Michaela Merz

Carl and the 20 francs

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Carl and Emilie married when they both had already passed 50. For Carl it was his second marriage, for Emilie the third. Both had adult children from their previous marriages. Carl and Emilie were happy that they had met, they fitted together well, they shared the same values, liked dogs and good order.

One day Emilie’s son-in -law visited and wanted to borrow money from Carl to extend his business. Carl was uneasy. His principle was not to lend money to colleagues and family in order to avoid friction. Not surprisingly, he refused.

But the son-in-law came again and again and at every visit asked again. It got well and truly on Carl’s nerves. Suddenly Emilie also began to plead with Carl to convince him to lend the money to her son-in-law. The tension increased and a cosy home became a stressful household, because at any moment Emilie could bring up the topic again.

Eventually Carl couldn’t bear it any longer and gave in. Contracts were signed, the money changed hands and peace reigned again. But not for long. After 2 years the son-in-law was not in a position to repay the loan. His debts had grown enormously and his business had not developed as hoped. He had to close down.

Carl wanted his money back and now the situation changed, neither the son-in-law nor Emilie wanted to talk to Carl about it. After almost two years with various attempts Carl found his way to the debt collection agency. The procedure was not pleasant and Carl received back only part of his money and had to settle various outlays. 

The relationship between Carl and Emilie grew very frosty. From then on, they were no longer a loving couple but only a partnership of convenience, like flat-sharing, each with his own room. They shared the work and the costs, but unfortunately no longer their love.

In the meantime, they are both nearly 80, still live together butthe old wounds are still open. They were no longer able to rediscover their old love. Yesterday at dinner they discussed what will happen when one of them dies. Emilie said that she will certainly not organise Carls funeral, Carls children should do that. Carl asked Emilie whether she had saved his children’s telephone numbers. Emily said, no, and she will also not do so.

Carl then went into his room and wrote on the white wall above his bed in large red numbers the telephone numbers of all his three children. Beside them he nailed a 20 franc note for Emilie’s costs. Emilie found that appalling. That didn’t worry Carl. He found it somehow comforting to sleep below the numbers of his children every evening.

When I heard the story, I thought that I understand why people, who in old age look for new partners, add – without hangovers from the past. Such hangovers are more noxious than hazardous waste sites and apparently can destroy a lot.

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