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The Decision Maker

by Rupprecht Mayer

translated from the German by the author

In my office, there is no bright daylight anymore. There has not been night either, not for a long time. The hands of the clock have stopped at quarter past seven, though I don’t know whether in the morning or the evening. I’ve pushed the tables together in the middle of the room, it does not look very tidy. There is a heap of journals, books, and files, with a little hollow in the center where I sleep.

I don’t leave the office anymore because I’m worried. The black retro telephones crammed together in one spot whine constantly, but I haven’t answered a call for a long time.

Mrs. Falter comes in sometimes. She runs the store. Has she noticed that I have forgotten my purpose in the office? Actually I should congratulate myself. She is so competent, I was able to delegate everything. All I do now is decide.

Because I’ve eaten nothing for a long time, I look slimmer and younger. I don’t talk about private matters with Mrs. Falter, but her eyes seem to acknowlege the change.

She makes appointments for the selection process. The interviews take place in a small room next to the office. My job is to decide who will go to Wolfratshausen and who to Murnau. I don’t need to be present. There is a one-way mirror through which I can observe the interviews, but I haven’t done that for a long time. I crouch in the far corner of the office and listen to the loudspeaker. The number of candidates has risen steadily, so now we hold collective interviews. You could even call them auditions.

What the young people say—their training, their internships, their eagerness to accept challenges, what limbs have been amputated, biographies—that’s all superflous. Choirs emerge with seven or nine parts, with some information rising in unison. Sometimes an aria can be heard, and it all ends in an excited babble of voices.

I have a good ear and I can hear a solo coming from number eight, or dissonance from number five, and whether number three is contributing to the ensemble or holding back. Only after their assignment to Wolfratshausen or Murnau do I learn the names of the candidates. This ensures a certain objectivity, since even a name can be influential—even if you have never seen the person’s face. So I know that Lily W. goes to Murnau, Thomas F. goes to Wolfratshausen. I know where Susa K. will go.

I’m worried because I have no idea what happens to the young people in Murnau and Wolfratshausen. I could ask Mrs. Falter when she goes to the shredder and destroys the documents immediately after my decisions. But after all this time, I lack the courage to do so.


Rupprecht Mayer resettled in southeast Bavaria after living and working some twenty years in Taiwan, Beijing, and Shanghai. He translated Chinese literature (like poems of Gu Cheng, short stories of Shen Congwen and Mo Yan, brush notes of Qing-scholar Ji Yun) and writes short prose. English versions have appeared in Hobart, Mikrokosmos, Nano Fiction, Ninth Letter, Prick of the Spindle, and elsewhere. (7/2014)

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