Thursday, May 09, 2024

20 Years--Free Excerpt from "Back in the DDR"


This year marks my 20th year as a professional writer. Over the course of 2024, I'll be sharing a few of those offerings you may have missed along the way.

This week I'm featuring a free excerpt from my novel Back in the DDR. Many real life events are recounted in the book, including the death of German terrorist Ulrike Meinhof of the Red Army Brigade. She was found hanged in her prison cell this week (May 9) in 1976.

This excerpt shows how that event was woven into the novel. It takes place the evening after the main character (and narrator) Rudi accidentally hit a Colonel's wife with a water balloon thrown off a third floor balcony...

Dwayne headed back to his apartment, and David and I went to our building. It had been six hours since the splash-down. I shook David’s hand outside his apartment before the walk up the potentially dangerous two flights of stairs above.

                “Good luck,” David said.

                “If anything happens to me,” I said, “I just wanted to thank you for all you’ve taught me.”

                David put his hand on my shoulder. He couldn’t form the words to say his final goodbye. When his apartment door closed, I was all alone.

                I tiptoed past the scary Southern lady’s apartment and was relieved that she didn’t hear me. I took a deep breath outside our apartment door. It was now or never.

                When the door opened, I saw Dad sitting on his blue recliner. He was smoking a cigarette and reading the newspaper. He didn’t even look up. I could hear Mom in the kitchen, getting dinner ready. The table was already set. I closed the door behind me and tried to walk to my room as casually as possible. Mom saw me first.

                “Oh there you are,” she said. “Where have you been?”

                “Um,” I sputtered. “They have a piano at the teen club.” A totally true, if completely unrelated, statement.

                “Wash up for dinner,” she said.

                Dad didn’t say a word. He seemed entranced by the story he was reading in the paper. I could only see the front-page headline: “Ulrike Meinhof Hangs Herself in Prison”

                The three of us sat at our usual spots at the dining room table. Dad at the head of the table, mom to his left, and me on his right. Dinner smelled tremendous. One of mom’s specialties, Rouladen. Dad closed his eyes and said the blessing.

                “Dear Lord,” he said, “thank you for this wonderful food, and the incredible culinary talents you sent me through this beautiful woman Helga.”

                Mom smiled.

                “And Lord,” he continued, “I know you probably didn’t call for Ulrike Meinhof to join you in the kingdom of heaven, but if for some reason you have a communist terrorist section up there, please re-educate them about the world before I come to join you, so I won’t have to listen to their radical nonsense for eternity. Amen.”

                All three of us did the sign of the cross.

                “Oh,” Dad said, “one more thing. Lord, please give some peace to the crazy woman who lives below us. May she walk out the front door of our building for the rest of her time here without getting hit by another water balloon, and please forgive whoever hit her with that water balloon today, for he or she probably didn’t do it on purpose. Amen.”

                “Amen,” Mom said.

                I was afraid to speak.

                I cut through my Rouladen, and carefully snuck a glance at Dad’s face.

                He was grinning.