1/27/15

Screens. A collection of very short stories - 1

1

To anyone standing on the threshold of the living room, Mildred would have looked peaceful. Maybe because the worn-out brown corduroy couch on which she was lying stood in the far corner. Maybe because all the shutters of her small house were closed, and only the TV and the 15.6” Toshiba laptop gave off some sallow light.
That’s the advantage of a remote position and dim lighting. Sordid details remain hidden. Like the greasy stains on Mildred’s faded pink tracksuit, for instance, or the crumbs littering the couch as well as the floor around the coffee table, or the half-eaten take-out pizza next to the 20 oz. Coca Cola tumbler. Distance and dim lighting make any reality seem swell.
But to Sergeant O’Leary, Mildred didn’t look peaceful at all. When he bent over to take her pulse—not that he needed any proof, but he had to follow the procedure—, he noticed that she rather wore a shocked expression. There was surprise, of course, and anguish. With a hint of indignation and disappointment, maybe.
Sergeant O’Leary didn’t know—and wouldn’t have cared anyway—that Mildred looked as disgusted as she had in 2004, when her whole life had suddenly lost its purpose on May 6. He didn’t know that she had barely budged from that very same couch ever since.
After the coroner had finished his exam and the undertakers zipped up Mildred’s body in black plastic, the sergeant set about to switch off her laptop. He realized she’d been visiting the Facebook-page of “Friends”. The window of the last post she’d published was still open.
“My chest hurts I’m dying”, she had typed.
Gleaning 261 Likes.

1/15/15

Charlotte sometimes

and sometimes, Charlotte, sometimes
I dream of Zanzibar,
and my pillow smells of cloves,
of nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper,
around me rooms, large and bare,
and raffia rugs tickle my feet

my dream, Charlotte, feels like
your pink silk dressing gown
and wears your fragrance
even when I dream that I taste salt
on your white face,
the salt of tidy breezes
and your enslaving tears

and then, Charlotte, you’re gone,
and I am wandering, alone,
through narrow, empty streets,
a ghost in a deserted Stone Town,
I pass before withered houses,
their blue paint peeling off the walls,
I pass before the House of Wonders,
half-crumbling now, like our hopes

and sometimes, Charlotte, sometimes
I long for those monsoon afternoons
when we had tea and watched
brave butterflies rise up
from our sandy beach
into the heavy rain, the black clouds,
they looked like white and yellow,
golden, green and red dots
of a tale we still had to invent

1/8/15

Je suis Charlie

This is not a religion.
Their arsenal of mass destruction:
pencils, crayons, watercolours.

They aimed them at politicians
and priests who know it all,
at rabbis, imams, vicars,
at puffed-up, loaded businessmen,
narcissistic mayfly starlets,
prophets and messiahs.

Their job was to mock those
who want to prevent us from using our brains. 
Against the narrowminded
they brandished satire, wit, freedom of speech.
Words.
Paper bullets.
How many killed,
how many injured by their deeds?

“I’d rather die standing
than live on my knees”,
one of them said.

His lethal error was to blank out
that you can’t vanquish humourlessness
with humour.
With drawings you can fight
ignorance
but not someone
pulling the trigger of his
Kalachnikov.


"Should we fight for our ideas;
or should we fight with our ideas?"
Voltaire (1694 - 1778)


Paris 2015-01-07 
For the journalists of the satirical weekly "Charlie Hebdo" 
killed today by two terrorists. RIP.

12/31/14

My best wishes…

2014-12-31: Wishing all of you a nice last day, see you next year :-)
31. 12. 2014: Wünsche euch allen einen schönen letzten Tag, bis nächstes Jahr :-)
31/12/2014 : À vous tous, une belle dernière journée, et à l'année prochaine :-)


12/16/14

Bodies (15)

Standing at the railing, side by side, with the sea spread out around us like a sparkling, moving carpet, we watch the rising sun bathe the fresh morning in unreal hues.
“We’ll soon be there,” Hazim says. A new shade of sadness seems to have crept over him.
“Uh-hu,” I answer.
“I’ve prepared working clothes for you. So that you can disembark unnoticed. It’s a small harbour, but still.”
“Won’t it look odd anyway? I mean, a Turkish boat landing in Cyprus?”
“Not if the captain is Cyprian. And Costas is.”
“Oh. But I heard you talk to him…”
“Well, I speak Greek.”
“Really? I didn’t know that.”
“There are many things you don’t know.” Hazim shivers. He looks exhausted. “One of my men will come to pick you up and drive you to the airport. He has your money, by the way.”
“My money?”
“Well, Murat was told not to pay you. But he asked me to pay you nonetheless. In cash.”
“Oh, I didn’t worry. Not about the money, that is.”
We remain silent for a moment, and Hazim’s dejection becomes almost palpable. I try to hold my tongue, but can’t. “You know… I’d love to ask you to come with me. But I won’t.”
Hazim turns to stare at me, surprised. “Why?”
“Because I know you will refuse. I understand your reasons. At least, I think I do. But…” I have to clear my throat. “… but I don’t want to be turned down by you.” I can’t look at him. “I’m not sure any of this makes sense,” I murmur.
He sighs. After a minute, he asks, “What’s your Big Dream, Marc? You know, with capital B and capital D? The one thing in life you really want to do?”
“I don’t know. Nothing, I guess. I don’t dream. I’m too busy coping with real life.”
He snorts. “That’s what you really believe, I reckon.”
“And you? What’s your Big Dream?”
He thinks for a second. “Nothing fancy. Find myself a family. No matter how that family turns out to be. Maybe open a little restaurant somewhere. Just live a normal life.”
“Define ‘normal’,” I can’t refrain from saying.
He shrugs. “I don’t care about definitions. They’re just little drawers for stupid people.”
I lay an arm on his shoulder. First he stiffens, but then he relaxes. We listen to the splashing sound of the waves and the morning call of the seagulls. I’d like this moment to last forever. Knowing that, like all those wanton moments allowing you to be yourself, it will pass in a flurry.

The young woman behind the Lufthansa Business Class counter flashes me a broad smile while she’s checking my air ticket. “Guten Tag, Herr Brehmer,” she says, opens the passport, barely looks at it, then closes it again and pushes it back toward me. “Haben Sie Gepäck?” She starts to press some keys on her keyboard.
“Nein, nur mein Handgepäck,” I answer. For once, I’m glad that all those ghastly years in various Swiss boarding schools have left a positive trace. I speak fluent and accent-free German, which is priceless. Only those forced by birth or happenstance volunteer to learn that difficult language.
“Kein Problem, Herr Brehmer.” She sticks a tag on my brown briefcase: “Hand luggage”, then draws a circle around the boarding time and gate. “Boarding ist um 17 Uhr 20, Ausgang B14. Wir wünschen Ihnen einen angenehmen Flug.”
“Besten Dank,” I reply, picking up the fake German passport and the boarding pass. I’ve got ten minutes left; just enough time to pass the security check and proceed to the gate. I catch a glimpse of my reflection in a Duty-Free-Shop-window and have to stifle a laugh. My hair has been cut and parted on the left, I’m close-shaven, wearing old-fashioned glasses, a cheap, beige business suit and really ugly loafers. I’ve never looked more hideous.
The security check turns out as superficial as Hazim promised. The guy x-raying my hand luggage avoids looking at the screen when my briefcase filled with euro bills passes. I sigh with relief. I’m back to normal, things run smoothly again. The last few hours of anguish will soon be an unpleasant memory, nothing more.
Just before I get on the plane, I switch on my mobile.
The text message I discover is clear and precise. Will I ever find smoothness and normality again?
this time, you escaped.
but we will get you.
soon.
 
END OF CHAPTER
The chapter "Bodies" is part of the novel I'm currently writing…