The Road To Wredenhagen: Part Two
The path takes us on a long, uphill journey to a sleepy commuter town where we discover that every shop, cafe and restaurant is closed and there is literally nobody about anywhere. We had set off from Lucky Tank in bright mid-afternoon sunshine but it’s dusk now and I’m beginning to worry that this is exactly how horror movies start. Suddenly we spot three figures in the distance, standing statue-like in conversation. My heart leaps but sinks again almost immediately when we realize that the reason they are standing statue-like is because that’s what they are.
The night is rapidly closing in and I’m beginning to lose hope. Any minute now a mob of townsfolk armed with torches and pitchforks will arrive and Ryan and I will be taken off for sacrifice. But then, remarkably, we stumble across a hotel of sorts. It’s not the kind of place that has a reception desk though so we have to ring the bell to get attention. A moment or two later a short, rotund woman opens the door. She seems bewildered by our presence.
“Hello we don’t speak German,” I say cheerily. “Do you have any rooms available?”
Astonishingly she seems to understand and beckons us in. The hotel is totally empty so we can have our pick of the rooms. It’s a minor miracle. I ask if there might be the possibility of getting a meal as all either of us has eaten in the last eight hours is a couple of Kit Kats and the Super Dickmann’s and, I’ll let you in on a secret, Super is the last word I would use to describe it. Our hostess shakes her head. Ok. Never mind. A night in a comfortable bed is more than enough of a reward. I bid Ryan a cheery goodnight and retire to my room feeling strangely optimistic. I’ll get a good night’s sleep and tomorrow the car will be repaired and we’ll be in Prague by sundown. Still, I double check my door is locked just in case those townsfolk come looking for me.
I wake early the following morning after an unbroken night’s sleep. It’s probably the best sleep I’ve had in months and by eight I’m raring to go. The walk back to Lucky Tank is all downhill and it takes us a fraction of the time it took yesterday. By the time we are approaching the petrol station Ryan is walking a few yards ahead of me. It’s another sunny day and he’s taken his shirt off, to my dismay. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a man and a woman appear and intercept us.
“Ihren Ausweise bitte,” the man says sharply.
“Er. I’m sorry but I don’t speak German,” I say. “Are you the mechanic?”
“ID please,” the man says brusquely and shows me a police badge. I fish around in my pocket for my passport and hand it over.
“You too,” he says to Ryan who is looking baffled by this unexpected turn of events.
“Where are you going?” the woman asks with a smile. I realize that we’re going to get the classic good cop/bad cop routine.
“Uh, that’s my car over there,” I say. “It broke down. We’re waiting for the mechanic.”
The male officer turns to face me. “Please. Take your things out of the car.”
I look at him and furrow my brow. “You mean everything?” I say, a little bewildered.
“Yes, everything.” He’s getting a little tetchy now.
“Uh, ok,” I say slowly. “But, can I ask what you’re looking for?”
“Drugs or weapons,” the woman says bluntly. “If you have anything like that it’s best to tell us now. It will only be worse for you if you don’t.”
I’m shocked. Do we look like criminals?? And then I realize that, yes, of course we do. We’re both exceptionally scruffy and suspicious-looking. Ryan in particular. His hair is a tangled mess, he has a thick beard and he’s not wearing a shirt. His appearance could well be described as Classic IRA. I can feel the beginnings of a panic attack coming on. What exactly do we have in the car? I know that my stuff is weapons and drug-free but what about Ryan’s? We’ve just come from the Netherlands and where pot-smoking is practically compulsory. I have no idea what he’s got stashed away amongst his guitar strings and capos and CDs and t-shirts and soiled underwear. For all I know he may have a bagful of heroin and guns.
Ryan and I begin to unload the car nervously. It’s a laborious and sweaty process as there is a ridiculously large amount of junk in the trunk. Aside from all the band gear and merch and our clothing there are probably things lurking in there that have been buried for weeks and God knows what they might be. I know there is probably at least one mouldy loaf of bread buried somewhere. It’s the unknowns that worry me though. Eventually we empty it all out onto the tarmac and it’s an embarrassing mess, like a yard sale organized by a bunch of drunk students.
“Ok. Teppiche, bitte… Carpets too,” the male officer says.
Are you kidding me? I want to say. This is harassment! Instead I say “of course” and remove the carpets, throwing them out with everything else. My stomach is in knots.
We unzip every zipper, unbuckle every buckle, tip clothes into piles, take guitars out of their cases, guitar pedals from their boxes and remove every paper from the glove box. The pains-taking process takes forever. Eventually though it becomes apparent that we have nothing of any interest to the police in our possession and the male officer grimaces and stomps off, clearly annoyed that he can’t arrest us.
“Ok, you can put your things back,” the more amicable female officer says with a smile. She then tries to initiate a bit of chit-chat but neither Ryan nor I are in the mood for it and she soon gives up and rejoins her comrade.
“Can you believe this crap!?” Ryan says to me with a malevolent sneer.
I shake my head though not too obviously as the two cops are still lurking nearby.
We begrudgingly reload the car and have just finished when a red and white pickup truck pulls up next to the Audi. I say a cheerful “Guten morgen!” as the mechanic climbs out of his vehicle. He nods a curt hello and gestures for me to pop open the hood. I gladly oblige and wonder how long it’s going to take to get the car back on the road and--more importantly--how much it’s going to cost me.
The mechanic--a tall, muscular man of about fifty--looks closely at the engine for a couple of minutes. Then he closes the hood and looks at me mournfully. “Es ist kaputt,” he says, placing both hands palm down in a gesture that I of course understand immediately. My shoulders droop and I feel the last flicker of hope fizzle out like a cheap firework.
“Kaputt?” I repeat morosely.
“Finished,” he says, to clarify.
“I see. Well then…” I trail off, looking out across the vast alien expanse that lies outside of the petrol station.
The mechanic returns to the pickup and pushes a button that starts up the automatic winch and I watch as the thick metal cable begins to uncoil. Much like my life, I ponder gloomily. But then I snap out of it as I realize we need to unload everything from the car. Again.
“This is nuts!” Ryan says defiantly, dragging the bass amp from the trunk.
Once the car is stripped of its contents for the second time, I watch sadly as the mechanic winches the tired-looking Audi onto the flatbed of the pickup. He hands me a paper to sign which I do without even looking at it. Then, just as he’s about to get back into the pickup, I remember the box of tinned food.
“You may as well have this stuff,” I say as I hand it to him.
He looks puzzled, clearly unsure what to say but he takes the box with a bemused smile and sets it on the passenger seat of the pick up. He climbs back into the cab and slams the door. The sound of the oh-so-perfectly functioning engine of the pickup stabs me like a knife in the heart. He holds up a tin of beans and waves it at me as he pulls out and I duly wave in return. I’m running on autopilot now. I become a little teary-eyed as the deceased car--making its final journey atop the inappropriately accelerating red and white pickup--disappears into the hinterland.
Ryan rolls another cigarette and I say “Give me one of those,” shocked at how dejected I sound. He rolls me a cigarette and we stand smoking together in silence.
“Screw it,” he says once he’s smoked enough. “I need a beer. Want one?” “Yeah,” I say quietly and he disappears into the shop before re-emerging a few minutes later with a six-pack of German lager. We spend the following hour drinking and wondering how the hell we’re going to get out of this mess.
Come back for Part Three next week!