Sunday, November 7, 2010

Flash Fiction Competition: Owen D. Bank

Write a story about Owen D. Bank and Win the Drawing on the Right

  The contest closed Monday November 22, 2010

Owen D. Bank
16"x20" oil, graphite on paper, 
and mixed media on masonite

Click on pictures to enlarge.

The story you write should be a "Flash Fiction" which is a complete story in one thousand or fewer words.  Please post the story in the comment section, you will have to provide your name and an email address in order to be qualified to win or you can e-mail me at kmencher@ohlone.edu with your info.  There is a problem with how many characters can post (only about 4,000) so if you cannot post it.  
E-mail it to me at kmencher@ohlone.edu

Go to my website for more contests:
http://www.kenney-mencher.com/

Winning flash fiction stories will be integrated in with an exhibit in San Francisco at ArtHaus Gallery (April 8th for the reception).


The show is called:

Renovated Reputations: 
Paintings and Fiction inspired by Vintage Portrait Photographs
 
The exhibit will include a series of 20-40 paintings and mixed media works ranging in size from 8”x10” to 18”x24” framed with thrift store and vintage frames.  In addition to the exhibited works ArtHaus is publishing catalogs signed by me and as many of the authors as possible.

Catalogs/books will consist of image of the painting with the text of the “flash story” surrounding the image.  If I can get the authors to come to a book signing/party, authors would sign their pages for some of the printed stuff.


We're going to have a photobooth for the show for participants to play with and vintage costumes.


Of course I'll send the authors free copies of the catalogs. I will announce the winners the day after the closing deadline for the competition. I'm planning on doing one flash fiction competition a week every Monday from now until April. 


(If the conditions in the side bar are not to your liking, I'm totally flexible.  Send me a contract that you like and I will mail it back to you.  I just don't want to chase people for signatures when I publish the catalog!)


Go to my website for more contests: http://www.kenney-mencher.com/

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This was sent by e-mail:


Owen D. Bank by Patrick Nelson

I tell you one thing; no man is gonna turn down a chance to be with that woman right there if it presents itself. I don't care who you are or what your situation is. You better check your pulse if she doesn't stir something in you when she looks your way and smiles. Well, that's just what happened. 

I'm a realist. I know when a woman glances at a man on the street and gives him a little half grin, nine times out of ten she's really thinking about the laundry she still has to pick up or "I really hope he doesn't talk to me". Y'know? look, I'm not the kind that tells all his friends "she wants my shit real bad" or "I'm gonna get some of that". . . Well when she walked  right up to me and said "Hey handsome, what's your tune?" I almost fell right out. "you speaking to me Ma'am?" I stuttered like a fool. "Who else is standing here but you, slick? And who are you calling  'ma'am'?" she came back. Yeah, love at first sight , I tell you. At first I thought she might be a pro, but there was something about her that made me forget that notion.

Once I caught up to my mouth, I shot back "I just been waitin’ for you, little lady." Real Romeo shit there. 

"Is that so? well, the funny thing is I had no Idea that I was even going to speak to you at all until I was two steps in front of you" she said.

Still a little shaken, I wondered aloud "Yeah, what can I do for you? It isn't every day a beautiful woman like you steps right up to a man like me and says 'boo' let alone act like I might have something she might want to discuss. . ."

"Look, I'm gonna cut to the chase. I need a handsome young man like you to make my husband jealous"

"Whoa, you're just gonna have to pull that train back into the station, lady! What the hell are you talking about?"  I heard myself say. 

"It's not like you think. It's very innocent and no one's gonna get hurt. I just want you to pretend like there's something going on between us so my husband will finally pay some attention to me."

"Oh, no you don't!" I told her, "I heard about this kinky shit and you two are gonna just have to get off with some other dude." Yet a certain sweaty part of me was flashing past the idea of it in my head.

Kind of irritated, she shot back "It's not like that and you're just a little sick for even thinking what I think you're thinking. No, my husband and I live a couple of blocks away from here. We just moved in to town for his new job and for the last two weeks, he has been so busy with his work that he hasn't even paid any attention to me. I just want him to see me talking to you and get some of his brain working on me again. . . I don't know anybody here, but then again, neither does he. I can make it worth your while. . ." She explained this part while holding her purse in front of her and lightly grinding the tip of one shoe on the cement. A little innocent .

"Wow. That is some definite crazy lady shit you just laid out for me, you know that? Of course you do. You're the crazy lady who just walked up to a complete stranger and got even stranger. This shit has jail cell written all over it." I wasn't sure if I should walk away from her right then - or run. Still that other voice just started to whisper shit to me: "C'mon man! What could it hurt? This way you could at least spend a little more time near her. With her." 
Riiiight.

"You just seemed like a decent guy from the look of you and I thought you would help. Please? He's normally such a good husband, but when he gets into his work, he just kind of 'goes away' a little. I love him and realize he needs to concentrate but I'm still right there next to him. . ." she said. "I'll pay you and you don't have to do anything really. Just stand on the street outside our apartment and talk to me. We just stand and talk until he takes a break and looks out at us and sees us together" she said.

"This is just too weird. You realize how nuts you sound? Let me get this straight: you want me to just stand in front of your place and chat with you so your husband sees us, comes running downstairs and tries to kill me? Right?" I said.

"No! It's not like that! -He's not like that! This IS sounding crazy, isn't it?" She was backing away a little. I didn’t want her to. She added "Maybe you're right and this was just too nuts, but I'm so afraid and I don't know what else to do. We haven't been married for very long and I have no one else to talk to. I don’t know what to do."

OK, here were my options starting to become solid in the fog: Be a dog or be a man. Take advantage of the lonely woman or be a friend to the helpless little girl. Tip her into my arms with guilt; "you just figured you'd make your husband really jealous and it wouldn't be less effective if you chose a black man." Or tip her back to her husband with reason; "you need to get your ass off the street and back up to that apartment and talk that shit out. . ." 

Decisions, decisions. . .
_________________________________________________________________________
Owen D. Bank by Notta Viking


Owen was staring at the radio but the voices were coming through the walls. Pressure in those voices, Owen was thinking. Money, power, survival: survival, money, power – whichever way you said it, it was a freight train packed full of truth coming right at ya, then held back by walls, a small room in a tall building, a room of a club of a hotel all packed in – a tall tale of Harlem life, that it sure was.

Owen could sit down and flick his eyes up and not think that God was up there – it was all rooms, people neighborhood, not like the deep south – all open space and open hate and God-fearin’, but money, power, survival was made out there too, made out in the head, white heads big with hopin’ negro heads going be rollin’ in the dry dusty roads when they pass by. A hat on the head there protects from the sun that makes those roads so dry. A hat on the head in Harlem is the style of no sweat entertainment! My favorite hat is a kinda white yellow like an old newspaper with no writing on it. There’s so much news in this time of the Great Depression that papers get flicked through so fast it’s like there ain’t no writing on them – just pressure that is there keeping the writin’ steady. Black printed words like black creatures! Yeah I be one of them too, all over a white page, you could call her that – a German actress here in 36 takin' my mind off  Joe Louis defeat by a white man – a German like her, so no sweat entertainment ain’t exactly true! Anyhow defeat and entertainment makin’ 35 a big year, I got a baby coming in 36 from my local girl, my Harlem family getting bigger! I got time to name my boy- I got it in my mind it’s gonna be a boy. I’m Owen Dexter Bank so  I’ll call him Owen Dune, it’s got a ring to it, I can sing, ‘Owen Dune, I’m owing you’ when I’m tryin’ to comfort him. I got the name from the actress – her talk about travellin’ to Africa, deserts, sand, a planet of sand is where a Dune can be.

I asked her if the sand was so, a ship like the Titanic could fit under it and she looked at me sadly saying nothing cruises sand. I don’t know if she got all sad cause she had people on that ship? Just cause she got money it don’t mean that her people got sunk like that, and anyhow that was like 20 years ago, hell her world is bigger than that ship, she in the movies, on the stage, on the move and I’m her invisible man. No-one sees the likes of me when they look at a white woman, they always gonna be consumed by the act of em, I just can’t imagine her out in the desert all exposed to sand. Would bedsheets keep her cool in the sun? Maybe she was lyin’, just trying to be a know all and tellin’ me about Africa cause I’m a negro and she ain’t even American – that’s probably it, but cause she ain’t American she would never say, you can git through the eye of a needle but you can’t git through me boy! A preacher’s daughter, an American daughter would have that wrapped around her brain like a band-aid. God the Americans burn their brains out with hate, they must burn them black, but black with a machine way about them, like a radio but a radio only giving out bad news. Joe Louis defeat was bad news but it’s history now. You gotta sell your history to have a future, you gotta make a history to sell and this sellin’ happens in the head, not in cents and dollar bills -I mean the words and the faces on them money pieces ain’t my history, so I know my history is in my head and in my son’s head.

The voices that had been coming through the walls had stopped and Owen realized that their conversation was a signal to him to “quit listening to Jazz and start playing… money, power, survival was riding on his contribution”. Owen thought he should switch the radio on to at least make it true that he had been listening to it.

An entertainer couldn’t be in a room alone thinking, he wasn’t an old man.




_____________________________________________ 
“Owen D. Bank” by Shervin Sahba

 There wasn’t a day in the life that I thought less of her- My angel, my sweet solace, sitting silently across the room. Clarabelle. You’d barely know she was alive, I tell you. These past years, they’ve been so quiet. And here I am, graying at the roots, still going through the black and white motions.
Used to tease her, I did. Oh, I had a laugh alright, telling her this piece in particular was meant for her. “Clair de Lune.” If man could summon all the feeling in the world…well, that’s the only way I can describe this song- All the feeling in the world.
“Mmmhm, this Steinway sure is a beaut,” I heard myself exalt out loud. “Each day now, these keys pour warmth all over my soul, babe. You feel me?”
She didn’t lift a brow. I suppose those nails need their filing, hell if I know why. She’d be that same gal I met thirty sunny years ago covered in mud, peppered with feathers. And, my God, those legs! They’re ageless. Made of pure ivory, I tell you. My spine still shivers and my breath skips when I think of our love. My God, thirty years. Has it really has been that long?
I struck a wrong note, and then silence. The whole city came to a halt. “Heh, these old fingers don’t fly like they used to… Bet you that poor French bastard Debussy is rolling all sorts in his grave!” I said, making out a grin that burst into a cackle.
“Hun, you getting hungry at all?” I continued, “You’ve been watching the T.V. ever since I got back from the store.”
“No… I’m alright.”
“Okay,” I replied. “Say, you know they got this fancy new number in today? Gold necklace with sapphire, baby. Real baby blues! They’d match your eyes. I was thinking for our anniversary maybe. They say the stones came all the way from Madagascar. What you think?”
“That’s nice,” said Clarabelle. Looking up at me now, her eyes looked so tired. There wasn’t a hint of emotion to be found. “Hey, Owen, are you going to fix the radiator? The hose has been leaking. It’s cold.”
“Again?” I rested on the arm of the sofa. ”Yeah, baby, I’ll take care of it. Still got a few months ‘til winter.”
Gently, I lifted her head and gave her a soft kiss. For a split second, I even thought her lips part, and as I pulled away and gazed upon her, I could only see those same, sunken eyes. They once had fire. Now, sometimes I wonder if there’s any life in them at all.
“Clara. You feeling good? I worry about you. You haven’t been…”
All she could do was look away, turn to her nails. Her head slowly slipped from my hand, as her eyes stared blank and fell from focus.
***
Heading down Canal Street in the fall, you could feel Father Winter on his way. A quick breeze seemed to push an old lady as she trotted home with her groceries. I pulled my collar up. Eventually passing a Chinese joint, I sat down inside and ordered. By the time the food came, I’d almost lost interest. For a hot minute, I dabbed my spoon in the water and batted the noodles, just watching them bob and sway. Checking my pocket for cigarettes, I found only two left. I finished my meal and left.
On the way home, I passed by our shop window. They had set up her necklace for the whole world to see, like some trophy.
“Oh, my sweet baby blue.”
A passerby turned his head, and then disinterested, continued on his way.
Reaching into my pocket for a smoke, I realized I had forgotten the pack at the Chinese restaurant. By the time I reached there, they had gated up the front. Several times I rapped against the window pane, leaving greased marks on each beat. The lone waiter inside looked up, headed into the back, and didn’t come out again.
Taking my stroll home under the moonlight, I began thinking about “Clair de Lune.” What was Debussy thinking? I mean, here I see myself, a fat, old, man, working what shifts he can grab. When did this happen? I own a Steinway for Christ’s sake. I was playing with the best. I’ve been married thirty- no, nearly thirty-one years to the love of my life. What does it mean?
“I’m standing here under your same goddamned moon!”
For the first time in what felt like ages, I frowned, and I frowned sincerely. Did you know that the song was originally bound to be named “Promenade Sentimentale?” Well, I don’t speak French, but even I can get behind that. Looking back at it, though, what has this slushy past given me? I stopped and stared into a storefront window and contemplated the face I saw mirroring back. It was worn, pocked, combed, and disillusioned. It wasn’t the same slick, enterprising cat from my youth. That man was a glint on a horizon long gone.
A homeless man – a local bum – staggered by weakly. I asked him for a smoke. He dug and dug and dug some more through endless pockets and patches. I eyed his yellow gritted nails through the ordeal. Finally, peering down into the shambled pack, held with shivering hands, he apologetically refused.
He only had two left.


_______________________________________________
This was sent by e-mail:


Ladies and Gentlemen Luz del Sol
 Mama never was my mother. Mothers're them people who hold your hand when you're crossing the street; who're always there when you get home from school, getting you some cookies and milk or something; who always tidy up 'round the house, and come and check on you when you're asleep. Nope, that ain't Mama. Mama wasn't no mother. Mama was a singer.
It makes sense that Mama wanted to be a singer. She sang real nice, she was pretty, and she had two dresses—a Sunday dress for wearing to church and a sparkly blue one for wearing to her shows or to Charlie the manager's house. She always said to me, “Owen, when you grows up and gets married, you make sure your wife has at least a church-going dress and a fancy dress. And they gotta be new, and you gotta buy 'em. That's what all them gentlemen do.” And I'd just tell her, “Okay, Mama,” and then she would nod and start humming a tune.
When Mama started humming one of her tunes, I would start humming right along with her. She never hummed none of her own tunes. She said everyone had to pay her to hear her tunes, and that I 'specially would have to pay, on account of her raising me and feeding me and everything else she said she did for me. So, instead, Mama would hum them church tunes. She never hummed the church tunes that I liked, only the slow, boring ones that they didn't hardly never make us sing in Sunday School.
I always hummed those songs with Mama, though. She told me, “Everyone expects Stacie Bank's boy to be a gentleman, an' gentlemen know all them good Christian songs.” She always wanted me to a gentleman 'cause no one would believe that such a classy, lovely lady like Mama would have a no-good son. She said that me being a gentleman was what was best for her, and she said that if she kept living good, I'd keep living good.
But Mama was no classy lady. I feel bad, 'cause I almost didn't know it. But when I turned twenty-one and I wasn't living with Mama no longer, Mama got sick. Charlie the manager found me one day and told me. He said that no doctors knew if Mama would get better.
“What's she have?” I asked Charlie the manager.
“Some bad disease with a big, long name that my head just can't seem to find a reason to remember,” he told me, scratching his head like the name was buried in his brain but his skull was in the way.
“Tuberculosis?” I offered, trying to make myself seem smarter by conjuring up the disease with the longest name that I could think of.
Charlie the manager looked at me and laughed. “No, no, boy, you know they only have that over in England and the United Kingdom.”
“Nuh-uh, that ain't right. My personal acquaintance told me that his sister had come down with it when she was a baby, and that--”
He cut me off: “Well, son, it doesn't matter much, nope, no, it don't. But anyway, I'm here 'cause your mother asked me to give something to you.”
“She did?” I asked.
He snickered. “No, not really. She didn't want me to give this to you, but I decided to anyway. I figured you'd want it after—how long's it been since you left home? You were what, sixteen, seventeen? Well, it's been a while, and I figured you'd like to know how your mother been doing.” He flipped open his briefcase and handed me a book with a picture of Mama on the front. “That's your mother's book she wrote about herself. What're they called, again? Sounds like automobile, but that ain't it... Anyway, I figured you should have that. Don't tell your mother, though. If she found out I gave you a book without making you pay for it, you know she'd have my nice shoes fed to mutts!”
“Okay. Thank you, sir.” Charlie the manager smiled, tipped his invisible hat, and left my flat. Mama's book was called Them Two Dresses. I remembered what she told me about gentlemen and dresses.
When I finished reading all two hundred pages of that book, I wanted to make all two hundred of them go away. That wasn't Mama. That couldn't be Mama. Mama was a lady. My Mama never took no drugs, my Mama was a chaste woman, my Mama was honest as a child. How could that book be my Mama's autobiography? How could everything I knew about her when I was a boy be a lie? But there it was, clear as day, written on the cover: The Autobiography of Stacie Bank.
First I wanted to punch something. I wanted to kick that book all the way to China; maybe I'd never see it again if it were there, and everything in that book could be a lie, and Mama could still be a lady.
But that was not gentleman-like. Mama was no lady, but I still had to be a gentleman. When I was a boy, she told me: “Everyone expects Stacie Bank's boy to be a gentleman,” but she lying about that, too. Nobody expects the son of trash to grow up and be a gentleman. 'Cept Mama. She wanted a gentleman. Maybe I could be the one good thing that she did in her life.
I called up Charlie the manager and told him to give the phone to Mama. It'd been five years since I even said, “Hello,” to Mama, and I'm sure Charlie the manager was fearing for his nice shoes when I asked for her.
I didn't say nothing about Charlie the manager to Mama, though. I didn't hardly say nothing at all. I said, “Mama, my autobiography ain't gonna be like yours.” 
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Submitted by e-mail:
 

Owen D. Bank by Jordan Robinson
 
I will always remember his long strides guiding us to a destination of which I had no clue.

We were equipped as always. Inside his left jacket pocket had his engraved flask O.Banks, gold eagle necklace tucked in his white under shirt, knife hooked to belt on  right side of back. Of course during the dressing process a Whiskey was nursed and the silence in the air began. Not telling me might have been for my protection but not knowing intensified the climate. He would pace back and forth in the hall while occasionally stopping to journal his thoughts.  While watching these moments of my life I would also begin to prepare my mind for what was going to happen. He would reassure me right before we left the house that  everything is going to ok. Being okay is not something we should have reassured.

His strides so long.. Elegant with his creased pants and  hat he wore just about everyday.  He gave me my first pocket knife at seven. Your best bet is to learn from his instinct and listen to the lessons in his stories. What better teacher than a man full or education filled with wisdom. He would introduce me to all the corner store owners. I don’t think they ever cared to meet me and for that I could care less. I think he wanted me to know these men so I would know those men.  He always would teach situational awareness is key.

His strides so long… he always smelled fresh of bath soap or a mild after shave. He would pay for my bus fare and have me sit in the window aisle. This man would sit in silence and show no care for the world around him while sitting on the bus. Occasionally pointing out a  fact about  mills or factories we pass.


Before our stop his right leg would begin to shake. I am going to a destination of which I had no clue.


A few sips of the flask. He would reach in with right hand but drink from his left. His patterns I adored.

His strides so long.. When walking off the bus or out the café onto the curb he would always take a look to his left and right and make eye contact with anyone  who was in a reach.  Pan handlers would get his spare change. Well that was after he would give me some for my pockets.


To you he may have been  the local drunk who took his son to the worlds young kids should not visit.


To you he may have been the local drunk who’s  world has become so intoxicated his mind knows no sense. Maybe I did grow up too fast.In the end if came to one thing.For me he was my father. The true home of my shadow.


His strides so long …his cuffs pressed , nails manicured I would hold his hands.

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This came in by e-mail:

The Luck by Pheyos

"Thank you, stop.  For wasting, stop.  MY TIME, period."

"You want that period included?"


"Absolutely."


Owen leaned back from the clerk’s window.  She looked up and grinned.  


"A high roller.  Anything else?"


"No, angel, you're perfect," said Owen, flashing a smile and leaving fifteen cents on the sill.


He left the Western Union office feeling better.  He'd been livid after spending days searching for a missing boy named Robert von Appel for the Pinkertons, only to hear the lead agent had traced him to New York and neglected to tell the Philadelphia office.  All Owen had to show for it was a photo of the boy he got from a relative.


It was rainy and muggy out.  Owen settled his hat on his head and caught a streetcar to the offices.


"Owen," called the office chief as he entered, motioning him into his private office.


Inside two other agents were seated.  Owen took the third chair while the chief sat down.


"There's rumbling up in Big Apple.  A big Syndicate man got stung for 500 grand on a con and didn't cool out--three people are already dead.  The Bureau of Investigation is leaving it to the local police.  Our Manhattan office learned two people involved have lamed it to Philly.  Find them before more blood spills."


The chief opened a file on his desk and passed out a photograph.


"This is the photo the Syndicate men are working from.  Man's moniker is 'Union Kid,' no other information.  Girlfriend is Winny, alias Betty, Million.  Born in Tribeca, 28 years old.  She's the roper, he's the inside-man."


Owen did quick calculations in his head.  The take for each from the con would be roughly $225,000 and $87,000, respectively.


"Who fingered them?"


"Train conductor identified the woman as a passenger."


Owen saw the photo.  She was a knockout; the boyfriend was forgettable.


"Work your contacts," said the chief.  "Con men are birds of a feather."

*

Owen spent the day locating his snitches, passing word he was interested in heavy rollers fresh into town.  He had a better plan, which required nerves and luck.  He paid a well-respected fixer in the city to arrange a special meeting that evening.


Limehouse Chappie, former New Yorker, wire store owner, and big-con inside-man, met him at an expensive restaurant downtown.  Limehouse was impeccably dressed and knew the businessmen dining there on a first-name basis.  His swindles topped $150,000 regularly.


Over dinner Owen passed himself as a former con man turned financer, recently in trouble when an old mark recognized him and beefed to the cops.  He told Limehouse the Union Kid was planning to contact him and repay a debt, but he needed to meet sooner and lam.  


"Well, I don't know where he would be," said Limehouse with a wink.  "But I know he likes his tea.  If he's in town, I'd check the tea supply house on Chestnut Street."


They finished dinner, which Owen paid after a quibble with Limehouse, shook hands, and left.


*

At the office Owen found a telegram from New York waiting at his desk.  It read: "CHI AND NY HEAVIES ARRIVING TODAY STOP PROCEED WITH CAUTION."  Owen retrieved his cut-down Police Positive revolver before leaving the telegram for the other agents on his way out.

He took a cab to a diner near Washington Square and enlisted the help of a grifter who often loitered there.  He switched coats and gave the man his hat and instructions.  He walked to the tea house.


Inside it was quiet.  A clerk stood at the counter.  


"Can I help you?"


"All this rain and I'm still dry," said Owen.  "What's new?"


The clerk paused a beat.  "Got a new shipment from England.  It's in the back—wanna take a look?"


"Certainly," said Owen.


He followed the clerk around the back, where he left Owen at the foot of some stairs.


Owen knocked on the door at the top and was admitted by a seating host.  


"Good evening, Mr.  Teller."
“Marty.”

Inside was a lounge sparsely populated by people chatting, enjoying the sound of a lone piano, and drinking illegal liquor.  Owen took a spot in the corner near the door and ordered a Manhattan.


A woman’s eyes had watched him come through the door.  Owen kept himself busy rolling and lighting a cigarette.


On cue, a familiar white hat entered the room.  The grifter stepped in and gave a name to the seating host.  


Owen watched the woman watching the grifter.  She had short hair and a hat pulled low on her head.  She tapped her hand over her mouth a couple times.  With that signal, Owen knew it was Betty Million.  The seating host's next action only confirmed this.  He seated the grifter as far away from Betty as possible, conversing with him long enough while she slipped out the door.


Owen began to follow her, but stopped when she backed into the room.


Two men came through the door bearing down on her.  One had a gat in his hand.


Owen flicked his cigarette at the man's face.  The man flinched and Owen drew his revolver, plugging each man twice.  


Betty's legs were frozen in place, but her eyes were darting.  Owen pulled her away from the two bodies and she all but fainted.

*

At the police station Owen and a detective got the story from Betty.  She and the Union Kid had split, she with the money and him to draw the trail away.  She had also come to Philadelphia to pay debts for the Union Kid before they split the country.


"They'll croak him for sure," said the detective afterward.


"That's the game," said Owen.  


He looked over the waiting area and saw a policeman talking sternly to a young boy.


"That address you keep givin’ just don't exist!  Tell us where you live or you'll be here 'til Christmas," said the officer.


Owen froze.


"Wait a minute.  Aren't you Robert von Appel?"