In the forest of the rubber trees
After three years he was once again looking for a person he could be nice to. He would, so he imagined, stand behind her at the edge of a pool, clasp her tightly, and while they fell twist around so that his own back would touch the water first, thereby sparing her the pain of impact. Underwater, he would push off powerfully from the bottom of the pool to lift the person’s head — perhaps she can’t even swim — above the surface of the water, thereby saving her life. Afterward, he would stand before her with a smile, slowly extend his arms, and place them on her shoulders, while whispering words of admiration about the shape of her ears. Perhaps he would even step closer to the person, and place his left forearm horizontally across the line that leads via the collarbone from one shoulder to the other, and then softly blow a strand of hair from off her forehead, but not without first having freshened his breath with mouthwash. Finally, he would take the person by the wrist and lead her at night into a forest of rubber trees. The smooth heavy leaves would gently beat against their faces and breasts, but no danger would emanate from the tips of dead spruce branches, as so often happens on such excursions.
Translated by Kenneth Kronenberg
Kundel’s flight from B.
In B., after only three days, Kundel, embarked upon a larger tour, opted to depart.
The empty frames filling the museums of B. disturbed none of the few, chance visitors. Those who came alone settled curious looks of longing upon those who came with others. Couples, by contrast, were only interested in one another. They clutched hands so tightly that a painful jerk was required to disentangle their fingers in order to briefly part (e.g., to disappear inside the WC).
At B.‘s rare opera performances hardly anyone watched from the mezzanine seats. Crowded were the balcony booths peering over the stage, for they offered the most unobstructed views of diva cleavages. The first intermission normally emptied the house.
Kundel loved mushrooms. The prominent mushroom sculptures adorning so many of B.‘s public squares strongly whetted his mushroom appetite. Alas, he was forced to discover that the people of B. took no culinary pleasure in the mushroom, that such dishes were entirely unknown. Perhaps the fungus is sacred to these people, Kundel thought.
Whatever the case, B.‘s food culture was far from Five Star. Nearly everywhere food outlets sold the identical processed fare packaged in paper sleeves. Easy acquisition plus quick table turnover told the tale of local dining.
However, the custom that most irritated Kundel was how, on B.‘s streets, men and women eyed each other from top to bottom. Emphasis on the bottom.
Kundel had been warned not to set foot inside the public baths.
Togetherness Time was prized in B. as life’s ultimate good, yet shared leisure pursuits failed to cling cash registers with any associated consumption. Still, thanks to the abundance of natural resources, the local workday was successfully reduced to four hours. Then again, also before hours were shortened, office staff rarely returned from lunch.
But it was what Kundel learned down the road that told him his decision to depart was correct: the moment they arrived back home, the people of B. tore off their clothes and as couples – usually in the hetero sense – climbed naked into bed to behave like Greco-Roman wrestlers.
Translated by Eldon (Craig) Reishus
A. and B. interview C. In a large, dim room the first two stand across from the third. No microphones, no writing pads, everyone in white shirts, arms dangling.
B. begins things by asking, »What happens on Sunday?«
»The election,« C. says. »On Sunday I’m up for election.«
A. asks, »Up for election?«
»Yes, if people like me, they’ll give me their X.«
B. asks, »And if they don’t?«
A. asks, »And if they give their X to someone else?«
C. is silent for a long while. He pinches back the tears.
Translated by Eldon (Craig) Reishus
Rupprecht Mayer was born near Salzburg. After some 20 years living and working in Taiwan, Beijing, and Shanghai, he recently resettled in SE Bavaria. He translates Chinese literature and writes short prose. English versions appeared in AGNI Online, Atticus, Bicycle Review, Blue Fifth Review, Connotation Press, Frostwriting, Gravel, Hobart, Mikrokosmos/Mojo, NAP, Nano Fiction, Ninth Letter, Postcard Shorts, Prick of the Spindle, Radius, Sou’wester, Stymie Magazine, The Newer York, Toasted Cheese, Watershed Review, Word Riot and Washington Square.