Young Hans Reiter also liked to walk, like a diver, but he didn’t like to sing, for divers never sing. Sometimes he would walk east out of town, along a dirt road through the forest, and he would come to the Village of Red Men, where all they did was sell peat. If he walked farther east, there was the Village of Blue Women, in the middle of a lake that dried up in the summer. Both places looked like ghost towns, inhabited by the dead. Beyond the Village of Blue Women was the Town of the Fat. It smelled bad there, like blood and rotting meat, a dense, heavy smell very different from the smell of his own town, which smelled of dirty clothes, sweat clinging to the skin, pissed-upon earth, which is a thin smell, a smell like Chorda filum.
In the Town of the Fat, as was to be expected, there were many animals and several butcher shops. Sometimes, on his way home, moving like a diver, he watched the Town of the Fat citizens wander the streets of the Village of Blue Women or the Village of Red Men and he thought that maybe the villagers, those who were ghosts now, had died at the hands of the inhabitants of the Town of the Fat, who were surely fearsome and relentless practitioners of the art of killing, no matter that they never bothered him, among other reasons because he was a diver, which is to say he didn’t belong to their world, where he came only as an explorer or a visitor.
On other occasions his steps took him west, and he walked down the main street of Egg Village, which each year was farther and farther from the rocks, as if the houses could move on their own and chose to seek a safer place near the dells and forests. It wasn’t far from Egg Village to Pig Village, a village he imagined his father never visited, where there were many pigstys and the happiest herds of pigs for miles around, pigs that seemed to greet the passerby regardless of his social standing or age or marital status, with friendly grunts, almost musical, or in fact entirely musical, while the villagers stood frozen with their hats in their hands or covering their faces, whether out of modesty or shame it wasn’t clear.
And farther on was the Town of Chattering Girls, girls who went to parties and dances in even bigger towns whose names the young Hans Reiter heard and immediately forgot, girls who smoked in the streets and talked about sailors at a big port who served on this or that ship, the names of which the young Hans Reiter immediately forgot, girls who went to the movies and saw the most thrilling films, with actors who were the handsomest men on the planet and actresses who, if one wanted to be fashionable, one had to imitate, and whose names the young Hans Reiter immediately forgot. When he got home, like a night diver, his mother asked him where he’d spent the day and the young Hans Reiter told her the first thing that came to mind, anything but the truth.
Then his mother stared at him with her blue eye and the boy held her gaze with his two blue eyes, and from the corner near the hearth, the one-legged man watched them both with his two blue eyes and for three or four seconds the island of Prussia seemed to rise from the depths.