I thought about what the envelope might hold, and the mood it might give rise to. The return name and address read Frederick Manuel of Landshut. The writing was thick and looped and all too decorative for my liking. The stamp (first class postage) celebrated a seventeenth century Viennese wheelwright, of whom I’d also never heard. He had a thick gut and an eye patch. I pulled up a chair and rolled one cigarette after the other until I had enough for the day and started smoking my way forward. Manuel, I thought, Frederick Manuel of Landshut. What news out of Landshut could possibly concern me? My mind wandered—I thought of Landshut’s proximity to München, and a Sauerbraten I had eaten there when I was still an enlisted man. I remembered the lisping etymology professor at the next table, and the waiter with the red sideburns. Who was this Frederick Manuel? What could he want? Did he represent others, perhaps? If so, who? I feared, I admit, the unleashing of the unknown. I made fresh coffee and stoked the fire. Later, when the postman passed by at the end of his shift, I gave him the letter and advised him to return it. Nothing in Landshut was of any concern to me. The postman tucked the letter inside his coat and continued on his way. There was not much left of the day, not enough to begin anything worthwhile, so I smoked the last cigarette and watched the fire die.
Kevin O'Cuinn lives and loves in Frankfurt am Main.