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Thursday, October 2, 2014

On the Stoop. By John von Daler

                        Through the layers of dust and dirt on the pane behind the untrimmed potted plants on the sill the #Storyteller could see there must be some sun outside.

He put down his newspaper and picked up his pipe. Using both hands he pushed his heavy body up from the deep chair and maneuvered around the corner of the old wooden table so that he could shuffle across the threadbare carpet in his slippers. He went through his small bedroom to the tiny kitchen, which for lack of a refrigerater had cheese, eggs and cream lined up in the window to make use of whatever chill there might be from the Danish spring breeze.
                From the kitchen he took the hallway in the direction he just had come from, passing the wall to his bedroom and livingroom and opening his front door onto the tiny street, Skt. Paulsgade, still partially lined with cobblestones. Sure enough, the sun shone on his doorstep and the sidewalk in front of it. He could sit here and soak up some warmth and suck on his pipe while he watched the pedestrians, neighbors and visitors, all with hurried steps and frowning faces.
                Most men he let pass with a cheery, Hi, Hi, but when women with their shopping bags came past, especially those with children, he would hail with his dramatic, insistent voice, Hi, you little hoodlum you! You little gangster! I can see that you cause a whole lot of trouble for your mom! The mothers would stop and the children would take in the long beard, the moles on his face, the rectangular reading glasses and the big nose. On top of his head was a white cap that in Denmark meant you were a worker at a trade, but which to the children signaled a certain frivolity that they also could hear in his voice. When they caught a glimpse of it they would stop and turn toward him with their pudgy hands clinched and then they would try to say something back, something just as sassy, something that would make the smiling face on the stoop giggle.
                When they succeeded he would laugh loudly and pointing with the tip of his pipe would inform them that they reminded him of this or that person he had met on his travels, say, at a market in Bucharest, and then the story would unfold. As he told it the mothers would put down their bags and the small fingers of the children would unclinch and they would find a spot to sit on on the stoop to hear all those words that they did not understand, each and every one of which carried enough sights, sounds, smells, and feelings to fill their small heads for the next week.
                Sometimes the mothers would look at their watches in frowning concern, but most often they would edge over to the front of his house, put down their bags and lean up against the concrete wall with its prickly unevenness. Then they too would listen, thinking of the places they had never seen, the words they had never heard spoken, the tastes of intense and unfamiliar foods and the sights of the great world. When the storyteller finished they would stand a moment in silence as the man and the child looked at each other quietly with the love and trust of their shared experience. Sometimes a whole minute could pass in this friendly quietness.
                Finally the mothers would pick up their bags and the children would toddle beside them as the old man started to light his pipe. You could see by the way they walked now, a little dazed, a little more slowly, that the next alley did not necessarily have to be the same familiar one that they always had taken. Maybe it took a strange turn they had not noticed before. Maybe they would not come home for the next twenty years. In their gait you could discern an intimation of Who knows?

The Storyteller
lives on
in my book,
Find it and him




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