Meanwhile in Kreuzberg: Skipping The Devil's Elixir
It was not too long ago, on a cold February night whilst I was experiencing a mild case of delirium tremens, that I decided to roll up a beefy fat one and clear my mind. I found myself climbing the gates of Mehringdamm 21 making my way to the tranquility of the fine graveyard where so many have been laid to their final rest. I knew just the spot where to sit down and spark up, and as I produced my pink Späti lighter (which had some crude caricature of a woman copulating with what seemed to be a bald man), I heard something move through the bushes. Realizing that I was indeed sitting down in a cemetery in the middle of night, naturally I freaked out a little bit, but after waiting for a few seconds which seemed like an eternity, I decided there was no point in getting up so I proceeded to have a smoke and relax. My prostate was aching, which is a very common symptom of old age and climbing fences, but the sweet smoke had an immediate effect, alleviating every part of my body. I guess Peter Tosh was right after all... But then the sound resumed, and out of the bushes came out a healthy-sized fox who approached me cautiously. After making sure my heart was still beating, for this critter had made me soil myself, I waited for what was yet to come. The fox seemed unfazed by my presence and when he was finally standing in front of me, he spoke to me in a rather nasal voice:
‘Was machst du, hier du Sau?’
My initial reaction was to ejaculate a very heartfelt ‘Bloody Hell!!!’. The fox, who seemed to have noticed the Anglo Saxon nature of my surprise, then uttered in a clear and slightly German accent:
‘You know it is very rude to smoke the trees on this sacred soil without offering some to Ernst,’
’I’m terribly sorry, my dear fellow, but I was not aware that there was anyone else here...as a matter of fact that is the main reason I decided to come here...’ I replied, in awe of the eloquence of the mysterious animal.
’Well, I will not take offence at your actions if you agree to come and meet Ernst. I’m sure he will welcome your tribute warmly.’ said the fox as he pointed west with his nose, as an indication for me to accompany him.
’I wouldn’t want to offend anyone, but please let me know, who is Ernst? Is he your master?’ said I as I stood up, 'You make me laugh, fool. I serve no one except for nature itself. I’m a wild animal in any case. Ernst is just a friend. But he is a good man from whom you might learn a thing or two. Now move your bald behind and let us go see him, you silly biped.’
The fox moved swiftly, which made it difficult for me to keep up as I was already slightly blazed. I almost stumbled upon a gravestone with the inscription ‘Frau Martin’. Seemed to have been there for over a good two centuries... ‘Hurry up, fool’, shouted the fox from twenty meters away. He was a quick one. I regained my breath and tried to jog on but the signs of paralysis in my left leg significantly increased and I had to painfully drag myself. Plus the years of smoking didn’t really help either... But just as I was about to collapse and vomit what was left of my lungs, I observed a tall figure standing next a tree. His face was oblong crowned with a messy bush of black or dark brown hair. He was dressed completely in black, with the exception of his shirt and cravat, which were almost fluorescent white. He appeared to be stashing a number of bottles into a leather sack. He greeted the fox candidly. 'My dear old Johannes, great to see you on this fine evening. I see you have brought some company with you...is it another graffiti punk? Shall we slash his testes with barbwire?’
’Not exactly, Erst. Some old fool who seemed to be sparking up on his own...’ replied the fox as he looked at me ‘Here, sad old man. Why don’t you offer a little taste of your herbs to Ernst.’
I shyly produced my half smoked jay, and offered it to the tall man, whose black eyes seemed to illuminate. He took a box of matches used to light fireplaces and lit one up by striking it on the sole of his boot. He coughed in a manner that suggested he probably hadn’t smoked for a long time and spoke to me for the first time.
I felt a bit shy, so I smiled and nodded politely, the way nice old people do. I felt out of character as I am not a nice old person, quite the opposite actually... But given the situation, I suppose anyone would be taken aback. ‘Where did you secure this excellent leaf? I must find the source of such marvel!!', exclaimed Ernst who by now was inhaling with the expertise of Devin the Dude…
I replied ‘Near Hasenheide...’, still feeling a tad confused.
‘It’s probably shit stuff then’ interceded the fox. ‘I have a cousin who lives there, but he knows these chipmunks who live in a park in Spandau who have some real quality shit...’
‘Ah, Spandau my dear Johannes’ said Ernst. ‘But who ventures to Spandau anymore...? And, in any case, what are the advantages in Spandau? Soil? Climate? I think you are being a little bit elitist...’
‘It’s not from here. They get it from some crows who bring it all the way from Amsterdam. Birds are the best mules, this is a fact. I once met a messenger pigeon who had a part-time gig as an ecstasy courier. He would distribute all over Friedrichshain. Plus tips. Excellent income if you have the wings...’
Ernst smoked up to the last bit, offering me one last hit. I had had more than enough and was still trying to figure out how a messenger pigeon could carry a bag of pills, but then again, I’d imagine the pay must be bread crumbs or worms...
‘This is a very fine herb you have brought, my dear sir. I would like to repay your kindness by offering perhaps a drink?’ he said as he pulled out one of the strange looking bottles from his sack. I politely refused, as I wasn’t exactly sure of the contents and the intentions of this strange duo who were scrutinizing me in the oddest way. Ernst took a sip of the bottle and gulped deeply which suggested that whatever was in that bottle must burn like hell’s fire. He spoke to me again, ‘Suit yourself, mister. But I am now in excellent spirits and I feel like the night is so inviting. I propose we go and paint the town red.’ And then he added with a wink, ‘Or black’.
Now, at that point, I couldn’t find any suitable excuse to decline such a terrifying yet exciting offer. It wasn’t like I had anything better to do than head back to my sad dump of an apartment and watch bugs crawl down the wall and try to kill me...’Yeah, sure. I could do with some distraction...’, I said.
‘Excellent, young man.’ replied Ernst as he pulled some robes out of his sack. ‘Please do me the honor of putting on this humble Capuchin tunic...’. Baffled and somewhat under the influence, I obliged. He looked at me and said ‘You remind me of Medardus...’ and laughed out loud. The fox seemed to find it funny as well, but I was too proud to politely smile so, adopting the odious manner that so many schoolmasters have used throughout the 20th century, I told them to explain the joke to me so we could all laugh. ‘Don’t be so sensitive’, said Ernst as he was still chuckling. ‘You sure I can’t offer you a taste of this?’ as he tried to tempt me into drinking whatever monstrous concoction he had in that little bottle of his. I really didn’t feel like being roofied by some spectral character I had just met in a cemetery and his fox pal, so I politely declined yet again. Not wanting to sound like a party pooper, I proposed going for some beers. ‘First round is on me’, I said looking at Johannes the Fox, who I assumed would be knocked out after the first or second one. As we made our way to the entrance, Ernst looked at me for a moment, then said, ‘I have to answer the call of nature, my dear fellow... Let’s meet on the corner of Yorkstraße in 5 minutes, shall we?’ I had no choice but to acquiesce to his request, although I was a little disappointed as I did expect him to float right through the gates in a phantasmagorical fashion, but then again I really couldn’t be bothered and agreed to do so. I climbed over the fence narrowly avoiding being impaled, and I observed Johannes the Fox nimbly squeeze himself between the two metal gates. I thought about making polite conversation with the furry creature but I am shit at small talk so I couldn’t really get much out of him. By the time we reached Yorckstraße, Ernst was already there talking to a group of punk Spanish girls who were all laughing at his jokes and sipping from his little bottle. He saw us and gave me a naughty grin as one of the girls with dreadlocks emptied the bottle. ‘Another one bites the dust’, he whispered in my ear. Great, now I was stuck with a lunatic sex-offending spectre. I needed to get out of there as quickly as possible.
The presence of Johannes made all the girls excited and the girl who had just downed the bottle of who knows what tried to pet him, calling him names in Spanish. It was clear that the fox was not very fond of being caressed by human hands so he rapidly avoided the attempts by moving around with the precision of a fencing athlete. Another girl announced they were going into a Rock Bar nearby, and suggested we accompany them, probably in hopes of having secured a benefactor for the evening. Ernst laughed merrily but rejected the plan and announced he had already made plans with his dear friends, pointing at Johannes and myself.
We reached a bar with tables outside, but it was too cold to sit down and wait to take an order so we tried making our way past the doorman who scrutinized us for a second and decided to reject us, due to our four-legged companion. ‘No dogs allowed’, he said as he pointed to a sign on the door which depicted a drawing of a dog with the phrase ‘Wir Müssen draußen bleiben!’. Johannes seemed to take great offence at this and was ready to leave but Ernst would not take no for an answer. He pledged politely trying to explain that the ‘dog’ was indeed a fox, but this didn’t seem to sit well with the doorman who was growing irritated at the fastidious charm of Ernst. I could tell by his body language that he was getting ready to give Ernst a clout when all of a sudden, Johannes decided to address the man. ‘If I called you a massive ape, you would probably take offence. Now, I wouldn’t because apes have a lot more charm than yourself, sir.’ The doorman could not believe the situation. Here, in the middle of Kreuzberg, an urban fox was talking to him. He tried to say something but all he could spit was ‘Ach so...Ach so...emmm...’. It was right during this moment of confusion that Ernst landed a very well applied right hook on the poor bastard’s face who lost his balance immediately, leaving him vulnerable and open to an attack by the fox who pounced on him and proceeded to bite his arms, as he cowered trying to cover himself from the attack, which by now was coming from two fronts due to Ernst promptly kicking him in the ribs. I tried to stop Ernst, who seemed to be enjoying himself way too much, by holding him back, although fearing I would get a clout myself. He was surprisingly sensible about it and ordered Johannes to stop as well. ‘He’s had enough, let’s go!’ We legged it as fast as we could with the fox still shouting manically ‘Racist Bastard!! That’s what you get when you fuck with me’. This was not going well, I was pretty much sure I couldn’t show my face around here for a long time. We had been running for a while now and were about to pass a church when Ernst and the fox suddenly stopped. I payed no mind to this until later, but at that moment I realized that my adrenaline was wearing off so I stopped as well. We took a breather and as I panted and Ernst and the fox laughed it off, I noticed the artwork inside what looked like a very posh restaurant. It was closed but there were still some dim lights illuminating a portrait of someone who looked exactly like Ernst. It had to be him. I looked at Ernst and then at the portrait again. Johannes noticed this and said to Ernst ‘Here, Ernst. Isn’t that you?’. Ernst's mood changed instantly. He seemed somber and tenebrous. He spoke with his eyes fixated on the painting ‘You think I got something out of this business venture, boys? You think these yellow-bellied bastards would even offer me some compensation, or at least a free drink?’
‘Don’t know, Ernst...’ said Johannes who seemed worried by now. Ernst returned to his jolly mood abruptly as if making his way back to us. ‘I think they wouldn’t, but then again who knows...’, he said to me, smiling as he pulled out a loose brick from the curb. I looked at the brick, then I looked at Johannes who was closing his eyes with his tail between his legs and suddenly heard the horrid sound of broken glass. ‘Let’s do one boys!!’ yelled Ernst as we legged it one more time. We finally made it back to the entrance of the cemetery. I had had enough for one night. These two were likable fellows and everything but they were trouble. I made some excuses and called it a night. I gave the robe back to Ernst who offered me one last night cap, pulling out one of those odious bottles from my pocket. I gave him a faint smile, nodding my head and asked him, ‘What the hell is in those bottles, Ernst?’. He stared at me for a second with an expression that suggested I should already know by now. ‘The Devil’s Elixir, silly bollocks!!’ I shook his hand, gave Johannes a little wave and went back home thinking I’ll never touch another drop, half knowing that would not be the case.
By Julian Sylvester