In the Korachs’ apartment.

PETER: I’ll start with the tongue. And a box cutter. Which I’ll use to hack that flap of flesh out of her mouth so the world is spared her lies. Her cunt I’ll seal up with caulk, with my own hands, and then her infidelity won’t bother anyone ever again. I’ll take her brat, her bastard, and pour boiling milk over him, pick his eyes out of their sockets, and cut him up into little pieces, right before her eyes. I’ll create a horrible mess the like of which the D.A.’s office has never seen. I’m going to spread these one and a half people out over as wide an area as possible, and then I’ll spend twenty-five years in my cell taking delight in what I did. A model for all men who’ve been cheated on, a warning sign for faithless bitches who make their husbands take on some other guy’s brood with a smile, with a purr and with lots of hypocritical talk about family. We went to church. For the christening. She stood at the front, do you remember, she had her progeny baptized, with holy water, and I had to buy a light blue suit, it was a light blue moment. She dissembled before God, and a chasm didn’t open to swallow up this whore, and I’ve got pictures, I can show you them, where she’s laughing her cowardly grin, with the child in her arms. And me. Boy did I ever take pleasure in that grin. A happy woman. And who was responsible for that happiness. I was. With my semen and my steady income and with my up-to-date outlook on modern fatherhood. I bought a little bed, and I bought all the equipment, and I bought a new car, because while the old one was elegant, it wasn’t safe enough for the holy cargo, and I bought toys and I bought a stroller and I bought and I bought and I bought, and I played the father, the loving, caring father and I got home on time and I said, “Go out to work, you need to have a life beyond your maternal duties. I don’t want a housewife.” As if I would. Me. I’m modern. A modern moron. And I said, “I want to be a father to the child, a father, not this thing that only makes an appearance every evening.” And on Tuesdays I always looked after the creature, that parasite whose landlord I was, and the maggot grinned at me with its toothless mug, and I saw it as love and took pictures and sent them all round the world like a goddamn idiot. Isn’t he sweet. Doesn’t he look like his father. Who is his father. Who. I became a fool in my friends’ eyes, they called me mommy, but I didn’t care. I wanted to see how a child grows up, and that piece of meat, that hunk of flesh got big and fat, and I sat at his bed when the teeth came, the whole night. Didn’t go to work when he got the measles, mumps, chickenpox, I don’t even remember them all. And I was proud when that slut, that black mark of my love came home in the evening at the end of my day of being a dad and found me exhausted because the boy hadn’t slept at lunchtime and hadn’t left me a free minute, just made noise and screamed for daddy non-stop and, idiot that I am, I thought he meant me. She grinned at me, patted me on the head and ran her fingers through my hair, and her smile was the smile that comes from her joy at having successfully palmed her little shit off on me. And me. I’m proud of him. You have to help me.

SIMON: And I thought you were going to help me.

PETER: Dad. I’ve got nothing left.

SIMON: We’re in an election. I can beat Gruber. Peter. But we need everyone on board.

PETER: How can you think about your political career at a time like this.

SIMON: Shall I tell you what I’m thinking about. I’m thinking about my city. I’m thinking about the children out in the suburbs who have no future. About the young people who spend the whole day just hanging around, with no work, with no feeling of being needed. I’m thinking about the old people who sit in the railroad station and drink themselves into a stupor. That’s what I’m thinking about.

PETER: Spare me your stump speech.

SIMON: That’s not a speech, Peter. It’s not about us. Open your eyes. There’s a split running through our society, and every day it gets wider.

PETER: Agnes deceived me, lied to me, robbed me, ripped me off.

SIMON: We’re going to wait until your mother’s back from India. You and me, we just have no idea what makes these women tick.

PETER: When’s Mum getting back.

SIMON: Soon. In three weeks.

PETER: In three weeks.

SIMON: Then the election will be over, and we’ll have time. Then we’ll get the whole thing cleared up. Together with Helle. We’ve got no time right now for family stuff.


SIMON: I’m called Simon. What a blockhead you are. A paternity test. What put you on to that preposterous idea? I didn’t.

PETER: It was your good man Franzeck.

SIMON: Franzeck’s the father.

PETER: I ran into him, in the park, it was my daddy day. He pretends to be interested. What it’s like being a father. The responsibility. How I cope with it. That this must be the end of the line for me professionally. And how I live with the eternal doubt. Doubt, what doubt. So then he goes on about scientific studies, how women are naturally unfaithful, they can’t help it. But thankfully today there are these scientific tests, and they’re so cheap. I leave him standing there. And back at home I look at the brat. It’s the first time I’ve taken a cold, hard look at him. The eyes. Nose. The chin. The shape of the head. I scan the skin, looking for a birthmark, a mole, but there’s no resemblance anywhere, what’s round in me is angular in him, what’s dark is light. The monster has the pediatrician’s eyes, my friend’s nose, a neighbor’s mouth, everyone looks more like the kid than I do. But I control myself, I don’t flip out, I try not to think about it, I tell myself she would never do it, not Agnes. And for three long weeks I talk myself out of the doubt, every night, every morning, I eat with it, I dream about it. It’s like a pebble in your shoe that you feel with every step. Why suffer, Peter Korach, you have to get that pebble out of there, why have doubts when you can know for sure. I go into the bathroom and take two Q-tips, one for my saliva, one for his. Yesterday the results are lying there in the mailbox. If I’d hammered a nail into a vein, no blood would have flowed, that’s how numb I was. I’m not who I thought I was for the past four years, Agnes is not the woman I took her for, the boy is not my boy. My life was a lie. I’ve lost everything. I still love her. That will wear off. You all knew.

SIMON: You’re a fool.

PETER: Did you see a likeness. Did you think, My grandson looks like me. You all knew she’s a whore, that she pulled a brat out of her womb, out of a soup of semen. Not a whore. A parasitic wasp, she stung her brood into my body so she can eat me up from the inside, and now there’s nothing of me left, just a shell, a used-up man. Though the brood is fat and pink. You didn’t say anything. Cowards. All of it was fake.

SIMON: Get some sleep. What does Agnes say.

PETER: I can’t tell her. She thinks everything’s just the same as ever. I’ve had a chance to study her lies. The bitch puts on an act without the slightest sign of shame. The eyes look true. The voice purrs. I say, Isn’t he handsome, handsome like his father. She says, Yes, he is. I say, Isn’t he artistic and gentle like the father. She says, with a smile, Two of the same kind. A Korach. No lightning bolt comes down from heaven and strikes her dead, no chasm opens up and swallows up the bitch, the backbiter. You tell her. Tell her I know. I can’t control myself.

* * *

SIMON: Franzeck. What have you done.

FRANZECK: Me. I’ve been trimming my nails. I’m sorry. Disgusting noise. It was only the fingernails. I swear. I thought I was alone.

SIMON: Not that.

FRANZECK: And I’ve been rummaging around in Gruber’s biography. There might be something small on his record, some womanizing in his past, a cold corpse we could dig up so that the air around him stinks and whenever people hear the name Gruber, they smell carrion. Simon. Man to man. You don’t stand a chance against Gruber. None at all. You’ve lost the election five times. You’ll lose the sixth one too. Unless Gruber stinks. For his own part, he doesn’t stink.

SIMON: Not that, Franzeck, not now.

FRANZECK: I admit it. I treated myself to a pickle with mayonnaise and leafed through your notebook. And I made a bit of a mess. I’ll replace it. Or better yet: take it out of my next paycheck. Otherwise you’ll be saying it yet again. Franzeck is a bigmouth. But I’m not a bigmouth. Just forgetful sometimes. There’s a difference.

SIMON: Call my wife.

FRANZECK: I’d rather not.

SIMON: She has to get on the next plane. She’s needed.


SIMON: Here. Right away.

FRANZECK: Do I have to. She doesn’t like me, and I don’t like it when people don’t like me.

SIMON: Franzeck. What did you do to Peter.


SIMON: Answer me.

FRANZECK: Absolutely nothing at all.

SIMON: I know that face, Franzeck, I’d like never to see it again.

FRANZECK: What could I do to Peter, he’s way above me, by several levels. It wouldn’t work, even just physically.

SIMON: You can’t stand him, I know.

FRANZECK: If you’d allow me to be like a child for a moment, armed with nothing but the truth, then I have to tell you, Simon, it turns my stomach when I see that Peter of yours, and eighty percent of that’s envy, ten percent jealousy, and the rest disgusting feelings I’m ashamed of, and it’s best if I keep them to myself. As far as familial advancement goes, I’m nowhere. I don’t have a wife, and not only don’t I have one, I don’t even know one I could get to know, I mean, one of child-bearing age. I don’t even have a sex life, because those years a guy’s supposed to use to build up a foundation of female acquaintances, I let them pass by unused, well you know, I sacrificed them to the bottle. And yet, this is my tragedy, I’d be the best father a child could imagine, loving, sure, but that’s not the point, responsible too, sensitive, yes, that also, but none of that captures it. Here’s the point: in my chest there beats a child’s heart, Simon, I’ve got an eternally young disposition, and so I don’t need to empathize with a child. I am a child. And then when I see Peter, with that happiness, that he pushes before him by the pound half-way round the town, and through the parks, and along the avenues, and through the woods, with a whistle on his lips and without showing any discernible sign of gratitude, or of willingness to share that happiness, I could just explode. It’s so unjust. My mother pined away on me, and I got nothing from my father except a bad name. I’m certainly not going to start whining. I’m not going to fall back into the old self-pity, into that beginning of the end, I’m taking a deep breath and saying: Take it easy, Franzeck, you’re the personal assistant to candidate Simon Korach, he lifted you up off the park bench, accepted you into his house. Together you have a task to carry out, you want to muck out the stables after forty years of dung production by the ruling clique, and to do that you have to beat Gruber, and to beat Gruber you have to be cold, calm. And smart. For that goal, Franzeck, is bigger than you, and if you don’t reach it, which will in all probability be what happens, because the citizens, that mass of dumb sheep, want unjust security and not insecure justice, Gruber and his cronies, not Korach and Franzeck, then I tell myself: You’re still young, Franzeck, you’ve got a whole life ahead of you. Every person runs his own race, and even if Peter seems to be ahead of you now, we’ll have to wait and see how it turns out in the end.

SIMON: Enough, Franzeck, that’s enough.

FRANZECK: And if by any chance I didn’t drown my sperm in booze during my wild years, which I probably did, then I’ll have offspring, lots of them, I’ll be a patriarch, Franzeck the founding father, I’ll have a family, a happy home life, blood ties. And should no woman want me, none like Agnes, because those women think, oh, that Franzeck, with his past, that Franzeck, with his unstable psychic condition, it’s best if we don’t make him the one to determine the fate of our children, well then Simon, I’ll just travel to Chiang Mai and marry a hairless Thai, a nymphet who’s seen nothing of the world and therefore has nothing to compare me with and for whom a Franzeck is just as good as a Peter, and that, Simon, is a woman whose standards I’ll meet.

SIMON: That’s enough now, Franzeck.

FRANZECK: Of course.

SIMON: Peter says you ran into each other. In the park.

FRANZECK: That’s bordering on perjury.

SIMON: You weren’t in the park.

FRANZECK: I didn’t have anything to drink. I’ll never drink again. Never again. Liver cancer is what killed my mother, and in her dying hour I was full up to here with lemon liqueur. She was breathing her last, and I was next to her throwing up.

SIMON: Calm down.

FRANZECK: And once when I’d had a few I ran over a girl, Lisa, and since then she’s been paralyzed from the neck down. She’s not in great shape from the neck up either. I’ll carry that guilt for the rest of my life, but I’ve accepted the guilt and every Wednesday I do something with her, drive into the woods or go to the zoo. She especially likes the rhesus monkeys, how they tumble around like acrobats, and she imagines what it would be like if she too could tumble around like that. She laughs, she’s got a happy soul. Even though she’ll never be able to move so much as her right toes ever again.

SIMON: So you weren’t in the park.

FRANZECK: No one believes people like me, but I’m telling you, if I ever touch so much as a drop of alcohol again, I’ll put a bullet through my head. I’ll give you that in writing. Get me some paper, Simn.

SIMON: Franzeck.

FRANZECK: Paper, I say. I have my pride. So. Thank you very much. Here. Alcohol, never again. Or else. Here. For you.

SIMON: Were you in the park or weren’t you.

FRANZECK: I was feeding the pigeons. They know me. Remember, I spent a good part of my best years on the park bench. I look in on them every now and then. Out of nostalgia. And I want to see how they develop. There are some generations who don’t come to anything, they’re narrow-chested and cripple-footed, playthings for cats from birth. And others, who knows why, they thrive, become stout patriarchs, found dynasties, and nothing can harm them, a hard winter just makes them stronger.

SIMON: A father who considers himself a father, doesn’t by any means have to be a father.


SIMON: Did you talk Peter into it.

FRANZECK: I read the paper. I inform myself. I use my knowledge. And I wanted to get Peter out of his self-righteous paternal tranquility for once. For once I wanted to see what he would do if doubt was gnawing away at him. It nibbles away at me every day, every hour, even now, right at this moment.

SIMON: We know, Franzeck, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

FRANZECK: It requires greatness even just to feel that nibbling. And it takes depth. I believe in non-material values, but those non-material values must be borne, borne and lived. And your son Peter, Simon, I’m sorry, but he’s not preoccupied with anything other than how he’s going to spend his Friday evening.

SIMON: That’s his business.

FRANZECK: His sole concern is how to furnish his life as tastefully as possible, what suits him, whether it should be a mixed silk fabric or a linen, pleated or flat-front.

SIMON: You didn’t succeed at all. He’s got no more doubts.

FRANZECK: He never does. He knows where he belongs. He knows what he needs. Three weeks by the sea, two in the snow Christmas, New Year’s. What he needs to do in order to have reached by the age of forty the place that he certainly will reach. Whom he has to invite to his parties, and which women’s asses he can pinch without risking a slap in the face. What he needs to do in order to always stay up at the top but never to be right at the front. What the optimum amount of body fat is in order to stay on top without trying and still to be thought of as slim. It’s ugly, Simon, we know that. But Simon. Peter is a lucky so-and-so and I’m sad down to my bones.

SIMON: He believed you and did the test.

FRANZECK: The test.

SIMON: He had the paternity established.


SIMON: Now you’re not saying anything.

FRANZECK: I’m thinking. Is that brave or cowardly. Brave because he wants to know the truth. Cowardly because he can’t stand it gnawing away at him.

SIMON: He’s just dumb.

FRANZECK: That depends on the result.

SIMON: Then he is.

FRANZECK: The father.

SIMON: Dumb.

FRANZECK: So he’s not.

SIMON: He’s not.

FRANZECK: That’s dumb.