Changes – Englische Kurzgeschichte


Is the evolution of our modern world as gainful and promising as we think? 

Don’t we neglect and begin to destroy the essentials of  
a fulfilling and meaningful life?

February 12th, 7 pm 

Today is a big day. Gertrude is sitting in her rocking chair in front of the warm oven watching the flames. She knew it would come. She knew that one day everything would pay off. All the nasty comments and laughter, all the annoying questions.  Full of pride she glances at the shelves and chests filled with her most precious possessions. She gets up, takes one of her treasures off the shelf, and opens the case. A few seconds later, singing along to James Brown’s “I feel good”, she dances towards the kitchen reminding of Garfield himself. There she decides to celebrate this special day with a bottle of wine and some cookies. Back in her rocking chair it only takes a few sips of her red wine and a bite of her chocolate chip cookie, when warmed by the fireplace and the feeling of triumph she slowly falls asleep. Only a few minutes later, the doorbell rings. 


The alarm becomes louder and louder. “Who had the stupid idea to light candles, Mom?” cries Tom in a raised voice. “Me, it was my idea. Do you want to spend the whole evening in an almost entirely dark house, or what?” his Mom Debby answers from next door. “Okay, okay. You’re right. But you could have thought of the smoke alarm. Where did you even get these age-old candles?” Tom suspiciously glances at the skinny, golden candles at the table. Through the open door his mom Debby peeks into the room. “Guess where we got them. That strange old lady from down the street gave them to us for Christmas last year.” Tom rolls his eyes. “Ah, of course. She’s such a weirdo.” The alarm keeps beeping on an even higher pitch. Leaning on the door frame his mom admits in a louder voice: “Yeah, she is. But she’s nice actually. I feel kind of bad for her that no one wants to have anything to do with her.” Tom is of another opinion. “It’s her own fault, to be honest” he reveals. Debby shrugs her shoulders. “Maybe yes, but she always has a smile for everyone and Christmas presents for the whole neighbourhood. I’m curious where she gets the candles from, after all. Don’t think they produce them anymore. Max, what exactly are you doing up there? Can you finally turn off the alarm? My ears…” The husband, standing on the ladder to switch off the alarm on the ceiling, helplessly replies: “I’m trying, sweetie, but it doesn’t work.” Debby climbs up the other side of the ladder, switches off the alarm by one simple touch and gives her husband an amused look. “There you go, my dear. Well then. No more candles, I guess. It’s been ages since the last power cut, right? I’m not used to situations like this anymore.” A confused and pensive look appears on Tom’s face. “What’s up, dear?”, his mother asks. “Oh, nothing. Nothing at all. Have you seen Lindsay anywhere?” At exactly the same moment, they hear the front door closing.  


2 months earlier 

The morning sun lightens the kitchen, where Gertrude sits at the table with a big cup of coffee in front of her. From time to time, she pleasurably takes a bite from a slice of bread, which she spread with her self-made strawberry marmalade, and a sip of coffee. Next to Gertrude her tabby tomcat named Jackson sleeps on a big cushion. Purring he enjoys the first sunbeams which shine through the window and together they listen to Norah Jones singing out of the CD player. Half an hour later, wearing her pair of dungarees with enough pockets for every tool imaginable, and a woollen pullover, she steps out in her little garden to do some work. She starts cutting the bushes and weeding her flower beds. How beautiful it was back then, when at least a little bit of snow fell around Christmas day. But that is over. Well, having flowers bloom for Christmas is not bad either, but you can’t compare it to a real winter and a beautiful, snowy landscape. In a melancholy mood she lets her eyes wander towards the horizon, and tries to imagine the hills and distant skyline of the city covered with snow. Suddenly, she hears a quiet laughter. Turning around, she sees a small group of teenagers staring and laughing at her. “Look how dirty and red-faced she is! How can one voluntarily do stuff like that?” Directly addressing to Gertrude now, the blonde boy cries provokingly: “Don’t you have anything better to do? Where’s your smart gardener?” For a split second Gertrude lifts her left eyebrow. Then she sighs, and in a tired voice she says: “Buzz off.” Slowly walking away, the boys continue talking: “I heard she doesn’t owe a single smarty, because she literally wants to do the work herself. How crazy is that, right? Even inside the house. She cleans up everything herself!” Another boy joins in: “I’ve heard she owns real books, out of paper! And CDs! You know, the discs that once were used to listen to music…”  


Tom lets himself fall into the big, comforting seat and holds his wristband on a small display on the car dashboard.  “Here is a message from Mom” informs a monotonous voice while the car starts moving. “Hi sweetheart, I hope you had a good day! Just wanted to let you know that I will be home by 5pm today. See you then. Bye, bye!” Thanks mom, Tom thinks to himself. That was very important again. Like you don’t come home at 5 pm literally every day. He taps on his wristband, it blinks. “Cup of coffee”, he says and then puts on his earphones. The wristband answers with a double blinking, but Tom doesn’t see it anymore. He is already diving in a deep ocean of thoughts. He watches the few people on the sidewalks and big advertisement screens with their innovative Christmas gift ideas. Every fifteen minutes, he sees the decorated windows of one of the few shops in the city. Strange that there still are people who buy their Christmas gifts in stores… Twenty minutes later, the car stops in front of a grey, quadratic house. The only way to differentiate it from literally every other house in the district, is the house number. Tom gets out of the car and walks to the front door. He holds his wristband against a small display next to it, which looks exactly like the one in the car, and walks in. He steps into the kitchen to get his cup of coffee. The moment he enters the kitchen door, the radio turns on and an authentic, but still kind of artificial voice informs him about the latest news. “Radio Jay”, he says bored and sits down at the table with his cup of coffee. The radio starts to play lo-fi hip-hop music.  


“Stupid children. If they knew the feeling by the end of a working day, washing the dirt off your hands and enjoying the pleasant exhaustion of your body, they would immediately question their stupid way of life. But how should they know about it? Everything is done by these ridiculous smarties, no one knows what real work is anymore.” Weeding her flower beds, Gertrude doesn’t notice that she starts to say her thoughts out loud. Suddenly, she catches sight of a pair of grass-green rubber boots behind the pales of the fence and stops babbling. She lifts her head and the face of a young girl surrounded by messy red hair appears. The girl’s bangs almost fully cover a pair of curious blue eyes. She is not moving, her hands are hidden in the big pockets of her red rain coat. “Hi there”, Gertrude exclaims surprised. “Everything okay?” With a sudden move of her left hand, the girl tries to catch a bit more sight and wipes her bangs to the side. “You have beautiful flowers in your garden. I like especially the little white ones over there”, she lisps. Gertrude smiles. “You know, these are weeds actually.” The girl looks Gertrude straight into the eyes, without saying a word, and with a questioning look. After some seconds, Gertrude starts to explain: “Weeds are plants which do not belong into the flower bed. They grow very fast and wide, thereby the other flowers don’t have space to grow anymore. I’m going to remove them.” A sad look appears on the girl’s face. “Oh. But they’re so beautiful!” “Indeed, they are. But if I let them grow, I wouldn’t be able to keep them from growing all over my garden, and I want my other flowers to grow as well. I always let some of them bloom though, I like them as well.” They both smile. “That’s very nice of you, that you still let them bloom”, the girl lisps. Suddenly, she has a thoughtful expression on her face. “I’ve never seen these flower, these weeds, in our garden.” Gertrude smiles sympathetically. “No wonder you haven’t. I bet your smart gardener removes them before they even have the chance to grow and bloom.” The little one raises her head and looks at Gertrude. “Right! That’s why. And where’s your smart gardener?” Gertrude answers proudly: “I don’t have one. I do all the work by myself.” The girl starts to smile. After a few more seconds of glancing all around Gertrude’s garden, she asks: “Can I help you?”  


Tom knocks on his sister’s door. “Lindsay?” He walks in, the room is empty. Where is she? Mom didn’t say anything about her going somewhere. Maybe she’s with one of her classmates… but that’s pretty improbable, she doesn’t really have any friends. On her bed he catches sight of her wristband and her smartphone. “No way”, he mumbles. She left the house without her wristband and without her phone? Stupid. What if something happens and she can’t call for help? She’s such a weird person. Why did she take it off in the first place? I would feel almost naked if I went somewhere without my band! And how does she want to get into the house when she returns? Boy, do I have an odd sister.  


“Well, I’m getting a little tired now. Would you like to drink a cup of hot chocolate with me?” A big smile appears on Lindsay’s face. “I would love to!” Together they walk towards the porch, take off their dirty boots and enter the door. Lindsay takes a few steps, then stops and looks around for a moment. The floor of the small living room is covered with a soft carpet, a big rocking chair stands in front of a wood stove and literally every wall is covered with shelves of books. But not only books… “What are these small quadratic plastic cases?” Lindsay turns around and looks at Gertrude. “I’ll show you.” After a short time of deciding Gertrude takes one of the CDs off the shelf. Then she walks to the other side of the room, where Lindsay spots a sound system with big boxes. Gertrude opens the plastic case and takes out a shiny disc. What is she doing?! Lindsay watches her with undivided attention. After a few seconds, the music starts to play. First she hears some piano chords, then drums and a guitar. Finally a voice joins in: “Still don’t know what I was waiting for…” Lindsay looks at Gertrude with an amazed look on her face, and stands totally still. Gertrude starts to move in the rhythm of the song, and eventually, when the refrain of the song begins, she starts to sing: “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes! Turn, and face the strange…” While singing, Gertrude starts to move towards the next room, her steps always in the rhythm of the song. Lindsay watches her in an astonished and amused look. She follows her into the next room, the kitchen, where Gertrude takes two big colourful cups out of the cupboard. It smells weird in here, but good somehow. Like cake and fried eggs with ham at the same time. The walls are painted in a warm orange and full of shelves as well. But not only books are on the shelves, also innumerable glasses filled with spices or marmalade. Gertrude switches on the gas stove and puts a pot of milk on it. Then she turns around and asks: “How do you like the music, Lindsay?” The girl stops admiring the many things that are to find in the small kitchen, and answers: “I love it! I’ve never heard music like that at home. My brother always listens to this boring kind of music… it’s like listening to no music at all.” A few minutes later, Gertrude fills the two cups with hot chocolate and hands one to Lindsay. “Here you go, my dear.” While handing her the cup, Gertrude notices the small, naked wrists of the young girl. “Where is your wristband?  Don’t you have one?” The girl shrugs her shoulders. “Yeah, sure I have one. But I took it off for the afternoon and left it at home. I don’t like it, it bothers me all the time. The blinking and … I don’t know. I just don’t like it, I guess. Like my phone, it’s so unnecessary.” A hint of a smile appears on Gertrude’s face while she takes a sip of her cup of hot chocolate.  




A week later 

“Hi sister, I’m home!” Tom takes off his shoes. “Lindsay?” Oh no… don’t say she’s wandering around again. He walks up the stairs and enters his sister’s room. “Hey, there you are. Didn’t you hear me saying hello?” He hasn’t even finished his sentence, when an incredulous look appears on his face. His sister is sitting on her bed, and looking at something she’s holding in her hands. But it’s not her phone or her tablet… it’s a book. A real book, out of paper. “WHAT are you doing there? Where did you get this?!” He walks towards his sister’s bed and takes the book out of her hands to have a look on the cover and read the title: Brave New World“So, you’re on some vintage trip now and read books, real books?! Why didn’t you just download the movie on your tablet?” Lindsay tries to take the book out of her brother’s hands, but he turns away, turns the book around and reads what it is about. Line after line, he realizes that his sister couldn’t have downloaded this story on her tablet. He had never read anything similar to the blurb of this book. “Where did you get this, Lindsay? Come on, tell me!” With a very fast motion Lindsay takes the book out of Tom’s hands. She whispers: “Don’t tell anyone about this. It’s my secret.” And she runs downstairs and out of the front door.   


February 12th , 6 pm 

“Switch on the light”, says Tom in a bored tone. Not a second later, the lamp on the ceiling flushes the room with bright light. Looking up from his phone for a second, he had noticed that it is already pretty dark outside. He had just done some research on a girl he met on the party last weekend. She really left an impression on him, and that’s why after hours of thinking about it, he decided to ask her out on a date. Actually, he didn’t really meet her. It was more a sort of eye contact, but he is pretty sure that she seemed interested. He had already found loads of pictures and information about her. She studies international business studies at Yorktown University and is friends with some people he remembers back from school. Next to university she goes to the gym and plays volleyball in the girl’s team. Last summer she went to California and spent some weeks surfing. She has two sisters and seems to be very close to her family, as he could find a lot of photos of her with her parents or siblings. Tom has never been on a date, and asks himself what he should talk with Rachel, in case she accepts his invite.   Of course there’s this so called “small talk”, but actually he already knows everything about her that is to find out during small talk. How does this stuff work? Maybe he shouldn’t ask her out. What if he totally sucks at dating? But no. At least he has to try it once. He starts typing his message: “Hi Rachel, I was wondering if you would like to go on a date with me some time?” Perfect. Is an emoji necessary? No, he guesses not. After hesitating for a few seconds, he quickly tips on the send button. Done. Okay, now he has to be patient. He just wants to put his phone away, when there appears a light green “Typing…” next to Rachel’s name. Oh, Jesus. She is online already! Nervously he stares at the green word with the three dots at the end, which seems to stay there for hours, when suddenly the screen of his phone turns black. Shortly after, also the lamp at the ceiling turns off

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