Sue Sullivan was a petite girl of just 20 years old. She had completed her apprenticeship as a book printer and binder, despite all the prophecies of doom. After all, it was a profession that actually no longer existed. It was all done by machines now. She wouldn’t be able to make a living with it, they had told her. She replied that she was modest and didn’t need much, a real Irish woman. And that in Austria. With her red hair, many freckles and green eyes, she looked extremely exotic in southern Austria. But most of all she was a fun-loving and optimistic girl. She had been looking for a job for a long time but couldn’t find one. It seemed hopeless. She was about to give up and do another apprenticeship when fate showed her another path.
It was a Sunday morning when she strolled through downtown Klagenfurt. Then she discovered a small shop that looked rather rustic. “For rent” was written large in the display and a telephone number for contacting. Without thinking twice, she called. An old man who apparently owned the whole house answered and said he would come downstairs in a moment.
“Lorenz Manz”, he introduced himself.
“Sue Sullivan,” Sue revealed her name.
“I had a stationery shop here for many years,” he explained, “but then I couldn’t keep up with the work and couldn’t find a successor.”
“What a coincidence,” Sue replied, “That’s exactly what I want to do. With workshops on bookbinding and calligraphy and of course for children on art and beautiful stationery.”
“Then you will see that everything is set up exactly the way you need it,” said Lorenz, “You probably only have to dust off and put fresh goods in. But let’s go inside.” And Sue realized that Lorenz was right. It was exactly as she had imagined. A sales room, an extra room where she could hold her workshops and behind it a small apartment. It was ideal. The two quickly came to an agreement.
“Oh yes, if you need anything, get in touch,” explained Lorenz, “I’m bored and I don’t have contact with customers.”
“That’s incredibly nice of you,” Sue replied.
Sue was very busy for the next few weeks beautifying the premises, moving into her new apartment and shopping for goods. There were so many things to do that she even forgot to eat. Luckily there was Lorenz Manz, who kept coming down to her, armed with tea and cake or sandwiches, depending on the time of day.
“I’m so grateful to you,” Sue explained again and again, but Lorenz just waved him off.
“I know how difficult the beginning is,” he said succinctly. But Sue didn’t have time to think about it any further. Later, when she had settled in, she would really reciprocate, she decided.
Finally, the opening date was fixed and Sue started distributing flyers in the area to invite people to the opening, to introduce them to the new business, which she called “Sue’s little stationery shop”, simple and understandable. On the eve of the opening, she climbed the two flights of stairs to Lorenz Manz’s apartment to thank him for his kindness with something she had cooked herself.
“How nice to see you!” Lorenz said with a smile when he opened the door and recognized her.
“I just wanted to say thank you and thought I’d bring us something to eat, homemade,” Sue explained.
“Please, come in then,” Lorenz asked her, “We’d best go to the dining room. You know, I don’t get many visitors these days and you don’t want to come across as intrusive. Who wants anything to do with an old man?” Sue entered the dining room. Everything seemed like it was a museum, not an apartment. How lonely did this man have to be? Involuntarily she thought of her grandfather. “There’s nothing worse than loneliness,” he once said to her, and Sue began to understand what he meant by that. But was there anything you could do about it? Was there anything she could do? Hopefully she would find out.