7 – Education of The Family

Snow fell while Hindenberg, pistol in hand, directed Diogenes to man the lever so they could start their long journey West. Diogenes watched Hindenburg unfold a little chair and seat himself while aiming the pistol at his head. Diogenes pushed hard but the lever wouldn’t budge. After much cursing, Hindenburg directed that Diogenes stand on the lever while he also pushed down. The hand-car finally crept into motion. Hindenburg was frantic that Diogenes sustain the movement. He lent a hand until they began to advance slowly then resumed his seat, observing Diogenes, as old a man as he, slaving away at the outset of their long trek.
“You … asshole! We’ll never make it!” Diogenes complained.
“I may be an asshole but you are my slave.” Hindenburg chuckled, “What does that make you?”
“How did you get here?” Diogenes began pulling up as well as down to gather speed.
“I hired a boy who had wandered from a small town named Reutlingen. Then I recruited a few more on the way.”
“And do you expect a man your equal in age to do this?”
“For now, yes.”
“What an idiot!” Diogenes muttered.
The trees now hung over the rusty tracks and the snow flurried masking dusk with a thick, dark mist. Within a half-hour night fell and they had traveled all of ten kilometers. Diogenes sucked in the chill air and Hindenburg mused, smoking a pipe in one hand, holding his pistol by his knee with the other.
“Do trains never travel these tracks? They’re nearly rusted!”
“Seldom do … ” Hindenburg drawled nonchalantly.
Diogenes’ shoulders ached and his hand froze on the cold metal as he leaned back and forth, barely able to catch his breath between stiff thrusts. They rounded a rather tight curve and then could hear a roar from behind the hill they had just skirted.
“Sounds like an avalanche!” Hindenburg said, standing up.
“Maybe it’s the end … ” Diogenes laughed, easing up from the lever ” … of the world?”
“Could be!” Hindenburg cried, the roar growing.
“My God it’s a train!” Diogenes screamed.
“Jump!” Hindenburg cried, eyes rolling, but he stood there frozen with fear.
“You jump!” Diogenes shouted, cruelly.
“Oh no!” Hindenburg turned, bunching up his mouth, stubbornly pointing his gun.
By then the train, which had been scraping down the tracks, smoking along inefficiently, rammed into them, nearly tossing them off their hand-car. Hindenburg fell back, head precariously hanging from the end over the tracks, eyes staring into the locomotive’s huge lamp. Diogenes crawled out of the way of the wildly pumping lever and hung on for life as the rocking car began to level, following the first accelerative shock. They were barreling through the woods now. Diogenes pulled on Hindenburg’s pantleg allowing him to sit up behind the lever. However, his canvas machine parts were slipping off. His gun, meanwhile, fell from his hand and Hindenburg began to crawl foolishly to the edge to retrieve it. Diogenes caught his pantleg only to get kicked by Hindenburg while he scrambled for the gun, then he began to slide off again until Diogenes dragged him into a safer position. They were flying along now attempting to see above the lamp whether someone in the cabin had spotted them.
They glared at each other, through the snow and blaring light, white hair flying. They had no choice but to go with the train until a crossing and follow its course whatever arrangement had been made with the switch. Diogenes found himself freezing, after he had cooled from his labor and the jolt. The frigid winter air blasted through his coat and his teeth chattered. He decided to crawl under the canvas with the machine parts and allow Hindenburg to get frostbite if he pleased. Hindenburg crawled up and nestled close to Diogenes outside of the canvas, wrapping the hand which still held the pistol in his sleeve, pointing it at where he supposed Diogenes’ head to be.
Soon, however, the train began to slow. Diogenes jerked his head out to watch the trees reappear from a snowy blur. Hindenburg was crawling, wondering if they’d been discovered, while the light dimmed as the generators which drove them eased off with the wheel’s brake and shudder. Hindenburg glanced warily to Diogenes. Diogenes was thinking fast as to how he might be saved from being thrown into the woods or shot, when Hindenburg shouted fearfully:
“What do we do?”
“Come here!” Diogenes shouted back, trying to plant his feet more firmly.
“What should we do? They might kill us!” Hindenburg whined, as he approached.
Diogenes could see Hindenburg’s beady eyes now as he drew closer. He watched them squirm for a moment. He looked down at the gun pointed at his belly: “Hand over the gun.”
“No!” Hindenburg screwed up his mouth.
“Gimme me the goddamned gun and I’ll force them to take us to Heidelberg!”
“No!” Hindenburg tried to concentrate but the train had nearly ground to a halt and the hand-car was edging forward then slamming back into the engine’s cattle catcher.
“Do you expect me to educate your children at gunpoint?” Diogenes asked, contemptuously.
Hindenburg looked at his shaking hand, flesh stuck to the cold pistol and made up his mind: “I hold the pistol!”
“For what? To gain their sympathy?”
“I’ll offer them gold coin. Maybe they’ll give us a lift.” Hindenburg breathed, trying to assume an air of confidence.
“Maybe … ” Diogenes broke off as the train finally braked to a halt.
Hindenburg shivered nervously as the conductor and a crew-member began climbing down from the cabin.
“Here, put the gun up now!” Diogenes lifted the gun to Hindenburg’s ear. “Pretend your gonna commit suicide!”
“Stop it!” Hindenburg nervously slapped his hand aside.
The conductor looked at his subordinate as they stepped up, examining the front of the train for damage, then to the hand-car, then, incredulously at Diogenes and Hindenburg. A disheveled beggar stood there, in the middle of the forest, on top of a hand-car, beside an overweight burgher with white hair blown over his brow, and a gun in his hand
“Just what is this?” The conductor demanded.
“Just what you see!” Diogenes replied.
Hindenburg’s eyes shifted from his gun, to the conductor, to Diogenes.
“Instruct him to shoot the beggar!” The crewman suggested.
“Why?” Diogenes improvised. “You see, I am an English instructor and this man’s property. His wife is dying … in Heidelberg … and he needs to get back to his family.”
“With a gun in his hand?” The conductor inquired sternly.
“The gun. It was just to protect us from wolves or muggers. Is it … is it possible you can push us further?” Diogenes asked.
“No, let’s dump the hand-car.” The crewman concluded.
“You wanna lift it?” The conductor snorted. The conductor appraised them both, with an air of rugged authority: “Why … this is bullshit!” He bellowed.
“Make ‘em beg!” The crewman shouted.
“Shut up!” The conductor shouted back. “Give me that gun! Give it to me!”
Hindenburg obeyed.
“You got anything?” The conductor blurted out.
“Yes … ” Hindenburg replied.
“O yes, gold coin … not worthless paper! Good! O.K. you can ride, inside. You can leave the hand-car there. We can’t do anything about it, anyway. We fork south at Reutlingen. We’re a private train … if you ask what we’re doing, we’ll shoot you. There’s an empty car just behind the cabin. There’s a few other dead beats back there. Don’t try no bullshit and we won’t shoot you. Deal? You can make your way to Heidelberg alone. Now get your tired asses on board. Raus!”
Hindenburg scowled at Diogenes as he helped him climb unto the train and handed him the machine parts. As they approached the train, Diogenes sniffed the same rancid dead meat-stench which underwhelmed him when Manfred first dropped him off outside Berlin’s ring camps.
“It’s dog meat!” Diogenes hissed, staring at Hindenburg, who had already heaved himself onto the car. Diogenes turned abruptly around and began to run desperately for the woods when the crewman shouted and a shot rang out. A bullet tore away the bark of a pine tree inches from Diogenes’ head. He stopped short and raised his hands in the air.
“All right slave!” The conductor roared: “Back to kennel!” The crewman peered under the conductor’s shoulder, laughing.
“Why didn’t you notice our hand-car before?” Diogenes improvised, while he walked dutifully back.
“We were inspecting the cargo. What’s it to you?”
“Isn’t that dangerous?”
“Shut the fuck up!” The conductor shouted, weary of delays.
Diogenes hoisted himself up into the car where Hindenburg waited wallowing in the hay beside a cleanly dressed Moslem family. Diogenes thought he could smell the rotten meat in their car. He lay down nauseated. The train jerked forward and they regained speed West.
He fell asleep, haunted by nightmares about the dog he had buried in Berlin. The dog kept murmuring, complaining about her burial. Diogenes spoke to him in his sleep, much to the amazement of the Moslem family, placating the dog, reassuring him how natural it was to die. He then dreamt of Virgil again. Rupert’s favorite dog. Virgil kept turning his head, invitingly, then Diogenes saw a woman asleep on a bed. Virgil stopped at the foot of the bed so that Diogenes could check for Undine, but, it was an older woman. Virgil then barked at a trap door in the bedroom inviting Diogenes to open it. Diogenes obeyed and Virgil padded down a winding stairwell, through the trap door, from which steam and smoke blew with agonized shouts. Following Virgil, at the bottom, a man in a white coat stood at an operating table. Diogenes happened to glance back up at the stairwell which seemed to wind up forever, peaking at the foot of a grave partially covered by dried flowers and grass. The man was concocting a composite “dog” from human and animal parts. Virgil kneeled over Diogenes and let out a long moan. Diogenes wheeled around and saw a mahogany cabinet. Virgil began trotting back up the stairwell and his tail indicated that Diogenes should follow. Diogenes tried, yet knew he would open the cabinet. And as he pried open the door the makeshift “dog” began to whine as if to warn the scientist. Diogenes knew, somehow, that his own body was in the cabinet and had to see it himself until, glancing surface-ward, dirt was cascading down the stairs, obscuring Virgil as he reached sunlight, the grass, and his grave. Diogenes ran, scaling the stairs but the earth kept tumbling down as he was now crying out in his sleep, until a hand woke him, shaking his shoulder. It was Hindenburg.
“Don’t cry out so! You’re scaring everybody!” Hindenburg whispered, wearing a worrisome pout on his shadowy face.
“Excuse me.” Diogenes apologized and rolled onto his other side. He couldn’t endure him now and doubled his coat against fleas and the sane Moslems’ curious stares. Diogenes buried his face and slept restlessly for the remaining eight hours, until the train slowed and they were roused and ordered to disembark.
Easing down to the tracks, Hindenburg handed the conductor several extra gold pieces for the return of his gun. Diogenes remained groggy, staggering in the dark, dwarfed by the locomotive and loathe to pump Hindenburg’s hand-car, which had taken a beating from the long ride at high speed The crewman handed Hindenburg the canvassed machine parts and helped pump the hand-car down the opposing tracks from those his train would take charging South. He then strode back and reversed the switch. Diogenes and Hindenburg climbed onto the hand-car and watched the train slowly roar away. Silently, they both started working the lever together, pumping up enough momentum so that Hindenburg could sit back and watch Diogenes work alone,. as the first glimpse of dawn crawled up his cramped, sweating back, and as they crept through the final hills to Heidelberg.
Diogenes could barely unbend himself when they climbed down, the sun having risen and the cool February morning greeting them at the outskirts of the deserted town. He walked down the empty streets and boarded up shops which once served the tourists to the quaint college town amongst the hills. The Neckar River, still green, lazily flowed between the hills on either side. The machine parts weighed on him like a cross as they walked by the suburbs, where weeds and rats crawled through once cultivated gardens and vines pried through fissured brick and shattered windows.
When Hindenburg kicked open the gate to his house, his children ran out and hailed their daddy with suspicious sideglances at Diogenes. Hindenburg hugged his children, lifting the young boy, then turned him around to welcome Diogenes. The taller girl hid behind Hindenburg’s back.
“This is your new teacher. Herr Diogenes.”
“That’s a funny name.” The girl spoke up.
“And this is Heike and Armin” Hindenburg explained to Diogenes. “He’s going to teach you English.” He explained, to both of them.
“He looks old and scary.” Heike said, with disdain. The boy was sucking his thumb, refusing to meet Diogenes who was just now easing down the machine parts.
“Heike, now you be nice. How is Mommy?”
“She hasn’t left her bed. She reads all the time.” Heike replied, with consternation.
“You stay here while I go see her and be nice to Herr Diogenes.” Hindenburg directed, anxious to see his wife and to leave Diogenes alone with the children.
“Yuk! You look dirty!” Heike said, now confronting Diogenes alone.
“Well, I just came all the way from Berlin.”
“But Daddy didn’t go to Berlin!”
“No, we met in Dresden.” Diogenes said, espying the boy, “Doesn’t your brother have the courage to stop hiding behind that tree?” He had been peeking from behind a leafless elm tree.
“Don’t make fun of him. He’s younger and smaller.” Heike said, trying to show up her brother.
“It’s just that he talks so funny!” The boy said, emerging so as not to appear afraid.
“Armin’s right. You talk bad German.”
“I know. That’s because I really speak English.”
“English or American?”
“They’re the same language. Though I come from New York.”
“New York City?” Armin, the boy, said, proud that he heard the name before.
“Say something in American!” Heike said.
“I told you they are the same language!” Diogenes said in English.
“Wow! That’s very strange!” Heike replied.
“Now say mommy is going to get better!” Armin spoke up, plaintively.
“I am sure your mommy will get well soon.”
“You are right!” Heike said in French, trying to joke.
“Now repeat after me, this will be your first English lesson: ‘Good morning!’”
“Güt mornung.” Heike said, with Armin chiming in.
“Nicht ‘Güt mornung’, but ‘Good morning’!” Diogenes smiled.
“Goot mornin!” Heike said, Armin listening.
“Oh, what a terrible accent!” Diogenes said, with a mock-professorial voice. They both laughed.
Hindenburg then came out of the front door: “Heike and Armin! Go play now. Herr Diogenes needs to help Daddy work and clean up. Go on!” The two of them were still standing there.
“But where will he stay?” Heike asked.
“Don’t mind about that!” Hindenburg replied.
“But where … ?”
“In the cellar, next to my work bench.” Hindenburg huffed.
“But that’s ugly!” Heike protested.
“How about Helmut’s house?” Armin asked.
“I told you go!” Hindenburg ordered, having lost patience.
“Goot Mornung!” Armin waved to Diogenes, smiling, as they walked back to their rope swing beneath the mangy elm.
Hindenburg showed Diogenes down a stairwell, in the back of the house and cracked the door to his cellar. Diogenes preceded him down the stairs into a clutter of compression tanks, wires, sheets of plastic and fabric, unfinished carpentry, manuals with pages ripped out spilling to the floor, hammers, needles, wrenches, saws, screws, then waded finally through a pile of maps and astronomical charts which had been piled on top of uncoiled rope and a sowing machine under repair, eventually tiptoeing to a metal door. Hindenburg produced a key to rattle the lock then swung open the door. Diogenes looked inside. It was empty but for a few moldy books wedged into the damp mud floor.
“This will be your room. Here … ” He took a pile of old dresses and stacked them while throwing a few moldy books out of the way. “You can sleep here.”
“Et, merci!” Diogenes replied, coughing in the musty air. “Are these my new clothes?”
“I work here everyday … ” Hindenburg pointed outside to his bench, ignoring him, “In the morning, when I come down, I’ll wake you and you’ll eat our leftovers. Then you can teach the children English and Math. Just take care of them. In the evening, when I leave my work I’ll come up and fetch you and you will return to your room.”
“Comme c’est gentil!” Diogenes said, mockingly.
“O.K. I have to talk to my wife, Areté. You can rest now.” Hindenburg said, pointing to the moldy room.
“But I don’t want to … ” Diogenes mocked him.
“Get in there!” Hindenburg commanded, shoving Diogenes on his hands and knees through his wine cellar door. From inside, slipping on a silk dress across the slimy floor, Diogenes could hear the lock rammed through the latch and the key turn. Then, after circumnavigating the junk, he could hear Hindenburg’s heavy steps as he stomped upstairs, followed by a slam of the kitchen door.
He felt around in the darkness, and slipped, trying to rearrange the dresses to prop his head. He reached out to stack the books, unwedging them from the mud, attempting to lean into sleep, suspiciously attuning his ear to the scamperings of mice or rats. As he began to doze, realizing how stiff his shoulders and forearms were from pumping the hand-car, he could hear Hindenburg storm downstairs and step over his workroom junk to his cellar door. Hindenburg hurriedly turned the key and the half-light of the workroom poured into his gloomy cell.
“My wife wants to meet you.” Hindenburg puffed.
“Well, I am honored.”
They walked up the stairwell into the yard then stepped into the front door. After wiping his feet, Diogenes followed Hindenburg up the rickety but beautifully made staircase to his wife’s bedroom. She was lying under a few sheets and quilts, rubbing her eye with a delicate white hand. The room smelled of perfume, with old prints and pastels tacked onto rose wallpaper. Her hair fell to her neck prematurely gray, her eyes were sallow from fatigue or sickness, but her features were magnificent: a straight, delicate nose, full lips with a hint of an upward curl, a perfectly sculpted, feminine chin, slender, sloping neck, and long natural eyelashes accentuating sensitive, full brown eyes.
Diogenes was stunned. He expected Hindenburg to have yoked himself to a dumpy sharp-tongued Bavarian or a Science librarian. Who would accept him? Diogenes then remembered, as he drank her in how he once cared for women, yet that truly beautiful women, even the younger ones, married the most conventional men. Or at least that’s how he justified it when he failed after hunting for a beautiful wife. And when he could psychically afford to entertain any affection. He stood there, nearly paralyzed, until she rolled over to examine the two post-middle-aged wrecks in her room.
“So you are to be my children’s teacher while our Hindenburg putters away in our basement?” She asked, with a half-smile, watching Diogenes. “You are an odd looking fellow, you know …” She turned. “Hindenburg!”, Diogenes listened, amazed that his wife called him by his last name, as if he were an institution or relic.” Why don’t you leave me alone to question Herr Diogenes?”
Hindenburg appeared relieved: “Yes, if you need me dear, I’ll be down in the workroom.”
“Of course, dear.”
“He tells me he bought you! What a filthy idea! To think the world has come to this …” She fussed, out-loud. “And now he wants you to sleep in our empty wine cellar, like an animal?”
“I’ve seen worse.” Diogenes said.
“I guess that’s everyone’s reply now. Or excuse.” She said, with a melancholy expression.
“Are you … ill?” Diogenes cautiously inquired.
“I’m dying.”
“What’s wrong?” Diogenes asked, aware of his indelicacy.
“Hard to say. There are no doctors in Heidelberg. Except destitute professors of philosophy or science who still cling to the hope that the university will someday re-open. What cowards!” She laughed, light-heartedly.
“How shall I educate your children?” Diogenes asked, glad she had offered a way to change the subject.
“Just pay attention to their minds. Their father ignores them.” She reached down to tug at a thread from her bedspread. “It’s funny you’ve already spoke with me about my illness. He pretends that I’m acting like a ‘princess’, staying in bed, reading French poetry. Isn’t that absurd?”
“It must be hard on him.”
“Yes, I suppose it is.” She replied, already losing energy.
“Well, I’ll start with English.”
“Yes, do. And do you speak French?”
“Not very well.”
“Shame on you! I’m French you know. My maiden name is Blanchard. I was born in Rodez, but my family lived in Toulouse. You know it?
“I’ve heard of it.”
“O.K. You’ll be fine Herr Diogenes. We’ll speak again tomorrow.”
She offered him her hand and he kissed it, playing the gallant, and smiled: “Enchanté!”
That evening, as the sun descended, Diogenes began his education of Armin and Heike. In the next few days, he expanded it into physical training as well as elementary Math, English and French, using the latter to refresh his own faded knowledge. He obtained permission from Hindenburg to scour the town for books. He visited old academics, chatting with them about his travels until he could borrow or coax books from them, gradually amassing a library in the dining room. At dawn, through the end of March and into April, he would begin the day by having them stretch out and run to the Neckar and back. Releasing Armin first he would then urge Heike to run and catch up Armin then jog non-competitively back with him to the house. Diogenes had Hindenburg set up a gymnastics horse there so that he could begin strengthening their upper bodies and instill agility and a sense of balance. While they rested, he would read through their English grammar. They then read through the lesson for themselves while he brought a cup of tea to Areté since she rose late and he would chat with her for an hour. At noon, he would have the children help their father clean up the yard or cellar, seed or weed the garden for an hour then speak English over lunch. Then, after obliging Hindenburg to barter for a few musical instruments, a guitar and a flute, he would have Armin and Heike practice and learn music. Eventually he trained them to sing a few songs for their mother and father in their bedroom and give weekly “recitals.” At dusk, he would have them cook dinner with him (after writing down French recipes with the help of Areté) and they would help him clean up. They would then feed the chickens and the goat that Diogenes demanded Hindenburg trade for some welding equipment, so that they could eat diary products, along with vegetables from their garden. Before bedtime they would read out loud from German fairy tales and fables Diogenes cut out from dusty German textbooks, editing out the banalities and compiling two separate notebooks. Eventually, they wrote their own stories and read them to their parents before going to bed.
Hindenburg, at first affronted by Diogenes’ demands, eventually confessed to his neighbors: “A gentle spirit has descended on my household.” Agreeing with him, Diogenes moved outside into a shed near the garden, which the children claimed to have housed their old dog, Helmut …
By spring, Hindenburg was rarely to be seen. Diogenes was more or less running the household. Areté and Diogenes began to feel fond of each other’s company and when Hindenburg would step up into her bedroom he would often find them engaged in intense dialogue. Hindenburg grew moody, but, released to his basement and his “secret” project, he would sink out of sight, away from his demanding children, Diogenes, and his dying wife.
Areté became aware of her need for Diogenes. Yet, even after he would shave and shower, and she took in the hems of Hindenburg’s smaller suitcoats and cotton shirts, and dressed him properly, and after Diogenes would peek around the door with freshly picked marigolds or tulips and speak mildly of springtime and French poetry, she could not help thinking that he was quite naturally absurd. For, no matter how sensibly disciplined, he carried with him an air of exile, of homelessness, and a kind of protracted idiosyncrasy of soul which had gone beyond mere eccentricity. Areté knew he could speak cleverly enough of the world but became clumsy discussing his feelings as if he were out of practice and confused when Areté inquired closely. Meanwhile, Diogenes watched Areté slipping away. The progress of her illness, which could have been cancer or just a vague, congenital weariness with life — as if she were willing herself to die — weighed down on her. Her insomnia, headaches, vomiting and nightmares grew. Diogenes could only watch in frustration, as if he were witness to a long, unconscious suicide. If it were curable, he damned himself for not being able to locate a decent doctor. She would peer at him. And he knew the look of the dying, but never on someone so worthy, so delicate or intelligent or so physically beautiful, even though she was growing old, sleepless and weak.
“You see, my father’s to blame!” Areté blurted out one day, after a coughing fit.
“For what?”
“He made me marry Hindenburg because it was safe. I had to marry for safety.”
“Didn’t you have a choice?”
“We always do. But I was so young and I already failed once at marriage. The situation at home became violently claustrophobic.”
“Was there another lover?”
“No.” She said after a pause. “There was my freedom! And I sold it out because my family fretted over the fall of the economy. You see, my younger sisters both married first. I was still young — and stupid. One brother-in-law ended up working for my father and my other sister married into an inherited wine fortune. I was still at home, dreaming, reading, doing what I pleased.”
“Then you met Hindenburg?”
“My parents met him first. He was introduced to my father by his father through a German engineering firm.”
“And you felt obliged to marry him?”
“The French economy was failing. All of the South of France, especially the small towns and countryside, was starving. Germany still seemed economically healthy and Hindenburg made all these sweet avowals … while my father pushed for the idea with every mental weapon he could muster. He said I’d be an old maid. A whore. You name it.”
“What bullshit!”
“Then I had my first affair and got pregnant.”
“And, I wanted the child. My parents were Catholic and they opposed abortion or single pregnancy. There were battles and family accusations … ” Areté looked at the curtains and her prints tacked on the wallpaper: “I married Hindenburg … What more can be said?”
“Is Heike … the child?”
“No, he died in childhood before I had either Heike or Armin.”
“And so what happened after that?”
“Exactly what you see. Hindenburg never actually worked for a living outside of a few short weeks in his family’s plastics factory which is boarded up now in Stuttgart.”
“I have a hard time imagining you enduring all that. It seems you are so much more than … your life … ” Diogenes muttered, lost in vague sentiment.
“Have you discovered what Hindenburg is doing down there?”
“I haven’t looked carefully, just a lot of fabric, torches, rope … ”
“He’s building a balloon, you ninny!” She laughed. “To take me back with our children to Toulouse if Nebuchadnezzar’s army moves on Germany.”
“Mmmm … I’ve seen what he’s got down there. He seems to be tinkering with generators, a gondola, ropes … the works.” He was watching her pupils contract, cold with indifference towards the mention of Hindenburg’s project.
“But what about you?” She asked, changing the subject.
Diogenes gradually explained his youth in the Midwest followed by early European travels, then his term as clerk with Tombstone Internationale, his encounters with Grabmaler, his internment in the inverted skyscraper, the trip on the barge to Calais with Rupert and Undine, his night in the Louvre, his sheep truck ride with Antisthenes, his ride and friendship with Manfred, the current “city state” of Berlin, Georg’s speech, his nightmare at Golgotha, the final speech after the play, his capture and auction in Dresden, Hindenburg’s behavior at the auction, on his hand-car, and in the train. Areté listened to it all patiently, with amazement, at first, as the hours ticked away, then with annoyance at the end, with the description of her husband’s conduct, which lead to their meeting. Areté gazed out the window, smiling, as they analyzed and retold their lives all night. Hindenburg had slept downstairs on a couch near his workbench, now his usual practice. She barely stopped to acknowledge the sunrise, as Diogenes pulled back the curtains, and went on:
“I suppose he’s a good man. But he lacks imagination. Hindenburg never wrote me a poem or felt anything when we married. He does what he thinks is good. He’s incapable of infidelity. I know that for a fact. But he’s lost in gadgets and tinkerings, like a boy still re-constructing a moped engine or hammering a sparkplug inside his first jalopy. Only he’s added Science! Or the piecemeal knowledge his engineer father passed on. He’s lost in machines and I wanted to marry a soul.” She squinted at the blue morning light, wondering if she exaggerated, then sighed: “To have a man who’d understand me … even now!”
“He certainly seems to care … ” Diogenes offered, tenuously.
“Oh he does. He shows me, I suppose, by making his balloon!” She paused so that Diogenes could ruminate on the absurdity of it: “But, to him, the children are little machines too who say irrational or enigmatic things.” She added, with a cough.
“And what did you enjoy doing as a girl in France?” Diogenes asked, changing the subject as her coughs subsided.
“Music. When I was girl I could play the flute and piano … and sing … My diction was perfect and I studied counterpoint.”
“Music theory.”
“Yes … And I was a fast runner. Why … ” She giggled, ” … when I first met Hindenburg I beat him in a foot race!” With this, she stared at the lump under the blankets which were once her girlish legs and started to weep. Diogenes stroked her graying black hair.
“I’ll raise Armin and Heike.” He reassured her.
“You won’t get the chance!” She sobbed. “That goddamned Nebuchadnezzar’s empire will eat them up! Just see to it that they go with my family to Toulouse. Promise me … you’ll stay afterward for awhile?” She knew she’d be unfit to accompany them.
“I promise. When do your relatives arrive?”
“Two days from now … ”
Diogenes admired her straight, thin nose and her fading, almond-shaped eyes. She would loose her children two days from now. And what would she or Hindenburg do? No wonder she was depressed.
“What is it Diogenes?” She challenged him as he seemed to shrink into his thoughts.
“I don’t know how to say this … ”
“Say it. I’m dying. I’m not going to snitch on you.” She smiled painfully.
“If I had a woman like you, I wouldn’t have turned into such a dirtbag.”
“Dirtbag?” Her eyes laughed as she listened, trying to imagine him younger and less ravaged.
At this point, Hindenburg poked his head around the door: “Areté? Are you O.K.?”
“Never felt better.” She replied wearily.
“I’ll be in the backyard, moving the generator outside if you need me.”
“Good-bye dear … ” She added, waving him away. She scowled down at her body under the blankets and sniffed. She convulsed as if her stomach had tried to force something up.
“Are you all right?” Diogenes stood up.
“No. No! Sit down! Hear me out!” She said, while choking a bit on phlegm. “You know, this sounds like an old line but I feel that we met before … ”
“Maybe we were childhood friends.” Diogenes said, doubtfully.
“That’s not it.” She went through another convulsion, having to arch her back to fight off a wave of pain. “You know, life is just a shred … ”
“What? You don’t have to talk now. You should sleep.” Diogenes said, stroking her hair.
“No, I want to … don’t fight me.” She added weakly. “I mean, a shard or what we obliquely call eternity. Don’t you love the German word for ‘moment’, Augenblick; or clin d’oeil, in French … ?
“A blink of the eye?” Diogenes asked, in English.
“Yes, I think so .. ” She nodded. “Remember when kids used to have kaleidoscopes? Well, every life, if you could look into it … there’d be colored films of experiences. Shredded eternities. There’d be miniature epics. If only we could hold them .. but … ” She shuddered again, ” … we can’t. And no one can account for it. I mean, being here until this body revolts and says enough … and trying to hold up, as if we loved the duration. Like finding a shell cast from the ocean … we listen to it and we used to say, ‘There’s an ocean inside! Listen!’ You know?” She said this while her body convulsed again, followed by a series of hoarse, scraping coughs, from her esophagus and lungs. She coughed into her pillow and Diogenes could see blood staining it as she withdrew. She then convulsed, let out another series of hoarse coughs, moaning, then she fell curiously quiet. Diogenes examined her, lifting her slender wrist for a pulse and there was none. Her eyes were fixed.
The room was still flooding with spring light and fleeting cloud, her curtains were still lapping. The cabinet’s thin film of dust stirred as did her old silk dresses and colorful, now ragged scarves draped from her closet door. Her books lay flat on her legs, idly tossing, gently on her quilt. Diogenes had the odd sensation that the print in the books could no longer be followed by human eyes. That words would not rise from their pages. He could not look at Areté but stared down at her shoes beside the bed and the French novel she never finished. He then rifled through her closet and opened a trunk, concealed by her clothes. Inside there was a pile of empty bottles, which he sniffed, reeking of a filmy toxin. He began to thumb through her journal, but gave up. It was useless, he had no doubt she was a suicide.
He stood up and walked to the window and cried: “Hindenburg! Come up here, Hindenburg! Stop piddling around and see to your wife, for God’s sake!”
Diogenes could not bear to look at Hindenburg’s worried face. He stooped to kiss Areté’s finely shaped thin lips, and left her room.


Areté’s relatives arrived for a funeral. Diogenes could see their shock was real but their sympathy strained. The two days prior he flipped through family files to find a will, but Areté had left hers unfinished. He tried out his French attempting to placate Areté’s relatives and keep them from denouncing Hindenburg who was feverishly laboring to inflate the balloon which would fly Areté and his children to France. Her relatives didn’t want to hear about a balloon and felt it an insult for Hindenburg to keep working and resolved to cart the children away from their incorrigible father.
When the funeral was over Diogenes took Armin and Heike away from the quarrel and up the Philosophenweg, the Philosopher’s Walk, for a break. The buds were bursting in the trees now and he sat them down.
“Why don’t I make up a fable in the daytime?”
“Not now Diogenes!” Heike complained.
“Let him!” Armin whined, wishing to be distracted.
“How about it Heike? Let your old tutor make up a story.”
“All right, but don’t make it too long.”
“Make it as long as you want! Don’t listen to her.” Armin said, pouting. With this, Diogenes began:

“There once was a mystery named Time. She was the daughter of History. And she had two sisters: Regret and Anticipation. After she grew tall and traveled, she hoped to marry and bear a child. She had already named one, Future. However, History jealously guarded her and accused her of being naughty with her suitors. He was Time’s father and knew only poverty and worry since she was born. Or so he said. He claimed it cost too much to support her. Yet he harshly scolded and threatened to punish her if she was unchaste, or chose the wrong husband.”
“Time wept. Her sister, Anticipation, married a man who held shares in her father’s business. And her sister, Regret, had married into an inherited fortune. Now the suitors — her boyfriends –” Diogenes looked over to Armin and Heike, “were both handsome. As Time was beautiful. And both men thought they understood her many sides, since as any interesting woman, she was free, creative, almost, that is, happy. If it wasn’t for her wicked father.”
“History.” said Armin.
“Yes. Now, History favored one of the young men, and demanded she marry him. His name was Economy, and he could offer both wealth and security. This suitor claimed he could support Time and provide for their children. The other, Eternity, was, for her father, a dangerous layabout — penniless, too handsome, too dreamy, and otherworldly. This is the young poet Time truly loved.”
“As usual, these stories have their moral, dear ones, but don’t despair, it turns out all right.”
“Just tell it Diogenes.” Heike urged him.
“O.K. History forced Time, by threats and pressure that she should marry and raise a child with Economy. Yet Time still saw Eternity on the sly, and the more she knew of Eternity the more she knew of love and of moments when all the world’s suffering, and hers, were made right. Economy offered a home, and pledged to remain faithful as he understood History’s ‘ethics’ in business; that is, what is earned and who inherits it. Eternity, however, wrote poetry, radically questioned what is truly of value, and claimed to experience ecstasy, and so create it, through his love for her Then History told Time this lie or, rather myth, and decked it out with persuasive and colorful anecdotes: that Eternity was evil, that she could never guarantee with whom he slept nor dreamt of, and that he would finally leave her, with her child, in poverty.”
“Thus it was that Time married Economy. But his business soon ground to a halt and his inheritance was an mirage. It was, indeed, Economy who failed to support Time, and he, finally, on the sly, left her. And her father, History, who was sick anyway, soon died. Anticipation’s husband’s fortune went up in smoke with the family business, after his father-in-law’s death. Regret was paralyzed with fear when he died. Eternity alone survived. And it was he who found Time, living alone with her son, and took her in, respected her, still beautiful, and adopted her child, and had yet another with her, just before they escaped to France, the two children secure with them on the road, growing up the wiser for it.”

“Diogenes, what does your story mean?” Asked the younger, Armin.
“Diogenes what it mean now that Areté is gone?” Heike asked, “What can any of it mean now she’s dead?”
“It was about … how your mother is on road with you road forever.”
“I still don’t know what you mean!” Heike cried and Armin fidgeted nervously.
“Areté has taught us all, how to love Eternity!”
“Don’t try to be our teacher now, Diogenes, you know we must leave to grandma’s in Toulouse and we have lost our home, our mother, and we are having trouble.” She said, quite accurately.
“O.K., but remember my story, I made it up for you.”
“No! Tell us the end!” Armin demanded.
“There is no end. Your father is waiting.”
As they walked, the mist over the hills broke apart with noontime light, and the children in their best clothes passed delicately solemn amid cherry blossoms and Elm twigs bursting into bud. As they crossed The Neckar River and wandered back, the deserted college town seemed like light-hearted Hollywood spoof of spring beauty, the air was so filled with a soft amber light and new smells and wild flowers.
Armin stopped. “Diogenes, tell us more!”
“Wait until we know they want from us, your father and your aunts and uncles from France.”
“We’re not going to play anymore!” Heike wept. “I will never play again.”
“That would be a big mistake.”
“But why should I play now, my mother is dead?” Heike cried.
“One must honor life, even if History is dead, and Economy has collapsed, for Areté is on the road. She’ll be with you forever.”
“I think I understand,” murmured Heike. “O.K. let’s go back.”
They found their father weeping in the backyard, peddling the generator, inflating the balloon, desperately crying out, then re-applying himself. Areté’s relatives loitered in the front yard, then spent the evening in conference, brewing espresso on the porch, then resentfully slept on the dining room floor. Hindenburg was hysterical, and Diogenes had to drag him in from the generator which he kept peddling past midnight, pouring the last tins of liquor down the German’s huge throat to help him sleep. While Hindenburg, the Blanchards and the children slept at night, Diogenes snuck away the poisons and Areté’s trunk and buried them, climbing the hill into the woods so that neither Hindenburg nor anyone in town could discover that Areté took her life.
Work done, trudging back over the bridge after dawn, Diogenes espied, down the road, a rattling wooden cart drawn by a beige horse with a large round object in the back, with two figures, a man on the reins and a young woman or boy, dividing the first rosy fingers of sunrise, propped snug beside him. There was also a dog tied to the large round object. It crossed his mind that he wished it were Undine then he focused, squinted, and it certainly did look like Undine with Manfred! He brushed this notion aside but kept watching the cart draw nearer. Finally, he believed that it was, indeed, Undine. He could spot her lithe legs as she stood up and her thin arms held open, then waving! “Undine!” Diogenes shouted, weeping.
When they reached Diogenes, she stood up on the seat and jumped up on the cart to hug them both. All three of them were worn out yet euphoric at the success of their rendez-vous. Diogenes caressed Undine’s face. Her expression had a harder, edgier worldliness to it but she smiled tenderly, and her touch was silken as her hair, cropped close, boyish, retaining its auburn glint, even through road dust. And her eyes laughed, with a hint of resolve and mission behind them. Manfred knew it and exclaimed:
“Perhaps you can translate for us now. My French and English are horrible and Undine doesn’t know German. She thinks, perhaps, that I’m an idiot.”
“Well, she’d be right!” Diogenes ribbed him.
“It’s so fine to see you!” Undine smiled, speaking in English. “Manfred has been so good to me. And I met your friends Silke and Georg.”
“But what happened in Paris? Where’s Rupert?”
“We better discuss that later.”
“Unfortunately, you arrived just after a funeral.” Diogenes explained as he bid them to walk toward the house. “I became a tutor-house-servant for a family whose mother was … ill. They have two children … ”
“But Diogenes, why didn’t you escape?” Undine asked. Manfred half-understood the question and seemed for a reason as well.
“I had a purpose here … Perhaps I welcomed slavery?” He intended to explain and further question them when he saw Armin and Heike drooping their heads in obedience to Areté’s family, who were hurrying to pack for the South of France. The children stood frustrated and sad until they spotted Diogenes then they both ran down the road to greet him, Heike reaching him first.
“Diogenes, who is that girl?” Heike asked, as Diogenes walked forward to catch them.
Armin ran up: “Who are they Diogenes?”
“Two good friends.” Diogenes reassured them. “Manfred! Come here and meet Armin and Heike!”
Manfred walked up and shook both Armin and Heike’s little hands. “Can you see, Diogenes, we brought your vase?” Manfred said to Diogenes in German, knowing it would interest them.
“And one of the dogs?” Diogenes nodded to the children it was fine to pet them.
“Yes. The rest were shot.” Manfred whispered in his ear.
“But how did you meet Undine?”
“She came to Berlin, just like you said. Silke notified Georg and we hitched up my cart after we persuaded The Council to forge us papers.” But he was watching Armin and Heike jumping up and down to see the horse and dog. Undine, meanwhile, had pulled the dog, a Springer Spaniel puppy down from the cart for them.
“Actually,” Diogenes pulled Manfred away as Armin and Heike mimicked Undine in petting the horse and dog, as she encouraged them in her pigeon German. ” … Hindenburg’s wife committed suicide. He’s out back, peddling a generator like a bloody maniac ignoring the mother’s relatives who have arrived from Southern France, intending to take the kids with them. Hindenburg’s gone bananas and apparently is planning a suicide ride via balloon.”
“What?” Manfred scrutinized Diogenes’ face.
“No, I’m serious, he’s been working on the balloon since I’ve been here. He has it all set up, with a huge gondola, and it just may work. Who knows? He had the harebrained notion of taking his wife, Areté, up in it and flying the family to Toulouse if Nebuchadnezzar’s mercenaries ever reached the border.”
“They’re there now.” Manfred stated, matter-of-factly.
“They’ve reached Southern Germany?”
“They’re in. Nebuchadnezzar himself ‘rules’ in Prague now. And they’re sieging Dresden.”
“I guess the auction assholes are out of business.”
“If they’re alive.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Go back and join in the defense of Berlin.” Manfred replied, kicking an ant hill.
“It’s going to be dangerous, and confusing. Which Berlin?”
“All of it, ring camps, Golgotha, Georg … I have to take the chance. Berlin is my home now.”
“What’s Georg doing?”
“Working to fortify, and still struggling with your friends in Golgotha who claim the threat a fraud.”
“They weren’t my friends!” Diogenes stared back.
“Well, that’s what he’s doing.” Manfred smiled painfully.
“Did you forget me?” Undine cried, after wriggling herself away from the children. “I missed you so much!” She cried, hugging Diogenes. “I met Georg, and Manfred the Mann here … ” She smiled, “And now, we’re together again.” She repeated, slightly embarrassed.
“But what happened in Paris?” Diogenes asked, again.
“That’s a long story, Diogenes. That’s part of the reason I came to Berlin, not only to keep my promise … ” She paused, confused. “I want you to come back to Paris with me. You have to do it!” She insisted, with frustration. Manfred politely joined the children now.
Undine and Diogenes walked towards Areté’s family. The children were feeding the two horses from either cart with sugar and oats, provided by Manfred. Undine approached them, politely, while Diogenes held back, watching her nod. They received her icily in French but he could faintly hear Undine replying in rapid, but lilting French. And he could see them warming considerably to her.
“So what are we going to do?” Diogenes whispered, as Manfred let the children run down the road and back with the dog.
“I’m going back to Berlin. I’m sorry Diogenes, but that’s final.”
“I know, I support your decision. But what about Undine?”
“I don’t know how you’ll get her to Paris, perhaps the same way you both came.”
“It was rather indirect! Should I convince her to return with you to Berlin?”
“It’s useless. She’s determined.”
“She’s beautiful. Isn’t she?”
“Oh yes, she certainly is.” They both admired her across the yard as she chatted with Areté’s — now Armin and Heike’s — family. They could hear the faint music of her voice.
“Well, let’s see what our Hindenburg is enslaved by now?” Diogenes mumbled, moving on.
Hindenburg was dragging several strands of thick rope across the yard from the cellar. The entire yard was littered with provisions: a bottle of whisky Diogenes never found, lay among the weeds, ready to be packed. There were two compasses, three wrenches, extra dried food canisters, a jackknife, a neat stack of frayed maps, extra fuel in tin canisters, a sleeping bag, the now-idle generator which drove the compressed helium into the inner balloon, a larger gasoline-driven engine which would torch or heat the air in the outer balloon., all piled up frantically, a-little-too tidily, into a handyman’s nightmare.
When he saw Manfred enter with Diogenes, Hindenburg immediately enlisted the younger man to pedal the generator to continue the endless process which entailed his makeshift inflation of the balloon. Diogenes watched from afar and meditated on Areté and on Hindenburg’s abstracted behavior at her service and her burial. And now, his denial of being robbed of his wife and losing his children had embodied itself in flight.
Meanwhile, Undine snuck behind Diogenes. He swung around, poked by her, thankful to have her near. They held hands for a moment watching Manfred oblige Hindenburg, then sat down on a mossed-over tree stump which had been chopped down years ago for firewood. He peered into her hazel eyes, ready to hear her’s and Rupert’s travails in Paris.
“Well, what happened?” Diogenes asked, bluntly.
“You remember we were to spend the night at Bedlamsburg’s the evening after you left?” Undine gathered herself, hands on her lap.
“Of course, I do. Was it a mistake?”
“Only the first. Rupert fell in with the poet-flatterers, Phillip and Cacavosky, the whole tribe. He wrote a series of poems under their influence. Oh … I forgot. He sent me this letter with a folio of poems he copied out long-hand. Do you want to see it?”
“Just the letter.”
Undine handed him a bag wrapped in cellophane with the poems traced on fine onion-skin paper from which he extracted the letter.
“Where did he get this paper?”
“From the German whore who sold erotic sketches. Do you remember her?”
“Well, she’s the ‘missing link’, one might say, in Rupert’s de-evolution”
“Wait, does he have copies of these poems?”
Diogenes tossed the poems into the garden, stuffing Rupert’s letter in his coat: “Go on.”
“All right, well, after he fell in with them he became entranced or dedicated to ‘aesthetic expression’ as all of Paris was seething with performers. Every day, we would go out to the Seine and he’d write in the morning about the crowds, observing how they lived. He wrote an ‘Ode to Sawdust’ when he found that many of the people ate sawdust wrapped inside lard. Bedlamsburg maintained that the same thing happened in the siege of Stalingrad, or some such thing, and Rupert wrote a romantic ‘post-futurist’ poem about it.”
“He claims he got the idea from you. From you hating Hegel.”
“That’s poppy-cock!” Diogenes chuckled. “But … to the meat!”
“Oh yes, but now to the ‘link’ and what happened: Bedlamsburg’s followers demanded that we produce something for the household, seeing that Rupert and I slept and ate there and one day, on encountering the girl with filthy sketches, you know, standing naked in the street … she began to mysteriously give things to Rupert. Bananas, strawberries, veal, beef, eggs, milk … real food. And we started relying on what she gave us to be able both to eat and to bribe Bedlamsburg’s crew.”
“Meanwhile, resentment festered in his household toward me. They really weren’t interested in anything I said. It was through Rupert that they got the food. And besides, Bedlamsburg just doesn’t like women. Regardless, as time went on, Rupert would spend hours by himself writing or, as I found out, rendez-wooing this German bitch who stands on street-corners naked!”
“I would make house, wash dishes, clean clothes, sweep up, to justify my existence, while Rupert was off with his “food-connection”, as he euphemistically called her. One day Cacavosky goosed me while I was washing dishes — doing the women’s work — and I punched him and a house meeting was called and it was determined I had to leave.”
“And what did Rupert say?”
“He defended me. That’s to his credit. He said he would leave too. But mysteriously, that day, he produced a whole cache — several cases of drugs, morphine, in tiny test tube vials, and passed them out which more or less placated the household. I didn’t know what to think. He kept arriving with all kinds of rare and expensive goodies, you know, and everyone reluctantly put up with me because I was his baggage.”
“Where was he getting the stuff?” At this point, Diogenes had sniffed the trail.
“Wait a minute … Rupert now would disappear days at a time. He began dressing in finer clothes and grew cold to me until I could no longer endure it and I confronted him. My intent, of course, was to keep my promise and meet you in Berlin. You became my only goal out of that domestic hell, Diogenes! Anyway, when I confronted him he merely said he wasn’t sure about his feelings anymore and that he had cheated on me with the German street-bitch. He said he was also ‘re-thinking his relation’ with Grabmaler and claimed he would reform him and started whispering — because he didn’t want anyone from Bedlamsburg’s entourage to hear — about how Grabmaler was inwardly a decent man who only acted from expedience. He claimed that he had raised us and that we should fly back with him to New York after a few months in Paris. He claimed that he only lingered in Paris for my sake but complained that he felt tired of ‘supporting my resentment’.”
“And how did you reply to that?”
“I cried — to buy time — I wanted to find out where he was going and who he was seeing. You know how gullible he is. He believed me and we shelved our pending break-up.”
“So I followed him. My presence in the apartment was resented anyway, even if I did their chores … I followed him as he met this German bitch … ”
“What’s her name … for ‘purposes of brevity’?”
“Good, go on!”
“He met her, then, walking through dark alleys filled with clothes draped on wires, where Arab families hid among ashcans and street whores escorted clients to cellar stairwells. They picked their way through like rats, while I edged behind, opening a door and walking into a damp warehouse where hundreds of plywood boxes were stacked, the size of cheap coffins, but stuffed with high-quality packing, styrofoam puffs — as if the boxes were to transport something valuable. Workmen and guards smoked cigarettes, nice ones, not those hay-stuffed Gitanes but old American brands, which we saw on the black market barge. Open cases surrounded their benches. And like I say, the workmen were waiting around for someone, while Imke and Rupert walked by them. Naturally I was afraid. But oddly, when I was stopped I merely told them I knew Rupert and they let me go. I walked behind, pausing to tie my shoe so that I wouldn’t overtake him or his whore until they stepped up another stairwell at the rear of the warehouse.”
“When I saw them fiddling with a key to get in I slipped up to the side and, taking a wedge of cardboard, slipped it in the lock after they closed the door. When I pried it open, I snuck into a huge private restaurant besides a lobster aquarium and watched Rupert walk over to a table with Imke, that bitch, and sit down next to, can you believe it, Grabmaler!” She hissed, struggling to contain her fury.
Diogenes expressed no surprise. “Go on … ” he urged her, aware it was painful.
“That’s it. I knew what was going on. Imke was Grabmaler’s worm. He was luring Rupert back through her. He was always suspicious of me but, apparently, after Rupert escaped with me he decided to reel his ‘son’ in with German cunt as bait.”
“Did you notice anything more? What happened?”
“I decided never to let on that I knew about Grabmaler to Rupert. I ran out of there. Same way I came in, before Grabmaler noticed me. He kills people if they get tangibly in his way, you know. I packed up what little I have — you see my sack here — and hitched to Berlin. I spent a week in Saarbrucken and almost walked to Berlin from the German border. If it wasn’t for Georg and Silke I may well have starved. And, of course, My Mann Manfred!” She added, glancing Manfred’s way, who winked momentarily from the generator.
“Was there anything else you noticed when you snuck in that restaurant?”
“I was there for a few seconds. It seemed to be an extension of Grabmaler’s trade-gig.”
“And the warehouse?”
“As I was leaving, I saw several works of art, statues unloaded from a truck at the dock.”
“So. Should we forget about Rupert and let him squirm in the pail. To swim around in Grabmaler’s fish bowl’?”
“No!” Undine’s eyes flashed. “We need to get back to Paris and talk Rupert out of it. More than that, we need to destroy, we need to wreck what we can of Grabmaler’s operation.”
“My! That’s ambitious! I mean, why should you want Rupert back? And what makes you think we’ll succeed? This is about as overblown as Hindenburg’s elastic dream!”
“I’m not sure I want Rupert back. But, I don’t want Imke and Grabmaler to win. That diseased bitch and Grabmaler are parasites! We are one of the few who know what’s going on. And, maybe we can save Rupert and do some … harm?” She smiled, raising an eyebrow, fearful that she had dissuaded Diogenes.
Diogenes glanced over to Manfred and Hindenburg besides a half-inflated balloon. It was a rose color with “Areté” cut out in orange in small stenciled letters at the top. The second balloon inside still had to be inflated. Hindenburg carried the torch over to Manfred as he pedaled, via the crude generator, helium from a storage tank into the larger, exterior balloon. In the front yard, Diogenes could hear Heike and Armin call his name. They were leaving. Hindenburg’s grand project was tied to stakes still in need of being attached to a basket or gondola. And Hindenburg himself hypnotically ignored his children who were being carted away to France.
“Let me wish them good-bye.” Diogenes excused himself, as he walked under the elm tree. They ran to Diogenes, crying. Behind them, the balloon’s top could be seen just over the house. Areté’s relatives forbid the children to see it up close, worrying that Hindenburg would kidnap or persuade them to stay. Armin jumped into Diogenes’ arms and Heike hugged his stomach.
“Say good-bye to Daddy for us!” Heike wept, with puffy eyes.
“It’s better for you to go to France. They say a bad man who is killing people and making war is coming this way. It’d be dangerous for you to stay.” Diogenes consoled her, stroking her hair.
“You were our best and only teacher!” Heike cried.
“Keep up your music!” He smiled.
Areté’s family — the Blanchards — coaxed Armin and Heike from his arms, their luggage already loaded into the cart. The children reluctantly piled in. The horse tugged and they were off toward France. The dog, which had been in Manfred’s cart, tore down the road after them, hopping up to Armin and Heike as they waved good-bye.