Reiner Zettl / The special evening / Roulette in an outside space / ISBN 3-900803-97-8

Once a week a dark-suited elderly gentleman would arrive in the evening carrying a large briefcase. The residents of the home were expecting him impatiently. After they welcomed him with a cup of coffe, they watched eagerly as he walked towards the massive stone roulette table in the courtyard. He would open his case, take out the chips and pile them in front of him. Their unchanging daily routine could make a week seem a very long time indeed. It almost seemed as if time would not pass at all before this special evening arrived. So it was not unusual that the courtyard was full of people soon after the guest arrived. The respectable gentleman installed the roulette bowl, which was brought to him from the cellar. After a few test spins he signalled the surrounding group of elderly people to come closer. Each of them received a number of these colourful plastic chips and within no time everybody was concentrating on the swift movement of the ball and its unpredictable whims. None of them had ever gone to the casino in the old days. There was work to do, a family to feed and children to raise. Nor was there any time or money for such luxuries. The propriety of the respectable gentleman also elicited a certain respect from them and they felt flattered to have somebody like him should come to the home and offer his services for a few hours. They played for real money as the chips could be changed into normal bank notes and coins later in the evening before the croupier began to pack up. So it was definitely worth one’s while to be careful with the stakes, hedge one’s bets and watch the neighbour was up to. They did not talk much during the game, but the evening itself became a topic of conversa-tion for days to come and sometimes they recounted the evening when the unexpected had come true for a very long time afterwards. All that always took place during the warm weather, when it was still possible to sit outside until late at night. Then the croupier appeared, and it left like summer holidays had begun: as if they were in a health resort and had a massage in the mornings, a drink from the medical spring later on, and one evening a week was reserved for the casino. There wasn’t much to do and no financial problems to worry about anymore. Was it any surprise that they felt like playing every once in a while, to pass the time and savour the thrill out of it? Idleness is no easy lot, especially if you were back home in winter. Then only the massive stone table in the courtyard (now sprinkled with bird feed) evoked memories of the other place – or was it simply another time?