Me and Kaminski Page 0,3

it noisily.

“He’s expecting me,” I said. “I’m not a tourist. I’m his biographer.”

She seemed to be thinking this over. The dog pushed his nose against my foot. I suppressed the urge to kick him.

“Behind here,” she said, “up the path. Half an hour, the house with the tower. Hugo!”

It took me a moment to grasp that this was aimed at the dog. “Do people often ask for him?”


“I don’t know. Vacationers. Admirers. Anyone?”

She shrugged her shoulders.

“Do you have any idea who this man is?”

She said nothing. Hugo grunted and let something drop out of his mouth; I made myself not look. A tractor chugged past the window. I thanked her for her help and went outside.

The path began behind the semicircle of the main square, went up in a double spiral above the roof tops, and then through some brownish field of rubble. I took a deep breath and set off.

It was worse than I’d expected. A few steps and my shirt was already sticking to my body. A warm mist was rising off the meadows, the sun was blazing, sweat poured down my forehead. When I stopped to catch my breath, I had cleared the first two turns.

I took off my jacket and put it over my shoulders. It fell to the ground; I tried tying the sleeves around my hips. Sweat was getting into my eyes, I wiped it away. I made it up another two bends, then I had to rest.

I sat on the ground. A mosquito buzzed, high-pitched, then suddenly stopped somewhere close to my head; seconds later my cheek began to itch. The wet grass was beginning to soak my pants. I stood up.

The main thing was obviously to find the right rhythm between walking and breathing. But it didn’t come to me, I kept having to stop, my whole body was soon wet, I was having to pant and my breath rattled, my hair was stuck to my face. Then there was a rumble, I leapt sideways in fright, a tractor overtook me. The man driving it looked at me with indifference, his head bobbing to the rhythm of the engine.

“Can I hitch a ride?” I yelled. He didn’t pay any attention. I tried to keep pace with him and almost managed to jump on. But then I fell back and couldn’t catch up with him, and watched as he climbed the hill away from me, grew smaller, then disappeared around the next curve. His diesel smell hung in the air for quite some time.

Half an hour later, I was at the top, breathing heavily and hanging on to a wooden post. As I turned around, the slope seemed to plunge in one direction as the sky soared away in the other, and I clung to the post till the rush of vertigo eased. I was surrounded by sparse tufts of grass mixed with shale, and the path ahead of me fell away gently. I followed it slowly, and after ten minutes it ended in a small south-facing bowl of rock that held three houses, a parking place, and a black-topped road leading down to the valley.

Yes: a wide, tarred road! I had made a great big detour, not to mention the fact that I could have done the whole thing by taxi. I thought about the proprietress: this was going to cost her! The parking place held nine, I counted them, cars. The first nameplate said Clure, the second said Dr. Glinzli, the third said Kaminski. I looked at it for a while. I had to get myself used to the idea that he really lived here.

The house was large and graceless: two stories and a pointy decorative tower in an elephantine approximation of art nouveau. There was a gray BMW parked in front of the garden gate; it made me envious, I would love to have driven a car like that just once. I smoothed back my hair, put on my jacket, and fingered the mosquito bite on my cheek. The sun was already low in the sky, my shadow on the lawn in front of me was narrow and long. I rang the bell.


APPROACHING FOOTSTEPS, a key turned, the door flew open, and a woman in a dirty apron was giving me the once-over. I said my name, she nodded, and the door slammed.

Just as I was about to ring again, the door reopened: another woman, mid-forties, tall and thin, black hair, narrow, almost oriental eyes. I said my name, she