Questions and Answers

Daniel Klaus
 
Questions and Answers
I actually wrote only half of this story. The rest was written by a twelve-year-old boy whom I have been pestering with questions over the last few weeks. And the answers come from him. I just kept asking questions, on and on and on. This boy explained the world to me for over a month.
“You ask, I answer” it says on his site, and the web address is also something like that. I came across it by chance while surfing, just as you always discover the really important and exciting things by chance. A little bit about him you can find out on his site, but not much: he tells you his age (12 years), reveals what his favourite food is (mashed potatoes with a dash of cream and a minced meat sauce), writes that he lives in a big city (but not in which one) and finally announces that his room is not tidy (as proof there is a photo - and yes: on the picture it looks really messy). There is no photo of himself, although I would very much like to know what he looks like. I think he wears glasses, but this is only a guess.
Maybe he is paralyzed and in a wheelchair. Maybe that is why he spends so much time at the computer and answers my questions so quickly. Or maybe there are other reasons. Maybe he just has a lot of time because he never does homework.
Here are some of the questions I asked him: Which is nicer - a tomato or a rose? What's your favourite direction? What is 3x7 and why is the result my favourite number? Do you think there are people who address God on the first name when they pray to him? Should you walk barefoot in summer? With a lawn mower, can you also lawn or just mow? Why do I sometimes feel like a flamingo? How fast does my heart beat and for whom? Why can noses run and feet smell? When is now and where does the future begin? Where do you go when you just follow your feelings?
These are tricky questions, of course, especially for a twelve year old boy, but he gave me an answer to every question. Some questions even developed into real conversations, which then continued with interruptions over several days.
At some point I also asked him questions that directly concerned my everyday life. As soon as I got up, I sat down at the PC and entered: "Should I go down to the bakery and get fresh rolls or do I eat the three day old bread?
“Eat muesli”, was the answer, “It’s healthier.”
A few hours later I asked: “What should I eat for lunch?”
“Spinach greens and bug beans”, was the answer.
Why? That's what I wanted to know.
Because it rhymes.
So I bought those exact things at the supermarket plus a bottle of lemon soda. It was an interesting experience to eat a meal that rhymes. “Spinach greens and bug beans, Spinach greens and bug beans” went through my mind as I ate. “Spinach greens and bug beans, Spinach greens and bug beans”, and with it I drank two big glasses of sweet lemon soda and was happy.
A few days later I was not allowed to step with my feet over solid lines, which was not easy, since the sidewalks in my neighbourhood are not made of pavement slabs, but of cobblestones. So most of the time I was balancing on the curb, and if there was no other way, I tripped a little bit like a ballerina on tiptoes over the cobblestones. In the evening I was completely exhausted, but I was also highly satisfied. I had wanted to know from him what it felt like to be twelve.

And now it has been quiet for a week. I get no more answers, not the slightest sign of life. What about him? This story cannot just end like this, so abruptly. Is he away or on holiday? But there is no holiday in any state. Or did his parents ban him from using computers because he has not done his homework for weeks?
I have already taken a close look at the photo with his room a few times now, hoping to find a clue. But no matter how hard I try, I can't see anything special on it. It just seems to be an untidy room.
But I do not want to accept it. I'll have to take a more professional approach, like a detective, I think. I download the image, open it in Photoshop and take a virtual tour. I start at the top left and work my way down in winding bends. And indeed, in the lower part of the picture I discover a white slip of paper on the floor that I had previously overlooked. I zoom in. There is something written on it. I enlarge the detail until I can read it.
I read it once, twice. And again. I did not expect this.
The note says, “You'd better get back up on your own feet now.”

Translation by Shan Wardell
 
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