Little Winnetou

Beatrix Erhard
Little Winnetou
One step after another; one step after another. Lenny stares down at his feet clad in light deerskin moccasins embroidered by Small Sun with red, light blue and lavender threads of wool. Dappled sunshine covers the ground, which let Lenny’s white deerskin trousers seem even brighter. He feels his hand being pressed and looks up to Small Sun. That is what his father – and he as well – calls his mother. With a smile he says her pet name when he and Lenny come back late to the apartment because they were too long in the teepee up in the attic. Small Sun can never be mad at them for long. My two Indians, she says followed by a smile and a hug for Intschu tschuna, which means “Large Sun” in the Mescalero Apache language.
A week ago today, Lenny was sitting with Intschu – that is what he called him – in the teepee and they were making plans for the weekend. They wanted to drive to a wolf enclosure where they could observe a real wolf pack. Then Intschu got on his bike as he did on the first Friday of every month to meet his pals down at a pub. Lenny had to go to bed. And when he woke up the next morning, everything was different.
Now they are coming out of the church. Little Sun stares straight ahead into emptiness. She holds Lenny’s little hand so tightly that it hurts. But he does not protest. Then they all proceed over to the graveyard, which is enormous. In the farthest corner, directly on the edge of the neighbouring woods, they stop beside a small hole in the ground surrounded by pine boughs. Lenny and his mother stand on one side. Opposite them a dark wall forms of people side by side. Lenny feels their eyes on himself. A man in a grey suit lowers a container into the small hole. Supposedly it contains Intschu now. That is suddenly too much. I have to get away, Lenny thinks, get away from here. He tears himself away from Little Sun, squeezes himself through the dark wall and runs away.
Three days later. Lenny opens the door and storms into the classroom. The teacher turns around startled.
“Sorry, Ms. Peine.” He is beaming up at his teacher. She's actually quite all right.
The other children stare at him, some giggle and whisper. Ms. Peine tries to recover her composure and clears her throat.
“Please be quiet, children,” she cries. Then she turns to Lenny, “Lenard, you’re back in school earlier than expected”. She looks around a little uncertain. “Well then, welcome back.” Lenny nods, turns around and goes to his place in the third row. He sits between Moritz and Alya. Moritz grins shyly at him, Alya looks serious. As usual. Only this time she looks at him with a look of disbelief.
“What kind of suit is that?” she whispers, the words pronounced, like always, somewhat choppily to Lenny’s ears. “This is not a suit, I am Little Winnetou,” Lenny whispers back. Alya wants to say something else, then silences and bends over the book with the writing exercises again. She is an enthusiastic student and learns very quickly. The class is quiet again, only the scraping noise of the pens can be heard.
“Ms. Peine, is it true that Lenny's father was killed by a car?” says the bright voice of Moritz. “Is he allowed to come to school dressed as an Indian and we're not?”
After Moritz blurts out his two questions, complete silence reigns. Everyone looks expectantly at Ms. Peine – all except Lenny, who stares out of the window, blushing brightly – but Ms. Peine has lost her speech. Alya stands up, reaches for Lenny's hand and pulls him up.
“We're sick, we need to get some fresh air, Ms. Peine, please.” Without waiting for an answer, she pulls him behind her, out the door, down to the empty schoolyard. Lenny just lets everything happen.
Alya puts her right hand where her heart is. “Follow me,” she tells him. Lenny does what he is told and looks at her expectantly. With her long black hair she could be Nscho-tschi, Winnetou's sister. Lenny is about to tell her, but Alya shakes her head energetically. “Don't speak, feel.” Lenny is lost.
“What do you mean?” he asks. Alya looks him in the eye.
“My Baba is dead too. In the war in Syria. I know because I feel it. Here,” she pats her heart. “Mama did not want to believe it, for two years. Since we are here. But I know better.” Tears fill Alya's eyes. “It hurts a lot. Will always hurt very much.”
Lenny becomes impatient. “What does my father have to do with your father?” he screams. "What if he is not dead at all? Maybe he will come home again and everything will be like before? Yes, he will certainly do that!”
Alya looks at him unmoved. “Ms. Peine says you were at the funeral. Then it is certain. I was not at any funeral. And I still know.”
Lenny does not know how to answer that.
“You'll know it. And feel it. And know. And then feel again. Always like this,” Alya now speaks more calmly and brushes tears from her cheeks with her hands. “The others do not understand what it is like when the Baba is dead. But you and I, we know.” Alya plucks the fringes of Lenny's Indian outfit. “Come, Little Winnetou. We have to get back to class. I don't want to miss anything.”
Later in the day. Lenny rolls onto his back, puts his right hand on his heart and looks up into the top of the tipi. For the first time since Intschu has left, he feels safe here again. And yet he becomes sadder and sadder.
“Lenny, where are you? Supper will be ready soon.” Small Sun's head slides into Lenny's field of vision; the tepee's walls shake dangerously.
She freezes. “You're crying! Finally you are crying!”
Lenny swallows, tries to speak, then whispers.
“Papa's dead.”

Translation by Shan Wardell
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