Self's punishment

Self's punishment by Bernhard Schlink

Book: Self's punishment by Bernhard Schlink Read Free Book Online
Authors: Bernhard Schlink
Tags: Mystery
the other person builds into his life? But there wasn’t any truth in it. I felt a surge of fury.
    I didn’t want dessert any more. And preferred to have my coffee in the Café Gmeiner. And Korten had a meeting at two.
    At eight I drove to Frankfurt and flew to Athens.

Part Two

1
    Luckily Turbo likes caviar
    In August I was back in Mannheim.
    I always enjoy going on vacation and the weeks in the Aegean were spent in a glow of brilliant blue. But now that I’m older I enjoy coming home more, as well. After Klara’s death I redecorated the apartment. During our marriage I hadn’t managed to assert myself against her taste and so, at fifty-six, I caught up on the pleasures of decorating that other people delight in when they’re young. I do like my two chunky leather sofas that cost a fortune and also hold their own with the tomcat, the old apothecary shelves where I keep my books and records, and the bunk-bed in my study I had built into the niche. Coming home I also always look forward to Turbo, whom I know is looked after well by the next-door neighbour but who does, in his quiet manner, suffer in my absence.
    I’d put down my suitcases and opened the door when, with Turbo clinging to my trouser leg, I beheld a colossal gift hamper that had been placed on the floor of the hallway.
    The door to the next-door apartment opened and Frau Weiland greeted me. ‘How nice that you’re back, Herr Self. My, you’re tanned. Your cat has missed you very much, haven’t you, puss wuss wuss wuss? Have you seen the hamper yet? It came three weeks ago with a chauffeur from the RCW. Shame about the beautiful flowers. I did consider putting them in a vase, but they’d be dead now anyway. The mail is on your desk as always.’
    I thanked her and sought refuge behind the apartment door from her torrent of words.
    From
pâté de foie gras
to Malossol caviar it contained every delicacy I like and dislike. Luckily Turbo likes caviar. The attached card, with an artistic rendition of the firm logo, was signed by Firner. The RCW thanked me for my invaluable service. They’d paid, too.
    In the mail were account statements, postcards from Eberhard and Willy, and the inevitable bills. I’d forgotten to cancel my subscription to the
Mannheimer Morgen
; Frau Wieland had stacked the papers neatly on the kitchen table. I leafed through them before putting them in the trash, and sampled the musty taste of old political excitement.
    I unpacked and threw a load in the washing machine. Then I did my shopping, had the baker’s wife, the head butcher, and the people in the grocer’s shop comment admiringly on my rested appearance, and I enquired after news as though all sorts must have happened in my absence.
    It was the summer holidays. The shops and the streets were emptier, my driver’s eyes picked out parking spaces in the most unlikely of places, and a stillness infused the town. I’d returned from my break with that lightness of spirit that allows you to experience familiar surroundings as new and different. It all gave me a floating sensation that I wanted to savour. I put off my trip to the office until the afternoon. Fearfully, I made my way to the Kleinen Rosengarten: would it have shut down for the holiday? But from a distance I could see Giovanni standing in the garden gate, napkin over his arm.
    ‘You come-a back from the Greek? Greek not good. Come on-a, I make you the gorgonzola spaghetti.’
    ‘
Si
, old Roman, great.’ We played our German-converses-with-guest-worker game.
    Giovanni brought me the Frascati and told me about a new film. ‘That would be a role for you, a killer who could just as easily be a private detective.’
    After the spaghetti gorgonzola, coffee, and sambuca, after an hour with the Süddeutsche by the Wasserturm, after an ice-cream and another coffee at Gmeiner I gave myself up to the office. It wasn’t as bad as all that. My answering machine had announced my absence until today and not recorded any

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