Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Wölfflin

The rooms at the Wölfflin are 7ft by seven feet, have one window above the washbasin, a cot, army issue, a potato-box chair and a small table which can be pushed up against the door for protection and security. Tiscali the juggler stayed in room 27, Dr. Sickly across the hall in 27½ A, the rooms sharing an adjoining door and small toilet. When asked what he liked best about staying at the Wölfflin, Tiscali the juggler replied, “Lying in bed on Sunday morning, eating tea and toast with cunty fingers”.[1]

The man in the hat stayed at the Wölfflin the year the sky first fell, seeking a warm safe place to weather the storm. He rented room 27¾, across the hall from a juggler named Thesprotia with whom he’d once had a conversation about the cad bastard Grapewin. The Brighton boys of East Sussex stayed in room 28, all three brothers sleeping in the same bed, the littlest at the foot, the biggest against the headboard and the middlemost in middle.

His first job was packing Polos at the Oxus sweets factory in Vevey. Grapewin was acquainted with a boiler-room coal shoveler he met at a mixer for savants and dullards. The Oxus sweets factory where Grapewin toiled packing Polos was built alongside the five-mile fence. Outside the five-mile fence the world ran backwards, the fenceposts facing back to front and front to back. Hedwig (sister to Simon, Kaspar and Klaus) conducted her whoring in a 'tocador de la tablilla', 'la toilette de bardeau', for her French clientele, outside the five-mile fence. Her dog Santiago chewed on spent condoms and scab onions, his boney tail wagging a mile a minute, slaver flying every which where. Grapewin, a regular, wept like a swaddling child when she pressed her nails into the soft flesh of his back, ‘waaawaawaaa…’ he blubbered, ‘it hurts!’ Hedwig made enough money from whoring to buy a small plot of land with a hut on it inside the five-mile fence. It was here that she kept her dowry and a shoebox full of undergarments and gloves.

[1] Brendan Gill, Here at The New Yorker, Memoir of Henry Green, New Yorker, 1975.

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