Friday, March 5, 2010

A Norse Mini-Saga

This fellow has travelled with me for a long, long time, since I left for college in 1981 and promptly flunked out, maybe even a few years before that. He used to have both wings on his helmet and in his mighty hand he held a very brutal-looking halberd. Somewhere in there, as will happen with all warriors who have seen too much and done too much, he set aside his halberd and instead held an artificial rose he bought from a Veteran who was selling them outside the grocery store – Kerm’s Super Foods, in fact, on Water Street in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He partied hearty for a few years, with his rose in his hand, and was all about peace and beer and weed and endless Viking variations of the old Scandinavian indoor winter sport known as “Let’s All Get Naked And Get In A Pile.” He had fun. He lost the right wing off his helmet at UFO Days in Elmwood, Wisconsin, summer of 1987. He doesn’t remember how. In the morning, he was in a pup tent, naked, and the wing was gone. He would have been very angry, but he crawled outside the tent and looked in his Coleman cooler and found one can of ice-cold Leinenkugel’s inside. He popped it and drank it in one gulp and didn’t give a thought to his missing wing ever again.

He lost his helmet’s right wing in 1997, in Gainesville, Florida, during an intense argument with an Argentine National about the Falklands War. The Argentine National did not appreciate the Viking’s good-natured remarks about how Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was probably a real sexual tornado under that prim, stern fa├žade she presented before Parliament. The Argentine struck the Viking only once, but once was enough to make the point. The Viking apologized and suggested more bourbon was in order.

He lost his VFW rose in Carbondale, Illinois. He doesn’t remember when. One day he realized it was gone. He was a on a shelf in a second-story building covered in dust. People occasionally spoke to him. He heard vague, chirping noises coming from their direction. Maybe they looked like people but really weren’t people. Maybe he wasn’t a person anymore.

Then he disappeared for a while and lived in a dark space near a busy road. He tried to get his mind around who he really was, why he was on this earth, and whatever happened to all that fun he used to have?

Eventually, he was on a shelf again, in a small room with wooden floors and beige walls and yellow trim. Sunlight streamed in the windows. A lemon tree was outside. Birds called. Dogs barked. In the distance, he could hear police sirens and the thump of a helicopter.

He said, “Where am I?”

Nobody answered.

He didn’t take his eyes off that lemon tree. Sooner or later, somebody would come to pick the lemons. Somebody would answer all the questions he had never thought to ask. Somebody would patch him up, give his hand something to hold on to, and tell him everything was going to be okay.

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