Hannes Richter


Hannes Richter

by Christian Prosl

Translated from the German original by Julia Analena Hollmann

Williams Sonoma
Williams Sonoma
Williams Sonoma
Williams Sonoma

For many years now, my Saturdays have belonged to my wife. However, every now and then I do catch myself rebelling against that precept, if only in my mind. I have the presumption to, even though I know perfectly well that I will never be able to get away with my revolutionary ideas anyway.

But let’s suppose just for a minute that, just this one Saturday and this one Saturday only, I was actually able to convince my wife to abandon her plans to go shopping in favor of the idea of going for a walk along the canal with its thick, brownish trickle running by.

We would marvel at the light-green color of the modestly expanding algae, the sun would be shining, the birds chirping, the airplane engines would be humming above us, and who knows, maybe we would even be able to spot an inquisitive little turtle which was still unaware of the imminence of winter. Not even the cyclists would pester us with their stupid bicycle bells. Of course, my wife would be in an excellent mood, and so would I.

We would finally get a chance to converse freely – about love (naturally!), about the children (only about their positive traits, but that goes without saying), about the few friends we still have because she couldn’t stand the rest (what else?), but not so much about money; we would skip that one. You shouldn’t tempt fate, after all.

As my mind was wandering off and I was picturing paradise – in glowing and beautiful colors (I was getting all excited!), there she was, standing right in front of me, saying, “Are you kidding, you’re still not ready to leave? Please don’t forget to take the umbrella, it’s raining, and for God’s sakes, hurry! We’re going to the Williams-Sonoma housewares store today!”

I did indeed hurry up (but not too much), and a few minutes later we were strolling through the store at a very comfortable pace in one of the many shopping centers on the outskirts of town. We found ourselves in paradise – paradise for housewives, that is. The store literally carried everything you could ever dream of needing in the kitchen, and more. The merchandise had been arranged on a light-green table cloth in a very handsome manner.

The table was decorated with springlike colors all around. Navy-blue boxes were within reach, and so were the gold-colored gift ribbons, which could be made into artful-looking bows. The customers were all too busy browsing, so nobody said a word. There were no birds, no belated turtles, no annoying cyclists, not even the other customers were in your way. The only discernible noise was that of the air conditioning humming in a confident and steady manner.

The rain outside did not seem to bother it a bit. But all of a sudden, loud music started playing and I recognized the song “I wish you a Merry Christmas.” It was, after all, the pre-Christmas season (October, mind you). As a result of the fake Christmas atmosphere forced upon the customers, I felt a wave of anger catching a hold of me.

I somehow felt compelled to walk over to the knife department by the wall, which kindly informed you that “Kitchen Knives are a life-time investment” in white print on a blood-red background. I randomly reached into the collection of knives and grabbed a shun classic utility knife made from “high-quality high-carbon steel and clad on each side with 16 microthin layers of stainless steel.”

Then I rushed off to the glass section with its elegantly designed filigree champagne flutes. I grabbed one of these wonderful creations and skillfully beheaded it with a quick but precise gesture. I heard the angel-like, clinking sound of breaking glass, unfortunately followed by the piercing shriek of the saleswoman, which absorbed the mournful sound of the top half of the flute hitting the floor.

“What do I owe you for this?” I said to her dispassionately, while closely examining the remaining bottom half in my hand. “Oh, don’t worry,” she whispered, “that’s what insurance is for!” Triumphantly, I handed the remains of the glass flute over to her as if it were a bouquet of flowers, and smiled at her knowingly.

While regaining my composure, I turned to the glasses again, less rambunctiously this time. One after the other, I picked them up, and flipped my middle finger against the rim of the glass. Oh, what lovely sounds! In my mind, I was already beginning to hear the music of the spheres. Had the trip to the houseware store just been a dream? Was I standing by the canal and listening to birds after all?