…any kind of implied theory,
could even be the truth …
The Grim Reaper in Aachen
set of complex measurements and calculations was about to take place. A concentration of figures was bent
over a diagram. An old man quickly waved his hand holding a wooden compass that was enormous compared to the size of the
drawing. The young, athletically built men followed the circling hand, the professor's gestures. Concentrating, they wrote
down his words into their notebooks. Then, as was expected, the door opened and an inconspicuous young man entered the study. The bowed heads greeted him deferentially. The old professor turned toward him, as all present had mentally assumed, and bowed to the inconspicuous young man, whose face was not overly attractive, whose body was not overly athletic, it was even a little corpulent.
"Through these steep calculations we are looking for the end of the circle," said the professor and the students emphasized: "the end of the circle."
Roller--he was the young man--took hold of the large compass and jabbed it into the middle of the circle. The professor and the students listened to his hush-voiced computations:
"The first measurement--the number of homes on the streets through which you have passed.
The number of windows in them.
Discarding the incorrect numbers.
Arriving at the mean.
A window with white curtains, recently washed, fragrant.
A figure in this fragrant apartment.
Descending the stairs.
The sound of keys in a pocket.
The second measurement--the purpose of the journey, a progression of thoughts sliding away.
The third measurement--the journey, expectation."
Roller straightened up and said to the professor and students:
"We must now clarify the essence of the circle. There are recurrent events on this journey--in the life of an
individual a succession of details circle the center, circle the essence or possibly the soul, the original thought or
intention. Thus we now have the disqualified essence of our academic (sample) circle: the figure from the apartment with
the white curtains, whose idea is a journey. We also know that this journey is repeated, it is a circle. It comprises tiny
numbers, points, thoughts, imaginings, aspirations."
Continuing on, Roller presented this episode to the mind's eye of those present:
"Consequently, this figure, a girl, went down the stairs. She exited the building out to the street on which
high, today now old, houses are constructed. She took the keys from her pocket, unlocked the garage door, unlocked the
car, and drove off. She drove down a wide road lined with towns. The numbers ran quickly in the opposite direction, thus
she was approaching negation. After some time she arrived in the town she had wanted to reach. She came to a stop by a
curb on a street with different old houses. She locked the car, opened the door, and walked up the stairs. She unlocked
the apartment, went in, quickly passed through the entranceway to a room, and opened a window covered by white,
freshly washed curtains. From the window she looked out at the car parked by the curb. She then sat in an armchair with a
book she had just taken from the bookshelf, opened it to pages at random, and read. The room became torpid through the
torpor of the reading girl.
"And in another town, as we are assuming, at precisely the very same moment, in an armchair behind white curtains sat another girl reading a book, the pages of which, however, were not opened at random. She was the friend of our sample figure. She was reading a book, and from time to time she glanced up at the clock, for she was waiting for the moment it would be time to leave the house. The girls had arranged a meeting. They were meeting, then, at the same point of the circle: the expected time of their meeting. They met in a cafe. Upon greeting one another they each extended both hands and thereby created the form that we are investigating. Over coffee they each notified the other of what had happened in their lives since they last parted.
"They met regularly in this manner, either in the town of the first girl or in the town of the second.
Invariably they marveled at the similarity of their private experiences. In this way they felt like sisters even though
they were from different bloodlines. The startling similarities elated them. They laughed and their mouths formed circles.
Their earrings, rings, and bracelets also must be included in our computation. And perhaps somewhere here, Professor, we
are at the essence of the theory of the circle. But if we were to compute all the variables, how distant we would still be
from its end! We still have a long way to go toward completing the calculation."
The students stood above the drawing in deep thought, as did their professor. At that moment Roller left
the room. The professor bent over the sheet of paper, having taken the compass from it. He remarked quietly:
"Gentlemen, we have arduous work ahead of us."
(translated by Howard Sidenberg)
Ewald Murrer has had six volumes of poetry and prose published in the Czech
Republic, and in addition, his work has appeared in anthologies and journals internationally, including Child
of Europe (Penguin), Daylight in Nightclub Inferno (Catbird) and This Side of Reality
(Serpent's Tail). "The end of the circle" originally appeared in Dreams at the End of the Night, a collection of his
stories published by Twisted Spoon Press. An excerpt from his
The Diary of Mr. Pinke appeared in Issue #2 of The Cafe Irreal.
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story copyright by author 1996 all rights reserved
translation copyright by Howard Sidenberg 1999 all rights reserved