The Kitchen Clock (Die Küchenuhr) by Wolfgang Borchert Translated from the German into English by Jennifer Fortkamp and Robert Acton Project of the GER 403 History of German Literature class Ball State University - Spring Semester 2003
The Kitchen Clock They were already looking at him as approached in the distance, because he just stood out. He had quite an old face, but from the way he walked, they could tell that he was only twenty. He sat down with his old face on the bench facing them. And then he showed them what he was carrying in his hand. That was our kitchen clock, he said, and looked at them all, one after another, sitting on the bench in the sun. Yes, I was able to find it. It was still there. He held a round white kitchen plate clock out in front of himself as he dusted off the the blue painted numbers with his finger. It has no further value, he remarked apologetically, I know that also. And it is also not especially pretty. It is only like a plate, with white varnish. However, I do find that the blue numbers are quite pretty to look at. The hands are naturally only made of tin. And now they don't work any more either. No. It's definitely broken on the inside. But it still looks like it used to. Even if it doesn't run anymore. With his finger tip he made a careful circle around the edge of the clock shaped like a plate. And he said softly: And it was still there. The people sitting on the bench in the sun did not look at him. One man looked at his shoes, and the woman looked into her baby buggy. Then someone said: You've probably lost everything? Yes, yes, he said joyfully, think about it, everything! Only this clock here, it's left over. And he raised the clock up again, as if the others were not yet familiar with it. But it doesn't run anymore, said the women. No, No, it doesn't. It is broken, I know that well. But otherwise it is just like it always was: white and blue. And again he showed them his clock. And the best thing, he continued excitedly, I haven't even told you yet. The best is yet to come: Think about it, it stopped at 2:30 in the morning. Exactly at 2:30, think about it. Then your house was surely hit at 2:30, the man said as he pushed his lower lip forward importantly, I've often heard that. When the bomb falls, the clocks stop. That comes from the concussion of the explosion. He looked at his clock and shook his head pensively. No, dear sir, no, you are wrong about that. It has nothing to do with the bombs. You should not keep talking about the bombs. No. At 2:30 something quite different took place that you don't know about. That's just it, that it stopped exactly at 2:30. You see, I always came home at 2:30. At night I mean. Nearly always at 2:30. That's just it. He looked at the others, but they had taken their eyes off of him. He didn't find them. Then he nodded at his clock: You understand, I was naturally always hungry then, wasn't I? And I always went straight into the kitchen. And it was almost always two thirty. And then, then, of course, my mother always came in. No matter how quietly I opened the door, she would always hear me. And, as I would look for something to eat in the dark kitchen, suddenly the light would turn on. And there she would stand in her wool jacket with a red shawl around her neck. And barefoot. Always barefoot. And our kitchen had a tiled floor. And she would squint her eyes, because the light was so bright. Because she had already been asleep. It was night. So late again, she would say then. She never said more than that. Only: So late again. And then she would warm up my supper and would watch me eat. At the same time she would always rub her feet against oneanother, because the tiles were so cold. She never put her shoes on at night. And she would sit there for as long as it took, until I was full. And then I would hear her still clearing away the dishes after I had already turned off the light in my room. Every night it was like that. And mostly always around two thirty. I just took for granted that at two thirty in the morning she would prepare a meal for me. I just took it gor granted. She would always do that. And she never said more than: So late again. But she said that every time. And I thought it would never stop. It was so natural to me. It had always been like that. For a moment there was complete silence on the the bench. Then he said softly: And now? He looked at the others. But he didn't find their eyes. Then he said softly into the white and blue round face of the clock: Now, now I know, that it was paradise. Real paradise. On the bench there was complete silence. Then the women asked: And your family? He smiled at her with an embarrassed look on his face: Oh, you mean my parents? Yes, they are also gone with the house. Everything is gone. Everything, just imagine. Everything is gone. He smiled embarrassed from one to the other. But they didn't look at him. Then, once again, he held the clock high and laughed. He laughed: Only this here. Only it's left. And the best thing is, it stopped at exactly two thirty. Exactly two thirty. Then he said nothing more. But he had quite aa old looking face. And the man sitting next to him looked at his shoes. But he did't see the shoes. He just thought the whole time about the word paradise.