Glass clinked somewhere outside. Now he’s eating the cherries meant for me, he thought. I’m the one who has the fever. She put the cherries outside the window to make them really cold. And now he has smashed the glass. And I have the fever.
The sick boy stood up. He pushed himself along the wall. Then through the door, he saw his father sitting on the ground—his hands red with cherry juice.
Everything’s full of cherries, thought the sick boy. Everything’s full of cherries. And I’m the one who’s supposed to eat them. Because I have the fever. But his hands are so red with cherry juice, which must be nice and cold. She put them by the window for the fever. And he’s eating all of my cherries. Now he’s sitting on the ground and has his hands full off them. And I have the fever. And he has cold cherry juice on his hands. Cold, red cherry juice, which must be very cold. And set by the window to chill for the fever.
He hung onto the door handle. When it creaked, his father looked up. Son, you have to go back to bed right now. With that fever son, you have to go back to bed right now.
Everything’s full of cherries, whispered the sick boy. He looked at his father’s hands. Everything’s full of cherries.
Were they cold? he asks out loud. Yes? Weren’t they nice and cold? She put the cherries by the window to chill, which made them very cold.
The father looked up helplessly at him. He smiled a little. I’m not getting back up again. He smiled and grimaced. Oh, it’s so stupid. I can’t get myself uptight again.
The sick boy hung onto the door. It swung gently back and forth. Were they nice and cold? he whispered.
I fell you know, said the father. But it’s probably just the shock. I’m completely lame. He smiled. It’s just the shock. It’ll be all right soon. Then I’ll take you back to bed. You have to go back to bed quietly.
The sick boy looked at his father’s hands. That isn’t so bad. Just a little cut. That’ll heal soon.
The cut is from the cup, the father said, waving it off. He looked up and his fingers tugged at his face. Hopefully, he won’t be nagging me. She really loves this cup. And now I’ve smashed it. This very cup—the one she loves. I was trying to rinse it out when I slipped. I wanted to rinse it out a little and put your cherries in it. It’s hard to drink from a cup when you’re in bed. That I know. It’s very hard to drink when you’re in bed.
The sick boy looked at his father’s hands.
The cherries, he whispered. My cherries?
The father tried to stand up again. I’ll bring them to you, he said. Quick, son—with your fever—back to bed. I’ll get them to you right away. They’re still by the window so they’ll be really cold. I’ll bring them to you right away.
The sick boy slid along the wall back to bed. When his father came with the cherries, the boy had his head stuck deep under the quilt.
Translated by Christian Langworthy.
Wolfgang Borchert was a German author and playwright.