“Tourist” in Like the Hand of Time

My short story “Tourist” was just published in the Circlet Press anthology Like the Hands of Time. “Tourist” is the tale of a man who travels back in time to fulfill a fantasy and visit his favorite era of history, Germany in the late years of the Weimar Republic, not long before the rise of Adolph Hitler, when a lot of good parties were replaced by one bad one.

Germany between the World Wars was a fascinating place, not only for the art, theater, architecture, and film that the culture produced, but because German cities, Berlin in particular, were like experiments in a freedom of sexual expression that was revolutionary in modern times and prefigured the permissive societies that became more common near the end of the century.

The book Voluptuous Panic, the Erotic World of Weimar Berlin, by Mel Gordon, is a wonderful history of the time and place and I drew heavily on Mr. Gordon’s volume for the details of my story. A city of endless delight and hedonistic expression, Berlin was also a dangerous place, even without the street fighting. Like so many world events of the 1920s and 1930s, Germany was a crucible where all the ingredients of the coming century were tested and, unfortunately for the world, instead of liberation, monsters were born and thrived on a diet of hatred and repressive madness.

Here’s an excerpt from “Tourist”:

Julie danced at the Mandrake. Her name and a grotesque distortion of her image hung in a tattering poster beside the door. She had been dancing there since ‘22, when Papa had turned her out into the street because he could not feed her. Now she had an apartment of her own, which she shared with a shifting cast of roommates down on their luck, other dancers from the club, men who aspired to be pimps but who lacked the moral fiber, and petty black marketers in between deals.

She appreciated the relative fortune of her simple walls and furnishings but always Julie told herself, “Someday my luck will change. Someday I will have more.”

The night she met Paul, she began to believe the stories she told herself. Paul strode into the Mandrake like a champion, head level, eyes sharp and determined, his very presence shivering Julie’s soul unlike anyone she’d ever met. He wore his blonde hair short, stiff in a funny way and it smelled good with a hint of something exotic. He looked like money. He wore an expensive suit that he told her later was real silk. He had the most perfect teeth she had ever seen, gleaming white in the stage light when he sat at the front table and watched her.

“Pretty Julie,” he crooned with sincerity. “If you will come with me tonight, I will make you a duchess.” He barely looked at Rutger before giving the wicked clown a handful of gold coins.

“I don’t care if you don’t bring her back,” Rutger chuckled as he winked and smiled at Julie. “Good luck. Have fun.”

Paul walked out with her, his arm around her waist, possessive and endearing in his hold. He took her to the Paradise and Inferno nightclub, and Julie swallowed hard, awed and worried that she was not dressed well enough. A bony doorman dressed as St. Peter looked them over. “We want to go to heaven,” Paul told him. “Only heaven is good enough for my Julie.”

Julie smiled as the doorman’s scorn melted away when Paul gave him a generous fold of marks, and then they were inside the most infamous club in Berlin. A nearly naked Cupid led them to a booth on the left side of the stage, shrouded in shadows but sometimes washed by red light from the spotlights and floodlights that danced across the stage. She tried not to stare at the dancing sparkle of diamonds and satin flash when the stage lighting splashed sometimes over the women in the audience. As Julie looked around the cabaret, she wondered, what did it feel like to wear a ring that cost more than food for a year? A gauzy white curtain bisected the theater. On the other side of it, Julie knew from stories, hell’s patrons sat in equal splendor attended by handsome devils and almost-nude lady demons.

Satan, his muscular chest bare and painted red, paraded on the stage addressing the audience. Julie grinned, wondering if the obvious bulge in the tight black pants he wore was real or a stuffed prosthetic. Regardless, the illusion gave many in the audience reason to twitter approval. “So, Berliners, welcome to Hell,” he said to the half of the audience hidden from Julie by the white curtain, before he turned to Julie and Paul’s side of the room. “Our friends over in Heaven, don’t worry! We delight in showing you,” he chuckled with low, wicked delight, “what it is you’re missing!”

Paul sat beside her in the booth, his light laughter a hymn beyond the other merriment in the club. She glanced at him as they both faced the stage and smiled, delighted by his obvious enjoyment.

The he slid his warm hand under Julie’s skirt and stroked her slit through the black lace of her panties. She remembered her price tag, but she also grew wet under his touch, her heart pounding. The giddy wonder of his forwardness surprised her even as a touch of disappointment dimmed the glow of the evening. He stopped after only a moment and leaned to her, pressing trembling lips to her ear. “Remove your panties, Julie,” he commanded with a whisper that rippled through her soul. She started to stand, to find shadows or a powder room, but he traced his hand down her wrist and locked it in a grip that claimed, took, breathed, and promised. “No,” he corrected her. “Remove them here.”

She shifted and adjusted, reaching up and behind and under, unfastened her garter and slowly squirmed out of the soft cotton panties. Anyone in the club who looked at her would surely know what she was doing, but perhaps the shadows concealed her. She surrendered her underpants to Paul and looked at him, waiting. Paul curled his fingers into the white material, his thumb stroking the prim edge, then at Paul’s commanding nod and curt order, the waiter brought a strong brandy and a bottle of good wine.

On the stage, a thin woman, entirely nude, pale as ivory, danced in smoky light, a study in white and black, milky skin, black-ringed eyes, the whipping mane of her raven hair, and the thick tangle of silken black between her legs. Sinuous, precise, she fought with the smoke and made love to it, a teasing undulation of flesh and dreams.

Paul took Julie’s hand and rested it on his hardening cock. She pressed through the smooth material of his trousers, her fingers expert from many nights in the Mandrake. She brought him to full, impressive erection, just as the dancer on the stage twirled one final time and vanished into the billowing smoke.

Everyone applauded. Julie smelled opium and hashish. The smoke and the brandy turned her mind golden and she relaxed against Paul, opening his trousers and reaching in to touch the bare heat of his cock. She smiled and stroked down its pulsing length with one testing finger.

The silky bead at the tip delighted her, the slippery warmth of it, the affirmation of Paul’s desire. She smeared the bead and relished his quickened breath.

The stage stayed dark for a long moment, then a clown dressed as an angel appeared and began to tell stories and make dirty jokes about politicians and Socialists, Frenchmen and Russians. Paul put his hand over Julie’s, his fingertips almost tickling the back of her hand as she slowly pumped him. “Wait,” he whispered, and she stopped, but didn’t move her hand, allowing her to hold the hard, responsive flesh.

He poured wine for her and she drank. “You are an American?” she asked him casually as she tightened her grip a moment, then relaxed her hand.

“Yes I am,” he answered with a little smile. “Have you ever been in this place before?”

“No. Have you?”

Paul shook his head. “I’ve heard a great deal about it—read books about it.”

“Are you a teacher?” she asked him.

“No. Only a tourist, Julie. Like so many in Berlin.”

Copyright 2012 Angela Caperton. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.