Encounter with Bullies and the Little Pike that Could
Wesel being a town much larger than Messkirch and Rudersberg, its annual kermesse was also bigger, had more variety of entertainment and exerted a greater attraction on me than in previous years. Also with money in my pocket I became keenly aware of the lure from the glittering amusement tents, magic theaters and the ubiquitous booths of the vendors. One afternoon I spent a lot of time at a particular roller coaster. Only one man operated it, functioning as an announcer enticing people to come on board and as a competent disk jockey. There, without taking any rides, like in a dream, I relished the Rock ‘n’ Roll tunes, my favorite music at that time. Suddenly and without any forewarning four husky teenagers from the working class surrounded me. Apparently they had singled me out as an easy target to show their aggressive contempt toward high school students. Their aim was to provoke me to a fight. I would have certainly lost, even if I had to deal with just one of these muscular giants. When their verbal abuse did not produce the desired effect, the leading bully began to punch me in the stomach. Remaining passive I suffered through one blow after another and wondered how much longer I would be able to endure the pain. Fortunately, there was one in the group with a heart and said, “Let him go. He is just a nerdy high school student.” At last the bullies left me alone. After I had recuperated from the shock, I made myself invisible to any new potential attacker by submerging myself into the crowd.
On another day I had just arrived at the fairgrounds, when a large crowd caught my attention. In front of a makeshift stage a man with a microphone in his hand revved up the onlookers to buy tickets for the most spectacular show on mind control. At least this is what he wanted us to believe. He also encouraged people to come up as volunteers, so he could demonstrate his hypnotic powers. What I did not know was that the volunteers were phony and belonged to the troupe. I caused quite a stir, when I quickly followed the invitation and climbed up to the platform ready to be hypnotized. However the crew had been prepared for this eventuality. A member of the team approached me from behind and in a whispering tone offered me ten marks, if I was willing to pretend to be in a trance and dance to rock n’ roll music. The amount of two monthly allowances! How could I refuse such an offer? The hypnotist came across the stage to the corner where I was standing. He touched my forehead, made a few mysterious circular movements with his hands above my head and nodded to the attendant to start the music. As if I was really hypnotized – perhaps I was by the promise of easy money -, I danced before the crowd like I had never danced before. Right after my ridiculous performance the crowd was convinced that the act was authentic and rushed to the booth to buy tickets. However, to my great disappointment, the crooks did not honor their part of the bargain and I was never able to collect my prize.
On top of a bookcase in my room was a midsized aquarium well stocked with cold water fish. Among them were two bottom feeders not particularly pretty with long feelers protruding from their mouth. They belonged to the miniature subspecies of the enormous wells catfish that weigh over 300 pounds. My prize possession was a tiny relative of the pike, smaller than my two catfish, but swifter and according to my opinion more intelligent. I was able to teach it many tricks. Naturally I was very proud of my mini pike with its circus like performances that I had never seen before or since. It would only accept for food water fleas preferably live, but it was also content with dried food. Apparently my little acrobat could see my face above the water and upon seeing it immediately started skimming the surface in expectation of its favorite food. First it learned to pick the fleas from my fingertip not more than 1 cm above its mouth. Then I gradually increased the distance so that it was no longer able to reach my finger. Then it learned to jump and break completely free of the water. After several days of intensive training, I held my finger 5 cm over the plastic ring. Sure enough it jumped through it, picked up the water fleas and dove back into the water, very much like a lion jumping through a hoop in a circus. As reward I would give my little friend a dozen or so live water fleas that were bouncing around with their jerky movements until they were all gobbled up. Unfortunately, its newly acquired skills proved to be its nemesis. Driven by its curiosity in search of new frontiers, it had leaped during the night over the aquarium wall and had landed on the floor. There I found it all shriveled up when I got up the next morning. This made me so sad that I did not want to have anything to do with fish anymore. I gave away the aquarium and its remaining content to a friend at a bargain price.