Good Reading dips into the first paragraphs of new books to give you a taste of what’s to come.
A sense of misfortune hung in the air. From the early morning hours, a menacing breeze had swept through the streets, whistling between the buildings, forcing its way in through the cracks under doors and windows.
‘Just winter settling in,’ Rudolph Adler murmured to himself in an attempt to lighten his mood. But he couldn’t blame the weather for the tightness in his chest, which he’d felt for several months now.
The stench of fear, like rust and rotting garbage, clung to his nostrils; neither his pipe tobacco nor his citrus-scented aftershave lotion could mask it. That afternoon, the stink of dread stirred up by the wind was suffocating, making him feel dizzy and nauseous. He decided to turn away the patients left in his waiting room and close up early. Surprised, his assistant asked if he was ill. She’d worked with the doctor for eleven years and had never known him to shirk his duties; he was a punctual, methodical man.
‘Nothing serious, only a cold, Frau Goldberg. I’ll go home and rest,’ he answered.
They tidied the office and disinfected the instruments, then said goodbye at the door as they did every evening, neither suspecting that they’d never see each other again. Frau Goldberg headed to the streetcar stop and Rudolph Adler walked the few blocks to the pharmacy at his usual brisk pace, hat in one hand and doctor’s bag in the other, his shoulders hunched. The sidewalk was damp and the sky cloudy; it had been drizzly and he predicted they’d soon see one of those autumn rainstorms that always caught him unawares, without an umbrella.
He’d walked those streets a thousand times and knew them by memory, but he never stopped admiring his city, one of the prettiest places in the world with its Baroque and Art Nouveau buildings coexisting harmoniously, the majestic trees that had begun dropping their leaves, the equestrian statue in the neighbourhood square, the bakery’s window display with its spread of delicate pastries, and the antiques shop crammed with curiosities. But that afternoon he barely raised his eyes from the pavement. He had the weight of the world on his shoulders.