I Hate Einstein · Totalschaden

With a tragic past overshadowing his present, can Patrick navigate love, friendship, and Albert Einstein?


"A story about the relativity of madness that's worth reading – droll, tragicomic, and gripping till the end."


"Sentences with the quality of aphorisms."

Esslinger Zeitung

"The protagonist Patrick is traumatised and Albert Einstein is to blame. The story of how he lives with trauma is told in a way that's extremely entertaining, elegant, and witty, never losing steam."

Der Nordschleswiger

"Que Du Luu's wittily and laconically told story of Patrick's fears, his search for his life, almost incidentally conjures the existential: death and new beginnings, hate and love.

A wonderful novel.«


"Fast-paced, with snappily witty dialogue and a laconic narrative flow of uncommon technical brilliance."

Die Welt

"With this novel, she demonstrates a mastery of narrative technique and an extraordinary gift for good dialogue."


»Freewheeling Odyssey of self-discovery. Comic, tragic, good."


We are all learning about mental health. This conversation explores mental health and its impact on loved ones as well. 


"A profound examination of the sufferings of a young man in the face of his mother's mental illness – free of clichés and false sentimentality."


As Christmas approaches, a lonely young man struggles with love, friendship, and mental health as he seeks closure with his mother after she caused the death of his father. A novel of wry humour and heart despite tackling serious topical themes.

Presenting extracts from Que Du Luu’s award-winning debut novel, Totalschaden, or ‘I Hate Einstein’:

I Hate Einstein

238 pages


pp. 7-11, 132-38, 144-149, 210-215





pp. 7-11

My mother had always been a little odd, but no one had ever believed me, not even father. Yet I was the one who knew her best. After all, I was the one who had to spend all day with her, and no one can hold it together every minute of every day, least of all my mother.

I saw her for the last time on my tenth birthday. That evening, she drove into town with father on a last minute trip to buy me a remote-control car. 

She had grabbed hold of the wheel, I found out later. At a place where the road curved to the right, the car had followed a non-existent turn to the left and collided with a tree. The driver’s side was completely crushed. I don’t know if father died instantly or on the way to hospital. It wasn’t important. Dead was dead.

All my mother had was a sore neck. In the ambulance, she screamed that Einstein had been standing in the road so she’d had to grab the wheel. Once she had been thoroughly examined for any possible injury she was taken to Bethel to the secure ward. At some point she was moved to the general population. 

That’s all I know.

I knew the name “Bethel”. All the kids knew it. Bethel is a district of Bielefeld. There are several asylums there. When we argued and we ran out of insults, we would say, quietly but spitefully: “They’ll pack you off to Bethel soon!”

Fat Peter reckoned that there were people there who wore helmets. These helmet wearers would topple over, flat on the floor, and thrash around. They were called “epilators.”

When my mother came back from the shops one day and I read that very word on one of the boxes, I screamed: “What do you need that for? Are you an epilator too?” 

She didn’t know what I meant, and explained to me that she shaved herself with it, but I didn’t believe a word. My father’s razors looked completely different, nor had I ever seen a woman with a beard. I left it at that. Otherwise she would have accused me of being stupid again for not understanding her. 

After I had learned about my mother’s epilator, I kept a closer eye on her. When she was out, I went through her wardrobe. Maybe she had secretly got herself a helmet as well? 

I was waiting for her to flop over, to thrash about. But she didn’t fall. She complained to me that father wasn’t there during the day. But when she talked with him during the evening, she seemed to pull herself together. 

Once, when I tried to speak to her about a school trip, she said that Einstein didn’t go on any school trips either. I had no idea who this Einstein was, but it wasn’t unusual for me not to understand a word she was saying. It was her tone of voice, above all, that seemed so strange to me.

After that, she was always talking about this Einstein. When she started complaining about father being away yet again, I interjected that he did have to work. 

She snapped: “Work? You call fixing cars work? Einstein really works! He is the cleverest! He invented the theory of relativity!” 

This was all Greek to me, but I didn’t want to keep asking stupid questions. 

In the evening, after my mother had gone to bed early again, I sat up with father. 

“Is Einstein really so clever?”


That was reassuring. It made sense after all, the lot, everything my mother was saying. I was just too dim to understand all of it. 

My mother talked to me like an adult. She once said to me that she was feeling so “ambivalent”. I asked her what that meant, and she answered that it was like wanting to turn right and left at the same time. Right and left at the same time? I asked: “But why? You can go right first, then left.”

But she just said sadly: “You’re stupid, like the other children.” 

I didn’t cry when she said that to me. I heard her saying that all the time, and once someone has got used to something, it becomes normal. 

In the evening I asked father what the word meant, and he said: “Imagine you’re tired and you want to get to bed. But there’s a really exciting Western on TV you want to watch…”

I interrupted: “You can’t do both!” 

“Exactly. You call this feeling ‘ambivalent’”.

“Why don’t you just say that you want both? Why use such a funny word?”

I could ask father anything. He never moaned about my stupid questions. 

“You’re a clever kid and you don’t need any funny words. Stupid people use words like that because they believe it will make other people think they’re clever.”

“Is mother stupid?”

“No, of course not.”

My mother slept a lot. She would go lie down for an hour at lunchtimes. The hour kept getting longer. It didn’t seem to help, she always seemed tired anyway. While she was asleep I wasn’t allowed to move. If I went to the kitchen through the hall and gently closed the door, she would wake up. She woke up if I closed the bathroom door, she would wake up if I pulled the living room door closed behind me, or if I opened the door to my room. And every time she would scream from her room: “Children shouldn’t be heard!”

I tried to stay in my room and left the bathroom door open when I went to the toilet. But when I pulled the flush, she would scream again in that dispirited tone: “Children!” 

It seemed to me that for her, the whole day was a constant process of waking up. 

After the accident I lived with the Willmers: my mother’s younger sister and her husband and two children. They lived in Bielefeld too, but I had never met them before. My mother hated her sister. Whether or not her sister hated her in return, I didn’t know. She was my mother’s only relative.

The Willmers received a payout from a personal accident policy. The insurance company had tried to avoid paying at first, claimed that it hadn’t been a real accident. Accidents caused by alcohol or road racing were among their thousand small print exclusions. However, there was no exclusion for a crazy passenger grabbing the steering wheel to save Einstein. The insurers had to pay. 

pp. 132-38

I went to the decontamination unit and got on with my work, stuck the surgical instruments in the machines and packed them away again afterwards, and at lunchtime I went to the hospital canteen. I ate rice pudding with cherries, carried on working, and went home.

The flat was empty. There was a note on the table:

Thanks for putting me up! David

The table was cleared. The glasses were in the sink and the opened bottles were in the fridge, and the inflatable mattress back under the bed. I was pleasantly surprised. My gaze fell on the answering machine but there was no blinking light. 

Barbara had rung yesterday though, I thought. Hadn’t David told me not to forget that? Midnight at the Sonnenhof? Hadn’t I told her last night it was off? Or should I tell her it’s off, but go tonight anyway and look through the window?

First, I needed to catch up on a couple of hours’ sleep. When I woke up, it was dark again like the middle of the night. I could hear noise coming from every side. Music from the left, a vacuum cleaner from above. From below, shrill laughter. 

It had got cold, because I hadn’t turned the heating on yet. I switched on the light. It felt like the last sunny day had been months ago. It was December. Dark and cold and without hope. When you’re looking forward to Christmas, it doesn’t seem half as bad. But I wasn’t looking forward to anything. Christmas was the worst part of the year. If you have to spend all day stooped over, but you know you’re getting a nice back rub at the end of it, the whole day feels better. It felt to me, though, like I had to spend all day stooped over, but unlike everyone else – who would be getting their backs massaged – all I could expect come evening was a sodden sandbag strapped to my back. If at the start of December I had found myself sitting down to my goose alone, that wouldn’t have been so bad at all. But Christmas, that you had to spend amidst the good cheer of friends and family.

I turned up the heat and turned on the telly. So Gretel was with Tim. There you had it, the two nicest people in the hallway. Might she have fallen just as easily for me if I had been more of a gentleman? 

Time kept passing and I still hadn’t decided. My stomach was rumbling, but I was too agitated to eat anything. If I was going to go to Sonnenhof tonight anyway, I could just as well tell her there that I wanted to stay outside. 

I headed out extra early, to have time to watch the rooms. I crossed the grass, could see the building already, and wanted to have my binoculars out and ready as I walked, then I saw the hall with the lights on. Barbara was standing behind the glass door. I headed towards her. 

“You’re too early,” I said. 

“I don’t have much to do right now. So I thought, I might as well come stand here in case you come too early. So you won’t have to stand outside for so long.”

She looked different from usual. More casual. Her hair wasn’t up, but tied in a ponytail. She was wearing stonewashed jeans and a saggy sweatshirt with faded orange spots. Instead of ladies’ shoes, she was wearing trainers. 

My first thought was: She’s making herself extra unattractive for me.

“Come in,” she said, and I went in, because in the moment I forgot I wasn’t going inside her flat, but the Sonnenhof. 

The corridor resembled the ones in my old school. There were doors leading off it only on the right-hand side. It smelt strange. It was neither warm nor cold. Barbara looked at the binoculars and it occurred to me that actually I would rather have stayed outside and looked through the window from there. I fixed my gaze on her oversized trainers and tried to work out how I should tell her. I didn’t want to sound brusque like the last time. Yet the trainers moved. Barbara took two steps towards the door and closed it. 

“I brewed a pot of tea in the break room. All we need to do is get the cake out and we can have a nice sit down.” 

Cake? My skipped dinner made itself felt again. Actually, I was hankering after something a bit more robust. This Sonnenhof really isn’t so bad, I thought to myself. And I can sit down in this break room. Not much chance any of the residents are going to come in there. Outside it was as cold as it had been for weeks. Should I stay in here for a while to warm up? Should I go with her? I was in two minds and decided to gamble again. I wanted to keep my mouth shut and wait for what she was going to say next. If she said: “Come with me”, “Don’t be like that”, or anything of that nature, I would simply leave. If she said something positive, only then would I go with her. So I looked at her expectantly. She was confused as to why I wasn’t coming with her and why I wasn’t saying anything. She observed my face as if she might find the secret of my silence in it. Her head tilted slightly first to one side, then the other. 

“We can order ourselves a pizza before we have cake, as well,” she said. 

Now I was really in a jumble. I’d have bet a ton on “If you don’t fancy it you’re free to leave.” I was out of excuses now. 

“Have you not had anything to eat this evening either?” I asked. 

“Sure, but very early, and I left my sandwiches at home.”

She went ahead and I went with her. At the end of the corridor was a door; she opened it. Behind it was a bigger anteroom. The smell there was much more intense than in the corridor. It was no longer a smell, but a penetrating stink. A mix of piss, hospital, and burnt. That it smelled of stale smoke was unsurprising. There were cigarette butts on the tiled floor. But why piss?

A few palms fronted the glass façades. There was also a large glass door there, that had the look of a main entrance. Two more corridors led off from the anteroom. Voices echoed down them to us. We went straight up a flight of stairs, though, that led to another anteroom. A few metres before another corridor, Barbara opened a door. It was a large room with two dining tables, four desks, and a kitchenette. 

On one of the dining tables was a thermos jug, two plates and two cups. Thank God, it didn’t stink as much in this room as in the anteroom. 

“You don’t have to check on people?” I asked.

“If they want something, they’ll ring or knock on the door.”

I hoped that no one would knock on the door, and sat down at the table. Barbara handed me a takeaway pizza menu.

I flipped through it and said: “A large ‘four seasons’.” At the same time it occurred to me that I had no money on me whatsoever. All the same, I looked in my wallet, but all I could find was two euro. I was about to say that just cake would be plenty when Barbara said: “I can lend you something.”

I nodded.

She didn’t look at the menu, but took her phone from her pocket and said: “Evening, Sonnenhof. Hering. We’d like a large pizza quattro stagioni and a small spinaci… yes, fine… at the main entrance, please… buzz… thanks!... bye!”

The room was too hot. I took off my down jacket and tossed it over a chair. 

Barbara sat down opposite me. 

Then I jumped. Somebody was yelling, in a horrible, dull, scratchy voice, insulting someone. I could make out only the odd word, they included “wanker” and “bastard.”

Good thing I wasn’t hiding away in the bushes somewhere outside, I thought, otherwise I’d have legged it. I stared at Barbara. Was she deaf? She picked up the jug and poured tea without a care in the world. I couldn’t take it anymore. 

“Can’t you hear that?” I burst out.

“That’s only Mr Plehn,” she said. “Sometimes he just starts screaming. It’ll stop in a minute.”

Her calmness disconcerted me even more.

“Don’t you have to go check on him?” I asked. There was no doubt in my mind that someone needed to go calm him down. She’s got a hide like a rhino, I thought to myself. 

“No, as long as no one complains.”

I looked at her even more appalled. She noticed.

“No,” she said, “he’s not shouting because he’s scared of something, or needs help. He’s just letting off steam. So let him.”

And in a pedantic tone she added: “If someone else screams, then of course I’ll go take a look.”

The shouting stopped. It was still bothering me. I would never be able to work in the loony bin, I decided. With that racket going on, I couldn’t even sit alone in this room.

If they were sensitive, could someone be so cool? But if they weren’t sensitive, how could they figure out that I had a proper appetite?

Barbara had liberally applied a strong perfume this evening. In the corridor, as I was walking behind her, the strong scent had already hit my nostrils. Now, however, it seemed even stronger.

“Gretel has ended it with your poor brother,” I said, to have something to say.

“You mean Susie. He told me.”

A shrill sound rang out. Was it that smoke alarm again? I looked round in shock. Barbara stayed cool this time too. She is deaf, I thought. She got up and, nonsensically, I believed that she had read my thoughts, now she was insulted and she was going. Really, she was going to the coatrack. Didn’t she need to run off and find out if there was a fire somewhere? She took her purse out of her jacket. Now it was quiet again.

“Dinner’s ready,” she chanted melodically, and left the room.

pp. 144-149

I removed the binoculars from the bag, but when I looked through them I saw nothing new. There must just be a common room on this floor like the one above. 

I crept round the building and saw lit windows. A couple of palms blocked the view. 

Through the binoculars I could see a little more, a few people were sitting on a corner sofa, but I still couldn’t see enough. 

Farther on I discovered a stand of trees. One seemed suitable for climbing. Its branches started low down, so I gave it a go. 

Wood is a warm material, they say, but this wood was cold and raw to the touch, as if it were full of scars. My binoculars were bouncing around under my neck. I had to cling on with every finger. My muscles were overwhelmed, but my rubber soles kept a solid grip. Once I was finally sitting on a branch, the sweat ran down my back. It was rather uncomfortable on this branch, and since I was sitting there so inert, I started to freeze horribly. My hands were stiff, because I didn’t dare stick them in my coat pockets. If I had, I might have lost my balance and flopped over like a bird whose wings had been clipped. I thought of my soft bed. About the stench inside the Sonnenhof. Compared to that, my flat was pure paradise. It wasn’t covered in trash and it didn’t smell. I had often envied people their superior furnishings, but now I was thinking that my place wasn’t so bad after all. 

The branch creaked if I moved just a little. But I was sitting here now and here I was going to remain. I lifted the binoculars and looked through them.

Compared to the upper common room, this one was a riot. Three residents were sitting in the TV corner. There was one woman among them. She was short, fat, and too young to be my mother. So she must be in bed, I thought. And all this effort was for nothing. 

I wanted to come down, but when I looked below me I started to get dizzy. I asked myself why it was always easier to go up than to come down.

Maybe gravity is easier to overcome than fear, I mused.

I sat where I was. I had always put off the unpleasant. I looked at the room again. There was a talkshow on the TV, and the three residents were watching the back and forth and smoking. Of course, the pine coffee table was marked with the raisin pattern. Did they make an extra effort to put their cigarettes out there, the only place free of burn marks? Everything was covered in the same way. The same pattern could be seen on the big dining table. It was farther back in the room. One person was sitting at the table. It might have been the woman from the lit room, but I couldn’t be sure. After all, I had only seen the woman twice, and only briefly, and that was without binoculars. Now I could see her profile as well.

It didn’t matter if the lit room was hers or not. None of the women could be my mother. After fourteen years, everything is different. I wasn’t a child anymore. At most, it might be the woman who used to be my mother.

“Ex” is the term for the divorced. There must be divorces from mothers as well, I said to myself. My mother was no longer married to my father, and hadn’t brought me up. She was closer to Einstein. She had done nothing to earn the title “mother” – she had only given birth to me. Nothing connected us except the first ten years of my life. 

The woman was smoking and had eyes only for the ashtray. I asked myself why she didn’t join the others watching TV. Now she turned slightly to the side, so she could be seen head on. She had a high forehead, the cheeks were just as sunken as before, and the eyes deeper in their sockets. It was her. I was surprised. Not by her, but by myself. That I was calmer than I would have imagined. After fourteen years, I should have felt a hammer blow. I stared at the woman who once had been my mother. Perhaps I stayed relatively calm since on some level, last Saturday, I had already known it was her. Nevertheless, I didn’t feel good. The woman looked old. My mother had always looked careworn. But for me she had always been an adult and not old. If she had looked younger or had sat with the others in the TV corner, it probably wouldn’t have been so bad for me. She was old, alone, and there was no prospect of improvement. 

Her sister had always said that people raise children not because it is in their nature, but because they are afraid of growing old alone. My mother had not had me for fear of being alone. When I had especially played up, she would tell me that I hadn’t been planned. Back then, I hadn’t understood, maybe I hadn’t wanted to. So once I replied smartly: “You can’t get everything you wish for.” Father had said that to me sometimes and I was simply parroting it.

Anne, my mother’s sister, had a good relationship with her children Felix and Steffi. She had prospects of company when she was old. But if they visit once a month, or only at Christmas, you’re alone after all.

I couldn’t stand looking any longer at the old woman who had once been my mother. That was even more unpleasant than climbing down. My hands were already numb from cold. The last bit I let myself drop down. Was Barbara in the staff room now? I went once around the building. In one of the rooms I saw the fat woman from the TV corner again. Fairy lights hung on the wall around a poster of Tom Cruise. There was an Advent wreath on the table. The room looked proper neat and tidy and the woman too seemed to take better care of herself than the old witch. It looked more or less like a normal room. There was nothing to indicate that she was crazy, except perhaps that for someone of her age a Monet print would have been more appropriate than a poster of an actor. She went to her stereo system and turned it up ridiculously loud. Doesn’t that bother anyone, I asked myself, and waited to see what would happen. The woman sat down on her bed without a care in the world and puffed away. After a while, the woman went to the door and opened it. Barabara was standing there and the pair seemed to argue. I was happy that I had found Barbara so quickly, and knocked on the window. She saw me and her eyes widened. The woman turned around and jumped with fright. Barbara went to the hifi and turned the volume down. The woman was screaming now, like a defiant toddler: “That isn’t loud!”

Barbara came to the patio door and let me in. Turning to the woman, she said: “This is a trainee.” 

The woman suddenly smiled at me and said gently: “Are you going to be working here? You’re sweet. You should start working here.”

“Yes, it’s a possibility,” I answered and felt flattered because the woman liked me. 

“You are sweet,” the woman said again.

Barbara and I left the room. We had to go through the common room and it suddenly occurred to me that I might bump into my ex-mother. But I didn’t spot her. No one was sitting at the dining table anymore, and there was only one woman and one man in the TV corner. The pair of them eyed me as we crossed the room. I wanted to look straight ahead, but couldn’t help myself taking a sideways glance at them. The woman was really tall and thin. Her face had noble lines. She would have looked rather attractive if she hadn’t been wearing that platinum-blonde wig. Her pullover had that typical raisin pattern. The man looked like an alcoholic. 

Barbara took the stairs ahead of me. When we reached the staff room, she asked me: “What do you spend all this time outside doing?” 

What was I to say to that? That I had climbed a tree and used my binoculars? If it hadn’t been for Barbara, I’d never once have thought of peeping through the windows. The warmth was doing good, though, and my intention was to sit in this room until I had thawed out. 

“Why are you doing all this?” I asked her.

“Why do I work here, you mean?” 

That was a good question, actually, I thought.

“No. Why do you let me in here in secret? Why did you lead me here last Saturday?” 

“Because I find you interesting,” she answered.

“Like a psychiatrist finds their patient interesting.” 

“No, because you’re one of David’s friends.”

She looked at me like she was hoping I would believe her. I stared at the table. I noticed that she hadn’t yet cleared my cup away. Strangely, I was happy about that. She poured both of us tea.

“What a load of rubbish,” I said. “You’re doing it for your patient. You can’t bear her being old and alone!”

pp. 210-215

Now I wished that Barbara was here after all. Just because you’re related to someone doesn’t mean that you have anything to talk about. Should I give her a piece of my mind? Curse her for grabbing the steering wheel? Those thoughts that I had buried for years came to the surface. I clasped my hands harder on the chair, my muscles hardened. Then I started to cry. 

I raised my eyes, but she was staring at her fingers. I couldn’t stand it any longer, I stood up and rushed to the patio door. Then I went back to the table, then back to the door again, then to the patio door. I dashed around like a frightened rabbit in a cage. I stuck my hands in my pockets and pulled them out again. I didn’t know what to do with them, what to do with myself. 

She started combing her fingers over her face and over her hair, as if brushing invisible strands away from her face. It was a gesture I remembered her using when she was nervous. I went around the room faster and faster. 

“Will you stop that!” she screamed suddenly.

“And children shouldn’t be heard!” I shouted back. I went to the door and hammered on it with my fists. Someone stuck a key in the lock and I took a step back. 

A big man entered the room and stared at me. He looked at my mother and then back at me. 

“What’s going on in here?” he asked.

No one answered. 

“Mrs Müller, you know the rules, no visitors after eight.”

She didn’t react, so he turned to me: “Are you from Forellenhof?” 

Forellenhof was another one of these loony bins. 

“No,” I said. 

“You can come again tomorrow,” he said gently, as if I were a child. 


His eyebrow raised slightly, he chewed indecisively on his lower lip, as if he were asking himself what he should make of me. Then he looked at my mother once more. 

“Let him stay here,” she said, now calm again. “I haven’t spoke to him for fourteen years.” He looked across at me and looked me up and down. As he did so, he squinted as if to see more clearly. 

I was looking at him too. He was proper big and strong, 6’6” and 16 stone perhaps. His lumberjack shirt and that hairstyle made him look like a woodsman. I reckoned he was in his early thirties, and I tried too to puzzle out if Barbara found him attractive.

“Ah, you’re the trainee. You can stay here,” he finally said, as if he knew what it was all about. He added, turning to my mother: “If you need anything – I’m upstairs.” He left the room and I leaned back against the door and crossed my arms. My mother did not turn in my direction. She stared straight ahead of her, as if I were still sitting in front of her. I noticed that the pair of tears had long since evaporated. What exactly did I want here?

What had it all been for all these years, staying well clear of my mother and refusing to think about her? Why always this magical attraction to the thing you are most afraid of?

I had moved into my own place and had done away with the last remaining tradition this year. This Christmas, I wasn’t even going to the Willmers’, I wasn’t going to see my mother’s sister anymore. I had just cut the final cord. 

I went to the table and sat down again.

“Are you going to the Willmers’ for Christmas again?” she asked. 


She stood up and and pulled a box from under the bed. She returned to the table with a parcel that was wrapped in blue gift paper, sat back down and pushed the parcel next to my cup.

“Your Christmas present.”

How had she known that I was coming? Did she buy me a present every year on the off-chance?

“You can open it now,” she said passively. “We definitely won’t see each other at Christmas.”

“I don’t want anything.”

No sooner had I spoken the words than I regretted them. It is insulting to reject a gift. She didn’t even have the money to pay for her vodka, but she had bought me something for Christmas – if she had bought it. I still couldn’t believe that she stole now.

Beneath the starry gift-wrapping puffy layers of newspaper appeared, and beneath them a metal photo frame. A small child held a dandelion in its hand. It wasn’t me. It was just one of the stock photos that are already in the frame when you buy them. 

I didn’t have any photos. Not from before and not from today. Neither family photos nor girlfriend photos. There were no events that I had wanted to capture on film to remind myself of later.

“Thanks,” I said automatically, and looked her in the eye. She smiled.

“What are you doing for Christmas?” I asked just as automatically as I had said “thanks.”

“They always do something for Christmas here.”

So she wasn’t doing anything. Ought I invite her to eat the goose? But meeting like that would be awkward for everyone. When you meet a lot of people, you don’t meet anyone properly. Perhaps that was why some people only went out in their own little groups. 

She smiled: “And besides, Einstein is visiting me.”


“Yes, Einstein is visiting me.”

I froze completely, but she wasn’t looking at me, she had only a satisfied smile for herself. 

Images flowed through me. Bottles of vodka, trees in fields, tangled hair, stuck-out tongues, epilators.

It was no joke, she was serious. She had never understood how to tell jokes.

“You’re still crazy then,” I said.

Hate pumped through me.

“You understand nothing. You’re still a child after all,” she said.

The photo frame glinted in the corner of my eye and I was about to hurl it against the wall.

“Einstein couldn’t help it. The tree had no right to be there,” she said.

“You could help it!” I screamed at her. “You and your sick brain! Why did the tree crush dad and not you!” 

“Don’t make so much noise.”

“Children shouldn’t be heard!” I bellowed, as if I were the crazy one of the two of us. 

I picked up the laughable little photo frame. Should I frame Einstein, maybe, and have him on the table? Or the Willmers? Or her? There was no one… Barbara came to mind and I laid the frame back on the table.

Someone knocked. So the carer with the lumberjack shirt was back. 

“Mrs Müller, it got loud again. I’ll stay here for now.”

He looked around, but there was no chair spare.

Then he looked at me to read my reaction. I nodded.

© Que Du Luu 2006, translation Bryn Roberts 2022