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The Prose of Alfred Lichtenstein   By: (1889-1914)

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The Prose of Alfred Lichtenstein Alfred Lichtenstein

The Winner

Max Mechenmal was an independent manager of a newspaper kiosk. He ate and drank well; he had relations with many women, but he was careful. Because his salary was insufficient, he occasionally permitted himself to take money from Ilka Leipke. Ilka Leipke was an unusually small, but well developed, elegant whore, who attracted many men and women with her bizarre nature and apparently silly ideas, as well as with her actually tasteful clothing. Miss Leipke loved little Max Mechenmal. She called him her sweet dwarf. Max Mechenmal was angry all his life that he was small.

Max Mechenmal came from an unfortunately impoverished family. He had enjoyed an excellent education in an institution for retarded children until he was forcibly dismissed at a very early age. The reasons for his dismissal were not available; it seemed to have more to do with the poverty of Mechenmal's relatives than with the fact that he was clearly unbearable. For a while he wandered about homeless, since his family no longer took any interest in him. He supported himself mostly by petty larceny. Once the police picked him up and he was brought to a home for neglected children. In the home he was trained as a locksmith. He knew how to ingratiate himself with his superiors by showing unusual dexterity and willingness. He secretly tormented his younger, weaker comrades, or he set the stronger ones against each other. He had no friends; when he had completed his training and was released, the others were happy.

The unusual skill that Max Mechenmal, because of his technical gifts, had developed in making keys and opening difficult locks he would very gladly have used for breaking and entering, and burglary; he would have liked to have become an infamous burglar. The proceeds from the burglaries would have permitted him to dress elegantly, to show off with the finest women. The sickening, massive fear of being caught prevented him. He was content to seduce the daughters and servants of the masters for whom he worked, and to commit occasional burglaries that involved little risk. His ambition remained unsatisfied.

By chance the direction of Mechenmal's life was changed. At the end of a day's work, tired and in a bad mood, he was walking the streets. Lights were scarcely visible, although it was very dark. In an elegant ground floor room, an elderly lady was arranging the fold of her body.

In front of a basement, dirty little girls were singing the song of the Lorelei. The windows were etched into the pale, sleeping houses like black panes with bright crosses. The conglomeration of houses resembled large, venturesome ships, which lay at anchor or were gliding to a distant, beckoning sea. The little locksmith thought about the last six women he had loved. His attention was attracted by the hideously ringed eyes of a horribly hunch backed gentleman who smilingly, with marked pleasure, although somewhat fearfully, was looking at him. The locksmith thought: hm for fun, he remained stopped; with his clear eyes, which shone like polished black buttons on his face, he slyly watched the even smaller gentleman. Embarassed, he took his hat off his head and spoke, stuttering, said that his name was Kuno Kohn, and excused himself little else could be made out. The hunchback hid part of his face behind thin fingers, coughed, and quickly moved on. The locksmith thought: hm, and went on his way.

Then there was a tug on his arm. He turned his face: the hunchback again stood next to him, still somewhat breathless from moving quickly. Kuno Kohn was very red, but he could, without stuttering, say: Excuse me for causing you more trouble. I always know afterwards what I want to say." This he spoke extremely loudly, to overcome his embarassment. Then he said: "Perhaps you have the time... Perhaps I may invite you to look for a restaurant with me... Continue reading book >>

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