59 Minutes in Germany – Flash Fiction

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They said I need a union

What union

An electrician’s union

To install a light fixture

I guess

Why don’t you do it yourself

I don’t know how, do you

No… my father did it

I look over at my daughter. She’s icing her shin, her leg propped up on a chair. Two neighbor girls sing to her in German.

I need to go to the bank before it closes

It’s 3-37

Yeah

You won’t have much time

I have to try. Can you watch her

It’s no problem

I listen to the singing and push open the door without understanding a word.

I try to run and lurch down the sidewalk, feet slapping against cobblestones. The people on the street stand alert, watching me out of the side of their eyes.

I’ve memorized German bank hours: nine to noon, hour lunch, prompt close at four. With a four-day weekend, I desperately need the cash as my debit card is frozen, and my AMEX is near useless.

I’m sweating when I reach the bank. The sliding glass doors part, and instead of finding shelter, I walk into a sauna. If it’s 75 outside (whatever-the-fuck Celsius) it’s 90 in the bank.

I walk up to the youngest, and most likely to speak English, teller.

My card has been turned off

Ok, let’s see why. What’s your account number

I don’t know

It’s on your monthly statements

I don’t have those

You don’t keep your monthly statements

Patience.

Here’s my passport, can you look it up

He looks to his left, staring at a white wall. I look too, expecting to understand something. All I see is pulsating white.

Yes, passport is enough

I can smell us. There’s no escape when it’s hot. They not only don’t have air conditioners, they don’t believe in them.

Ah, your card has been locked because you didn’t respond to text

Would it have been in German

Yes

I don’t speak German

Yes, but they need text from you

Check-mate.

Can you reactivate it

Yes, what’s your pin

ATM pin

No, internet pin. You made it when you opened account

I forgot it

You forgot something only you would know

Check-mate again.

Yeah, I guess

That’s ok. We make you a new pin

Oh…ok

It needs to be five lubbers

Did you say letters

Numbers

I stare at the keyboard. The smell is overwhelming. I can’t tell if it’s him, me or everyone else. Her birthday. 22312.

Ok, your card will work again. Next time you get text from bank make sure you respond to it

Outside is physical relief. My sweat dries in the air as I walk. I sweat a lot more since I switched to deodorant that doesn’t kill me.

So many people are sitting at small cafés enjoying the day. I feel like I’m barreling to some inevitable conclusion, while the world stalls, everyone eating ice cream, staring at nothing.

Back at the flat I pick up my daughter and an ice-pack, thank my neighbor, and start heading for the door.

Say goodbye to the Mädchens honey

Tschüss

I fireman carry her to the car. She wraps her arms around my neck and kisses me on the cheek.

Papa

Yes

Schocolate

You jerk.

In the car

She goes dead weight in my arms, almost spilling onto the pavement. I juggle her into a ball and dump her in the backseat. She splays out sideways across the car seat.

Schoooocolaaaaate

I toss half a Mars bar I was saving into the backseat.

Danke you

I want to pound the gas but I’m so bad with a stick that I know I would kill it. I back out slowly, letting a pack of bikers pass, and then sputter down the street. I accelerate as best I can on the straightaways while she sings along loudly to Micky Mouse.

I coast into the parking lot and see her mom texting on the phone. Three minutes late.

I had a really nice time with you. I’m going to see you again very soon

Ok

I lift her out of the car seat and hug her. She hugs me back, only for a moment, and then starts to squirm.

I set her down and she runs to the car.

Mama

I watch the car drive away. I stall the engine as I back out of the parking lot and try to shift into first.

 

2018

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