Words by Sung J. Woo
Paintings by Dina Brodsky
“flooded rhine river, germany”
She did not see him because she’d been preoccupied with the state of her tires, which had sunk into the mud so deeply that she could not lift her bike away from the muck. The day before, she’d met a pair of bicyclists who suggested she wait a day to continue, because they estimated the Rhine to be impassable by the time she’d arrive.
She should’ve listened to their advice, but she hadn’t. A day’s delay wouldn’t have upset her schedule. The two men hadn’t been patronizing, either, like the way some were with her.
Foolish – that’s what she was thinking when a bearded man, with just his left arm, unstuck her bicycle and hoisted it onto his shoulder. On his other shoulder was his own bike. He wasn’t tall, nor did he look particularly strong, but obviously he was strong enough to carry two bikes through knee-deep mud.
“I carry your bike, okay,” he said, not exactly a question.
He did not introduce himself and she did not ask.
She named him Hans because as she followed his swift steps up the hill, that was what came to her. She’d never known a Hans, personally. She’d initially thought him older, but his mountainous red beard had lent him a false degree of maturity.
At the summit of the hill, he dismounted both bikes from his shoulders.
“You are good now, okay,” he said.
“Thank you,” she said, but Hans was already out of earshot, melding into the trees.
“from the night I spent camping above Lorelei castle in Germany because the Rhine was too flooded to keep cycling”
In her dream, she’s cycling as fast as she can because there’s a wave of water behind her. It’s funny. She laughs.
And now she’s in the castle, sitting on a throne of thorns with her feet up on the back of a crouched man. The walls are leaking, water pushing through the seams, and if the man does not rise, he’ll drown. She prods him with her feet, gently at first, but when he does not move, she kicks him. A stone man, so it is she who is in trouble. She tries to rise, but the throne of thorns keeps her.
The water is warm and she’s buoyed through the ceiling, past the touch of fog, offered to the powder blue sky like a gift. She turns mid-air, glances at the castle below, so small. I ruled in that little place, she thinks. I was a good queen.
Sung J. Woo has written two novels, Everything Asian (2009) and Love Love (2015). He lives in Washington, New Jersey.
Dina Brodsky was born in Minsk, Belarus, in 1981. Her family immigrated to the US in 1990. She was educated at University of Massachusetts Amherst and New York Academy of Art, where she received her MFA. She lives and works in New York City. She has taught privately, and in several institutions including the Castle Hill Center for the Arts, the Long Island Academy of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The first forty-two pieces of Cycling Guide to Lilliput were shown at Island Weiss Gallery, NYC, in May 2015.