Johann arrived at the long, low building on the Oberbaum Strasse, found his station, and nodded at the man across the aisle with a missing finger. Outside the late winter air was heavy, a prologue to snow. It made the men inside the workshop slow, as if the weight was on their backs, bent and muscled from years of transforming wood into unnatural shapes and textures. Today Johann planed a set of heavy oak doors. They did not require delicate sculpting. Their size was their adornment. Big enough for a small horse and cart, they were destined for the home of a rich businessman who shipped goods across the North Sea.
When the whistle blew, Johann took his coat and lunch and walked to the Spree, Berlin's industrial river with boats of all sizes, some still, some inching their way through the city, others in a race to outrun it. It was nothing like the Wümme back home where he liked to rest on its banks and watch the ducks splash a landing. Still, if he closed his eyes and concentrated, he could imagine his little sister Tina might appear, shooing her flock of geese. Sophie would just be walking home along the path, released from her job, a flush in her cheeks, her figure filling her dress . . .
A noise broke his reverie. The man with the missing index finger sat down. He pulled cheese, a loaf of bread, and sausage from his metal pail. Johann watched as he cracked open the bread with his thumbs and tried not to stare at the nub on his right hand. The man made a slit from top to bottom, dropped the sausage and cheese inside, and squeezed the bread together, flattening the sandwich. With a quick turn of his wrist, he ripped it in two and offered one of the halves to Johann.
Johann looked up, surprised.
“Nein, bitte,” he said with a smile and shake of his head.
The burly man shrugged and took an enormous bite. He was more than twice Johann's age and weight, the latter concentrated around his middle. He wore his leather apron under a worn coat. The apron was burnished a warm, nutty brown.
“What’s your name, then?”
Johann put up a hand to shield his eyes. His companion was in shadows.
“Johann. Johann Bruns. And yours?” He feigned interest. He had been around enough to know anyone too friendly was looking for something.
“Otto,” the man said. He did not offer a surname.
Otto fixed his gaze on the opposite side of the river, chewing his sandwich. He seemed interested in a barge that was loaded with grain.
“You are good with the plane,” Otto said. He took another enormous bite. Bits of bread fell out his mouth. He pushed them back in. A pigeon wandered close.
Johann inclined his head.
“But not so good with the lathe.”
He straightened his back. Who was this man? Not a foreman. Perhaps he had been passed over and needed to soothe his ego.
Otto put up a hand.
“I am only saying what I see,” he said. “But it would not take much. With a little instruction, you could be fine.” He put the last bit of sandwich in his mouth. “You could be more than fine,” he added.
He considered something.
“I will show you,” he said. Otto got to his feet more quickly than Johann would have thought possible. He gathered his lunch pail, retrieved the piece of cloth that someone—his wife?—used to wrap his cheese, and ran the back of his hand across his mustache. He turned back to the workshop, motioning to Johann who was still sitting there astonished.
“Come,” he said.
For the past three years, Johann and his companion, Walter, had walked and begged rides between villages and towns presenting themselves as journeyman cabinetmakers. Experience was their wage. In workshops so small he could barely turn around and others large enough to hold dozens of men, Johann made sleeping cupboards out of gnarled oak, wardrobes from cheap pine, tables and chairs from light, malleable, plentiful beech.
They relied on the kindness of others. Sometimes they were invited to stay in a house. More often they lay their bedrolls in a boarding house reserved for young men passing through. At one, Walter woke up with red bumps on his forehead.
“You’ve grown spots like a boy,” Johann told him. “You sure you’re old enough to be doing this?”
Walter felt the welts, grimaced.
“Christ!” His eyes were enormous. “I’ve been eaten!”
Johann checked his own body, felt the swollen mounds on his neck and arms. He leaped from the bed.
“It’s fleas or lice,” he said. He stood in his long underwear surveying his flesh.
Walter was out of bed, too.
“Lice don’t bite like that,” he said. “But bed bugs, do.” He flung back the blanket and a scattering of specks retreated. They begged off that place the same day, telling everyone they met that overnight the bedbugs became grandmothers.
Entranced by the beauty of the Rhine and the villages along it, they headed south. They picked up a third companion, Michael, a metalsmith also on his wandering journey. In a village next to Dragon Rock, where legend said Siegfried killed the mountain-dwelling dragon and bathed in its blood, Michael repaired a photographer’s tripod. He took their portrait to show his thanks.
They borrowed hats for the occasion. Johann had a bowler. Walter and Michael managed to get fedoras. The photographer rolled down a giant painted backdrop to make it look like the three men were standing in front of the famous falls at the base of the mountain. He gave them each a small print. Remembrances of Dragon Falls, it said across the bottom.
“This will impress the ladies,” Michael said, tucking the photograph in his kit.
“You'll need it,” Walter said.
They exchanged insults, while Johann studied the picture, observing he was standing slightly apart from the other two.
“Allo! Johann! What about you?”
He looked up. They were like brothers those two.
He shrugged. “I’m sending mine home.”
“To your mother?” Michael scoffed.
He raised an eyebrow.
They laughed and pestered him, demanding a name, but he stood fast.
Michael left them shortly after that, and Walter and Johann headed north to Bremen, to work with the joiners that outfitted the massive ships of Norddeutscher Lloyd. It was here they joined the union. The shipping company was in a race with the British and French to make bigger, faster ocean liners. Foremen walked the rows of men bent over workbenches. “Where’s your loyalty?” they shouted when a workman left to relieve himself or stood to straighten his back. The union promised compensation if a saw claimed a hand, a knot of wood took an eye. Johann figured union membership was a little like prayer. Even if he never needed the help, it was good to know it was there.
He did not go home for three years. Journeyman rules forbade it. He sent letters, doing odd jobs to get stamps, but he was never in the same place long enough to receive mail. Finally in Bremen, he found himself in the same boarding house for six months.
He swallowed at the sight of his father’s thorny script, the name of his village opposite the stamp. He stowed the letter his landlady handed him inside his jacket until he could read it alone. He slit the envelop open carefully on his bunk and unfolded the delicate paper. Nearby three men played a game of cards. Overhead someone snored softly in the fading daylight.
How could he be so foolish, were his father’s first words. Johann blinked. Had he lost his mind to join a union? The socialist party? His father's words marched in angry rows aross the paper. The village, he said, was loyal to the Kaiser. Johann must renounce the union when he returned home. Otherwise he could not expect a welcome.
Johann's lungs emptied. His heart was a train that roared in his ears. Was this his father's greeting after three years? He knew nothing about his son's life. Johann remembered the day his father sent him to apprentice with Herr Assmann. Joinery would be his destiny, he'd said, wood his fortune. He recalled the morning vividly thought it was six years ago. His father clapped him on the shoulder. Johann traipsed off in the direction of Assmann's workshop with the lunch his mother made. He'd allowed himself only one glance behind, just in time to see his older brother, Heinrich, give a wave and disappear into the barn.
He would have given anything to switch places.
For a long moment he sat holding the letter. Then he crumpled it in his fist.
The workshop was empty. Whatever Otto wanted to teach him, could it not wait until lunch was over?
“Here,” Otto said. He fixed a piece of ash in the lathe. He took down a small spindle gouge from the wall. He turned the crank so Johann could concentrate on the tool. Slowly the wood began to spin.
“Now,” he said, “let us see you make a cut.”
Johann could not decide if Otto was a meddler. He gathered he was a loner. Why not humor him this once? There was no one around to witness this small embarrassment.
He made quick fists, released them. He picked up the gouge. “Faster, bitte,” he said.
Otto turned the crank faster. Johann touched the gouge to the ash. It made a beautiful, even cut. As the lathe continued to spin, the groove widened, the cut grew deeper. He realized too late. He'd gone too far.
“You see,” Otto said. “Your touch. It is too hard. You must learn to be light.”
He took the gouge from Johann and motioned to switch places. This time Johann turned the lathe. Otto touched the tool ever so lightly, lifting it up and away after a rotation or two, like a conductor with a wand. His technique belied his size and age.
The door of the workshop opened. A group of joiners scattered to their posts. Some cast glances at Otto and Johann. One man stared openly, his brows drawn together.
Otto looked up. “That’s it for now,” he said. He removed the practice wood and put a chair leg into the lathe. He nodded a dismissal. Johann returned to his station, feeling he should know something he didn’t. After a few moments, he continued planing the massive doors.
There was a solemnity that afternoon in the workshop. When Johann looked up, he caught a stare here and there. He determined to finish the doors and lost himself in the strenuous back and forth of working the plane. When at last he was done, he glanced over at Otto’s workbench. But Otto was not there. He must have gone home. Johann found himself wondering what his home was like, if he lived alone in a boarding house full of strangers, or if he went home to a wife who fussed and scolded at him and children who hung from his big arms and legs like buds on a willow.
The next day Otto spent the morning making chair legs, beautiful, ornate spindles that looked too delicate to hold the weight of a man. Most of the men in the workshop were making doors or cabinets like Johann. But the spindle work, almost all of it, was given to Otto.
At lunchtime, Johann grabbed his pail and waited while Otto wiped down the gouge he was using. The two men walked to the river and sat down in the same spot as the day before.
Johann unpacked the lunch his landlady provided, a boiled egg and a piece of dried fish.
“If that is all you eat," Otto said, "you will look like one of my chair legs.” He handed Johann a hunk of cheese, and this time the younger man took it.
“Why were those men surprised to see us yesterday?”
Otto's mouth worked his sausage. “It is against the rules.”
Johann looked up. “What rules?”
Otto shrugged. “The union’s,” he said.
In front of them, a tug huffed clouds of smoke. River swans darted for cover. A short distance away, a gypsy woman spread out a blanket on the edge of the promenade. She sat down, folded her legs beneath her, and set out a card. It said “blind since birth.” Now and then a workman tossed her a coin.
Johann frowned. “Why does the union care if we work on our break?”
Otto prepared his sandwich once again, slitting the loaf with his thumbs, filling it with cheese and sausage, then flattening it with his hands.
"They say it is to protect us." He took a bit, chewed, and spit out a piece of gristle. "But the truth is they are afraid." His eyes narrowed. "They don't want anyone to show them up."
Johann picked his way through the fish. A thought occurred to him.
“You don’t belong to the union?”
Otto threw back his head.
“Ha!” It was more bark than laugh. “I have been a member of the union since before you were born,” he said licking each of his fingers in turn. His face turned serious.
“How do you think I survived this?" He held up his right hand, splaying his fingers so the missing gap was ominous.
After the bitter letter from his father, Johann had gone home long enough only to pay his respects to his mother—and to see Sophie. He was astonished at the air of poverty that hung over the village. Thatched homes sagged between their rafters. The tiny market square was deserted. Tina's geese were gone—by order of Ottersberg. His beautiful, beloved Wümme was pocked with boulders and tree roots. The flood measures helped the farmers but devastated the fishermen, including Sophie's uncle.
Aloud he said, “My father despises unions.”
Otto watched the gypsy woman put some coins in her skirt, pull up her blanket, and move to a busier section near the Oberbaum Bridge. With his left hand, he massaged the angry nub on his right.
“Is your father’s approval so important?” he asked.
Johann threw the fish down the embankment and a gull swooped it up.
“I want to go back one day,” he said. "I want to open my own workshop.”
Otto considered this. He gave a small nod of his head.
“Then we had better continue your lessons,” he said. “But not today,” he added, looking once more out at the river and folding his hands over his ample belly to settle in for the rest of their lunch break. He swiped a fly from his beard. “Today we will watch and admire the ingenuity of this gentle gypsy woman.”
As summer approached, the heat on the Oberbaum Strasse mixed with the heat of the men straining over their wood inside the workshop, until the temperature was like a pot on a stove. When the bell rang, the men bolted, seeking daylight and the cool river breeze. Otto and Johann left, too, but only long enough to eat. Then Otto stood like a sentry at the appointed time, stretched his big frame, and returned to his post. Johann followed. Always Otto had a piece of scrap wood set aside for his pupil’s practice and a new gouge or technique to show him. Always they finished before the other joiners returned.
One afternoon, Otto demonstrated a cut with a fishtail gouge. He looked up, eyes bright at the precision of the tool. Sweat ran in rivers from Johann's hairline to his chin. He wanted to take his clothes off and jump into the river like when he was a boy. What would happen, he wondered, if he tried to swim in the filthy Spree?
Otto gave him a shove.
“I give up my break so you can daydream?”
“Sorry," Johann said, shaking his head. Then, "Don't you get tired of it?”
Otto looked at him.
"Tired of what? Of teaching you? All the time. Your head is like this wood," he said tapping the stick of beech in the lathe.
"I mean, do you get tired of coming to the same place every day, doing the same thing? Don't you wish you could look at something other than the dirty river or this ugly building?"
The older man stiffened.
“That river gets food and lumber and steel to people who need it." He looked around the deserted workshop. "This place?" he shrugged, his mouth grim. "It is not much, but it is a place to practice my art."
Johann felt a new heat on his face.
"Tschuligung," he said. "I did not mean to insult you."
Otto studied him.
"You are homesick," he said. He glanced at the clock. “We are finished today, but you will come to my house for supper tonight." He released the wood from the lathe. "Otherwise you will wallow in it."
It was an invitation and insult rolled into one.
Johann accepted both with a nod of his head.
The sun hung low in a hazy sky when Otto and Johann left the workshop. They followed the Spree for a half mile, then turned south. As they left the industrial buildings behind, here were shops and carts selling flowers, vegetables, second-hand furniture. Otto stepped into a butcher's and came out with something wrapped in paper.
Ahead was a series of row houses toward which they now turned. Otto produced a key, and they entered the ground floor of one of the homes. He fumbled in the entryway cursing as he tried to light an oil lamp although there was still light to see. A cat darted past and rubbed against Otto's leg. Another bolted in before Johann could shut the door. Otto clucked his tongue but let them stay.
He led the way into a small kitchen in the back of the house. He explained he rented the upstairs to a young bookkeeper and his family. He set the lamp down on a small table. One of the cats jumped up, but Otto knocked him away with a sweep of his arm. He invited Johann to have a seat. He took a large bottle from a cupboard, removed the cork, and poured its contents into two glasses.
“A toast,” he said, handing a glass to Johann. “To your workshop.” His raised his glass and met the younger man's eyes.
Johann raised his glass and downed the contents. The beer was warm and bitter and delicious.
Otto poured him some more. Then he took a scoop of coal from a bucket, dumped it into the stove, and lit it. He unwrapped the package from the butcher’s, a large cut of veal. He took some potatoes out of a crock and sliced them.
Johann could feel the beer working, making its way to his head from his empty stomach. He looked around. The house was neat and tidy, although he could have done without the cats. Did his friend live alone?
Otto put the potatoes in a cast iron skillet, added a bit of lard, and set it on the stove. He looked over at his guest.
"So tell me about this village then. Why do you pine for it?"
Johann expected Otto's customary disdain, but the older man's face was blank, inquiring. He needed no other invitation.
He described the Wümme's meandering ribbon of azure that ran through the village, flooding its banks in the spring, confounding the farmers and pleasing the fisherman. His family were the former, had been for as many generations as they could remember, the farm passing to every first son. He and Heinrich plowed the fields together. They took turns, one walked behind the blade while the other rode the giant shire, kicking its flanks if it went too slow. The house and barn were joined, one side for people, the other for animals. Otto raised his eyebrows at this, but did not interrupt. Johann described his mother's garden to the west of the house, the squash and pumpkin vines tangled with giant gourds, the tomatoes that reproduced themselves like rabbits. He pulled carrots, radishes, even sweet onions and ate them right from the ground. His father had an orchard—plums, apricots, peaches, and apples. Johann used to tie a piece of rope to a bucket, sling it over his neck, and climb the trees to pick. He was fast, sending down more buckets than his brothers and sisters, but always getting his fill.
He took a breath, looked up. Otto was watching him.
"I am boring you," Johann said.
“Not at all," Otto said. He added the veal and chopped onion to the skillet. The mixture made a soft hiss. The smell was intoxicating.
"What will you do if your father is right?" Otto asked. "If the village won't welcome you back?"
Johann's gaze dropped to the tablecloth. It was clean and yellow with age. He had not let himself consider it. Each day he faced the prospect of the dark, hot workshop on the Oberbaum Strasse by telling himself it wouldn't be forever. He planned to use the money he made working in Berlin to buy Herr Assmann's workshop. Herr Assmann had no son, and Johann thought the old man would be glad to sell it to him. He had said as much. There was no other plan.
"I don't know." He spoke the words slowly, pressing against his sternum to relieve a pressure there.
Outside the evening light filtered it's last rays through close buildings to reach the window. It made a parallelogram of pink on the table. Otto took a poker to the coals in the stove and spread the embers.
"Do you know," he began in a new tone of voice, "there is a rumor we are going to get work from Norddeutscher Lloyd."
"What!? I don't believe it," Johann said. "That work is all in Bremen—near the ports where the ships are built, near their headquarters." He had seen the Norddeutscher Lloyd building when he worked in Bremen, the massive tower, the four stories of opulent offices. He had stepped into the lobby long enough to see the marble staircase with its curves as soft as a woman's dress.
Otto lay thick slices of bread in the skillet.
"Ah," he said, "but the ship isn't going to be built in Bremen. It's going to be built in Stettin, and that is not so far from here."
"Stettin?" This was news indeed. If the ship were built in Stettin, it was possible the fittings, cabinets, furniture, would be built in Berlin.
"You'll never guess what they're going to call it," Otto scooped the meat and potatoes onto plates. He set the bread, toasted a lovely brown, off to the side. He brought the plates to the small table.
"Kaiser Wilhelm?" Johann guessed. His father would approve.
Otto shook his head, his face splitting into a wide grin.
"You'll never guess."
Johann lifted his hands in defeat. He wanted to eat.
"The George Washington!" Otto said.
"No!" Johann gasped.
"Yes," his friend said.
Otto had a furrow in his already furrowed forehead. The lesson was not going well. He tried to get Johann to turn the gouge just so to create a series of symmetrical rings.
“Nein, nein, nein!” the older man shouted when Johann did it wrong the third time. He took the gouge from Johann’s hand. “You must be delicate! Not some bumbling youth like the first time you are with a woman!”
He shouldered the younger man aside. “Watch! I will show you.”
Otto was so absorbed in demonstrating the technique, in Johann's failure to grasp it, he did not see the clock or hear the workshop doors open. In a rush the other joiners pushed their way into the building. Johann took his eyes away from Otto’s hands to see the surprised looks, the open hostility. One of the joiners, a short man with dark eyes, walked toward them.
“What do you think you’re doing, Kaufmann?”
Otto looked up. His brow was still furrowed.
“Go away, Peter,” he said. “This is none of your business.”
The small man’s eyes grew darker. His lips turned inside his mouth. The air all around was charged.
“It is my business. It is all of our business.” The man called Peter swept an arm in the direction of the others.
Otto put the gouge down. He seemed to be moving very slowly. He fixed his gaze on Peter.
“What do you care that I am helping this man? I would help you if you asked,” Otto said softly, “but you don't.” He shook his head. "And therefore your work is lousy." He released the practice wood from the lathe.
A deep stain began at Peter’s neck and moved up his jaw.
“I will speak to the foreman about this,” he said between clenched teeth. He shook his fist at the folds beneath Otto's chin.
In a moment, Otto had lifted the wood high in the air. It shook, vibrating in his three-fingered hand, poised above Peter's head. Johann felt a ribbon of dread unfurl, traveling from his throat down to his gut, his legs. He could not move. His eyes locked on the raised wood above Peter's head, picking out his ragged cuts and Otto's perfect ones.
“Do not threaten me,” Otto said. His voice was low, barely audible, the sound of Johann's father's voice before he clubbed a fox that killed two of Tina's geese.
“Otto.” Johann said, but no one heard not even the man himself.
The master joiner’s face was purple. This moment would change all the ones to follow. On the Spree, a tug's horn blared. Gulls screeched. A cloud passed between the earth and sun, dimming the weak light in the building. Then Otto lowered the piece of wood. It dropped it to the stone floor with a crack like the sound of bone breaking.
Peter turned and ran out of the workshop.
For a long moment everything was still. Motes floated in rays from the window. Otto's breath came in soft ragged gasps. The steady pounding was Johann's heart inside his chest.
Then a single plane began scraping wood. One by one, the men returned to their work and the sound of rasps, the hammer of chisels beat an unsteady rhythm, while orange dust began to move in waves through the workshop. Otto stared at his hands, regarding the maimed one as if he'd never seen it before. He picked up the practice wood and tossed it on the scrap heap.
That afternoon, the foreman entered the building and headed for Otto. He stood close and spoke fast. At one point he gestured at Johann who felt his insides shift.
Otto gave a nod of his shaggy head.
He put his tools down. He took off his apron and folded it carefully over his arm. He picked up his lunch pail and headed unhurried toward the door. He glanced sideways at Johann as he passed and raised his lunch pail. Then he pushed against the big wood doors and disappeared into sunlight.
Silence settled over the workshop. The man named Peter broke it. He raised a fist into the air and shouted something. A chorus of men near him echoed it. Most of the men stayed silent. Some shook their heads. One close to Johann spit on the floor.
“Enough!” the foreman shouted. He strode to the center of the workshop and put his hands on his hips. He looked around. “Get to work,” he said. The command was for all of them. But he looked at Johann.
Johann stared down at the walnut in front of him, a wardrobe for the staterooms of the new ocean liner. Already work for the ship had taken over the workshop. Otto teased that if their handiwork was going to America, perhaps they should, too.
Johanna knew he should begin the back and forth motion of his plane, but his limbs refused to move. They were dead weights in their sockets. He understood if he made some pretense, the moment would pass. Everything would go back to normal. Everything except for Otto.
He put the plane down. The foreman watched him. The other joiners stared. He didn’t take off his apron or gather his lunch pail. His landlady would scold him for losing it, but he didn't care. He headed for the door through which Otto had passed. Then he, too, felt the brilliant sunlight on his face, felt his body lift.
Otto had not got very far.
Johann shouted his name. He closed the distance before the older man turned.
“What are you doing?!” Otto’s face was angry, disbelieving.
“You got fired because of me,” Johann said. He expected Otto to be crestfallen, but he appeared to be out for a stroll.
“Dum Kauff!” Otto shook his head. He looked ready to box Johann's ears. “You must go back!"
“What?” Johann was confused. “No! It's my fault. I can't go back.”
Otto sighed. He shifted his apron and pail to the other arm.
“The foreman did not fire me," he said. "Peter complained, so he assigned me to another workshop." He lifted his big stooped shoulders and released them. "It has happened before. Tomorrow I will go to work the same as any other day, but at a different shop along the Strasse.”
Relief flooded Johann. The foreman was not a fool. He knew how skilled Otto was. Then another thought hit him. He was alone in not having a job.
“Perhaps I can go with you?” Hope raised his eyebrows.
Otto shook his head. He pointed at the workshop. “You haven’t lost your job—yet.”
“But what about our lessons?” He heard a plea in his voice but didn't care.
Otto looked him in the eye. Suddenly his face had the solemnity of a man who had lost something. His voice was quiet.
“There is no point,” he said, shaking his head. “In your heart, you are not a carpenter.”
Johann sputtered a denial.
Otto put his free hand on Johann's shoulder. “It’s true,” he said. “You are a very good joiner, and you could be a great one.” He shook his head again. “But it’s not what you want.”
“I want to open a workshop in the village.” The words sounded faint.
“You want to go back to your village, yes,” Otto said. “But your heart belongs to the farm, not to a joiner’s workshop for the rest of your life.”
He let the words sink in. “And you cannot have your father’s farm.” He said this last so softly, it was a whisper.
Johann's body was weightless, like desiccated leaves. At any moment, he thought his body might rise into the air and set down—where? The pressure of Otto’s hand told him what he said was true.
“What am I supposed to do?”
“Go back,” Otto said. “Go back to the workshop while you make a new dream. Make it while you work on The George Washington," he said. "You are young and there is plenty of time." Otto smiled. "Perhaps I will join you while you eat your pauper's lunch by the river,” he said. "Now I have my lunch break back." He flashed Johann a glimpse of his even, yellow teeth.
He pushed the younger man in the direction of the workshop. The swans were in the Spree, a dotting of goslings in their wake. On the Oberbaum Bridge, the gypsy woman spread her blanket for the afternoon crowds. She adjusted her scarf and smoothed her colorful blanket. She set her coin pot within easy reach.
He had no idea what the foreman would say. He did not want to face the triumphant Peter or to see a new joiner in Otto's place in the morning. He knew he had to keep walking.
He saw the gypsy woman get up. She picked up her cup and folded her blanket. She moved silently, weaving in and out between the pedestrians along the Strasse—dodging mothers pushing carriages, businessmen, fishermen selling their catch—until she found a spot with some shade in full view of passersby who would be forced to acknowledge her. She spread her kit and started over.
Johann put his hand on the workshop door and pushed through to the pungent, sweet smell of cut wood, the dimly-lit interior, and the sound of hundreds of saws, planes, and rasps moving backwards and forwards.