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Saturday, August 9, 2014

#Sirens. By John von Daler

                   Thorkil did not think it strange that the island made him dream. After all, there were many films of many nationalities that played on much the same topic: well-intentioned men, by being kind and brave, can draw the attentions and advances of many adoring women.
He had seen at least one Italian, one American, one Spanish and one French film on the topic. So why not his own daydream about the island?

                Anyway, he passed the place many times a year on the ferry from Funen where he lived to Zealand where he went to college at the faculty for film history. The ferry was old and dilapidated. There was hardly enough room for all the passengers in the wooden and tiled diningroom or the cafeteria with its portholes and antiquated tables. Besides, it cost a lot to eat there, so Thorkil stood outside on the deck and drank a beer he had brought along while he looked out to sea at Argot Island.
                When he had sipped away at about a half bottle the dreams would start. First he would start thinking about the way the older men had laughed and pointed when they passed the island. Argot Island! they would chuckle snidely. Just give me a half an hour alone on Argot Island! Then somebody would tell some story about a woman he had heard of who had been sent there, to cool off, as they say. Wild women, they would say. Not suitable for ordinary society. They spend a few years on the island and then come back to mainland Denmark and try again. The men would usually stop talking at about this point; they would drift off, each into his own thoughts.
                Now Thorkil too would drift off. In his dream he would be out fishing when a storm came up; he would have to put in at the island. Struggling up to the windows of the building he would see women inside, beautiful, desperate women waiting to be freed from their unjust fate. Or he would be transferred from his job as a policeman in Nyborg to a position as leader of the island. The injustice of the place would overwhelm him and he would fight together with the women for their rights. Or it would be a world war and he would drift up onto the island from a destroyer that capsized. From the island he would help the women defend themselves from the arrogant and lascivious enemy. All the stories ended with him being caressed and soothed in the arms of several of the women. His mission completed, he lay back on their bared breasts and sighed in satisfaction.
                But he had not counted on them building the bridge. He had participated in the public debate. Should there be a bridge between Funen and Zealand? Thorkil had taken the side of the ferry lovers. A bridge will strangle our country in a straight jacket. Let's keep the old-fashioned charm. But business prevailed and the bridge was built. And they used Argot Island as the stepping-off point. What once had been an island - and a home for wayward women - stood now at the foot of a great, sleek suspension bridge.
                So Thorkil decided to drive out there. Sometimes you have to test the durability of your fantasies. He borrowed his father's old Fiat, a little bug of a car that looked more like the driver was pedaling then motoring by gas. He putted out on the highway and at the foot of the bridge turned off toward this mound of earth topped by a solid, brick lighthouse, itself surrounded by several solid nineteenth century buildings, the women's internment home.
                As Thorkil drove off the highway onto the gravel road that lead up to the buildings, he noticed the sign, "Danish Highway Depart of Bridges and Tunnels. Entrance by appointment only." This stopped him halfway between the highway and the buildings he used to watch from the ferry. He let the car idle and looked up at the rows of windows in the, long, symmetrical women's internment building.
                Beside it now was a neat row of emergency vehicles topped with red lights and equipped with #sirens: the bridge patrol for accidents and repairs. They were painted brightly.
                Thorkild looked to the left of the building, out toward the choppy water of the Great Belt. He sat for a while and watched the water flow under the bridge, but after a few minutes something up from the building drew his attention. Looking back at the long barracks he saw a woman in a flowing, red gown running toward him. She had startlingly large dark eyes and her mouth was painted dark red. He could have sworn that she was screaming for help.
                As Thorkil grabbed the handle on his door, he realized that a fire engine from the bridge patrol was hurtling toward him, its siren wailing. He managed just in time to back the Fiat out of harm's way. When the fire engine had screamed past, he sat still and watched the water for a while. The waves crossed each other randomly as if the wind were trying unsuccessfully to change directions. He sighed and then backed out down the gravel road.

Sirens beckon in my book, too.
Click on the picture and sigh or buy.

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