What do veterans hospitals do

The girl with the Leica

prolog

Couples, photographs,
Coincidences # 1

Ever since you saw this photo, you have been enchanted by the sight of it. They seem happy, very happy, and young, as heroes should be. You can't say whether they're beautiful or not, but they certainly don't look heroic. That's because of the laughter that closes her eyes and reveals her teeth, not photogenic but so undisguised that it makes her gorgeous. He has horse teeth that he shows up to the gums. With her, the canine stands out from the gap behind it, albeit with the grace of charming little blemishes. The light hugs the white of the striped shirt and runs down the woman's neck. Her radiant skin, the diagonal of the tendons that let the profile laid on the backrest stand out, and even the curved armrests reinforce the happy energy released by her unanimous laughter.

You could be in a square, but the comfortable armchairs suggest a park that is lost as a backdrop in a thick curtain of leaves. You wonder whether this section, which they have all to themselves, comes from the garden of an upper-class villa whose residents have fled across the border since the revolution in Barcelona has been brewing. Now this shady spot under the trees belongs to the people: these two laughing at each other with closed eyes.

The revolution is a day like any other, when you go out to stop the coup that is trying to stifle it, but you don't let go of a boisterous truce. Wear the mono azul like a summer dress, tie a tie under the dungarees to look nice to the other. There is no need for the bulky rifle that went through the hands of who knows how many unfortunate soldiers before it ended up with the anarchist militiaman, who is now not allowed to caress the radiant neck of his wife.

Apart from this limitation, they are completely free in the here and now. You have already won. If they keep their laughs and continue to be this happy, it doesn't seem like you need to know how to get a shot out of that old baton. Whoever is on the right side will win. Now they can enjoy the sun subdued by the foliage, the company of the loved one.

The world has to know. She should see at a glance that on the one hand there is the centuries-old war, the generals landed from Morocco with the cruel mercenary troops, and on the other hand people who want to defend what they live and desire one another.

In that early August 1936, they flocked to Barcelona to join the first people of Europe to armed, without hesitation, against fascism. In the universal language of the pictures that are displayed on kiosks halfway around the world, hanging in party and trade union offices, panned and reused by newspaper vendors to wrap eggs and market goods in them, and which catch the eye of even those, but neither the newspapers buy still read, they tell of the city in turmoil.

The people of Barcelona welcome the strangers fraternally. Who flocked to fight by their side. Those who get used to the omnipresent Babel and find pleasure in greeting with compañero and compañera and making do with gestures, onomatopoeia and pocket dictionaries. The constant stream of volunteer militia also includes the photographers who are not after guns and training. They come for us, they are like us, comrades. Anyone who sees her at work will understand and let her go.

But the two militiamen in the photo are so overwhelmed by their laughter that they don't notice anything. Her portraitist steps aside a little, presses the shutter release again and threatens to betray himself with the even larger close-up of the couple, united by his radiant, intimate smile.

The photo seems to be almost identical to the first one, but now it becomes apparent that the man and the woman, out of sheer love, do not care what is happening around them. The scissor-like step of a passer-by cutting up the pavement in the background reveals that you are not in a park, but possibly on the Ramblas, where the mobilizing city gathers. Another woman is sitting in the armchair next to them.

There is nothing more to be seen of her than a strand of frizzy hair and a clothed arm. How would you like to be in her place, to see with your own eyes what the pictures suggest but eludes your gaze.

The photographer who captured the two comrades is not alone. There is a man and a woman, standing side by side on the right side of the road.

Then you come across the photo of a woman who is sitting in just such an armchair and think such outrageous happiness is hardly possible. Until you see a small piece of profile of the young militiaman at the top right of the picture, who is beaming at his blonde girlfriend in the other pictures.

This worker with a fashion magazine in her incompatible hands and a rifle between her knees really doesn't seem to be the type to gossip from the appearance of a couple of photographers who vie for the resounding laughter of their comrades in love and then perpetuate them too Curiosity gets carried away. No, you say to yourself, someone like her overlooks things that are none of their business. She remains vigilant, after all, because she has been given a weapon, but above all she wants to enjoy the brief moment of peace.

But a few days later - that's how you imagine - this militiaman comes to exercise on the beach and meets the two photographers again. He with that gypsy shirt-sleeved top, she almost like a mannequin that could have stepped out of a magazine read on the Ramblas, but with a bulky camera around his neck that hits her hips.

Now the woman is curious: who are they? Where are you from? Do they have an affair like the ones that thrive in large numbers in this climate of mobilization, midsummer and freedom, or are they husband and wife?

Probably something like that, because they are well-rehearsed and experienced in throwing a few words at each other in a hard language. She is cheerful and nimble as a cat, but very careful when she instructs her comrades how to hold their weapons. The two of them really work hard, are euphoric and in a good mood and even hand out Gauloises out of gratitude and as a sign of brotherhood.

“I've seen them before,” the militiaman remarks as the photographers walk away and aroused whispering, but no one pays attention to them. The comrade journalist who brought them here knows everything that is interesting. They have just arrived from Paris and have already risked their necks when the twin-engine plane had to make an emergency landing in the Sierra. A bigwig from the French press broke his arm in the process, but neither of them got a scratch, thank heavens. His name is Robert Capa and he says Barcelona is wonderful and reminds him of the city he was born in, Budapest, but as long as Admiral Horthy and his reactionary regime are at the helm, he cannot go back there. His companion Gerda Taro must be alemana, one of those young emancas who don't even cuddle in front of Hitler.

“Do you already know when the photos will appear?” Urged the militiamen.

The journalist promises to inquire, but not with the photographers, who are about to set off for the combat zones: first they drive to the front of Aragón and then down to Andalusia.

A year after these recordings, the first eighteen deaths occurred in Barcelona among the houses bombed by the cruiser Eugenio di Savoia. The militias have been disbanded and the militiaman has returned to the factory. Perhaps she is sewing uniforms for the Ejército Popular, in which the anarchists have to obey without contradiction and there is no longer any room for women. But in the factory halls you can still listen to the radio, comment on the news and take courage.

You imagine someone reading from a newspaper on July 27, 1937. It says that Madrid is heroically resisting, even though the enemy, with the help of the German and Italian air forces, advanced on Brunete, where a tragic accident occurred. A photographer lost her life, she came from afar to immortalize the struggle of the Spanish people, and such an example of bravery that General Enrique Líster kneeled down by her coffin and the poet Rafael Alberti gave comrade Gerda Taro the most solemn words have dedicated.

“Isn't that the one who photographed us on the beach?” Calls out a worker and makes the girls who stand chatting at the entrance to the factory floor sit up and take notice. Yes, exactly that: The article also mentions the ilustre fotógrafo húngaro Robert Capa que recibió en París la trágica noticia.

The workers in the uniform factory are affected, the memories catch up with them.

The sun on your shoulders, the sand in your shoes, the laughter when one of them stumbled across the shoreline under the recoil of the gun, the enthusiastic cheers, no one else hit the target. And then this stranger, a senyoreta with delicate hands - you could see that immediately - who could have stayed in Paris to take pictures of actresses and highly elegant mannequins, but instead she was here to photograph them during their target practice on the beach. She really admired them and almost seemed to envy them a little. And now she has fallen like a soldier while they are struggling in the factory and hardly know where to get something to eat, but at least they are still alive. That's not fair. The fascists are supposed to die in hell.

The woman who was sitting on the Ramblas with the fashion magazine was particularly shocked by this news. While the re-lit cigarette butt smokes her fingers and the sewing machines rattle behind her back, she is moved by a feeling that is more than deeply felt gratitude for the sacrifice of a little brat from a cold country. An image rises crystal clear in her that she had only glimpsed when she looked up from her reading the year before: A dark-haired man and a young blonde woman with a pageboy take a picture of a young blonde woman with a pageboy and a dark-haired man who is happy laugh. The blonde snaps with her head bowed, the camera hiding her forehead. The dark-haired man's camera is so small that you can see his eyebrows, which are just as bushy as those of the militiaman. When they have finished taking the photo, they too laugh, exuberantly and with one accord. Even an indifferent look like hers cannot fail to see that the two recognized each other in the other two. And are as in love as they are.

It was a tiny coincidence that the photographers who had just arrived in Barcelona ran into a couple they were similar to. And possibly just as coincidentally, Gerda Taro was able to banish his laughter at his climax, while Robert Capa lost a few seconds to perhaps adjust the wide angle. If she had still used the camera with which he had taught her how to take photographs - the Leica - her negatives would also have the rectangular format, which can be used to assign the second photo of the couple and the woman Capa reading the magazine. If Gerda hadn't bought a cheap medium format SLR camera - a reflex corelle - she wouldn't have been able to center the subject so perfectly in the image square.

After six months, the joint income was enough for him to get a Contax and give the Leica that had accompanied him through his years of starvation to the girl who had encouraged him to leave those years behind. They had left Paris empty pockets - their adventure as a photographer had only just begun and, although increasingly in demand, he was without a commission - but had the inexhaustible confidence that they would make a name for themselves.

Living in Paris with nothing but a Leica was an everyday art of survival. André Friedmann and Gerda Pohorylle had come to the conclusion that more work could be found under a pseudonym. They had even made up Robert Capa's story, who had everything they lacked: wealth, success and, in the passport, the permanent visa of a country that was revered for its power unsullied by wars and dictatorships. United in a secret society whose start-up capital was a false name, they were even closer in life and even more daring in their dreams of the future.

Then the time of fairy tales was over. Since the Spanish Republic came under attack, the only thing that mattered was to be in the right place at the right time and to banish a reality that was supposed to stir up, fuel protests and force the free world to act.

But if a photograph also tells of the person who took it, the snapshots of this couple, in whom it was so easy to recognize each other, inevitably reflect their creators. In Taro's photo, the man and the woman occupy the room in equal parts, united in their laughter, which discharges into the air and whose exuberant energy underlines the harmonious composition of the image. Capa's photo focuses on the woman, it emphasizes her sensuality as she bends over to her boyfriend, as it were from the point of view of his radiant gaze.

As they strolled down the street side by side, they saw these two militiamen who were so similar to them and so happy. But it wasn't playing with the mirror image that she had the same subject photographed so that one of them might come up with a picture suitable for the newspapers. It is the promise that comes true on these faces and bodies glowing with happy laughter, the utopia lived for a few fleeting moments that let this man and this woman be free of everything. Free and fraternized in their ideals and feelings, but not immediately. Robert Capa has banished the longing to surrender to one another wholeheartedly, Gerda Taro an irrepressible joy that breaks a path to conquer the world.

They were different and complementary on that August day, which was forever relieved of everything that was to happen afterwards. Unintentional and open, like this eternal laugh, they tell about it, with these self-portraits that they stole from their comrades in battle and in love during that short summer of anarchy in Barcelona.

First part

Willy Chardack
Buffalo, NY, 1960

Who is she, the winner of all looks,
That, smiling love, softly breezes around ...

Guido Cavalcanti

Isn't something so beautiful supposed to please only one person?
The sun and the stars also belong to everyone.
I don't know who I belong to
I think I'm all mine

"I don't know who I belong to" (1930)

by Friedrich Hollaender and Robert Liebmann,
sung by Marlene Dietrich

Doctor Chardack was up early. He's washed and dressed, taken a cup of instant coffee and the New York Times from the weekend into the study, and flipped through the politics he'd like to keep track of now that the White House race is getting tighter. Finally he puts the newspaper aside upside down, picks up pen and paper, and begins to work.

Except for the occasional calls of swallows and crows and the distant hum of a car looking for a gas station or on the way to somewhere, no sound can be heard. Later, the neighbors will gradually get into their cars to make their way to church, to see relatives or to a restaurant with Sunday’s special breakfast, but Fortunately, Doctor Chardack is not affected by such activities.

It does not surprise him that the phone rings as soon as he has started writing his article, and more out of habit than to prevent his wife from hurrying to the phone in a sleepy manner, he shouts “It’s definitely for me!” Into the apartment .

"Dr. Chardack ”, he says without greeting, as always.

"Hold on, sir, call from Italy for you."

"Willy," says a puffy voice from the intercontinental connection, "I didn't wake you up, did I?"

"No: absolutely not!"

He immediately knew who it was. The old friends still existed, as indelible as the scar of a bad fall from a tree in the Rose Valley, and whoever was still alive could give a sign of life.

"Georg: Did something happen? Are there any problems? "

In the time when he was still called Willy, he was the friend they asked for practical help: mainly money, because he had always had more of it than the others.That's why the caller now lets out a hearty laugh and says he doesn't need anything, but something has definitely happened, after all, he had done a great job there in distant America, so he simply had to pick up the phone instead of writing him a letter.

"Congratulations! Great, what you've achieved there, groundbreaking, you could say. "

"Thank you," he replies almost tonelessly and mechanically. Doctor Chardack is not a compliment type, he likes punching skills, but with the best of will he can't think of any.

Laughing was her specialty back then. No, that would be an exaggeration, but they knew how to spice up the deadly serious debates with a dash of irony, and Willy Chardack had never been inferior to his friends in this. Now his colleagues also valued his dry sense of humor, which was emphasized by the Teutonic accent (that of the mad scientist), and it was fine with him not to be seen as a grumpy fellow by American standards.

While Doctor Chardack listens to the distant voice of Georg Kuritzkes, he sees him en plein air in the circle of the whole baggage or rather in the radiantly cheerful atmosphere of a French film, although they were not in Paris at the time. But the Rosental did not have to shy away from comparison with the Bois de Boulogne, and Leipzigs passages were famous. There was industry and commerce, music and publishing, which could look back on centuries-old traditions, and this civic persistence attracted newcomers from the provinces and the east, who gradually transformed the city, with its contradictions and conflicts, into a real metropolis . Until the clashes and strikes had become more violent and the global economic crisis had accelerated the German catastrophe. The tense expressions that Willy found at home when his father got excited about the queue of people looking for work, no matter which one, he could hardly keep his apprentices and warehouse workers after even the fur exchange that had been prospering in Leipzig since the Middle Ages had stumbled.

Willy and his friends, who didn't have to deal with insolvent customers, were ready to fight anything, even if they came from wealthy families. They were so free: free to go on an excursion and sleep in the tent under the stars, free to court the girls, some of whom were very pretty and even gorgeous (Ruth Cerf had turned from a beanstalk into a majestic blonde transformed, and then there was Gerda, the most magical, liveliest and funniest person he had ever met in the female universe), laughing freely. Even when Hitler's victory was imminent and one had to be prepared to pack suitcases, they had not stopped laughing. Nobody could have robbed them of this resource that made them equal and united, especially in their attitude to life, which stood up to the Nazis. But they weren't really the same, and Georg was the best example of this. Georg was brilliant, and in a downright lavish excess, similar to the huge stock of shirts (shirts made of Egyptian cotton!) That had piled up in the Chardack house uselessly in the cupboards since Willy was in leftist circles. Georg Kuritzkes was intelligent, handsome, sporty. Loyal and reliable. A master at bringing people together, guiding, organizing. A casual dancer. Enthusiastic connoisseur of the latest music trends from across the pond. Brave. Determined. Funny on top of that. How should a Willy Chardack, on the other hand, take a stab at girls? Long before he got tired of this nickname, which Gerda Pohorylle immediately adopted with her light Stuttgart tongue, he had been called "dachshund". It was hopeless. But because Georg was funny on top of that, an affection had grown that moved beyond all youth hierarchies and apparently still existed, which showed the palpitation of the heart that his call brought him. Triggered by a laugh that has felt like an eternity.

Georg told him about his brother in America, who is married and lives in a house with a view of the Rocky Mountains. Soma had sent him a newspaper clipping that had escaped the dead arms of the Italian post office and had arrived after biblical times, a really great surprise.

"They'll definitely give you the Nobel Prize."

"What. We're just an engineer and two doctors from a veterans hospital doing our experiments in the shed next to a house full of youngsters. In Buffalo, not Harvard. The pharmaceutical industry was the first to arrive, they showered us with pats on the back and promises, but so far there have been no funds or patent applications. "

"Understand. But equipping a heart with a tiny motor that you can use to swim, play soccer, and run after the bus is a bloody revolution. They'll get it. "

"Hopefully. When you called, I thought it was the hospital or a discharged patient. ›Is there a problem?‹ - now I sound like a telephone lady - ›I connect‹. But of course, I'm happy. "

"That's what I mean. In the end, you will be the only one of us who changed something. I said yes: If someone made a revolution, then you ... "

Doctor Chardack would have an answer to that. He would like to mention the students who want to turn America upside down by simply sitting on the benches forbidden to Negroes so that Woolworth and the other department store chains have opened their lunch counters in the racist South to customers of color. He would like to compare her unshakable, peaceful faith, led by a Reverend baptized in the name of Martin Luther, with that of an English carpenter's son who, thanks to the training for veterans, made it to an electrical engineer. "It was Providence that dictated the crucial oversight, you will see, dear Chardack, we will find a solution for everything," Engineer Greatbatch used to say when the doctor rushed into his shed for the hundredth time to give him one new problem to come. He would love to tell Georg that he of all people, the godless, was born again with every electronic impulse from a sick heart and that the only God to whom he is dedicated: Aesculapia.

“My work is enough for me,” he says.

The other laughs with his soft, strong timbre, it is an agreed laugh, and yet Doctor Chardack perceives a fine crack in Georg's voice and lets him go on.

“I would like to dedicate myself exclusively to medical research, you don't get bored and do something really meaningful. Unfortunately, spectacular inventions in my field are highly unlikely. After a stroke we could also install a little thing like yours! "

Again Doctor Chardack perceives a bare grain of regret. But he knows how to counter it with a joke: “My heart is mine, your brain is yours! With the vital organs we do half and half - like the superpowers do with the world and now even with space. "

“The main thing is that you have something to share, don't you? Now they pass you on from one continent to the next, and woe betide you not to report when you are around here. "

Now that you've got down to the politeness, Doctor Chardack's mood has brightened. After all, it is no shame that of the common goals and dreams - medicine, Gerda, anti-fascism - only the former has remained.

The conversation ends with an exchange of addresses between Doctor Chardack and Doctor Kuritzkes, who is considering leaving the FAO and the UN as a whole, even if he finds the idea of ​​not being welcome everywhere any more regrettable.

"Well, I am counting on you, Willy, I am counting on the pumped-out muscles of old Europe giving you a triumphant reception ..."

For a moment, Doctor Chardack stands in front of the phone and listens to his friend's last laugh, which is so engaging despite the low sarcasm. But as soon as he becomes aware of the trigger - those disguised allusions on the phone - something contracts inside him.

Why did George go to Rome? Did he really think they could defeat hunger at the FAO? He had never been naive or deluded, on the contrary. Who knows whether he would have left for Spain had this crazy woman not shown up and persuaded him to do so, because to refuse Gerda something was completely unthinkable. She was seriously insane, even crazier than Capa, who had almost been hit when he found out that an extended holiday in Italy with the famous Georg was not enough for her. No, this madwoman had also taken the photos of the republican militias with her to the cradle of fascism! Such nonsense, replied Gerda unmoved, that it was a cheap excuse to make a scene for her, and anyone who attended their exchange in the convivial hubbub of a Parisian café could hardly help but grin in admiration.

In any case, Georg Kuritzkes had joined the International Brigades and, while Willy embarked for the United States, stayed in Marseille and joined the Resistance. But before he went to the mountains, he had passed his exams and, after liberation, specialized in a doctoral thesis, which should bring him a research position at UNESCO.

In the meantime, Doctor Chardack has given politics a wide berth, but that doesn't stop politics from penetrating his territory. It's hard to digest that the United States, out of holy fear of everything red, doesn't want scientists of Georg Kuritzke's caliber. However, it is not said that Georg regrets it. It may be that he went back to Italy at the behest of the UN, but if he has not changed completely, he is still comfortable down there.

That thought gives him relief. And when Doctor Chardack bends over his documents again, the clouds drawn in from the Atlantic have dissolved again.

Satisfied to have finished the first draft of the article while the doors are slamming on the ground floor (everyone is leaving the house, luckily), at this hour of the day he is unaware of how far the world he is into is has devious. He won't realize until after lunch, when he decides to move on to patient visits and then head to the southern neighborhoods - Polonia, Kaisertown, Little Italy - where you can buy pastries that taste just as good as they used to. Maybe an idea like this should come to him more often, even if nobody in the family expects it. But every kind of futile labor of love has always been repugnant to Doctor Chardack. Bringing home a cake is one thing, but the abstract struggle to become a “real American” is quite another, especially since what he has done and still does is more than enough. He calls himself William, pronounces his surname American, served two years in Korea, and the transfusion pump he made from a grenade earned him two medals. He's proud of it, no question about it, proud of the boys he was able to save, as well as the many American lives saved thanks to his implantable pacemaker. One cannot ask more of him: for him America is a nation to which he belongs, not a religion in which one is born again. Every now and then he lacks the good things that exist in Europe. So what?

So after making sure the patients are stable, he decides to leave the car at the Veterans Hospital and walk to Hertel Avenue, which has plenty of Italian and Jewish cafes and restaurants. Doctor Chardack also likes to go for walks when the weather permits, which is a completely un-American habit. Even if the streets on which he is almost the only one walking on this late summer Sunday afternoon, on top of that in a tie and jacket (a light jacket that he wears over a short-sleeved shirt made of mixed fibers), the streets of North Buffalo are like that Rulers drawn, with neatly placed trees to justify the name Avenue, and lined with whitewashed wooden houses, only here and there slightly weathered, red, light yellow, greenish, sky blue, cream-colored, snow-white, some adorned with an American flag, larger and smaller , Houses with wide grass carpets in front of the door (without a fence!) And, as he has been able to discover over the years, amazingly suitable for defying the snow (the cold less) and keeping the warmth.

It is only annoying when someone wants to take it with them in the car. "Thanks, no!" Was his usual answer, which went without further explanation until he decided to sell his eccentric "just walking" as a preventive medicine against a heart attack. "Oh really, doctor!" Replied the neighbors and clung to their car keys, slightly frightened. But now there are only a few whispering little girls around, plus one or the other squirrel, which, unlike its poor, frightened European relatives, hops completely fearless over the sidewalk.

Wandering through a region that you know well enough and which in turn completely ignores you, revitalizes your thoughts or grinds them down with every step. Doctor Chardack had not got used to long city walks in Leipzig, but on the boulevards of the fifteenth, seventh, or sixth arrondissements, which often took him to the splendid or poor districts on the right bank of the Seine. Although the Metro hardly cost anything, it was the first expense that Ruth and Gerda refrained from, because they could not count on financial support from their families. A waste of money, they said, and walking also cuts a fine figure. That should be your last worry, the Dachshund grinned. The girls were happy to be bought a coffee, a subway ticket only in exceptional cases. Why sit in a moving underground cage when you've been to Paris? With the word “cage”, Willy left it at his objection that it was about to rain. Gerda had sat in prison and was miraculously released, and her escape from Germany had also been a lucky star. "Where do you have to go?" He asked. “Do you know the way?” - “Thank you, Dachshund, I'll manage it, but if you have nothing better in mind, you can accompany me for a while.” Perhaps he would have planned something better (holed up in the library and only closed it again), but instead he dragged his medicine books far behind the Pont Saint-Michel and back again until the handle of his portfolio cut his fingers painfully.

There was no stopping her, and after a month you had the impression that she had been born in Paris. On certain days she was able to collect the fee she earned from doing odd jobs, which meant walking to the Opéra and buying croissants and a basket of strawberries for Ruth on the way back, who must have been back in their shared room by now. “She'll faint if I don't bring her something sweet; not yet of legal age and already a beanstalk. ”Or she had to go to the post office in Montparnasse to post a letter to Georg, actually a mailbox would do it, and before that a tobacco shop would do it, and wherever they have been there, he would too buy a couple of cigarettes? Sometimes, she had already licked the postage stamps to Italy while he was still waiting for the remaining money, she stated out of the blue that if there were no wire-haired dachshunds, they would have to be invented ...

Then she got it into her head to do the baccalauréat on her own, and Georg had saved just as little with encouragement for Gerda as with the urgent request to Willy to help her with the scientific subjects that she never had in school would have. As if to provoke him, she usually let the dachshund come to the École normal supérieure, which was even more beautiful and quieter than the Sorbonne, where he was enrolled. When they were shown in front of the door, they would crouch on a bench in the Jardin du Luxembourg with the periodic table and the simple book of physics formulas that Gerda pulled out of her handbag and hold the sheet of paper on their knees, which was frighteningly translucent at the fold lines. They sat there in paper, chemical-physical confidentiality until Gerda lost patience or felt cold. How many minutes of contact would be granted to the dachshund's flannel thigh, how many glances at her silk stockings that peeked out from under the formula sheet, at her feet that bobbed to the rhythm of the repetitions?

When Willy opened the shutters in the morning, he cast a searching look into the clouds over the hotel's back yard.If they were so dark that the tutoring in the park threatened to fall into the water, his mood clouded over. A not too cold and overcast day was enough for him, but his meteorology never knew how long it would be before Gerda got up from the park bench. Suddenly she jumped up and walked along the green wall of lined trees, which looked huge next to her. Her gait was easy, though slightly nervous, but this was probably due to the gravel that crunched under her heels with every step she took with her high heels. The dachshund followed, sheet in hand, to correct them. Gerda stopped and turned to him, she wanted to come up with the right formula, the correct sequence of the elements, before he was with her. Maybe I should go slower, thought Willy, not quite sure whether he wanted to buy her time or savor her strained gaze. Perhaps his hesitation was already holding him back enough, because Gerda almost always managed to hurl her answer at the dachshund and reward him with a flash of triumphant smile. But sometimes, when the school classes that had just streamed out of the Lycée Montaigne came towards her, Gerda just kept walking, as if the childish faces with their uniformly short coats and curly hairs, who had been revived at the end of the day, were making their attempts at learning ridiculous. It's enough, let's leave it alone, signified her rushing off to the entrance of the Rue Auguste Comte, through which the pupils of the old Paris high school were pushing in. Willy took a step, he wanted to tell her clearly that these tots were no reason to just give up. But then Gerda throttled her course, as if she had realized that too, and Willy, who was chasing after her, could hear Gerda's soprano more and more clearly, "Lutécium, hafnium, tantale, tungstène, rhénium, osmium, iridium, platine, orrr ..." than she declaimed a surrealist poem. Most of the students didn't even grimace when they made room for her, but a light shone in the eyes of one or the other boy that Willy Chardack knew only too well.