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Taschinski, Stefanie (Sample Translation)

Die kleine Dame (The Little Lady)

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Arena Verlag, July 2010, 160 pp.
ISBN: 978 3 401 06481 9
 

Chapter 1: The Pretzel House
 
This story begins with a pretzel. A small golden pretzel. But be careful! It is not edible. It would definitely break your teeth if you took one bite of it. Because this pretzel hangs high above the door of the Pretzel House and is made of very fine plaster.
 
If it were not for that pretty pretzel, Lilly’s parents would never have moved into the Pretzel House that stands in a narrow alley in the centre of the big City of Hamburg. They would just have walked right past the old four-storied building when they were looking for a new home.
And then we would never have heard about them again.
 
But that day when Lilly, her mom, her dad and her new baby sister walked past the Pretzel House, a young painter was standing on a ladder, covering the old pretzel with new gold paint.
Lilly stopped and watched him curiously. »Look!« she called, tapping Dad on his arm.
Dad glanced up. »A pretzel,« he said without blinking.
»It’s made of gold,« Lilly whispered.
Gold or no gold – Dad wanted to move on. He did not like lingering. Especially not because of a pretzel. Being a widely travelled cyclist, he knew how important it was to stay on your course. But no matter how skillfully he turned the pram, he could not get around the large ladder and paint buckets.
Now Mom looked up at the little pretzel. It really did look like the pretzels she formed in her baking shop. With one sweep of your arm. Thinking of it made her smile.
She glanced at Lilly. »It looks good enough to eat,« Mom said, taking Lilly by the hand.
Yes, that was what Lilly thought, too.
Dad was getting nervous. He sensed that something was about to happen.
Up there, the painter touched the last grey spot up with gold.
What shimmer!
What brillance!
In its fresh golden coat, the pretzel looked like an elegant invitation.
»Come in!« the pretzel was saying. »Step inside. You’ll be happy here.«
And then it happened.
»I wish we could live here,« Mom said, smiling at Dad so longingly that he put his arm around her and forgot about everything else.
He looked at Mom, and then he looked at the golden pretzel and nodded.
So it happened that the Bär Family moved into the Pretzel House with their two little girls.
 
»I’m not a little girl!« Lilly insists. »I’m already eight years old and a big sister!«
Well, even big sisters may be little girls sometimes. For instance, at night, when the old lantern on top of the closet starts to look like a ghostly face and the morning gown on the chair turns into a scary shape – that is when even the biggest girls will feel pretty small again. In moments like these, Lilly is happy that Charly is there.
Her little sister is only five. She sleeps on the bottom of the bunk bed, and when she wakes up at night, she will still run to Mom and Dad most of the time. Charly is definitely still a little girl. Even smaller than Lilly.
 
However, there is someone at the Pretzel House who is even a lot smaller than all the little girls who live inside. That is the Little Lady.
She lives in the backyard. She is as big as a grown penguin, wears her safari gear in any kind of weather, and thanks to her umbrella she can chameleonize.
You wonder what it means to chameleonize?
Well, it works like that: The Little Lady opens her umbrella –and there it is. When she happens to stand in front of her armchair with the blue flower pattern, the Little Lady will have blue flowers from her umbrella down to her feet. When she walks past the red brick houses, red bricks will be dancing on her dress. And when she opens her umbrella and searches the bark of the old willow tree for lady bugs, the Little Lady will turn such a silvery grey shade that some feisty bug will land on the tip of her nose.
The Little Lady chameleonizes so easily that nobody noticed it when she erected her tent under the old willow tree in the backyard of the Pretzel House.
Every night, she lights the big lantern on her table. Then she will sit down in front of her tent with a steaming cup of hot chocolate and listen to the strange sounds of the city. She will hear the horns of the ships coming up the River Elbe, the honking cars and tweeting birds.
The Little Lady sits in front of her tent and watches the lights go on in the apartments around her. She sees mothers brush their children’s teeth and wash their little faces. She observes fathers while they are standing by the stove and frying fluffy omelettes in heavy pans.
The Little Lady is very happy to have found the yard of the Pretzel House. She knows no place that is more mysterious than this huge yard grown over with undergrowth where each bush conceals a different animal.
Funny that none of the tall people is interested in this yard. Only the janitor, Mister Liverwurst, sweeps the doorway between the garbage cans once a day. He is bald and makes two strokes to the left and two to the right without looking up from the grey tiles even once. To do so, Mr Liverwurst has to bend his back because he has terribly long legs and is at least three times as tall as the Little Lady.
 
Even yesterday he did not notice the Little Lady while she was shaking out her blankets so that the feathers were flying through the air. Even though she had put on her tropical helmet and looked particularly elegant that morning. But Mr Liverwurst only spit on his rag and polished the sign he had put up in the doorway. It said:
 
No entry for children!
 
 
Chapter 3: Behind the Hedge
 
It was the first real summer day. Fat bumblebees were humming in the air, and the children walking past the Pretzel House had at least five scoops of ice cream in their cones. Yes, five.
It was one of those afternoons when you just have to do something that is forbidden. When Lilly read the sign No entry for children!, she snorted, shrugged and went on to the gate that led to the backyard. Of course, Mr Liverwurst had also forbidden the children to play in the yard, but Lilly could not have cared less that day.
 
She turned the knob, and the gate opened with a soft creaking sound. She faced a square of perfectly trimmed lawn. On top of the lawn, there was a rusty old rod for dusting out rugs. Exactly. That was what the yard looked like. Boring and grey. That was the reason why Lilly had never set foot into the yard before. But today, she walked across the lawn; she walked under the rod to the hedge that split the yard into two parts. She wanted to get as far away from Mom, Dad and Charly as possible. Here they would never find Lilly!
 
The hedge was very dense. Its twigs poked her bare arms. They clung to her trousers. It smelled of moss and old bird droppings. Yet Lilly kept making her way through the hedge, further and further until the tip of her nose reached the other side and the twigs let go of her.
Lilly rubbed her eyes. What was that? Behind the hedge, the yard was suddenly much wider than she had imagined. A flower field spread out under her feet. Several paths wound their way through trees and bushes. A tall old willow tree grew only a few feet from the hedge. Its branches hung down to the ground, nodding gently in the light breeze as if to welcome her.
 
Lilly sat down on a low brick wall next to the willow tree and inspected her camera. She turned it over in her hands. Somewhere, there had to be the compartment for the chip. She knew it had such a compartment. Dad’s camera had one, too. She looked at it from every angle. Then her fingers felt a small indentation. But when she pressed down on it, the batteries fell out and rolled a few inches across the ground.
Lilly bent down to pick them up. That was when she noticed a pair of tiny laced boots. She looked up and fell on her butt. A very short person in an outfit as green as the leaves in spring was standing right in front of her, holding an umbrella in her hand that was as green as her suit. It was the Little Lady who lived in the tent under the old willow tree.
 
The Little Lady took a few steps back and examined Lilly from every angle. While she was walking around the girl sitting on the ground several times, her colours changed from willow green to the dark green of the hedge to the mortar grey of the wall and back again. The Little Lady chameleonized with such breathtaking speed that Lilly was getting dizzy. Her heart started to beat faster, and fleas began to waltz across her stomach.
 
Then the Little Lady closed her umbrella, sat down on the wall and crossed her legs. »Llew, llew, ohw od ew evah ereh?«
Lilly was speechless. Could that be Chinese?
»Ohw era uoy?« the Little Lady asked really slowly, looking eagerly at Lilly. But all Lilly could do was shrug since she did not understand one word. That was when the Little Lady made a regretful face. »Uh oh, how sad it is that my visitor doesn’t understand me,« she sighed.
»But now I do!« Lilly replied.
Now it was the Little Lady who was taken aback.
»So you understand Forwardish but not Backwardish?« she asked.
»What’s Backwardish?« Lilly wanted to know.
»Left and right, big and small, forwards, backwards, you want it all?« the Little Lady laughed, adding, »You know, most people in the North speak Forwardish while the people in the South prefer Backwardish.«
»And you speak both?« Lilly marvelled.
»Well, I travel a lot,« the Little Lady explained.
»And that’s how I learned to express myself in both languages.«
»Are you here on a visit?« Lilly inquired, looking around curiously. But apart from herself and the Little Lady there was no one around.
»No, no! I’m on an expedition,« the Little Lady explained. »And what about you? What’re you doing here?«
»I’m Lilly and I live in the Pretzel House.«
»Very nice to meet you, Lilly,«, the Little Lady said and took her tropical helmet off.
That confused Lilly a bit. Nobody had ever said hello to her the way the Little Lady did.
»Oh, I think it’s nice, too,« she said. »And, well ... who are you
»I’m the Little Lady,« the dainty woman introduced herself and put her helmet back on with an elegant gesture.
Lilly risked a hasty glance at the lady’s strange umbrella.
»Little Lady?«
»Yes, my child?«
»How did you do that – I mean change like that?«
»What do you mean – change? I thought I had just chameleonized a bit the way I usually do.« The Little Lady opened her umbrella for the second time. Again she took on the grey shade of the wall from her helmet down to the tips of her elegant boots. And for the second time that afternoon Lilly was so surprised that she fell smack on her butt.
»See how easy it is,« the Little Lady. »Well, at least for me, the world’s best chameleonizer.« Without thinking twice, Lilly believed the Little Lady that she was the world’s best chameleonizer. But of course she would have loved to know how it worked. Again, she took a peek at the awesome umbrella. Its handle reminded her of something. Yet before Lilly could ask another question, the Little Lady had closed the umbrella again.
She sat down in the grass next to Lilly. Curiously she looked at Lilly’s new camera.
»Say, what’s that?«
»That’s a  ...« Lilly started.
The Little Lady raised her hand to stop her from continuing. »Wait ... let me guess. I love puzzles.«
The Little Lady covered her eyes with her hands. »I have to concentrate.«
She took a peek through a small gap between her fingers. »Oh, that’s a very difficult puzzle – a very, very difficult one.« She clapped her hands. »Ha, but I do know what it is! It’s an ... an underwater sandwich box.«
»A what? No, it’s not,« Lilly said.
»It’s not?« the Little Lady cried perplexed. »But it looks like a wonderful underwater sandwich box! I once knew a dolphin who never knew where to put his sandwiches for school. This box would have been perfect for him. Or is it not waterproof?«
Lilly shook her head. »Sorry, it’s not.«
»Fine, then let me think about it.« Again the Little Lady covered her eyes with her hands and thought hard. »Oh, but now I know! It’s a secret language inventor. That’s exactly what it is. These days you can buy them at any street corner.«
Again Lilly shook her head. »No, that’s not what it is, either,« she said.
»Well, if it’s neither an underwater sandwich box nor a secret language inventor, then you’ll have to give me a hint so I can solve this puzzle before the moon will rise over Zanzibar.«
Lilly considered this for a second. Should she just tell the Little Lady that she had won a camera at the school festival? But then she changed her mind.
»It has something to do with eyes,« she hinted.
The Little Lady held her breath. »But of course! Why didn’t I think of it? It’s your glass eye container!«
»Yuck no!« Lilly cried in disgust.
»But a second pair of eyes can come in very handy indeed if one pair wants to sleep and the other pair wants to see where the last chunk of chocolate is hidden,« the Little Lady insisted.
»It’s my new camera,« Lilly said.
The Little Lady looked at the camera with reverence.
»It makes real tophographs?« she asked and cautiously reached out to touch Lillys camera.
»It’s beautiful. May I hold it for a moment?«
Lilly handed her the camera. »It was the main prize offered on the Wheel of Fortune but my parents and Charly had no time to even look at it,« Lilly told her.
The Little Lady looked at her surprised. »They’re fools! When such a beautiful tophographer comes along, you have to drop what you’re doing and just take tophographs,« the Little Lady said with conviction.
Lilly was thrilled. Would the Little Lady show her where to put the chip?
By now the Little Lady had already found the small flap.
»But there’s no chip inside. How are we supposed to take pictures if you don’t have a chippy-thingy?«
Lilly took the piece of plastic out of her pocket.
»Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.« The Little Lady opened the little box, took the chip out and let it slide into the opening. Lilly could tell the Little Lady had done this before.
»So now you’ll press this button until the monitor lights up,« she explained and returned the camera to Lilly.
The girl pressed the button for several seconds and looked at the monitor: The Little Lady was standing in front of her, smiling her most cheeky smile. In her light safari outfit and the tropical helmet she looked as if she had come straight out of the jungle.
Lilly started to shoot pictures. Click, click, click a front view of the Little Lady. Click her funny rolled-up braids. Click her laced boots and click, click her umbrella. Suddenly Lilly could see it clearly – the umbrella handle was actually the tail of a chameleon! Lilly was about to press the blue button again when the Little Lady called out, »Stop! My umbrella is getting pixelditis from all that tophographing!«
 
Having said that, she opened the umbrella. For a few seconds all colors of the rainbow were dancing across the cloth – and then the Little Lady was gone.
Lilly stared at the spot where her new friend had stood just a moment ago.
»Little Lady,« she called.
No response. Lilly looked around. »Little Lady, where are you?«
Then she heard the sound of soft laughter that seemed to come from behind the branches of the old willow tree.
Lilly pushed the branches apart. There she was, sitting in front of her tent and talking to her umbrella. »T’nod yrrow. Don’t worry,« she said soothingly.
 
Lilly pinched herself. Was she dreaming? Or was this white tent in the yard of the Pretzel House real? A round tent with a sharp tip and decorated with colourful streamers?
She walked over to the Little Lady. »What happened?« she asked.
»Well, it’s a very old and stubborn umbrella I inherited from my great-great-grandmother,« the Little Lady explained while pushing up the cloth lining of the umbrella a bit. Now Lilly could see what was inside the umbrella.
It was a bright green chameleon that was very much alive, and it was staring at Lilly!
»Chaka is over a thousand years old. Many years ago my great-great-grandmother saved his life, and he stayed with her out of gratitude,« the Little Lady said.
Lilly listened breathlessly.
»But sometimes, when I only want to chameleonize a bit, Chaka will play a trick on me and make me invisible,« the Little Lady continued.
»Oh,« Lilly said.
»I guess all that tophographing was too exciting for him. After all it doesn’t happen every day that a girl comes crawling through the hedge with a brand new tophographer!«
Now Lilly had to laugh. As if that was exciting! »Well, it doesn’t happen every day, either, that I stumble across a Little Lady who just happens to have a chameleon umbrella that is a thousand years old and who can make herself invisible,« she said.
»You’re right, that doesn’t happen every day,« the Little Lady agreed and jumped off her chair.
»Looks like today is our lucky day!« she said. »Our lucky-lucky-lucky day!«
Lilly thought so, too.
Yet before she knew it, the afternoon had passed and Lilly had to go home. The Little Lady accompanied her to the hedge and showed her a secret passage where a girl could easily slip through the leaves.
The Little Lady raised her head and sniffed the air. »I think your mom has just taken the pancake soufflé out of the oven.«
Lilly did not smell anything. She was not hungry, either. There was only one thing she wanted to know before she would crawl through the opening in the hedge. »Little Lady, will I see you again?«
With a twinkle in her eyes, the Little Lady touched her umbrella. »I’ll send you a message,« she promised Lilly.
Having said that, she opened her umbrella and walked towards the old willow tree, chameleonizing happily along the way.
 
 

© 2010 ARENA VERLAG, Würzburg Germany
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