Another Kind of Country

Another Kind of Country by Kevin Brophy

Book: Another Kind of Country by Kevin Brophy Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kevin Brophy
every smell or lie or crime that is in our midst. Can you close your eyes and your ears, Herr Miller? Can you cover your nose against the stench?’
    The general got to his feet.
    ‘You see this?’ The general was brandishing a framed black-and-white photo of a family group. ‘My father – a small farmer in West Prussia.’ A finger stabbed. ‘My mother – a farmer’s wife.’ More finger-stabbing. ‘And my sister, Heidi, and – and me.’ Miller stared at the solemn-faced dark-haired boy, the pigtailed girl, the unsmiling parents. General Reder seemed to take hold of himself, laid the photo gently back on his desk. ‘I was the only one alive at the end of the war, even if I was in a prisoner-of-war camp. I never learned how they died, my parents and my sister.’ A silence. ‘Never even found their bodies.’
    He sat again, heavily, and Miller watched him draw a hand across his brow.
For pity’s sake, Rosa, come with the coffee
.
    ‘They didn’t have to die, Herr Miller. They were just little people caught up in events they didn’tunderstand. They knew nothing about thecamps, the killings, the confiscations. But a great many people
did
know the truth, Herr Miller, knew it from the beginning, but they did nothing, just kept their heads down and allowed the criminals to destroy their country.’ His breathing was harder, the voice harder. He lifted his head wearily, almost whispered the words: ‘Just like now, Herr Miller, just like now. Those of us who know the truth must speak and act, otherwise the deviants at home and,’ he swallowed, ‘our enemies abroad will destroy this country.’
    I should be somewhere else, Miller thought, anywhere but here. I have my mother to protect from her own miseries, General Reder isn’t the only guy with a family. If Rosa comes with the coffee, that will shut him up – but Rosa’s not coming, not for a while, she’s been told to wait, to give General Reder time to fuck me up, involve me in some fuckology with the dissenters and the candle-wavers in the church in Leipzig.
    Time to nail your ambiguous colours to your wobbly mast, Patrick Miller.
    ‘I fear you have misjudged me, General Reder,’ he said. ‘I’m happy to have been allowed to stay in this country and I simply want to do the best I can at the job I have been given.’ The general’s amused smile was unnerving, made him swallow before continuing. ‘I have no involvement with any dissenting groups and I don’t wish to have any involvement with these groups. Of course,’ Miller raised a hand, ‘I have heard nothing unorthodox here and, if you’ll forgive my saying so, General, I’d like to keep it that way.’ Miller swallowed again. It was, he felt, the longest speech he had spoken in his years in East Germany. And the most dangerous.
    The general leaned back in the armchair. A wide grin spread across his face.
    ‘You’re good, Herr Miller,’ he said.
    ‘Pardon?’
    ‘Herr Miller, I am a general of the army of the German Democratic Republic. Do you think I have no intelligence sources? Do you think I would have invited you here if I didn’t know about you and your activities?’
    The general was silent, Miller transfixed.
    ‘My activities are an open book – my employment—’
    ‘Oh, fuck your employment, Herr Miller!’ The obscenity, harshly delivered, was a reminder of General Reder’s battlefield beginnings. ‘D’you think I don’t know what you get up to on your little trips to the other side of our divided city? Yes, you buy your English newspapers and American magazines, you sip your espresso in the best cafes but we both know that you have other chores to perform, Herr Miller, don’t we? A note dropped here, a paper left there, isn’t that so, Herr Miller?’
    Miller’s tongue seemed swollen, his mouth dry.
    ‘Little notes, Herr Miller, left in safe places for the personal information of one Warwick Redgrave, yes?’
    The shadow of Normannenstrasse seemed to darken the brown

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