nietzscheans here, yes?" The two men against the wall nodded in agreement.

"Why is your English so impeccable?" In fact, something of a Brooklyn twang squirreled through the sharp Germanic endstops and lisped Spanish "z's."

"My mother was an American. New York. My father--German. In fact he was, how you say, a 'Wolfman.' A freedom fighter for Germany in postwar Berlin. The two of them met at the Nuremberg trials, where my mother was an Allied stenographer. He was a defendant. The persecution of ex-Nazis was relentless. They repatriated to Nueva Germania in order to be free." Several grey-plumed parrots began to squawk simultaneously.

One of the old men stood up. Exceedingly tall and gaunt with a long, prognathous jaw, he never took his eyes from me as he went over to an accordion wilted across a stool. He strapped the harness to his chest and suddenly began to play in jerky thrusts. He also began to, wheezily, sing. "Not now," Hector admonished him--in German, of course--"later." The old man abruptly stopped and returned to his chair, the accordion dangling from his chest like a papoose. "He would like to, at some point, sing for you his favorite tune, 'The Mennonite Waltz,'" Hector explained.

A Tree

After Bernhard's suicide, Elizabeth Nietzsche kept the phial that had contained the poison on a chain around her neck. The year before his death, Bernhard had lost a portion of his right leg below the knee to gangrene, incurred by self-treatment for polverino, a parasitic larva that burrows under the skin. His prosthesis was planted, whereupon, miraculously, the wooden limb briefly took root upon the grave and sprouted branches, a flourish of green leaves, before it, too, died.

Such pointed out to me by Hector. The phial: behind the glass of a cabinet in the house of a cousin. The grave, inaccessible to Hector, who had to direct me to it from his purchase on a hillock beside the cemetery, was pitiably unkempt, barren except for the deformed stump of the wooden leg next to the graveslab. A laughable plaster cenotaph to Elizabeth was propped against a chicken-wire fence.

"As you probably sensed, the members of the colony are somewhat uncomfortable with you. But they're coming around. Myself, it doesn't matter in the least," he said to me. There was an elliptically lope to his roll down the packed-dirt street--"Matter that you are a Negro, I mean." We came to a stop dockside along the Aguaraya umi. A blue-and-green athletic shoe glided by, apparently snared. Two Indians in a canoe, in pursuit, lunged at it with a pole. "Mind you, they're appreciative of your purchases."

I decided then to show a little of my hand. "Rumor has it that Elizabeth and Bernhard had another daughter."

"Rumor has it that Mengle plays snooker at the bar there," Hector wobbly pointing with the knob of his wrist. A smart-ass, I said to myself. There was something to what I said, though. I could read it in him. "I've heard that Nietzsche has a great-grandniece here in Nueva Germania. I've enough monies, quite a bit of capital... " My mid-sentence broken by a glistening, risible contralto. Operatic. German. A grey shadow slithered through the air from willowy tree to the rafters of a house.

He was quite the entrepreneur, my Hector. We haggled about ventures I might invest in, trusts to be established, where, possibly, a park might be placed. Long-range planning, of course. A visionary. I tickled him with the rumored incursion of Disney, Inc., into South American lands.

We approached the house of his cousin who, as we negotiated on the steps, was sitting on the screened porch with a grey-green parrot pinched between his cherubic pink knees. The thumb and forefinger of a hand encircled the bird's neck while the other operated a small cassette player upon which he would play and rewind, play and rewind, the same warbling aria. "He's teaching the parrots to sing the pyre song from Tristan and Isolde," Hector said. "For the tourists."

A Momentary Aside: Parrots and Negritude

In 1937 General Rafael Trujillo ordered 20,000 people of African descent killed because they could not pronounce the letter r in perejil, the Spanish word for 'parsley.' More pointedly, the Haitian migrant workers, who had crossed the border into Santa Domingo, speaking Creole French, could not roll their "r's" in the Spanish fashion.

The General's mother had a parrot; the parrot would repeatedly call his name in her voice.

The parrot could roll its "r's."

At his mother's death, in his grief, General Trujillo would hear the parrot, would hear the Haitian cane-cutters sing, "Mi madre, mi amor en muerte." An unending source of irritation: this heart-wrenching ballad botched by guest workers (the "r's": madre, amour, muerte. A testament to the General's poetic attention to language). As a test, the population would parrot perejil; failing, members would be killed.

Why perejil? In his mama's village, with the birth of a son, the men of the village wore sprigs of parsley on their capes. A celebration of maleness, it was.

The Prize

As of my third week I had folded into the routine of Nueva Germania. We would sit on the veranda of the bar, El Tico Tio. Sweating would be the activity of the day. When I asked about Nietzsche's great-niece (Ottilie, I found that to be a pretty name) Hector would inform me, "Not to worry. You haven't seen her but she's been watching you!" Then he would wink. I would search the dark windows that stared at us. An attempt was made to distract with a story of the death of my double. "You saw his shoes, if I remember," Hector chided. The details are as follows: A black man tries to arrange the purchase of cocoa leaves, he's spurned; undaunted he returns indignant the next day--is soundly beaten; the following night he sneaks onto the compound of the farm ("A very stupid thing to do, in my opinion," so confides one of Hector's uncles) and is tortured, shot ("They are very mean people there. They do those mean things for fun") and his body is thrown in the river, not without first being eviscerated ("If you didn't, the intestines, full of gas, would make the body float"). By the time they'd ruminated the story of every ounce of savor, dusk had crept up and one could begin to see the lazy loll of the bats amongst the trees. I excused myself.

A moment after I had laid myself upon my cot there was Hector. He had sensed my displeasure. "I think it's time. I've talked it over with the members of the community." He then turned on his perch of the wheelchair and gestured for somebody to come forward.

An inflated dwarf. Best described this way--a beautiful, inflated achondroplastic dwarf. Normal body (though a little on the pearish side) but limbs somewhat truncated, head a little too big--but the hair! So long, so flaxen, so white! So cornsilk white! Actually, the same shade as her skin. She resembled an albino (I thought momentarily of Emile), but she had dark eyes and was genetic heir to Friedrich Nietzsche. I had fallen in love.

I sat up and Hector patted the cot for her to come sit. After checking the space where the bed abutted the wall, she reclined upon my cot, hand tucked behind nape (my little odalisque!), white tuft glistening under her arm.

There were gaps along the side of her mouth where a few molars were missing; I regarded this, though, tenderly. Hector, the epitome of discretion, rolled from my room.

The next day I inquired of Hector something I had observed.

"She doesn't speak. Doesn't speak English, German, Spanish."

"Nothing?"

"She doesn't speak!"

"Funny. Give her time."

After a few days I approached him with the same observation. Hector was resting under the shade of a tree while the two old men sat across from him playing dominoes in matching guayaberas emblazoned with Mickey Mouse. A breeze, a distinctly rare occurrence for Nueva Germania, scrolled the cotton shirts above their torsos. "She's not deaf," I said. "She seems to understand me, at least my German."

"Good!"

"But she doesn't speak. A lot of the time she spends looking at mirrors or at windows."

"That's one of her few faults. Vain, liking her reflection. By the way," he reached into a satchel draped over his wheelchair, "here is proof that she's who she is." He withdrew a yellowed piece of parchment and handed it to me along with a birth certificate: Ottilie Nietzsche.

"All the descendants are girls..." I observed.

"With each generation they have elected to keep the family name." He then excused himself and rolled away, leaving me with the certificate.

The Place of Anthills

Butterflies flesh-orange, flayed pieces of my palms, curiously fluttered about my Ottilie for several days. She was delighted. I was beside myself.

She never spoke. I finally confronted Hector again as to this finding. This time he sheepishly admitted that she had been mute since childhood. "But you saw, she understands. She speaks through her eyes!"

She spoke through sex. An insatiable creature, she'd hunt me down regardless where I was or who I was with and drag me back to my cot. This would occur three, four times a day. I'd returned to where I'd been pulled from with butterfly sweat matted to a thigh or forearm. In addition, she remained enamored with her reflection. Sometimes, for distraction, I would give her a hand-held mirror. An hour's occupation.

She was wary of corners, crevices, dark recesses. I understood why, finally. One day, whilst my new family (Ottilie, her cousin Emile-Hector's assistant, Emile's father and mother, two other cousins, three or four times removed), Hector, his cousins, and myself sat indoors awaiting one of those vacant breezes, Ottilie became very agitated, climbing on top of her chair. At that Emile left the room and subsequently returned with umbrellas and began distributing them. Conversation resumed, though the dilated pupils of my little dear's eyes- suffice to say she was fearful. Suddenly she rigidly sat up and repeatedly pointed to the darkened dining room, whereupon she emitted a protracted, asthmatic yelp.

The floor's shadows moved. Those time-accelerated movies, dawn-to-dusk things, tracks of a building's shade swiftly moving across the screen-however, in this instance the shade was 3-D and pitched our way. We'd no time to move, but I followed suit as everyone else and raised my umbrella for the raining of the ants.

"Tacaruty: the native name for Nueva Germania. It means 'the place of anthills,'" Hector shouted, gratefully in English. "Unpleasant but, really, a necessary evil. It cleans out the place." Sure enough, a mouse carcass glided past, swimmingly followed by a struggling scorpion. Ants, those falling from the rafters, thudded against the umbrellas like a hard rain. "It's disconcerting, though."

Just as quickly, the ants had moved through. A few of us were still squirming. The women, however, including my Ottilie, quickly got up and viciously swept the corners for stragglers.

A Genealogy of Morals

The minx was pregnant within a month. We were married the following week by a plethoric, rasping Catholic priest, a Father Mendoza, from a neighboring town. Greeted now with grins and nods, hands now feeling frisky enough to roam my pockets, I decided to leave. The inhabitants of Nueva Germania were downcast. Hector was severely crestfallen.

I'd done my math. In the span of some two months I had spent close to two hundred and forty thousand dollars. I had bought for Nueva Germania generators, portable toilets, building materials, a big-screen television, several air conditioners. I had bought more VCRs, a chain saw, night-vision goggles, a motorized wheelchair (Hector), mylar fishing nets. In their eyes that was not enough, of course. I'd even set up a trust for the town with Hector the executor, though, frankly, the banking officials in Asunci6n were a rapacious lot who, I'm sure, raked the coffers as soon as we exited.

My Narcissus! The little heliotrope followed the descent of the sun over Paraguay as our plane curved over the horizon. She had come to understand that she was leaving her native land, not for Germany (which had come to represent for the inhabitants Utopia) but for the United States. She shed tears, bucked up, and adjusted. She ate voraciously, a near-larval expansion of girth; add indolence, too. Her prenatal care was established at the Toledo Family Clinic. There she obtained a gestational ultrasound.

I have the tape. Womb-soft, and in black-and-white (a consolidation of my wishes); I was anxious to see the product of our union. There was, frankly, the creeping concern whether it was the product of our union: There were a few times in which Ottilie scampered off with Emile-the-cousin in tow, returning plodding and pasty-only suspicion, mind you. In any event my concerns were allayed upon siting the little imp in frontal view: full, Negroid features. And little Fred's male.

I've legally acquired my wife's name for the sake of my son. We wait. She's happy.

I've examined and re-examined the tape. He tries to gesture, I believe this, to speak in sign. Something that's universal, beyond words. It's the twist and bind of DNA, the ties that bind, holding my genome to that of the "great man."

And Ottilie. She eats, as I've said. Happy as a sow. And she's found a new diversion: Eddie Murphy. She bounces and grins when he's on the box. As a consequence we've constructed a formidable VHS library of his works. She's gaa-gaa over The Nutty Professor. One of her favorites.

Solon Timothy Woodward is a doctor in Jacksonville, Florida. A former editor at The Harvard Advocate, his stories have appeared in The Crescent Review, Ontario Review, and Shenandoah.
COPYRIGHT 2002 African American Review
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Woodward, Solon Timothy
Publication:African American Review
Article Type:Short Story
Date:Mar 22, 2002
Words:5394
Previous Article:Inscriptions in the dust: A Gathering of Old Men and Beloved as ancestral requiems.
Next Article:The caregiver.
Topics:


Related Articles
Ghost-story telling: keeping it appropriate.
Frightening or friendly, ghosts keep lurking in the shadows.
The photo essay: when pictures add up. (Photo Critique).
Rabe, Jean & Greenberg, Martin H., eds. Sol's children.
Rees, Celia. City of Shadows: Book 1. A Trap in Time: Book 2. The Host Rides Out: Book 3.
Velde, Vivian Vande. Being dead.
It's Great to Be A Ghost!
Civil War Ghost Stories.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters