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Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Man Who was #Slow. By John von Daler

                            "That must be the slowest man on God's earth," said the woman at the wheel of the car. With her son who sat on the seat beside her she was looking through the windshield at her husband snailing his way toward them.

                The man had a jacket over his left shoulder. His collar was unbuttoned, his tie loosened. His feet pointed outwards as he sauntered along the sidewalk, his trousers hanging low, his cuffs pufted up around his ankles.
                She made a little slapping movement with both her hands on the steering wheel. "Com'on, com'on, we want'a get going on this vacation! Got a plane to catch to Austria!"
                The man had thin hair, black and gray, with the part on the left side. The same hair grew under the nostrils of his aquiline nose in a small, trimmed moustache. His skin was ruddy, his eyes greenish-blue. He had been clean shaven this morning, but a stubble of black and gray now protruded ever so slightly from his cheeks.
                As the mother and son watched, the man stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, bent down, and then squatted by a flower that had grown up through a crack in the sidewalk. From this position he carefully tweaked off the stem and rose up quietly. He held out the flower in one hand below his waist, the palm open and horizontal, the wrist bent, as if he were going to offer the little blossom to some modest god. Then he appeared to forget the flower and turning to his right began to look in a store window at a pyramid of clocks, none of which were turned on. With his unused hand he shaded his eyes from the sun and peered through the window. The left hand still carefully extended his flower now in the direction of the window.
                "God is he slow!" growled his wife through clenched teeth. "It takes him an hour to make some open-faced sandwiches. It takes him two hours to weed a garden the size of a bathtub. Thirty minutes to put on his pajamas. It even takes him..." She stopped and took a deeper breath. "The minute waltz he plays in like three minutes. And you'd think now that he would want to be on time to catch a plane to his own country..." She reached over and patted the boy on the arm. "We Americans are always on time."
                When the man got to the car, first he gave the flower to his wife who barely acknowledged the gift and then he took his time showing them the vacation gifts he had bought for them, a light blue silk scarf for his wife and Thor Heyerdahl's "Kon-Tiki" book for their son. Then they drove to the airport.
                Some weeks later in Austria, somewhere along the alpine border between Italy and Austria, they were waiting in a long line of cars. The man sat at the wheel of a rented Volkswagon. The sun had quickly warmed its roof; it was hot inside. They all three watched the line of cars descend the curving mountain roads like a metal snake and disappear into a forest below in the valley.
                "Ah, de Austrians, de Austrians," said the man. "The Alpine resistance movement! Dey must be checking the cars for bombs. Dey can't explode any bombs! Austrians have alvays been incompetent at dat kind of thing. Ve'll just wait here for hours vhile they slowly comb every vehicle for absolutely notting! Dey are lousy all of dem, de border guards and de stupid southern Austrian resistance movement!"
                The son sat in the back seat curled up with "Kon-Tiki". He did not hear the words. Sometimes words just fly past you.
                Years later, after the tenacles of time had fought their battle within him, he often tried to uproot the same words that notwithstanding back then had gotten stuck in him. He wanted to find exactly where and when his own hectic laziness had started, to isolate its roots.
                Slow was so important to him, slow food, slow prose, slow films, slow love, slow talk; still, he wanted the slowness to be mounted and sent off without delay or complications. So he searched for some basic, time-tempered synthesis. This was often to no avail.
                Without looking back as an adult he would just have to deal with his own border guards and his own resistance and all the other slackers.  He would have to leave the little boy in the car with his mother waiting for his father - and move on.

Who knows, maybe you would like to learn more about the kid in the car. You can buy my fictional memoir, 
"Pieces: A Life in Eight Movements and a Prelude"

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