Alpine view

Henrik Failmezger
Alpine view
“Is that an eagle?” The boy stood out on the terrace of the hotel, half of his upper body leaning over the railing while making telescope eyes through his binoculars.
“A bearded vulture” said Professor Nestor. The boy handed his binoculars to the professor, who waved his hand in the air, “I can spot that at a glance. Ornithology is a simple science, how many bird species are there. 10.000? Ridiculous. In comparison to 6 million insects.”
“Here we go again, when he gets started talking about insects, he won’t stop.” Ms. Nestor leaned over to the lady sitting next to her, Ms. Weide, who until now had been fascinated. She had never sat at the same table with a professor before. “That is why we travelled up here into the mountains. I can’t stand the ocean anymore. The sound at the surf reminds me of his drivel”.
Ms. Nestor took a sip of her coffee, which she had underneath the table spiked with half a flask of the cognac – in this respect she was a master conjurer – and gazed over the mountains, over the woods down below, then meadows, and on top rocks and snow.
“The only thing that helps against his chatter is Zen-meditation or as they say: in one ear and out the other.”
The boy swiped on his smartphone: “I think it’s a buzzard.”
Professor Nestor waved his hand in the air again, as if to drive away invisible flies. “As I said, a bearded vulture.” The boy made a selfie, on which the buzzard appeared as a tiny black dot. Whatever, thought the boy, inserting an arrow pointing at the dot and below the word “eagle”; that sounds ironic. The boy had fifteen followers on Instagram, five of which he had had to bribe with money. Still better than one of his classmates though who had bragged with his one hundred followers, until it was found out that ninety of them were from southern Mongolia. Since then that classmate was socially toast online as well as offline. And he stills owes money to the Russian supplier with contacts to southern Mongolia.
“Last year I deliberately took him to a silent convent.” Mrs. Nestor gave a little cough from the cognac. She loved it, cognac in the morning added colour to her day, like a movie from the 1970s. “And do you know what he did? He inspected the bugs in the pantry. He claimed it was a rare species that only appears on the east coast of America. Of course he wanted to write a scientific article about it, but the nuns were quick to wise up. The mantle of silence was spread over it, so to speak.”
“A silent convent?”
“Awful,” said Mrs. Nestor, “you should have seen how they looked when I was painting my nails. I have never seen that many different facial expressions for disdain. And it doesn’t do your skin any good to communicate with frowns all day long.”

Ornithology, a science for simple-minded people, thought Professor Nestor. And this boy with binoculars seems to be a simple kind of person as well, you can tell by his enlarged brow ridge. Never trust a person with an augmented supraorbital ridge with your life, had Professor Nestor’s old doctor-father always told him. Every time before entering a cab, he had measured the driver’s skull with his thumb and index finger. By now this kind of science might be a little bit old fashioned, thought Professor Nestor. His doctor-father had also stumbled upon a little story from the past. What a shame, thought professor Nestor, he had been such a great scientist, with his work about the elytra of weevils he had created a masterpiece.
He blinked and stared at the insect that had just landed on top of the white table cloth. A wasp, he thought, no, a hoverfly. How can it be, that I can’t tell the difference. He smiled, that was of course nonsense. He couldn’t differentiate between them, because that was a complete new species. And something like that at the breakfast table, he thought, before quickly placing the champagne glass over the insect. Pondering about whether he should name the new species after himself or his doctor father, he fell asleep.
I need to ask her for the address of the silent convent, thought Ms. Weide. Her own husband barely spoke, for the past three years he had been practically mute and only capable of using the language level of a three year old only when in need. In a silent convent we could finally have a completely normal vacation, she thought.
The waiter approached the railing of the terrace cautiously. That’s how they all die, he thought, while watching the boy bend his upper body over the railing, desperately trying to get his body in line with the mountain peaks on his phone’s display. The waiter came from a southern country, where the highest point was a church steeple. He could not understand what there was to like about mountains, since all they did was to hide what is behind them.
Mr. Weide waved his glass through the air, as if he wanted to catch water that miraculously poured from the air. Even though it was sunny. But the waiter understood, and poured him some more from the carafe. When he was clearing up the champagne glasses a wasp almost flew right into his face.
Mr. Nestor was snoring quietly.
That’s not an eagle, that’s a buzzard, somebody commented on the boy’s Instagram post.
Mrs. Nestor looked at her sleeping husband, and felt a sort of warmth. She recalled the earlier times when she found it fascinating that someone could talk about the labial palps of a dung beetle for two hours straight. How happy one could be, she thought to herself. She gazed over the slopes, where mountain farmers were haying. The simple life, she thought, would that not have been great, mountains, fresh air, pines, and insects only when caught in glue traps. She took the last sip of her cognac coffee and waved to the waiter for some champagne.

Translation by Shan Wardell
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