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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Out Stealing Timber IV

Siri – the woman with the smile – is living in Theastuene for the summer. She thinks the house is haunted. She hasn’t seen a ghost but talks mysteriously about a presence. ‘Something disturbing.’ She wakes in the night convinced someone is weeping close by. But when she turns on the light there is nothing. She lies awake in the darkness and the sound of weeping is simultaneously near and far off. She can’t hear anything, but enfolded in the silence of the night is something on the verge of tears.

If I believed in such things I’d say she was psychic or clairvoyant, because that is partly how she sees herself, or likes to think of herself. I suppose it gives her some comfort. She’s not particularly spaced out, remember she’s been someone’s wife, she is a mother, and for much of the time she is quite normal. I’ve seen her swimming in the fjord. She has a sense of humour. Drives a car. I like her. There is a mutual attraction between us which I’m reticent to explore too far, I don’t want to get sucked into something strange, someone weird.

Here’s a story she told me. Her ex was a guy called Tor, worked for a while on the ferry between Moss and Horten, wore an orange jump-suit and directed the cars on and off the boat, but he lost the job after stealing a mobile phone from someone’s glove compartment. Anyway, this Tor, he would ask her who she was.

‘Who am I?’

‘You’re Tor’s wife.’

She would laugh. ‘No, Tor’s just someone I met.’

Then he’d beat her and in the morning he’d say, ‘Now you’re my wife.’

And she’d say, ‘No, you’re just someone who beats me.’

Must’ve been a huge relief to unload a guy like that. I can’t tell you more about him at the moment. I’ve never seen him. Siri said he is a big guy. I have to keep reminding myself that he takes a fifty percent share in the care of their daughter, their dog, and their car. Important to remember a man’s redeeming features.

. . . . . . . . . . to be continued

2 Responses to “Out Stealing Timber IV”

  1. Jim Murdoch says:

    You know, if a café doesn’t crop up in this thing very soon then I’m going to feel awfully miffed. And no having them wander by one. Oh, no. We want coffee and conversation and whatever Scandinavians dunk in their coffee.

    jb says: It’s not going that way, I’m afraid, Jim. I’m at a loss what to offer as consolation. Perhaps this’ll fit the bill:

    My life, since I saw you last, has been one continued hurry; that savage hospitality which knocks a man down with strong liquors, is the devil. I have a sore warfare in this world; the devil, the world, and the flesh, are three formidable foes. The first I generally try to fly from; the second, alas! generally flies from me; but the third is my plague, worse than the ten plagues of Egypt.
    Robert Burns.

    I particularly love ‘savage hospitality’, not the deed itself – the object of all hosts being to send every guest drunk to bed if they can, as he expresses it elsewhere – but the phrase, the concept. . . .

  2. Mark says:

    John, that’s one of the most purely pleasing openings I’ve read in a long time. Do continue with this work. I miss new books by you on the shelves.

    jb says: Hi Mark, I fully intend carrying on with this one, so watch the space. But in the meantime my novel, Winged with Death is due from Flambard in March 2009.