Stanko Prefers Stacking Love

Anna Maltschnig
Stanko Prefers Stacking Love
Stanko did not have to make himself bigger than he was. What good would that do when he spent day in, day out sitting around, unnoticed by the outside world behind opaque plastic panels. Neon-lit warehouses were his home, palettes and parcels were his addresses, the forklift his only companion.

Only rarely did anyone lose their way into the "foxhole", as some playfully called the storage area of the furniture company where Stanko worked. Only during inventory would a few employees from the development team stumble down the basement steps and, in spite of their cell phone flashlights, very quickly become very helpless. They got lost in the labyrinth of warehouse corridors, from which only Stanko knew the way out. So it was advisable to be nice to Stanko, if you did not want to spend any more time than necessary in that maze of corridors.

At these times, when the employees from the development team faced him with horror, Stanko really blossomed. Inventory, for Stanko, was like an Open Door Day. He willingly provided information on the location and number of bunkered pallets. At last, he could show what he and his forklift were capable of; once a year he was able to make his hidden activity visible to the outside world.

For the rest of the year it was quite quiet around Stanko. Except for the squeaky tire of the forklift when pushing and pulling goods back and forth, there was rarely a sound to be heard. It happened every now and then that he caught himself beginning to speak to the packages:
“What are you like? Where do you belong?” Of course he didn't get any answers. Sometimes mice also got lost here and nibbled joyfully on one of the packages, but quickly ran off again when they realized there was nothing edible around. Actually, Stanko should have reported the mice as quickly as possible, but in his hermit-like existence, he rather enjoyed a little rodent company.

Stanko undoubtedly had a lot of time to think here. Sometimes too much. In this inhospitable as well as unreal environment, the boundary between reality and imagination could seem to blur at times. Many things seemed to be possible. Many things seemed impossible. For example, for a corpse to disappear here unnoticed counted as being both a possible thing as well as a not-at-all-so-absurd thing. In contrast, for once to impress the world of ladies with his capable forklift prowess seemed to be an impossibility.

Only yesterday thanks to his set of wheels he moved 80 pallets from “A” to “B”. That was a total of
approximately 1000 packages per day. But whether one can impress the ladies today with that seems questionable. Therefore colleagues had to be called in during the lunch break; they could judge his performance much better anyway. Full of enthusiasm, Stanko told of his new batch record in the common room. But the employees did not seem to be visibly very impressed. Years ago, they had hung up their capability for enthusiasm in the locker room and nibbled unengaged on their snacks.

So Stanko, back in his basement hole, had to be happy on his own. What else could he do. In moments like this Stanko felt lonely. When he got up early in the morning for work, it was dark, and when he was finished in the evening, it was also dark. His love life also looked similarly dark. A sad state everywhere one looked.

One morning, he heard for the first time in a long while someone again descending the cellar steps, but the footsteps did not seem familiar to him. When day in and day out there is not too much to see, other sensory perceptions become sharpened; thus was the case for Stanko, too. He could recognize every employee by the individual sound they made when stepping down the stairs. With this skill he could actually get onto the “Bet that!” television show, he thought to himself.

So, if the steps didn't belong to any of the colleagues, who did they belong to then? Stanko listened very carefully this time. Though initially brisk and determined, the footsteps became slower on the way down, finally stopping as soon as they landed on the concrete floor of the basement. Then a woman's voice lit up the room:
“Mr. Stanko, where are you?” The echo of Ms. Steffi’s voice not only bounced off of the cold walls, it also sank right into the middle of Stanko’s chest. Somewhat unsettled and yet at the same time curious, he stepped out of his hiding place and shook Ms. Steffi’s hand embarrassed.

Mrs. Steffi was surprisingly interested and did not look down at him at all; even if that had been the proper thing to do due to their physical positions as well as their positions in the company. Mrs. Steffi wanted to know how many pallets Stanko was moving with his forklift every day. What kind of drive did the forklift have and what was the maximum lifting height it had. Stanko was puzzled. No woman had ever dug this deep. Mrs. Steffi had been directed here in order to optimize the warehouse management together with Mr. Stanko. But that was not enough for Stanko. He wanted to optimize himself. For Ms. Steffi. This time he wanted to leap over his own shadow, to be a ray of light against “cabin fever”: that is what he wanted to be.

Stanko did not promise too much. He was bursting with information. He wanted to prove that he not only knew something about his subject, but that he was also eloquent and socially competent. The fictitious conversations with his parcels helped him here. But he did not have to tell all that to Ms. Steffi's right off the bat. Rather, he wanted to put something on her finger, her ring finger, actually; Stanko had really fallen hard for her.

When Stanko dreamed of The Great Love, he dreamed of driving his fiancé with the forklift slalom through the warehouses, always on the move to draw on the floor the infinity sign over and over again. He would be lifting Ms. Steffi up and down. And at the maximum lifting height he would set her on one of the pallets; in a cardboard box would be the ring hidden. He would bring Ms. Steffi back down with the forklift only after she had said “yes”; otherwise he would let her stew up there for a while. This variation was of course somewhat less romantic.

When Mrs. Steffi had finished taking her notes, she led Stanko back to the basement floor of facts. She thanked him for his information. First, she had to process all that she had written; it could take a while. The paper chaos on her office desk would take on unimaginable proportions; plans that piled up into infinity. Stanko understood completely. They were both stackers in their own way; her by hand, him by machine; he, too, had to first process what had just happened. As long as Ms. Steffi, as long as she would only come back...

Translation by Shan Wardell
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