Me and My Shadow
When I go out, three creatures tail me. They try to at least. But I’m still grieving for Erich.
Erich had tailed me for years. Erich was physically fit, different from these three. He wasn’t tall, but compact. His body muscular, his skin felt cool even after a long walk when I bumped into him by mistake. You feel closer in such situations, familiar in some odd way. Erich even had a sense of humor. Once he whispered to me: I’m just five feet three inches tall, Lehmann, how can I shadow you? I can only tail you.
Erich was always well informed, but that’s normal for his kind of people. Should be, at least. These three are not. Erich always knew beforehand if I planned a walk through the woods at the edge of town. On those occasions he took along some food. He knew better than I did where I wanted to go. But I don’t think I went into the woods only when Erich brought food. I don’t think I was ever dependent on him like that. Eric had a sharp, prominent nose and lots of deep wrinkles around the corners of the mouth.
The three can’t hold a candle to him, but now they’re all I’ve got. Because Erich whispered to me one day that his organization would probably be going belly-up soon. He had intelligence, he said. Then I would have to walk alone. He wished me good luck. He tailed me one more week, then never turned up again. After a few days a letter came, but the envelope was empty. The powerful handwriting with its serifs on the envelope was Erich’s, for sure. I’ll never know what he wanted to tell me.
Now those three obviously have the task of shadowing me. As soon as I step out the door, I hear them mutter: Here comes Lehmann! Then they try to follow me. But they have no feet, and their legs are flabby like pillow snakes, their pant legs sewed up. And they appear to be headless, I refuse to look too closely at them. A creaking sound escapes their chests after having followed me just ten yards. Then they stop, if they are not already flat on the ground, having clumsily pushed each other over, or because they stumbled over their own legs. What would Erich say?
Now my walks are for me alone, but the feeling of freedom is spoiled whenever I think of those losers lying on the sidewalk not far from my front door.
When they see me, they struggle to their feet and shout: Here comes Lehmann! The rales and wheezes of consumptive lungs accompany their words.
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Rupprecht Mayer was born 1946 near Salzburg. After some 20 years living and working in Taiwan, Beijing, and Shanghai, he recently resettled in SE Bavaria. He translates Chinese literature and writes short prose and poetry in German and English. English versions appeared in Connotation Press, Frostwriting, Mikrokosmos/Mojo, Ninth Letter, Prick of the Spindle, Washington Square Review and elsewhere. For more of his work, see www.chinablaetter.info/rupprechtmayer/