From Book 2: Kraut!

I had a job. Catherine’s father had been eager to hire me. Working for D’Arcy was nothing complicated which was exactly what I wanted, and required only my presence at the hotel desk where I handed out keys and called people down to take telephone calls on the party line. Louis lived there now; tight finances had forced him to give up his larger apartment for an efficiency and let go of the houseboat.

One evening Franz showed up to drive me home, and he stood by with obvious disappointment. Mostly I just read a book at the desk, or scribbled in my journal, or watched out the window. “Is this all you want to do?” asked Franz.

            I held up a hand as Louis approached. “Room two-twenty-one, please, Monsieur,” Louis said with exaggerated formality, and nodded in greeting to Franz. As I was reaching for his key Robert Desnos popped up from behind Louis.

Abruptly shoving his cigarette into his mouth, Desnos stepped forward and repeatedly hammered his fist on the bell, making Louis jump. “Hey!” Desnos bellowed, pounding the bell as it skittered across the counter, “this gentleman is waiting for his key. Can’t you do him that courtesy? Some service. I’m complaining to the management this minute. Kraut! Taking our jobs!” The bell fell off the counter and landed with a final jangle, and Franz watched in amazement as Desnos picked up a handful of courtesy cards from the counter and threw them at me. I stepped back and bumped the tagboard, knocking it violently. Cards and keys littered the floor. Grinning, Desnos turned and ran for the door.

            Louis’s face, when he took his hand from it, was red. “Will you give me my goddamn key, Weidmann?”

            “I’m looking for it,” I flung up at him as I scrambled around on my hands and knees. Louis drummed his fingers on the counter. Then I nearly bumped my nose against a hand that pointed imperiously to the floor. I picked up the key the finger wanted and held it up. Artaud, folded in half over my counter, snatched it with an incredulous look. He straightened up and turned to Franz.

            “Do you live here now, too?” Artaud asked, a trifle meanly. My brother smiled back at him.

            “Weidmann, I want my key.”

            “Landis—! I am looking for your key. When I have found it, I shall give it to you!”

            “Are you serious?” Franz answered Artaud, pointing down at me as I looked up at them. “He needs our blasted garden. He’s planted carrots between the roses and God knows what else. Maybe hashish. We keep him chained outside on warm nights.” The two of them enjoyed a chuckle at my expense while I crawled about again on the floor. Artaud left for his room. “Geoffrey, hurry up,” said Franz. “I’m going home.”

            “You could help me, you know,” I grumbled, hanging up keys as fast as I could.

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