TITLE: This Is Free Berlin
It was easy for him to listen in on his dad and Sgt. Stepanek that night. By August 12, 1961, Chet Hightower had been living in Berlin so long that his brain no longer distinguished between German, Russian, or English. Having wandered in for a glass of something cold from the fridge, he’d found them hunkered down, heads together across the tiny kitchen table, speaking low in a language they thought he couldn’t understand.
“It’s all I’ve been hearing about for weeks -- concrete and bricks. Work crews….” Stepanek shook his head. “The Reds are finally doing a little housekeeping. Good for them…but Christ Almighty! Can’t someone over there start shooting?”
“I had a talk with the analysts today. Tried to get us assigned something else, but no dice. They want us on this construction thing.” Chet’s dad swirled the last ounce of beer around the bottom of the bottle, then upended it.
“Hey Dad, Sgt. Stepanek.” Chet ambled in and began rummaging in the fridge. Even with his head halfway into the cold white box he heard the mood of the room change.
“Hey son,” his dad said in English. “Could you throw us a couple more pivos?”
Chet set two more beers on the table between his dad and Mr. Stepanek, then waited for the invitation to sit down and join the conversation. He hadn’t seen his father in days – Sgt. Hightower had been pulling the graveyard shift at the Field Station.