Kev the Vampire
by Phillip Donnelly
|Cast of characters|
|Chapter 10 : The Veil of Onion Tears|
(K’s letter to Teacher G.)
What is memory but a beaten path? It is a road of the mind much travelled, a trail hacked through the jungle of forgetfulness, but for every day we do not remember, bushes and brambles and a million weeds of forgetfulness begin to grow over the path and seek to clog it.
We must fight to keep memory open and alive, and so I take up my pen, a machete of the mind, and I honour the promise of penmanship I made to you in the library, in the hope that we may become correspondents, in the requiem of memory to that which I once was.
I am now something altogether different, but yet the memories of the life that was once my own are still intact and it is these memories that write to you. And what news a shadow may distil, I offer you; and I must do so now, before the chrysalis is complete. Before that was one me is but the shady dream of a butterfly.
But let me not dwell on that. A shadow must question the master form. Already I do not know where He begins and I end, or where I end and He begins. Enough...
And so, what news from these distant lakeside shores?
I will not trouble you with my journey. I travelled in the belly of a metal bird and was spat out in a city called Muenchen. From there I travelled south, deep into Bavaria. The terrain grew more mountainous and wooded, and the impression I had was that we were leaving the west and entering the east, travelling backwards in time to a land unstained by the original sin of industrialisation.
Mountain peaks cut the sky and made it bleed all the bluer; forest branches swayed in a drugged euphoria; crystalline streams flowed toward the sea and would not dam the future. Brooks babbled and children played and all around was chirping effervescence.
Had I died and gone to heaven? I wondered.
Alas, no. One might believe in heaven if it was not for the promise of eternal happiness. There can no other bliss than the fleeting kind. It is the like smile of woman: transient, intoxicating and deceitful.
In every heaven there is a hell, and in every hotel there is a kitchen. I wash the guts in this corpus hades. In short, the life of a dishwasher is not as glamorous as one might imagine. Let me recount my first day to you by way of an example.
“Peel faster, faster. Vee need zee onions now, ya! Faster, Auslander! Raus!” the enormous Saxon chef hollered at me.
The room itself seems to shrink in her presence, and even the cockroaches cower at the sonic boom of her guttural voice. Her feminine status is largely notional, and on a dark night, one would assume that she was a man. Indeed, on a very dark night and in the wrong part of the Dublin, one would cross the road to avoid her.
She towers over me, the Koenigsschlosser Hotel’s newest dishwasher-cum-kitchen slave, and I cower in her shadow, shell-shocked and silent, propped on a stool when possible and a shaking standing leaf when not. I am the latest piece of mobile furniture in the Hades that is a German kitchen.
It was the middle of the lunchtime rush, and pots and pans clanked and clanged like screaming junkies. Waiters barked out orders and the head-chef shot them to one or other of his underlings.
I assume the dishes were then eaten, but I never saw this stage in the process. All I did witness was the spinning circle of order to order; the gyre of fire, the ring of noise and heat and flame and passion. The anger and rage and brutal adrenalin-soaked determination would have curdled and spoiled the food and poisoned the guests, were food susceptible to the emotional state of its creators. Chefs do not create food in their own image, and I pray they never will.
Helga muttered something abusive under a snarl and returned to the bedlam of the serving hatch and the kitchen proper, leaving me alone in the tiny annex that is used to prepare food for cooking.
A half-filled plastic bucket of naked onions lay between my legs, and I felt like a netherworld monster, like a thirteen-testicled goblin, whose magical powers lay in acid semen, to be sprayed on masturbators at the moment of ejaculation. But the daemons outside were far more frightening and wanted more and more of my onion-testicles, and they wanted them yesterday.
They always want more. I had earlier peeled a field’s worth of potatoes for them, leaving a stubborn gunk under my nails, but they wanted more. I cleaned red cabbage, staining my fingers, but they wanted more. I washed more dishes and pans in one morning that I had done before in my entire lifetime, but still they wanted more. The kitchen gobbled down the fruits of my morning’s labour and didn’t even burp its thanks to me. The chef hounds are always howling for more, and they seem more threatening than any pack of wolves could ever hope to be.
‘Oh, the children of the Küche, what horrid music they make!’ I said, rather too loudly and was told in no uncertain terms that I was not paid to speak but to work. .
And there I sat, far from the noontime sun, hunched on a three-legged stool that seemed to have been built for Hobbits, using a tiny wooden knife to take off the outer skin of yet more onions. I peeled my testicles and cried.
You will think it strange, no doubt, since vampire folklore clearly states that a vampire can no more cry than he can see his reflection in a mirror, and this is true, but until the vampire within me finds his immortal beloved — our immortal beloved — our vampire traits lie hidden, and both special powers and special flaws are null and void.
And so I cried, and tears streamed down my pale cheeks and I blinked like a flirtatious cartoon character, all eyelashes and flutter. Onion after onion plopped into the bucket, piling up like albino turds.
Around me, in the square windowless alcove, a graveyard of little-used pots and pans rested on shelves and would have mocked me, had they not been so indifferent. These utensils had been poked and prodded by armies of kitchen workers and could no longer tell one from another.
One hand is much like another when you’ve had hundreds of them inside you. They are like worn-out whores who care not what client is poking them. Dressed in a faded striped kitchen uniform and looking like a prisoner, I was just one more Wascher to them; one more scrubber in search of German Geld.
Tiles, greyed by age, sank down the walls and carpeted the floor. In the centre of the room, a stained drain ran to the underworld. A depressing fluorescent bulb spat out a grey light and added to the murk. It hummed and hummed but said nothing, regardless of how much I stared at it.
My postulations on the nature of the bulb were halted by the reappearance of Helga, who took exception to his momentary distraction from the world of onion peeling.
‘Shisa! Wo ist mein Zwiebel, Auslander? Was ist das?’ she barked, pointing at the onions.
‘They are onions,’ I replied, feeling that I should say something quickly, even if it was only to state the obvious and to try to move the dialogue into a tongue I was familiar with.
‘I know zay are onions. Vy are zay not finish? Vy are you looking at zee light and not working?’
There was a short pause in which I absorbed the sadness of the room — an abandoned, unwanted annex that would never take centre stage. I inhaled it deeply and comforted it, caressing it with my bronchioles; or perhaps the room became imbued with the surreal incongruity of my ethereal essence; perhaps it felt sorrow for me, marooned with a strange woman in a strange time.
I became the room and the room became me. One. A pathos indivisible and of itself; a unity of sentiment frozen in the space-time-emotion continuum. One could not tell where one began and one ended.
One could not tell much, as it happens, since Helga was standing in front of the bulb and her gargantuan frame was blocking almost all the light.
I spoke slowly, more to the room and to the shadow of loss than to Helga.
‘I was thinking of the past; of a time before artificial light and reason, of an age of faith and candlelight. I was dreaming of the azure limpid eyes of my immortal beloved, bluer than the Danube. I was staring into the mists of time and calling out to her. “Elizabetha, Elizabetha, come back to me, Elizabetha. Look into eyes once more. Let my black heart beat again and”—’
My lamentations were cut short by a torrent of Teutonic invective, the meaning of which was lost on me, but the tone was unmistakable. Helga appeared to be deeply saddened and even angered by my tragic loss, even if it was more than half a millennium ago, but she enjoined me to redouble my efforts in undressing vegetables and in so doing to distract myself from the pangs of lost love.
She bent low and a wind of her armpit essence assaulted my nostrils. It was a strange non-human odour I was not familiar with. She picked one of my onion-testicles from the plastic bucket and grabbed the knife from my hand and proceeded to illustrate the correct manner for peeling an onion faster than the speed of light.
‘Danka shoe horn, Frauline Helga,’ I said.
I looked up and noticed two things: firstly how blue the Saxon’s eyes were; and secondly, that in spite of the onion scraping, her eyes were as dry as before. Could it be, I wondered, that my most beauteous Elizabetha was trapped in this blunderbuss form and that her beauty would not return until our union was joined in nuptial bliss?
‘We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness,’ I whispered, trying to add an air of mystery and passing an opaque message that only Elizabetha might understand.
‘Ze onions, Auslander! Ze Zwiebel! Raus!’
* * *
(End of K’s letter to Teacher G.)
To be continued...
Copyright © 2011 by Phillip Donnelly