Hamburg Train station at midnight

by Lorraine Whelan

Excited, sitting in the compartment with thoughts of music history: The Beatles used to play here, before they became famous. Oh, the earliest of sixties! I was only a baby then, but later saw loads of pictures. The lads were so young. The photos were black and white and grey. I imagine they were tough in a gritty town.

          But my reverie was disturbed. A ruckus of youth was getting on the train, shouting and laughing in German, a language foreign to me. One young man lurched into my compartment, saying something to me directly. I could not tell by his face whether he was friendly or sinister. He was definitely drunk. I heard others call to him and he turned his head to shout a reply while bolstering himself with the compartment doorframe. I hoped the others would not join him. He continued talking unaware that I had no inkling of his meaning. He kept reaching into the side of his jacket, never retrieving what I imagined to be a weapon of some sort. I felt threatened and thought it best to remain quiet. I tried to be calm, and I tried to make him realize that I didn’t understand his questions (that much I did understand, by the periodic raising of tone at the end of a sentence).

          The interrogation continued. The German fellow swayed, his drunkenness unmistakable. Two other lads arrived, hovering behind him. They were louder even than my German fellow. Perhaps more drunk. In any case, words became meaningless as expressions of anger became apparent. My fellow gripped the doorframe tightly as the other two tried to pull him away. Eventually they succeeded and I breathed a sigh of relief as the compartment door slid closed. I heard a scuffle in the carriage corridor. It was nearly time for the train to leave.

          Suddenly, the noise of a scuffle became louder and I definitely heard my German shout nein. The train started slowly and I looked out the window at the dim platform. A young man—I recognized him—was sprawled on the ground, half-conscious. Reaching into his coat he retrieved a small bottle and took a swig before lying back down, resigned to missing his train.

Lorraine Whelan

 

Lorraine Whelan is a Canadian writer and visual artist based in Ireland. Her prose, poetry, and art criticism has appeared in Ireland, Canada, the USA, Luxembourg and online in such literary and art journals as The Salmon, Canadian Woman Studies/les cahiers de la femme, Cyphers, The Examined Life Journal, CIRCA, and others. Precariat Press published her first chapbook of poems, Home Sweet Home Goodbye, in 2020. Whelan’s artwork is included in public, private, and corporate collections in Ireland, the USA, Canada, the UK, Belgium, and Australia, and her next solo exhibition will open in Feb 2022 at Rathfarnham Castle in Dublin.

— Bill Gaythwaite

"People have always looked up to Glen ― in school, in sports, on the job.  He knows he is endowed with something called leadership quality. He has courted this reputation, built it carefully, like a log cabin, but occasionally the obligation overwhelms him, and he feels up to his neck with it.  It’s rather tiring to always be so dependable. "

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