It turned out to be a gloomy cold apartment house in a street off the Nollendorf Platz. Bicycles chained to the banister, dim light bulbs, a smell of cooking gas, and the faint sound of dance music. We climbed to the fourth floor. The dance music was louder. We knocked.

Fritz Falke opened the door. Behind him. we saw the party in progress.

"I've brought a bottle of Scotch and my friend -" 1 began, but another man interrupted, shouting "Keith! Can it be? The Limping Eagle of La Rochelle?" and he was shaking hands with Christoph, they were grinning, explaining that they had spent years together in a prison camp, had come back across the Rhine in the same freight car.... I was introduced to Hans Kowalski, our host: iron-gray hair and horn-rimmed glasses, the torso of a weight lifter, callused hands.... His apartment consisted of two large rooms containing little furniture but lots of people. In one corner a Victrola was playing and a few couples were doing the tango. The air was thick with cigarette smoke, and the only light came from a few candles that flickered in front of the mantelpiece mirror.

"Come along," said Falke, taking my arm. "First we pour ourselves some of your expensive whisky, then we hide the bottle or it will disappear in two minutes, then I will introduce you to some nice girls...."

I was leaning against the wall when I heard the guitar. I had made a circuit of the rooms, sipping my Scotch, looking at the dim figures dancing and talking and arguing and kissing and wandering lost like me. One corner of the second room was Hans Kowalski's studio. A strong wooden work table covered with newspapers, some sketches tacked on the wall, a block of yellow stone that was beginning to look like a woman's face ... I heard the guitar. I turned and saw that the player was sitting on the high table, his legs crossed, the guitar in his lap. I could barely see him by the light of the candle. He was about my age, thin short black hair and small black eyes and a long pointy nose and steel-rimmed spectacles. He wore a leather windbreaker over a turtleneck sweater. His head was too small. His ears stuck out. He needed a shave.

He began to sing in a high, hoarse voice, and he had an accent that made it hard for me to understand his German, but the effect was overwhelming just the same. Somebody turned off the Victrola, people from the front room came crowding into the studio, and then there wasn't a sound except the strumming guitar and the rasping voice of the singer and his song.

He sang, and I could barely understand what he was singing about (Baal? Who is Baal?).


Magic. He cast a magic spell into the room, and I did the only thing I could: I put my glass down, took out my notebook and began to sketch his face.

He sang and sang, and I kept staring and sketching, and when he finished, the place exploded with applause.

"Who is that?" I asked whoever stood jammed beside me.

"I think his name is Becht."

"Brecht," said Fritz Falke, pushing through. "Bertolt Brrrecht. Look, you've drawn his picture, come and meet him," and he pulled me toward the singer, who was surrounded by admirers. He had put the guitar on the table and was trying to light a cigar stub. We were introduced. He studied my sketch carefully, puffing smoke.

"I think you've made me prettier than I am."

"That's his problem," said Falke. "He flatters his subjects. I'm trying to cure him."

Hans Kowalski appeared with a glass of Scotch for Brecht. "This gentleman brought something special."

Brecht raised the glass to me: "Zum Wohl." I raised mine too.

"Would you write down the words to that song?" I asked.

"Write them down? They are written down, next fall they will be published as a book. It's called Baal. It's a play." He looked at me as he drank another slug of whisky. "You know Chicago?"

"Chicago? Well, I've been there, but only between trains. You have to change trains . . ."

He asked questions about Chicago. He asked if I'd been in the American army. I told him no, I'd driven an ambulance. For the French. Brecht started to laugh. "You were what we call a Sanitäter That's what I was." Then he leaned back and addressed the crowd around us:

"In honor of our American guest, I want to sing 'The Cavaliers of Station D,' written Anno Eighteen in the Augsburg Military Hospital, Department of Venereal Diseases."

And he sang: He sang about the flames of love that burn when you are young and full of fire. He sang about how hot love burns--but how the clap burns hotter still.

The crowd roared and yelled with laughter, and Brecht and Falke and Christoph Keith, all drinking my Scotch, spent the next half hour writing it down in German, trying to help me translate -loosely-into English, so that Brecht could sign and trade it for my sketch:

"Want to go to another party?," asked Brecht. "Big house in the Tiergartenstrasse, lots of food, lots of alcohol. I'm afraid we have finished your whisky here."

Christoph Keith declined: "I'm an office slave and have to work tomorrow. "Then he drew me aside. "You know these people are Communists?"

"They are?" I had never met a Communist.



Fritz Falke and Brecht and I took a taxi across town to a mansion in the Tiergartenstrasse. I paid. The block was lined with glistening limousines, each containing a sleeping chauffeur.

"Whose party is this?" I said.

"A Jew from Galicia. Made millions in the stock market," said Brecht.

The butler who let us into an enormous marble foyer took Brecht's guitar without changing his expression.

Blazing lights, crowds of people in evening dress, a small orchestra playing tangos, a long dining room table displaying platters of caviar sandwiches, smoked salmon sandwiches and silver ice buckets containing bottles of French champagne and Polish vodka.

Brecht and Falke made directly for the food.

"Shouldn't we say good evening to the host?" I asked.

"Yes, if we see him," said Brecht.

"You'll see him," said Falke. "He'll want you to sing."

A waiter appeared with three glasses of champagne on a tray. We took them.

"Prosit Bacchus," said Brecht, raising his glass.

"Prosit the stock market," said Falke. We drank.

They pointed out some famous people: a lovely film star; a fat theatre director; the most influential drama critic in Berlin.

"Achtung," said Falke, glancing over my shoulder. "Here comes our host."

He was about as tall as I am, which is not very tall, but he was broad-shouldered and fat, quite bald, with a round flat face and features like a boxer or a football player. It was hard to judge how old he was -maybe forty-five. He wore a tuxedo, and after I shook hands my hand smelled of perfume or shaving lotion.

"Herr Brecht, Herr Falke ... I'm honored that you could come." He spoke German with a Russian accent. Introductions: My new American student ...

He tried out his English on me. He offered us cigars from an alligator case. A waiter came with another tray of champagne. While looking over the rim of my glass I suddenly realized why all this looked so familiar: it was a scene from Falke's cartoons.

Our host was Falke's creation. I felt dizzy. The champagne was foaming in my skull, and I wondered if I was asleep somewhere and dreaming.

"Herr Brecht, I hope you didn't leave your guitar at home!"

Brecht went to get his guitar and Falke went, to get caviar. For an instant our host was undecided whether to leave me or to attempt more conversation.

I tried to help him. "I understand you are in the stock market."

He brightened. Yes! Was I interested in the stock market? I told him of my days at Drexel, trying to make it sound funny. "I'm afraid that stocks and bonds are not my dish of tea."

Conversation: How long had I been in Berlin? What had I done? What had I seen? Whom had I met?

The dizziness had passed and I chatted along, happily primed with my Scotch and his champagne ... and suddenly I noticed that a curtain had come down. His face looked completely different.

"You arrived here last week, and today you had lunch at Waldstein and Co. That's extremely interesting." He took out a silver instrument and used it to snip a tiny hole into the end of his cigar. "I have been here since the spring of 1919, I am one of the most successful traders on the Berlin stock market, I am received by Hugo Stinnes, I am consulted by Walther Rathenau, all of the interesting and important people come to my house- but I have never been invited to lunch at the Gendarmenmarkt!"

He put the cigar into his mouth and struck a match. His hand was shaking. "You will excuse me, please. I must arrange a place for Brecht to sing for us."



We left Brecht at the party, surrounded by adoring women. Falke said it was time to pick up Bärbel and Baby. We had eaten all the hors d'oeuvres we could hold, and I watched Falke wrap three caviar sandwiches into linen napkins and distribute them among his pockets.

I offered to pay for a taxi, but Falke thought we should walk. I fell down twice between the Tiergartenstrasse and the Landwehr Canal, which is only a couple of blocks.

"I'd better go home," I said as he helped me up the second time.

"Is your stomach all right?" asked Falke.

"Yes. It's my head. I'm dizzy."

"Dizzy? That's 'nothing. You need fresh air and exercise. We will march over to the Friedrichstrasse."

"I'm really not used to doing this all night long," I said, stumbling along unsteadily beside him.

Falke laughed. "We have a saying: 'Man muss die Feste feiern wie sie fallen.' You understand? You celebrate when you get the chance. In Germany today, we don't get many chances."

We were walking through an expensive residential district: big houses, big chestnut trees, immaculate empty sidewalks, an occasional car purring by, streetlights reflected in the black water of the canal. Our footsteps rang in the silence.

"See that bridge?" asked Falke. "That's where the boys from the Guards Cavalry Division dumped Rosa Luxemburg. She wasn't found for weeks. People thought she'd escaped. Then she floated into one of the locks. They made up a song: 'A Rosa is Swimming in the Landwehr Canal.`

"Did you know her?"

"Certainly I knew her."

"She was the leader of the Spartacists?"

"She and Liebknecht. They shot him the same night, back there in the Tiergarten."


I still had to concentrate on walking, but the cool night air was clearing my head. "What was she like?"

"Well, I can show you a sketch I did. Plump little Jewess from Russian Poland. Not pretty. Passion and brains, bravest of the brave, but sensible too. She knew the people wouldn't rise to a Communist revolution. Tried to talk Liebknecht out of it, but Liebknecht wanted to fight. So we had our little Spartacus Week. January 1919. Didn't amount to much, I can tell you, but it scared the shit out of the middle class. Germans don't like mobs in the streets and red flags and disorder. And Jewish girls from Poland taking over Das Deutsche Reich! So the government brought in the Freikorps. And you know what happened."

"Did you fight with the Spartacists?" I asked.

"No. I'm a coward. I learned that in France. But the soldiers didn't like my pictures. In a way, I fought with pictures, and they came to get me."

"And what did you do?"

"I hid. They shot five men in our courtyard. They threw an eighteen-year-old boy off the roof. But they didn't find me."

'Where were you?"

"I Mutti Bauer's bed!"



The Friedrichstrasse at night was even more brightly lighted and more garish than the Kurfürstendamm, but it was late now and business seemed to be slowing down. The nightclub barkers stood about with their hands in their pockets, chatting with each other. A few tired-looking girls strolled slowly along the sidewalk, sometimes running out to speak with men in the cruising cars.

A tall thin blonde stopped in front of us: "Hallo, Fritz. May I show your friend something interesting?" She began to unbutton her raincoat.

"Thank you, not tonight, dear," said Falke, closing the raincoat and gently turning her around. "We've just come to pick up the girls."

"You won't find Bärbel - and I think there's been some trouble about Baby ..."

"What do you mean? What kind of trouble?"

"I don't know, the cops were in there earlier this evening, but I don't think they caught her."

Falke let go of the girl's arm and strode up the Friedrichstrasse. I kept up with him.

"Could this be something with the woman from the School Administration?" I asked.

Falke nodded.

We swept past the uniformed doorman of a big glittering place called Adam und Eva: a foyer of red velvet and gilded mirrors, beyond that a large dim smoky room full of tables and chairs, beyond that an empty stage.

Somebody was playing "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" on a piano. The last show was over and there were not many customers left, but before I could see much of the big room the headwaiter and a fat young man in a double-breasted blue pinstriped suit appeared.

"Herr Falke!" They tried to draw him aside.

"No, it's all right, he's my friend. American. Where's Baby?"

"She's in there, Herr Falke, but this must be her last night," said the blue pinstripe, apparently the manager. "The police were here this evening with some woman from the School Administration -of course we were warned and had Baby out the back in plenty of time - but the woman made an unbelievable scene, right here in front of customers, showed me a birth certificate, told me she would close me down.... I mean it's 'just not worth my job to me, Herr Falke, she's a good girl and the customers like her, but I'm not interested in trouble with the police, I can get a dozen girls for every place -"

"Basta," said Falke. "No speech necessary. I understand. Where's the money?"

The manager tugged a bulging envelope from inside his jacket. "Here, I've got it all ready, do you want to count it?"

Falke looked at the envelope but didn't touch it. "We said dollars."

The manager shook his head. "Can't do it. Slow night, we just don't have them tonight."

"You want to see Bärbel here tomorrow night?"

"This has nothing to do with Bärbel, Herr Falke. She isn't even in the house at the moment. . . ."

"You want to see Bärbel here tomorrow night?"

"Herr Falke, believe me -"

"No dollars for Baby, no Bärbel for Adam und Eva," said Falke evenly. "Peter, you go in and sit down and order a bottle of champagne. But don't pay for it! My friend and I will have a little business discussion in his office."

The manager shrugged and disappeared behind a curtain. Falke followed him. The headwaiter, who had watched all this in silence, bowed to me and said in English: "If you please, sir."



I thought I would never make it up all those stairs. Falke supported me on one side and Baby on the other. They did it three steps at a time: "Eins, zwel, drei, hoppla!" Pause. Rest. "All right? Aufwärts marsch! Eins, zwei, drei, hoppla!"

It was nearly daylight. Workmen wearing cloth caps came tramping down the steps, staring at us, staring mostly at Baby, looking away in disgust.

Falke had let me pay for the taxi, but he wouldn't let me keep it to go back to Grunewald. "We can't send you home like this," he had said, pushing me right out of the car. "You come upstairs with us and sleep it off."

"You don't have room for me." I tried to lie down on the cold gritty sidewalk.

"Plenty of room, plenty of room." Falke pulled me to my feet. "Get under his other shoulder, Baby."

Baby's hair smelled of cigarette smoke. In the taxi she had cried a little. "What are we going to do if I can't work?"

"We'll make it," Falke had assured her. "It won't hurt you to go to school a little."

"I can't stand that stinking school. I'll run away!,"

"No you won't," said Falke. "I have other plans for you," but we never heard what they were, because the taxi stopped at Kaiser-Friedrichstrasse 101, the tenement in Neukölln.


"All right, you've made it, Peter, we're here, just one ... more ...push: ... zwei, drei, hoppla!" and while I held on to Falke, Baby unlocked the door.

Dim, gray silent kitchen. Snores from the bedroom. I sat down at the table and put my head in my arms. Baby and Falke whispered. Falke went into the bedroom. The snores stopped. Baby went back out into the hall. What were they doing? I think I fell asleep. Then they were both in the kitchen again. moving around. Falke's hand was on my shoulder.

"Come on, old boy. One more thing before we sleep."

"No, I'm all right. Sleep here."

"Come on, old boy." He wrapped his thick arms around my chest and pulled me to my feet. "Just a short call at the watering station." I held on to him as we stumbled out into the hallway, passed the doors of other apartments, opened the door to what looked like a closet but turned out to be a reeking toilet.

"Can you stand up by yourself?" asked Falke, right behind me.

"Yes." I held on to the wall, tried not to breathe, unbuttoned my pants and emptied my bladder. As I buttoned up again and moved out to make room for Falke, a toothless old woman appeared, carrying two brimming chamber pots.

"Guten Morgen, die Herren," she said politely and stood there, waiting her turn, until Falke came out.

I made it back to the apartment, but now the hallway felt like the pitching promenade deck of the Mauretania during an Atlantic gale. When I reached the kitchen I tried to lie down on the table.

"No, no," Falke whispered, grabbing my arm. "We have a bed for you." He guided me into the next room. I could just make out the boy asleep on his little cot by the door, and Baby already in the big bed which must have been her mother's. Her eyes were shut. What had they done with Mutti Bauer? Where was Bärbel? Falke eased me onto the empty bed, pulled off my shoes, went into the studio, and closed the door. The last thing I heard was the creaking of bedsprings.

I was dreaming. I think I was dreaming about a storm on the Mauretania and I was cold, but then I was awake because a small hand was opening my shirt, pulling my pants off, rolling me over to pull my arms out of my shirtsleeves ...

"Baby? "

"Shh! Don't wake the boy. Can't sleep in your clothes.... Move over a bit, will you?"

She slid in beside me, naked, soft, terribly thin. She wrapped herself around me. I could feel her ribs. I could feel every bone in her body.

"Listen, Baby-"

She put a hand over my mouth and her lips to my ear. "Don't talk." She put her tongue in my ear. Her hands moved.



"It doesn't matter. You've had too much to drink."

It wasn't anything I had to drink. It was my mother's face, the expression on my mother's face in the doorway, as our eyes met over Else Westerich's broad milky shoulder....

I fell asleep with Baby's soft hand holding me.

But then I was awake again - I think I was awake again but maybe I was dreaming - and I was hard as a rock, inside her, and she was on top of me, all over and around me, squirming like a snake, hot sticky skin and perfume and sweat and her tongue in my ear, and I thought my God you can go to jail for this, this is absolute jailbait, but I didn't stop and she didn't stop until we were finished, gasping for breath, and then, after just a minute or two, I felt her muscles clenching again and she was out of bed, her feet thumping on the floor and into the studio hissing "Raus! Raus!" and in there the bedsprings creaked again, Mutti Bauer appeared, naked under an open bathrobe. Stumbling, half asleep, she let Baby shove her into the other bed, let Baby roll in beside her, let Baby draw the heavy quilt over them just as the kitchen door opened and Bärbel walked into the darkness.

Bärbel emitted a tired sigh, sat down on my bed, immediately jumped up, went over to the window, lifted the shade to let more light in and inspected the scene. I thought of a room full of children pretending to be asleep when their parents come in. Bärbel dropped the shade and walked into the studio. Voices, but low voices; apparently not an argument. A moment later Bärbel came out, dressed only in her kimono, and went into the kitchen. Water splashing from the pitcher, sounds of washing. She padded through the bedroom again, returned to studio, said: "God, am I tired!" and shut the door.

Sinking away now ... A damp little hand reached out of the darkness grasped my index finger, let go ... .. Sinking away. to the sound of Mutti Bauer's slow and steady breathing, I suddenly realized that I had forgotten to remember my mother's face in the doorway.

previous chapter, next chapter

1. PARIS 1922
2. VERDUN 1916
17. THURSDAY, JUNE 15, 1922
18. MONDAY, JUNE 19, 1922
19. WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21, 1922
20. FRIDAY, JUNE 23, 1922
21. SATURDAY, JUNE 24, 1922