Part 51: A School Year Full Of Experiences

I made good progress in class, but sometimes I had trouble with math. If I didn’t understand something, I ran to the dormitory with my classmates and did my homework there. In the community, I was able to close the gaps in my knowledge.

Who should I have asked at home if I didn’t understand how to solve equations with two unknowns or how to interpolate logarithms? The school year flew by. The snow on the blossoms in the large cherry orchard had long since been blown away by the mild spring wind. Easter and Whitsun interrupted the daily monotony.

The young birds of the yellowhammer, which had returned from the south, had long since fledged. The winter barley turned yellow and announced summer. The school year was coming to an end. My report card was incredibly good. It had been worth the effort, and I had proved it to the girls. Transferred to Class 9a, I now belonged to the leading group of students.

The summer vacations gave me a break from learning but were filled with plenty of work. Father was not there, and I had to take care of the firewood for the winter and the feed for the animals alone. But there was also time again for visits to the ‘old forester.’ In the evening I met with Hans in our hut.

We never had boredom. On weekends we went to the dance in the tavern. Until 22.00 o’clock we were allowed officially on the hall. Then the band blew the bugle. Then it was time to secretly disappear to the gallery to watch the hustle and bustle in the hall in the usual way.

On my way home late one such evening, I had a harmless but, for me, terrifying experience. When I left the light circle of the tavern, I could not see my hand in front of my eyes. The whole village was in deep darkness. There were no streetlights, and those who were not at the dance hall were in bed, asleep.

At first, I thought my eyes had to get used to the darkness. But it remained pitch black night and dead silence. Slowly feeling with my feet, I groped my way home. When I reached the courtyard through the gate, I had the feeling of being followed. Behind me softly shuffling footsteps.

I stopped and listened into the darkness. Nothing, everything was dead silent. At the next step, I clearly heard the pursuer behind me. Again, I stopped. The pursuer seemed to see me, for he also paused. The stranger seemed to see all my movements with X-ray eyes. I did not dare to turn around.

With quick steps I reached the front door. Again, I heard the quick shuffling steps of the invisible man behind me, and I felt a chill. Who was he? What did he want? I clearly heard the quiet footsteps of the pursuer over the steps to the landing. I paused, and it was as if I could feel the warm breath of the stranger on the back of my neck.

Then I mustered all my courage and jumped up the last steps. The stranger followed just as hastily. I yanked open the parlor door. A lightning-quick grasp of the switch, and the light flared up. I sprang around, ready to defend myself. No one was behind me.

The fear fell away from me. Relieved, I entered the room. There he was again, the mysterious invisible pursuer: A long straw with a thick ear of corn had caught in the heel of my shoe and pursued me from the yard to the living room. I was ashamed. A sensory illusion and the deep darkness had scared me to death. Nobody found out about it, and I didn’t tell my friend Hans either.

The vacations were coming to an end, and an insanely great piece of luck happened to me. Aunt Else came back from visiting her son in town and brought me a bicycle. My cousin Heinz had given me his bike. It wasn’t new, but it was in tip-top shape. I was overjoyed. It was a huge relief and saved a good hour and a half every day in good weather. 𝓣𝓸 𝓑𝓮 𝓒𝓸𝓷𝓽𝓲𝓷𝓾𝓮𝓭

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