He lay cramped in the shallow grave. They were always plenty short so that
he had to bend his knees. He felt the icy coldness in his back. He felt it
like a little bit of death. He found that the sky was very far away. So horribly
far away that one didn't want at all to say anymore, "God is great, God
is good." His distance from the earth was horrible. All that blue sky
up there did not make the distance seem any smaller. And the ground was so
unearthly cold and sullen in its icy stiffness that he lay very cramped in
the much too shallow grave. Was one supposed to lie so cramped his whole life
long? Oh no, just his whole death long. That was indeed much longer.
Two heads appeared in the sky above the edge of the grave. "Well, how
is it, Jesus?" asked the one head, and in so doing let escape from his
mouth a white bundle of clouds like a wad of cotton. Jesus thrust out of his
two nostrils two thin, equally white cloud pillars and answered: "Good enough, it'll do."
The heads in the sky disappeared. Like smudges they were suddenly wiped away.
Without a trace. Only the sky was still there with its horrible distance.
Jesus sat up and the trunk of his body towered out of the grave. From afar
he looked as if he were buried up to his stomach. Then he propped his left
arm against the edge of the grave and stood up. He stood in the grave and
looked sadly at his left hand. In standing up he had again torn open the recently
mended finger of his glove. The frozen red finger tip stuck out here. Jesus
looked at his glove and became dismayed. He stood in the much too shallow
grave, breathed a warm cloud against his bare frozen finger and said softly:
"I want nothing more to do with it." "What's wrong?" gaped
one of the two who looked at him in the grave. "I want nothing more to
do with it," said Jesus once again as softly as before and stuck the
cold naked middle finger in his mouth.
"Hear that, sergeant, Jesus wants nothing more to do with it."
The other, the sergeant, counted the explosive charges in an
ammunition box and growled: "How come?" He blew wet clouds out of
his mouth at Jesus: "Hey, how come?"
"No," said Jesus still just as softly as ever, "I can't do
this any longer." He stood in the grave with his eyes closed. The sun
made the snow unbearably white. With his eyes closed he said: "Everyday
the graves multiply. Every day seven or eight graves. Yesterday even eleven.
And every day the people squeezed into the graves which never fit them. Because
the graves are too small. And the people are usually frozen, bent and stiff.
They crunch so when they are squeezed into these tiny graves. And the ground
is so hard and icy and miserable. They're supposed to endure that their whole
death long. And I, I can't listen to that crunching any more. It's like crushed
glass. Like glass."
"Shut up, Jesus. Get out, get out of that hole. We still have to make
five graves." The cloud from the mouth of the sergeant fluttered angrily
away toward Jesus. "No," he said and thrust two fancy cloud pillars
out of his nose, "No." He spoke very softly and with his eyes closed:
"The graves are just too shallow. When spring comes, the bones stick
up out of the ground everywhere. When it thaws. Everywhere the bones. No I
don't want that any more. No, no. And always me. Always I'm supposed to lie
down in the grave to see if it is suitable. Always me. I've started dreaming
about it. That's horrible for me, you know, that I'm always the one who's
supposed to try out the graves. Always me. Always me. After a while a person
starts having dreams about it. That's horrible for me, that I'm always supposed
to climb into the graves." He clambered out of the shallow grave and
took four steps over to a dark heap. The heap consisted of dead men. They
were twisted as if they had been taken by surprise in a confused dance. Jesus
laid his pickaxe softly and carefully beside the heap of dead men. He could
have just thrown the pickaxe down, the pickaxe wouldn't have harmed anything.
But he laid it down softly and carefully, as though he didn't want to bother
or awaken anyone. For God's sake don't wake anyone. Not just out of respect,
but also out of fear. Out of fear. For God's sake don't wake anyone. Then
he took off through the crunching snow for the village, past the other two
as if they weren't even there. Repulsively, the snow crunched that same way,
quite exactly that same way. He raised his feet and stilted like a bird through
the snow in order to lessen the crunching.