'Is that you, Max?"|
'Itís me." said Max Bordon.
'Thanks for coming," said Horst Csaba Jékely.
'Of course I came," said Max Bordon, 'We made a date." He took a smooth red box out of his flat attaché case. He handed it over to Horst Csaba Jékely. 'Here. Thatís it."
'So big?" asked Horst Csaba Jékely.
'That big," said Max Bordon.
'Thanks," said Horst Csaba Jékely, 'It was nice of you."
'It was nothing," said Max Bordon.
'You were very decent to do it," said Horst Csaba Jékely.
'Donít worry about it. I said it was nothing."
'Still. Itís a big thing, no matter how you look at it. So thanks."
'Itís nothing. You can relax now. Iíll be getting off in a minute."
The train stopped in Naumburg. Max Bordon got off there, to board the Leipzig-Cologne international express train traveling in the opposite direction fifteen minutes later. He was in a hurry to get back to Kassel.
Horst Csaba Jékely waved to him for a while, then found an empty compartment and sat down. He took the smooth red box into his lap and opened it. He stared and stared at the contents.
Inside the box, in a bed of cream colored velvet, rested two self-adhesive ears. Two artificial right ears. One was normal ear-colored, the other was chapped, with a reddish lobe, for winter wear.
The truth was, they were beautiful work. Horst Csaba Jékely, the next-door neighbor and loyal, bosom friend was able to establish that much at first sight. Nevertheless, he suddenly pulled down the window, closed the box and pitched it out into the field.
He was well acquainted with his friend, Mathias Bordon of Segesvár. One glance was enough to convince him that a fateful error and misunderstanding had taken place in the succession of coded messages through which he conveyed the measurements and likely position of the missing ear to the Federal Republic of Germany, in other words, when he went through the rather circuitous process of ordering the artificial ear from his friendís wealthy relative. If we take the human nose as our point of reference, the ears in question did not belong on the left side. And Mathias Bordon was missing his left ear. Anyone else could know about these ears, but Mathias Bordon should never find out about them.
Horst Csaba Jékely dejectedly stared out the window at the peaceful evening meadows. He dejectedly thought of his caution, his inherited fears, all the unnecessary preparation that preceded the meeting. Perhaps it would have been simpler to talk the thing over with Max Bordon on the telephone after all, no matter the cost. Only Horst Csaba Jékely, too, was afraid. He worried one day they might ask him what he meant by one or two artificial ears, what sort of ear-affairs was he transacting with the Federal Republic of Germany. And if he answered precisely, they wouldnít believe him. It was embarrassing, and mainly sad, to have traveled here, to a point even with the windmill of Apolda, for nothing. He left the country for a worthless ear, and now he would have to wait two years before he got another passport.
While he chided himself quietly, a little shiver of satisfaction began to run through him. Yes, tomorrow morning, the hard-working ploughman would be along. He would see the red box in the grass. His eyes would sparkle, his breathing would stop for a moment. He would lean down, pick it up. And open it.
Translated by REICH Péter