Me and Kaminski Page 0,2

the mountains seem close for a moment, then distant again, the soaring cliffs were draped in shreds of clouds, villages flew by, churches, cemeteries, little factories, a motorcycle crawling along a path between the fields. Then more meadows, woods, meadows again, men in overalls smearing steaming tar on a road. The train stopped, I got out.

A single platform, an arched canopy outside, a little house with shutters, a stationmaster with a mustache. I asked about my train, he said something, but it was in dialect and I didn’t understand. I asked again, he tried again, we looked helplessly at each other. Then he took me to the big wall display with all the departure times. Naturally I had just missed my train and the next one wasn’t for another hour.

I was the only guest in the station restaurant. Up there? That’s quite a long way, said the proprietress. Was I going to spend my vacation up there?

On the contrary, I said. I was on the way to Manuel Kaminski.

It wasn’t the best time of year, she said, but I’d surely have a couple of good days at best. She could promise me.

To Manuel Kaminski, I said again. Manuel Kaminski!

Don’t know him, she says, he’s not from around here.

I said, he’s been living here for twenty-five years.

Exactly, she said, not from around here, she knew she was right about that. The kitchen door flew open, a fat man set a plate of greasy soup in front of me. I looked at it uneasily, swallowed a little, and said to the proprietress how beautiful I thought it was to be here. She smiled proudly. Here in the countryside, in nature, even here in this station. Way away from everything, among simple people.

She said what did I mean.

Not among intellectuals, I explained, overeducated posturing types with university degrees. Among people who were close to their animals, their fields, and the mountains. Who went to sleep early and got up early. Who lived, instead of thinking!

She stared at me as she frowned, and went away; I counted out the money on the table. I shaved in the wonderfully clean toilet: I had never yet been good at it, the shaving-cream got mixed with blood, and when I’d washed it off, dark stripes were suddenly spreading across my red, naked-looking face. Bald spot? Where on earth did he get that idea? I shook my head and my mirror image did the same.

The train was tiny. Just two carriages behind a little engine, wooden seats, nowhere to put your suitcases. Two men in rough overalls, one old woman. She looked at me, said something incomprehensible, the men laughed, and we set off.

Straight up the mountain. The force of gravity pushed me against the wood, as the train leaned into a bend, my suitcase tipped over, one of the men laughed, I glared at him. Another bend. And another. I began to feel faint. A ravine yawned next to us: a vertiginous slope of grass sprouting the strangest thistles and way below them contorted evergreens. We went through a tunnel, the ravine opened to our right, then another tunnel and it was back on our left. The air smelled of cow shit. A dull pressure made itself felt in my ears, I swallowed, and it disappeared, but a couple of minutes later it was back to stay. Now even the trees had run out, and there was nothing but fenced pastures and the outlines of mountains on the other side of the void. Another bend, the train braked, my suitcase fell over one last time.

I got out and lit up a cigarette. The dizzy feeling gradually subsided. Behind the station was the village street, and behind that a two-story house with a weathered wooden front door and open shutters: Belview Boardinghouse, breakfast, good cooking. A stag’s head stared at me gloomily from one of the windows. No help for it, this was where I’d reserved, everything else was too expensive.

The reception desk was staffed by a large woman with her hair in an elaborate beehive. She spoke slowly, articulating every word, but I still had to concentrate in order to understand her. A shaggy dog was snuffling around on the floor. “Take the suitcase to my room,” I said, “and I need an extra pillow, a coverlet, and paper. Lots of paper. How do I get to Kaminski’s house?”

She set her sausage hands on the reception desk and looked at me. The dog found something and ate