For a little while it went on flying through white smoke that made all the sounds appear like wrapped up in cotton wool or muffled it like snow recently fallen from the sky. Very soon the smoke had an end and the grey gave way to a blue spreading as far as the sky. Down below on the ground there was none of this wideness, for when the people in this part of town were looking out of the window they saw nothing but the windows of other houses. If they bent down there were only streets and cars. If they bent their heads up they could see a piece of sky – but it was merely a piece. Some were less lucky and only saw a never-ending row of house fronts. So they stopped looking out of the windows. Many who worked in this part of town only saw bright white neon lights instead of daylight. The residential and administrative buildings were alternating with petrol stations with car wash, schools, churches and shopping centres. In one of them a little girl was sitting on a bar stool eating pasta. Because of the heat there hadn’t been much business in the shopping centre. Most of the people were probably staying at some swimming pool and the few guests that had come in to them, wanted to escape the heat for a moment with a cooled drink. Only a bit later would there be more business when the heat would have given way to a bearable warmth. Then the people would do their shopping until closing time and would tell the work day good-bye over a glass of wine and a piece of pizza. The other children of her class were at the outdoor pool or on holiday with their families. The little girl had propped up her head into her left hand and with the right one she shoved one fork with noodles after the other into her mouth without raising her head, while she let her legs slightly dangle about in the rhythm of her chewing. When she had finished, she carefully let her body glide from the bar stool, took the empty plate and put it into the dishwasher. When she heard her father call her name she turned round to him and saw him point his head towards one of the tables. She nodded and went over to clear away the empty dishes.
Her father was just forwarding the bill to one of the guests and telling him the amount. While waiting for the money he watched his daughter piling up plates and cutlery on the next table with her small hands and a highly concentrated look on her face. His beautiful Angelina! She had the same black hair and the same dark eyes like her mother and it gave him a little sting being reminded of her like now. A year before they had been sitting by her sickbed and since the funeral the eyes of his eight year old child had the grief-stricken look of an adult that had had a glimpse at Pandora’s Box. He forced himself to shake off that image and to concentrate on the man before him again.
“Did you enjoy it?” asked Angelina. The two addressed women, who had been absorbed in a chat about the past weekend briefly raised their heads and gave her an astonished look because they hadn’t seen the girl come to their table. “Oh, yeah, thanks. It was great” they said. When Angelina cautiously carried plates and cutlery to the dishwasher she could hear one of the women say, “And then he…” and the next moment both of them vigorously burst out laughing. The girl startled in alarm and almost dropped the cutlery on the floor. She barely managed to put the pile of plates onto the counter without dropping everything. While she was loading the dishwasher, adding rinsing agent and starting the cleansing process, her father was collecting the money from the table with the two women. Shortly after that they stood up and left the shop. Now that nobody left except her father, she asked him if she was allowed to go outside. He nodded and asked her to take care and not to go too far away.
Angelina loved watching the people from up here and seeing them walking in and out of the shops. She leaned over the railing and tried to imagine what the people had bought according to the size of the plastic and paper bags they were carrying. A little boy at the hand of his mother looked up to her, waved at her and pointed at something above her.
She waved back and lifted her head towards the direction the boy had indicated, and she saw a red balloon slowly sailing across the yard. She followed it with her eyes and gradually the adult expression on her face faded and she became once again what she was: a little girl. She smiled and started laughing. First it was only a tiny coughing, but then it grew into a laugh that only children have. It rolled and chortled – like blebs bubbling up from the deep ocean into the light. She was still laughing when the balloon had already disappeared out of sight.
The sun meanwhile cast long shadows between the trees and houses. The people in town were washing the dishes, coming home from work and opening their mail. The children put on their inline skates and played soccer on the streets.Old ladies were walking their dogs.
In a calm side street that was lined by trees on both sides a man in loud red working clothes was cleaning the pavement. He could still feel the heat of the day emanating from the asphalt. He lowered his broom and leaned on one of the fences that were there to protect the villas behind them from inquisitive glances. The man took off his chunky working-gloves and dropped them on the ground. Then he reached for his little drinking bottle that he had attached to his belt. When he threw back his head and drank he saw little red flakes above him sailing down like rose petals. He put down the drinking bottle and with a frown he looked up once more. Autumn was no doubt early this year, he thought while he was picking one of the flakes that had landed on his arm. “Strange!” he said to himself and asked himself where the balloon had suddenly appeared out of the blue and how it had burst. He hadn’t heard a bang. “Hm!” he made, shaking his head. Then he shrug his shoulders and went about collecting his working tools.