Spraakwaterartikel door Yonna Hali –
Morning had come. The worker had gotten up and had resumed his activities. The logs split under his axe and above his straw hat the sky changed colours – when that had turned a deep, dark blue, the worker stored his axe in the shed and entered his house through the back door.
Paul was in his sixties. He had retired early and nowadays, all he did during the summers was split logs outside at the back of the house and watch as people in boats sailed by across the lake that surrounded his domain.
Only so few logs would ever get to warm the house and turn to ashes in the fireplace. Rot and worms plagued the firewood instead. The pile laying next to the house grew and grew and grew and grew and Paul still did not have a clue what he had been set on this earth for or who he really was, but at least he had blisters on his hands and cramps in his back, which must mean that he had been doing something right. And this night, Paul peacefully slept a very dark and deep shade of blue. All that his grief and hurt could do was lurk under his bed and lie in wait – ready to catch him in its arms when the night came that he hadn’t worked hard enough to be too tired to think.
In the living room, a tea cup clinked on a saucer. Sunday was a day of rest. It was 4 in the afternoon. Paul walked in and saw and contemplated how beautifully the sunbeams illuminated the room: an attempt to assure him that the specks of dust covered the old-fashionedly furnished room exactly like they should – that all was well, despite the wrinkles Paul’s wife’s face showed when she smiled nowadays. Such a tidy room, and the sun shining happily for it! Any other person would have found it a delightful sight, Paul was certain; joy is in the eye of the beholder.
Paul’s wife had invited Valencia, his little niece, over for this particular day. She insisted on inviting his family over regularly. In this house, “family” was the f-word and Paul’s wife talked like a sailor:
“Friends and fortune may come and go more quickly than you think you can bear, but family is forever. Family will always be there to get you back on your feet. Paul, for heaven’s sake, you never listen to me!”
Paul did, in fact, completely agree with his wife on this matter. The notion immediately reflected off a thick layer of apathy like a raindrop on a greased bodybuilder’s flexed biceps. Years of training and strict diet.
So it was that Paul moodily underwent interaction with his niece, forming sentences by careful rational consideration. He asked how her school went. She told him it went well.
Paul’s wife had brought in a plate with biscuits and broken off pieces of chocolate carefully laid out on it. That had been an hour and a half ago, and now what was left on the plate were precisely one biscuit and one piece of chocolate. Valencia had eaten all the rest, and had left the last biscuit and the piece of chocolate just to be polite.
She always did this. Paul would always helplessly watch as she put every biscuit and every piece of chocolate in her mouth. He’d be careful not to look her in the eye. She would attempt to make eye contact every once in awhile, as if she were trying to apologize for her gluttony or maybe hoping that someone would one day smack the piece of chocolate or the biscuit or the French fry or the spoon of peanut butter from her hand and tell her to get her scraps together and build from them a life worth living. Paul despised that in her, but only because the stupid girl couldn’t have chosen an addiction either a little more glamorous or a little less vulgar, like shopping or alcohol. Something that did not make her arms and stomach and cheeks swell up. Paul knew that in fact he was the exact same bottle of ketchup as she was, only someone had slapped a different label on him with a different brand as to sell him at a higher price.
Sunday was a day of rest. At 9 in the evening he was already plodding to the bedroom in his slippers.
Monday was a day of work. The resting had taken its toll; he woke up and found that, indeed, the monster had climbed from under his bed to make itself comfortable on his chest. Paul engaged in a hopeless defence by distracting himself and found himself focussing on wondering what his little niece, Valencia, would be doing right now. As it happened, Valencia was at that very moment in her home in front of the tv sitting in pyjamas watching reruns of Fawlty Towers, at every joke exhaling through her nose slightly harder than usual in moderate entertainment.