You can’t be expected to put up with everything life throws at you.
I mean, where would that get us?
There’s only so much you can take.
Those paper-pushers in the admin office looked like proper Charlies.
They should know better than to mess with Judge Georgie.
No one messes with Judge Georgie, the traveling salesman, even if I am retired, a decommissioned traveling salesman, so to speak.
As a rule, I’m as gentle as a lamb, it’s just when injustice rears its ugly head that people see my darker side.
And believe me, I don’t care if it’s the Emperor of China sitting in front of me.
I don’t give a hoot because justice is justice.
And I’ve lived by this principle all my life.
I could’ve said to myself, what do I care about my wife’s decrepit aunt?
After all, she’s just another bedridden wrinkly.
She’s not even right in the head anymore.
She’s completely lost her marbles.
You should hear some of the stories she comes out with.
It’s almost tragic.
But that’s not the point.
Her health insurance refused to pay for her incontinence pads and diapers, even though she keeps wetting the bed because she’s incontinent.
Imagine that! I just could not believe it!
They didn’t want to pay for the diapers of an old sick woman because it was no longer their remit, they said.
It’s things like that that make my blood boil.
I can’t help myself.
I kicked that stupid little krank’s ass, you know, the one in the office.
Now, auntie gets her incontinence pads and diapers for free again.
She could have afforded to pay for them herself, of course.
She’s not exactly poor.
In fact, my eyes nearly popped out my head when I saw her savings.
Her husband had a successful business, you see.
When it was sold, after he’d popped his clogs, she earned some big bucks…
The business was sold abroad, to Germany…
Anyway, as I was saying, I could’ve told myself not to bother with my wife’s aunt.
But things like that just get to me…
I mean, we all know what it’s like with these bureaucrats.
I could write volumes about it.
And when I think of all the hassle I had when I retired.
It doesn’t bear thinking about, because when I do start thinking about it, well…
Georgie, switch off dear, says my wife, when I get too hot under the collar.

There’s no point in getting flustered, it will only affect your health.
And it won’t change anything anyway, she says.
But that’s easier said than done, especially when you’ve always lived your life by the book and then you see them squandering it all and running everything into the ground.
I want to enjoy my retirement.
Even though I’ve had some great times over the years, surely that can’t have been it?
So that’s why I tell myself to remain calm and keep my feet planted firmly on the ground.
Even though that’s easier said than done.
I just have to start thinking of those diapers.



Now that I’m a pensioner, time doesn’t seem to tick by any more slowly.
Not with me anyway.
I’ve got plenty to do, more than plenty.
It’s not for nothing that they say pensioners are always busy.
I suppose in that sense, I never really retired in the way people normally do.
But then again, many can’t cope with retirement.
Simply because they feel superfluous.
That’s why so many die of heart attacks within the first year because they simply don’t know what else to do.
Well, I can’t say that’s been true of me in the past two years.
But then, I didn’t really retire properly.
I still give my old boss a hand every now and then.
And then, of course, there’s plenty of work to do in the house and garden.
There’s always something in need of repair, always work to do in the vegetable patch.
The vegetable patch is my hobby.
But what I can’t stand are those slugs gobbling up my lettuce.
I collected a whole pail full of them yesterday and threw them in the canal.
When I got back from vacation–what’s a vacation to a pensioner?–you should’ve seen the state the garden was in–all because of those slimy critters.
But what can you do?
I’m still going on vacation.
Those slugs aren’t going to stop me.
We go every year–a whole group of us.
This time round, we were away for three weeks.
Otherwise, it wouldn’t have been worth the money.
Burma, Bangkok, Thailand.
Really beautiful places.
It’s really worth seeing.
But you should see the squalor.
Living where we do, it’s difficult to imagine.
My buddy, Karl, says misery like that can only be eradicated with tough measures.
Politically speaking.
That’s the only way to deal with it, he says.
Radical measures from above.
We don’t know how good we’ve got it here in Austria compared to them down there.
The filth, the squalor, the poverty, it’s overwhelming…
The country itself is beautiful, well what we saw of it anyway, despite the heat, but the cities, oh God, the cities…
The chicks, though, they were hot.
Especially for that price.
The best thing is, there’s no arguments–not like at home with the wife–because thankfully you can’t understand a word they say.
Once I took my escort to a hotel and outside there was this kid, with no arms, he was a complete cripple.
Well, I gave him the equivalent of twenty euros. He thanked me, then snatched at the banknote with his mouth because he had no hands.
That’s poverty for you.
Our hobos are millionaires by comparison.
I felt so sorry for him that I shoved another twenty euro note in his mouth.
I didn’t say a word.
There are no words for things like that.
I’ve seen so much in my time because I’ve traveled around a fair bit.
But I’ve never seen anyone pick up money with his mouth–that was definitely a first.
These people are so friendly and they’re so grateful even for the smallest of gifts.
We were generous.
Everything’s dirt cheap there anyway.
The whole family lives off the money those hot little chicks earn.
So in a sense, I suppose you could call us aid workers.
Even when we fuck.
They do anything, they get straight to it.
The whole family survives on the takings.
So, as you can imagine, they’re highly motivated.
So we really went to town, I tell you.
I won’t be bothering my wife for a while, that’s for sure.
After all, I’m not twenty anymore.
And three weeks was a bit long.
And it’s not the same as it used to be.
I think I’ll go on my own next time.
Or maybe with Karl.
You’re more independent then and you don’t have to worry about anyone else.
Yeah, I think that would be wise.



I went to the soccer ground with Karl yesterday.
It was crap.
Back in the day, we used to go there all the time.
These days, only Negroes and good-for-nothing Slavs play because our lot are too lazy to run around.
They’re all idle time-wasters.
These days, everyone wants to be a CEO, but they don’t want to work for it.
The same is true of soccer.
Big money for no effort, that’s what they want.
But these Negroes and Slav wasters are no better.
What I saw yesterday had nothing to do with soccer–absolutely nothing.
But that’s hardly surprising as they don’t even speak the same lingo.
How are you supposed to understand a Negro or an Albanian shepherd.
You just can’t.
All they want is our nationality and as soon as they’ve got it, they sit back and do nothing.
But it’s our fault for going to the match.
Afterwards, we went for a beer.
Karl’s going to retire soon as well.
Another month, then he’s hanging up his boots.
He’s as excited about retiring as a little kid before his birthday.
I’ll be happy as Larry not to see those assholes anymore, he said.
He’s alright, Karl is.
We’ve got a great surprise up our sleeves for him when he retires.
Us guys have clubbed together and are having a Thai woman flown in for him.
We just have to make sure his wife doesn’t get wind of it.
Women are a bit strange that way.
We’ve got everything arranged.
Karl won’t believe his luck.
But we think he deserves it.
We’ll put the Thai woman up somewhere else and we’ll tell our wives we’re going walking for a week.
That way, I’ll get something out of it as well.
Karl’s retirement went through alright.
Even though he’s retiring early.
He’s only fifty-four so he’s got plenty ahead of him.
Yeah okay, he’s a civil servant, but still.
He was off sick for a year, well actually, he just stayed at home and they urged him to take early retirement.
Well, I’m up for that alright, were his very words and I don’t blame him.
Karl deserves it, he’s a great guy.
I’d do the same, if I were in his shoes.
When I retired, God! what a mess that was.
The grief they gave me–you wouldn’t believe it, if I told you.
If I hadn’t known exactly how things are done in these places, they would never have released me.
And to think it was me who showed them the ropes.
Even though my health was rock-bottom.
I was in such a state with my back that I couldn’t even crawl out of bed.
Therapies and massages were no help at all.
Except for the ones in Thailand but the bastards don’t pay for them, do they.
Well, there was no way I could go back to work.
So what did they do? They tried to screw me over with my pension, even though I’d worked by butt off, never taking a day off sick, but these paper-pushers don’t give a damn about that.
I’d put in almost forty years of service because we started working at fourteen, not like these days where kids study till they’re thirty and cause trouble whilst sponging off the state.
In our day, it was a totally different ball game.
And I pretty much taught those people how to walk.
It’s the politicians and crap civil servants of all people who waste millions and then deny the little man on the street–the little man being me–what’s rightfully his.
But that’s the way they do things in Austria these days.
That’s what I said to Karl.
Twice, I had to take my case to the labor court–yes, twice, before getting what was rightfully mine.
I said to Karl back then, I said if Georgie wants to retire, then retire he will.
And that’s exactly what I did.
Some days, I couldn’t even stand up straight, that’s how painful my back was.
I can’t abide that word lumbago any more.
This top physician wanted to prescribe me a break at a spa resort but what good would that do?
If my body’s in pieces after forty long years of hard slog, I certainly don’t want to go to a spa.
I want retirement, that’s what I want.
I’m not one of those spongers who go on a four-week break every year and have it paid for by Joe Public.
If it were down to me, I’d abolish these spa trips in the blink of an eye.
Most people only go there to have a fling anyway.
That’s the only reason they have these spa treatments.
It makes me think of the stories Karl used to tell me about his colleagues going off to the best spa resorts and being treated like royalty every year.
But it’s no use thinking about it.
I only just made it to the end of my stint and then they mistreat me like that, even though I had paid my way all my life.
But that’s Austria for you.
The hard workers are always the losers, just like me.
I don’t want any favors but I certainly want what I’m entitled to.
Once, when I went to the pension office, I overhead one of those paper-pushing pricks mumbling to one of his colleagues: Look, here comes old lumbago.
To think it was me who showed them the ropes.
I demanded an apology from the top.
And I got one too.
And if I hadn’t got an apology, I’d have gone to the press.
The press laps up stories like that.
Karl was right all along–he said, he didn’t know what their problem was because you can’t prove lumbago, can you!
It’s like having a headache.
If I say I’ve got lumbago, the doctors can stare holes into the x-rays but they’ll never find it.
I’m the perfect example of that.
Down at the pension office, no one ever called me lumbago after that.
They kept their mouths tightly shut and gave me my pension.
If they hadn’t given me my pension, they’d have had it coming.
I swore to them they’d get it.
These civil servants, who live off my taxes, tried to tell me whether I have lumbago or not.
I don’t want to think about it.
Luckily, I’m the kind of guy who can stand up for himself.
If you can’t do that, then you’ll always be a loser in this country.
Anyway, I got my retirement when I wanted it.
They can’t tell me what to do, not me, Judge Georgie.
But there’s no sense in wasting another second thinking about my pension.
I’ve been retired for two years now.
So what’s the point in getting uptight about it now.
I should be thankful–touch wood–that I’m still in pretty good health.
I still have days though where I can’t stand up straight.
But Thank God that doesn’t happen as often as it used to.



I often think you know: What would I do without my garden!
When I feel really low, the garden’s the best distraction in the world.
In spite of those goddamn slugs.
Karl always laughs about it.
He says everyone has his poison–some go and watch the game, others drown themselves in drink, some dash like madmen up hill and down dale and you, you get excited over your cabbages.
That’s until my nosy neighbor pops his head over the fence and asks: Are the slugs eating everything again?
To think of all the tricks I’ve used to get rid of this slimy slug invasion.
But you know, these slugs have only been around for a relatively short while.
We didn’t have them years ago.
They come over from Russia or somewhere round there.
A pure import.
It’s a complete and utter sabotage of our gardens.
By them, the Russian mafia.
They’ll be laughing in their sleeves by now.
No doubt, there’s a method, a scheme behind it all.
They can’t be trusted, them from over there.
I’ve heard of this Indian species of duck that would be all over the slugs in minutes, but they don’t half make a mess.
Besides which, who knows how many Indians I’d need because they can’t eat just slugs.
Not in those quantities anyway.
And then if we did have those Indian things in our garden who knows where it would lead.
When it comes to Indians you can’t be sure of anything because they just don’t fit in.
So after the Russians, we’d be putting up with the Indians from India.
For a while, I sprinkled salt all over them.
They shriveled up alright but the trouble was, I’d have needed my own private salt mine to annihilate them every day.
What I’d like to know is where they all come from.
They must reproduce like turbo-rabbits.
The problem is they have no natural predators to keep them in check.
I also went through a phase where I impaled them all on an iron rod and cut them in two with my secateurs.
It wasn’t pleasant to say the least, especially with all that slime squirting out left, right, and center.
Once, I even mounted a sharp wedge on the bottom of an old hiking boot and slaughtered them that way.
But that didn’t really work very well because they’re sticky and so I had trouble shaking them off the sole of my boot.
Now I pick them up with my BBQ tongs every day and toss them by the sack-load into the canal.
You’ve got to keep at it.
Otherwise it’s a losing battle.
Karl once said to me, you know what, someone needs to invent something for that.
You could earn big bucks if you invented something like that.
If you invented something, you could become a millionaire.
I think all the slugs in Austria should be collected and sent back to the Russian mafia.
Back to where they came from.
Then THEY would have to deal with all the rubbish they’ve dumped on us.



There was a time when my wife would tell me off for comparing this foreign vermin to the slugs in my garden…
Today though, she’s come round to my way of thinking…
I did warn her right at the start, I warned her that she shouldn’t even entertain the thought, because I knew exactly what would happen.
But my wife would always attack me when I said the Kebab Munchers were invading our country like the Russian slime that was taking over my garden.
Everyone needs people around them, my wife would say.
But not filth like that, I’d reply…
Anyway, I didn’t really want to get involved because her auntie has nothing to do with me and so I don’t care whether Kebab Munchers live in the same place as her. What’s it to me.
Even Karl said he didn’t understand my wife.
But what am I supposed to do, after all, she’s a grown woman.
I certainly wouldn’t let any of those mafia wiseguys into my home.
They’re human beings too, my wife insisted.
They were driven from their homes by war, we have to help them.
And anyway, their rooms are in the cellar and they have a separate entrance.
But then she realized all right, then she saw what happened.
It’s not as though I didn’t tell her.
They had parties in the garden, with music blaring out while their kids terrorized the neighborhood…
None of them lifted a finger by going to work.
They all sponge off the state.
Childcare allowance.
But we’ve got it to spare, haven’t we. Pah.
They should never have let the Russians set foot in our country.
I mean, what have they got to do with us?
Let them shoot at each other if that’s what they want, but that’s their problem not ours!
All we want is a little peace and quiet.
Being nice doesn’t get you anywhere in life.
I know what I’m talking about.
I’ve seen it all.
My wife was being a bit simple there.
But thankfully she’s wised up now.
She’s seen where it leads.
She gives them a home, a roof over their heads, and how do they thank her? With a police complaint.
We’ve got to the point in Austria where they get all sorts of state support.
But it’s hardly surprising when you look at our government, it’s full of Kebab Munchers.
Austrians count for nothing in this country anymore.
If things carry on the way they are, we Austrians will end up being the foreigners in our own country.
I told my wife it’s not worth it for the sake of a few shillings.
In Austria, you’ve got to tread carefully, as the press lap up stories like ours, mutating you into an exploiter when all you were doing was trying to help.
I’ve even had nightmares about the headlines.
Exorbitant rents for cellar rooms!!! Etc.
Our press gurus don’t care much for the truth.
All they’re interested in is headlines, sensations, and filth.
They’re all manipulated.
We all know who’s behind it.
The capital all comes from abroad.
And it doesn’t take much guessing to know what that means.
The truth doesn’t interest anyone.
But what’s the point in getting worked up about it.
Karl’s quip is right by the way.
He always says that the comparative and superlative of truth is: Truth–lie–press.
He’s hit the nail on the head there.
I blame the police complaint against my wife on the relatives.
Especially, the prodigious stepson.
Yes, another fine specimen of a loser that should be swept out of the country with the Russians.
He’s never made an effort with his stepmother.
A sprog from the first marriage of my wife’s uncle.
If it wasn’t for my wife, her aunt wouldn’t receive any help for weeks on end.
When he does appear out of the blue, all he wants is money.
In the past, when she was still healthy, she would often throw him out.
Sometimes he’d even steal from her.
He was a real waste of space, a good-for-nothing.
As long as I can remember, he’s never had a steady job.
He’s even been in jail a few times.
He has a few kids dotted about the country, but probably doesn’t support them.
He’s the perfect example of what happens to a kid whose parents want too much of the best for him.
He always got everything he wanted.
Money was never an issue.
And that was his downfall.
This guy believed his life would always be like that.
My wife would throw him out when he visited her aunt just to sponge off her.
You couldn’t trust him as far as you could spit.
He even pocketed his uncle’s gold watch.
Well, it certainly wasn’t there after he’d left.
That’s why my wife hid the savings away from him.
At least, they’re safe here, away from that layabout’s prying eyes.
If he’d got his grubby little hands on them, he’d have spent all the money in minutes.
He’s a champion when it comes to blowing cash.
Once he squandered tens of thousands in a single night.
As soon as he’s got a dime to spare, he invites everyone out.
Then he pays for round after round because he wants to be the centre of attention.
He would’ve wasted the dough from the company sale in a blink of an eye.
At least, his share of it.
But it’s no wonder I suppose, it’s easy to waste what you haven’t worked hard for.
As far as I know, I think he’s on welfare now.
But you can’t buy many rounds on welfare.
You can go out for three and then you’re skint again.
What a cheek it is that people like that are entitled to welfare.
If it were up to me…
Why can’t a man like that get a job?
Just because he thinks it’s beneath him, the state has to foot the bill.
All I can say is “Good night Austria.”
I don’t know what to say.
I mean the money’s got to come from somewhere.
And of course, it comes from us because stupid idiots like me worked hard to pay for it all.
And then what happens? We get punished for it.
When I think that I clocked up forty years of hard work, I reckon I must be some kind of klutz.
Our railway workers retire in their early fifties, sit back and laugh at everyone else.
They only worked there so they could rest and still have enough energy for their cowboy jobs on the side.
So don’t come talking to me about my retirement.
I’ve done my share.
It sickens me to think of all the money that’s smuggled abroad, such as swindled child support and whatever else there is.
When I look at that aunt’s boot neck of a boy who’s never done an honest day’s work in his life and enjoys all the support that’s out there: exemptions, free telephone, free TV, even a free room courtesy of the state.
It makes me sick.
And yet, this kid was given every opportunity imaginable.
Opportunities that most would bend over backwards to receive.
We had to work hard for everything we got.
Some people think that’s beneath them.
And there seem to be more and more of them every day.
Anyone who goes looking for a job in Austria will find one.
You mustn’t think you’re too precious to work, that’s all.
Of course, not everyone’s cut out to be a CEO.
But there’s nothing wrong with working in a hotel.
Even if you’re just washing dishes.
That’s still better than nothing.
But we Austrians don’t want to.
We think we’re above that sort of thing.
And that’s why there are so many Russians in our country.
But they only wash dishes until they’re entitled to unemployment benefit and as soon as that time comes they don’t lift a finger anymore.
And then, they bring the rest of their family over.
If things carry on the way they are, it won’t be long before we don’t have any say anyway.
It will be the others who have it.
That’s already the way it is in Vienna.
Just look at the government.
It’s full of foreign names.
The Viennese defended themselves against three sieges by the Turks.
And then during the fourth, they go and cave in.
Just go to the Naschmarkt and see what’s going on there.
You won’t find anything like it, not even in Istanbul.
That’s how extreme it is.
Something has to be done about it.
Someone’s got to come down hard on them.
By them, I mean the Russians and the welfare scroungers.
It can’t go on like this.
Something should’ve been done years ago.
Especially those unemployed spongers who take the welfare payments, work quietly on the side, and pocket the cash.
I just have to look around me.
It’s all plain to see.
You can’t fool me.
But then, what incentives are there for unemployed people to look for work.
As things stand, they’d be stupid to get a job, yes stupid.
And this is where the state needs to clamp down.
What can I, the man on the street, do about it?
Karl says he’d give them what-for.
He’d cart all the welfare fraudsters and scum off to a work camp.
I mean what else can you do with hobos like that?
A quick trip to the train station and you’ve seen it all, I tell you.
I mean you’re not doing these people any favors.
At least at a work camp more time would be invested in those losers.
If anything, they’d get used to working again and could be reintroduced to society.
As things stand at the moment, they’ll be receiving state handouts till the end of their days.
We can’t afford it all in the long run.
Who’s going to foot the bill?
Even my dad used to say that Adolf may have made mistakes along the way but where there’s light, there’s shadow.
If it wasn’t for Adolf, we wouldn’t be as well off as we are today, my dad always used to say.
And he was right.
My dad never spoke much about the war.
He was a quiet kind of guy.
On the odd occasion he’d say they’re taking the easy way out by heaping all the blame on Adolf.
You’ve got to look at the circumstances close up.
Adolf was a kind of force of nature who descended upon the country.
There’s nothing you can do about that.
The Resistance stories always made my dad laugh.
When they pin you against the wall, your resistance evaporates, my dad always used to say.
The people who talk of Resistance today would have been the first in those days to follow the party line like sheep.
Kreisky was another force of nature in the seventies.
Of course, Kreisky wasn’t quite like Adolf.
There was no way the man on the street could get away from Kreisky.
I’m speaking here from experience.
At the time, I even had a stretch in the party.
It wasn’t long before I got an apartment.
And my son got a job at the municipality just like me.
And it wasn’t long before he got a cheap apartment as well.
Kreisky was a force of nature–at least in his early years.
But what came after Kreisky?
All I can say to that is: Goodnight Austria.
Karl says that the rabble clinging to Kreisky should’ve been chased out the country.
Then things would look very different today.
It was the same with Adolf.
Adolf was alright, but look at his followers.
Just the same as Kreisky.
These Kreiskyites handed out the jobs, the apartments, and the money to each other.
Just as they needed it.
As soon as I realized what was going on I left the party.
I didn’t want to have anything to do with it.
To be involved with people who just cherry-pick what they wanted wasn’t my thing.
I’m not that kind of guy.
It didn’t take me long to realize what was going on.
It wasn’t about honesty and ideals, it was about jobs, apartments, and money.
That’s why joining was a big mistake.
Karl said to me that he’d known the Red Falcons weren’t the right people for me to mix with.
You get caught up and lost in the cogs of that big machine, he said.
Exactly, I said.



When whilst weeding those Russians and their police complaint shot into my head, I flew into a mad frenzy, hacking into those slugs with my trowel, again and again, until the slime was squirting everywhere.
I could suddenly see the whole mess so clearly.
And seeing those slugs’ innards squishing all over made me feel a hell of a lot better.
Then I said to myself, I shouldn’t let those Russian bastards upset me.
There’s no point.
As long as the government’s full of Russians, nothing’s going to change anyway.
So just forget it and tend your cabbages, I said to myself.
All the excitement will only give you a heart attack.
At fifty-five you’re no longer a spring chicken.
It takes just seconds and then you’re six feet under.
Popping your clogs just two years after retirement is much too early.
Those assholes would be delighted no doubt.
But that won’t happen to Judge Georgie, no way.
Even if I do have a bad back, I’m certainly not going to bite the dust yet.
Just take care of your health, I tell myself, if you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything, I say.
Without it, you’re lost.
That’s not to say that other things aren’t important like emotions, being humane, family, nature, and all that.
Whenever I’m in the garden, I sense just how important nature is.
To me, nature means inner balance, well, health I suppose.
The farther humankind distances itself from nature, the sicker it becomes.
I think the state should do something about it.
About nature.
I mean just think of the savings the state could make if it intervened.
If the state took better care of nature, paying for the diapers and incontinence pads of the poorest wouldn’t be a problem.
It would resuscitate the health sector in one fell swoop.
After all, humans are nature and the state could save billions of dollars and all those chemicals if only people would stay close to nature.
But nature is of no value to the state.
Just in the same way as health isn’t.
In fact, they’re happy when you kick the bucket as soon as you retire because they save all that pension money.
That’s how the state thinks.
That’s why it’s not interested in taking care of your health.
It suits them if you bite the dust.


Elias Schneitter

Elias Schneitter was born in Zirl, a little town close to Innsbruck, Austria. He has published about 20 books, mostly prose and poetry. He is director of the publishing house Edition Baes, which publishes American authors including Neeli Cherkovski, Jack Hirschman, Maketa Groves, and Alan Kaufman (whose novel, Jew Boy, will be released in the summer of 2014). Schneitter also helps run the Austrian literary festival Sprachsalz. This year will be its twelfth.

Isabelle Esser

Isabelle Esser, born in London in 1968, works as a freelance translator in Surrey, England. After graduating from university in 1991, she lived and worked in Germany for nearly twenty years, before returning home to England in 2008. She and her partner have three children.

Karl: A Thousand Years of Austria. Copyright (c) Elias Schneitter, 2014. English translation copyright (c) Isabelle Esser, 2014.