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Under the Umbrella

When he wasn't in the mood for walking, when the weather was too wet, too hot, too anything, he sat in the cafes and he'd read or write.  Sometimes he'd just lay back and watch the people.  In a city of sixty-five thousand, there was a new cast everyday.  Today, it was hot, thirty in Celsius, ninety, the way they did it at home.  Sitting under the umbrella kept him cooler.  Drinking a Weizen beer made him smile.  Staring at the people made him think.  So today, he pulled the little computer out of his bag and started to write about them.  There were a lot of young women, dressed entirely too sexy for their age, with low-cut blouses overflowing with breasts stuffed into push-up bras.  There were also grandmothers drinking apple juice or eating ice cream, and of course, the usual cast of Turkish and Russian men criticizing everything from the government to the people at the next table.  He'd seen a few acquaintances walk by, but had no desire for conversation.  He'd see them later at the bar.  He rarely found his voice before eight in the evening and always felt it intrusive when people insisted on sitting with him when he was obviously reading or writing.  He was always polite, but it distracted him, especially when he was finding something useful to use in the story underway.  It was part of the culture, he put up with it, and accepted it as normal, even though he wished it were different.  He was no Greta Garbo and knew he couldn't get away with "I want to be alone."  They'd think there was a problem and stay even longer.  They were, after all, very nice people.

He did his best to be sociable, but he was lucky today.  They didn't notice him under the umbrella.  He had been making notes about the young women when an older man, ten or more than his sixty, sat down at the table directly in front of him.  He was not a working man.  His bearing and features said intellectual.  The way he addressed the waiter was polite, but let the kid know he was not an equal at the same time.  Jack couldn't quite figure out how that worked, but he saw it happen.  It wasn't a small thing.  The waiter addressed him as Herr Professor Doktor, with the same ease that he addressed Jack as Jackie Boy.  None  of it was out of place.

The Professor ordered the local white wine and buried himself in a book he'd taken out of his briefcase.  Jack made an note to question the waiter about him.  A few minutes later, Doris and her new man sat down at his table and he was introduced, described, and unwilling committed to at least an hour's conversation.  By the time they left, he'd learned more than he needed to about the friend's career in the British army and the woman's falling in love with him.  The professor was gone.  When the waiter came by again, he found that the professor had worked in Heidelberg for thirty years before he came home to live out his retirement.  He had written several books and was still writing, his field was psychology.

That was the kicker.  Jack was determined to meet him.  The next day, he sat under the trees at the corner of the beer garden, reading, and waiting.  When the professor got there, at precisely the same time as the previous day and sat at the same table, he knew his strategy.  Tomorrow, he would sit at the professor's table and see what happened.  In the h, he drank another beer and watched.  The professor was reading Jung.  This made him very happy.  He knew Jung well.  Jung had been a big part of his doctoral dissertation.  It was a doctorate he had never taken advantage of, but he had it, and that was satisfying.  That evening, in his apartment, he turned on the television to watch the news, something he did a few times a week.  There was nothing interesting there.  He took a nap, and when he woke, at some salami and cheese.  Then he took a walk and ended up in his evening haunt.  They were all there tonight, the surveyor, the doctor, the policeman, their wives, and of course, the owner and his strange White Russian waitress.  It was uncomplicated.  He listened, made an occasional, uncomplicated reply, and order another beer.  They were good people, and had known him for about five  years now.  He liked it here, and he learned a lot about the national as well as the local culture.  Around eleven, he was drunk enough to ask about the professor.  He was surprised by  response.  The surveyor  knew him personally, and thought he was crazy.  The doctor had read his books and thought he was wrong.  The policeman had arrested him twice,  but said he wasn't dangerous, just a little  liberal for the city.  The women were silent.  It would be interesting.

The next day, Jack settled in and waited for the professor.  He wouldn't introduce himself just yet.  He had bought a copy of the professor's book and was reading it with the help of his dictionary.  It was good.  The man had studied Jung and most of his disciples and had some interesting extensions to the collection unconscious, as well as some ideas about the interaction of the unconscious with the paranormal.  There was a particularly interesting chapter on The Wise Old Man archetype, which was Jack's favorite. The professor came in a bit after twelve, carrying a briefcase.  He pulled out a copy of the local newspaper, ordered a coffee, and read for half an hour.  When put he the paper back in his briefcase, he pulled out a well-worn copy of Jung's "Memories, Dreams, and Reflections", in English.

Jack was starting to get really interested now.  When his German failed, he was going to be able to explain himself in English for a change, instead of putting together an ungrammatical, probably comical paraphrasing in German.  The professor read for over an hour, then put the book back in his briefcase, paid for his coffee, bid his farewells to the waiters and the owner, and left.

Jack was getting together a plan.  He knew he wouldn't  make much of an impression as a psychologist.  He needed to approach him as a writer.  It took a month before he was finished with the professors book.  He now had enough ammunition to approach the man and introduce himself.  The next day, he was in the café, waiting, but the professor didn't come that day, or the next five.  Jack learned that he was lecturing in France.  He read another of the man's books.  It was than the first and he read it in half the time.  His vocabulary was improving as quickly as his knowledge of this interesting, Jungian interpretation of the human mind.  When the professor was back, Jack eager to get to work on him.  He gave him time to read his paper and when he put it into the briefcase, stood and went to his table.  He introduced himself, explained that he had read some of the professor's books, and that he was himself a disciple of Jung.  The man frowned, at first, but then graciously asked Jack to sit.  Jack showed him showed him some of the photos he had taken to support his writing on the archetype in middle European architecture.  After that, it was two hours of discussion on the concept of the archetype, and another on the great cities of Europe and why they both lived in one of the least known of German cities.  They were both smokers, and the ashtray was getting full.  The waiter switched it with a fresh one, but they were at the end of this conversation.  They paid their bills and wandered off in opposite directions, promising to meet again in a few days.

Back in his apartment, Jack put together some pasta in a salmon, spinach sauce and opened the professor's book.  He had been stuck on a phrase dealing with the man's understanding of the way a neurosis could be established as an effect of being unbound with certain elements of it.  It turned out to be a linguistic problem.  He had misinterpreted the phrase and it all came clear when the heard it spoken during their conversation.  From then on, he would try to steer the conversation to areas of his own miscomprehension.

He finished his meal and moved onto the balcony with his smaller computer.  The battery lasted longer and it had all of the functionality he needed to do a little research and reading.  He searched for the phrase "collective unconscious" and came up with enough references to his new friend to keep him busy for the rest of the day.  When he'd assimilated it all, he started to write.  The point wanted to make had to do with Jung's ideas about symbolism and the Catholic mass.  He remembered something about triambulation, the three circular motions made with the burner in some rites.  It corresponded to many  older rituals, dating back to the early Pharos.  It also  correlated to a bad place in his head, a place he had thought he had mastered, but it was there again, taunting him with his intellectual arrogance and the wages it extracted from his waking mind.  He wasn't at all happy about this.  It had been over  twenty years ago when he made the decision to leave the academic world and move into something that paid.  He'd made a lot of money, but his soul was dead.

copyright 2007: john zavacki (the elder)