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Friday, January 3, 2014

Leaf of Grass. By John von Daler

            We were on our way to #Aarhus to hear Jean-Luc #Ponty. My girlfriend and I had pooled our resources and deposited most of them in the back pocket of her jeans; enough to pay for a ferry ticket to Samsø (an island halfway to Århus), a ticket the rest of the way to Aarhus, and enough again to pay for Jean-Luc's concert. I pocketed the rest to pay for our stay on #Samsø.

         We got to Samsø on a gray day. But it was the middle of the summer, so we got ourselves a room and then bought some fresh plaice and went down to the deserted beach. Yellow-brown dunes covered with tufts of grass backed up the narrow, brownish beach by the dark olive-green sea. We built a little fire, found some fresh branches and managed to build up a little grill so that our plaice could get smoked without burning. We had a bottle of wine and soon we were eating a pleasant meal while we stared at the lapping waves.
         We sat for about an hour talking and drinking our wine and then we crawled around in the sand shutting down the fire and removing traces of our presence. We even went up into the dunes to get fresh branches to rake the sand. Then we wandered back to the inn to get a night's sleep before the little ferry to Aarhus came at seven the next morning.
         Bleary eyed we got up the next day and cleared out our room.  I went downstairs and paid the innkeeper. As we went down to the landing, cars were waiting already and the little white ferryboat with a black bottom was emptying passengers and vehicles from the night trip onto the island. We found a man with a seaman's cap and a leather change bag and approached him to buy our tickets. My girlfriend reached into her back pocket and found, well, nothing. She rummaged through her other pockets. She even pulled the pencil out of her rolled-up hair to see if she had stashed our bill there. Nothing. The man went on about his business as we drew back to a picnic table at the side of the dock to discuss our predicament.
         "I know we had it yesterday afternoon because I mashed it down into my pocket when we bought the plaice. Remember, we paid for the inn and the fish with the other bill. I wanted to put the big bill in a safe place."
         "So," I said, "we had it at the fish store and our room at the inn was completely empty when we left. It must be somewhere between the fish store and the inn and the beach, or even on the beach itself. "
         Both of us paused to check the wind. It was blowing rather strongly off the land towards the water in small, stalwart gusts.
         "If it's still there, it won't be for long. We aren't going to make the ferry anyway. Let's have a look at the road to the beach and the place where we ate," she said. We got up and started to search the sides of the road ran along the beach away from town.
         We found nothing on the road. When we got to the place where we had eaten, we could still see signs of our buried and camouflaged fire on the beach, but otherwise nothing but the wet, brown sand. We walked up towards the dunes where we had found some branches. Tall blades of heavy grass stuck up from the edges. The wind caught them and bent them in long rows towards the sea. On the very last blade of the very last plant, folded neatly with one half on each side, was our Danish 5oo kroner note. It flapped and flew like a little flag hanging on to what I only can describe as the last straw.
         Ponty played without us in Aarhus that night; we had missed the ferry. We took the other ferry and train back to Copenhagen and treated ourselves to a huge fish banquet at a very good restaurant. We went home broke and happy.
         Were we lucky or were we unlucky? I do not see it that way. We were carefree, our lives wrapped for the moment around one fragile blade of grass, feeling the wind on both sides and enjoying it. We might be blown away another day, but for today we hung on happily. After all, in principle the last straw is as good as any other. 

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