Forgotten Songs From An Imaginary Life, Chapter 10

BROKEN ROAD-1

A short chapter here, so pour yourself a stiff one (Dr Pepper on the rocks, anyone?) and settle in for a quickie. 

Odd little juxtaposition. About an hour after I posted chapter nine word came out regarding the hostage situation at the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas. Hate never sleeps.

Part II: The Broken Road 

Chapter 10

Tel Aviv, Israel                                                       22 November 1976

Most guests invited to Anders Sorensen’s marriage to Anya Eisenstadt arrived on commercial flights from California. Theodore Sorensen, as well as Sam and Katharine Gold, arrived by private jet, in this case by Sam’s Gulfstream II, and in a curious way this conspicuous arrival set the tone surrounding Ted’s introduction to Israel. He was accorded a different level of deference by state bureaucracies that the others did not experience, and none of these little things escaped Ted’s notice. Power was power, he was learning, yet passive displays of the symbols and accoutrements of power often meant that more obvious exercises of gross power were often unnecessary.

And somehow, within a day of his arrival in Tel Aviv, all of the invited guests knew that Ted had arrived by private jet. Unknown to these guests, however, was Katharine Gold’s ‘condition’ – for she was now quite pregnant – though still barely ‘showing’. Also, though Tilly Sorensen had been invited to the wedding she chose not to come, for – oddly enough – she was still rather angry about the whole second marriage thing. The Callahans chose not to attend, as well – for Imogen had never felt comfortable with the Sorensen’s divorce and she did not want to be seen taking sides. Tilly therefore spent her Thanksgiving at the Callahan house in Potrero Hills.

Anders had asked Saul Rosenthal to stand with Ted under the chuppah, while Anya, a recent emigre from Soviet Armenia and without parents, had no onto stand with. For Anya was indeed alone, and it was becoming clear to all concerned that Anya had been characterized by the authorities as some sort of ‘mail-order bride’… She was certainly much younger than Anders, and quite good looking too, but little else was known of her background by Anders’ friends and associates.

Ted was not amused when he learned of this, yet had he known more about the precarious history of Armenian Jews he might have at the very least been more understanding. As it was, once Ted heard the first faint rumblings surrounding Anya’s presumed role in these proceedings he grew more skeptical by the hour. More skeptical and, in both word and deed, less understanding.

Yet for some reason his father seemed quite happy when he was standing beside Anya, and with Sam’s steady counsel never far away Ted took a cautious ‘wait and see’ approach. Kat, for her part, was as gracious as could be to Anya – which of course meant that Anya was soon never far away from either Anders or Katharine. For her part, Katharine would soon become the tiny, empathetic voice whispering in Ted’s ear, her counsel a mirror image of her father’s: watch; listen; say nothing you might regret; smile – even when you don’t feel like smiling.

Ted spent almost every moment standing beside Sam Gold; Katharine listened to Anya Tarkov, who happened to speak flawless English – as well as French, German, and the Germanic Yiddish of Ashkenazi Jews – for it turned out that parts of her family had once prospered in cities such as Heidelberg and Copenhagen, before being forced into exile – first to the Soviet Union and thence to Armenia. She came from a family of academics and physicians; Anya was, at 35 years of age, already a trained cardio-thoracic surgeon. Katharine soon began to feel that of all the people she’d met so far in Israel, Anya Eisenstadt was by far the most cultured she’d talked to. It wasn’t long before Kat began to understand just how delightful Anya truly was, and how truly blessed Anders must have felt when he first met her.

Yet Ted rarely listened to Kat when she spoke of all this, at least when Anya’s background was the chosen topic of conversation. Worse still, Ted was cool, almost distant and preoccupied around her, and it wasn’t long before Anders began to notice.

Katharine, ever the empath, took this deterioration seriously, enough to talk to her own father about Ted. Sam began to watch the boy, trying to understand all the varieties of his antipathy, and the more he watched the more he began to see a complex deterioration of the relationship between father and son – and this he simply did not understand.

Was it a basic failing within the boy? Could Ted simply not understand the emotional complexities of survivor’s guilt? Did the boy, at root, simply have no frame of reference to understand the Jewish experience of the camps? Of the continuing diaspora? Were America’s schools doing such a poor job of conveying the tortured landscape of Hate?

The ceremony was never meant to be a lavish affair but as Kat – and Sam – learned more about Anya the scale of the post-nuptial celebration increased in both scale and social importance. Sam talked to people. Government ministers took note. Various important people’s names were added to the guest list – and all this happened over the span of a few days – so that by the time of the actual ceremony the list had grown from less than thirty names to more than a hundred, and as his father’s wedding seemed to grow in stature Ted’s acceptance of Anya seemed to grow. The event was remembered by all concerned as a happy, even a joyous affair.

Ted observed that Sam seemed to operate in Israel just as he did in Los Angeles. He was comfortable, and perhaps because Sam was well connected in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as he was LA? Ted soon learned that Sam was well connected because he gave, and quite generously, to a number of important Israeli charities – and to many Israeli politicians connected to those charities. Sam did so because he owned quite a lot of property in and around Tel Aviv, and he had purchased these properties with an eye to building residential projects. Yet he never talked about these investments. He never let on that it was his intent to immigrate to Israel as soon as he had cultivated an heir to handle his affairs in the States.

Yet what Sam Gold observed in Ted Sorensen filled his heart with foreboding. The boy had displayed all the killer instincts necessary to flourish in Hollywood; he had proven to be, in fact, a more than competent producer while Falling Water was in development. Yet there was something missing in the boy, something important, something…vital. 

Ted lacked both humility and humanity. He didn’t just want power, he appeared to crave it, and not just the power to create or to build, but power for power’s sake. The boy was, in a word, dangerous.

Yet his daughter loved the boy, and she had apparently loved him enough to ‘forget’ to take her birth control pills. She loved him enough to want to have a baby with him, to put-off her studies for at least a year to have this baby with him – so at some point he had to recognize that he’d raised Katharine inside a home that valued humility and compassion, so surely her choice would reflect those values.

+++++

The Gulfstream made an unscheduled stop on the way back to California. 

The jet landed in West Berlin, itself an audacious act that required serious political muscle, and which meant that the jet was met by a sizable contingent of US Army troops. Sam led Ted and his daughter to the car indicated by a light colonel, and after leaving the airport their small convoy drove into the Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf district of Berlin, and then to the Plötzensee Prison complex. The colonel escorted the group to a small brick building not far from the main administrative center and led them inside. Almost instantly someone turned on floodlights and the white painted walls seemed to come alive, as if they had a tale to tell and only lacked iron-willed souls ready to stand and listen. And to remember.

The colonel led them to the far wall and pointed to pockmarks in the brick – with a brown leather riding-crop he wielded with precision. “Bullet holes,” he said, the words a steely statement of fact. “In the early forties new prison guards were trained here, in this room.” Next he pointed to five hooks suspended from a heavy timber beam that spanned the width of the room. “Routine political executions took place in the courtyard, usually by guillotine. Jews, on the other hand, came in for special treatment. The prisoner’s hands were tied overhead and then they were suspended from these hooks. Guards used them for target practice, I understand to get new recruits used to killing unarmed human beings.”

Katharine turned and ran into her father’s arms; he sheltered her and took her back to their waiting car. 

Ted stood there, entranced.

“They’ve bricked-over all the other parts of the apparatus,” the colonel continued. “They had meathooks suspended from the tracks you see up there, and the track – we assume – was chain-driven and ran in a large oval. Children were impaled on the hooks and their squirming bodies then sent along the track. They were more challenging to hit, or so I understand.”

“You’re not serious…” Ted whispered. 

“Oh, similar set-ups were found in Poland. We think this facility was a ‘proof-of-concept’ operation; the walls had already been bricked over when the Russians got here, but the very same arrangement, right down to the same hardware, was found in operational condition at both Auschwitz and Treblinka. Survivor’s accounts, mainly of those carting the bodies off to crematories, fill in the blanks.”

“This is monstrous. Simply monstrous.”

“Is this your first camp?” the colonel asked, gently, knowingly.

“Yes.”

“I hate to say it, but this is nothing.”

“Nothing? How can you say that?”

“Do your research, Mr. Sorensen.”

“How can you stand it? To live here, surrounded by these monsters…?”

The colonel nodded, then he turned and looked Sorensen in the eye. “I’ve lived here for six years and I haven’t met one monster here. Not one, Mr. Sorensen. Hitler and his pals sold the German people real a bill of goods…he promised to ‘Make Germany Great Again’ and part of the mechanism of Hate they built to do that was focused on scapegoating the Jewish population here. They were a prosperous people but more importantly there were a few prominent Jewish politicians during the Republic. Those Jews were accused…”

“The stab in the back. Yeah, I’ve heard that one – and that still doesn’t explain why you think these people aren’t monsters.”

“They’re just people, Mr. Sorensen. People like you and me. Many were broke and starving and Hitler came along and told them exactly what they wanted to hear. ‘It’s not your fault! It’s the Jews! Follow me and together we will restore Germany.’ It’s the same formula would-be dictators trot out and use all the time. It goes back to Caligula and the Germanic tribes and, hell, I don’t know, it probably goes back to cold men huddled in caves, to when we first learned to kill each other. To Hate.”

“You’ve seen more things like this? These things, I mean?” Ted asked, pointing at the track mounted on the ceiling.

“Me? Yessir, I have. Funny thing, though. The first time I saw stuff like this was over in Vietnam. Laos and Cambodia, too.” The colonel chuckled a little, then shook his head. Truth is, it’s everywhere, Mr. Sorensen. Every place you find desperate people my guess is you’ll find Hate waiting in the wings, and when you find people blindly willing to follow Hate you’ll find the same kind of thing.”

Ted nodded his head slowly, then he held out his right hand. “Thank you, Colonel.”

“You’re welcome, sir. Now…we really need to get you back out to the airport…before the Russians throw a real first-class hissy-fit…”

© 2021-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | adrianleverkühnwrites.com all rights reserved, and as usual this is just a little bit of fiction, pure and simple.

BTW: reader recommendation for Tangent:

Gracias and thanks for dropping by.

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