Welcome at the blog of Dini Commandeur. I've written quite a lot of columns for various magazines. I also write short stories every now and then. These columns and stories are available for everybody at this blog. I'll release new columns and stories periodically.


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« The leaves are fallin… | Home | A dignified life »

Word and truth

Sunday 26 October 2014 As usual, he had wandered aimlessly through the city and had ended up at the train station, where he had just received a day pass from someone who had had to cancel travel plans. He randomly got into the first departing train. After all, he had no purpose, it didn’t matter to him where the train was going.

He sat across from a woman who clearly was in the mood for a chat and he fulfilled that need by telling the story about his girlfriend Ella. Ella was dead. After a miserable life, she had died from an overdose. Almost always, his story prompted sympathy and he would get a little something slipped into his hand.  This time, too, before she arrived at her destination and got off the train, the woman took her little purse and gave him ten euro for a few nights at “the sleeping house”.  He accepted it graciously. The train moved on and eventually he got out at its point of final destination. There he was. At the train station of a city where he had never been before. A friendly couple showed him the way to the city center and soon he strolled down a narrow street and saw a church that no longer served as a church, but apparently as a theater and pop music venue. A middle-aged lady came up beside him. A 'hippy' lady, he noted:  Long, red, curly hair; long, pink dress; and a long, purple scarf with fringe. She started a conversation about the church as a theater. She thought it appropriate, since, after all, church services were mostly theater, she said. "You do not believe at all?" he asked curiously. "No," she said. "Maybe I'm agnostic, but no ..." she said after some thought, "I think I’m an atheist. But I do believe in the conscience. The conscience can direct a person better than any belief whatsoever. Yes, I do believe in the goodness of man." They discussed some more the notion of good and evil, and also the lack of a conscience. Then he started talking about Ella, and he said he hoped that she would be in some kind of heaven. That would be wonderful after such a difficult life, didn’t madam agree? Madam said she found it a nice thought, but she really was not sure of the existence of heaven. However, the discussion again yielded him ten euros for "the sleeping house". So that he could be sure of a roof over his head in the coming nights, she said.  While talking, she put away her purse without noticing his fast fingers.  Before the zipper of her bag was closed, the purse was already in the pocket of his coat. They said goodbye, and he went on his way. He really should stay the night here, exploring the city, hoping for more nice, naive ladies. The sad story of Ella worked well. And what did it matter that Ella was a fiction, a fantasy that he used whenever he needed money. Ella had never existed, but she really came in handy sometimes, he thought, grinning to himself. He walked through the old town, thinking he could stay a bit longer than just the one night. He himself lived in a beautiful city, but the downtown area here was very worthwhile, too. He looked up at the façades of historic buildings and then stopped to read the writing on a plaque on one of them. With blinking eyes he read the words. And read them again and again. Then he took a deep breath and thought of the woman at the church. The woman who did not believe in a God but in the good of man, in the conscience. He looked around. Where could she be? He had seen that she had walked into the same street he had. Maybe he could still find her. He thought he saw her fluttering scarf in the distance and started running with her purse in his hand. He ran as if his life depended on it. But it was not because of his life that he wanted to reach her. He wanted to return her purse and also the ten euro. He wanted to tell her the truth about Ella.  While running, he repeated breathlessly the writing on the plaque, the words that had revived his conscience:

He who violates his neighbor through deceit
Who harshly denies word and truth
And with his tongue belies his heart
His soul, but God he does not cheat

Translation: Maria O'Neill


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