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Reinhard Kaiser-Mühlecker: Fremde Seele, dunkler Wald. [Foreign Soul, Dark Forest]

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Under his feet crunched weeks-old, hard-packed snow that didn't stick to his shoes. Still, out of habit he banged them with a brief clang on the metal scraper before opening the door to the hallway, which was only negligibly warmer than outdoors. It was Monday, and only a few people were there already; they hadn't yet started to work, just hanging around, talking, drinking coffee, and smoking. When he entered, they turned as one to face the door. Were they waiting for someone he wasn't? Or why were they staring at him so strangelylike someone had wiped their faces with a wet rag? Jakob paid no attention. Although no one greeted him, he said hello, yawned, and went to the coatrack to hang up his helmet and gloves and change his shoes. While he was busy with that and getting himself a coffee from the machine, the others arrived. They did not greet him either, although they talked to everyone else as always. Weird, Jakob thought, but whatever. After slurping down his coffee, he gathered the things he needed to continue the work he'd broken off last week. He searched in vain not only for the small hammer, but also for the box with the clamps. Maybe he'd left them somewhere. He took what he found and went to the back.
"What are you doing?"
Somebody, whose face Jakob couldn
't see because he was kneeling on the floor with his back to Jakob, was attaching the clamps Jakob had been searching for; he was blond and somewhat heavyset: his pants were tight around the thighs and backside.
"Working", the other guy said, barely turning around, and scrunched up his nose. Jakob was sure he didn't know him.
"Get out of here, this is my spot," he said. "And give me back my hammer." The stranger didn't answer and continued working unperturbed. Jakob noticed the logo on the back of his green coveralls.
"You're from the equipment share too?" he asked, surprised.
"Mm-hmm," went the other.
"I didn't know they were sending a second guy."
"Why second? They told me I'm the replacement for the guy who isn't coming anymore."
Jakob fell silent. He asked another almost gratuitous question or two, mostly to fill the silence, he
'd been taken by surprise, struck dumb, and wanted to cover it up, because he'd realized what he probably should have known for a while now: they wanted to get rid of him, he was no longer welcome here. Hadn't everyone been treating him differently for at least a week now? He hadn't wanted to see it. Was it really possible that a rumor alone could have such an effect? That was insane! He looked over his shoulder and saw that they'd had onlookers. He felt himself go clammy. He left the hall through a side door. In the meantime, it had gotten much lighter out. He looked at the clock. It was almost seven thirty. He walked around the hall and paced back and forth a few times. At seven-thirty on the dot he called personnel.
"It's Jakob Fisher," he gasped, as soon as someone picked up on the other end. "Why the hell didn't anyone tell me?"
When he realized he was talking to a woman
and not to Bernd, who he knew from school and never could standhis anger immediately subsided; he'd spoken with her often before and she had always been very friendly.
"Is Bernd out?" he asked, before she could answer, upset he couldn't unleash his anger.
"He's coming in later today."
Why didn't anyone call me? Did you lose my number? And what's this about anyway?"
"I tried to call you, but I didn't reach you, Jakob," the woman said. "I even left a message on your voicemail. Didn't you hear it?"
No", he said, already quieter. "I never listen to my voicemail."
"Did you go in?"
"What do you think?"
"I'm really sorry. Best thing for you to do is go home again. I'll look and see where we can send you tomorrow. There's nothing else todayas I said on your voicemail. I'll call back this afternoon, okay?"

(p. 218–221)

© 2016 S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main

Translation by Laura Radosh.

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