The Reading

This post is by our guest author Susanne Bröer. Susanne lives in Berlin, is a graduate in business management, has been passionately sewing quilts for 30 years and writes short stories, so-called five-liners.

Thursday, 8 pm! There aren’t many people sitting in the auditorium, maybe a dozen – mostly of the older generation, literature lovers, so to speak. Some are armed with writing material to take notes, others wait in curiosity for the literary spectacle that is about to follow. A woman enters the stage, dressed in black, accompanied by an almost ash-blond small boy, presumably her son. A large book with a red cloth cover lies open on the table in front of her.

She takes a seat, not without first taking off her black blazer. Now she sits there in a top of flowing black fabric, its thin straps densely studded with rhinestones; on her lap her small boy with a dreamy look in his eyes. She begins to speak. One hand gesticulates to reinforce her words, the other holds the blond boy tightly. The child is quiet, yet I find it difficult to concentrate on the content-heavy words of the reading. I try to avert my gaze and let my gaze drift to the floor. On the floor are the feet of the woman dressed in black, wedged into exceedingly pointed black court shoes with high heels completely studded with glittering stones.

What did she just read out?

I’m distracted, can’t concentrate… She continues to speak elatedly. The boy on her lap is gradually getting restless. I catch less and less of what she is saying, but obviously she doesn’t want to be ruffled, because she has a firm grip on the boy. Her hands are unadorned. No ring, no bracelet, no watch adorns these hands. They hold the child, they turn the pages of the book as if they did not belong in this place.

What did she say?

The blond boy is increasingly disgruntled. What is this?? She lays him flat, sweeps up her glittery top and stuffs a large breast into the child’s mouth. The little one is quiet, she continues reading with her upper body half exposed and I ponder why a boy who can already walk needs to be breastfed during a reading. I am confused.

What was she talking about just now?

She briefly interrupts her discourse and asks the small blond boy‘s father to take the child from her. What? His father is here? Couldn’t he have taken care of the little boy right from the beginning of the reading? An older man gets up and walks to the front. You can tell by looking at the man that only he can be the father. The resemblance is undeniable. Father and son leave the place of intellectual diversion, for the boy is now screaming at the top of his lungs. Thank God, I think. But the moments of quiet and concentration are short-lived and abruptly interrupted as father and son return and the little blond boy is anxious to spend the rest of the evening with his mother.

Why did she laugh just now?

The boy, who can already walk very well, now runs around a bit and tests the stability of the standard lamp next to the reading table. But the woman dressed in black has everything under control. Still reading individual passages of text, she is always in command of the situation. Leafing through the book with one hand, preventing the lamp from toppling with the other. My thoughts are full of everything but the content of the reading; after all, I am mesmerised by the prospect of the lamp falling over at any moment.

What did she just explain?

The child pushes back onto her lap; he is becoming increasingly tired and restless. His father approaches. With withdrawn, shy gestures he attempts to take the boy away from his mother. The small, blond boy is reluctant to leave his mother and so he only receives a few caresses from the father, who then immediately retreats to his row. The child becomes fretful. The woman dressed in black continues with her exposition. Once again the child is placed in the horizontal lap position. There is obviously some difficulty in releasing her breast from underneath. Without any scruples, she takes the breast out of her cleavage and positions it on her rhinestone-studded top, not without applying another pump-squeeze grip with her hand so that the milk apparently flows better. I feel harassed. How much further does she want to go?

What did she just lecture about?

I find it hard to follow. These constant distractions don’t allow me to really immerse myself in the topic. The little blond boy has finished drinking now, but he is fidgeting and whining. I think he just wants to go to bed now. An audience member comments gruffly that she should finally get the boy to calm down, after all, he paid for the reading. The father immediately jumps up and timidly takes the child from the woman dressed in black. The little blond boy Immediately bursts out screaming again. Indignant, some listeners leave the reading. After silence has finally returned, I can only follow the final remarks with difficulty, for my head is full of question marks. What a pity, the big book with the beautiful red cloth cover looked so promising.

Original text: Susanne Bröer
English translation: BCO


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