Bjornstjerne Bjornson ~ The Father

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The man whose story is here to be told was the wealthiest and most influential person in his parish; his name was Thord Overaas. He appeared in the priest’s study one day, tall and earnest.

“I have gotten a son,” said he, “and I wish to present him for baptism.”

“What shall his name be?”

“Finn,—after my father.”

“And the sponsors?”

They were mentioned, and proved to be the best men and women of Thord’s relations in the parish.

“Is there anything else?” inquired the priest, and looked up.

The peasant hesitated a little.

“I should like very much to have him baptized by himself,” said he, finally.

“That is to say on a week-day?”

“Next Saturday, at twelve o’clock noon.”

“Is there anything else?” inquired the priest.

“There is nothing else;” and the peasant twirled his cap, as though he were about to go.

Then the priest rose. “There is yet this, however,” said he, and walking toward Thord, he took him by the hand and looked gravely into his eyes: “God grant that the child may become a blessing to you!”

One day sixteen years later, Thord stood once more in the priest’s study.

“Really, you carry your age astonishingly well, Thord,” said the priest; for he saw no change whatever in the man.

“That is because I have no troubles,” replied Thord.

To this the priest said nothing, but after a while he asked: “What is your pleasure this evening?”

“I have come this evening about that son of mine who is to be confirmed to-morrow.”

“He is a bright boy.”

“I did not wish to pay the priest until I heard what number the boy would have when he takes his place in church to-morrow.”

“He will stand number one.”

“So I have heard; and here are ten dollars for the priest.”

“Is there anything else I can do for you?” inquired the priest, fixing his eyes on Thord.

“There is nothing else.”

Thord went out.

Eight years more rolled by, and then one day a noise was heard outside of the priest’s study, for many men were approaching, and at their head was Thord, who entered first.

The priest looked up and recognized him.

“You come well attended this evening, Thord,” said he.

“I am here to request that the banns may be published for my son; he is about to marry Karen Storliden, daughter of Gudmund, who stands here beside me.”

“Why, that is the richest girl in the parish.”

“So they say,” replied the peasant, stroking back his hair with one hand.

The priest sat a while as if in deep thought, then entered the names in his book, without making any comments, and the men wrote their signatures underneath. Thord laid three dollars on the table.

“One is all I am to have,” said the priest.

“I know that very well; but he is my only child, I want to do it handsomely.”

The priest took the money.

“This is now the third time, Thord, that you have come here on your son’s account.”

“But now I am through with him,” said Thord, and folding up his pocket-book he said farewell and walked away.

The men slowly followed him.

A fortnight later, the father and son were rowing across the lake, one calm, still day, to Storliden to make arrangements for the wedding.

“This thwart is not secure,” said the son, and stood up to straighten the seat on which he was sitting.

At the same moment the board he was standing on slipped from under him; he threw out his arms, uttered a shriek, and fell overboard.

“Take hold of the oar!” shouted the father, springing to his feet and holding out the oar.

But when the son had made a couple of efforts he grew stiff.

“Wait a moment!” cried the father, and began to row toward his son. Then the son rolled over on his back, gave his father one long look, and sank.

Thord could scarcely believe it; he held the boat still, and stared at the spot where his son had gone down, as though he must surely come to the surface again. There rose some bubbles, then some more, and finally one large one that burst; and the lake lay there as smooth and bright as a mirror again.

For three days and three nights people saw the father rowing round and round the spot, without taking either food or sleep; he was dragging the lake for the body of his son. And toward morning of the third day he found it, and carried it in his arms up over the hills to his gard.

It might have been about a year from that day, when the priest, late one autumn evening, heard some one in the passage outside of the door, carefully trying to find the latch. The priest opened the door, and in walked a tall, thin man, with bowed form and white hair. The priest looked long at him before he recognized him. It was Thord.

“Are you out walking so late?” said the priest, and stood still in front of him.

“Ah, yes! it is late,” said Thord, and took a seat.

The priest sat down also, as though waiting. A long, long silence followed. At last Thord said:

“I have something with me that I should like to give to the poor; I want it to be invested as a legacy in my son’s name.”

He rose, laid some money on the table, and sat down again. The priest counted it.

“It is a great deal of money,” said he.

“It is half the price of my gard. I sold it today.”

The priest sat long in silence. At last he asked, but gently:

“What do you propose to do now, Thord?”

“Something better.”

They sat there for a while, Thord with downcast eyes, the priest with his eyes fixed on Thord. Presently the priest said, slowly and softly:

“I think your son has at last brought you a true blessing.”

“Yes, I think so myself,” said Thord, looking up, while two big tears coursed slowly down his cheeks.

DmdJ Neu3

Three Cups ‘O’ Joe …

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Friends of the Macabre,

As the autumnal macabrely arrives, we at DM reach out to you, our valued contributors and readers, for your needed support.

Every week, thousands of you enjoy our cornucopia of posts on the Book of Faces. Every day, over five thousand discerning readers enchant to the classical frivolities here at DM du Jour. And every year, over seventy five thousand of you turn to Danse Macabre for your literary degustation.

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Many kind literati have over the past year already contributed, but they represent less than one percent of our monthly readership. Imagine, if you will, only one percent of all your writing submissions being accepted – or receiving a one percent raise, a one percent tip. Imagine a magazine or newspaper reduced in size to one percent, the only bit that had been sufficiently sustained. Your timely gift of $10 – a whole three cups ‘o’ Joe – will make a world of difference in helping sustain Danse Macabre as we launch our second decade publishing the finest in online coloratura letters.

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DONATE BUTTONMille grazi all for your continued readership, fellowship, and support.

Marc Vincenz ~ Maximilian Seeking Alpha

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& so into dead night with blood scent
some lost Irish wolfhound scours traces
of his alpha blown to tangled shreds,
mortar-mass of sinew, where saplings
will burn sunlit once again, skylarks
& flycatchers sweeping golden dawn.

No creature, but a demon wheezing,
the sink-teeth of rabid mongrel packs
rooting the moor for scraps,
the wind-dead torn from rags
& carrion rain-ripened larvae
squirming alive in flies, bore

of fuselage become ravens’ nest,
rotting wood-wet upon battlements
for into the deep stew of knowledge
into the darkest blood of mud
tumbling into the mire of the infinite
the lone wolf howls into dead night.

 

Marc Vincenz is of Swiss-British descent, was born in Hong Kong, and worked in China for many years. More recently based out of Iceland, he writes a featured column for The Reykjavik Grapevine, Iceland’s English language newspaper and serves on the editorial board of Open Letter’s Monthly. He is also the Poetry Editor for Mad Hatters’ Review.

Schlaraffenland!

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dm-101-announceGalerie d’Artistes

John Alexander ~ Jonathan Beale
Gordon Brown ~ John J. Dunphy
Nathaniel Hawthorne ~ Matthew McAyeal
Samantha Memi ~ Margaret Montet
Douglas J. Ogurek ~ Douglas Penick
John Rouleau ~ Abigail Sheaffer
Tom Sheehan ~ Paul Tristram

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John Keats ~ To Autumn

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eventideSeason of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,
-While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

DGG fur DMdJ

Tom Sheehan ~ Searching for Amanita Colyptraderma and Electric Street Cars

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They came out of West Lynn or East Saugus years ago, dark mushroom seekers, with their long-pieced poles, their own language whose word for amanita, to the initiate, would tell where their roots began, whether they were Florentine, Roman, or islander, Piana di Cartania. They might say Cocoli, Coconi or Coccori, the delicacies growing thirty or forty feet up on the great elms in the circled green of Cliftondale Square, those huge sky-reaching elms that fell to the hurricanes of ’38, or Carol in the 50s, finally to the toll of traffic demanding the green circle be cut down to size.

Once, in a thick fog, on my third floor porch, the mist yet memorable, I remember thinking the elms were Gardens in the Clouds.  I felt a bloom rise in me, a taste fill my mouth.

They don’t come for amanita anymore because the elms have all gone, those lofty gardens, those mighty furrowed limbs; now shrubs and bushes stand in their place you can almost see over.

Nor do the street cars come anymore from Lynn into Cliftondale Square. They say the old yellow and orange ones,  high black-banded ones, red-roofed ones,  real noisy ones, ones long-electric-armed at each end, the ones off the Lynn-Saugus run, are in Brazil or Argentina or the street car museum in Kennebunkport, Maine, quiet now forever as far as we are concerned, those clanging, rollicking machines that flattened pennies on the tracks so that good Old Abe became a complete mystery, or the Indian Chief, him and his background, became as flat and as charmless as his reservation.

From my porch high on the square, I’d watch thin long poles extending men’s arms, needles of poles they’d fit together, as they reached for the white-gray knobs growing in cloudy limbs. They wore red or blue kerchiefs around thick necks, like Saturday’s movie cowboys if you could believe it, as if any moment they could slip them over their faces and hide out in such bright disguises. They’d cut or tap loose the amanita, see it fall slowly end over end, like a field goal or a touchdown’s point-after, down out of the upper limbs, cutting a slowest curve and halved orbit, and they’d swish butterfly nets to catch the aerial amanita, or Cocoli, as it might be; or their women, in kerchiefs and drawn in and almost hidden away, faces almost invisible, with an upward sweep of gay aprons would catch the somersaulting fungi, the amanita colyptraderma, or being from Piana di Cartania, calling out its name Coconi or Coccori,

Oh, Mediterranean’s rich song airing itself across the green grass of Cliftondale Square, Brahminville being braced, uplifted.

I was never privy to know their roots, their harsh voyages, to know where they landed and why, and now their sounds are lost forever, their voices across the square, the gay and high-pitched yells setting a brazen mist on Cliftondale, their glee as a soft white clump of fungi went loose from its roost, coming down to net, swung apron, or quick hat as if a magician worked on stage in the square, heading for Russula Delica, Cocoli Trippati, Veal Scaloppine, Mushroom Trifolati, Risotto Milanaise or plain old Brodo dei Funghi.

All these years later I know the heavens of their kitchens, the sweet blast front hallways could loose, how sauce pots fired up your nose, how hunger could begin on a full stomach when Mrs. Forti cooked or Mrs.Tedeschi or Mrs.Tura way over there at the foot of Vinegar Hill feeding her gang of seven and their guests.

And I grasp for the clang-clang of the trolley cars, the all-metallic timpani of their short existence, the clash of rods and bars stretching to the nth degree, of iron wheel on iron rail echoing to where we ear-waited up the line with fire crackers’ or torpedoes’ quick explosions, and the whole jangling car shaking like a vital Liberty Ship I’d come to know intimately years later on a dreadful change of tide.

How comfortable now would be those hard wooden seats whose thick enamel paint peeled off by a fingernail as I left her initials and mine on the back of a seat, wondering if today someone in Buenos Aires or Brasilia rubs an index finger across the pair of us that has not been together for more than sixty years. But somehow, in the gray air today, in a vault of lost music carrying itself from the other end of town, that pairing continues, and the amanita, with its dark song-rich gardeners, though I taste it rarely these days, and the shaky ride the streetcars gave, for all of a nickel on an often-early evening, softest yet in late May, give away the iron cries and, oh, that rich Italiana.

Once, on a sheer edge of moonlight, a reflection hung it in my mind for a whole night’s vision, the smell and the sound of it all, and the unknown touch of things as they were.

 

Tom Sheehan is 2016 Danse Macabre Writer-in-Residence. He writes from Saugus, Massachusetts.