• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 02
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Skinheads at the Window

And suddenly it was December again. Soon after lunchtime, or at any rate too early for dinner, the quick, dull days had acquired the habit of segueing half-heartedly into blackness and an overabundance of electric lamps.

'In East Berlin you need some kind of visual reminder that it is winter, after all,' my wife said.

She peered through the kitchen window at the gloom of the ALDI car park behind the apartment block.

'The only snow we have now is on fucking advent calendars.'

'Still chilly enough to stay inside tonight,' I said, trying to keep things upbeat.

The winter evening was a homey, brightly-lit affair, as usual with the kid there now. I cleaned the refrigerator quietly, trying not to disturb our son sleeping in the next room. My wife sat drinking tea and arguing with the world at large. From the faux-retro radio set on the kitchen table, an old recording of the Goldberg Variations limped through the static amid condiments and coffee-stained unpaid bills.

'I'd chuck the mango,' I said as I held it up to the chilled, pungent light of the open fridge. 'It looks rather sad.'

It was only half a mango anyway, and the stone protruded like a beak on some tropical bird in an early but unmistakable stage of rigor mortis.

'You'd chuck anything,' she replied. 'It's the wasteful western European side of your nature.'

I rose to the bait, as always.

'It's democratic accountability. In this case, the subject has clearly outlived its use to the electorate.'


Skinheads at the Window

'The electorate?' she said.


'We didn't vote for the mango in the first place.'

'All the more reason for it to go.' I yawned, opening the door beneath the sink.

She sipped her tea loudly, so that I might hear a Slavic insult hissed onto the steaming surface of the infusion.

'Look. When there's a skinhead peering in at the window, it seldom ends well,' I told her.

'Where's the skinhead?' she asked, casting a doubtful glance at the mango as it hovered in my outstretched fingertips above the organic waste bin.

'Naturally there isn't one,' I said. 'Not on the fourth floor, anyhow. But it would be bad if there was. By comparison with the mango problematic, I mean.'

I passed her the mango to see. She scratched absently at the collapsing skin of the fruit as though it would yield a winning lotto number.

'But it's just a hypothesis,' she said. 'This fruit is fine for another week.'

'A dramatic hypothesis that puts the actual wastefulness into context,' I replied, cautiously.

'And mangoes thrown in faces. Do they end well? Hypothetically speaking.'

Slowly, demonstratively, my wife put the mango safely next to the radio, and I returned to the refrigerator to worry over the sell-by date on the creme fraiche.


Skinheads at the Window

Beyond the window pane, the light inside the ALDI sign flickered and extinguished in the prelude to another Central European winter's night.