Hiram Goza

German

My plan was to walk around in the park for a while, then head back home.  I was think­ing this walk would clear my head, help me get my thoughts in order.  I had things to do, but I couldn’t get them done because I had so many dis­trac­tions.  I felt like every time I was all set to tack­le the impor­tant work I had to do, some­thing would pop up and dis­tract me.  It was either peo­ple, like the peo­ple that were always hound­ing me to meet them at the waf­fle place, or my own thoughts—unstoppable thoughts, I said to myself.

When I got to the park, a man was climb­ing a tree.  He climbed the tree like a cat, I thought.  It was an oak tree, with broad branch­es, and the man sprawled out on one of them and unfold­ed a news­pa­per.  Instead of walk­ing through the park, as I had planned to do, I sat down on a cement bench.  The man in the tree was read­ing his paper and drink­ing from a small bot­tle.  I was think­ing about a play I want­ed to write, a German play.  I want­ed to write it in German and then trans­late it into English.  I knew it would be hard, but it was what I had to do.

The man in the tree sat up and lit a cig­a­rette.  He drank from the lit­tle bot­tle as he smoked.  I thought about my play, which would be about a pre­his­toric per­son that had begun to try to write by mak­ing marks in the dirt or on rocks.  My play was one thing I knew the peo­ple I some­times met at the waf­fle place would not under­stand.  I knew if I tried to broach the sub­ject of my plan to write a play in German and then trans­late it into English with these peo­ple, their lack of under­stand­ing would make itself known in the most dis­agree­able way, espe­cial­ly if I told them the play would focus on an ancient person—either a man or a woman—that was just begin­ning to try to write things down or draw pic­tures of things.

Louise,” the man in the tree called.  I glanced at him and then looked away.  My mind was crowd­ed with things that kept me from pro­gress­ing with my play.  Not only were there the peo­ple that were always try­ing to get me to meet them at the waf­fle place, but there were oth­er things.  For one thing, I thought, there was the mat­ter of Baton Rouge, where I lived now, and New Orleans, where I had once lived, where I had spent most of my life.  I had always been known as a city boy from New Orleans, and I was still called a city boy from New Orleans, even though I didn’t live there any­more.

It didn’t do me any good to keep think­ing about how much bet­ter New Orleans had been than Baton Rouge was.  The man in the tree hollered “Louise” again while I was think­ing about what a waste of time it was for me to keep com­par­ing the two places since I had moved out of New Orleans years before and had no plans to move back there, since Baton Rouge was my home and had been my home for years now.  I want­ed to con­cen­trate on my play and stop obsess­ing about New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Tulane and LSU.

I was tired of sit­ting on the bench, but I didn’t want to leave the park yet.  I was try­ing to think about my play, to clear my mind of all these oth­er things, these dis­trac­tions.  I thought about how I had root­ed against the Tigers when I attend­ed LSU.  I remem­bered sit­ting with some oth­er LSU stu­dents and root­ing against the Tigers.  This was some­thing I hadn’t thought about in years, but now it kept pop­ping into my mind.

People were gath­er­ing around the tree while I tried to keep my mind on my play, on writ­ing my play in German and then trans­lat­ing it into English.  I thought about my main char­ac­ter, a pre­his­toric per­son that was try­ing to write things down so he—or she—would have some kind of record of what he—or she—had seen.

I thought about Merle and how hap­py we had been when we lived togeth­er in New Orleans.  That was years ago, I was think­ing as two police offi­cers tried to coax the man down from the tree.  It seemed like a hun­dred years ago.  I tried to think about my play, my German play, and not about New Orleans.  I was try­ing to get a clear pic­ture of my pro­tag­o­nist, try­ing to decide whether the play would be from a male’s or a female’s point of view, instead of think­ing about the peo­ple I didn’t want to meet at the waf­fle place.

I thought about Merle and the flowerbed I was plan­ning to put in my yard.  This flowerbed, I was think­ing as I got up from the bench, would have sev­er­al dif­fer­ent kinds of plants in it, includ­ing ros­es, which were Merle’s favorites.  She had plant­ed some dark red ros­es in our yard in New Orleans, and I won­dered whether they were still there.  It would be easy enough for me to dri­ve to the old neigh­bor­hood and find out, but I knew I wouldn’t.  Not now, any­way.

As I walked along the side­walk, I felt like my head had cleared a lit­tle.  I thought this trip to the park would turn out to have a pos­i­tive effect on my German play.  When I got home, I would be able to get some things done, I told myself as I wait­ed for a traf­fic light to turn green.  I would get out my German dic­tio­nary and go to work.

~

Hiram Goza is the author of the nov­el Birds of Paradise, avail­able at Amazon and fine book­stores, and is com­plet­ing her sec­ond nov­el.