Author: Marc Degens
Translator: Joseph Given
I only went to Godesberg because of Yannick. He was my best friend at school, apart from being my only one. He had the most often wrongly spelt name I’ve ever come across: Jannik, Yannik, Jannick, Yannic. On the way over to his place, I stopped at the sweet shop and bought a few things. Yannick lived with his parents in a castle-like villa on the banks of the Rhine. The villa had towers, battlements, an alarm system and thousands of surveillance cameras. His mother stayed at home 24 hours a day, his father never. When Yannick wasn’t at school, he was sitting in front of his computer sucking the Internet dry and moving massive amounts of data from one hard disk to another. This wasn’t about having fun. It was hard work. Yannick even slept in front of his computer, melded to a homogenous lump with his blanket and the swivel chair.
I got used to the new school after a few months, even the politics and history lessons in English. Uncanny things were happening in the world. I couldn’t talk to Yannick about that. He would either show me shaky videos on YouTube or send me links to obscure websites. I never really found out what his opinions were. In one of the windows he’d watch the newest cinema hit whilst in another he’d be lying in wait, looking through rifle crosshairs. At the same time he was posting photos, chatting, listening to rap or some audiobook. It probably didn’t make any difference to him whether I was there or not.
Yannick was always the first to know which series was due to start in Germany, having finished running in America. Whenever I was looking for a song or a particular episode from some old cartoon series, I only had to ask him. It took about quarter of an hour then he’d hand me a USB stick with a perfect discography or every single episode that had ever been broadcast. Yannick didn’t believe in God, but he did believe in Ewoks and he knew the names of every single Knight of the Jedi. Whenever he got bad marks in a class test or was asked to take the rubbish out, he would curse the dark side of the Force quietly. It was also down to Star Wars that Yannick and I ended up arguing: he liked Jar Jar Binks and I didn’t. He threw me out for that and once I was on my bike, riding off, he came out and shouted the ending of my new series after me:
“Joffrey ends up king,” he laughed evilly, “and Ned Stark dies.”
I stopped, turned around and swore perfidious revenge.
My threat had obviously impressed Yannick. He even stayed away from our school-year party, which was supposed to be obligatory for all pupils. All of the teachers were there and some kids even brought their parents. To be on the safe side, I didn’t even tell mine about it. The meeting place was the open-air stage at the banks of the Rhine. There was a barbecue and beer. At some point I ended up sitting with Livia on the grass with the sun burning a hole in my head while she talked incessantly about her foster horse Giacherini: a gelding with Holsteiner genes that had won show-jumping prizes and was the half-brother of some other horse. After about half an hour it was getting on my nerves listening to her. I picked up a can of beer and walked off, starting up the hill on my own.
There were Roman headstones all around and I tried to decipher the names on them. All at once I found myself standing in front of the entrance to the Zen garden, a place for peace and relaxation. Or so it said on the sign. Exactly what I was after. I went through the wooden gate, took a step to my right and walked around anticlockwise – as recommended on the sign.
In the middle of the garden, there was a large pool. I was the only visitor and the trees looked like happy ghosts. I stepped onto a small jetty. On either side of me there were massive fish with red, white, blue and gold marbled scales. Grandma and Grandad Dannenfeld also had fish like this in their garden pond, but these ones here were much bigger. They surfaced like U-boats between the water lilies, steered off to the reeds and opened their enormous mouths to pick at the stems. I watched them for a while then I took a sip out of my can and walked on.
The stone steps beside the pavilion led directly to the water. I kicked a couple of empty booze bottles to the side and sat down on the lowest steps. A duck flew over, curious, landed clumsily and continued in my direction, swimming excitedly. Once it noticed that my attention was completely given over to the fish, it turned around and paddled off leisurely to the opposite bank.
The fish, just under the surface, swam close to each other, moving calmly with just the occasional whip of their tails. I leaned over, intending to reach into the water and grab one of them, when I noticed René behind me. I didn’t know how long he’d been standing there. He nodded to me, sat down on the stairs beside me and tapped his finger on my beer.
“Do you mind?”
I handed him the can. He took a swig and gave it back to me. An old pensioner couple came into the garden. Both of them were wearing beige from head to toe. Arm in arm, they trailed their slow way through the garden, stopping every six inches. The old man scratched at the ground with his walking stick. They both looked down and giggled. Then they trailed on.
“That would do me nicely right now,” said René turning to me. “Just pension myself off here and now.”
“Pension yourself off?” I asked.
“Yeah, pension myself off,” answered René. “Do nothing except read chemists’ magazines, eat pensioners’ special offer meals, and cruise through the parks.”
“Spend all week running to the doctor and sitting in the waiting room?” I asked.
“Yep,” answered René. “Get the shits when Crimewatch comes on, dream about Reader’s Digest.”
“Shoo the young people off their seats on the buses,” I enthused and took another swig of beer.
“Go on coach trips every six weeks,” he said.
“Chiropodists,” I shouted.
“Automatic door openers,” declared René.
“Spend the present talking about the past,” I added.
“Fango mud packs and hot-cold treatment,” said René excitedly.
I smiled and spoke grimly, “No beer after 4 o’clock.”
I handed the can to René. He drank the rest and we looked up at the grey stone tree.
“I think I’d even go into an old folk’s home for that,” mused René.
“Me too,” I proclaimed loudly. “Right here and now.”
The old couple had reached the pavilion and were sitting down on the bench. René grabbed one of the two earbuds hanging out of the top of my T-shirt and put it in his ear.
“Turn it on,” he said.
“Oh, come on,” I sighed.
“Turn it on”, he repeated.
I took the iPod out of my trouser pocket, put the other earphone into my own ear and pressed play. Long, pacific tones, then hammering and humming. The bass started to get threatening: once, twice, then every time.
“What’s that?” asked René.
“Drone,” I answered. “Doom metal. By Sunn O))). One of their more mellow pieces.”
“Let me hear some more,” he spoke.
There was a clicking – then the drums were in command. The kind of sounds you’d hear on a slave boat. The cymbal was crashing and the organ was whirring like a dentist’s drill.
“When’s it going to start?” asked René.
He grabbed the iPod out of my hand and pressed on the skip track button before the singing had started.
After that there was a song from the new, unreleased Chemical Brothers’ album. Yannick had given me the song, but René clicked on the skip track button again. Drumbeats and glockenspiel.
“Bring out your dead,” roared the drunken voice of the singer.
“Bring out your dead. Bring out your dead.”
“Fucking brilliant,” shouted René. “That’s Jim Morrison. What’s he saying there? Dad or dead?”
“I think dead,” I replied.
We listened to the song to the end.
“Brilliant version,” said René. “I’ve never heard that before.”
“Live in New York,” I told him. “It’s over 17 minutes long.”
“Have you got People Are Strange?”
“No,” I answered. “Too short.”
“Too short?” he questioned.
“I’ve only got long songs on my iPod,” I explained. “The longest one goes on for nearly an hour.”
“Why?” he asked.
“Why not?” I answered. “I only listen to long songs.”
René looked at me with raised eyebrows.
“Really?” he asked.
I nodded. In that moment, Ricarda with the big tits came running over the jetty laughing. She was being chased by some nutcase from the rowing club with arms like a removals man. Ricarda stopped running. They fell into each other’s arms and started snogging.
“I think I need another beer”, said René and got up. “You coming?”
“Yeah”, I answered.
From Fuckin Sushi © DuMont 2015