Under the Green Sun of Slormor
by Bertil Falk
Who dreamed that beauty passes like a dream? — William Butler Yeats
I walked rapidly on the gravel path of the churchyard and greeted all the guests who had come to the baptism. The jovial vicar would baptize my grandchild, who was also his grandchild. My son, the murderer, who had served his sentence after killing my mother’s lover, proudly stood there, while his wife, the daughter of the vicar, held the child in her arms.
The christening robe was white. The mother and her husband looked satisfied. There were a lot of other people present, and only a few that I knew. From my own group was there only the retired murder investigator, now living in Trelleborg, who had emerged together with his former secretary, who still worked with the police in Malmö.
At the moment when my son’s father-in-law poured water on the head of the child, my eyes met two dark eyes. The sight of them gave me a shock, for I was looking into the raven-black eyes of a mature woman. Her neck sloped straight into her arms and she smiled at me.
My heart did a somersault and my pulse raced. I lowered my eyes and felt ashamed. I do not know why. I looked around, but everyone was preoccupied with the baptismal rite. I had been taken by surprise by this sudden revelation, and I tried to collect myself.
I slowly raised my eyes towards her. She was no longer looking at me. Now she was concentrating on the crucial part of the baptism. But there was no doubt about it: the woman who stood on the other side of the font in a chic emerald-green dress was she.
I tried to think something rational, tried to see a light somewhere at the end of some kind of tunnel, but the effort collapsed in a myriad of pieces, where every part was confusion. Was I in full possession of my senses?
The clergyman was now in full swing. He splashed water and intoned, “We welcome you into the Church of Christ and receive you with love and expectation.”
Yes, but was all this hocus-pocus necessary? What did I know, the baptized heathen, who thought it was a work of supererogation that Christ died on the cross for our sins. My sins? Leave me alone! I turned my eyes to my son. There was the happy murderer, smiling happily as only a newly fledged father can smile.
She took out her handkerchief. It was embroidered with a dragon. And I remembered that she once said one never knew when it could be of use. Loudly, Parvrin blew her nose. There, at last it proved useful.
The ceremony was over. I walked over to the mother, gave her a friendly kiss on the cheek and looked at the chapped, rough, red face of my grandchild, who seemed to be in need of some baby powder.
The boy looked up, incapable of focusing his eyes. His tiny fingers were spread, sometimes groping in the air. I wondered what his name was? I did not listen carefully to what the man said, he who, like myself, had contributed about one-fourth or so of the child’s genes and DNA. What did I know?
One of the maternal aunts, who had video-recorded the whole ceremony, arranged all the guests outside the gate of the church, whereupon we walked away to an inn, the innkeeper of which made a living on funeral feasts, wedding festivities and baptism lunches.
I looked for the woman who was Parvrin. She was walking a few people ahead of me, dressed in a green sun hat and carrying a parasol of the kind that Royal Ladies prefer, a mark of social distinction that even Teresa, Daisy and Harriet put forth on special occasions. Green silk stockings, emerald-green shoes of glass! The green hunter’s dress strikingly cut with ladies’ buttoning. And black eyes! I did not know what to believe.
At lunch, which consisted of coffee and savory sandwich layer cakes, I ended up at her side. That is, I saw to it that I did.
“I’m the paternal grandfather of the child,” I said. “Haven’t we met somewhere?”
“Perhaps,” she replied, “but where or when would that have been?”
Only a moment ago, I thought, but her visual picture of this moment ago was obviously blurred, very blurred and on the verge of oblivion. Her necklace was the same that my Sony Ericsson once hung from. I squeezed the mobile phone in my pocket. It was so warm in my hand, like the miniature body of a living female.
“I don’t know exactly,” I said. “What about Slormor?”
She turned pale. “Slormor?”
She has become very serious by now. “Yes,” she said at last and tried a smile. “Where else except Slormor?”
Much more was not said. A tall man, who obviously was the owner of this inn of happiness and sorrow, was ever-present here and there in the background. He gave orders to the staff, which consisted of a young man and an older woman. When we rose from the table, my lady partner at table went over to that man. His face looked as if it was on the verge of rotting away.
And to my unreserved astonishment, I recognized in him no less than Deradivel. She talked to him with her back to me and I saw him raising his eyes looking above her head at me with an unmistakable interest. He nodded that he had understood, and it gave me a thrill. She turned round and together they came over to me.
“And this is the paternal grandfather of the child,” she introduced me. “And this,” and now she talked about Deradivel, “is my husband.”
I managed to utter, as they do in books, that completely stupid sentence “pleased to meet you,” but anyhow found my tongue, and some more platitudes jumped like frogs, no, toads, out of my mouth.
“My husband is an old friend of the maternal grandfather,” Parvrin said. “That’s partly why it was natural to arrange the lunch here after the baptism, especially since my husband is one of the child’s godfathers.”
“So that’s how it is, is it?”
For what could I say? They stood there before me as real as I had seen them on Slormor, but when I looked round, I found to my utter shock that the room, where we had had our lunch, seemed less real than all the miracles I had seen on Slormor during my visit there. Visit?
While the events on Slormor were as palpable to me as if they had been cut in glass with a diamond, the place where I now was seemed transparently thin, on the verge of non-existence. Had not my grandson at that moment cried out a veritable battle cry, I would have almost pinched my arm to make sure I was not dreaming!
Nevertheless, the sense of unreality was as clear as Slormor’s palpability had been. I said goodbye to the party and slapped “my murderer” in the back. I behaved like a fool in a try to stop my grandchild from screaming — coddling him in that way that one should not with children, since it only delays their efforts to speak properly. At least, someone had said that. Someone else had said the opposite, whatever that meant. I kissed my daughter-in-law on the other cheek, the one I had not had the chance to kiss before, and drove away in my Skoda Felicia.
I drove slowly towards Malmö and passed with a certain dread the hotdog stand at the bus station in Alstad. There they were hoisting something up onto a truck platform.
It was the giant statue representing an inhabitant of Slormor. I stopped my Skoda, got out, and asked what they were doing. The old woman who was directing the workmen, did not look like a withered Egyptian vulture this time, and her voice did not croak; it was soft and good like honey ice cream from Gotland.
She no longer looked at me with almost blind, syrupy red eyes, which, self-absorbed, scratched at a memory that had long ago moved to the back of my mind. She answered with a strikingly authoritative voice: “You look able-bodied. Your body, your size, your will. Lend a hand now.”
I did not answer; I obeyed her. Soon the statue was on the truck. It was so tall that it stood out half a meter at the edge of the platform. When I asked what it was, I was told that it was a prop for the shooting of a film. What was it doing in Alstad? Well, the truck transporting it had collided with another truck; the statue had been put aside, and now they were retrieving it.
As the woman told me this, she jumped into the driver’s cab and sat behind the wheel. I stood and watched as the truck slowly disappeared, carefully observing speed limit.
Suddenly there was a sign of life from my Sony Ericsson. Someone was speaking in what was obviously a Slormorian dialect. I answered in the lingua franca of Terra. There was silence in my ear, followed by a Click!
When I came home, I showered for a very long time, but I will probably never be able to wash away the mental specks of dust from my experiences. How can you forget a piece of cloth with an embroidered dragon!
Copyright © 2007 by Bertil Falk