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Authors: Almost Everything Very Fast Christopher Kloeble

Almost Everything Very Fast

 

Almost Everything Very Fast

 

 

A NOVEL

Almost Everything
Very Fast

Christopher Kloeble

Translated from the German

by Aaron Kerner

GRAYWOLF PRESS

Copyright © 2012 by Christopher Kloeble and Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, Munich/Germany. First published with the title
Meistens alles sehr schnell.

The author and Graywolf Press have provided this e-book to you for your personal use only. You may not make this e-book publicly available in any way. Copyright infringement is against the law. If you believe the copy of this e-book you are reading infringes on the author’s copyright, please notify Graywolf Press at:
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English translation copyright © 2016 by Aaron Kerner

The translation of the portion of Adolf Hitler’s September 1, 1939, radio address that appears on page 254 is from
Leni Riefenstahl: A Life
, by Jürgen Trimborn, translated from the German by Edna McCown (Faber & Faber, 2008).

FLY ME TO THE MOON (In Other Words). Words and music by Bart Howard. TRO-© Copyright (Renewed) Palm Valley Music, LLC, New York, NY. International Copyright Secured. Made in U.S.A. All Rights Reserved Including Performance For Profit. Used by permission.

“Summer Wind,” English words by Johnny Mercer. Music by Henry Mayer. © 1965 (Renewed). The Johnny Mercer Foundation and Edition Primus Rolf Budde KG. All Rights Administered by WB Music Corp. All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of Alfred Music.

“All Of Me,” Words and Music by Seymour Simons and Gerald Marks. Copyright © 1931 Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Round Hill Songs, Marlong Music Corp and Bourne Co. (ASCAP). Copyright Renewed. All Rights on behalf of Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC Administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, 424 Church Street, Suite 1200, Nashville, TN 37219. International Copyright Secured. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted by Permission of Hal Leonard Corporation.

This publication is made possible, in part, by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund, and through grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Wells Fargo Foundation Minnesota. Significant support has also been provided by Target, the McKnight Foundation, the Amazon Literary Partnership, and other generous contributions from foundations, corporations, and individuals. To these organizations and individuals we offer our heartfelt thanks.

A Lannan Translation Selection

Funding the translation and publication of exceptional literary works

The translation of this work was supported by a grant from the Goethe-Institut, which is funded by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Published by Graywolf Press

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Published in the United States of America

ISBN 978-1-55597-729-0

Ebook ISBN 978-1-55597-922-5

2 4 6 8 9 7 5 3 1

First Graywolf Printing, 2016

Library of Congress Control Number: 2015953589

Cover design: Kyle G. Hunter

FOR Saskya

 

Almost Everything Very Fast

Prologue

I haven’t forgotten a thing. I remember the beginning and the end, and all that lies between. I’ve seen a story become history and the other way around.

But nobody’s interested in that, not here. My senile neighbors can barely concentrate for a couple of minutes at a stretch, without having to put themselves down for a nap. And most of the young nurses have better things to do than listen to an eighty-year-old’s tales. They think they’re supposed to feel sorry for me. And yet I feel sorry for them. If only they knew what lies ahead of them! The poor things believe that their lives will spool out just the way they’ve imagined. Eventually, they’ll figure out that you can’t set a course for things. And I don’t mean that just figuratively: blood must flow. I try to explain it to them, I want to warn them. And what do they do? Pat me on the hand, and tell me I shouldn’t exaggerate.

My memory is better company. It grants me the scent of an incomparable bridal gown; grants me the love of women, many women; grants me the heat of a devastating conflagration; grants me the hope that my children are still alive out there, somewhere; grants me the glitter of gold, and the fear in the eyes of dead soldiers.

Nor is it frugal with pain.

Only, sometimes, I wish it would send me peace. Even when I’m asleep it won’t leave me alone and sends dreams after me. It’s always there. It won’t let me forget.

PART I
A Hero and a Son
Five Fingers

Up in the sky, the last two clouds were drifting slowly toward each other. A lightbulb with blurry edges, and a white, puffy shape that defied comparison.

Down below, Albert stood flanked by his suitcases in the patchy front yard of a house in Königsdorf, eyeing the doorbell, lost in thought. Anyone acquainted with Albert—admittedly something only few could claim—would know that he couldn’t help it. When he was younger the other kids had called him bookworm, or four-eyes, though he didn’t wear glasses and was anything but studious. Whenever some assignment was handed to him, he attempted to tackle it, whatever it might be, by thoroughly thinking it through. That was all. And it didn’t mean he always got good grades, either. For Albert, there was no sentence so surreal as
I would never have thought of that.
How could you
not think
of something? (He often thought.)

But the toughest assignment Albert had ever been given—the solution to which he’d been seeking for nineteen years now—was waiting for him behind the door whose bell he was touching, but hadn’t yet pressed.

On this particular afternoon Albert had a journey of more than seventeen hours behind him—on the night train, the commuter train, and finally bus 479, whose driver had made every single stop in the Bavarian uplands, from Pföderl via Wolfsöd through Höfen, though no one at all had gotten on or off—and now that he had only a tiny scrap farther to go, he wasn’t so sure he even wanted to arrive.

This is what Albert always thought when he came to Königsdorf: that he’d been coming to visit Fred since he was three years old, initially accompanied by a nun from the orphanage at Saint Helena, and later alone. That he and Fred had never grown particularly close. That when he was five (and, as far as Albert knew, Fred forty-six) he’d made sure that Fred had donned his water wings when, hand in hand, they’d leapt into the Baggersee. That only a few years later he’d started paying for Fred whenever they found themselves facing a cash register, because Albert could count up the change without having to use his fingers. That at the age of twelve, he’d tried to dissuade Fred from his dream of becoming an actor. (The latter had fully rejected this plan only later, on the grounds that he didn’t want, as he put it, people watching him while he worked.) That the following year, he’d still been vigilant about Fred’s water wings. That at fifteen he’d tried to explain the facts of life to Fred, who hadn’t wanted to hear, and had simply responded with a sheepish laugh. That Fred had never called him anything but Albert, and Albert had never called him anything but Fred. That he had never called him
Father.

Fred was just Fred—this was the first rule in Albert’s life. It had been that way since he was born, and it would be that way this year as well.

For a few more months, in any case.

In his office the cardiologist had waved the fingers of one manicured hand, and Albert had asked himself if the doctor always did it like that, if he generally told his patients the number of months remaining to them with his fingers, to spare himself the search for sympathetic words. Five fingers. Albert had barely paid attention to them, had taken Fred by the hand and left the hospital with him, ignoring the doctor’s shouts, as later he would his phone calls.

Because he couldn’t talk about it with Fred, he prattled on about other things as they made their way home, especially about the foehn, how strong it was for this time of year, really unusually strong.

Fred had interrupted him: “Five fingers are bad.”

Albert had stopped in his tracks, searching for something to say.

“Five fingers are very bad, Albert.”

“Five fingers aren’t all
that
bad,” Albert had eventually answered.

“Really? How many do you have, Albert? How many fingers do you have until you have to go dead?”

“I don’t know.”

“Is five a lot?”

“Five is a pretty good number,” said Albert, as encouragingly as he could.

“I
have
five fingers!” A relieved laugh. “And you, Albert, I bet you have plenty of fingers, too.”

That same evening Albert had left town again, to take his high school exit exams. An obligation that, in light of the news, seemed to him as ridiculous as his decision to fulfill it.

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