I walked into my office, feeling low after the university board’s harsh criticism. Who the fuck did they think they were to judge me? Was I not one of the premier literary critics in Berlin? Did they actually think they knew better than me?
I slammed my briefcase onto my desk, sending a loose copy of my manuscript into the air.
“Nun, verdammt groß.”
It just wasn’t my day. I sat down in my swivel chair, my substantial belly aiding gravity in my free fall, landing with a loud creak. I sighed loudly, leaning back and feeling at ease. This chair was my seat of power and from it I had destroyed many a bright-eyed author thinking they could be the next big success, pushing their drivel as something of value. How satisfying it had been…
Why couldn’t anyone write anymore? What happened to the days when masterful works were created like Faust and Siddhartha? Even some of those marginal English creations by Dickens were better than the cow dung that made it to my desk. What had happened to the brilliant prose of the classics? What were the great universities teaching these days?
I would just have to make sure proper literature made it into the public spectrum. God knows the masses did’t know what was good for them.
I leaned forward and retrieved the scattered pages before slamming them down in frustration on the desk, resigning to fix them later. I couldn’t contain my anger enough to concentrate on something so menial.
I took a deep breath, released it, and put a clean sheet of paper into my typewriter and began to type. A little writing would be therapeutic, plus my manuscript wouldn’t finish itself. I didn’t plan on changing anything that had been written; the board could kiss my sizable rear if they thought that was going to happen. Leitfaden der Kritikin would be the greatest criticism text in the country and students would demand its use in all of their literary graduate seminars. The University of Berlin couldn’t tell the difference between manure and a diamond unless a master jeweler showed them and guess what, I’m the master jeweler. My opinion was the only one that mattered and my stamp of approval was the difference between success and failure. I always had the final word.
Feeling more confident and self-satisfied, I reached into my right-hand drawer and pulled out my flask of Bärenjäger and a feather quill for corrections. Removing the stopper from the jar of ink, I started jotting down notes I wanted incorporated into my text. This knowledge had to be shared; the future of literature depended on it.
After several minutes my secretary walked in, as I knew she would, carrying a hot cup of tea. She was a despicable whale of a creature that I was forced to hire by my loving succubus of a wife. She didn’t want me to be attracted to the woman and, needless to say, she was successful in her choice. Heaven forbid I had something nice to look at while I was working.
She approached my desk slowly, her double chin waddling as much as her saggy breasts and noticeably larger midsection. She wore a polka-dot dress and a gaudy rose-shaped charm around her neck that appeared more like a choker than a dangling necklace. It was dreadful. To top it off, her hair was comically styled into a large poof atop her head that reminded me of a circus entertainer. I sighed as she approached.
“Hier ist Ihr Tee Herr Schöble,” she said, setting the cup down.
I leaned forward and smelled it. As usual it reeked of fish. I don’t know if it was the water she used or if it was her, she never looked clean per se so I wouldn’t be surprised, but the only time I was ever close to her was in those moments.
“Welche Art ist es?” I asked, unable to recognize the brew.
“Englisch Frühstück,” she said, flashing her pointy yellow teeth in an attempt at a smile.
“Danke, das ist alles.”
She turned about-face like a soldier and waddled back out of the room, the rolls on her back shifting up and down under her tight dress. I shuddered and shifted my gaze back to my desk.
My flask shined in the dim light, the Bärenjäger inside seeming to promise vitality like the Ambrosia of the old mythic gods. I succumbed to its summons and emptied it, nearly doubling the contents of my cup, and took a large gulp. My muscles relaxed and I felt the tension of the day drift away.
I could finally get some work done.
The hour hand of my clock seemed to keep pace with the minute one as my fingers danced along the keys of my typewriter. My strokes were masterful, like watching Chopin playing one of his piano concertos. I was in my domain.
An hour accelerated into seconds and before I knew it, the room was black as pitch, save for the small aura of light emanating from my oil lamp.
I looked around, my vision blurring when I moved my head too quickly. I thought maybe I had drunk too much or perhaps had drifted to sleep, I was unsure which. All I knew, was that the room started spinning slowly, morphing into a peculiar forest-scape. Branches began to grow out of the bookshelves lining the walls and the great bearskin rug in front of my desk melted into a pond with lily pads floating along its tranquil surface.
I leaned back in my chair, awestruck at the sight. I must be dreaming, I told myself, baffled by surroundings that could only be described as something out of Lewis Carroll’s imagination.
Smacking my face, I tried to wake from the bizarre dream.
“You shouldn’t hit yourself old chap, that could leave quite a mark, eh?” an English voice said next to my left ear.
I flinched and turned my head to see a cock sitting on my shoulder, its comb and wattle a bright red against its otherwise white-feathered body.
“Vhere die hell did you come from?” I asked, realizing I too was speaking English, granted in thickly accented German.
“Don’t mind him Kraut, the laddie tends to be full of shit anyway,” said a feminine Irish voice to my right.
I froze, not wanting to see what this other creature could possibly be, its claws digging into my shoulder.
“Vhat the hell,” I resigned and looked to my right. What difference did it make? I was stuck in that dreamland for the time being, so I figured I might as well find out. A small brown hawk stared back at me, its beady black eyes mere inches from my face.
“What’s wrong Kraut, does a puss have yer bleedin tongue?”
“Is zhere a cat here too?” I asked, eyes wide.
“Heavens no my good man, it is just the two of us. We are your advocates. That frisky Irish clover over there is your devil and I’m your angel. It seems you have been a bit harsh with people lately so we thought we should pay you a visit.”
“Speak for yerself English, I’m quite pleased with the bloody Kraut. Keep tearin’ the people down, ye Hun.”
I stared straight ahead to avoid looking at either one of them, flummoxed by the situation. It was the strangest thing I had ever experienced, whether a dream or reality. How odd considering I thought I had a very vivid imagination.
“I don’t know vhat the hell the two of you vant vit me, but I treat people just fine. Good day to the both of you.”
“Kiss my arse Kraut, ye can’t bloody push us off so easily,” the hawk retorted.
I faced her, enraged.
“Listen here Paddy, I haf had enough of your name calling! Do you know who you are talking to?”
I puffed out my chest, mustering all of my authority. I wouldn’t be verbally accosted by this avian hoodlum.
“To meself you eejit! I am a part of ye, if ye hadn’t realized it yet.”
Why the hell is my bad side Irish and my good side English? I wondered. Shouldn’t my conscience have been German?
“What have we here? What a curious creature,” interrupted the cock.
I scanned the room, losing patience with this insanity and I caught a blur of motion straight ahead of me. Beyond the still pond was the mouth of a cave that I could only assume used to be the door to my office and, standing there, was indeed a most curious creature: a mighty winged fish, spotted white, with thorns and roses splayed out around its feet. It flopped several times on its rear fin, moving closer to me in a vaguely familiar movement, a strong smell of fish wafting forward to fill my nostrils.
“Hellooo,” the fish called in a musical, yet obnoxious voice.
“Vhat the hell are you?” I asked, standing to confront the oddity. Reflecting on the situation, it was peculiar that I wasn’t more apprehensive of the winged fish, but it seemed I had reached a point where enough was enough.
“What dooo yooouu meeean Heeerr Schöble?” it asked in long drawn out notes that were distinctly off key.
“Oh blimey, stick a knife in its arse Kraut! Shut its Gob,” the hawk instigated.
“Is that always your solution? How uncivilized of you,” said the cock.
“Feck off English”
“Vill the two of you shut up,” I yelled, trying to drown out their voices along with the pseudo-melodious coos coming from the winged fish.
They both stopped, but the creature continued. It was the antithesis of the siren’s call, its musical notes pushing me to the brink of violence. It stopped in front of me, indeed its mere presence defiling the beautiful forest scene.
“Get out of my office.”
The creature laughed, its gills opening and closing on its bulbous neck, releasing a noise like a clarinet with a broken reed.
“Oh stop letting on Kraut, I know ye want to stab it. Ye have a knife in yer pocket,” screeched the hawk.
Startled, I reached my hand into my pocket and grasped what felt like the hilt of a knife, a small part of me surprised to actually find it there.
“I’ll be damned,” I whispered as I pulled out the small pocketknife.
“No old chap, do not do it! Don’t let the devious leprechaun trick you,” implored the cock.
“Shut it English! Don’t listen Kraut, ye know ye want to do it. Shut that smelly thing up, eh?”
“You devil, do not corrupt the poor fellow. Listen my good man, be a good sport and just ask it to leave.”
“I’ll claw ye to pieces English if ye don’t shut yer Gob! Do it Kraut! Shank it!”
The fish spread its wings and puckered up its scaly mouth, singing in a sharp whisper, ”Dooo yoooouu waaant toooo stiiick meee Heerrrr Schöble?”
I am not sure what came over me. It may have been the endless pestering of the two advocates or maybe it was the cooing of that damn tone-deaf creature. Maybe I am just inherently a bad guy; I mean let’s look at the situation seriously, I do love to torment fresh literary meat and rub their noses in the filth they call literature, so maybe it was just instinctual. Regardless, something inside of me snapped and the Irish hawk won the argument: I shanked the fucking thing.
The foul creature met my gaze, narrowing its eyes and thrusting its rotund body at me in some sort of perverse mating dance.
It was time.
With as much ferocity as I could muster, I thrust forward with the knife, leading from my hip in an attempt to hide it from the creature, and stabbed it over and over again. The sensation was euphoric. All the aggression from the day’s events were melting away: the board of directors, the thought of my money hungry wife, and the sight of that mutant-whale of a secretary. It’s as if the murder of this creature was purifying my body in a fantastical baptism of violence. So, with a final orgasmic thrust, the creature fell backwards into the pond, blood polluting its once serene waters.
I felt like one thousand Goldmarks and I leaned back to rest on the desk, letting out a satisfied sigh.
“Ye stuck it good Kraut, well done,” praised the hawk.
“How could you be happy at a time like this? Good day to both of you, I can see I am not needed. Master Schöble,” said the cock as it spun in on itself, vanishing in a puff of feathers.
“That damn English bird can never have any fun, I was only slaggin h’im. Oh well ye did good Kraut, ye pucked that thing real good. So long ye fat arse.”
In a similar fashion as the cock, the hawk vanished from my shoulder.
I finally had some peace and quiet, so I leaned back onto my desk and savored the moment.
A loud crack startled me and I sat up as one of the legs of my desk finally gave way. I was still on top of it, my head aching as though I had drunk four bottles of wine.
“Scheiße,” I groaned looking around the room, the light of midday shinning into my office. It was clearly the next day. I had slept the night and the entire morning on my desk and I could definitely feel it, my back and neck throbbing.
I touched my feet to the ground and stood up, a soft thumping noise echoed in my ears as if through a bull horn. I looked down, startled by the auditory assault, to see my schwanz dangling out in the open for any onlooker to see. To add to my horror, it was covered in dried blood.
Now let me tell you, nothing is scarier as a man than to wake up half naked and having your favorite appendage looking this way. So as you can imagine I inspected it for injury, all the while distracted by the lingering scent of fish in the air.
After I was satisfied that it couldn’t be my own blood, it dawned on me that I had the strangest dream of my life the night before. A dream in which I killed something; a winged fish that smelled dreadfully like what it looked like. My eyes grew wide with that final turn of the mental key, clicking everything into place.
The haze of my memories cleared and the true course of events flooded my mind. I fucked my secretary. That corpulent, annoying, fish-crotched secretary. How did this happen? Had I been so drunk that I couldn’t control my actions and I had to picture myself in a fantastical place in order to justify an office affair? Then again, who could blame me?
Before my wife started mingling in my office, all the secretaries I had affairs with were gorgeous, which is probably why I did it. A man of my station needed someone on demand to relieve stress, and to be honest, my demon wife is a stress producer not a stress reliever. Even so, how did I allow myself to fornicate with that beast?
I pulled up my pants with the intent of running to the bathroom, when I tripped and fell with a loud crash. The door flew open and in waddled my secretary, a giant grin plastered across her face, her eyes taking me in like a cat about to dine on an unsuspecting mouse.
“Herr Schöble was kann ich tun, um Ihnen zu helfen?” she asked, kneeling down in front of me and positioning her foul crotch within a foot of my head, the smell unbearable.
I will tell you what you can do to help me. Go die, I thought, knowing that I wouldn’t say it aloud in my current condition.
“Vhat happened last nacht?” I asked in broken English.
“Oh you want to use English? Wonderful, I always love to practice! I studied it in university and I lived in Britain for ten years, but then again, you know that already. We talked about it last night. Is this our thing now, my darling? I knew I would win you over if only you gave me a chance.”
I glared at her, hating her even more with each babbling word. I grabbed her hand and met her gaze, repeating my question a bit more forcefully.
“Vhat happened last nacht?”
“Well I knew you would be stressed from your meeting with the board so I slipped some opium in your tea to soothe you. Unbeknownst to me, you decided to add your whole flask of liqueur to it as well and when I came to check on you, you were quite far along you were. You talked to me though, I mean really talked to me. You practically ignore me on a regular basis, but not this time, and I have lusted for you for so long… well for any man really, but you are so powerful and famous who would be better as my first then you? So I offered and you took what was rightfully yours you big, strapping, wonderful man.”
She stared at me, a look of desire in her eyes accompanied by something similar to devotion; the type of look you see in the eyes of a dog when it sees its master. Frankly, the look made me nauseous, that and the thought of her blood all over my genitals.
The whole thing answered my question though, the dream wasn’t real and it was truly of my own doing. The crazy cow tricked me and while hallucinating I deflowered her, which is really sad considering she is probably my dead mother’s age. But I had learned something from my crazy little vision. I truly wanted to kill her. That made it final then and, as I said to the cock, nobody tricks me.
“Vill you help me up,” I asked kindly.
She leapt up to obey, her mass shifting around almost hypnotically as she helped me to my feet.
“To my desk,” I said weakly.
As I started to sit, I decided it was now or never. In a swift motion-well swift for me-I grabbed my quill from my desk and stabbed her in the esophagus, pushing it through until it got lodged in bone. Her eyes went wide as she pawed at her throat, loud wheezing piercing the silence as blood bubbled from the wound.
She collapsed, convulsing and flailing for several minutes before taking that satisfying final breath. I stood over her smirking, feeling immense triumph over that old trickster, but, as it turns out, she had the last laugh.
It wasn’t long before my first appointment came in and saw the mess on my office floor while I was leaning back in my chair, unconcerned.
Shortly thereafter, the Polizei arrived to cart me off for my supposed crime, which is a shame because, to be quite honest, I found what I did to be a service to society. Besides, I’m a Junker, should anything less be expected?
Anyway, here we are. That’s how it all transpired. It is a shame that it all happened this way but, the important thing is, I was the final arbiter when it came to someone’s life. While she wasn’t my typical fare, its fitting I ended the life of a woman who drugged and took advantage me.
Nobody tricks me.
I am Wolfgang Schöble, the greatest literary critic of my generation, and what I think means everything. As always, I had the final word.