Last Slice of the Black Forest — Gunter’s Wish
Gunter hobbled up the path to his house. His feet squashed into shoes too small for him. Just before he entered, Gunter examined his reflection in the window. He touched his pink cheeks and admired the sculptured perfection—the high forehead with no acne, the strong chin with no spots but a beard like a man, and hair straight golden and manageable. He patted the top of his head. ‘Hmm, a bit thin on top,’ he mumbled. ‘Oh, well, now I can be happy that not even my brother Johann was perfect.’
Grandmother flung open the door. Gunter slammed against the window. The wood panel blocked her view of Gunter. ‘Now what am I going to do? The dinner is burnt,’ she said.
‘Where is he?’
‘Forgotten something?’ Boris said as he peeped around the corner of the house. He handed Gunter a pile of folded clothes. ‘Can’t go around the village dressed like a boy, now can you.’ Boris then vanished into the night.
Once Grandmother withdrew back into the house, Gunter tip-toed to the outhouse and changed into Johann’s dapper tights, striped breeches and white shirt with the obligatory lacy sleeves. As he strolled to the front door, he heard screams and then a slap. Then he observed Anna run down the path, and a gangly looking fellow in underclothes loping after her.
Gunter pushed open the door and waltzed into the kitchen. Grandmother continued to sweep the cracked black and white tiles. A cloud of dust chased her around the room as she swept. ‘Your soup is on the stove, Johann.’
Salome leaned on the balustrade of the stairs, her blonde locks pasted to her perspiring temples. She shook her head. ‘At the inn again, I presume.’
Gunter tugged at the hem of his shirt as Johann always did and said what Johann always said, ‘A man has got to do what a man has got to do.’
The door burst open and his brother stumbled in sporting a red welt on his cheek.
Salome launched into him like a fish-monger’s wife on an errant husband. ‘What have you been doing? How hard is it to find your brother? No supper for you. Off you go—bed—go on!’ She grabbed Grandmother’s broom and chased Johann in the form of Gunter into his sleeping quarters with Johann crying protests all the way.
Gunter hid his urge to smile behind his hand.
After helping himself to pumpkin soup and bread, Gunter yawned and mumbled his excuses for an early night and trotted upstairs to the bed he shared with his older now younger brother. Oh what a night it would be, sleeping on the less lumpy side for once, hogging the quilt and tormenting his brother. It was payback time.
The benefits of being Johann did not stop there. Next day, as he strolled in the village streets, men tipped their hats, women weaved out of their way through the crowd over to him and gifted him with fruit, home-made honey biscuits and apple cake. Milk maids, those same ones who reviled him the day before, this time, fluttered their lashes, blushed and shot him sideways glances. The tallest of the three sidled up to him as he stood talking to the tailor as they discussed his jacket for the May Day dance, and she pressed a note into his hand. Mein Gott, what a life!
Meanwhile his brother languished under the whip of Grandmother’s broom when she heard he’d been expelled from school—again. Ah, sweet revenge.
Then the icing on the kuchen—lunch with Anna. He arranged a picnic by the river. Blue skies, tulips blooming, green grass, the birds singing and the bees humming what a picture, what a day with is maiden in his arms. Anna talked non-stop the whole two hours. Gunter as his brother, held his tongue when she prattled on about how much she didn’t like Johann’s younger brother, especially after the prank he pulled the previous night.
‘He’s creepy,’ she said and shuddered, ‘he tried to grope me. Ugh!’
Her words stabbed at his insides. He realised as Gunter he never had a chance.
After Gunter walked Anna back to the school where she helped her father, he spent the afternoon brooding, drinking beer at the Bierhaus until he was almost sick. Then he tramped through the forest alone. The novelty of being Johann had worn off and revenge didn’t seem as sweet anymore.
At the dinner table Johann as Gunter raged. ‘I’m not Gunter,’ he yelled and stabbed the table with his fork. ‘What is wrong with you people?’
Their mother made one of her rare appearances down stairs but she seemed far away and unmoved by Johann’s tantrum.
Gunter decided he had to leave. His face tingled as he slipped out of the house and hastened to the clearing with the moss-covered log; the meeting place designated by Boris.
The ground glowed with warped and weird shapes under the strange luminous disk that hovered over the hill. No frogs croaked. No birds chirped. The air was still and cold. Even the cows refrained from braying.
Gunter sat on the log and waited. Time seemed to stop in the silence.
A beam shimmered from the disk. Gunter rubbed his eyes and blinked. Boris materialised in the centre of the beam. He appeared cockroach-shaped, then, as he strode toward Gunter, he morphed into human-form.
‘Well, now, Herr Fahrer, have you decided?’ Boris asked.
‘Yes, I have.’
‘More than anything else, I want to be handsome, brave, attractive to the ladies like my brother Johann. But, I want to be myself, not someone else.’
Boris raised one side of the hairy eye-brow that spanned his forehead. ‘Very well, then.’
‘And one more thing, you know, like a package?’
‘Could I, with this new face, have a new life, say like in the Great South Land?’
‘Hmm,’ Boris nodded, ‘that can be arranged, if you wish. But…’
Boris coughed and flapped his wings. ‘You’re not going to fit in with the people who live there at the moment. I’d say wait until I’ve finished with Great Britain…’ He paced the clearing with his hands tucked behind his back. ‘In the meantime, I could take you on an adventure up there, into the far reaches of the galaxy. Consider it an added bonus, seeing what no man on this planet has seen before. What do you say?’
‘Just sign here.’
Boris presented Gunter with the tablet, its screen chock full of tiny black lines. ‘Don’t worry,’ he said, ‘it’s all routine. Just basically says you take responsibility for your decisions. Just covering my back and yours. You know, some civilisations can be quite litigious.’ Boris handed a fine pointy stick to Gunter. ‘Use this pen to sign your name.’
Gunter wrote his name using the fine script he had learnt at school, and within seconds, he sat in a velvet-covered chair on the bridge of Boris’ ship. The walls shone with fresh white paint, the silver instruments gleamed, and the furnishings were scented with potpourri. He studied the sun as it shrank to just a speck of light amongst many specks of light.
Boris reclined on his seat, fully armoured, fully cockroach. ‘You should notice the changes in your form soon, my fellow.’
Gunter tingled all over and he glanced at his hand. His warm, fuzzy sensation turned to cold hard panic.
‘My hand!’ he cried wriggling his three elongated fingers. ‘I’m turning grey!’
‘So, there you go,’ Boris said as he adjusted his light shields. ‘Right on schedule.’
Gunter picked up a looking-glass placed at his side and his hand trembled. He glared bug-eyed at his reflection. ‘I’m turning into a praying-mantis.’
‘You didn’t specify you wanted to be human.’
‘But a stick-insect? I’m hideous!’
Boris folded his four hands over his barrel chest. ‘So? Most Greys are females. So you, as a male, will be most attractive to them.’
Gunter unstrapped himself and jumped from his seat. He ran to the viewing screen. With his long fingers he traced the planets and sun of his solar system. ‘I have changed my mind. I want to go home.’
Boris smacked his lips and readjusted his bottom’s position on his seat. ‘Too late. You’ve signed the contract. Didn’t you read the fine print? All choices are final and cannot be changed.’
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2018
Feature photo: A door, Romantic Road, Bavaria © L.M. Kling 2014
Read more of the consequences of Gunter’s choices, the adventure, the war against Boris. Discover the up close, personal and rather awkward relationship between Gunter and that nasty piece of cockroach-alien work Boris in my novels on Kindle, click on the links below…