Rhododendron and the No Man’s Land

Helmut Glatz
09.04.2018
 
Rhododendron and the No Man’s Land
“There are borders everywhere,” Rhododendron said. “Between countries there are borders, between provinces there are borders, between the counties, the villages, the properties…”
“Yes, so?” asked Gregory.
“Just let me finish!” said Rhododendron. “Even between humans there are borders. Between you and me there is a border as well.”
“Yes, so?” asked Gregory.
“Just let me finish!” said Rhododendron. “And between all of these borders there’s a No Man’s Land.”
“Aha!” said Gregory.
“At times broader, sometimes narrower,” Rhododendron continued. “Sometimes several meters, sometimes only a few centimetres. Or so narrow that not even a single sheet of paper could fit in between the one and the other border. Always long, however. Infinitely long, along the entire border.”
“And why are you telling me this?” Gregory asked.
“Just let me finish! It is a major error to suppose that these No Man’s Lands are uninhabited, of course. They are inhabited. By a variety of people, the so-called No Man’s Land residents. No Man’s Men, No Man’s Women, No Man’s Children. In a bigger No Man’s Land they are quite thick, in the narrower No-man’s-lands they are often as thin as a line. Or even less.”
“Yes, so?” asked Gregory.
“And I am the king of such a No Man’s Land.” Rhododendron swelled up his chest which actually flaunted several medals. Did he not have a crown on his head?
A golden crown, jewelled with precious stones. Small, but invisible.
“You are a king?” Gregory tilted his head and with his round eyes looked at him in disbelief. “And just where is this No Man’s Land, whose king you claim to be?”
“Here, straight ahead of us,” said His Majesty Rhododendron the Great. “It’s so narrow that you can’t see it. Very narrow, though in return it’s especially long. The largest part stretches up into the air. It almost doesn’t touch the ground, you must know.”
“And I should believe you on all that?” Gregory asked.
“You can believe it or not,” Rhododendron reckoned. “But if you wish, let’s make a trip into my No Man’s Realm.”
Then they made themselves quite flat. Like flatworms. And then they headed off. Indeed it was a very flat No Man’s Land. Whenever they encountered somebody, a No Man’s Man or a No Man’s Woman, they had to thin themselves completely to get around each other. But every time, the No Man’s People raised their hats and greeted reverently.
And the No Man’s Women made a curtsy. “Long live His Majesty Rhododendron the Great!” they shouted and tossed flowers, obviously only pressed ones.
Afterwards they were asked to a press conference. “We are the most effective press of the world,” the editor remarked. “We press every interview with lightning speed into a fraction of a millimetre. Instant-conversations so to speak. On demand with conversation amplifiers as well.”
Further down their road they saw pressed flowers, heard compressed voices, bought a flat brawn at the butcher’s, and at the baker’s extremely thin oblates.
In the tall and slender castle, that somewhat resembled a paper cut out silhouette, King Rhododendron held a Cabinet meeting. He was a federal, not an absolute monarch, one should know. The point was, whether the No Man’s Land should be rolled up at night, for reasons of safety. One can swaddle it up on a sufficiently long cable drum, the Minister of No Man’s Children proposed. (Swaddling was his area of expertise.) The proposal was recessed in order to await the findings of an investigation of a yet-to-be-established Swaddling Committee.
For the way back the two took a shadow-cab. It went as quick as lightening. “Shadows can move much faster than real objects,” Rhododendron explained. Oh, how good it felt, when they crossed the border and could once again expand and elongate and stretch themselves! Gregory fluttered his wings and shook his feathering and clacked with his beak, while Rhododendron gave his flat voice a roundness of body.

“Well done,” Gregory said. “Never had I dreamed that there exist such flat No Man’s Lands.”
“That’s still diddly squat!” explained Rhododendron, whose crown with precious stones had disappeared again. “Where two No Man’s Lands collide, a No Man’s-No Man’s Land resides, that is yet flatter. Thinner than a razor blade edge. And where a No Man’s-No Man’s Land collides even with a No Man’s-No Man’s Land, a No Man’s-No Man’s-No Man’s-No Man’s Land resides. So thin, that it de facto doesn’t even exist anymore.”
“Oh, I don’t believe that!” yelled Gregory. “You’re cheating!”
“Whether you believe it or not,” said Rhododendron, “I once was in such a No Man’s Land to the fourth power. On an official visit. (One expresses the dimension of the No Man’s Lands in powers, you must know.) That is, not I was there – I couldn’t have made myself that thin, even if I had starved myself for a hundred years - but instead I send my shadow there. And my thoughts I had to slim down as well, so that they were almost transparent.”
“You sent your shadow there?”
“I rest my case! He reported to me that thereabouts only shadows exist, and our shadows at that. My shadow, your shadow, his shadow, her shadow, our shadows, your shadows. All shadows of this Earth.”
“But how is that possible? My shadow is with me after all!” Gregory exclaimed and wobbled some steps back and forth, observing his shadow. “My shadow hangs on me. And when I walk, it is walking with me. It follows my every move and word so to speak.”
“And where is it when the sun is away? Or at night?”
That silenced Gregory the Small.

Translation: Shannon Wardell

















 
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