Fiction: Kathleen Lynch Baum’s A Spy in Vienna, Seduced

It is our pleasure to share Kathleen Lynch Baum short story, “A Spy in Vienna, Seduced.”

It is a complicated love story, a seduction, and shot through with the anxieties of relationships, cultural displacement, and indeterminancy. It is the ideal long read for a midsummer weekend and perfect for those us dreaming of travel and craving the misty atmosphere of uncertain romance.

If you find yourself with even more time on a long summer evening, do check out more selections from our most recent issue NDQ 88.1/2.

 As you likely know, these days are particularly challenging for many cultural institutions, publishers, and little magazines. So even if NDQ doesn’t float your boat, If you can, consider buying a book from a small presssubscribing to a literary journal (like our UNP stablemate, Hotel Amerika), or otherwise supporting the arts.

A Spy in Vienna, Seduced

You will see it, you said—with a shrug of inevitability and a tap of cigarette ash—the apartment in the first district of Vienna, and now I have.

Half of a floor in the hôtel particulier where Mozart’s Masonic lodge met: your attempt to explain how it is you live here and your subsidized rent is too complicated to follow in any language. The rooms looking out on Schwertgasse are large and perfectly formed. One has your roll-top desk and a stave-back chair; in the next, a grand piano sinks into the worn parquet and, beyond it, is the biggest room of all with a daybed and a refectory table covered in white muslin, napkins folded from the last meal, a breadboard, a serrated knife, a basket of plums, mail, newspapers, your ancient Olympia manual typewriter, inside its case; notepads, books, files, pens, several lipsticks, slips of paper with names and telephone numbers and a glass of daisies. A still-life of chaos too well composed to be accidental.

You are pleased when I take a photo.

It’s good, isn’t it, Dear Heart? I worked hard to make it just so for you.

When the film is developed, the date is on the back of the print: Monday, July 8, 1996.

###

A friend called to ask a favor. An Austrian writer, arriving in New York, needs a place to spend the night before heading upstate to an artists’ colony.

A mistake, I think, as I open the door to an Eastern European hitman, tall and thick-chested, beginning to run to fat, cold blue eyes taking inventory. Your coat is still on when you ask if I’d like a cigarette (clearly you do). You don’t remove your felt fedora. It does not make you look like Joseph Beuys.

I show you the bathroom in the hall and how the sofa bed pulls out, lead you into the kitchen and request that you smoke by the open window. When I am finished, you ask if I will stay and talk to you.

I will sit there, you point to the window, and smoke. You will sit there, indicating the glass doors that separate the kitchen and living room, not smoking, just breathing. You smile, take off your hat and push back your chin-length hair, a gesture I read as “See, I’m not that bad, am I?”

I wait for a chance to break away and find I don’t. At first it’s curiosity and then, I’m caught up in the syncopation of what is not quite a conversation. It is more like piecing a puzzle together or playing charades. I have no German; your English is primitive, but you have brought a secret weapon: a small electronic dictionary that we decide to call the German Professor. Type the word you want to translate in either language on the tiny keyboard, and it not only displays the counterpart, but says the word in a tone-deaf voice. We sit for hours, at the window and in the doorway, tossing the German Professor back and forth, looking up words to complete a thought or to make jokes that are funny only to children or to people in between languages.

Your face relaxes and you no longer look quite so menacing. I go back and forth in my mind about you and wonder what you are thinking about me.

When I ask, you tell me your work has been translated into several languages. You’ve given readings across Europe, and in the United States; you travelled to Los Angeles when a play of yours was produced in Santa Monica as part of a cultural exchange. Like the artists’ colony, the Austrian government paid for everything.

I lived in Santa Monica for a while after college, I say, working for an artist in Ocean Park. I don’t tell you who the artist was, too well known, or what a creep he was.

LA is not a real place; it is a ghost town. Poof—you exhale mightily—and the whole place cracks, falls into a hole. I went to meet Billy Wilder, take him to see my play.

And did you?

I went to his apartment, read it to him. He said it was very good, but he didn’t understand why the two characters were on . . . you type . . . swings . . . type again . . . on a playing field.

You describe two actors on stage, swinging back and forth. They talk; they fall silent. Talk, then fall silent. I can picture it, beautiful and simple.

Perhaps this is when, to break the mood, I ask how you feel about having your productions and travel subsidized by the Austrian government.

You see, to the State, I am . . . you type, frown, type again . . . a cultural treasure.

I can’t help laughing.

It is written in a letter I can show you!

###

In the morning, cigarette smoke has sucked the oxygen out of the air. I get completely dressed before waking you up. You give me several of your books, writing in one, From the German Professor with many kisses for now and later, in Vienna.

Unlikely. I’ve had enough of arrogant men.

###

But seduction is like the flu. It comes out of nowhere, seizes on any weakness. You think you have shaken it off, only to find it returns, the fever and lightheadedness worse than before. At your request, I visit the artists’ colony. You come down to New York and stay with me, postponing your departure twice. By the time you are on your way back to Austria, you call me Dear Heart and I have bought a ticket to Vienna.

###

I tell all this to the friend who asked if I could put you up, a German journalist and translator I have known since he was an exchange student living in my college dormitory.

He looks horrified. I guessed you might have slept with him, but I didn’t think it was—

Serious? I offer, thinking what a horrible term.

That’s it, my friend says. If only he were serious, not so lazy, such a showman, I wouldn’t feel so guilty.

Then why, I ask, did you recommend him to the artists’ colony?

I didn’t. I simply agreed to find him a place to stay for the night.

I defend you: you’re an absurdist, purposely irrational, nonsensical, even childish, as a way to address political—

I know what an absurdist is, okay?

And what about the recognition, the prizes? When I say this, I wonder who is speaking.

My friend shakes his head. Nothing could be more political or less meaningful than Austrian prizes. Personally, I find everything about Austria spooky. But you’re a smart woman. Go and see for yourself.

###

I have just put my suitcase down in your bedroom, and thinking about a nap, when you tell me we must hurry out, buy food and wine because people are coming over in a few hours.

To meet you, Dear Heart!

Narrow streets open onto vast squares; I can barely keep up with you, your eagerness to show me the minutiae of your world.

Here is where we get our bread, you say, almost singing, and we descend into a cave of yeast and steam. Here is our cheese . . . our Bio-Gemüse . . . organic vegetables . . . we buy our chocolates and sweeties here—adding in a voice so loud people turn around—because this store is not run by Neo-Nazis.

Our final stop is a wine shop where you are greeted as an old friend in rapid German. When you introduce me, the conversation switches to English.

Can they deliver in the next two hours a case of local white wine, and one of the Italian red that tastes of volcanic ash?

Oh no, the man says, pretending to be shocked. My primitivo does not taste of ash! That’s you and all your nasty cigarette smoking.

The conversation switches back to German and, as you have with every store owner and clerk, you joke, ask questions and at some point, shift into a rumbling dialect that sounds almost Asiatic.

It’s good, isn’t it, you say when I ask. It is the old working-class dialect. I learned it from an actor when I first arrived here, a kid from the hills of Styria, from nowhere—would you say that? Oh, it was hard to learn and to pronounce—much harder than English.

###

People begin to arrive and keep coming. Three young men—your protégés, or so they tell me in English—have brought a number of boomboxes, the suitcase-sized tape players that kids used to blast while walking down the street in the late seventies, and set them up in different areas of the house, each playing a different style of music: atonal, electronic rock, jazz, klezmer.

You are everywhere and nowhere. Sitting by my side, pulling me up and off to this group of people or another, then suddenly gone, traceable only by your bark of a laugh. My fatigue comes in waves, and the only way to fight it is to stay in motion: bringing in more bread and cheese, another bowl of tomatoes in pumpkin seed oil that you made this evening, more wine, more glasses. This is when I begin to find clear evidence of a woman’s presence in the apartment: organic face cream in the refrigerator, a bra, thong panties and a pair of pantyhose on a drying rack, silver high-heeled tap dance shoes under your dresser.

I hear my name, return from my discoveries; when you see me, you bow and wink. This is your show. I decide to watch from the audience, at the quiet end of the table, by the window where sheer white curtains rise and fall with the breeze.

May I? A man in a plummy British accent, nodding to the next chair. He is dressed like a businessman in a fitted blue shirt with white cuffs turned up, eagle-faced, almost handsome. His name, he tells me, is Franz Schubert and he is a psychoanalyst. Thank God I am not yet so drunk that I comment on his name or profession. Or on how much he knows about me: where I grew up, where I went to college and what I studied, that I live on West End Avenue—Any shrinks left at all?—where I work, and that I am here for two weeks.

Too short a visit. Perhaps you’ll want to stay longer.

I tell him what I have been finding around the apartment.

The cad! Shall I punch him for you? My wife says he is a child in a bear suit. In my business, we’d call him well-defended.

I ask him if he thinks you are a good writer; he just laughs.

Can I let you in on a secret? Just now, in the hallway, he told me you were his Seelenverwandter: his soulmate.

###

The house gradually empties. I go into the bathroom and try to make some room for my things among the female clutter: nail polish, nail polish remover, eau de cologne, mascara, little half-used soaps taken from hotels. I am exhausted and, I will admit, drunk.

I need some goddamn space, I think, then say, and as I do, the mirror over the sink leaps off the wall onto the stone slab floor. The sound of it shattering is the sound of a woman screaming, and around my feet is a field of glass splinters that, over the next two weeks, will travel to every part of the apartment.

###

You sweep around me, making a path for my eventual escape from the bathroom.

Why are you crying? Are you afraid of bad luck?

You know why I am crying! Look at this room—look everywhere! Couldn’t you at least clear out a shelf?

You give me bedroom slippers—sized for a woman—and when I reach the bed, I collapse.

Fourteen hours later, I wake and ask for coffee.

Do you remember anything from last night, my poor Dear Heart?

I remember the exhilaration of raising my arm and the slowness with which . . .

I ask about the woman whose belongings are draped all over the apartment.

Dear Heart, please. So many people forget things, especially women, okay? Isn’t it nice that they are here for you to use, and even take back to New York, if you like?

Worn pantyhose? He hands me the German Professor. Strupfhose.

Tap-dance shoes? Stepptanzschuhe.

###

You tell me it is good thing that I broke the mirror. Why do we need a mirror when I can look at you, and you can look at me?

I’d like to believe the romantic gesture—isn’t that what comes after seduction, romance? —but I find myself going from room to room, looking for the right window, and the right position to brush my hair and put on mascara, but mostly, to catch a glimpse of myself.

I joke about my vanity and my insecurity, but without a way to see the reality of my presence reflected back—not just through the convex lens of your eye, or as a ghost passing in a dirty window—it’s as though I’m not here.

###

In New York, we were surprised how natural it seemed to live together.

I leave for work; you smoke and write in the kitchen, at a small table I put under the window. You bring your camera to Riverside Park, toggling the lens settings randomly to create blurry, psychedelic images and, back in the kitchen, make calls to the long list of contacts you and your publisher have decided you should meet. In the evenings, we go out, or more likely, cook, read and talk. It’s easy to imagine we are the two people on swings in your play.

You leave notes for me all around the house, each beginning: From Your Superego.

The kitchen must always be clean. Cleaner!

Read the newspaper every day!

Work harder. Harder!

Rearrange the refrigerator alphabetically!

Shower and wash your hair. Cleaner!

At sunrise, go to the park and run, run more.

Get lots of sleep so you feel really well.

I love your notes, the fun they make of my rage to order and your anarchist’s horror of it. They are lines in a much longer poem that you tell me you will dedicate to me. When you return to Vienna, I tape all your notes to the door of the refrigerator. People who come over ask me what they are, what they mean.

A friend stands in front of the refrigerator for a long time.

Do you love this man, or is he this year’s novelty?

Time to get more interesting friends.

###

Reiner, one of your self-proclaimed protégés, and his girlfriend Gabi, a beautiful, half-Iranian woman in her twenties, come over for dinner and bring hash for dessert. Their English is good, and we talk easily about film and television. They are documentarians by training, but support themselves working for Austrian Television, putting together what Gabi calls “inhuman, uninteresting human-interest pieces.” She wants to make a documentary about money coming into Austria from Russia, the Ukraine, other oil and mineral producing countries, and how it is funding right-wing agitators. It’s something I know a bit because of my job, but when I try to ask a question, Gabi switches into German and the two of you talk as I look on.

Where is the German Professor? Reiner has it. He looks very stoned and very young, sitting on the floor, stick legs stretched in front of him, typing words and giggling at the response. By his knee is the little black hash pipe, smoking on the ancient parquet. I pick it up, and he scowls before returning to his new toy.

You say the name of the bank where I work.

A big deal job, although she will not admit it, you tell Gabi in English.

I’ve asked you not to mention my work, because it seems so incongruous, even questionable, in your world, but it triggers Gabi’s interest.

Is the bank your cover? she asks. You know, CIA? NSA?

Oh, Dear Heart! How much I would like it if you were a spy! A spy in Vienna. Ein Spion in Wien. What a screenplay I would write!

Sadly not, I answer. You look crestfallen.

Reiner remains on the floor until Gabi tells him it is time to leave. When they go, so does the German Professor, in Reiner’s pocket. Accidentally on purpose, I say, and try to explain what I mean.

Reiner is lost, you say, tenderly; he is a little boy. Gabi is carrying him—you pantomime throwing someone over your shoulder—but not for much longer. She is strong and he is weak. So, we must be generous, and give Reiner the German Professor, don’t you agree?

I feel like I have lost my best friend.

###

It is very late that night, or maybe another night. Stay up, you command me. I have so much to tell you.

You make a pot of espresso, urge a cup on me, another.

Come! You lead me to the room with your desk, pull out several drawers and we carry them back to the room with the long table and the daybed.

With your legs curled to one side, you sort through the piles of paper: letters, both official and personal, newspaper clippings, drafts of your work, flyers and posters, political and announcing your work or performances, snapshots from the 1950s onward, explaining, describing, recalling—

Look at me, you say. I must see you when I talk to you.

Had I looked away? Had I fallen asleep?

You are, I realize, telling me your creation story, but even if I could understand, really understand what you are saying, the sensation is of being force-fed like a goose.

Come to bed, I say. Come to bed with me.

###

By noon, you are in the far room at your massive desk. Lots of telephone calls that you conduct walking from room to room, trailing the longest cord I have ever seen. People drop by—there is a buzzer downstairs, and the concierge is supposed to watch the door—but most just wander in. You sit with them at the refectory table, talk loudly, then take them to the door or go with them to a coffeehouse. One of your visitors is Gaby.

Pooh, you say when I ask, she has interesting ideas, but where do they lead? I tell her to talk to you about banking, but she won’t. Dear Heart, don’t be jealous if she is a little in love with me.

I spend more and more of the day out: reading in the Burggarten or the Volksgarten, wandering along the Graben, a medieval ditch that is now a pedestrian walkway, in and out of side street bric-a-brac shops, stuffed with old tablecloths, teapots and cloudy mirrors. One day, I find an old-fashioned, heavy woman’s bicycle in your front hall, manage to get it down four flights of marble stairs and ride in mid-day traffic to the Prater. The park’s wide avenues are lined with linden trees, some still blossoming, giving off their aroma of honey.

The next day I ask you to go with me to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, just for an hour or two, to look at their famous collection of paintings by Peter Brueghel the Elder. You make the snorting sound that precedes no.

Dear Heart, I would go anywhere with you, but I can’t be seen lining up with tourists in front of an elitist institution. They have never asked me to speak or be on a panel. I don’t want to compromise my position as a man of the left.

I shouldn’t feel hurt, but I am. By now I should know, whether the issue really is politics or sheer disinterest, compromise is not an option.

As if reading my mind, you sigh. Dear Heart, when I was in New York, were you not working, working, working?

Yes, I think, but in New York, I did my best to make you happy, and you did not stop me.

###

At the tobacconist at the top of the street, I buy a tourist map, choosing one with TOURIST MAP printed in extremely large letters, at the top and the bottom of every fold. I stand and unfurl it, at the corner where, if you happened to walk over from your desk to the window, you can see and identify me from the words on the map.

At the Kunsthistorisches Museum, I move slowly back and forth among the canvases in the Breughel Gallery (to the annoyance of the crowd whose aim is to get in and get out). Once upon a time, before the bank, before New York, I was an art student, fascinated with Brueghel and the rhythms of his painting: how he pulls the viewer down, one thin layer of paint at a time, into the countless individual stories going on simultaneously, and then back up, to the larger, defining narrative of the picture, within which everything takes place: the point-counterpoint of the actual and the symbolic, human urges and spiritual mysteries. After an hour or so, my eyes are exhausted. I stand in front of A Peasant Wedding and let the painting come to me. I leave determined that tomorrow, I am returning with you, and on the walk back, I plan my strategy.

When I arrive at the apartment, you are too distracted for conversation. We are going to dinner at your publisher’s.

###

She is from a wealthy Jewish family that has lived in Vienna for centuries, you tell me on route to her house. Her grandparents made their way to Portugal after the Anschluss. When the war ended, they returned and flourished.

What they did was impossible; impossible, you say again, and yet it happened.

You have told me she is one of the best independent publishers in the country, and I believe you, if for no other reason than the quality of her books: the care put into design, printing and binding.

Sure, but the most important thing is that she does not fear controversy—for me to be successful, I must create controversy, agitation.

The conversation, as it always is, is about politics: about the Right, the growing popularity of the Freedom Party—the F, as it is known—but tonight, the tone is more urgent. Not if, but when the F will take over, how to judge when it is time to leave and to where? Ireland is the favorite choice. It is in the EU, Catholic but not too Catholic—and there is a quick side conversation in German about me that is easy to understand: am I Jewish . . . the name?

The name, sure, you shrug, but she is Catholic. Both mother and father, unfortunately.

Your publisher smiles at me, asks in English if I know that yet another Jewish cemetery has been desecrated by hooligans with ties to the F Party?

I know, because you and I have seen the reports on television.

Is the news being reported in the US?

Probably not, I say reluctantly, but truthfully.

Of course not, you say. Because what happens in little, tiny Austria is of no interest to the great United States.

###

Before dinner with your publisher, we take a bath together in your whale of a tub, full of bubble bath someone has left for her use and mine. You get very somber and say there is something you must tell me.

Your father is Jewish. As a small child during the War, he was hidden by a farmer. Afterwards, he returned to the Styrian hill town where he was born, went back to school, married your mother and got a job selling iron ore.

It troubles me that I don’t quite believe you. It is not because you are uncircumcised or that you don’t answer my questions about your father’s parents. I keep thinking about another story you have told me more than once, with great energy, acting it out. You are nine or ten (in a photo from this period, you have a bristle crew cut, accentuating your forehead and round, brazen eyes) in the classroom, facing a huge map of Europe.

The teacher hits the map with a long ruler. Bang!

Nine years, children! It took the entire world nine years to beat us!

You love that story and always laugh when you tell it.

Or maybe it is your eagerness, at night, and in the early morning, to search the cable channels for what you call home movies, made in Austria for the local market in the years immediately after World War Two, films where genocide, defeat, dishonor, occupation and certainly, retribution, are far away; where it is always a summer’s day by the lake or a snowy night before a full-dress ball, during the last decades of the Empire, or even the years before the war.

###

The Sigmund Freud museum: his office and the family apartment. It is much as I expected: heavy, uncomfortable-looking furniture covered with mohair plush, layering of Persian rugs, patterned wallpaper, posed photographs and long window coverings. In the entryway, a closet is open to reveal suitcases made to look ready for departure.

It is an apartment that reflects inwardly upon itself, facing the street only with reluctance. The empty, shabby grandeur of the apartment in the first district—the windows barely covered; your curated mess displayed without apology. What does it tell me about you?

###

When I return from Berggasse 19, it is a pleasant evening and you propose a walk before dinner. We end up in Albertinaplatz: in front of The Memorial against War and Fascism. It is made up of four sculptures: three are monumental in size, heavily figured, made of granite quarried on the site of the Mauthausen concentration camp. Between them, much smaller, in bronze, the figure of an old man, crouched down on the cobblestones, scrubbing them, barbed wire across his back, added later, to keep people and pigeons from sitting on it. When you tell me that last detail, I turn away. 

Only the Austrians, you say, only the Viennese, would commemorate their hatred of the Jews, their humiliation of them. That is why, Dear Heart, no matter what, we must not be sentimental.

###

When you announce we are going to visit your friend Katrina in the wine-growing area around the Czech border, I am happy to leave Vienna. We make the drive with Michael and Beate, a couple I don’t know, and their children.

Katrina and some friends have converted a thick-walled farmhouse into apartments they stay in during the summer. Behind the house is a brick patio, a garden surrounded by apricot and plum trees and a swimming pool, fed by a stream, with lily pads on the surface. Farm fields run to the horizon in all directions.

It is a slow, languorous day and, as afternoon turns to evening, we sit at a picnic table, drinking local wine in ceramic cups, nibbling from plates of this and that, the children coming and going. Across several miles of fields, a long train passes from east to west.

Our train, you say, tracing its wake; the train we didn’t get on. You open your notebook and write for a minute or so.

Okay, you say to no one in particular, strip your clothes off and dive through dragonflies into the pool.

Oh, how fine! Dear Heart, will you not swim?

The water is cold, but softer than any I have felt; I never want to come out.

Everyone takes a dip but Beate. Her younger child, Davide, is in her lap and she is playing with his hair. Has she spoken all day? Have I seen her eat or drink? She doesn’t look unhappy, just distracted.

#

It is almost ten at night when we get in the car again, with Michael, Beate and, to my surprise, their children, and drive a few miles east to Retz. On the way, you are whispering in my ear: I am happy. You are happy. We are happy. I am happy. You are happy . . .

Earlier that day, I ask if you want to continue our relationship, given the distance and other complications.

Complications, you echo. But isn’t everything good full of complications?

It is something I remember from my conversation with Franz Schubert on my first night in Vienna.

He has a gift for complication. Nothing is simple; the plot is always thickening.

We park and enter through high gates—the town is entirely enclosed within medieval walls. In the central square is the entrance to the largest wine cellar in Europe, first built in the twelfth century, continually deepened and extended, fortified by a network of tunnels that run for miles in all directions. Michael tells me this; he is an architectural preservationist.

You have been excited all day; now, you are so animated, I wonder if, when I wasn’t looking, you’ve gotten high on something. At your urging, we turn into a busy wine garden, where you corner a waitress, make an order for the entire table, then put your arm around Michael and lead him away. As soon as the two of you are out of sight, the children run off. Beate stares into middle distance.

After a few minutes, Michael returns, looking embarrassed. He says something to his wife.

We’re going to go down to the cellars, he tells me.

Good, I’ll go with you. Maybe we should all go.

Beate is examining her nails. Davide, and his older sister, Greta, still haven’t returned. Why are they allowed to wander off from their parents?

That’s not possible, Michael tell me. But we won’t be long.

I’m angry, not at Michael, but at you.

I’d like to see the wine cellars, I say.

Could you stay? Michael voice drops to almost a whisper, a plea. I’d appreciate someone here with my wife.

The children return, tired but too restless to be still for long. They encircle their mother. Davide is in her lap, face to face, combing his mother’s hair with his fingers. Greta is sitting on the arm of her chair, rubbing her neck. When a waitress comes, tray heavy with the food, white wine and bottled water you have ordered, Beate claps her hands, pushes Davide and Greta from her. Again, they dart away.

She looks at me for the first time all day and smiles: a broad smile that shows off her even white teeth.

Why don’t you go, run after the men? Why be stuck here with a strange woman, just back from hospital after a suicide attempt? Why would you do that?

Oh, Beate. What are we doing here anyway? Would you like me to find the children?

I stand and begin to scan the square. Davide and Greta are nowhere in sight, but when I make another quarter turn to the right, there you are, you and Gabi, in a dark corner of a makeshift dancefloor, wrapped around each other, not moving, just kissing. What a coincidence, running into Gabi in Retz.

###

Driving back to the farmhouse, you rub my knee.

I squeeze your knee hard, then harder, hard enough to hurt you and leave a bruise.

You are trying to make me squeal like a pig!

Yes, I whisper, and take my hand away, afraid of the impulse to keep going.

That night, on an inflatable bed Katrina set up for us, I turn my back to you and begin to dream immediately. A bent old man opens the massive oak door of the hôtel particulier on Schwertgasse. The spiraling stairs go around and around an impossible number of times; I am breathless when I reach your landing. Reiner is outside the door. They’re laughing in there, he says. The German Professor is in his hand. He drops it down the hollow well of the staircase.

I wake. The sheets are drenched with sweat and twisted around me. You are naked, curled on your side, deeply asleep.

Outside, it’s still dark. I follow the slight hiss of the water to the pool and dive in, down to the reedy bottom and back up, as fish slip by. I swim and submerge, swim and submerge, feeling the cool push of the stream against me, until I am clear on what comes next.

By the time I stop, the sun is well up over the eastern horizon. A sharp whistle, and a train runs out of the morning glare, making its way to Vienna across the empty fields.

Our train, you said, seeing it yesterday, tracing its wake; the train we didn’t get on.

There is no reason to miss the next one.

Then you are at the edge of the pool, wrapped in a towel from the waist down, holding another towel out to me. Please, Dear Heart, you mustn’t get cold.

~

Kathleen Lynch Baum has returned to fiction after decades of exile in financial services. She received her M.F.A. from Columbia University and has been published in Columbia: A Magazine of Poetry and Prose, The Quarterly, New Laurel Review and Fiction. She lives just south of the North Church in Boston.

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