FEAR AND DREAMS
Fear and Dreams
My uncle stands at the cold stove, drinks, is silent, drinks again, is silent and thinks. And the brown twilight comes and slinks around the house. The bottle is empty. My uncle leaves the room slowly and rigidly
My aunt sits in the kitchen under the sacred picture with the caption „Pray and work!” A swarthy Christ gazes sternly from the shrine. The kitchen smells of cypress, pumpkin oil, onions and wax.
My uncle smiles and looks out of the window into the brown twilight where the grass still smells as sweet as honey, and there is the pungent smell of pears and decayed apples. Deep and saturated, and the sundown is reddish brown, like dead blood and fire. My uncle drinks, and my uncle lives in an isolated world that has its own laws.
At night I have a strange dream. I am in the garden, the apple trees move up the hill in the dusk toward nothingness toward the precipice, and there standing on the other side of nothingness is my uncle. My uncle calls me. I am afraid and I want to jump, I want to enter the twilight. How can I do that? I could die in the twilight. My uncle calls me, and I jump into nothingness and nothingness is suddenly deep, dark green water. I swim in it, in spite of the fact that I can’t swim, and then I scurry onto the shore. The garden is dark and my uncle can no longer be seen.
Then I wake up. The rain pours thorough open window into the room. It is damp, cold and dark.
My uncle sits at the table in the damp, grey early morning fog and drinks and contemplates. He is alone in the room. Before the sun rises, day gains color slowly and night becomes as pale as a corpse, his head with its wrinkles looks green for a matter of minutes like the water in my nightly dream. My uncle alone sits in this room, this muffled room with its warped ceiling that shimmers green in the damp, grey morning. I crawl out of my bed and slink around the house and eavesdrop.
I look through the window and watch my reclusive uncle in his stiff linen shirt, sitting in the living room drinking schnapps. His dark eyes seem to gleam as eerily as a peasants’ revolt. I see his lips attached to the small yellow glass greedily trying to sate his thirst. I see him shimmering maliciously in the twilight like a moist, poisonous toadstool. I open my eyes wide and my nostrils dilate like those of an infuriated wolf. The morning light flows into the room turning my uncle gegreen as he sits at the table, drinking and contemplating.
A clock strikes three times. My uncle moves his head and looks at the landscape outside and listens. I hide to the bushes. My uncle moves his head and looks at the landscape outside, looking at the fog, at the trees, at the meadows and into the silence and dampness. He looks silenrly at ramshackle farm buildings, staring at the silence, at the apple trees and the grass. He does not see me. He sits at the table and gets drunk. In dank air of the room the last flies shimmer, flying around my uncle’s head in sluggish swarms.
I go back to my small room. I pour cold water on myself and comb my brown hair. The morning light comes through the window. I have a narrow, white bed, and the walls of my room are almost white. Light sifts through the foliage into my room and everything seems green.
I lie in the morning silence, idly daydreaming, yet apprehensive of my hulking uncle, who sits silently getting drunk in the room below.
My body seems to acquire a life of its own. As I lie on the bed, it seems as if my body extends itself interminably, stretching itself from wall to wall, and still farther out into the garden. My fingers are small green snakes. And the whole room is full of bright fiery dots, and everything seems to shimmer and shine in the dreary day. My body flattens and broadens, growing and growing, my bones stretch until I am a giant. I can’t move my hand; it is as heavy as lead and a mile long. And then everything shatters. I am a tiny grain, and all my thoughts are blown away. My malicious uncle can’t see me. Everything loses shape: the bed, cushions, furniture, the walls are as soft as down and as gentle as a song.
I hear my uncle drunkenly trudging in the room in his black leather boots. I see him through the closed door, through the white wall as if in a mirror. He peers into the big schnapps bottle with his black eyes, silently contemplating.
I lie in my room, knowing that all this does not have anything to do with life, but rather with death – with death that manifests itself all around us. And the flies shimmer in the twilight and my uncle trudges around on the other side of the wall.
Behind ivy-framed windows, my aunt sits in green twilight of the living room, where it is quiet and cool, as if it were the bottom of a shady pond. My aunt shimmers on a leather easy chair with gold trim under the somber portrait of my grandfather with its gold frame. She listens to the heavy, drunken steps of my uncle, which penetrate the walls, buzzing like malignant black flies.
I go through the through the humid, sultry air of kitchen on my way to the garden. On the wall there’s the dreary painting with the caption: “Pray and Work!” The flies whirr in the twilight and there’s the smell of moldy flour and potatoes.
In the living room, behind ivy-framed windows, my aunt sits and prays and thinks.
The things that mean most to her lie in a basket: keepsakes from her youth, a silk cushion that my grandmother embroidered, photos and gold chains. She strokes the beautiful, blue cushion, listening to the plodding, drunken steps of my uncle that invade her solitude.
All the while, my malicious uncle gets drunk in a dim room, sitting at a long table between cold stone walls. Time moves over the table which is wet with schnapps and resembles a long casket. My uncle is bent over the table as darkness seeps into his skull.
My aunt’s gloomy room is crowded with cabinets and chests of drawers and with two canopy beds. The subjects of faded photos and oil paintings seem to doze on the walls.
My aunt bends over the small table, her hands trembling as she looks through brown-rimmed glasses into the old account books. She goes over them. She looks at the categories marked “laundry,” “dry cleaning,” “broken chinaware,” “maid’s wages,” and cries because she does not understand what has happened in this region, in this landscape, in this world. She sees that the house, the family, the belongings are disintegrating, how everything passes, how nothing can be conserved, how everything runs through your fingers like water.
The garden suddenly becomes brightand somewhere sparrows twitter. On my right, there are the woods, on my left, fields, and behind me, fields. The garden is like a turntable. In the village behind me, gates creak and dogs bark. The sun is as pale as paper and trembles on the dusky firs. The woods are there. The woods reverberate like a great electronic clock. I sit in the grass and play with white stones. Suddenly my uncle looms in front of me. The sun falls onto his dark eyes which stare through me like two bleak holes.
“Are you playing the saint in the grass?”
My uncle crouches down, his heavy hands dig into the earth. He cries and sobs like a child.
I am glowing with fear.
“In the past, things were different. In the past, things were not as they are now, you saint!”
“The war and the revolution have swept everything away. Do you understand? You don’t understand anything, do you?!”
My uncle is angry and drunk.
“You’re a spy, a spy, you saint!”
My uncle totters through the garden, smelling of alcohol and tobacco.
My uncle looks at me and I slowly move back into the bushes and the high grass where I think of the wild beautiful wild life in the woods.
I think about the brawny robbers who seized the right of life and liberty for themselves! I too want to be free, strong and handsome, and I too want to be robber!
I think about the brawny robbers who seized the right of life and liberty for themselves!
“Make revolutions! Have children! And that’s all! By the devil, that’s what I said!”
My uncle shouts by the garden, making the clouds part and causing grey shreds to fly through the air. I hide deeper into the grass and I creep like a worm over the earth. And I feel that the grass and the plants are free and boundless.
My aunt comes and into the garden says: “Go into the house! You are tired!”
My uncle stares into the distance, then says he: “What is this nonsense?”
“Come into the house! It’s cold outside!” my aunt calls out.
“What is this?! What do you want? Everything is boom-boom-boom! Do you understand that? No, you don’t understand anything! You think that I’ve made it up! You just don’t believe it! You are nothing! I am a gentleman! Do you understand?”
My uncle goes into the house, and I stay outside with my hot head and with green fire in my eyes.
How the trees rustle! How the wind blows freely! How the high brushwood surges and whistles! How the treetops and branches rock!
My uncle is gone! My uncle has disappeared! I press my head against the good, strong wind. I play with white stones.
I sing a song.
My aunt stands in front of me.
“What’s the matter?”
“Uncle is sleeping! Be quiet!”
I look at the clouds. High up, high in the wind the birds are flying and calling to each other.
My aunt raises the head. Her nearsighted eyes make out dark, circling spots in the distance.
“The birds shriek!”
“You’re not a bird, so be quiet! Uncle is sleeping!”
The garden is full of trees. The chickens cackle. The flies buzz. And the sun shines as weak pale as a corpse. My uncle is sleeping. Soon day will turn grey, the wind will be still and it will be dark. And it will begin to rain.
Snoring can be heard from the half-open window. My uncle mumbles in his sleep. I take a white stone and throw it into the window.
It is getting dark. Black clouds cover the sky. I walk across the fields. I see our house sleeping far away in the darkness. I see the great dark landscape, and I see my drunken uncle in his room, move restlessly in his sleep. He lies in polluted air, his feet dangling over the end of the bed; he rolls over and grinds his teeth in a bad dream.
I walk across the landscape. The big house is tiny now. It has lost its luster; it seems to crumble away. The old house turns grey in the darkness. The roof glows murkily! As dead as stone, a shattered world that drives me into fear and rage!
Now I clamber over the stairs back to my room. I don’t want my aunt to hear me. I don’t want to be held accountable for the broken window pane.
I crawl under the large portrait of my grandfather with his creepy open-mouthed smile, resembling a bulldog baring its teeth. The hall smells dank and uninhabited. A penetrating body odor emanates into the hallway from my uncle’s bedroom. I see my snoring uncle through the open door. I see his face in profile, the open mouth, the bent nose. His shape radiates fanaticism and delirium. Could it be that he is insane?
The staircase is cold. Even in summer, there’s the winter smell of dampness and rheumatism.
My aunt stands at the kitchen door. She is silent. Her bulging, enflamed eyes look at me uncomprehendingly.
I crawl around in the darkness.
My aunt is silent.
The smell of cheap schnapps and sweat emanate from my uncle’s room. His snoring reverberates in the whole house.
“Why don’t you say something, auntie?” I suddenly say.
My aunt is silent.
“I am ashamed, auntie,” I say swallowing.
My aunt stands in front of the door. She is a thousand years old. She is like a stone. She is almost dead.
I go up the stairs and through the hall to my room. Everything has turned brown with age. The old house dozes in an unsolved puzzle. Its windows are blind stones. The house hides in the darkness and I disappear into the night and into dreams.
The Black Cat
A little cat that father loved was on the ship, which father had inherited when he was up north. It was a sleek soft thing that lived on fish. The cat was as black as night and as animated as a storm. Father often played with it, especially when he was in Africa, where he did not understand the language of the natives. He had left his bona fide wife at home and thus this was a genuine adventure for him. The black cat took, so to speak, the place of his wife. He did not admit this to himself, but that’s the way it was. The cat was also a substitute for concubines and prostitutes in foreign ports. It was the perfect playmate for a strapping man like father. He was content with the course of his life and destiny. But the cat disappeared one day when the ship anchored at the equator. The cat could not be found, and father and as the days passed, became more and more sad and disconcerted. He would cry and sob like a small child. He lamented this blow of fate and even tried to hang himself in the ship’s toilet. The crew was concerned about their stalwart, sad captain, and they tried to fill the void of the lost cat by buying a sleek cat from a negro named Butula. But father did not take to the new cat. He just kept getting thinner and weaker. His face aged and he became an old sick man before his time.
When the ship docked at Kua–Teruga, he left without saying goodbye his crew, and got on a steamer.
He couldn’t get along with anyone and everyone looked askance at him. There were those who would tap their temple with a finger when his back was turned.
Father stopped caring about worldly things. The black cat remained in his thoughts, but it was gone forever.
The Hanging Limper and the Limping Hangman
You are very unlikely to see the limping hangman on the street. You are more likely to meet the hangman limper in a dream, but a dream can turn into reality. The hangman limper plays a major role in our well-ordered society. He hangs liberal ideas and prepares the way for the limping hangman. The limping hangman has the task of hanging the thoughts hung by the hangman limper on a limping flag. This is the so-called triumph of the limping hangman. To be sure, the limping hangman has a wife, who limps and resembles the wife of the hangman limper. The limping hangman is a giant, a muscle-bound giant, and the limping hangman’s wife is an unadulterated buxom women. We must play the role of the cold-blooded observer, and the hanged world of the limping hangman and the hanged limper will open itself for us. In this world we can see progress as limping locomotion that lands under the feet of the limping hangman. It is impossible to precisely substantiate the views of the limping hangman. For the limper balks from our warm embrace. He is a genuine Hitler who kills in a limping Hitlerian hangman manner.
Characteristics of the Nose
The nose was created to hold eyeglasses in place. The nose is the base of the face. No matter how much one concentrates or racks one's brains, the nose remains stationary while the rest of the face grimaces. According to experts, the nose is the outlet of a very strenuous process of thought which can exhaust the owner of the nose and cause him to experience nightmares. The impulses that come from the nose can create a childish and absurd impression, and are mostly accompanied by horrible urges ‑such as the temptation to commit fiendish crimes. Naturally one can love one's nose, but usually that love is unrequited. The world can ‑ thank God exist without a nose, but man needs two holes through which compressed air can come into the lungs. He must sniff, smell and sneeze at the world; these are his most important lifelong tasks. Sometimes noses come in pairs ‑ even in threes or fours. The more noses, the more beautiful and significant the owner! The centinasus is far superior to homo sapiens. Thus, it stands to reason that noses control the scene – and not the scene the noses. The scene‑noses are extremely cultivated and can be paramount and even essential to life itself.
Translated from German by Herbert Kuhner