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My Co-Worker Edwin

by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson

Because I didn’t have the necessary mafia connections I had to get a job in town. It was easy but low-paying and sometimes dirty. The job involved mowing grass on the rather vast grassy areas around and inside town; turfing; painting this and that and various other town-maintenance related things.

I had many co-workers, but one of the more bizarre ones was Edwin. I’m leaving out his full name, but those who know him will recognize him by the description of following events.

For two weeks we were left to paint at a farm. It’s the only farm on the island; you can’t miss it. There were three of us, myself, Edwin, and a guy whose name I have forgotten.

The first week it rained quite a bit, so we were holed up in the basement, and made to paint hundreds of logs. Those logs were about 120-150 cm long, with one end sharpened for the purpose of hammering them into the ground for fence-making. We only had to paint one meter of them, and the colour selected for this was red. Bright, shiny red, like someone’s overly bloodshot eye.

This went all right for the first day, we painted a few logs, told each other jokes and looked around inside the basement. It was a series of rooms, only two of which are important in this story. One was longer than the other by a few meters and contained two cars: an eighties Daihatsu Charade and a Volkswagen Vietnam pickup (long story.)

In the smaller rooms, the unpainted logs were kept in one pile, and the painted one lined up against the walls or random things to dry, and then piled up in a corner. There was also a sink, for use in the national festival, some motorized grass-cutting implements I can’t name in English, and petroleum in a 20-liter container. We used that to clean the brushes.

Anyway, the next day our coworker must have gotten bored, or inhaled too much of the paint fumes. And he began singing loudly. It was a monotonous, polka-esque song with really simple lyrics, that went something like this:

Der Führer, der Führer, der Führer!
Der Führer, der Führer, der Führer!

And the same thing, over and over. Did I say “something like” this? No, it was exactly like that. This he sang, off and on for the entire day. I vaguely recall my other co-worker beating Edwin up at some point. Or few points. But this was in the mid-nineties, not yesterday. I can’t be expected to remember little things like that.

Then the rain stopped. That day we were sent out to paint some bits and pieces of the outside of the farm. The most notable part being a large garage door. This was when we realized that Edwin had a special condition:

Two of us bothered to clean the brushes we had first used to paint the logs down in the basement. Edwin didn’t bother. He saw nothing wrong with painting the large green door that was supposed to be green with some red paint.

“Why are you painting the door red?” we asked him, “are you colour blind?”

“Yes, why?”

There was a large brown spot on that door for more than two years after this. Something tells me nobody cared what we did there.

A couple of days later it began raining again, and down into the basement we went. Edwin continued singing the “der Führer song” every now and again, occasionally pausing to cause mayhem. Throwing the sharpened logs was one thing he did. He threw a dozen or so into the other room. One he used as a ram to injure the Vietnam car stored therein. He stopped after he had thrown a log through one of the side windows.

I’ve never heard anyone mention that since.

Eventually he moved to playing with the petroleum. He put a splash of petroleum on the floor and then set fire to it. We told him to go outside to do that, which he did once, but came inside again because he disliked the rain.

By now the area smelled rather bad.

But our friend wan’t finished. He dragged out the sink I mentioned earlier and proceeded to pour gasoline into it. It went straight down the drain and pooled underneath. Edwin didn’t seem to notice that, and threw a lit match into the sink. It lit up nicely, and so did the pool of fuel underneath.

I admit it was funny to see him try to put that out. He dragged the rather flammable sink away from the pool of fire and spent a good five minutes trying to keep the also rather flammable things right above the aforesaid pool from burning, all the while stamping about wildly and yelling.

I and the other guy exited the building shortly after, and Edwin followed. We stayed outside in the rain for a while, amusing ourselves by reproaching Edwin for polluting our work environment and in wondering if the house would catch on fire because of this stunt of his. It was mostly bare concrete, but there were plastic sheets hanging from the ceiling right where the flames were, and some wood, so in theory there could be damage.

As it turned out, the house didn’t burn down, and Edwin stopped setting things on fire for the time being.

The last I saw of him, he was in Denmark, doing something. My best guess is he was smoking weed. Maybe he’ll set Kristiania on fire while singing about der Führer. I like to think he will.

Copyright © 2012 by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson

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