33 Functioning Machines (excerpt)

Translated by Donna Stonecipher


There’s Good and Bad left over from Alexa’s daily life. Nearly every day, there’s a piece of Good for the glass case. But the Less Good, that is to say the Bad, that stays too and collects in corners; and it must be eaten; how else is it supposed to disappear? It must be eaten by Alexa, for there’s no one else around; eaten up and then the corners licked out. This Bad is a dry lump, it fills her mouth and tastes like communion wafers. But licking the corners out isn’t too disgusting. For they’re Alexa’s corners and they’re clean and fresh and sweet—all except for the Bad, which must be eaten up.


Ulf is always stoppering the openings in his body. For then it is clear to everything–or everyone, he can’t completely decide on that–inside him, that it must stay inside him. An instruction that can also be understood from within. Impossible to misunderstand, even when parts of him might secretly like to desert him. Besides, an opening is there so that something can get through. If nothing should get through, then one should close them. Like the mouth and the eyes; the ears one can wonderfully, yes, one should stopper with one’s fingers; and the nose.
What remains most disturbing, however, is the belly button. It looks closed, but it isn’t. It’s a nonsensical opening, out of which one day life itself, almost unnoticed, could drip. But luckily his thumb fits this opening exactly.


Sanne’s most important, versatile substance is made up of thousands of little creatures, all formed exactly alike, like bonbons. If one put one of these bonbons in a nutrient solution, a new little Sanne could grow out of it, and therefore Sanne is waiting for science. For science will provide this nutrient solution and make Sanne immortal. The idea of many Sannes, existing side by side, doesn’t frighten Sanne. Just as her bonbons get along, so will the many Sannes, who could together produce still more Sanne, and try out all the things that stand open to one Sanne.


The Foreign Child
The foreign child is not from here; it is being held where it doesn’t belong. For those who decide are blind. They don’t even see that the child is foreign. One time they claim that the child looks like the mother, one time like the aunt, one time like the father, which is all totally stupid. Especially the comparison with the wrinkled father, out of whose nostrils hairs grow–and even out of his ears; anyone who can see, can see that this comparison is absurd. But only seldom does the foreign child dare to think about the ear-hairs anyway.
The foreign child belongs to somebody completely different; somebody who can see as well as the foreign child itself; somebody who is looking for the child and with whom the child would know that it belongs to him and him only, and hadn’t simply fallen down somewhere.


Leo has a spring in himself which rustles and gurgles all the time. It glitters, sparkles, and spits. That’s what’s great about it: it spits things out, that it all alone, without his having anything to do with it, invents: good ideas, charming ways of smiling, now and then a back handspring on the street out of pure over-enthusiasm.
Without it, Leo would really have a problem, for how could anyone love him without this spring? He knows that he owes to it all the affection he gets. That people value him for his well-chosen, fitting gestures and words, that he himself likes himself because of this feeling, that this, what he is in the middle of, fits.