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Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Battle Axe. By John von Daler


                    A damned hippie, that is what they had called Ove when he unveiled his sculpture. Now please do not misunderstand me. This is not the way I use words myself. Sometimes words can generate less meaning than a blank space.

                Hippie is like that. It no more described Ove than his birth certificate or his driver's license or his passport. Even worse, the word carried with it a false sense of accuracy: now we know what the man is like, his opinions, his dress, his lifestyle.
                Most words function inaccurately until they are used in a story. You can look them up and the dictionary will probably give you a few definitions which, while supporting some tendency, do not really sum up the specific characteristics for the particular situation they are being used to describe.
                You would never believe that Ove, the hippie, had accepted a commission from an old, honorable, successful company. But he had. Did he look the part? No, he did not show up at the first meeting dressed in a jacket and a tie. He wore his usual t-shirt and blue jeans with no underwear, you know, with a kind of d├ęcolletage not in front, but behind, where Ove's padded waist rounded its way towards his nether regions uncovered by any modest cloth at all. He puffed on a pipe that contained a mixture of fresh herbs and tobacco of his own blend. His big sculptor hands freighted the little smoking utensil back and forth from his mouth in quiet punctuation of the few points he thought it necessary to make to the directors.
                As everyone in Denmark who had any interest in the business world knew, the Company had just survived a civil war in the midst of its executives. Some people had quit and taken their entourages with them. Others had solidified their positions and had hired loyal friends to assist and back them up. Now the winners were looking to color their surroundings with their own decisions, like opening a new market in China or deciding to convert their fleet of trucks from gas to electricity.
                One of the new, young executives had decided to hire Ove to fashion a sculpture to decorate the entrance to their main building. A hippie hired by a yuppie? Again the words give too little meaning.
                The young man knew Ove from the small town in which the Company had built its main office. A commission to Ove would not only be popular locally, but it would brand the Company as an honest, rural, organization with roots in the salt of the earth, to use a viable mixed metaphor.
                Ove had immediately decided, in unhippie-like pragmatism, to accept the offer. After all, the wages promised him would feed, clothe and house him for a couple of years. Besides, Ove like working with the great slabs of marble stone that would be cut out of the earth of southern Sweden and driven to Jutland to be chiseled and polished in the shed he called his atelier.
                So at the initial meeting, surrounded by coats and ties, Ove had just spoken a few words. He had gazed across his pipe at these aggressive young men who reminded him of the pruned and pampered dogs he once had seen at the kennel in a neighboring town: the dogs had looked immaculate, but he had felt that they were just a bark or two away from jumping at each others throats. After getting a good look at each man, he took the pipe out of his mouth and smiled.
                "I can make just the thing for you," he said. "Give me a year."
                Ove had taken the bus to Sweden that day to pick out two stones, one about eight meters long and a half a meter wide, the other two by two by one meter. The marble had that flow in it that Ove loved: the visual symbol of the inner life history of the stone.
                Now, nine months later, he had installed his finished work in front of the entranceway to the main building, on the green plot of grass in the middle of the circular driveway. All the executivies had gathered in front of the huge tarpaulin that covered the sculpture. It was a cool fall day, blue skies, a few fluffy clouds in the sky. Ove stood with the rope that would unveil the sculpture in his hand. The tarpaulin made it look like a giant L. The thing was truly monumental. Ove said just a few words.
                When times are tough, he shouted out to the little group of men, then sometimes we humans find it necessary to fight with each other. Here in the Company you are no different than the rest of humanity. So I have given you a weapon to fight with.
                The young men muttered a little and laughed among themselves.
                I have made a battle axe for you, Ove went on, to be used in times of trouble. But there is one catch. In orden to use this axe you first have to put it together... and here Ove looked each individual man in the face... if you are man enough.
                Then Ove pulled the rope back, walking quickly past his work until it was completely revealed. On the grass you first saw a huge axe handle, curved slightly, the mighty grip for a deadly weapon. A few meters from the top lay another piece of marble shaped like a sharpened flintstone axe-blade. This had a hole through the middle where a shaft could be inserted.
                If you ever have problems and need a weapon to solve them, you can just walk out here and pick up this battle axe, put the pieces together and you are set to fight. If you are not man enough to do that, then you really should not try.

                Ove stood back so that the executives could examine his work. It was at that point that one of the new juniors whispered out loud to one of his fellow officers, Damned hippie! Those words can be hard to understand if you do not read them within a story, don't you think?

Some think
my book
was written
by a
hippie!
Read it yourself 
and decide. 
Buy it by 
clicking
on the picture.




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