The Auto—how had she managed to obtain an Auto? She was thirteen Years, I about to turn eleven. The middle of Winterpause, late Januar. Thick Schnee blanketing the Hinterhof of the Chalet, the desolate Straßen. I remember for three Tagen it had snowed, and another substantial Schneesturm was predicted. Early that Morgan before we awoke, Opa hiked into the Stadt to go to the Metzger, the Bäckerei, the Bauernmarkt, leaving only me and Gertrudis, who was meant to be preparing for a Tag upon the Skigebiet. I forget where Vater and Mutter were, either their Honeymoon on Hawaii or Beirut visiting Mutter’s Broder my Onkel, the Spielzeughersteller. And I forget also if Gertrudis disappeared before Breakfast or after, only that while I was consuming Müsli here came Gertrudis outside, piloting an Auto through the Schnee, honking the Autohupe until I arrived at the Door, wearing only a Pullover and Winterkappe.
The Nachbar across the Straße appeared in his Door, swaddled in Bademantel and crouching over to retrieve the Zeitung from the Treppe. Gertrudis waited until he was returned inside, then again honked the Autohupe and waved for me to join her. And I did, bolting the Door behind me.
Don’t just stand there—get in, said Gertrudis and I sat beside her. I strapped myself in, the Seatbelt strangling me due to my low status—too low to see out through the Windschutzscheibe. Gertrudis was seated low also, but she’d spurted and was able to reach the Gaspedal. The Problem was seeing in front of us, and also the Auto being Stickshift and jerking forward, until the Motor cut and we almost crashed into the Bordstein. But finally Gertrudis managed to pull out onto the Straße and drive down the Block, around the Straßenecke headed—I had no Idea where we were headed, and neither did Gertrudis. And I don’t think she cared if we only drove around the Block and then back again, but I remember we passed a Milchviehbetrieb and then the Fußballplatz surrounded by Wäldern, covered with Schnee and soon it started snowing again, thick Schneeflocken, and soon we merged from a small winding Landstraße onto a larger Straße, driving alongside other Autos and Transportwagen and even a Traktoren, and Gertrudis sat up, gripping the Lenkrad, terrified.
Passing over the submerged Bahngleise, we nearly crashed into the Traktoren, but at the last Moment Gertrudis sped up, skidding out into the wrong Spur, blinding Headlights. Somehow Gertrudis remained calm and again changed back into the other Spur, speeding out in front of the Traktoren, missing the incoming Milchwagen but then sliding across an Eisdecke and leaping the Bordestein, until at last we plunged through Schaufenster into a Coiffure, shattering Glas and also the Windschutzscheibe. Between us, a Schaufensterpuppe was lodged but I escaped through the Fenster and circled around to check on Gertrudis.
She was knocked out, slumped forward over the Lenkrad, her Stirn gashed. I remember standing there a Moment, watching her under a great Stille—before the Polizeisirenen screamed faraway and Gertrudis awoke, startled and confused, but then smiling. That was fun, I remember she said while I helped her out through her shattered Fenster—her Arme splintered, but otherwise she was OK. Next time, I promise I won’t almost kill you. And then she started laughing, until the Polizei came and then the Krankenwagen, and laughing also at the Krankenhaus while Doktoren attended to her and after, when Opa arrived, furious. And when Vater and Mutter returned, they were also furious, but Gertrudis laughed it off again then and that was Gertrudis, the same Gertrudis, if older, who wanted to be in a Musikvideoproduktion, although if not the Russen in Beanie and Masken would have found her elsewhere—when we ventured out later that Abend, or the next Morgen, the last I’d see Gertrudis alive.
Alec Michod is the author of the novel THE WHITE CITY (St. Martin’s). He is currently working on a second book. You can find him online at www.alecmichod.com.