Pukapuka Books


Thursday, January 26, 2012

from the Chapter 'The Sow of Hades' of the novel "Unlevel Crossings" by Michael O'Leary

Fitz and Calvert met again in the Octagon coffee bar. They had been invited to a special evening of the Wahnfried Society as guests of honour, and Calvert had earlier told Hilda Burstein this. She looked worried and thought they must be up to something very big. ‘Be careful, the two of you. This Munchausen von Oven is one of Goebbels’ creations: obviously charming, but not to be trusted. He will fly in all directions. Take care that you don’t become Androcles in reverse when you enter that lion’s den.’

‘How’s Hinengaro?’ asked Fitz, as nonchalantly as he possibly could, yet feeling that every word he spoke came out sounding false and exaggerated.

‘She’s fine – well, she’s been a bit out of sorts lately, not sleeping, that kind of thing. She says she has lots of strange dreams and I sometimes find her waking in the night crying. She hasn’t been like that since we first met. Anyway, she’s gone to a hui tonight at the Kaikorai Marae, which should take her mind off things.’

Fitz immediately thought ‘te këhua o aroha,’ she must have inherited his own dream reality during their unlevel crossing, their lovemaking. He had wondered why his own dreaming world had subsided since she had been with him, and this was the reason! They had spoken to each other once on the phone since the evening they had spent together. There had been an awkward conversation in which they had agreed to see each other again at a later date. She had jokingly intimated that people should see a marriage guidance counsellor before they embarked on a relationship, rather than when it was collapsing around them. ‘I must go now,’ she had said. As he heard the click of the phone in its cradle, he suddenly felt very alone and vulnerable, as though part of him had gone ...

‘Raisley Calvert, an old uncle of mine, knew what words were worth, Fitz. Yes, there’s a man who knew the difference between a nun and a whore!’

Fitz had no idea what his friend was talking about. In his reverie about his phone call to Hine he had lost the thread of what Calvert had been saying. He thought, with a certain amount of contempt (for which he immediately felt remorse) how fucking easy and urbane and unctuous husbands were. Both men agreed to go to this Wahnfried Society meeting to see if they could get some insight into the intentions of the group and to find out if they had been responsible for the recent attacks on Otago Marae. They felt if they could use their positions as the sons of real Nazis to get rid of the curse of this ring of misfits and weirdos and thugs they would have to do so.

As they drove out to Port Chalmers along the winding and twisting roadway in the Calverts’ old Triumph the two men were strangely silent. Both of them knew in an intrinsic, unspoken way that the other was thinking of Hinengaro Te Riro i He. Calvert, of course, knew nothing of his wife’s liaison with Fitz, but in some instinctive, elemental insight he suspected that her recent change in behaviour had something to do with Fitz’s presence. And knowing and not knowing this had brought the two men together, making their already naturally strong bond even closer. The deep, heavy sound of the car’s engine seemed to emulate and facilitate the measure and mood of their thoughts, as though preparing them for the impending confrontation with their fathers’ past.

The car swung right, over the level crossing between the station yards and the tunnel which takes the trains through to the port itself. Going up the hill and turning left into Currie Street, both men felt a sense of awe and dread as they saw the lighted hall and heard the strains of Wagnerian music coming from the far end of the street. Calvert had smoked a joint in the car on the way out which Fitz, fearing the worst, had declined. Although he had not had to take medication for a while now, and since his lovemaking with Hinengaro he had felt a lot better about himself, the memories of Yellban were still fresh in his mind, and this situation was weird enough without adding to it.

Getting out of the car Fitz and Calvert gave each other a final glance of solidarity across the roof of the Triumph before walking towards the crowd entering the main doorway of the hall. At the entrance the music was so loud, the dark resounding notes coupled with the heavy Germanic language had an intoxicating effect from the start. The two guards on the door were patched members of the Mongrel Mob and, as they checked Fitz and Calvert’s tickets, the realisation that their colours of black, red and white were the same as Nazi colours sent a chill through Fitz. At the same time it made him want to burst out laughing at the incongruity of white supremacists employing an ethnic gang as bouncers. Not daring to look at Paul, who would obviously be thinking similar absurdities, Fitz moved further into the hall. The sobering thought that the Mongrel Mob were not that far removed from Rhoem’s S.A. Beer Hall brawlers brought the desire to laugh to a halt. The noise from the music outside was muted in the interior of the building, so that when the speeches began the audience could hear everything perfectly well, while giving the outside world the impression that the maestro’s operas were the main reason for the meeting.

The hall was almost full, the seating arrangements were like that of a theatre. Draped all around the room were large hanging flags, some of which were ordinary Nazi swastika varieties, interspersed with those of SS divisions such as Wotan, Siegfried and the Schutzstaffeln Adolf Hitler. Most of the people in the hall were dressed in formal evening wear: the men wore suits and bowties, and the women wore long, tasteful gowns as though dressed for the opera. The dark lighting and the presence of Mongrel Mob guards at intervals around the room gave a distinctly oppressive feel, but this was offset by the gaiety and animation of the respectable, well-groomed crowd who sipped champagne and talked to each other with easy familiarity. The man who Fitz recognised as Herr Frisch from the Aratere came over and, pouring two glasses of Moet, introduced himself to Calvert as Wilfred von Oven. ‘You seem surprised, mein freund,’ he said to Fitz. ‘One can’t be too careful, hence the invention of Herr Frisch. Oh! By the way the story I told you about your father is unfortunately true in the main. We lost a good man in his betrayal, but we don’t want to lose his son also, ja?’ He tapped with a spoon on his glass. ‘Meine Damen und Herren, I would like to announce the arrival of our two guests of honour this evening.’ He turned and indicated in the direction of Fitz and Calvert with an outstretched hand, ‘Herr von Leerig und Herr von Klagen, the juniors!’ A kind of hush went around the room followed by, at first tentative and then open outpouring of clapping and cheering. Glasses were refilled as the official speakers began to take the stage.

The podium was flanked by two guards dressed as birds of prey, personifying the traditional eagle of German militarism and might. They stood holding symbolic spears in their talons, their wings spread as if ready for flight. The Götterdämmerung provided a dramatic backdrop, and a large banner with an eagle holding a broken cross was at the back of the speakers. High above a further banner proclaimed WAHNFRIED in gold embroidered lettering six feet high. People listened enraptured as a young dark-haired woman came on stage and sang an aria as the incarnation of Erdna. This was followed by a recitation, rather than a musical version, of the reply to Wotan’s question, ‘Who art thou, brooding spirit?’

Fitz thought this speech seemed to reveal both the appeal and the destructive nature of the Magic Nazism Movement, the spell and the curse under which people like his father had fallen. It was von Oven himself who stood before the audience to read the epistle, as it were. The silence was electric as he uttered the words ...

All that was I know

All that is I know

All that ever shall be done

This as well I know

Erdna the name I bear

The fates my daughters are

Danger threatens dire

This had drawn me near

Hearken! Hearken! Hearken!

All that is shall end

Heed ye well, ere dawn of doom –

Beware the cursed Ring!

Von Oven stood quietly, resplendent in his bohemian garb. Obviously influenced by Goebbels’ philosophy that politics should be entertainment, as opposed to Hitler’s ‘hit them hard and often’ approach to propaganda, this aging, well-preserved relic of the Third Reich began to introduce the people who would address the faithful. Firstly, he indicated the head of the Samoan Nazi Party, Aelolea le Fanau, whose lecture would be entitled ‘Through a Class Darkly: The House by the Khurchyard.’ Secondly, Ida Barron-Munchausen would discuss the contribution to German Kultchur in Aotearoa by her mother and mentor, the eminent scholar Führer Frau, Vida Barron.

‘Then, we have a very special guest, Dr Olda Juenger, who will discuss his father Ernst’s work in the field of alpine lilies, their evolution and survival as a metaphor for the Führer’s Thousand Year Reich!’ This drew wild applause and von Oven at this point began a speech about his own vision of the future. He started by saying the first Nazi experiment had been over-ambitious and in the wrong part of the world. Quickly, he added, ‘This is not a criticism of our beloved Führer, but a postmodern realisation that ‘Think Big’ projects do not work unless they are established initially in small cellular networks. Over the past several years we have seen in this country, Aotearoa, the acceptance and implementation of right-wing economics. Now, we in the New Millennium are poised to fulfil the Führer’s vision much more easily than was the case halfway through the last century of the old millennium. The Führer lit the flame and we carry the torch into the new Thousand Year Reich with the confidence and assurance that this time the fates and providence are truly on our side.’

Fitz and Calvert looked at each other uneasily as they found themselves rising to their feet along with everyone else and giving the Nazi salute to the sound of ‘Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!’ As old habits die hard, one of the Mongrel Mob sergeants at arms was heard just slightly behind the herd, yelling ‘Sieg Fucken Heil!’ and was then seen to go red in the face and turn away sheepishly as he realised his involuntary indiscretion had been picked up by his more ‘civilised’ patrons. Looking out over the mini-headed multitude, von Oven, now in the incarnation of Rübezahl, felt with satisfaction and pride the effects his words had wrought. He thought to himself – ‘Today Port Chalmers, tomorrow ...’ After all, this was how the Führer himself had begun. Even though he, Rübezahl Wilfred von Oven, was now old he could at least sow the seeds of Hades in the new generation. He saw Fitz and Calvert sitting in the front row and felt a great sense of destiny that he had delivered to the movement the inheritors of their fathers’ dreams.

Fitz shifted uneasily in his chair when his hand brushed against something which was sticking out of his pocket. ‘Damn!’ he thought. He’d forgotten to post the letter he’d written to Pania and Dolphin Dog at Yellban. They had kept in contact, and she was saying how much her dog was missing him, yelping every time she saw the photo he had sent them. The tide of high green grass emotion had subsided in the bierhaus and von Oven continued with his introductions of the speakers. ‘Then we will have Mr Hashimoto, otherwise known as Job Bones, the man who instigated Honshu’s successful Unemployment Strategy. The more people who are jobless in the market economy, his theory goes, the sooner radical political change can come. Complacency and full employment are anathema to National Socialism because people do not take to the streets if they are well fed.’

Fitz got a real shock when von Oven introduced the following orator. ‘Herr Haki Maroke Kuha is raising the currents of the New Write literature. He has done great work for our cause and will be well rewarded. Despite what the intellectuals say, Herr Kuha will be our Minister of Kultchur, an appointment my former boss would certainly have approved of – read, to hell with it!’ Fitz remembered the drunken, raving, out-of-it author in the Christchurch hovel and shivered at the thought of his having power over anyone, let alone what books may be read in the home! ‘Finally, we will hear from our spokesperson on ethnic and women’s affairs, Ponsetta Phyllis Stein, who despite her name, has worked tirelessly for the party in both South America and The Kingdom of YETE.’

The lights dimmed and a soft spotlight descended like a ray entering the side window to the crypt of a cathedral. In the delicate shimmer von Oven stood. His pose was that of a man who carried a heavy weight, but who bore it with a passion and strength which accompanies those destined for greatness. He began his speech quietly, hoarsely, almost inaudibly, as though the very words were weighted with doom. ‘Now,’ his hushed voice echoed through the microphone and mingled with low strains of the beginning to the ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ which was playing over the speaker system outside the hall. ‘Now comes the most difficult of my tasks. Before I hand you over to the other speakers,’ he paused, drinking in the admiration of his followers, ‘there is a grave and profound truth I must share with you. As you all know we are in this part of the world for a reason – and that reason is to begin yet again, sans bullet, the work left undone. We chose to come to a small, out of the way country, Tasman’s Ultima Thule no less, to work out our karma, and in the prophetic words of Erdna, “All that is shall end, heed ye well ere dawn of doom!”’

Von Oven’s voice began to rise as the music outside increased in tempo and volume. This time the sound had been turned up in the hall as well. ‘Kia ora, they say in this country. Now echo the call from the kameraden of South Amerikan Magico Naziano – ‘Que Hora!’ – and the answer is, ‘The time is NOW!’ I, because of my name and with the blessing of the Führer before he died, have been sent to baptise the world, to change the evil hearts of men and women in a flood of fire.’ His voice pitched and undulated with the rise and fall of the music. ‘We are in the early stages of our divine mission, and as with all our works we invoke the inspiration of artists and poets to guide us. The Fischl Policy we are implementing at this time is that of ‘The Black Palms Still Buffing Boots.’ This entails lone acts of terrorism carried out by fringe members of society, those disaffected and deranged by the pressures of modern capitalist society.’ The crowd became louder and louder, like the swelling music of the Götterdämmerung.

Von Oven continued, ‘The Black Palms SS is a suicide squad dedicated to our cause and willing to lay down their lives for the Neo-Millennium Man, and to facilitate the world wide web of lies for the induction of the Thousand Year Reich. Aramoana, the Bain killings the burning of marae buildings, all these are part of our strategy, and of course the blame can never be traced to us because the psychiatric or criminal histories of these individuals is such that they are seen to be outsiders, marginalised and sick people. Even as I speak ...’ the music, the Swastika emblems of the flags, the pageantry and the bizarre staged performance of von Oven himself, all these conspired to intoxicate and exhilarate the passions of the audience, so that when the Führer uttered the words, ‘ ... even as I speak one of our suicide bomber kameraden – trained in Lebanon as legacy of ‘Operation Eau de Cologne’ in the 1950s when Krupp was courting Nasser – is at the Kaikorai Marae on just such a holy mission.’ It took even Fitz and Calvert a few moments to turn their minds to what had been said.

‘Hine!’ Both the men said her name simultaneously with looks of terror and concern on their faces. Their initial impulse was to run out of this crowded hall of ghoulish zealots, but they realised that would be dangerous. Fitz whispered to Calvert to move slowly but swiftly, and they both walked past the enraptured faces of those believers who were listening to the rhetoric of murder and destruction; those respected pillars of society who are able to smile as they kill, and sleep at night secure in the comfort of other peoples’ dreams.

As they reached the end of the hall they heard von Oven thanking and invoking the Sow of Hades, saying that her recent visitation to the dark Dunedin skies had been a validation and a sign that their years of exile had not been in vain. As the mad ranting was eclipsed by the increase in volume of the Valkyries riding to their gruesome destination, Fitz and Calvert left the Valhalla of deathshead ideals. Coming upon the Mongrel Mob sentinels they almost faltered. But they gave them a Nazi salute at attention to which the gang members replied in kind, adding, ‘Fuck off honkies,’ for good measure as they giggled to themselves. Then Fitz and Calvert got into the car and sped off down the Port road towards Dunedin and the Kaikorai Valley. ‘Come on! Fuck you, come on!’ Fitz kept saying to the car, and Calvert who was driving, was puzzled by the desperation in his friend’s tone of voice. After all, it was his wife whose life was in danger, not Fitz’s.

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