the Remembered Saints: My Life and Subsequent Death
Execution of the Sun"
Among the Jellyfish"
of the Manfestation"
Cake and Double Talk"
the Remembered Saints:
My Life & Subsequent Death
the fishing good in this lake?
a long flight from Harrington air base in England to Norway's
Lake Jaevsjo, hours of furtive flight through a bottomless
well of darkness, the Black Sea black below you and the
sky around you, even in a favorable moon period, little
better than the interior of a candle-lit coffin. And no
chance to talk over the Liberator's roaring engines, though
no one around you, hidden inside snow-white parkas and
surrounded by piles of parachutes and skis and packs,
feels like talking anyway.
Two months training on the sly in the
Scottish Highlands, running and skiing to build the legs
up, while all the while our Double worked the crowds admirably,
not a single fan noticing the change and the few band
members who did being told to shut up, if they wanted
to keep playing. Sixty days to build up Heinrich, make
him mountain-tough, the best days he'd ever had, thinking,
with every step, with every practice shot, of the fascists
he would destroy and the shiny, All-American medals he
would receive for his efforts. One for the Commie, one
for the Nazi, reload, aim, squeeze it, squeeze it, one
for the Commie, one for the Nazi...
wo gehst du?
—Nein, nein, Mutter. Jetzt mussen
wir Englisch sprechen.
Like a trombone, really. Keep it clean and its your best
friend, though a rifle tends to quell a riot a little
quicker. Here's one for you, Adolf. Guten Nacht.
—Good work, Heinrich.
—Thank you, sir.
Crouching for a moment, knocking Scottish
dust off his knees, and then joining the others, young
and sinewy all of them, a bit homely, I suppose, in that
way most people seem to look in lost eras, but still on
their faces the eager clean smiles that topple tyrants.
So there it is, dear Heinrich's little
dream: shoot a few Nazis, pin a few medals on and take
one final, triumphant tour with the Siren before settling
into a post-war subdivision, just the two of them, him
a humble ex-hero and her a caged Siren, freshly tamed
and kneading yeasty dough while little Heinrich Jr. incubates
and rises in the warm womb. Get a big car, visit Mother,
live the dream.
mother. When my friends are here, you must never speak
German. Not now.
course, he hadn't discussed his dream with the Siren just
yet, but he would soon. Maybe even before he leaves Scotland.
She would, he knew, take it all so well. She always did,
the lovely bird.
never gave her direction, never had to. Just let her listen
to the radio, pick out a tune she liked and then get the
sheet music for the rest of the band. She never showed
up for rehearsals, but then again, she didn't need to.
It was hard to remember to play, sometimes, watching her
on stage. Everyone—even Tex and Bristow—were
knocked flat when she sang. And you could see it in the
crowds too. Hell, there was a time when Heinrich would
have sent a couple band members into the crowds to pick
some paralyzed pockets, but that was before they got the
Siren. Once she came on board, it was a class act, and
there was to be no more trickery. Somehow, the band understood,
and they rehearsed diligently and then climbed on stage
and gaped with the rest of them as the Siren sang and
bewitched the sailors and the soldiers and their envious,
There was nothing better, Heinrich mused,
than watching your loved one prove that surely somewhere,
beyond the stars, a better world must be.
—Dein Vater ist tod.
That was in Braunschweig, after he'd
just started school, and one night he'd been told and
then next day he was being led into the front room, with
his father laid out before him under a white cloth and
his hands clutched like bird's claws around a Bible. Then
came the trip to Amerika and the time without language.
Teased by the other kids, indifferent to his lessons,
he had finally found his voice again in the unlikely form
of a second-hand trombone, bought by his mother from an
emphysema-ridden oom-pa-pa player related to her, somehow,
through a distant cousin. She'd wanted him to play with
German bands, wearing lederhosen and playing to the sounds
of stomping shoes and clanking beersteins, but he stayed
in his room instead and listened again and again to a
78 of Kid Ory playing Come Back, Sweet Papa. Johnny Dodds
squeaking up and down the register and Satchmo taking
over and Ory sliding playfully at the ends of the lines
and finally, after they all came together like a cat fight,
playing different rhythms like they were inside different
songs, behind it all slid the Kid, laughing at them all.
Of course, back then, lying in the darkened Chicago tenement
with his ear pressed up against the speaker, he'd never
thought such an instrument could actually lead a band.
He only thought, as he listened, about how music could
strip away one identity and lend you another. So he found
another German boy, a clarinet player, and then a Polish
kid with a trumpet and another German kid with a sagging
drum set and bang—the American Boys' Jazz Band.
Modest regional success, following the dance-steps of
the Paul Whiteman Band up and down the Midwest, shifting
their sounds as the sounds changed around them and then
hitting a stride with swing, pulling in a New York street
tough for the drums (the German kid having dutifully followed
Herr Papa into the slaughterhouses) and a few sidemen,
and then, in a Chicago dive, Heinrich invited a pretty
girl to sing a number on stage with Tex, and the Siren
was born. In no time, Heinrich found himself at the head
of a sixteen-piece band whose record sales rivaled even
the great Glenn. Then came the war with his ex-Vaterland
(mixing memory and humiliation) and the Army band, with
its promise of an olive-drab world and a career plummet
until one night after a performance, from the darkened
wings, stepped a lone figure whose metals gleamed like
strips of cold metal fire.
much you hate them Krauts, Brother Müller?
—More than I can tell you, Sergeant,
says our Heinrich, unconsciously laying on the American
twang a bit thick.
—Good. Very good. Want to kill
a few, don't you?
—Can't do that with an Army band.
—No, you can't.
—Why don't you come to my office
tonight? The General would like to have a word with you.
hidden away in the camp and secretly writing the Siren
at night: I shouldn't be writing this; the sergeant would
have my ass (his term, not mine, dear), but I want you
to know what I'm doing every moment, etc. And all the
while, our Heinrich turning into a man of steel, the muscles
like lead lumps and his lungs able to hold oceans of air.
And thus, finally, through the black
night, flies the transformed Heinrich, grim-jawed and
full of patriotic hatred for the blood-kin Nazis he will
soon kill, if the plane only makes it across the Sea.
It's an uncertain proposition, as it turns out, for four
of the eight planes sent thus will not land successfully
on the frozen Lake Jaevsjo and half the men will not exchange
secret passwords with their Norwegian counterparts—
Is the fishing good in this lake?
A: Yes, particularly in winter.
our man Heinrich mouth those words?
Well, certainly, in a sense...Yes, of
For he is muttering them, grim-jawed,
throughout the flight. But will he utter them on the frozen
lake, at the moment of ascension?
Who is to say? Fate leads or drags
men, will-nilly, on. Perhaps Heinrich's plane will
explode in a great fireball just as the bonfire signal
is lit below, with a tall figure waiting beside it (Yes,
particularly in winter. Yes, particularly in winter.)
thus leaving poor Heinrich, mid-muttering-sentence, in
then again, perhaps Heinrich will ski safely to the bombing
site, help blow up a crucial bridge and return home to
fame and fortune as a bono-fide war hero and husband to
a beautiful Siren. But really now, if that had happened,
would you have looked so confused when you first read
his name here?
So over the river and through the etc.
they fly, the engines droning and the hooded figures around
our Heinrich like monkish mendicants, each one sealed
within parkas that yield nothing but the mumbling catechism
(Is the fishing good in this lake? Is the fishing good
in this lake?), though that figure on the end there, the
one with even his parka snout tilted from the others—who's
that one, eh? I say, DOLLY the camera in for a
TIGHT SHOT, will you, Karl? I want the audience
to know something's awry, here. There we go. Well-done,
Karl. And now let's insert an EXT. SHOT of the
plane silhouetted against a few clouds—dddrrrrooooooonne—and
back to a TIGHT SHOT of the pilot (blond hair peeking
out of the leather-brimmed hat, sheepskin collar lifted
up to his ears; frowning and showing us with a grimace
how tough such night flights into enemy territory are).
Co-pilot points down at a spit of land, pilot nods and
turns the wheel a bit, pointing the nose up the crease
of a river that will lead them, yes, you guessed it, dear
reader, to Lake Jaevsjo and, somewhere along its banks,
our bonfire-lit contact (Yes, particularly in winter,
yes, particularly in winter).
Meanwhile, in the back, our parachuting
heroes are jostled a bit by the descent. Some of them
turn towards the tiny windows and peer down; others merely
check their harnesses and brace themselves for the plummet.
And there, on the end—DOLLY up again, will
you, Karl?—yes, our mystery parka snout sits unmoved.
a rough descent, once the fire signal is lit, the plane
circling low enough for the fire-lit figure to hear its
chugging, pre-historic drone and see each of the figures
step up to the door and without a thought drop into the
void beneath them. There they go: one, two, three. And
more. The plane circling and from it falling the black
figures like bees burnt from a hive, falling, falling
and then: puff. The parachutes explode upwards, the men
beneath plummeting for a moment and then leaping upwards
with a jerk into the unexpected apron and floating hither
and thither over the ice-solid lake, their skis dangling
over their heads like musket barrels.
Plop! Plop! they land, ice-ankled and
not a few broken-legged, and then a mad scramble into
the skis and pump-pumping to the glowing snow over the
ridge. But my, look at that one go there. I say, old man,
in a hurry, what? But wait—isn't that the parka-snouted
mystery man? Linger on his back there, will you, Karl?
We'll have Korngold bring the score up a bit here.
In the meanwhile, our Heinrich is pumping
away like a love-stricken rabbit, one-two, one-two, stroke
slide, stroke slide, toward the glowing snow (the light,
perhaps, that illuminates all? casts the flickering shadows
of this fallen world for us to study like gypsy tea leaves?
that, in short, shows us all our fate?), thoughts of Nazis,
Mutter and the Siren merging now in a single mouthful—Jetz
mussen wir Englisch sprechen. Good work, Heinrich. Dein
Vater ist tod. Ja ja. How much you hate them Krauts, Brother
Müller? Want to kill a few, don't you? Yes, particularly
in winter. Can't do that with an Army band. Ja ja.
reaches the fire before the others, but as he skis to
the top of the ridge and descends, he is confused by the
scene: he and the contact are not alone. A prone figure,
tall and Norwegian, is stretched out before the fire,
bleeding quietly into the orange flames. Heinrich slows,
surveying, and then drifts the final feet to the standing
Parka-Snouted Figure. For a moment, the two men stand,
staring, and then the parka snout of the man standing
opposite Heinrich is snatched back to reveal Heinrich's
spitting image, throwing back an evil grimace like a Carnival
mirror. Heinrich, skis still poised, stares, lost to time
and space, and then sputters his last, breathless line.
Heinrich: Is the fishing good in this
Parka-Snouted Figure: How the fuck should
And with that, the Parka-Snouted Figure
raises a large gun and pierces Heinrich's puffy parka
with a single, heart-seeking bullet. Moments later, as
Heinrich falls to his knees—crying, gasping, dying—the
Parka-Snouted Figure casually skis back over the hills
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late Reginald Blisterkunst was a college professor whose
areas of expertise were Milton and the Metaphysical Poets.
Among the Remembered Saints was his first novel.
He also co-wrote Pluto Wars with Charlie Onion,
a frequent WAG contributor.