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The secret (short story)

Brigitte Neumann

Felix tripped from one foot to the other. He heard the engine noise of the school bus behind the bend. Now he drove into the rest stop and stopped right next to him. The door opened. “Hello Felix, do you want to get on?” Hannes, the bus driver, smiled at him.

“Hello Hannes, yes. I already waited for you.”

He got in and sat down on the passenger seat that Hannes had folded back for him. Everyone called the bus driver “Hannes”. Also, the adults in the village. He might have been in his late thirties, slim, almost lanky, looking youthful in his bright polo shirt and blue jeans. His dark blue peaked cap sat on his head like it had grown on it. Since the small village school in Hinterhausen had been closed ten years ago, he drove the children to the school in Neustadt. Everyone knew him, nobody talked about him. He greeted a friendly, always came, left on time and understood that even the most lively children remained seated in their seats during the bus ride.

Felix was quieter than most of the other pupils, always sat in the first row on the right, without a bank neighbour, seemed like an outsider in the crowd of laughing and babbling children, although he also came from one of the old-established farming families, who sealed off their lives and possible from the outside in the houses and courtyards with the dense curtains in front of the small windows and closed gates, had always swept the inner courtyard clean on Sundays and only opened the tidy living room for those entering.

But Felix stood out despite his seclusion. “The village boys called him Firehead because of his red hair and the vertebrae on his head, which put the already bristly hair mixed up upwards.

“Where he could find them,” the villagers wondered behind their hands. His mother wore a thick dark blond hair knot. With this, she tried to tame her curls. But that only succeeded. His father’s hair grew sparse in the meantime. Nobody in the family and in the village had red hair and also so swirled.

Only Felix went to the third grade from Hinterhausen. On Thursdays his lessons ended one hour before those of the others. He didn’t spend the waiting hour in the lounge, but ran to the bus stop and hoped that Hannes would arrive earlier. Because he liked him and liked to listen to him when he told him about his travels to Norway, for example. During the summer holidays Hannes drove groups with participants far beyond Neustadt and the surrounding area. Hannes raved about the fjords and the thundering waterfalls so that Felix would like to go with him already next year.

Today Felix seemed thoughtful. He asked: “Hannes, is it true that Norway is so great?”

“Sure, why not?”

Felix was pushing around and looking down.

“Hannes, is Norway sometimes sad?”

“Yes, sometimes when rain falls. Then the drops are like tears and everything is dark and dreary. Do you mean that?” Hannes looked at Felix. The answer did not satisfy him. “No, I don’t mean that. I mean, does Norway make you sad?”


Felix looked at Hannes. “Hannes, are you my friend?

“Yes’, the bus driver replied.

“If I tell you a secret, won’t you tell anyone in the world?”

“I won’t tell you that. Great word of honor. Hannes held out his right hand for confirmation and tapped his cap with his left.

“Hannes, yesterday I told my mum about Norway and asked her if we could go there. I told her I would love to go with you on the bus during the summer holidays because you know so much about it.” Felix faltered, looked at his hands and knotted his fingers before continuing. Hannes listened.

“Then she told me she was in Norway ten years ago, but I could not talk to anyone about it, not even you, and that this trip had changed her whole life. Why then, I asked her. Then she took me in her arms. But I still noticed that she was crying. Afterwards my hair was wet,” Felix pressed out the next sentences. He swallowed. He had a thick lump in his throat. He stroked himself over the red bristle hair whirlpool as he wanted to check whether it was still wet and looked to Hannes. “Why do you hold on to your cap?

“Sometimes, Felix, hold on tight.

Hannes seemed sad too, yet smiled at him: “We’ll talk about Norway next week. Look, the other children are already coming.”

When Hannes hung his cap on the hook next to the mirror at home, he looked inside. A red bristle hair whirl shone on him.

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