Hurricane Willem (3) english version

Willem was still just Willem, when his father died. Many still called him little Willem. A far cry from a hurricane in the making.  But a young lad who felt deeply ashamed of the thoughts swirling around in his head.

‘You little sneak, that’s just great. Now is really the time to bring this to me. Your deathbed is really the place to bring me this.’

Willem had noticed that Ephraim Cohen, his father and proud owner of Radio Shalom, found it increasingly difficult to find the strength to get out of his bed every morning. And the young Willem knew, as his father summoned him to come closer, that is was going to be a farewell. A last father-son moment, just like there had been a last mother-son moment some years earlier.

“Take care of your father,’ she had asked, and she closed her eyes for all eternity, before Willem could say yes. Willem held her hand and promised that he would.

And now, the same tranquil scene: a house on a rise somewhere lost in a landscape between two rivers, a sick bed in the living room, the scent of disinfectant, a frail being with thick purple grey veins draped over a hastily aged body, an untidy forearm tattoo, a number in the same vague color, the same never-have-talked-to-each other about what happened during the war.

The smothering weight of unspoken years. That’s how Willem was brought up: in deafening silence, lovingly deprived of the holocaust.

“You have to continue my work, it is important that you continue my work.”

Willem became even more ashamed, when he spoke out loud his venomous thoughts. “You little sneak! All this years you play mute about the war. And now all of a sudden I have to continue your work. I don’t know anything about this atrocious war of yours, apart from what I learned in school.”

“That’s enough to suffice’

From under his pillow Ephraim pulled a keyring.

“Radio Sjalom is yours now.”

“And now all a sudden I have permission to enter the barn?”

“Yep, it is yours. Here, take the keys.”

From under the same pillow he also pulled a brown envelope.

“The enclosed matter will protect you.”

“How exactly? Whom from? Against what? For God’s sake, why do I need protection by an envelope? Is this a last joke, dad?”

“I’d rather you don’t know what is in it. But used it, show it, every time Radio Sjalom is in trouble. That will happen much more often than you would like. The war is long gone, but people still don’t like us.  We are a people in great danger.”

“Dad, you can’t do this to me. I don’t know anything about our people in danger.”

“Promise me!”

Teary eyed Willem looked at the frail being that had been through a lot. With a lump in his throat Willem promised that he would continue his father’s work.

“How do I go about it all? Will you stay here just a little longer to teach me? Or will the light go out soon, like mother?”

“You will learn fast. All answers are to be found in the barn. And you’re not alone. I’ve made sure of that.’

It went like with mother. The same stillness. The same day Ephraim’s light went out. Willem was ashamed no longer about his words and thoughts: “Sweet sneak. “Don’t do this to me. Bastard. Don’t do this to me. Sweet, sweet bastard.”

In his one hand the new owner of Radio Sjalom held a keyring, in his other a brown envelop.

There he sat, son of Sara and Ephraim, for hours. All alone. Alone with his grief. The hardest grief there is. Grieve that already has been grieved. Tears that already have been shed.

“Your daddy and I won’t be around for much longer.” Mother had said it often enough: “We are ghosts. Only the irrepressible strength of our youth helped us to survive the camp. But to little remained to continue living life at its fullest. Let us never speak of this again.”

next chapter 

Hurricane Willem (2) english version

You ignore the waving away gesture and stare around helplessly. The headmistress gives you a questionable look. “Still here,” she inqueres.

You ask her where you can find a bed. The answer seems very simple: “Upstairs, room fourteen.” You don’t want to sound like a complete idiot, so you don’t ask which way to go to find it.

Uncertain on your way to the nearest staircase you meet Maria and lots of other saint figures. One more threatening than the other. None of them very welcoming. All of them looking down on you.

Legs thin as matchsticks carry you up. Halfway the staircase you stand still, just to figure out that you have a long way to go still. Up, and is this life. You gather strengt and  carry yourself up up.

Room fourteen is to be found at the end of seemingly endless hallway. Each door is numbered with copper numbers. Each figure polished so that it shines almost like gold. Above each door a cross, with a sad looking Jesus who died for us on the cross.

Finally. A bed. And then a feverish sleep.

You don’t know when exactly, but you wake up in the dark. The room feels strange. Each of your awakening senses screams that you don’t belong there. You lack the strength and the desire to get out of the bed, so you waste slow running time, until you have become adapted to the dark.

Dark contours draw the shape of a wardrobe, a chair and a writing desk. That’s about it. Only later –who could have guessed?- you notice yet another cross and sad looking Jesus above the desk. The room is filled with a damp silence. There is a rectangular box on a small side table in the corner. Curious about what could be in it you get up. You are startled by the closeness of everything in the small room. From your bed to the side table is only three restrained steps. And then you bump your big toe against the table leg. Not that it hurts, the veins in your arms are still swollen from the pain medication, pumped through them until recently .

But ballyhoo resounds terrifyingly through the hallway. Cautiously you backpedal. You lay on the bed and wait. Just long enough to make sure that no one has heard you. Your heart is beating in your throat for the second attempt. Feeling your way around,  you notice that it isn’t a box, but a radio. A radio that charms a smile on your face. You’re not exactly sure why, but an ordinary radio seems to make you very happy. In your dozy head you start painting a picture of how the thing works. On, off, volume, cassette deck, fast forward, rewind,…

You hope that you have in right, you put the volume on zero and with a gentle touch you push the on button. You got it right. The radio stays muted. From behind the  tuning scale a soft orange glow falls on your hands. It fills the room. And then you do something that you will look back on from time to time, later life. How was it possible, you will ask yourself, that you forgot everything, except that.

You turn the button on the side of the radio. And you know exactly where the tuning needle is headed for. You even whisper it as you turn and turn: “Radio Hurricane. 104.7”

With the accuracy of a watchmaker and one ear close to the radio you adjust the volume. Only slightly, just so you can hear everything.

And there it is. A familiar voice.

“Children, close your ears for just a moment. Because this is our  ‘porn slow ballad’ for this  week. I give you Gemini with L’Amour Interdit.”

Right until his very last broadcast D.J. Hurricane would do that on a weekly basis: ask the children to close their ears for a moment . What followed was often French, sultry, sticky sweet and overdosed with moans and sighs.

The porn slow ballad: a genre in itself. And, according to Hurricane Willem, fiercely underestimated.

What follows in the room is not sticky sweet. Unnoticed  a ghostly presence steps into the room. And it uses half of the room to launch itself. Just to make sure that this will be a moment that will linger on for a long time to come.


Fortunately you’re prepped to withstand quite some pain. And you succeed barely an not very stylish to make a safe landing with the radio like a baby in your arms, after being catapulted over the side table.

“Here at Child’s Joy we ask if we can turn the radio on. Take note of that!”

Next he firmly grabs one of my ears.

“Do you understand?”

“Yeeess, auch….” It appears that there are limits after all to the powers of pain medication.

‘Yes, Who?”

“Yes, I Don’t Know Who You Are.”

“And how do you address someone you don’t know?”

“I don’t know.”

“I don’t know who, Sir!”

“You just earned yourself your first week of confinement to your room.’

The ghostly presence disappears. And faintly in a corner in of the room you hear the Hurricane announcing the next song: “Dear listeners this one is especially for all of you. Ian Dury & The Blockheads met  Reasons to be Cheerful part 3.”

press here for part 3


Hurricane Willem (1) english version

Let’s keep it simple.  This story ends with the death of the legendary  disk jocky Hurricane Willem on christmas eve in the year of our lord 1990. A final chord that leaves little to the imagination of the reader.  Death is a simple and crystal clear concept. Logic dictates that it can also be used as a starting point.  A mighty opening chord.
The proof is in the pudding. So let us start with the death of my father, somewhere at the crack of dawn on a beautiful autumn day. And little before that the passing away of Mommy Drudge, my mother, my twin brother Arthur, and my sister, Silke.  Fifteen minutes of utter lunacy, resulting in one hundred thirteen knife stabs -order unknown- and a cracked open skull somewhere in the garage.

I was allowed to live. Although that wasn’t the plan, and pretty hard to do at first in a torso with nine stabbing wounds. One for each year of my life.

This could be the moment where you, as a reader, begin to feel to feel pity for yours truly. Don’t! The eradication of a family is an event that is only painful when looked at it from the outside. Smack  in the middle of it one hardly notices. You go to sleep in the fall of 1979, mother nature erases your autobiographical memory, and you wake up somewhat drowsy  in the spring of 1980. Some late birth.

Next to your bed sits a graying lady. She explains that she’s a social worker from juvenile court. And there is that  sinking feeling for a moment. Thinking that maybe you’ve done something wrong, but you are afraid to ask. So you play mute. And you have a good pretext  to do so, because talking is hard to do after months of artificial respiration. The incoming light hurts your eyes. You fall asleep, and you wake up again. The graying lady is still there. She smiles and takes your hand. “We will do our best for you!’

You fall asleep again, and you wake up for longer periods of time. And one teaches you who you were. Journalists stop by to take a picture. The doctor insists they do so without flashes. He is in the picture as well. He is a hero. Against all odds he has kept you alive. The doctor, the social worker and myself are getting applause from the staff on the day  I leave the hospital. The social worker and a nurse are taking turns pushing my wheelchair. In the long corridors on the way out people come to a halt and applaud. Some try to touch me and stroke my humming head.

“O, boy!

I get in a golden colored and purple fumes spitting Opel Kadett. People keep waving and applauding. The graying social worker lights a cigarette and drives away. She says that she has found a good orphanage, with a lovely staff that will take good care of me.

The headmistress explains to me the rules of living in an orphanage. And the social worker says goodbye with a hug. In my ear she whispers that I have to do my best to like it here. ‘You’re a sweetie, but already ten, and you come with expenses, so no-one will get you out of here. You’re here to stay.”

“Unless he doesn’t obey the rules then there is no place for him in here,’ the headmistress ads.

I ask if I can go to sleep, because I’m feeling tired, and I’m still having difficulty with gravity. With a waving away gesture she makes it clear to me that I’m allowed to crawl under the covers.

for part 2  press here: Hurricane Willem (2) english version