Saturday, January 28, 2012


(a Berlin story draft)

This view was breathtaking. The office was on the twenty-second floor and had windows from the ground up to the ceiling; one could overlook the whole newly-built quarter. Seidel carefully kept one step of a distance, he folded his arms and looked over to the Sony Center, whose sloping glass-roof was spreading over the teeming crowd like a spiderweb. All this was somehow unreal, the front of windows seemed like a huge screen displaying the setting of a contemporary movie, architectural symbols of a dream of an important metropolis. The city-train was flickering over the riverbridge like a toxic worm, deep down blinking toy cars were streaming over the crossing, tiny people were teeming at the square, not knowing, that their chaotic ways were put together into newly fromed patterns under his eyes. A smell of plastic and paint was in the air.
  Seidel was pleased. The board of management had finally approved an office for him and two months for the planning stage of the logistics for the new subsidiary company. He was free of it now, free of this black-and-white sight of all those chattering future-fanatics and disciples of numbers. Free of those who took away his air to breathe with their neverendig spohisticated talk about stock exchanges, computer programs or endless sexual extasy during the last short trip to the Maledives. All those nerds with their uniform smell of designer after shave that had been poisening his air day by day. The eternal silent struggle for the best place at the feeding bowl was over. Up here one could see much clearer and much further. Unwillingly Seidel moved away from the spectacular view behind the glass, from the view, that would define his horizon from now on. With big steps he crossed the room. He took the telephone from its base and listened to the chirping beep. Then he touched the shiny surface of the desk and persisted in front of the switched-off computer screens. Softly he stroked the back of the chair with one fingertip and gave it a punch, so that the chair spun around for a while. Seidel waited with a smile untill everything had stopped moving. Then he left the room.
The next morning he discovered an ant on the desk. Without orientation it was wandering around on the shiny surface. Lost in thought Seidel rested his head in his hands and watched the little yellow animal. It was difficult not to loose it out of sight because it was so small. He asked himself how it could possibly have come up here. In the morning he had walked from the kitchen into the garage, with the car he had driven to the inside car park and from there he had gone up to the twenty-second floor with the elevator. It could not have gotten here on his shoes. After a while his gaze blurred. He lost the ant out of his sight.
  He liked the new room, the view, the smell, the work. Only the secretary, who was approved to him by the board of management, whose appearance seemed somehow neglected to him, nevertheless there was nothing to complain on first sight. She was said to have been working for the company since it was founded and she was already part of the inventory. But for some reason he was disgusted by her akward make-up, by the bright lipstick-red that always reached above the natural shape of her lips on the grobporige skin, by her thin and muzy curles, by her impassive shouted gaze. Of course he avoided talking about it. With fixed stare she sat in front of her computer screen and did, what he demanded. He preferred to talk to her by intercom. Every day he was working up to twelve hours.

A few days later he discovered a small group of ants under a pile of paper near the monitor at his glass desk. They were small and black and overstood the hectic hits, he was giving them with a rolled up paper. Then, against his first intensions, he called his secretary into the room, for seeing this. She was willingly staring at the place he showed her for a while, but she could not by any stretch of the imagination recognise any ant. When Seidel instisted in his discovery, she referred to her eyes destroyed by the screenlight, she answered with a shrug of her shoulders. For her a few ants, if there really should be some, seemed not as a problem, she explained to him with a non-commital smile. „Our company is constucting the most modern office-builiding in the world“, she friendly said. „Light, air condition, energy, development plan, everything sorts itself out. Nobody knows this better than you, Sir. Everybody in this house is waiting for your ideas with exitetd anticipation.“
Seidel was listening to her folded arms and was asking himself, wehre this had any conection with the ants. The secretary seemed to guess his doubts. „It‘s not that easy für you in your new position.“ she said. „Dont let them make you nervous.“  

He got used to find some ants between the papers and monitors from time to time. Up to the day he discovered a bustled lane of ants in the relief of the fitted carpet. The treck of ants seemed to start near a not working wall socket at the door, with a blurred semicircle it leaded under his desk and ended on the other side in the middle of a wall that went more into the inner of the building. Seidel started to crawl around on the ground with a magnifying glass in his hand. For his surprise he had to notice that in this office one could find much more ants than he or anybody else had regognised up to now. He reported his discovery to his secretary by intercom system and asked her, to clear away these ants. The voice on the other side shortly laughed, asking, if he was honest. She recommended him to call for a pest controller. Seide asked himself annoyed if now was the right time to tell a few clear words about duty and division of labour, but he decided to make all this not more important than it was. With short words he gave order to his secratary to call a pest controller instantly.

The pest controller arrived exactely in time in a neon yellow overall und with overdimensional equipment. He assiduous called him Doctor Seidel and closed the office for one day. Seidel sent the secretary home and worked on in the outer office.
  The new plans took him up more than he had expected. For abround four week everything was alright. Then they returned. The new street was leading from the outer office to the windows. This time Seidel did not think about it any longer, he told the secretary to call, set her free for the afternoon and entrenched himself at her desk, meanwhile the pest controller assiduous perfromed his tedious chemical rituals in his office room.
  „Ants are no joke...“, the pest controller sympathetically remarked when he had finished his work. „They are persistent. Let me know, if you discover some of them again. I work effectivly but philantropically. If you let work the air condition over night, you can feel yourself in your office again like in garden Eden tomorrow.“
  Seidel thanked and payed the man an generous tip from his own pocket. Up to the presentation of his plans only less then two weeks had left.
 Later in the evening, when he was going to leave the builing, he surprisingly met the secretary. While he was on the way down she entered the elevator together with two men from the board of management and one suitboy from the service departement intesively smelling of after shave,. „What’s up with the logistic plannings?“ one of the gentlemen of the management board asked politely without expecting an answer. „And what about the ants?“ asked the smelling suitboy from the service departement. The secretary smiled but did not look at him.
  „Thanks for asking“, Seidel answered. So the the talk was finished.

Seidel did not say a word about this incident, as he used to do, and concentrated himself fully on his work. Not much time left. Tow days later suddenly some ants were running over his computer screen. When he wantetd to call the pest controller again but the management board let ask him by phone if the animals did do any damage. This he had to negate. The money for the pest controller was canceled. The secretary told this news to him on a sheet of paper.

Once after work Seidel stood down at the square and looked upwards to the twenty second floor. Around him the people were teeming. Erverything was as it always was. He looked for the windows of his office. They are up there, he tought.
  At night he was dreaming of the noise the ants were making on the way through his office. He thought he heared them laughing. But next morning when he was sitting at the desk, again listening carefully. He heared nothing, absolutely nothing.
The same day, when he was looking after the mail in the anteroom, he watched by chance how the secretary smushed a few small black ants with her fingernail and blew them away from the desk while she was thinking about a text that was flimmering at the screen in front of her.
  „I admire it“, he said suddenly.
  The secretary hastitated.
  „In deed?“ she finally asked.
  „Yes“, said Seidel. „I‘m afraid, I admire it...“
  „I feel honoured...“ said the secretary and looked strained at her monitor.
  „I mean the ants“, Seidel said disconcerted. „Did you know, that the corridors and arcades in the hills of soutafrican termites perfectely fit together although the insects are blind and start to build from completely different points?“ He shortely looked out of the window and went back to his room.
Later he got to know that the call of the secretary to ask at the personnel departement for her transfer happened instantely after this talk. Her application was istantely accepted.
   For Seidel it was right. He decided not to complain. Untill a substitute was found he owned the office alone for himself. He had one week yet to the deadline.
  „Good morning!“ he said when he was entering the empty rooms. In former times he only had nodded silently and waqs hurrying towards his place. „Let’s go to work!“ he shouted now every day and clapped his hands.
  He set down behind his desk and let his eyes move over the spectacular view behind the glass. Then he turned on the machines and started to work.
  Over the wide carpet ground of the room three broad lanes of ants were running with silent bustle.


  1. Not yet. But the German version is already printed in a short story book ("Seifenblasenmaschine. Berliner Szenen" Schwartzkopff Buchwerke Hamburg & Berlin 2005).