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Pilot Issue 

What did your father buy a rifle for?


Come on, let us rise into the air as two balloons and hover over the city. I will be this green one, and you will be the red one with the little moustache painted on. Just a few moments more and we break loose from the sweaty fist of the city, up into the heights. Only a thin thread still connects us to the world: the two bus stops from the Park of Culture to our home, my poems, your theater rehearsals and performances, the worn-off jazz record and The Trinity by Rubljow in the gallery we call on almost every day. This is it and no more, what we will regret. Just a tiny bit more and the thread will tear, the fist will open, and then you will be able to brush against the little cloud, the fleecy one. You wanted to touch it, didn't you?

Oh! We will be cheerful as we look down from above onto the senseless pushing and shoving in the streets, on the queue in front of the bakery and the hectic at the bus stops. Whatever: Our gaze from above will be sad and good-hearted. You and I, we are truly kind, aren't we? We know how to forgive.

And the wind carries snatches of earthly conversations to us, like torn-off pieces of yesterday's newspaper, boring and senseless. Down there, courtesy is casually being exchanged and hands are shaken. They want us to become like them. How absurd! But your smile was given to you at your birth by an autodidactic artist, just like I was given my cheerful-roguish eyes. How can we live with this?

Look, down there on the path in the park, a little boy has stopped and stares at us. The melting ice cream sheds thick tears onto his sailor suit. But he points his finger at us and shouts: "Look there! They are flying! Mama, where are they flying to?!" I give him a warning finger, and you smile at his young mama.

A year ago this park existed already, and these merry-go-rounds with the little bells also. The same oppressive heat lay on everything, I had my exams in store for me and you had your theater première. In the shade of an old poplar I was trying to grasp how the world spirit had come to matter and got stuck on the first page of the thick Hegel volume already. You, who felt yourself like a real actress, were sitting next to me and glanced at the pictures in a magazine. We did not know each other yet. Isn't this odd? Just imagine: It could as well have turned out that we never met each other! You could have sat down on a different bench or not looked over my shoulder into my book. Or you could have walked by, not get curious and not be distracted by my "studiousness". But that would just not have been you. Just like I could not not have given you the two balloons. You then threw the magazine into the paper-bin, and I forgot my Hegel. We took each other by the hand and ran to the merry-go-round as if we had not been twenty, but five.

My room in the communal apartment changed after your appearance. The cuddly bear, my friend from children's times, suddenly wore a bright red wig. The bear watched me a bit roguishly from underneath the wig, as I sat down at the table and abandoned myself to inspiration page after page - and then angrily stuffed complete stacks of paper into the paper-bin. This gaze became similar to yours. With your appearance the character of the bear changed - he became much more capricious and rebellious. Instead of the coffee we had so far always been drinking together in the morning, he demanded milk (your bad influence!), and I had to run to the shop. After all, such a cuddly bear cannot lift a milk jug bigger than himself, can he? And you don't like to go out of the house in the morning because the morning city reminds you of our angry neighbor in his pajamas.


In the evening the cuddly bear did not want to fall asleep until I had read something to him. He wiped his nose with his paw and demanded with your voice that I read something, something not too clever and not too sad. It's a good thing that the teddy then quickly fell asleep and - after I had made sure that you were holding each other in your arms - I could ponder over the "clever" books for the rest of the night.

I came to all your plays. Or rather, to your one play. You played in one single musical for children. You were dancing a princess who was not even singing with your own voice. The play was rarely performed, but during the school vacations posters were often hanging. On one day I saw you four times in this role. I laughed with the crowd of children, listened to their discussions and jealously followed their reactions. I towered above them, laughed and clapped more loudly than all of them, and was of course a strange sight. I gave you flowers, and you acted as if you had not expected at all to see me here. And yet we had eaten together in the canteen before the performance, and I had walked you to the make-up.

You wanted to become an actress as passionately as I wanted to become a dramatist. You were tired of dancing; you wanted great roles full of passion and long monologues. You wanted to play The Young Eagle like Sarah Bernhardt. I believed in you. When you had fallen to sleep, I laboriously translated Edmond Rostand, turning to the dictionary at almost every word . And you then rehearsed every new piece of the translation in front of the mirror. I was standing behind you and looked your mirror image in the eyes. I took pleasure in you. We sewed epaulettes on your jacket, and you already looked like the young Napoleon. Once you strayed from the text of the play and said, still declaiming: "If I am robbed of my freedom or of this love, which is one and the same thing, then I will shoot a bullet into my forehead!" You then laid your finger on your temple, in a muffled voice said "kshsh" - and fell into my arms. My little, freedom-loving Bonaparte!


Your father arrived unexpectedly. Or rather, you had actually expected him. You had written him a letter about me and your new place. You thought he would come, get to know me, calm down and be on his way back home. But he entered our apartment and, without even greeting me, grabbed you by the arm and dragged you out into the hallway. He was yelling, without caring about the fact that the neighbors could hear you or . I. He said that no one else lived like us, that theater was a pure waste of time and energy, that this was recklessly putting on bohemian airs. And obscene. The world is full of misconceptions, and your father is caught in their spell. I am not offended.

He took you with him. Too bad, he did not get to see the excerpt of The young eagle which we had rehearsed together.

You see, I buy balloons. You are this red one, and I am the green one. Everything as usual. I let them fly, and they slowly hover into the heights. And then they see the city from above. Some young mother is calling her kid who is staring into the air by your name. Automatically I turn around, as if hoping to see you. But then I jump: a bang like a shot. It was as if someone shot me in the back. Only my balloon still hovered in the air, and a red scrap fell to my feet.

What did your father buy a rifle for, if he does not go hunting?

Elena Ch. (translated from German/Russian by Alain Kessi)

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Tusovka: Pilot Issue / What did your father buy a rifle for?  / tusovka@savanne.ch
Last updated 1999-02-15