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Monday, January 20, 2014

Propriety. By John von Daler

                Harald had smuggled a beer out of the back of the garage and positioned it behind the apple tree. He could take a swig every five minutes or so if he kept a watchful eye on his wife. Erna had him in her sights. She knew his ways and tried to wedge herself between her husband and himself as often as she could. But cleaning the house often kept her down on the floor, away from the windows.

             God knows Harald deserved a drink or two. The sun burned down on Funen. Denmark was not used to heat waves like this.
                It's as hot as Hawaii, thought Harald and leaned on his rake as he saw the dark-haired, dark-skinned, grass-skirted nymph beckon to him from behind the garage.
                "Aloha!" she said. "Come and join us at the beach!"
                Beach? he thought. Funen was a large island after all. Harald had used to live on a small island. But he had never been to the beach other than to fish in his boots and raincoat and hat.
                "We want to get to know you, Harald! You are a very creative person!" The luscious lady did a little rippling dance over by the garbage can. "We've seen your weathervanes!"
                Even in Hawaii they've heard about my weathervanes!
                Erna stood behind the curtain watching Harald. There he was hanging onto his rake, staring into space. Why did I marry a dreamer she thought? He could make fancy weathervanes, but he never got paid for it, damn it! Look at him staring out into space. What about just getting a job, any old job?
                Harald put the rake down and went over behind the apple tree to quench his thirst. As he passed from the sun to the shade of the tree, he glimpsed the hula lady swinging her hips graciously towards him in a kind of a gliding, rhythmic, undulating dance that both invited and daunted him. He took a sip of the beer from behind a branch of ripe, red and light green apples and saw that she had taken one of his unfinished weathervanes from the garage and was flourishing it, pointing and gesticulating, as if it were the center of some serious ritual. She stretched out her arm and invited him to participate and Harald took a step towards her and let the beer glide out of his hand and thought I wonder why the tree is dancing on its side with all those red bobbles, come to Mommy, sun, fun, run...
                Erna got up from the floor and wrung out the wet cloth into the bucket. As the dirty water ran into the bucket she saw Harald taking a large, gliding step out from behind the apple tree. A beer fell out of his hand and he stretched out his right leg as the left leg buckled under him and he fell backwards onto the grass. His arms landed outstretched above his head, reaching out. Then he lay still.
                Erna ran out of the door and around the corner of the house towards her husband lying in the grass. As she ran towards him she thought, Call someone. Telephone. Not see us like this. Get him in. Good thing I ironed yesterday. Then call.
                When she got to Harald she was mad. There was the beer on the grass. And Harald was heavy. As she took hold of his feet she noticed the spots of paint on his ragged work pants. As she dragged him through the grass she thought, Grass stains, let them soak overnight, soap directly on the spot, cold water.
                She got him all the way to the front door and heaved him over the threshhold. Inside she hurriedly pulled off his shoes and pants and then dragged the shirt from under his heavy torso and pulled it off around his head. Then she ran into the kitchen and got a clean cloth, wetted it and hurried back to wash the half-naked man. She left him a moment to get a dry towel and swabbed him with it and then found a clean pullover in the closet, the white one with blue edges, and a clean pair of white, pressed pants and heaved and pulled them onto him. She changed his socks, studied him for a moment and put on his feet the nice pair of latticed summer shoes they had bought last spring.
                She sat down on a chair by the phone and called the number for emergencies, 112. After she had ordered the ambulance she sat back in her chair and looked at the unconscious man.
                He could be a golfer with sunstroke, she thought. Or a business man that fainted while he was closing some deal. They will have respect, she thought. They will think he's just home from work...

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