Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck Read Free Book Online

Book: Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jenny Erpenbeck
Heil .
    Elliot leaps with a single bound down the pair of steps leading out of the house onto the lawn and then ambles over to the fig tree to pick a few of its fresh fruits. Anna calls to him from the open window of the living room: Bring some back for Elisabeth too. Elliot replies in English: All right. For his children, Elliot and baby Elisabeth, he planted the fig tree and also the pineapple in the back section of the garden.
    Why is there Lametta hanging on the tree, baby Elisabeth asks him, pointing at the tinsel. It’s supposed to look as if the tree, der Baum, were standing in a snowy Winterwald, he replies, replies Ludwig, her father. What is a snowy Winterwald? the baby asks, Elisabeth. A deep forest, he says, in which the ground and all the branches are covered with thick Schnee, and there are icicles dangling from all the branches.
    Let’s wait and see how things develop, he says, says Ludwig to his father. But at least the willow will get planted today, his father, Arthur, says to him, holding out the shovel, I promised Doris. From the property next door one can hear the masons’ trowels tapping against the brick. Heil . The owner’s working right alongside them, his father says, he’s not too proud to lend a hand. Ludwig digs the hole for the willow tree. The earth is black and moist so close to the water.
    Always in the springtime the gardener here freshens the earth for the roses. He turns the compost and sifts it. Ludwig himself prunes the rosebushes. Céleste and New Dawn, they flourish here better than anywhere else in the world, because there is never frost. What splendid roses, his mother says, Hermine. Arthur and Hermine, Ludwig’s parents, have come to visit. A week and a half later they go home again. And make sure to leave the outward facing buds when you prune, his mother says, Hermine. I know, he says, Ludwig, and pours out more tea. 1 tea service (made by Rosenthal), purchased in 1932 for 37 marks 80.
    The coffee and tea importer on the other side is laying his foundation already, says Arthur, his father. Ludwig is digging the hole for the willow tree. Same architect, says his mother: your neighbor on the left. He’s helping brick up the chimney himself, I saw him up there before, says Arthur, Ludwig’s father, he’s a good man. All Anna wants right now is a dock and a bathing house, says Ludwig, and then we’ll see how things go. The workers on the property to the right exchange shouts. That’s got to be enough, says Ludwig, thrusting the spade into the ground beside the pit. His father is gazing at the quietly plashing Märkisches Meer. Home. This is your inheritance, his father says to him. I know, he, Ludwig, says, his father’s only son.
    The eucalyptus trees rustle louder than any other tree Ludwig has ever heard, their rustling is louder than that of beeches, lindens or birches, louder than the pines, oaks and alders. Ludwig loves this rustling, and for this reason he always sits down to rest with Anna and the children in the shade of these massive, scaly trees whenever the opportunity presents itself, just to hear the wind getting caught amid their millions of silvery leaves.
    Arthur, father of Ludwig and Elisabeth, grandfather of Doris, raises the slender trunk from the ground, places it in the hole, calls Doris over and says to her: Hold this! Doris balances from the edge of the hole, holding onto the little trunk with both hands. Home. The women come closer. Anna is carrying Doris’s shoes in her hand, Elisabeth says to Ludwig: How lovely it’s going to be here. Quite, Ludwig says.
    Between the excoriated trunks of the tall trees, monkeys are leaping about. The strongest of them are allowed to take their share of the booty before the others. If you feed them, they’ll think you’re weaker than they are and attack you violently when you stop giving them food or aren’t quick enough about it. Just stop calmly

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