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from the November/December 2004 issue

Viktoria Was Home All Alone

Everybody was gone, and Viktoria was home all alone.

"When everybody's gone, my house is a magic place."

She went to her parents' bedroom and pulled back the bedspread. A big bear lay in the middle of the bed. He looked right at her.

"Aha!" Viktoria said.

"Give me something," she said.

The bear walked out of the room and brought her dad's hat to her. Viktoria put it on. Then she covered up the bear again.

She opened her mom's nightstand.

And there sat a big frog with golden eyes.

"Aha!" said Viktoria.

"Give me something," she said.

The frog hopped out of the room and brought her mom's shoes to her. Viktoria put them on. Then she closed the nightstand again.

Viktoria looked in the closet. She heard a thumping sound.

She searched all through the clothes. She found her dad's heavy winter coat. The thumping sound was coming from it. She climbed up on a suitcase to see what could be thumping like that. Thumping away in the breast pocket was a big, dark red heart.

"Aha!" Viktoria said.

In one side pocket was a golden key, and in the other a bean.

"Will you give them to me?" she asked the heart, and the heart thumped.

Then she took the key and the bean.

Viktoria wandered through the house. The house was so big.

In one room was a desk, and lying on the desk a book. She climbed up on the chair and opened the book.

There weren't any pictures, just black squiggles.

"Let's just see what happens," Viktoria said.

She tapped the book with her golden key.

The black squiggles began to move. They were little men and women, and they started to dance.

"Aha!" Viktoria said and turned the page.

The black squiggles turned into a pond with little black bubbles floating in it.

Viktoria tapped the bubbles with her key. Tiny pollywogs slipped out of the bubbles and swam all around and grew and lost their tails and now they were frogs.

"Aha!" Viktoria said and turned to the next page.

And on that page were little worms. She tapped the page with her key.

Suddenly there were bugs, and they ate some of the worms.

Suddenly there were birds too, and they ate some of the bugs.

Suddenly there were foxes, and they caught some of the birds.

But one fox got a bone stuck in his throat, and he died.

Suddenly there were worms again, and they ate the fox.

"Aha!" Viktoria said and turned to the next page.

On this page was a forest. She tapped the forest with her key.

Suddenly there were people, and they chopped down the trees.

They used the trees to build houses, to build a whole town. They moved into the houses.

Suddenly a fire broke out, and the town burned down.

The people packed their bags and moved away.

Then came the wind, and it was carrying seeds. The forest grew back again.

"Aha!" Viktoria said. She closed the book and took it with her.

She went to the kitchen. Her mom kept flowerpots in the cupboard under the sink. Viktoria took the biggest flowerpot and set it in the middle of the room. She put the bean inside and covered it up with soil.

"Let's just see what happens," Viktoria said, and she tapped the flowerpot with her golden key.

And the soil began to move and a beanstalk began to grow out of it. It grew and grew and grew, higher and higher.

"Aha!" Viktoria said.

"It will run out of room very soon," she said.

But the beanstalk just grew and grew.

So Viktoria climbed the beanstalk.

She climbed and climbed, and the room was so high, just like a tower.

A lion peeked out from among the leaves. It opened its big mouth and roared.

"Let's just see what happens," Viktoria said, and she tapped the lion with her key.

Suddenly the lion was tame as a kitten.

"Aha!" Viktoria said and went on climbing.

Suddenly wolves came running toward her, barking and howling. So Viktoria tapped them with her key, and the wolves were tame as puppies.

"That's good," Viktoria said and went on climbing.

Suddenly there were strange people who were screaming and yelling at her, but Viktoria couldn't understand them.

She held out her golden key, and the people touched it. Suddenly she could understand them.

"So you've finally come, Viktoria. We're so happy you're here," the strangers said, but now they were no longer strangers.

"Why, thank you," Viktoria said.

And the people showed her their houses and apartments and said, "If you want a house, then take one of ours."

"Why, thank you," Viktoria said. "Later perhaps." And she went on climbing.

Viktoria climbed and climbed and there, high above the beanstalk, she saw the moon.

And way up at the top of the beanstalk were her mom and dad, sitting at a table. They had lit a candle and were holding hands.

"The moon is shining so bright, Viktoria," her mom said. "Would you like to sit down with us?"

"Yes," Viktoria said.

First publshed as Als Viktoria allein zu Hause war (Mölding, Wein: Verlag St. Gabriel, 1993). By arrangement with the author. Illustration by Simone Klages.

John E. Woods's translation appears with the agreement of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

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