m e n u
 corona blues - geschenkt  lily und so  leseproben ohne (ge)waehrung  das heulmeisje und ich  lubeck  globally me - and you?  witch tells tiny tales  off the beach - a corona gift // about me



the real lost in translation

There's a difference between laziness and the reluctance to do things not really relevant and others can do better in the first place (okay, last part is not relevant). This, and only this is the reason for my not changing the menu (but if you need a second one: 8 is a nice round number and sounds and looks so much better than 9, which is asymmetrical and supposed to be unlucky anyway... oh. Maybe I'll change it all later, when I'm 88 or 99) and put these at the moment rather lost translations in front of 'lily & co' - there's room here and it's english.

I started these translations for fun and it still is, but in the meantime I have a plan and got a mail telling me lots of nice and less nice things, but also that I forgot to mention the author. Most people enjoy reading (or writing) their name, and that's okay, but 1) my background & past makes it more stress than pleasure to do so public, 2) I'm neither ambitious nor materialistic and 3) left the age of proving things or showing off years ago: I don't care. So if you want your name tagged to or in front of one of the four stories I still have to finish translating - make me an offer! None of them were ever printed & three have a little more than 200 pages. But if you want to make money, forget it and start working yourself, every dime is going into the Salten Foundation. Interested? Gmail to hexjacobse, thanks! [ghl11/23]

convoy II (1990)

 Hysterical?! The indignation seemed to provide him with too much whatever, at a loss of what to do with the bulk, he thrust it to his feet and rushed to the sink, examining his face in the mirror above: two blue-flashing eyes and slightly reddened cheeks - so what? It was his right, if not duty, to show some healthy male commotion now and then, otherwise they would do as they please, those women.

  "I'm not hysterical!" he hissed. "A little surprised," he conceded, "a bit astonished perhaps..." - Hell! was he actually defending internal maneuvers to a mere employee? He twirled around, his arms moving slower than the rest and sweeping a few in an office unavoidable objects off the desk: an ashtray and its contents rattled against the closet, a hail of multicolored paper clips followed and a snow-white blanket of typewriter sheets snowed gently on top... Irritated, he did a few quick laps around the desk, making the pinned up statistics and posters flutter: too much wind for Tina Turner, who did a slow-motion kowtow downwards, hanging to her sexy feet, kissing the wall. "Why should I, of all people, get hysterical?" he scratched his head, combing for reasons. "I have a successful company, heaps of successful trucks, even more successful drivers and..."

  "One of them is successfully ill," his secretary couldn't help throwing in.

  He ignored her. "...and a secretary who accuses her boss of being hysterical! And why?!" his voice tipped into a soprano area he didn't like. He stopped to clear his throat. "Because this silly boss - by the way responsible for all of this success, but never you mind - criticizes the machinations of his own secretary, ha!" He scowled at her: well said, wasn't it? And so matter-of-factedly free of hysterics.

  The lady casually crossed her legs, watching her right foot bob up and down as if it was Buddha's pendulum and - said nothing.

  "Never mind," he hissed. "Never ever you mind, let's not get hysterical for Pete's sake! Just sit quietly and relax, you...you...!" He turned on his heels and rushed out as if afraid of his own temper. The door closed softly; all doors and windows had electronic gadgets, not made for burglars and slamming.

  Dina listened for a moment, tilting her head, before she tightened the elastic band that held her long auburn hair together - her way of rolling up her sleeves - and started to restore the old order. The movements betrayed routine and the self-discipline of a woman, who had herself under control. At all times. In an instant, the room looked as it had five minutes earlier: sober and tidy - exactly as its main user claimed to be. The explosions taking place every two or three months, she was used to them. Not long ago these one-sided battles were fought in his luxury office next door, an expensive piece of fun. A noseless Mozart-bust or the crunch of broken glass underneath the shoe of a customer were capable of ruining the reputation of the best businessmen; it took a while before his subconscience discovered the convenience of exploding at her place: it was so much more frugal and cheaper, and as a woman, she had the experience and time to clean up afterwards. And anyway, why should he flee out of his own office? Yeah. If something did break: a forgotten cup or a jar with hand cream, never mind: Dina replaced it and her boss quietly signed afterwards - all of it with the automation of veteran comedians. The vexation over his own clumsiness was as spontaneous and honest as his annoyment when paying afterwards, yet something inside Alex seemed to radar for things that were liable to break...

  Dina pinned Tina back to her feet and looked around. She smiled, when her eyes fell on the old key rack hanging next to the door: an ugly wooden board with ten times ten nails, some of them rusty enough to create visions of amputated limbs: the top for car keys, the bottom nails for all the others. Alexander Munch had gotten the chunky piece of wood together with his first truck, a Bull Trucker, and guarded both as if they were an Uecker or Napoleon's ashes. The superstitious side of mankind is feminine, men know such things don't exist and call it 'respect', when they avoid things like old stuff and mirrors hanging invitingly loose from a single screw, no matter how furious they get: an imperial crash worth a dozen hysterics.

  She hardly had time to wipe the amused smile off her face, Alex could move quiet if he wanted to. He didn't lose a syllable about her cleaning up, not even looking around, but seemed to have calmed down.

  "Sooo?" he asked, almost yawning. "What were we thinking, when we hired that red-haired woman as a driver, huh?" Interested in an answer, he swallowed his usual: "if a mere employee is capable of thinking at all" and waited, inwardly tapping his shoe like a madman.

  She narrowed her eyes. "'The best of the best'," she quoted out of an acoustic deep well. With her own voice, she added: "That's what you always say..." She hesitated imperceptibly: "So I chose the best of the best. Period."

  Alex grimaced disgustedly: he couldn't remember this employee of his ever quoting him, but how say that without losing some face?

  "Besides," Dina hurried to add, "you gave me a blanco card", she softened his original words to stop pestering him with baby stuff to a: "had more important things to do."

  True again. Everything his priceless secretary ever said or did had ten fingers and ten toes. Always. The recommendations of 'that red-haired woman' were overwhelming, the lady must have sucked diesel instead of breast milk from an early age on. Not only did 'candidate number 14' have more than fifteen years of experience without a single point in Flensburg, no, 'candidate number 14' also had won several prizes in skill driving. Remarkable. His secretary had pecked out 'the best' from a total of three dozen with the infallibility of an experienced cock. All right, most of them were too young or too old and got sorted out: nobody wants fragile freight being raced around by kiddies or drooling away drivers filled up with painkillers, their hands in their backs to suggest carrying anything heavier than a cup of coffee was not a good idea. Thanks to the good reputation of the small town Salten (good pay, social security, fair play, good schools and excellent family conditions) there were still enough left and advertising had not been necessary, the news got around like goutweed - three even came from abroad. Well, in any case, the list of the awards and skills seemed as long as the number of miles 'candidate number 14' had covered by truck, if not longer, and Dina, that conscientious secretary of his, would probably have rattled off the data of every single milk teeth...

  "Just take the best of the best, as usual, and quit wasting my time with foolish baby stuff. Period!" Alex had barked, turning his back on her to do important things...

  "And why," he nagged, "did you forget to mention the tiny detail that this skill driver is a woman - didn't she say so during your interview?" he sneered, alluding to the new driver's not at all twiggy figure.

  "Boss!" squeaked his secretary with goo-goo-gah-gah eyes. "You're not implying you'd rather have the second best male driver than the very very best of all, are you?"

  Alex felt his lips being gulped in. That was exactly what he had rather, but in this emancipated business world it was often better to shut up. He increasingly had to deal with women in leading positions; after getting used to the sight of a female managing the local soccer club, he was forced to choke on and swallow being refused a desperately needed loan - by a woman. They popped up overnight like mushrooms in an innocent forest. What was he supposed to do, leave the mushrooms to others? That didn't keep his trucks burping either.

  The particularly venomous specimen mushroom in front of him smiled like a salty pie. "Besides, you didn't ask," she added. A hissing sound left his lips, making them pop out again, which she hurried to interpret as approval. "See!" she squeaked again. "Come on, be honest: you visited your brother and he shooed you off again - that's why we're just a little irritable?" Dina knew she had won this round, but was sovereign enough to leave her boss a decent exit. Two pairs of eyes, one light blue and unblinking, the other dark blue and suspicious, gazed at each other like owls, taking their measure.

  After a while, Alex turned away. "How do you know?" he admitted after a sigh from the deepest cells of his lungs, "the old mule is so stubborn..." The 'mule' was not even three years older, a length of time the younger had been stretching the older they got. He could accept Versace not wanting himself as a model, but he still looked ages younger than that old man with the Phyllis Diller haircut; and anyway: brotherhood - what was that, a long-time-no-see slogan from the last Mohicans?

  With an always absent "high society" mother, who died early, and a father, who had pushed his sons into a 'healthy' competition as soon as they could crawl (a tactic the eldest simply ignored, throwing the full load of fatherly ambition on Alex), their relationship never had much chance. The death of the old Munch had done nothing to improve this lack of communication, on the contrary making things worse, his inheritance being several acres with a big house on top. For both. Just splitting it all was hard enough, selling his own half seemed impossible. Even before the elder one became the 'Green Prof' in Frankfurt he had disapproved his brother's 'stinky trucks' ("why not take the train?"), forcing Alex to buy the first two with his half of their mother's legacy. Unfortunately, the neighbors (privateers, doctors and lawyers and other bourgeois people with no notions about expanding and big business) didn't appreciate his work either, not in front of their own door. But what about clean ecological trucks? Alex had argued, they were more expensive of course, so he needed cash: selling his own half of the house seemed a good solution, right, dear brother? The dear brother was not convinced, helping Alex to a loan for his third and fifth (eco-)trucks instead, and automatically sending his "forget it!" hundreds of kilometers by mail. It took several years, before the university forced the mule to swap this bill of indifference with the harder coins of a communication, neither brothers were capable of: he came home. He had to. Probably he had expected empathy from his brother, who thought it was Phil's own bloody fault: A teacher should educate according to the principles of the community who pays, even if his own differed. Students, lunatics and politicians fighting the government were not unusual, but why should that same government let renegade teachers knead future tax payers, still warm and soft from their nests, thus creating a bunch of brutes who would fight them one day: a sort of delayed suicide? Well, the staff had tried it with kind words, with reason, with hidden and then open threats; in the end, they had to ask the rebel to please leave, 'please' and 'ask' not being quite the words used. But he left, that was the main thing. Why shouldn't he? He had his savings, half of a house and a huge garden, his mother's inheritance, various interesting hobbies and all of a sudden a vast ocean of time to bathe in all of these beautiful things. Plus a pension that was quite respectable, especially considering how little he had done for it. Synonyms for happiness.

  His younger brother's definition of happiness was less complicated: trucks, trucks, trucks - too many for one of the best residential areas of Salten, the officials insisted. During this critical phase, just when Alex was in real trouble, the older brother showed up, and what did he do? Nothing. How could a university possibly throw out somebody so narrow-minded, calling him a radical? The guy didn't even have a car! The end of it all was that he, Alex, had to move out, or rather: his trucks had to leave the etepetete neighborhood and after a while Alex himself followed with his head up high, snorting. The entrepreneur had managed to lay hands on an old warehouse, some garages and a little land in the industrial area - cheap as dirt! Quite noble of him, if you came to think of it: leaving the whole lot to an uncooperative relative after much adversity - and what had he asked for in return: money or even thanks? N-no. A tiny signature, that's all. An inkblot he needed to sell his part of an inheritance, that had caused him nothing but trouble and would let him breathe, as he had miscalculated himself. Just a bit, not much. Well, and then there was this powerful Mercedes-Benz he absolutely had to have, because - well, never mind why: it was in tip-top condition and cheap, but for how long?! Was that too much after all he had done for the old mule? Apparently. The oh-so-social professor preferred leaving half of a house empty, whilst thousands and thousands of homeless people camped between cows and pigs on a dirty cold meadow. Why people called such a man the "green professor" seemed a puzzle from Tolkien...

  Making unhealthy noises with his teeth, Alex recounted his brief visit the night before. He had managed to find the old scholar ideal neighbors: quiet, without children or pets, and so hard-working, they were never home. They were environmentally perfect (all three cars, the motorcycle and the scooter had the best of catalytics), talented craftsmen, tidy and willing to do laundry and shopping for the professor (certainly a clumsy and absent-minded sort of man) and were able to present a certificate stating they were unable to have children at any time or situation of their life. Alex had spoken to the stubborn man as if his tongue had bathed in maple syrup all night, packing enough persuasive power into his words to sink the Titanic without ice. In vane - farewell, oh magnificent Mercedes-Benz, may your future owner choke on your stinky fumes!
  This conversation had ended with the usual door slamming. Alex moaned: "Why me, why always me?"

  His secretary mumbled sympathetic vowels or shook her head. As soon as he seemed finished moaning, she scurried to a closet, unlocked it and came back with a thermos flask and a thick mug. She looked up briefly, while pouring still warm coffee in the mug: "And why don't you simply rent your half? You don't need a signature for that, do you?"

  Alex was too deep in his private hole to mock about the stupidity of women in general and his secretary in particular as usual and lifted one shoulder. "Those couple of pennies, what am I supposed to do with them: buy windshield wipers? As you know, or should know, I need a large sum to expand and pay off some debts. Urgently."

  Dina put the mug in front of him and nodded: her boss always needed a large sum. Urgently.

  "Can't see myself playing the janitor either" Alex continued pretentiously, tilting the coffee as if it was whiskey. "Baby stuff! Teaspoons are silly, when you want to create something worth while, something big, my child."

  "I understand perfectly..." the child nodded. "I was thinking of people your brother can't get on with and would perhaps be desperate to get rid of." She turned away to clean the now empty flask and mug. As a tidy person, she didn't appreciate leaving things lying around, even if it was for one night. Over her shoulder she asked: "What about the waybill that just came in? Want me to finish it quickly? I'm going home in a few minutes." No answer. She turned around. Alex seemed far away. Mumbling to himself, he rubbed his earlobe while his secretary mechanically put everything back into the closet, took out her jacket and bag and locked it: you never know.

  "How about Petra and Martin?" he interrupted her.

  "I beg your pardon?" the competent woman made a foolish face.

  "Well, as tenants, of course," he reminded her impatiently.

  She wiped her desk and went to the sink to rinse the cloth and hang it on the hook next to the mirror, brows up and pursed lips as if about to cry "Eureka!".

  Alex followed every move, but didn't dare push them.

  "They are vulgar enough," was her verdict at last, "but too nice. Your brother is helpless, when people are nice."

  "True! You're related to us, I forgot."

  "Distantly!" she protested, putting on her jacket. "By marriage only."

  Her boss was too captivated by the prospect of selling his house and at the same time taking revenge, to notice the unflattering nature of this denial of kinship. "Why don't you make a suggestion, you smart aleck!" he demanded irritably. "Do something decent to earn that high salary of yours for a change!"

  She managed a smile that looked like the opposite. "A mere employee is too small-minded for that kind of work. And incidentally, I'm a private person since" - she glanced at her watch and grabbed her bag - "six and a half minutes. Good evening, Mr. Munch."

  "Oh come on," he said, falling in their old familiar tone and casually slipping between his secretary and the door, a broad smile on his lips.

  "Good grief!" Dina grimaced. "OK, let's think: which dislikes and aversions does your brother have...?" she murmured. "He doesn't like women..."

  "What?!" it was Alex turn to squeal, horror in his face. "That's new to me..."

  "Do you want me to earn my salary today or are we waiting for Easter bells?" she chided.

  "Oh. Please, please. Carry on."

  She closed her eyes to get a better inward view of his brother. "Let me see - he doesn't like women... hates noise...," she continued. "He also doesn't like cars and hates being disturbed, especially when he's working... Hm, how about..." She broke off, her eyes wide open. "Oh no, it's late, I gotta go home!"

  "Spit it out!"

  Instead of an answer, she moved resolutely towards the door, but wasn't quick enough - like one of his trucks, Alex rapidly overtook her and stood in front of the door, awaiting her with arms outstretched like a vampire.

  "Don't say I didn't warn you," Dina shrugged, turning around and occupying her old swivel chair again. "We know someone who might possibly fit: a female person with lots of temperament, a loud teenage child, a very chatty mother-in-law, an ancient car and two dogs as big as Shetland ponies..."

  "Who?!!"

  "The red-haired woman," she confessed timidly. "Antonia Schikorra, the latest acquisition of Munch Transports, skill driver and..."

  "God," he breathed, looking around for a place to sit

  She readily abandoned her chair once more. "She loves driving, and I heard her dogs not only bark..." She paused, then added: "Bow-wow, bow-wow! They also: scrape, scrape...!" she pretended to dig for bones, sweeping the waybill across the desk.

  Alex snatched it, before it could snow again, raising an index finger to his forehead to suggest his opposite had lost her mind, as an aha-glow went over his face: Of course! Why hadn't he thought of that himself? His brother was absolutely crazy about his green stuff, letting everything grow all over the place like his hair and calling it "garden". When Alex lived in his half of the house, he more than once witnessed the old fool dancing around, when exotic plants popped up. Well, even as a child, the oddball had done strange things...

  "Get her a rental contract immediately!" The businessman almost sang, making a few Fred Astaire steps towards the door. "But if anything breaks - I don't want to hear about it, got it? Clogged drainage, leaky roof - she can mend it herself, understand? Write that in as clear as the Bible!"

  "In a minute," said Dina calmly. "As soon as I get the waybill..."

  "To hell with the silly willybilly!" he boomed good-humored. "See to it that this marvelous woman signs and moves in today, together with all of her beautiful entourage. With generous options for me, of course - you know what I mean." The door handle already in his hand, he turned around again and repeated expressively: "Today!"

  Dina slowly counted to nine before moving to the window, waiting for the tall figure of her boss to show up outside. Her lips curled as he disappeared into the white convertible car, that parked in front of the entrance as usual. With a Ginger Rogers parody, she pranced back to her desk, but hesitated... Not until she heard the engine roar through the gate, did she pick up the phone to dial her own number. "Toni? It worked, I'll be right over with the rental contract, okay? Put a bottle of champagne in the fridge..."

end of chapter one



Actually, all participants are mentioned in this first chapter. Okay, the old lady, Dina's rich aunt, is yet to come, and Toni's ex, a man who brags he helps people over or under the Wall (yes, that Wall) into a free world - for money. And all those students populating that same house several weeks, helping the Prof to find the source of the poison, which was gradually polluting the earth in that area; oh, and the man who's responsible for it and kidnapped Toni's son to keep the Prof from telltaling. And a few other peripheral figures. Just use your fantasy and find out. Or ask me. [ghl01.24]

__________________________________________________________________

It was not a decision to listen to the advice of others for a change (this golden rule: "write solely about things you know everything about" - never mind, this one is also about traffic problems 'the mole' tried to solve: did I ever mention I don't have a driver's license?), and after letting trucks race around and crash into buildings I needed something quiet (it's not my fault things escalated again), so the center of this story is a library (many many thanks for the hours especially as a kid in American, but also Dutch and later German libraries) and its neighbors. It was written 1992, when the first PCs popped up and asylum homes were burning in Germany - even my stubborn Salteners were affected. I almost started translating one of the middle chapters of the mole because of the lack of protagonists and action in the first, on the other hand: who needs action or protagonists? [ghl02.24]


the mole (1992)



scanner

 They had done a lot since he trespassed last time - no doubt about that. The entrance and its stairs had been widened, resembling an armless one-eyed Willie with the railings and the left half of the double door still missing. Robert bit on his lips: temptation pure. It was a few minutes past one o'clock and lunchtime, why not take a quick look inside before leaving? A farewell to the city he had fallen in love with and adopted three minutes after he had stepped off the train. The Doctor of Philosophy looked furtively around, before taking some unphilosophical jumps - and was inside Salten's library or the Sabu, as the place was affectionately called. Although very dirty, the man-sized windows let in enough light to be able to make out one thing or another; every now and then a ray of sunlight managed to laser itself through or between the clouds and a flickering gold dust morgana hesitantly followed the rules of gravity. The floor was littered with pieces of wood, plaster, tools, stones, all kinds of cardboard and scraps of paper, empty beer bottles: "building site!" all over. Almost all of the interior walls had been removed, and thick tarpaulins hung between the old library and the former store to keep the books from sucking non-verbal atoms. Elongated strips a few centimeters deep documented where the wall between books and electronics had been. Robert stepped over rubble, buckets and equipment lying around and stumbled over a cable popping out of nowhere like one of Nessy's babies, raising an unpleasant cloud. He sneezed: And all this was supposed to be finished within two months? Full of skepticism, he shook his head, after all, he had worked in the building branch a year and a half: at this rate, they wouldn't even manage it in two years, no way.

  "Doesn't the room meet your approval, or do those vibrations that make your head swing come from the inside and have nothing to do with it?" a melodious voice cut into his pessimism.

 Although he hadn't heard her coming and his conscience wasn't clear, Robert didn't flinch, a pleasant by-product of his childhood. His parents' stereotypical "Leave Robbie alone, kids!" had pushed his older siblings into all kinds of mischief including cold water, firecrackers, pseudo-corpses and ketchup, a useful training for the future. Turning around slowly, Robert found himself face to face with a woman whose blue-gray eyes speared him up. Despite fine wrinkles in her tanned face and a slightly too long silvery-white haircut that rippled like wheat on a field every time she moved, she looked youthful, a bonus she lost thanks to something indefinable: hardness, reserve, coldness? Instinctively he realized he was looking at his almost-boss and she was aware of his identity as well. Not that she made an authoritarian or even hostile impression: I'm waiting and never shocked, go ahead and tell me all! would have been a better description.

 "Excuse my intruding," he opened his mouth after a brief duel of glances. He pointed his chin towards the entrance and added with a quiet sneer: "The door was open."

 "You can inspect your future workspace whenever and as long as you please," she continued her systematic check up of his person, without letting him know what she thought of his behavior.

 He held her gaze: explanations, dismissive phrases, apologies, on the tip of his tongue ready to take off, froze in midair - thrusted directly into nirvana by blue-gray mocking eyes. He spontaneously finished her sentence with an impertinence that surprised him: "'Future' is the correct word... since it'll definitely not be finished in two months."

 She didn't do him the favor to disapprove or even argue, on the contrary revealing two rows of teeth whose irregularity guaranteed authenticity: "We regret not being able to offer you a better reception, but you see, your uncle considered the completion of your luxury apartment" - her chin shot up towards the ceiling - "as more important, and unfortunately we have to earn our living during the daytime and can only help out in the evening - if you can call it help." With a droll mixture of pride and amusement, she lifted and turned around her hands, which were covered with cuts and scratches as well as blisters and calluses in various stages of healing, clear signs of an unaccustomed activity.

 One to zero for you, Robert grated inwardly. Outwardly a snotty: "Oh, well, go ahead and fetch your knitting stuff then. I love impossible jobs and will take over!" left his lips before he could could grab its legs.

 She flashed another glance at his appearance and raised a brow: "You do mean yourself?"

 Torn between indignation and laughter, he almost bit off his tongue, but only replied: "Who else?"

  For a fraction of a second, her expression betrayed a sardonic "well, this sounds like fun!" before she disappeared behind the tarpaulin, smiling.

 He looked after her ruefully, silently cursing his own pride, and not without appreciation for her good behavior. He had been insolent and wrong. And now? Retreat was impossible, looked like shying away from physical activity, if not cowardice. He clenched his hands to fists: why not? A little exercise would do him good. And as soon as he had settled things, he could still pack his bags and...

 "Mr. Stoltze?" it echoed from the naked walls.

 Why, he pondered, couldn't she take over the stupid music department? Her voice promised more musicality in the nail of her little toe than he had in his whole body, but said nothing: enough nonsense for one day...

 "The right door didn't fit and will be put in tomorrow," she announced calmly, pointing to the empty entrance with one hand, while the other jingled a bunch of keys. "For outside, the basement rooms, the library and to your own apartment, which unfortunately isn't finished either. Or," she raised an eyebrow again, its dark color a stunning contrast to the snow on her head, "shall I keep them for a while until it looks, umm, shall we say: more agreeable to people without a washing machine?" She cast a glance at his clean clothes, the only slightly dusty suede shoes, looking impartial but directly into his eyes with a twinkle that seemed to say: don't worry, I've been through two or three wars and a lot of prison and am used to all sorts of perversions.

 Did he have a choice? He took the keys with a bow and refrained to say more: they would see...

 "Here's to good cooperation, then," she almost sang, performed an elegant turn and slipped between two tarpaulins that overlapped each other, every move an "I've got work to do - how about you?" demonstration. Robert grimaced and looked around, absentmindedly pulling out the cable he had stumbled over. He had sucked up Salten from the first moment: The partly timbered brick houses, the small round market squares, the winding alleyways and dark alcoves, that crispy cottage effect despite cosmopolitan air. This mixture of stubbornness and local pride with explicit rejection towards the silliness of the rest of the world, which was supported by 'mere' newcomers: quarter-Saltener or half-Saltener didn't exist, those who lived in Salten did it with all their heart. And the wind...

 Having grown up and lived in a city between silos, shopping malls, skyscrapers and stinky factories with a kind of stale ventilation sometimes ploughing, squeezing its way through, Robert Stoltze was caught off guard by the freshness, the spiciness of the breeze softly eliminating all human-made scents - and enchanted as soon as his bronchi had gotten used to it. St. Mary's Church in the cultural quarter was still the highest building, closely followed by the hospital with its four floors in the north of the city. His self-esteem refused to stay in a place where he was unwanted and superfluous, and yet... - mind you, his decision to leave was as firm as Elizabeth the second, but: didn't that have time? After all, he wasn't drawing a salary, hadn't even been introduced and, as a true Gemini, had dithered to sign anything like a contract. What's more, he knew the building plans better than most newspaper readers - probably even better than the architects with their countless projects - and could see what still had to be done and even in which order. Haste was a word from outer space, financial need unknown to him: why worry? He always followed his nose and it had lead him well. Up to now...

 After studying several interesting things and graduating, he had been persuaded by a fellow student to become a partner in a multicultural store, but soon switched to the fashion branch, when he discovered a lack of interest in business matters, and from there walked through the world of advertising, travel, architecture, newspaper and other episodes, had even worked in a kindergarten, a zoo, as a waiter and sports trainer - all very interesting activities, but not interesting enough to justify a longer stay once he'd settled in and discovered something even more exciting: why not? After a few unpleasant experiences with the elbows of others, he had decided to stick to literature, because he not only loved books: you can put them back on the shelf. His handicap had always secured him a free space to do as he pleased, booming his creativity, but spoiling him for authority or teamwork. The prospect of having nobody above him had been irresistible, especially since he was still working with books: why not? But a music department - he of all people, unmusical and half-deaf as he was, and against the staff and an entire town? No. The citizens' meeting he witnessed a few days ago had smothered his excitement over this new challenge like a dark, wet blanket...

 The meetings took place every five weeks and were typical for Salten: a mix out of bazaar and speaker's corner, without a podium, without front, back or center. Anyone who had something relevant to say stood up, if necessary on a chair, table or the shoulders of a fellow citizen and said it, and those who found no ears, were even booed at, did everybody a favor to sit down quickly, as long as he could do so voluntarily. Every few years, a smart aleck tried buying people or votes - and was kicked out for a whole year. Salten was Salten and didn't need the habits of this unwieldy thing called globalization with its long rat tail of lobbyism, wagging away common sense.

 His first and probably last meeting half a week ago seemed a good example: voices playfully started whipping each other, becoming incantatory, shrill, placating, angry, lashing with ice-cold scorn, hot anger, gnashing fury, reluctantly silent after the five-minute-gong, when other voices proclaimed maybe the exact opposite in the same or another way, but eager to start ranting again, when directly addressed. Thus were the rules, controlled by the one at the gong, this time a middle-aged lady called Sim, who probably boiled her eggs without a clock. The obligatory five points this time:1) population boom, 2) new closing times including long Thursdays, already liberalized in the rest of the country (for most Saltener a recommendation to do the opposite), 3) old and new suggestions to calm down the traffic, 4) the closure of the old Kant school and plans for a new comprehensive school (or vice versa?), and finally the evergreen since years: 5) a fixed location for the two annoying glass igloos which were not tolerated anywhere in the pedestrian zone around the Hoof. And oddly enough, what used to take over two hours was ticked off in just under one hundred and twenty-two minutes: the current closing times for stores were to stay, as soon as the casual question "I see, you all want to work longer and have flexible times too?" triggered an embarrassed silence; the traffic problems were postponed; and the closure or opening of old/new schools was kicked off the list because an obvious majority held up red cards; while the residents of the pedestrian zone were condemned to another five weeks of glass smashing, whether they liked it or not: the igloos were to be moved 30 meters in front of the grocery store in the Mainstreet.

 "Dear fellow citizens!" a tenor with a bass timbre demanded attention, straightening the backs of already slumbering away people. "I know you all want to go home, so I beg your pardon, but this is important. For all of us! Against my own interests as a publisher, I'm raising my humble voice here and today to inform my readers about something that bears a hell of a lot of resemblance to a scandal. And all this despite the fact that I could pocket a small fortune if I kept my mouth shut. But my sense of justice... "

 Robert, who had counted the personal pronoun 'I' four and 'my' five times, rolled his eyes. As an insider, he knew the publisher would get rid of all the newspapers he was able to print after this prologue.

 As if he had sensed the negative vibes, Stephan Fox lowered his voice, causing some people to lean forward, although he could still be heard loud and clear in the furthest corner: "Our dear Sabiners are getting a new boss, an outsider, worse: somebody from Hamburg... " - a short pause as if expecting some drums - "Our mayor's nephew!" he finally almost whispered, sitting down with this smug expression contentment people have, when they expect a hell they had deliberately provoked. The mayor, who had been warned and was sitting next to an emergency exit as a precaution, already had the door handle in his hand and would have been out in a flash, if his wife hadn't intervened. This little person climbed onto her chair so gracefully, raising a dainty white hand with such naturalness that - oh wonder! - the hurricane gradually subsided. One of the most prominent ladies, she came from an old, rich and influential family, genuine Salten blood ran through her veins, without her on his side, Appie, a mere newcomer, would never have become mayor. And yet the majority heard her voice for the first time.

 "Dear Saltener, will you let me get rid of a few words before you start throwing stones?" she asked simply, but with this sovereign tone and attitude that makes people listen. "Actually, there are two. Two announcements my husband had originally planned to make at a different, more appropriate time. - Appie?" Leaving her chair as gracefully and effortlessly as she had got on despite her dress and age, she invited her husband to take her place with a barely noticeable movement of her head, which he hurried to follow.

 "Dear fellow citizens... friends... most esteemed neighbors..."

 Robert, whose ability to read people had almost forty years time to compensate some loss of hearing, guessed the swift movement of his aunt, as if pinching the first man in town in the leg, as well as the brief twitch in his uncle's face more than he saw it: get to the point, he translated the auntly violence, make it short!

 Appie didn't bat an eyelid. "As you all know, one of our most successful citizens," he continued softer, "is making us all an extremely generous gift." He paused, as if to give 'his' Salteners an opportunity to rejoice in advance. "Above all, however, the gift is for the Sabiners. The Sabu is receiving a complete and up-to-date music system all inclusive, plus several pallets of records, cassettes and CDs, from Debussy to..." He broke off, apparently unaware of the latest musical trend.

 "... Kevin's pussy," finished a cheeky bass from the safe back rows.

 Nobody laughed.

 "But that's not all," the mayor used the interruption to leave his sentence unfinished, "our patron is not only providing the necessary premises next to the library," Appie rocked weightily back and forth on the balls of his feet and took a breath: "but also agreed to regularly update everything the next thirty years. I think most people have already guessed that it's none other than Paul Janßen, owner and founder of the 'Janßen Chain', who started in Salten as a simple master electrician and has already... "

 The rest was drowned. Shrugging his shoulders, the master of these crazy citizens gave up trying to make himself heard again after a few attempts and was almost outside, impatiently holding the door open for his wife, when, to his astonishment, she once again mounted her chair and raised a white hand. As if they had practiced it for weeks, the silence fell like an axe: where one bone came from, there was bound to be more...

 "My husband kindly left the second treat to me," Dorothy's calm voice effortlessly filled the room. Robert had not missed the slight wince in his uncle's face, who obviously had no idea what his first lady was talking about. He turned to his aunt with increased interest. "Of course," Doro turned her head to where she thought the publisher was, "no one would even dream of replacing Karin Wehde" - she nodded her head to the other side of the room - "who is irreplaceable, more even than the mayor himself." - Oho! - "Robert Stoltze is supposed to take charge of the new music department, at the request of the donor by the way, not ours - rather difficult to refuse considering the generosity of the gift. Thank you for listening - I wish us all a peaceful night." Almost gliding from her chair, the little woman walked casually through the automatic aisle of her slaves to the front door, ignoring her husband, who was still holding the emergency exit open. Not until the door clicked shut behind her, quietly and definite, did the commotion break out, irrevocably. The citizens' meeting was over.

 The old and new boss of the Sabu had to endure the congratulations and questions of dozens of fellow citizens and took much longer than Dorothy Hammsen to get outside. She slowly walked back to her apartment directly above the library. Last time anything ever surprised her was very long ago. She had to think about that.

 Not only Karin Wehde, someone else needed to do some pondering. The just appointed leader of a not yet existing music department had quit a monotonous, but good job in a large publishing house in Hamburg to become the boss of a smaller - and more interesting? - library in a town for less money. His motivation for this 'step down' was to have more independence and freedom; he was no longer willing to be held back by superiors, needed a certain amount of freedom to develop his creativity and try out new ideas. True, this job was really new, but he had no notion about music, worse: he was unmusical. As far as he was concerned, the leader of a music department should know and understand everything about music, have studied music and, if possible, be able to play four or forty musical instruments - he, Robert Stoltze, couldn't even read notes, and, worst of all, he had not known there was already a leader until that very meeting: embarrassing! There were plenty of reasons to turn around and leave on the spot.

 These concerns, which he painstakingly told his uncle and aunt after the citizens' meeting, hit deaf ears. He might as well have spoken in front of a government.

 "You don't have to, sunny boy," his uncle replied with the superiority of a successful man. "You're just supposed to run the place, that's all. A geography teacher doesn't have to travel around the whole world to be able to show his students places they've never been before, you know." Rather proud of this comparison, he had forgotten his wife had dropped the day before, he graciously added: "Your parents always boasted how quickly you learn and intelligent you are, now is as good a time to prove it as any other. And besides, once your department is up and running, music will constantly niagara the hell out of you..."

 Robert Stoltze threw the cable away and surveyed this disaster area harmlessly called construction site with an inner shudder: What on earth had he gotten himself into again?

 He moved in that very afternoon. [ghl0324]

__________________________________________________________________



the icemakers
(2008, when those lil e-boxes were driving kids and their parents crazy)

level I

  An eleven-year-old is a child, metamorphosed to a teenager two years later - and in between? Tomorrow was his twelfth birthday - questions? Through all of the six walls or four doors (in the house of the Bergmans, the main purpose of doors was to close them) he could hear his parents whispering, and pulled the blanket around himself a little tighter: change of scene, please! That usually helped: parents and birthday scenes did vanish, making room for school pictures that pinched even more. Frustrated, he threw off the blanket and did what he often did in such cases: he pulled his Geybey out of the mattress, his unofficial Geybey. Not only was he banned from using his own old one, his parents had confiscated it together with the games:
  "We think we've noticed certain addictive patterns, Peter," his mother had tried to explain in this reasonable tone, that made him want to bathe his head in the toilet. "Let's just see if you can manage without for a while and then..."

  What was he supposed to do? They had the majority. Ever since his older sister had left the nest, democracy didn't work: two adults + one child = dictatorship. Resistance was useless, considering the disbalance a little trickery allowed: he had bought an old Geybey including Super Xammy from a colleague. He could afford it, got enough pocket money and rarely spent any of it: for what? He was spoiled by a mother, whose cooking skill and reputation (and a very modern kitchen almost next door to a restaurant) allowed her to work at home, wherever her husband as a architect was sent to, didn't have a sweet tooth or any expensive hobbies and only had to open his mouth to get what he wanted (or not, they seldom asked) stuffed into him like he was an old stupid goose. All right: stuffed was an exaggeration, but as long as it was "suitable for his age" and didn't harm him, he got it alright - they would hardly buy him a pump gun. As was mentioned in the small, regularly updated paperback "Parenting for Dummies", which had been on his mother's bedside table as long as he could remember and was consulted every fart or two. A few days ago, he had risked a peep inside to be prepared to the monstrosities awaiting him. And had almost dropped the book, when he came across the recommendation to take his awakening interest for the opposite sex as something natural, or at least avoid showing any apprehension... Good to know. And too much Geybey or computer or television was considered bad, not recommendable; but none at all was not optimal either: "...a natural handling of all electrical appliances, including the digital sector, is desirable, is part of the general education nowadays..." I see. Why argue? His parents were happy their son wasn't addicted and knew how to keep himself busy without a Geybey, and didn't pester him - that's all he wanted. He didn't feel guilty: he wasn't an addict. He just had nothing to do and was bored, and Xammy in particular was now his best and, in fact, only friend, who else could he talk to? He always made a real effort not to turn the thing on too often and had already exceeded his self-imposed limit a bit, but this was an emergency: tomorrow was his birthday with all its endless tradition of pretending to be delighted about things he hadn't wished for in an uncomfortable and brand-new suit, (which of course he was not allowed to mess up, although the experience told it wouldn't fit at the next occasion), being smooched and admired - this hypocrisy! - by people he didn't like because they pretended to like him, even though they didn't know him. Then having to thank people all the time: for useless gifts, for coming, for the long journey, for the wonderful wonderful day...brrrrr...

  Why couldn't people be honest: "Gosh, Peter, you used to be sooo cute - why don't you do something about that ugly, disgusting pimple on your nose that looks like a rotten potato bug with no legs? ...And your hair - can you comb it, we'll need a Bunsen burner, right?" He giggled, posing like a movie star and stroking over his always messy long dark hair, which he defended as if he was Samson. Or at least let him be honest: "Wow, have you gained weight - who fattened you up and, above all, why?... Aunt Bo, didn't anyone tell you only clowns wear so much make-up? And you, you haven't changed at all, you still stink like motor oil and pure indecency... good gad, can't you send a typhoon through your garlic-smelling drooling mouth before you leave your house?..."
  And anyway, who likes being pushed constantly: get up early, make your bed properly, cut your nails, wash your hands, comb your hair, go to bed early, eat things you don't like, go to school, tidy your room, shower, do your homework, take a walk, eat your vegetables, don't sit in your room all day, wash your face and brush your teeth, help your Mom/Dad, do some more sport...
  And birthdays.
  Exactly, and his own were the worst! His conscience, that beast, was soothed: he switched on the Geybey and was soon in another, more beautiful world: Xammy's world.

 That's when it happened.

 Of course he said stupid stuff all the time when he played, half sentences like: "Move your butt! Are you blind, man! Oh come on Xammy baby...!" Things like that. They all did. Well: lots of them. But this time Xammy had turned around, looked straight at him and called

his

name

  Imagination? Of course! It was frightening enough to make him push the Geybey straight back into the mattress and zip it up like locking away somebody for murder though. Gosh, and sleep floated out of sight...

  "Happy birthday to you, happy birthday...", he was woken up, as every year, by the very cheerful and very unmusical voices of his parents and cake number one of seven. Peter kept his eyes closed as long as possible, must have dozed off in spite of himself: what a dream, yikes. He jumped the morning hurdles well, glad his special day was overlooked at school and then headed for his stall like a thirsty horse, until he remembered that his relatives (both parents and their parents had all the siblings he didn't) - had certainly not forgotten: damn...

  When he was underneath his blanket at last, the pictures in his head didn't let him sleep despite his being pooped: hypocrisy is hard work. And his pudgy sister, that faithless fart, hadn't come either, explaining something about three or four different planes on the phone: "Not good for the environment, brother! Come over next vacation..." All right. Almost reluctantly, he took out his Geybey, putting one earphone in as usual. And was relieved when nothing particular happened: a little guy called Xammy ran around, jumping on others and screeching like a pig being roasted. There was something relaxing about it and yet it wasn't boring: you pressed this button or pushed that button down, up, right, left and could defeat and evade as you pleased. No one demanded anything of you, no one scolded, no impatient teachers, no laughing, stupid colleagues. And no parents with their eternal: "How was school, darling? Have you eaten your lunch, would you like an apple? Why don't you bring a school friend home, you know we don't mind...?"

  What should he answer? School was shit with a male cow in front of it, the old math hag asked me twice today and I tripped over my own tongue as usual (and over my feet in sports), they threw my lunch in the trash can, I don't have a single friend and don't need one and do you know what you can do with your silly apple? Instead, he took the apple and disappeared into his room, mumbling something about homework and an exam coming up. He could actually feel his mother radiating after him: my son, such a hard-working dear, so easy to look after and obedient, oops...

  He dutifully did his chores first and then switched on the Geybey. In the middle of it, it happened again: Xammy turned to him.

And

waved.

And

called

his

name.

  Peter closed his eyes for seconds, then opened them again: Xammy was still waving, hopping up and down like a jumping jack on hot coals. "Look ahead!" Peter grumbled uncertainly. "Something's coming."

  Xammy grinned. "Of course: Tintin and Snowy, Super and Man and Ronald and Buck - you're in charge, Peterboy."

  Startled, Peterboy turned off Xammyboy, desperately looking around for something that couldn't talk to him. Finally, he stretched himself on the bed with an old Karl May book. Less than half an hour later, the Geybey was switched on again.

  "What's the matter with you?!" Xammy said reproachfully. "Just switching people off isn't exactly the fine way of hopes and popes. What's your problem, man?"

  "My problem," Peter chuckled nervously, "is that you're talking to me. That only happens in bad movies!"

  "Nana," Xammy shook his head. "In a few good movies too, I guess - what kind of junk do you watch, man?"

  Peter's giggling became almost hysterical. "I'm crazy, great to know!"

 The little man's eyes widened: "Crazy? What makes you think so?" And worried: "Are you serious now? But then I turned to the wriwrawrong one, because we have a serious problem, you see, and need a clear head and not someone with puffed bubbles inside!"

  Distracted from his own person, Peter immediately asked: "A problem, what problem? And who is 'we'?"

  "Well, all of us, of course!" the little man explained impatiently. "But I don't know, maybe you're not the right pipaperson for this job after all...!"

  "Yes, I am," Peter promptly contradicted. "I'm absolutely reraright - what's the problem?"

  The lil man wasn't easily convinced, but eventually came out with the news that a series of coincidences had released an energy field with enough power to supply entire parts of the world - or destroy them. "I got a little bit myself, wouldn't be able to move around without buttons otherwise. And the problem? The problem is: how and where can we channel this energy without piles of shards and before other not-so-nice people like you and me and Lola and Doug find it and do whatever they want with it - have I made myself clear enough or do you need a Camembert dictionary with the new spelling and instructions for use including pictures in fifaforty languages?"

  "And this energy field," Peter turned his Geybey skeptically, "is in here?"

  "Pfff," Xammy said scornfully. "Soooooo much power in a peewee thing? It would have gone poof! by now or someone would have found it. It's been split up a bit and hidden in the last few levels so it can't be found or seen from the outside - do you realize how many sisasuper Geybeys there are in the whole world? Unfortunately, a few dollar-eyed and others are looking like crazy, but haven't come to us yet, as we're actually meant for kids like Pooh and you. Anyway, only few make it to the last purple levels - and they are not adults."

  That was plenty of material. In the evening, Peter left his Geybey in his mattress, he had to think: had he been dreaming, hallucinating? And if not: truth or lie? And if true, what was to be done? This was a big sort of thing, he would have to look for allies: who else had a Geybey and was not too grown up to believe and participate...? And fell asleep over it.

* * * * *

  "Hey Stephan," he approached a tall boy next morning, who was in the parallel class and had sold him his Geybey.

  "What's up?" the other raised one eyebrow majestically. "Geybey broken? Not my fault, we had a fair agreement with clear conditions..."

  "Stop!" Peter interrupted hastily. "Geybey is okay. Just wanted to ask something - have some time during the next break?" Without waiting for an answer, he turned on his heels and almost ran back into his classroom: what was he doing? Didn't they laugh at him enough, at his hair, his neat clothes, his dialect? And what could he possibly say to Stephan: my/your Geybey has gone off on its own and asked me for help...? Hahahaha, the laughter rang discordantly in his ears: Imagination is awful when you're twelve years old. A stupid age anyway, hovering somewhere between childhood and puberty in nobody's land, sometimes looking back with a tear, sometimes ahead with a shudder, and yet condemned to do nothing for a never-ending year. That sucks. There should be a paperback guide for twelve-year-olds, thin with an index; under S something like:

"Sex, other. Sorry, but at your age, the utmost you should do is nothing. Always treat the opposite sex with respectful caution from at least two meters distance, unless they are relatives, who in turn deserve disrespectful caution from at least three meters."

 He chuckled and added:

"Parents, own. And be patient with your parents, they're going through a serious crisis and would probably prefer being under a hood until the nightmare is over..."

  During the break, he tried to make himself as small and invisible as possible. No use, Stefan found him.

 "So?" was all the lanky boy said, crossing his arms in a defensive posture. Stephan was considered a lone wolf, he was tall and very skinny with a bristle haircut and speech; most colleagues respected him and the teachers left him alone: how enviable was that?

  What did he have to lose? Peter grabbed his counterpart's arm and pulled him off the school grounds under an old oak tree. Only then did he take his at school forbidden Geybey out of the inside pocket of his coat and switch it on. And sure enough, there was the little man, waving and calling out to them. By name. Both.
  Peter looked at Stephan from the side: "So he knows you too?"

  Who said at the same time: "Do you see that too? ..."

  When the bell rang, they had a sort of plan.


* * * * *

  They discussed all of the way to Peter's place, pulling the bedroom door shut behind them with such energy, that his mother's mouth, which she had forgotten to close, seemed to shut by itself.

  "What do you think?" Peter got straight to the point.

  Stephan understood immediately. "Whether Xammy turned to us on his own free will or whether it's part of the program or whether it was manipulated from the outside afterwards or or or...? Well," he rubbed his chin as if considering a shave. "That's a good question. Another question would be: how do we find out who else he spoke to without mortally embarrassing ourselves until dooms day? More heads have more ideas, and a little foot folk is always useful." They discarded one plan after another, made lists and looked irritably at the door, when there was a knock.

  "Peter?" came his mother's muffled voice through the door: in this house, everyones privacy was respected. "It's six o'clock, perhaps your friend would like to eat with us?"

  They jumped up at the same time and Stephan grabbed his things. "I'd better go, my people have probably already sent out dogs to look for me!" Almost all of Stephan's family worked for the police. "Your place, tomorrow, after school?" he suggested. "My people aren't that discreet - on the contrary."

  Peter grimaced understanding. "See you tomorrow!"

(added a bit of) level II

  Xammy and the time on their heals, four boys squeezed themselves into Peter's room a few days later. When the Bergmans had moved from the other side of the country to Salten a few months ago, Peter had defiantly chosen the smallest room, although his parents had offered him the largest one with balcony, built-in wardrobe and an extra bathroom. Ever since, all visitors had to endure long explanations, as if they had locked their only son in a dark dungeon without light or heating. Parents were strange; what others said was of so much importance and left little room for maneuver: as soon as a pair of trousers bulged at the knees for example, they were replaced by new ones: the best of the best. Peter wasn't even asked, well, at least they couldn't swap his hair behind his back, although: he was getting sick of it - especially the combing.

  "So," he began, being the host. "I suggest we stop looking for members and start..."

  There was a knock and a redheaded girl poked her head through the crack in the door; Turbo, the oldest of the group, groaned: "Oh hell, Dani: closed society, women not wanted!"

 This "woman" looked around, turning to Peter. "Who said that - you?"

  Peter struggled not to blush and bent down to tie his already tied shoe laces. "Um," he mumbled briskly, "let's vote: whoever doesn't like girls, please raise your left hand now or keep it down forever - well?"

  Turbo's arm shot up and he growled threateningly at the group, but he remained the only one. Dani was a good buddy, even played in the soccer team.

  Now she rubbed her hands, beaming: "Proposal shot down! So, what have you done so far, men?"

  The 'men' looked at each other, trying to look intelligent.

  "Suggest we ask Xammy," said the newcomer energetically.

  "Well, well, well," the little man shrieked delightedly at the sight of the group: "Max, the computer freak, Turbo with the bumblebees in his butt, his sister Dani, tomorrows Flo-Jo, Stephan, the supercop and Peter..." Those addressed had all grinned sheepishly in turn and were now eager to hear Peter's nickname -– so was Peter: "...the leader! I welcome you all to Xammyland! You know me, don't you, ha!"

  Peter bent down again to pick up something: blushing was a nuisance, on his list of tortures right after birthdays, being asked questions in front of the whole class and gymnastics. He squinted up to see how the others reacted - surely with laughter? But they simply waited for Xammy's next words:

  "So the club is complete, don't take anyone in without asking me, I know my goats..."

  "We normal mortals call 'em sheep," Turbo corrected condescendingly. "So: what do you expect of us, how can we simple students be of service to His Highness King Xammy?"

  "Flush your bumble bees and sheep and all the kings down the toilet, buddy!" screeched Xammy. "Our Peter has a plan!" And disappeared from the display.

  Peter didn't have a plan at all, he shook his Geybey irritated, smiling wryly, when nothing happened. "Um, Max, did you analyze the software?"

  "Yup," nodded a boy who wore horn-rimmed glasses and had slightly too long, straight black hair. "I sucked it up and examined it thoroughly – from the inside. It's difficult to keep up with Xammy's pace, but it's okay."

  "From the inside, what do you mean?" Dani asked curiously.

  "Was in the game. Virtually." This very calm response made four jaws drop.

  At last Turbo repeated: "In the game?! Huh?"

  The rather small Max seemed to grow a few centimeters, then he said nonchalantly: "Exactly. As you may know, my father is a programmer. He developed software that allows you to virtually slip into several games using a web cam. It works great with Xammy, we just go through the levels together. It's more fun. Well," he corrected: "Would be fun, if Xammy would slow down a bit."

  They looked at each other wide-eyed.

 "Off to Max, guys!" trumpeted Peter, before quickly adding: "And Dani of course."

  "Sorry," the self-confidence of the PC professional collapsed. "My mother can't stand visitors and I'm not sure if..., she knows Dani and Turbo, but the rest of you and then all of a sudden, that would overwhelm her and..."

  "Who else has a computer?" Peter quickly threw in the pause of embarrassment.

 Nobody lifted his hand.

  "Can you bring all the small stuff over, Max?"

  "Yup," came the prompt reply and the boy disappeared.

  "Okay," the host stood up as casually as he could. "Be right back." Less than twenty minutes later, Peter's father came in with a computer, Peter himself with a large flat-screen monitor, and his mother carried speakers, 2 keyboards, 2 mouses and a pile of cables on a huge tray.

  "Thank you," Peter said politely, after his father had connected everything correctly, including the online access. He stared at his parents until they trotted obediently out of the door.

  "Jeez," Dani opened her mouth first. "Do you have a patent, Pete? My parents can use some of that."

  Peter grinned meaningfully. "We moved against my will – their bad conscience is useful sometimes..."

  "Well then," Dani batted her eyelashes, but was interrupted by a knock.

  Without much ado, Max loaded the game, installed the software and connected everything. He then eagerly stepped in front of one of the cams.

  "Stop!" Peter grabbed him by the sleeve. "We need a plan: who's going? And: how did you get back?"

  "The timer switches the cam off, finito!" came the prompt answer to the second question; the first was briefly discussed and voted on: Max and Stephan were to stay behind this time. Max had the most routine with soft- and hardware and Stephan was expected home in fifteen minutes.

  Fascinated, they watched Dany, Max and Turbo do their first clumsy moves, an impatient Xammy next to their tiny images on the large monitor.

  "'Beam me up, Scotty!' wouldn't work," Max tried to explain. "We humans have too much water and would directly drown all devices, putting everything out of action - even if we could scale ourselves down individually, a project my uncle is working on now."

  It turned out to be tricky to move in front of the cams in such a way to stay near Xammy, who not only raced around, but also often seemed out of control. Dani got the hang of it first and bombed the others with instructions and advice. The first two levels were easy, the landscape harmless and dull: valleys, country lanes, a boring babbling river, a few ruminating cows with wet brown eyes, then the villages got bigger and higher until they found themselves in a city with streets, skyscrapers, traffic junctions, neon signs and, of course, lots of vehicles and people... It got harder the further they progressed, problematic obstacles showed up: invisible holes, buried valleys, endless lakes, completely snow-covered mountains or labyrinth skyscrapers that led up and down to nowhere. They often had to dodge other characters: suddenly walking trees, spitting sunflowers, creepy vultures and lots of crawling creatures and vehicles. After one hour, Peter asked to be relieved, followed by a sweating Turbo and half an hour later Dany, Max saved what they had achieved and switched off the the last cam. It was fascinating to see them disappear from the monitor, panting. The decision to go two by two was logical. [ghl.04.24]

____________________________________________________________

This loaf starts and ends with the same slice/paragraph: "He wasn't afraid of flying or even dying, just thought he was too young. Later maybe. He would come back to it." It was the year Europe showed a big heart and at the same time a lot of ass holes or scared people (often synonyms) were activated. Except for the autobiographical subtext of 'off the beach' it's my most personal piece of writing.



sifted bread (2015)

I. unique (joh)

  He wasn't afraid of flying or even dying, just thought he was too young. Later maybe. He would come back to it.

  Looking for information knocked loose a sort of online tsunami of anti-fascism, ecologism, pacifism and almost every anti or ism that existed - each additionally soaked with forums, blogs and chats - two of them with Liliane Schnoor herself as their lifeguard. No wonder he had overlooked the carpooling sites.

  Nothing against progress: computers, smartphones & co were a part of life. As everyday tools with a switch-off button, pretty please; people who preferred a bottle of wine for two in a quaint café three streets (or cities) away to the anonymous typing in digital chat cafés or at home not only had better chances of avoiding alcoholism, it was nicer. His opinion. But he had no choice, the lady was not available in normal life - one exception: the university. Yikes. He had visited small private schools and still avoided crowds, so it wasn't easy for him to loiter around in the over-populated and strange smelling buildings called the University of Salten, trying to look like he belonged to it; the familiar faraway sounds of his old friend tinnitus had forced him to tick off this last chance to make her acquaintance a way that looked natural. Normal entertainment like parties, sport, cinema, restaurant, bars were not on her list, not even walks; he was running out of alternatives. A socially thinking and acting young woman, who didn't need company, had no money problems, was on no career ladder and without connections outside the university and the digital world - worse: someone who didn't take notice of him, although they lived in the same house. And if she would, she'd find out he represented everything she was fighting against. He was lost...

  If the house they lived in side by side wouldn't belong to him.

  He didn't believe in fate and such stuff, Madame Irony must have been amused: he, Hamburg's Businessman of the year 2006, had fallen in love with someone who's social involvement during the refugee crisis had swept her in his way into the house at Salten Place. It took weeks before he began to understand why she had gradually filled her own home with six fellow students and four refugee families: all hopping around and babbling to themselves in all kinds of tongues, he could imagine. Prompt an old commune poster, hanging in the kitchen of his grandparents, flashed through his mind: naked people laying on top of each other like too long cooked self-made spaghetti - shocked, he asked the agency to mail him her tenancy agreement and checked the small print. A reflex, it seemed obvious she had choked on and was cured of her own exaggerated spasms of humanity after several months of humiliation, before asking the agency, which had bureaucratically organized her madhouse, if they knew an apartment for her, not their job actually, just the usual horse trade or service to keep a small administrative thumb on valuable real estate: advertising pens is for hillbillies - global is different. Coincidence or not, this same agency had the main (and unofficial) task to keep trivialities out of his way ever since he had founded it; he couldn't take care of everything, loved peanuts, but preferred them already cracked, thanks very much. If they would have asked him beforehand, he would've put the lady under some bridge in Salten without even looking, people in this category often surprise innocent landlords with offspring. Not good for the inventory. More Madame?

  He was born in this house, built decades ago to bring lonely singles together. Okay, that sounded sort of funny. His old man, a bridge builder, had designed it as a bait when he was young: two storeys of the finest quality with two luxury apartments on each floor, including a fireplace, a balcony or terrace and - attention please, highlight: two completely separate stairways and entrances. That had nothing to do with fate, his father was a realist like himself and had built the house directly at Salten Place, as soon as it was official that the library and its attractive boss would move in next door. Calculation pure, not magic, sorry Madame. His memory was second hand, told under the Christmas tree each year by Nane, a resolute personality, independent and freedom-loving like her daughter, who had already owned a beautiful apartment in Itzehoe. So a roof over her head was not the bait, it was the possibility of being able to retreat and still be together: a pseudo-nest for an independent woman whose biological clock was starting to tick. Either his mother was a bit particular or his father's reputation was built on less conservative stones than his bridges, because according to Nane, her daughter/his mother had insisted on a notarized swap of both apartments before moving into the house at Salten Place, a transaction that had been officially announced in the local newspaper. Less official than their marriage two years after Joh's birth, which even his grandparents had discovered after the plane crash. Feminine self-reverence and masculine reverie - not only architecturally put into practice perfectly.

  Almost perfectly. The house had been built in a hurry on one of the basements of a bombed-out and completely burned down castle; Nane, a psychoanalyst, used to croak, the leak under the left basement, which seemed to soak up all the rain falling on Salten Place like a hungry sponge, was an unresolved trauma. Alas, old European cities and subterranean monument pop-ups go hand in hand, historical shards seem to slide upwards on their own, a sort of gravity the other way round, only to be quickly covered again because of eternal construction sites and a bureaucracy, that had scalped the euphoria of Indian Jones devotees, along with a legislation claiming everything lower than a plow - remnants of a time when kings were in charge. Doris, a very dear, umm, acquaintance of his and working in the cultural sector, had occasionally mocked, historical research would be so much further and the museums overflowing, if the black market would not suck it all thanks to the greedy short-sightedness of so-called authorities. The financial crisis had made things worse, some antiques now being worth more than a life insurance or trying to lay some eggs on your bank account. And safer, Ruth, a charming bank director, had insisted. Unfortunately, the ancient kitchen downstairs was too voluminous to change owners inconspicuously, the bunker-thick walls and narrow openings made it difficult to evacuate these cultural treasures; and there were also these beautiful mosaic-like stone fragments in the even thicker ceiling between house and cellar, which were as valuable as they were known and created during the Napoleonic era. Looking for solutions and wondering, why his old man hadn't noticed the leak before he started to build, Joh discovered papers documenting his house should have become a museum, architect: Johannes Schmid sen. Oh. Well. There's an expiry date for everything, only authorities in the historical sector didn't seem to care about trifling things like time or other people's money. Was this another example for corrupt capitalist thinking or a comforting philosophy? Joh's father had tried to make the best of it and let the lower apartment, left, including its leak basement floor, sail on the wave of social housing, which at the time had a firm grip on the booming country, together with weeds like tax breaks and subsidies, growing like bamboos. The apartment had been appreciated by students ever since, and his father had undoubtedly received bonus points from his socially-minded wife.

  A generation later, Johannes Schmid Junior was considering an update by applying for cash to insulate the place. The leak was more than annoying, and social housing was losing its reputation, it seemed better to sail on the climate protection wave instead. Despite a shake of the head from Uta, another very dear, umm, acquaintance from the building sector, it would probably be sufficient to clear the apartment downstairs, left, doubling the value. The constant messing around down there and closing his stairway so that he had to use the other one was irritating, and damn it, the deregulations that had flattened everything in the social system were not his fault: money and power were officially a couple, and why not, the lack of outrage was deafening. Soon anybody with enough money, the right connections or/and greedy hands could do as pleased. Unlike many who profited from the ghosts everyone denied to have called, Joh's imagination and foresight went beyond the next election thanks to Nane: But Joh, what if the growing group of "losers" realize they don't have to play a game not theirs? What if the dream of perhaps belonging to the so-called "winners" shows it's but a dream and the whole game was swept away because there's not enough people to do all the hard work for nothing and a half? What if too many start growing their own food and realizing, they didn't really need the trash offered in the commercials? What if everybody reads Miller's Nightmare and starts thinking? What if "losers" discover money is just an abstraction to get the rich richer and nobody else needs? What if people start trading again? "Well, Nane," he had answered patiently one day, when he was nine or ten, "I would probably ask my housekeeper, how she'd like an apartment for less rent and ask her to expand our garden. Please make a list of the vegetables you like..." The apartment below his own was occupied by his grandfather, who, together with his recently deceased wife, Nane, had lifelong right of residence and was now becoming whimsical. In his family, the men seemed to survive despite smoking and an unhealthy diet. Couldn't they clone that somehow?

  His self-confidence - or indifference? - had always kept him from hanging his possessions on public pinboards like trophies, he didn't care what others thought. They were investments. Securities. Measurable. Registered. Real. Not a light figure appearing out of nowhere, not a physical illusion he would have missed if he had used his own stairway, impassable because of the porous cellar floor under the other half of the house: espresso, Madame? Maybe it was just the winter sun streaming through the large window of the staircase, or the high walls, painted a golden yellow, pretending brightness even in the dark - the perfect background for a figure that seemed to consist of nothing but light: hairs of a deep golden color, screaming for copyright, peeking out from underneath a beige bobble hat which matched to the coat, honey-colored skin, an ideal contrast to the dark eyelashes with the imposingly arched eyebrows of the same color above them and the golden amber eyes, eyes that seemed to scan over him impersonally, almost coldly: woosh and wastebasket. Ouch. She was an illusion, a physical-psychological-mental-emotional-chemical reaction. In the wrong place at the wrong time, he had been on reception short and unintentionally and... was lost!
  What he needed was a solid business plan.
  First he looked online for an anonymous personality that was very like him, bought it and filled it with own facts (a brand new account didn't sound trustworthy and he hated lies), and registered himself in the various do-good forums and eco-groups, he had no idea existed: didn't they have anything to do? It wasn't difficult to find out what was important. Some three and a half weeks later, he had swapped his white Lamborghini against an old Dutch bike, that turned out to be free of rust and roadworthy after he had spent hours of swearing under his breath and scrubbing off the tons of mud and whatever - directly under her windows, even though the blinds were always down. It was the hit in her virtual life; two long weeks he waited for feedback from the Tuscan ice block next door: first triumphantly, then expectantly, and finally with the resignation of a man without a car. From then on he rode his bike. He was exaggerating? Thirty-eight years long he had no idea what it was like to feel completely at the mercy of somebody else, exultant and deeply unhappy - all at once. In her presence, he could feel every heartbeat, the air seemed to flow, no, to vibrate slowly and quickly out of his lungs, he didn't even notice the way back - or was it the other way around? Just the idea of her being right next door made his hair stand on end a million times all over his body, moved by a cool breeze that had something electric about it. He quivered, he was alive, damn it. What else should he do, play the Ötzi another thirty-eight years? It was only a car.

  Cars were of not much use in the small city Salten anyway. After an awful accident in the center more than two decades ago, the citizens themselves had started to slow down the traffic, ignoring the sneers, they were only scared of being swallowed up by Hamburg, a metropolis that had sucked up globalization when this was still a decent word. For whatever reason, it did the infrastructure no good - neither to nor fro. Especially not the roads: bushes, small asphalt bumps, trees, flowerbeds and other obstacles made it difficult not only for Hamburger to race through town. Not only the people living there enjoyed it so much, they decided to build mini-electric cabs with loading stations and gradually ban the rest; Salten's fire and garbage trucks were the smallest in the region and regularly rented by neighbor towns, even Hamburg, narrow roads not being a novelty in old cities. Even trains came and went infrequently,– the demand was too low: why the hell should people travel around every thirty minutes - ten trains a day, wasn't that enough? There it was again, the typical Salten we-don't-need-it stubbornness. Bad times for a globetrotter without a car, who had dumped a career on Wall Street to avoid planes. Not even the innovation of a low-cost bus service, which was spreading all over Europe just now, was much use, and camping in train or bus stations not his style anyway. Nor Salten's, another ism or whatever-bus, and of course unwelcome on their streets, too high, too wide, too fat and heavy, too uncatalyzed, too whatever: We don't need it!

  The constant search for a contact, a common denominator, friend, hobby, anything, had led to nothing, until his limited mobility almost flattened his nose on a first-class option: from one of the large car-sharing agencies, her serious face stared at him as one of the few members living in Salten. It was an old and bad photo that hid more than it showed, but he recognized her immediately. Once a month, twelve drivers took turns in driving Liliane Schnoor through half of Germany and/or back.
  Eureka - ma-dame!
  A few clicks later, the dirty dozen had a blanco card of the railway company in their mailbox, valid for six months within Germany.
  Then there were only eight.
 Germans were strange: world champions in separating their trash, and all the way in front to quit nuclear power, but as soon it came to their cars, sustainability and environmental friendliness became empty phrases. Oh well, everybody needs a toy of some kind, Joh grinned, upgrading his offer to one year throughout Europe, first class, and although his efforts to overturn the smoking ban failed: fiiiiive, fououour, and then threeeee... Before he got carried away, he pulled the emergency brake, remembering he no longer had a car. And what impression would it make, if a cyclist and registered eco-freak bought himself a new world on four wheels just to lay it in front of a lady's sustainable feet...? Hmm. Not to mention the possibility of Liliane preferring the train. Not likely, but possible. Vaguely possible. Anyway, three was okay. He just had to get his own foot in the little group and make sure no new feet jumped in, had already installed a connection between her car sharing account and his watch. After checking the files on her completely unsecured computer (he would have to talk seriously with her about this bad habit one day), he discovered that two of the three drivers were old enough to be her father, and the third one was certainly ugly, an idiot or a baby. Right? Right?? Who was that scoundrel?! It had been cinchy to suck eleven of twelve names and e-mail addresses from the server of the carpooling center; the output of the search machines to the last three was rather thin though - he actually had to hack one of Liliane's online mailboxes. What was that: a little battle between Kant and Big Brother, or broken search machines? He typed his own name in the search window and had a few hundred pages of nonsense about himself in a few seconds. Worked. All the search engines spat out about those three was a few articles concerning one of the oldies, a bigamist - was she aware of this? That's all. The mysterious number three was a real tough nut, his security settings must be excellent, the e-mails addressed to Liliane perfectly encrypted; Liliane was less cautious; her replies (thank god friendly at best) revealed his name at last: Patrick W. Otto. That didn't sound like a pseudonym: hallelujah! The rest Joh found when scanning through IT business platforms, assuming Mr. Otto was a PC professional: one of the smaller ones registered Patrick Werner Otto. Bull's eye and sunk! If Patrick had approached Liliane under a false name, Joh's chances of ever identifying him would have been zero. Everyone makes mistakes. From then on, it was like bubbles coming up, after the champagne bottle was opened. The guy did a lot of self-promotion, but his idea of a 3D game didn't catch on - there were too many. Hm, how about pulling strings to lure him to Silicon Valley, El Dorado of most nerds? Why European didn't create a European counterweight, was a question not even nerds could answer. Pretty stupid. He discovered a few start-ups and a customer who had archived data in an unsecured cloud. Hallelujah number two. Strange actually, the carpooling was not possible without a complete registration - why wasn't Patrick Otto...? Joh searched through the cloud and slapped his forehead: Salten Place 8 - what a waste of time! Mr. Topsecret lived downstairs in the so-called student apartment, meaning he shared the entrance with Liliane and must have met her in the stairway like himself. That not only explained the extra twenty-five kilometers at the other end of his route, but also why she knew him. Curious as he was, Joh checked the video recordings of the two security cams he had installed in the stairway on the same day of his illuminated non-collision with Liliane, and decided to kick Patrick out. The man was young and didn't look bad, if people liked the metamorphosis of Redford and Cruise when they were young.

  Shit. Where were the plans to renovate the cellar, where the building sketch his old man had drawn? Recently, he had considered the possibility of tackling the reparation from the outside: digging down the market square in front of his house, and from there into the side of the cellar, sort of following the rainwater. It was a pity he couldn't ask one of his acquaintances, they wouldn't understand his current sexual abstinence. He could also tickle the local museum into cooperation, every few months he received heartbreaking letters, to please think about getting those huge copper kettles inside their museum - they would pay a good price. What else was there to think about: the traffic? Salten Place was a market square and part of the pedestrian zone around the Hoof. Taking turns with the other two zones, each week a market with fish swimming in baby tubs, regional food and second-hand stuff filled the places - it was the first time he ever rejoiced about Salten's lack of traffic, would rather have had his car nearby. The big question was: was the evacuation of that one lower apartment enough? The connection between the two stairways had been correctly closed as soon as the renovation work was completed (once again he had stumbled over his own honesty) and would then have to be reopened. Two flies with one rolled newspaper: Liliane and himself would have to use the same entrance and Patrick Whatshisname was obliged to go to hell. On the other hand, he would then no longer have an eye on the young man. Not good. Was she really as reserved, was this coolness genuine or was she traumatized by her father's, um, accident? He had tracked down some of her former teachers and classmates and tried to inconspicuously and anonymously squeeze them out, faking a survey about traumatized people. And had found out nothing.
  This woman was driving him out of his mind. Brrrrr.

  Satisfied with his "business" plan, he spent half a day sorting the online rubbish about himself, sent the results to a lovely IT-acquaintance to remove it and typed his name again after receiving her thumbs up: almost three and a half pages of nonsense. Good, less would be implausible. He thought it beneath his dignity to stutter around and explain corpses and preferred draping the zombies until they looked appetizing or at least comprehensible. Although he was a good poker player, he was a miserable liar and didn't see the need of it: he was what he was, what he was. And he intended to stay that way. The only thing left was the hardest part: lurking around like a fat spider to see who was moving where, when and why, and waiting for an opportunity to shove one of his spider legs into one of their rides. Until then, he tried to evaluate the non-activist information about Liliane, scratching the virtual do-gooder stuff off of his to-do list as soon as he had filtered out a certain pattern - he was good at that. Apart from the usual school entries and her first apparently unsatisfactory professional steps in the social field, the only fly in her life-soup was her father's car accident. Who had run someone over. Wow. He now knew everything around this accident by heart, it being the only significant information. It sounded mysterious and not only gave him goose bumps, but also a pleasant feeling of affinity - another crash had left him an orphan at the age of four. The cheerful and last wave of his parents before they disappeared in the plane to Canada was stored in the back of his mind, buried under the elite boarding schools throughout Europe in the years that followed, interrupted only by vacation at Salten Place with his grandparents. After finishing school with the usual certificates, he had boxed or tricked his way through the upper echelons of several managements and lived a carefree and independent business and private life since almost six years. His free time was peppered with occasional weekend parties, normally resulting in occasional affairs, mainly with married women - they were easier to manage. He was his own boss.

  That was it. It had been an exciting, interesting life without boredom or regret - a life he was now gradually taking apart with the greatest pleasure, almost with relish. A man has to set priorities when the circumstances demanded it. Besides, he had earned and invested enough, it was time to build a nest. And what his father, who he had not understood up to now, had achieved almost four decades ago, he could do with both hands behind his back on a clean bike.
 Yes.

II. a little bigamy (phil)

 "You sort of remind me of my first love."

  "Really?" Liliane raised a brow. "If it's impossible for you to keep such associations to yourself, this was our last trip together..."

  These were not their first sentences together, but formative. Phil had a clear conscience, he hadn't even flirted: what did the child think of him? But pretending to be offended was silly, a waste of time and bad for the blood pressure. It also caused wrinkles that wouldn't disappear naturally. Not irrelevant at his age.

  What had disappeared were the golden days, when it was possible leave your business to an invisible honest skin called bank and live your life without having to constantly check the stock market news and other dry stuff. Trust was a good thing. And still is. Good for friendship, good for partnerships and relationships, good for the soul. The "only" thing that had really changed was money, or rather its meaning from a simple way of exchange to a 'false god', diluting religion and the state to the point of invisibility - good thing he as an agnostic had never relied on any of them. Ever since the financial crisis this was one of the reasons, why he drove more than five hundred kilometers from his hometown Pinneberg to the new goddess Frankfurt and back, watching over his projects - pleasant and reasonably intelligent company from time to time was all he wanted. Requirements Liliane fulfilled without even trying.

  Since their first trip together, Phil made the small detour via Salten every few months, patiently waiting for her in or near his old but comfortable Buick at Salten Place or in front of the sanatorium - depending on whether she had booked the trip going in or out. Up to now he had been able to keep Salten's watch dogs, known as the HiPos, from being too severe about his traffic violations, using a his charm, common sense, chocolates and especially plants. In his trunk, in addition to chocolates and exotic plants, he had a pair of gardening gloves, he put on before beautifying one of the green islands on Salten Place. It had taken long enough to find a way through Salten's labyrinth of trees, flowerbeds and other obstacles, even though the vintage car, which had been converted into an electric vehicle and was one of the narrowest and smallest of its kind.
  Before Liliane's drivers started jumping off of her chauffeur carousel one one by one, he had had the pleasure of her company every two months, with at least one passenger in the back to spare them further speculations about his single status. Fine with him. They were never short of things to talk about, he got on well with the girl, including her raised eyebrow or two. Socially, politically and pseudo-scientifically they were on the same level, drifting apart philosophically and ethically now and then. Which also had its charm. Since one of the passengers had brought up the subject marriage, he had also become an excellent polygamist study. He had not even been ashame, when he was young - why start? Thanks to his integrity, sedentary lifestyle and lack of criminalistic energy, the sentence for bigamy he felt to be unjust, even if they never locked him up: he never hurt or damaged or robbed anybody. On the contrary. He was familiar with the phenomenon. "His little bigamies", as he provocatively called them, usually aroused a mixture of shyness, envy and curiosity, which he was not averse to satisfying. In contrast to the usual sensationalism, Liliane's interest was discreet and rather professional. She had never gaped at him with her mouth open. Perfect. [ghl0524]

* * * * *

"sifted bread" is a good description of the fog I ploughed through, when writing it.
Translating
& correcting, it started to change & grow. So I hope you'll excuse me,
but I've got some work to do,

yours

_______________________________________________________


lily & co - episodes


lily

Do you remember Lily, when her fur was black from the tips of her ears to the upwards ringed tail, and her eyes clear and dark and simply bubbling out with liveliness? Behind our house was a park, almost a forest, a great place to take a dog for a walk. Lily used to run and turn and jump and bark and chase butterflies or grasshoppers. She never caught anything, was simply pure excitement about the trails of the great bears and hungry wolves and other monsters, that would undoubtedly kill everybody if she didn't track them down. She could stand quite still and then jump straight up like a dear - it looked so easy until you saw her muscles under her black short hair - like a small Arab horse. Her big dark eyes seemed even bigger and about to pop out, the pointed ears quivered each time she moved her small head and she showed two rows of white sharp teeth, obviously almost wild and beside herself:
  "Where is that monster, come on, where?! I'll tear it to pieces - WHERE?!"
  Never without dignity though, every single inch a grande dame.
  I think you would have liked that, you are now as old as your mother was then.
  As time dripped and went by, she jumped lower and lower and one day her beautiful dark eyes got silver moons in the middle, moons that got bigger each year - and one day I had to put this beautiful and proud creature on the leash to keep her from bumping against everything and she got this scared look she never had before.
  Do you remember?

  But it was the good days I wanted to tell you about, about the forest and the holes I had to pull her out of: a rabbit warren or the cave of a great grizzly - who knows?
  On a bright day, the summer had been hiding itself behind clouds producing rain, rain and rain for weeks, and now everything looked new and green and clean and the smell of adventure and a new world filled the air. Lily hated water, jumped over the biggest puddle like it was a ladybug and didn't even drink the stuff unless there was a little milk in it.
  What?! she seemed to say, if I was so clumsy to forget the milk. Water?! Do you want to poison me?!
  It was a torture to force her to take a walk when it rained, she always seemed to disappear and I had to call and yell, but it was no use: when I came back, weary and worried and a little mad, she was always sitting in front of the door with her ears and tail down and looking like I had tried to drown her. - So you can imagine how happy she was the day the rain stopped at last and the sun had sneaked out from behind the clouds.
  Of course everything was still very wet, and I had some difficulty pulling her out of a very deep hole she had found under a tree.
  Then.
  It.
  Happened.
  Suddenly the soft forest soil under my feet seemed to collapse. Instinctively I grabbed Lily and we fell or sank a couple of long seconds down a sort of slope underneath the tree. The earth would have sucked us up deeper if we hadn't got tangled in the branches of an uprooted tree. For minutes I sat stunned, unconsciously ruffling Lily behind the ears like most dog friends do without thinking much.
  Then I looked around.
  It was pitch dark.
  Far, far above - or beneath? - us I discovered a light as big as the rather small window of a cellar. This light probably saved us. I guessed or felt the boulders and bushes and branches more than I could see them, and for fear of losing Lily simply tucked her underneath my sweater. It was hard work getting up or down there. - Have you ever climbed up a mountain in the dark? no? Don't think I ever got so many scratches, bumps and bruises. That was bad enough - but not the worst. The worst came when
the
                                 light
                                                             went
                                                                                              off!!!
  Snip - just like that.
  The impudence of it all, especially after my odyssey up the mountain, don't you think? Impulsive as I sometimes am, my right hand clutched one of the many stones that were all over the place and I threw it at the place where the light had come from. We heard a loud TOCK! which made Lily bark and then a pffff! and the light appeared again...
  Really: it gave me the creeps. A couple of minutes later the light vanished and it was dark again. This time I needed five stones until the TOCK! awarded me and I hurried to get as far up as I could before the light: pfff! -
damn it, off again!
  I repeated this procedure for at least an hour, the last little piece I managed in total darkness - my last baseball game was too long ago and my arm felt like it had lost its normal location.
  There it was:
    HARD,
      COLD,
        SINISTER!
  I was already beyond the point of horror, was freezing and very tired and just groped on like an old woman looking for her teeth in the dark. - But stop - what was that...?
  ...a handle...?
  Shivering in spite of myself I lifted my hand and pulled - and the light that exploded directly in front of me made me close my eyes dazzled...
  "Really, Mama!" Christina's young voice in the darkness behind me said reproachfully. "Shut the fridge, will you? You know that cake is for Gaby's birthday tomorrow!"
  So always remember: never go to bed with an empty stomach.
  Good night, Lily.

© 2005 hexandthecity's mascot LILY, who died on January the 7th, 2005 - one day before her nineteenth birthday.


slugs

You all know my old house in St. Jurgen - beautiful! Balcony, arched windows and doors, parquet floor and the garden... - a dream! Too big for me, otherwise I would still be living there.  
  I know you think it was because of the slugs which sometimes abandoned their paradise outside to visit me, no idea why or how they came inside. And always at night. The next morning the tracks on the parquet floor told on them, but never mind, it was easily wiped off - so I assure you that was not the reason for my moving to the other side of Lubeck. But you want me to tell you about the slugs, is that right? - Where shall I start?
  Like many elderly women I sometimes had and still have an irresistible urge to visit my bathroom in the middle of the night and now and then had the bad luck of treading on a slug in the dark. It wasn't a nice way of waking up, I assure you, but of course I threw it back in the garden with a shudder, it's a poor creature of God like all of us, you know - you can ask anybody: I couldn't harm a fly.
  One night I lost my composure a little though. I was barefoot as most people when they get out of their beds and must have jumped high when I felt that cold, slimy thing underneath my innocent warm foot so as not to kill the poor thing - and landed on another one of those slimy brrr things with the other foot! That's enough to excite anybody out of his wits, isn't it: barefoot...
  My fondness of these creatures of God was not very big then, so I rushed to my bathroom to get a toilet paper roll and WUSH! I wiped one of them and WUSH! the other and ran with one in toilet paper rolled slug in each hand back to the bathroom, threw both in the toilet and flushed once, twice and a third time to be sure they were really gone.
  Next morning was a morning like every other morning and of course I had forgotten my misfortune with the slugs of the night before. Made myself a very strong coffee to drink on the toilet as usual. Before sitting down, I noticed it just in time: a slimy looking tan colored heap of something with one broken over tentacle, slowly creeping its way up...
  But that was not the reason I moved, really!

© 2004, hexandthecity - for my dear old friend Verena


hay fever II

Do I really have to? What... - I promised? Oh, all right.
  It was in the middle of the summer: hot like hell and pollen all over the place, I not only swam in my own sweat, my nose was a river, my eyes a waterfall. To be precise: I had the worst disease since Eve smelled the blossoms of that silly old apple tree: hay fever.
  No use fretting though, I needed this credit, not next week or tomorrow:
now. So I put on my best clothes, crammed my little dog on the blanket in her basket, became aware that every single tissue laying around was too moist to be used again and stowed a roll of toilet paper and the documents I needed for the credit under the blanket.
  I know, I
know: important documents belong in an important looking black briefcase and not in a dog's basket, ooooookay! The hot weather, the pollen, my head and the rest seemed to have increased my snottiness: I simply did not care. I had this one intention on my mind and wanted to get over with it, fast and straight. So what?
  To start with the silly bank was full of silly people, but fully air-conditioned too, thank God: no fresh pollen for my poor nose! Where did all those people come from, were they all after a credit too - or was it the two huge fans blowing from each side? If it made them happy...
  I was too early and had to wait thirteen minutes, so I tried my best to look at ease and cool as I walked to the waiting corner, which was crowded with merry chattering people, who were dressed up like tourists with t-shirts and shorts and seemed in a very good mood and without hay fever.
  Good for them.
  One of them jumped up and offered his chair.
  Good for me.
  So there I sat in my best suit, styled like Grace Kelly in a high society film, my nose up even higher than usual to prevent the river from flowing, because I didn't feel like getting that toilet paper out of the basket in between my feet, thinking: Hey, was that hell already? No, hell is all that and a dog that starts to howl, probably smelling the fact that I forgot it's biscuits in my every-day-clothes. I ignored the naughty thing and the gaping people who all had this why-don't-they-lock-up-these-animal-slayers look and started adding and multiplying large sums of money - my way of relaxing.
  A stupid thing to do...
  The slayed little dog got impatient and jumped out of its basket, the basket tipped over, spreading the documents exactly in front of one of the fans and with a sovereignty not even the pope can top the toilet paper rolled through the whole stupid bank like a long red carpet, solemnly followed by a cloud of papers...
  Are you happy now or shall I stand on my hands and snip with my toes at the same time?

© 2004, hexandthecity - for Uschi, also mentioned in "off the beach"



the zodiac man

So it's my turn now, eh? Well, a little bit of pure masculine power is due, right?... What do you mean: no sexist remarks, you women aren't very nice to us either and we have to laugh! So.
  May I introduce myself? I'm Alex, gender: male; age: mind your own business! HA!
  Okay, first of all you must know that I have a lot of Cancer (in me - no, not that sort of cancer, stupid, I mean the sign of the zodiac! People born under that sign or - okay: a little bit under that sign - love fixing things and are so full of readiness to help and flexibility, that... - my God, okay, I'm at it, I'm at it!

  An old friend of mine got married last summer, a good man, I know him since... - what, I can't even mention that? Who are you: another Bush? Well, I understand: stick to the point, don't drift off - no problem.

  My wedding gift was to film everything: starting with the wedding and ending with the end.
  Was that short enough, Miss Piggy?
  Had a very good camcorder at the time, you know; today everybody seems to have one. Was an interesting film, by the way: all those drunk bodies when the party was over... yeah, okay, don't drift off, Alex, carry on.
  Needed quite a few tapes for the wedding, then came a couple of birthdays and when Santa Claus knocked I began to realize: Alex, old boy, buy some new tapes, this is getting crowded. Of course I forgot it and had to improvise on New Year's Eve, throwing a couple of parts on my computer to make room. You know, I'm really flexible - as everyone can confirm who knows me, a hell of a chap and... -
  Hey, that wasn't drifting, just an explanation why I received an invitation to the birthday of the bride in January, the same one who chained up my old friend the summer before - ouch, hey, that was my ancle! thought you women prefer making your points verbally?
  Well, I got the invitation on Saturday and that was also the date of the party. Bit tight, eh? But not for Alex, the magician of Luebeck... Didn't need much flexibility this time though, a bulky gift basket was in the way since Christmas: a monstrosity filled with marzipan from good old Luebeck, expensive Salami-wurst made in Italy, original caviar I picked up directly in St. Petersburg, salmon from St. Peters Ording - or to be brief: the best of Europe. What? Of course I've been in St. Petersburg before, heaps of times! - May I carry on? you're blocking my natural flow! - Thank you.
  The good thing is or was: everything was still there. I tucked it a little here, pinched it a bit there and put a huge ribbon all over it: tatatataaa! finished was the super gift from Cockaigne. Or from Alex.

  It was a weird party. Every chair, couch or whatever was occupied, and the funniest thing was: her relatives were the only ones who had a gift for the birthday girl, the rest had received the invitation that very day like me - and had no time to organize anything. Not very talented in planning things, the lady, eh? Probably a Sagittarius, but no - they're not so quiet - Libra, maybe...? Never mind.
  My gift had all the attention it needed and was very admired, yeah yeah. Not that I didn't pity the ones who came with good wishes only - a few were quite embarrassed or upset and kept the spirits down and who wants that sort of thing at a party? To break the ice a little, I suggested connecting my camcorder to the television so everybody could gape at the wedding. Nobody had seen it by then - not even me.
  It was not one of my brightest ideas. Somehow my tapes got messed up... First came the after-the-wedding party corpses, who were now all sitting around, staring at the TV with eyes wide open and looking very alive and like they wanted to jump out of the window or kill somebody - Scorpios perhaps? Especially those who came without a gift seemed eh... - well, the silence was somewhat icy. But I'm not finished, it came worse - not sure I wanna tell you that part though...
  Okay. - If you say so:
  After presenting a couple of very drunken grown-up people doing things nobody does in public, Christmas came. And I saw myself on the screen under a Christmas tree, showing off with a gift basket filled to the brim with such delicious things like marzipan from good old Luebeck, expensive Salami-wurst made in Italy, original caviar directly from St. Petersburg, salmon from St. Peters Ording...
  I don't like that sarcastic grin on your face, Madame - what do you want to hear..? Well okay: at that moment I became aware that maybe it would be good to rearrange my flexibility a bit - satisfied now, Mary Poppins?
  So that's that.
  Can I greet someone? - Why not? Oh, I see: you're a Virgo, eh?

© hexandthecity, 2004 - for Dad


vacuum


It took a long time before he noticed. Not even his mother ever accused him of letting something like fantasy get away with himself.
  And she was not squeamish.
  Oh no.

  He was used to cleaning his apartment every Saturday: dusting his way through bedroom and living room, wiping kitchen and bathroom with three different sorts of A.P.C.s and special cloths. Then he ran his vacuum cleaner over every spot he could reach, wiping the floor afterwards just to be sure.
  And ate his supper somewhere else - no need messing everything up straight away.
  That was his Saturday.
  Every Saturday.

  The spider boom this year didn't bother him, it was rotten weather: for every two rays of sunshine came enough rain to switch off any old sun. When even two-legged people looked for a dry place until the flood was over - why not eight-legged spiders?
  The smaller eight-legged ones were getting bigger though...
  Of course: fat cells as the result of less danger and stress and movement plus more food - and anyway: spiders were clean and ate the other dirty ones.
  Okay, that little "tock!" from the inside of his vacuum cleaner made him wonder sometimes, as if he'd sucked up a larger piece of wood instead of a teeny-weeny spider, a "Tock!" that seemed to get louder every Saturday...
  Imagination.
  Of course.
  Maybe he needed some vitamins.

  It started getting, well: sort of funny one morning when he opened his eyes at six thirty, his usual time: In the left corner of the ceiling opposite to his bed sat a gray and brown striped spider with short fat legs and such an enormous body, that it made his eyes pop:
that was too much! Jumping out of bed and fetching the vacuum cleaner seemed a mere reflex: the "TOCK!" in the vacuum cleaner sounded a little different this time, more "PLOPP!"-like - as if something had gone through there with effort. Not that he was scared or had a bad conscience - his sense of order had been disturbed and was now restored - it was his home and his right to do whatever he wanted in here.
  No problem there. The point was: from that day on he had to repeat the procedure every morning - even after closing the tiniest hole of the vacuum cleaner. Was that normal?

  With all the diplomacy he could force his tongue to use, he started asking around if anybody else had those same funny pets that got fatter every night - he had a secure and good paid job and didn't feel like changing that. And there was no use inviting someone to come and see - who would come at seven in the morning? In spite of all of his rationalism, by this time he suspected it to be the same spider all the time, so the only solution he could find was to leave Bob - as he called it by now - in his corner in the morning and be very surprised to see the old chum when he came home with somebody after work.
  Good idea? Of course.
  But.
              The.
                               Spider.
                                                   Wasn't.
                                                                        There.

 It was the most embarrassing moment he ever had in all of his thirty-one and a half years. He had lured the colleague in his bedroom somehow to show her something that was not there, after enjoying a film and a lot of music, although he was a miserable dancer... oh boy, he was so stupid, had been admiring exactly this woman from afar the last years - hadn't dared ask her until now ... She had gone off without another word, seemed to think he was rather... HELL!

  Next morning there was Bob again in his private corner, grinning at him.
 "PLO-OPP!" stammered the vacuum cleaner in slow motion. He filled all of its openings with wet toilet paper, put the cleaner in a plastic bag and this bag in another, dumping it all in a paper container on the other side of the city - a heroic act for someone who loathed wasting things. The new one he bought after work was not cheap either: a high-pressure cleaner, designed to cope with floods and post-war debris and that sort of stuff.

 For some reason he woke up earlier than usual next morning. And stared upwards. There he sat - that same fat, gray and brown striped creature, slightly larger but with the same short fat legs, seemingly wanting to hypnotize him from his stupid old corner: Bob...
  Grabbing the new cleaner and switching it on was done as if he'd been practicing all year. Through the transparent plastic bubble window on top of the cleaner he saw the foam with sparkling eyes - as if he'd never seen anything so fantastic before - and cleaned the living room carpet and the bathroom rugs as well, rather proud of his never failing sense for practical things. Before he went to work he carefully closed the only opening of the new super cleaner and isolated all doors and windows with the expensive isolation tape he had bought the day before.
  He came a couple of minutes too late. - For the first time in nine years.
  Whistling.
  All day he stared very hard at his monitor, obviously somewhere else with his thoughts. He didn't notice the lunch break, he didn't see the astonished colleagues shaking their heads - they had to poke him or he would have missed going home.

  The couch in his living room was a great temptation, his bed looked hard, cold and inhospitable, and it took ages to get asleep and then he had bad dreams. So he should have been rather happy when the alarm clock woke him, but he kept his eyes closed tight as if trying to postpone something as long as possible: life maybe...?
  It was no use. Slowly opening his eyes and grabbing under his bed for the cleaner at the same time, he froze in mid air when he saw it: the corner was empty.
  EMPTY!
  He wanted to jump up and dance and scream and sing. Instead the hand that had automatically grabbed for the cleaner shuddered, the message of something round, hairy and warm under his bed had been successfully delivered... Swallowing hard to keep his guts inside, his hand somehow found the cleaner and vacuumed and sucked and vacuumed, then he was on his feet and saw it: the short fat legs were inside all right, but the rest was too big. It made his inwards creep up again, at the same time reminding him of a fictive bear called Winnie the Pooh, who was stuck in a tree after eating too much honey...
  The memory made him want to laugh in spite of himself, this eased his tension and got his brain and the rest working again: clutching the cleaner he maneuvered it to the bathroom, careful not to pull the plug. As soon as Bob's fat hairy body fidgeted directly over the toilet, he switched off the cleaner and flushed the toilet at the same time, hitting the foot of the cleaner hard on the toilet edge because Bob seemed to be very stuck or was perhaps clutching... Oh my God! Sweat was running in his eyes as he dumped all the chemicals he could find in the toilet, flushing about half a dozen times and stuffing several plastic bags in the downwards hole, determined not to use the toilet for at least a week.
  Even then he didn't relax - he didn't dare.

  This time he came seventy-six minutes too late, but didn't even notice it. He was glued to his computer, seemed to want to jump inside. But he was okay, not even scared, really.
  Of course not.
  There was no need to be, the creature didn't come back. He was free... had several dates with that attractive colleague - as if he was suddenly aware he had all sorts of joints and other things and could even use them.
  Actually that creature had released him, yes: he was free.
 HE.
                           WAS.
                                                            FREE!!!

  He sang and whistled, inspecting the delicacies he had bought on his way home: champagne, salmon, pralines... Wasn't this a wonderful world? She would come tonight, tralalala - wasn't life simply great...
  The evening was perfect, the night - their very first night, in fact - even better.

  Next morning was Sunday, no need to get out of bed - why? He smiled, admiring the naked woman that slept on her tummy in his bed, the forms of her lovely backside looking like modeled under the sheet. Still smiling he pulled the sheet away slowly, almost playfully, as if to get his blood pressure up even higher...
  He lowered his face to kiss his way down and then felt his blood freeze. There it was: a gray and brown striped hairy body with eight short fat legs as twin tattoo on the downward extension of the loveliest back of the world: Bob.
  Just a little bit fatter...

© 2005 hexandthecity