Three very short stories
By Rupprecht Mayer

My son

I’m an old man now, and the times are getting harder. I do not mind, because what could be harder than death? But my son is only thirty-three and already shows cracks. I’m afraid I explained too little to him when he was still a child. He is getting porous. I did not give him enough, and now it’s too late. I often told him that he should help others, and now he can’t help anyone. I recently discovered that he does not know the names of Germany’s central low mountain ranges. But that’s not the problem. There are things now that grind people. I told him that he must be persistent. I took away his computer once to let him learn more, and stressed that he chew properly. Now he is getting crumbly nevertheless. He knows from me that he has to watch out for traffic before crossing the street, but it turns out that this is not enough. My son appears absent-minded when he looks at me. We put too much trust in the teachers. By now, his teachers are in their seventies, and they stay as unmoved as I when bridges collapse. I would like to hug my son, but he’s already too old for that.

A field crew

Up and down, such an endless up and down, said Hinterseer. But beautiful, Schöller said. They worked the area between the rivers Inn and Rott. Schöller was in the field, Hinterseer did R&D, actually. The girl sat in the back seat. There are beautiful villages in these valleys. Kirn, Kösslarn, Triftern, Rottalmünster. Ridges in between with huge four-sided farms. Windy in winter, said Schöller, who knew the region. You’re lucky if they get the snow off the street; the job takes the whole day. Then, at night, people lie exhausted on their wives. And in summer they lean against the wall apathetically and buy shit, Hinterseer remarked. Maybe it’s the product, said Schöller. Look at the creeks in the valleys. Deep chasms they are, covered with green glass. Not a single duck, and no one jumps in. I want to swim, said the girl. Out of the question, we’ll hose you down when we get back. The girl was their prototype. She talked from time to time, but the two men didn’t take her seriously because she was blind. Actually, she wasn’t blind, she just didn’t have anything above her mouth. No nose, no eyes. In this beautiful area you won’t find any women during weekdays, and so Schöller and Hinterseer occasionally took the girl into the woods.

Encounter on the beach
A short film

A coastal scene. Back-lit clouds wander across a dark sky. Thundering breakers on the shore. No swimmers. A couple relax on the beach with a child and all sorts of paraphernalia. They discuss their next purchases while the child plays with sand. A soldier in heavy boots staggers out from behind the dunes, runs towards them and jumps into a pit nearby. The pit is like a battlefield trench, with soil and roots beneath the sand. The soldier kneels in the dirt and gasps. He clutches his rifle and stares into space. Did he just survive a battle? He takes off his helmet. His hair is wet with sweat. There are blood stains on his uniform. He begins to speak, in labored bursts, incoherently. He is tormented by what he has seen, what he has done. What has been done to his people, their wives, what his people did to other people, and their wives. He sobs, stammers. He does not speak to the family who are barely a yard away. They do not seem to notice him. They continue talking about their purchases. The child crawls away. Nobody follows him. One should be concerned that he’ll be swept away by the fierce waves. Later the woman moves out of the scene, but in the opposite direction. The husband continues talking as if his family was still there, but, eventually, he stops. Now the soldier speaks with a low voice. He seems to be getting weaker. He probably has internal injuries. The soldier and the husband, their eyes meet. Do they recognize each other? They look similar. Without the uniform one might mistake one for the other. They examine each other, surprised, pensive, as if they had lost their memory, as if watching a reflection.

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 have appeared in about 35 print and online journals, including AGNI Online, Mad Hatters’ Review, Mikrokosmos, New World Writing, Ninth Letter, Prick of the Spindle, Radius, Watershed Review and Word Riot.