Everyday Heroes

From his apartment window Thomas followed the movements of a young man lurking about the courtyard. The stranger stopped in front of a bicycle. Not just any bicycle. It was Anna’s white ladybike. Seconds later the bicycle was leaving the courtyard in the hands of an abductor. Thomas stood in disbelief. Anna must have forgotten to lock it. He had to act, and he had to do so in a hurry. The thief was already out of sight. Soon the ladybike would be lost among the countless bicycles of Copenhagen’s concrete jungle.

Thomas was a young man himself, but not a particularly brave man. Yet, there he was, fighting to pull on his Converse sneakers. Anna had done nothing to deserve this – except forgetting to lock her bicycle. “Damnit Anna, why do you never lock that thing”. Remembering that Anna was the victim, he shifted the blame. “No one should steal bicycles in the first place”, he reproached himself. She would be back from vacation in a few days. Meanwhile Thomas had promised to keep things in order. This situation caught him off guard. Sure, he would be forgiven, but would it ever be forgotten if he did nothing? Yes, insurance would cover the material loss, but there was more at stake. He had become involved as a silent witness. Obligated to the well-being of the ladybike. The abductor had pulled him into an unfamiliar vortex. Everything from Danish civil order to the equilibrium of Thomas and Anna’s relationship seemed to be at stake.

Off he went, racing his tired old bicycle up and down the streets of suburban Valby. The only bloody place in Copenhagen with hills. Panting, sweating – where the hell could it be? Searching the neighborhood using no precise method. His eyes flared like a mother whose child has gone missing at a playground. Almost wanting to cry out some name. Hoping to hear in response the ring of the ladybike’s bell. The distress call of an iron damsel in dire straits. In this frantic state of mind, he considered how to handle the abductor if he found him. This was all unchartered territory. He had read that one must display confidence while avoiding conflict escalation. So perhaps a straight face and firm voice coupled with non-aggressive body language? Or was aggression the right way to go? A quick punch on the nose and a kick in the sack, and then a swift escape. The problem was, he mastered none of these skills. He was an avid student of law, but by no measure a scholar of the streets. He would have to play it by ear. That is, if he found the ladybike and her hijacker. He became anxious as the trail grew colder.

And then, there she was. In the corner of a rundown parking lot, in front of the wooden façade of a greasy burger joint. Seven young men stood in a cluster while an eighth rode around them in circles on Anna’s bicycle. They were restless, loud, taunting each other, fooling around. Thomas’ adrenaline skyrocketed. What to do now? The young men had no idea who he was, but this seemed to be his only advantage. Should he call the cops – the protectors of good citizens? Better not. Anna’s bicycle would be long gone before the cops decided to show up. Drenching his mind for a solution he spotted a man in a small Volkswagen Polo.

Tap-tap. The driver-side window rolled down revealing a man with short blonde crewcut hair. His large face stuck itself forward meeting Thomas with an indifferent gaze. “Can you please help me? I… those men over there stole my girlfriend’s bicycle and… I don’t know how to get it back”, Thomas stuttered as he continued to explain his current predicament. The man said few words, but his expression had changed. Staring with bitter contempt at the group of young men he said in a cooled voice, “let me have a little chat with them”. The door opened and from one of the world’s smallest cars stepped out a colossus of a man. He bore a formidable physique, dwarfing Thomas by several heads and twice as wide over the shoulders. He started towards the young men in a mechanical stride, with Thomas following a few steps behind.

“What are you doing riding around on a ladybike?”, the giant demanded. Caught off guard by the sudden disturbance the young men faltered for a second before manning up. All of them now turning towards Thomas and his large associate. Ready to front. A small fellow with a quick tongue stepped up, “What’s it to you? We’re just hanging out. Not bothering anyone”. The man clenched his massive granite jaw. “Don’t play stupid with me or I might get offended. The bicycle belongs to him,” the man said pointing towards Thomas, who felt powerful in the company of his unlikely ally. The young men began muttering in unison and questioning all statements and facts. The Big Man stood unmoved, dismissing their feeble efforts with silent ridicule. On the street he was a professor and they were low grade pupils. “Give me the bicycle” he now commanded in a penetrating voice. The pack froze. Their bodies no longer defiant, they handed over Anna’s bicycle as if they had never wanted it.

Upon return to the shrunken vehicle, the man offered Thomas the ladybike with a self-righteous grin. Thomas returned the grin sheepishly with an over-excited expression of gratitude. Everything had worked out after all, he thought to himself. A few moments later he stood alone on the parking lot with his own bicycle and Anna’s. His protector was gone, and the young men began to move towards him. Time to vacate the scene. Holding onto the ladybike with one hand as he scampered onto his own bicycle, he set off with both in a graceful balancing act.

For a moment he was moving away from a dark horizon towards a magnificent sunrise. And then he crashed. He was shocked and caught under his trusted iron steeds. As he heard the mocking laughs of his pursuers Thomas desperately pulled himself up. The game had changed. Hunter had become hunted, and hunter had left the apartment without considering this crucial part of the operation. The hungry hyenas closed in on him. With a bicycle in each hand Thomas started in no particular direction. His right leg limbering from the crash. There were no people on the streets. On grey Sundays people stay behind walls. He was alone. If the pack ran, they would catch him in no time. For the moment they seemed entertained tiring him through pursuit. In the heat of this mounting pressure he felt his mind react. What he lacked in physical conditioning he made up for in resourcefulness. A MacGyver, without the great hair, relying on his unconventional problem-solving skills to save the day. He scanned the surroundings as he clutched to the ladybike’s handle. Anna’s embedded presence in the iron ladyhorse had a soothing effect. As the young men drew closer, Thomas spotted a lifeline. A scrawny shoe-gazing man in his mid-twenties.

“I know this is going to sound strange”, Thomas gasped, catching his breath before he continued. “But I need your help! Those men are chasing me, and I can’t escape with both bicycles. Please ride one of them home with me?”. The shoe-gazer looked up with surprised eyes. As he glanced past Thomas he saw how the young men were almost upon them. “I-uhh” was all he managed to reply. His mind came to a grinding halt under the weight of the moment. He was a thinker, but there was no time to think. Realizing the other’s deliberation Thomas breathed a heavy sigh. It seemed inevitable that he would lose both bicycles. But then, just in time, the stunned face of his unlikely savior turned from deliberation to determination. “Quick, hand me a bike!” the man yelped. “I am Simon, by the way”, he politely found the time to add. As the pursuers saw their prey trying escape, they launched at them. Thomas and Simon jumped onto the bicycles and put all their weight into the pedals. Suddenly two hands clawed into Thomas’ right arm. For a second, he was a goner, but then with an unfamiliar burst of strength he ripped loose and slipped away. Leaving the young hyenas howling in discontent.

They were free and racing down Valby Bakke. Two beaming faces on wheels, both cherishing a profound sense of some new wonder feeling. As they reached the end of their journey, they each thanked the other for their own reasons. The weight of the experience had set a mark, remolding them in discrete yet definitive ways. Their edges and cuts now that much more noticeable. Themselves assured that they could be sharp if need be. Thomas double locked the bicycles and climbed up the stairs to his apartment. He grabbed a cold one from the fridge and threw himself in the couch, letting go of a deep and content sigh. What a day.

Author: Corbin Entz

Corbin Entz is from Copenhagen, where he studies social anthropology. Having just returned from fieldwork in California he decided to live in Vienna for half a year before finishing his thesis. He is here to write, even though he hasn’t really written much before. A now or never sort of thing.

Open Mic Night: Travelling

The sun is finally shining, the air is warm, and the trees are blooming.  And we are all thinking about where we will take our summer holidays.  We have decided to follow the trend and make this month’s open mic about travelling in all of its forms.  

For the April 19, 2018 edition of our get together, the theme is Travelling.  We will be looking forward to hearing your stories, songs, poems, stand up comedy, and other  creative enterprises in which people take a vacation, walk through their neighbourhood, visit a new planet, or go on an epic journey to deliver an esoteric personal item to a fairy.  This is not an inclusive list, we wanted to give you a few examples to get you started on your way!

This month will be hosted by a community member.  If you are interested in hosting our open mic night email us at Write Now or at Creative Cafe, or come and see us during the break, we are very nice people, I promise.

The Details

We meet in the basement of Cafe Korb.  To cover the cost of the venue, as this is a collective effort, we ask you to contribute €5 to €10.  Performances start around 19:00, and run for approximately two and a half hours.  However, if you are interested in performing 18:45 is when sign up starts.

Creative endeavours featuring the theme Travelling will be given preference in the performance order.

As this is a joint endeavour between Creative Cafe and Write Now Vienna we have a number of performers.  We ask that you stick to these rough time guidelines so many people get a chance to participate.

  • poetry (max 5 minutes reading time)
  • short story (max 2000 words)
  • novel excerpt (max 1500 words)
  • song (max 5 minutes)
  • stand-up comedy (max 5 minutes)

We will be publishing the best selections from the evening right here on our blog.  Keep checking back for the latest literary endeavours and to learn about new authors on the scene.

Bring your stories, songs, comedic acts, novel excerpts, poetry, and whatever else can be written on paper and join us for a fun filled and supportive evening.  We hope to see you there.

The Appalachian Holiness Friendship Connection Tabernacle

She would never understand the god-awful red carpet. The only other place she’d seen carpet like this was in the Funeral Home when her great-grandmother died. Not just the crimson color, but the spongy texture that sunk down with each step. Along with the red stained glass windows and red pew cushions, Kathleen felt like she was inside of a giant human lung. She held her breath waiting for it to collapse.

The singing was over this morning and she sat counting the lightbulbs of the gaudy chandeliers. There were always 24, but this week if the center chandelier fell it would land on Mrs. and Mr. Letonek. Kathleen envisioned herself hurling the couple out of the way just before the chandelier crushed their fragile bodies. This would ensure that Mrs. Letonek would still have a purse full of peppermint candies next Sunday. The Letoneks were sitting in Aunt Bonnie’s usual spot but Aunt Bonnie never had candy and wasn’t her real Aunt anyway, so the chandelier usually landed on her leg or one of her fat arms. Kathleen would try to push her to safety but the weight of her round waist made it impossible and while Kathleen didn’t want blood on her hands, even in her imagination, she knew she couldn’t realistically save Aunt Bonnie entirely.

Kathleen uncrossed her legs and the pew gave a small squeak. She froze, her eyes bouncing to the left waiting to catch her mother’s Medusa stare. A few strands of hair around her mother’s ear was the only movement she detected. She turned her eyes back to Reverend Davis who stood gripping both sides of the wooden pulpit. “The blood of Christ,” he was saying “cleanseth the evil of our hearts and taketh away all evil desires.” Amens were murmured on cue.

For the one hundredth time that day Kathleen looked down at the small diamond ring on her left hand. Joe’s proposal hadn’t been a surprise, but she’d never dreamed he’d buy a ring. Last night they had stood next to his beat up truck in the high school parking lot, she still wearing her white dress and graduation robe, him in his suit and tie. He bent down on one knee and she had to try not to laugh when he winced from the gravel. In his thick rural Pennsylvania accent, he whispered that as they started their adult life, he wanted them to start it together. She knew she loved Joe, but in this moment of deciding to become his wife she felt a mix of
joy, liberation, panic and nausea. Her parents adored Joe. Joe’s dad and her own had been on the same softball team before her mother made her father give it up. And once Joe had been baptised in their church he won over her mother with his polite and quiet steadiness. Joe wasn’t the problem. Their combined 35 years of age wasn’t the problem. The problem was a simple gold band with a small clear diamond.

As Joe drove her home to the white farm house, she turned to him suddenly and said, “Listen, I’m already wearing white, and it’s only 5 O’clock. Let’s just go see the Presbyterian Pastor and get this thing over with.” Joe had laughed. “You know your mum would kill you.” “She’s going to kill me anyway over this stupid ring, so I might as well die a married woman.” Joe laughed again. “Let’s give your folks a chance. They’ll come round.” As she said goodbye to him from the driveway, he had promised to help smooth things over at church the next morning. Still she had stood on the grass in front of the porch, worrying her lip, until finally, she

slipped the ring off her finger and tucked it into the pocket of her sweater before climbing the steps to her front door.

Kathleen felt a tug on her dress and looked down to see her mother’s bony fingers straightening the hem over her knees. Her mother’s gaze never left the preacher’s face as her right hand did the Lord’s bidding. Kathleen turned her eyes back to the pulpit, hoping her mother would leave her be. She had loved this dress last summer. It was a hand-me-down from an older cousin who quickly grew out of it leaving it barely worn. The first time Kathleen had put it on, her sister and mother had raved while she did a twirl for them in the kitchen. Blue and white gingham checks with a large white collar, no sleeves, and a hem that hit well above the knee made her feel like a true 1960s woman. For the month of June she had worn the dress to family picnics, her father’s softball games, and Friday night dinner dates with Joe. She almost took it to summer camp with her, but her mother convinced her of the dangers of grass stain and bonfire smoke. So, she had lovingly hung it in her closet as she packed for her last summer camp before her senior year of high school.

This dress was to be her gateway to womanhood but now here she sat, white cotton sleeves sewn on, ruffles added to the hem, and an extra button at the base of her neck. She felt like a blue gingham nun. The shock from her first seeing the alterations to the beloved dress washed over her again. Joe had dropped her off in front of the familiar farmhouse with her knapsack full of dirty camp clothes and her pillow tucked under one arm. Glad to be home she’d run inside only to find a mother whose short hair had been bobby pinned into a bun at the base of her neck, a father wearing a button up shirt on a Saturday, a younger brother who’d been pulled from the wrestling team, and worst of all, a jeans-loving sister wearing a long skirt, a braid, and pantyhose. Kathleen’s room had been ransacked. Every pair of pants or shorts thrown out. The hems taken out of every dress and several awful long skirts added to her wardrobe. Not even her underwear drawer was safe, seven pairs of nude colored pantyhose sat folded in a neat pile next to her bras.

She had taken the blue gingham atrocity from the closet and sat heavily on the bed. “Listen, Kathy,” came her mother’s voice form the doorway. “What’s done is done.” Her mother explained the family’s recent salvation, baptism, sanctification. Kathleen had stared as these unfamiliar words circled around her. “Likewise,”her mother quoted from 1 Timothy “the women are to dress in suitable apparel with modesty and self-control. Their adornment must not be with gold or pearls or expensive clothing” Kathleen had listened remembering that only a few months before she had focused the family’s new camera on this same woman wearing high-waisted short shorts and a polka dot midriff baring top, smoking a cigarette and leaning against a beautiful Ford Mustang at the county car show. This woman who swore, fought fiercely with her father, and cheated at card games.

“She still cheats at card games.” Kathleen thought glancing at her mother who was nodding her head at whatever Reverend Davis had just said. This morning her mother wore a navy blue skirt that reached almost to her ankles. a white blouse with a high collar and a pale yellow

cardigan with the sleeves pushed up just below her elbows. Somehow, despite the hot June sun, her mother had willed her body not to sweat. Her hair as always was in a tight bun. The other women in the church used bobby pins and hair spray to create waves and volume. Anything that could make a bun more interesting without crossing the line into vanity. Even Mrs. Davis, the preacher’s wife styled her hair with a large poof at her forehead that gave her a good three inches of height. Just past her mother’s profile Kathleen could see her father’s large red nose and thinning hair line. His face gleamed and he used his blue handkerchief to wipe his forehead.

That large forehead and soft blue eyes gave away every emotion. Last night as Kathleen had entered the kitchen her father had been sitting at the kitchen table, his Bible open, wrinkles of concern waving across that forehead. Her mother cleaning as she cooked gave a sharp hello and asked her to set the table. Kathleen timidly took down a stack of plates and as calmly as possible shared her good news without mentioning the diamond ring tucked in her pocket. Her father had let out a whistle and said “Is that right?.” Kathleen knew he was only pretending to be surprised as he wrapped her in a sweaty hug. Her mother slowly took Kathleen’s face in her hands and kissed her on the cheek. “He’ll be a godly husband.” She’d said. Kathleen had basked in this moment of joy knowing the atmosphere of the small kitchen would darken in a moment. She took the ring out and said softly, “I think I’m going to wear this.” She’d had no time to prepare a speech and her words faded out leaving nothing but the sound of summer frogs through the open window. Her father with raised eyebrows had looked quickly at her mother. Kathleen cringed waiting for the explosion of her mother’s raised voice. Waiting for her mother to blame her father who would be left in tears, worried for the salvation of his oldest daughter.

Instead her mother said softly, “Well, you know how we feel about earthly adornment. But you’re old enough to decide and no one else can walk the narrow path for you. It’s between you and God now.”

Kathleen’s memory faded as a soft hymn began to play from the piano. Preacher Davis was calling for those who felt convicted to come forward and kneel at the altar. His voice trembled as he pleaded for the lost sinners. Kathleen felt her mother’s eyes on her and her cheeks went hot. For a moment she felt her back stiffen and meld with the wooden pew, determined to stay in her seat. Her father leaned forward and gave her a reassuring smile. Those blue eyes loving but holding the weight of worry for a lost daughter. As Kathleen stared at her father she felt her body move. She rose and with halting steps made her way down the red carpeted aisle of the small sanctuary.

Kathleen knelt to the ground in front of the alter; her knees resting on the wooden step and grasped the railing that separated herself from the stage. Eyes closed, she held her breath ready for the oppressive weight of guilt. For God’s voice to thunder. For her mother’s bony fingers to pry the gold band from her hand. In the swirl of darkness at the backs of her eyelids

Kathleen began to see a face.Her mother’s sharp featured, but faintly smiling face. “It’s between you and God.” The face said. Kathleen’s shoulders relaxed.

A shadow fell across her closed eyes and she felt the weight of two cold hands on her shoulders. Mrs. Davis, the pastor’s wife, whispered in her soft girlish way, “Kathy, until you take that ring off of your finger, God will never hear your prayers.” Kathleen’s body jerked and her eyes flew open. The smell of hairspray and baby powder wafting in swirl around her. Kathleen looked at this woman wearing a pink and white dress, red hair piled high on her head and a gold watch on her wrist. “Watches tell us the time” her mother had said last year, “they serve a purpose.”

Suddenly unable to focus, Kathleen stood. On both sides of her other sinners were kneeling. An elder of the church had laid his hands on her parents heads and were praying, no doubt, for her own salvation. She turned and looked for Joe. Aunt Bonnie whose eyes were supposed to be closed sat head bowed, staring toward the front. Mr. and Mrs. Letonek were nodding and Amening while giving off the slightest sound of crinkling candy wrappers.

Right then she remembered her white graduation dress hanging in her closet at home.

Author: Heather McEuen
Heather lives and works in Vienna with her husband and dog, Polly Esther.  She hopes you enjoy her writing, but it’s okay if you don’t.  You’ll come around.

Heather was a participant in Paul Malone’s Creative Writing on the Go Creative Writing Workshop in November.

Vienna Writers for Young Readers

Vienna Writers for Young Readers is a brand new group aiming to bring together authors interested in writing for young people, whether that’s picture books, early readers, chapter books, middle-grade fiction or YA novels. Anyone who is currently writing for a younger readership, or who has the ambition of breaking into this particular market, is welcome along to the informal yet informative monthly sessions.

We’ll discuss the current climate of the children’s books industry both in Austria and abroad. We’ll gain inspiration from the best (and maybe worst…) books already out there. And everybody will have the opportunity to share their own current writing within a friendly forum of constructive criticism and advice.

The meetings will be led by Paul Malone – who has published many short stories for children in both The School Magazine (Australia) and Scoop magazine (UK) among others and is the brains behind Creative Café Austria and Creative Writing On The Go; and Keith Gray – award-winning author of over 20 books for young readers including Ostrich Boys, The Runner and You Killed Me! and has edited 2 collections of short stories for teenagers.

Each meeting will be a packed 2 hours. In the first hour the writers are encouraged to bring along a children’s or YA book that they have read recently and can be shared with the rest of the group – what was good about it, what was great about it, was there anything disappointing about it, what can we learn about writing from it? The second half of the meeting will be for the writers to share their own current work-in-progress and receive constructive feedback from the rest of the group.

If you would like to share your work please keep the word count to a maximum of 2000 words and if possible bring along extra copes as handouts.

There is absolutely no obligation to have to speak aloud or share but our whole aim is to create a friendly, relaxed yet professional atmosphere where writers can improve personally and inspire publicly.

All meetings will be held in English.

Our first meeting:

Where: Praxis Wien 5, Rüdigergasse 18/9, 1050 Vienna

When: Tuesday 10th April, 7.00pm to 9.00pm

Email (to register): viennawriters4youngreaders@gmail.com

Cost: between €5 and €10 to cover the venue hire

Text provided by Paul Malone and Keith Gray