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Walking Into the Night

Olaf Olafsson
Querido, Amsterdam, 2003
translation: Victoria Cribb / Olaf Olafsson

originally appeared as:
Hll minninganna
2003,



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The Journey Home
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the ledge - flash version*

*
English

WALKING INTO THE NIGHT — OLAF OLAFSSON

The cypress rested in its shadow.
He tripped on the steps up to the main building but managed not to fall. Fuchsia blossoms met his eye as he straightened up; azaleas beyond them. He walked over to the cypress and leaned against it while he caught his breath. He was hot in his black suit in the afternoon sun. Reaching into his pocket, he took out a white handkerchief to mop his brow and pat his cheeks. Fairweather clouds hovered on the horizon, while closer to shore gleaming ripples tossed back and forth. He sensed a breeze, and suddenly a sharp whistling sound passed through the trees and a bell clanged in one of the towers. Once, then silence. He noticed a hint of lavender as he put the handkerchief back in his pocket and continued on his way.
The Chief had mislaid his magnifying glass. Kristjanor, rather, Christian Benediktsson, as he had called himself since coming to this country during the Great War, twenty years ago had spent the morning hunting for it in the old mans bedroom and on the balcony outside, in the gothic library next door and down in the reception room, first by the teletype machine, then on the jigsaw-puzzle and chess tables, but without success. He had paused in his search for a moment when the teletype suddenly began to hum, and hesitated before the machine, waiting for the message the Chief had been expecting.
1.

 
WALKING INTO THE NIGHT — OLAF OLAFSSON


What on earth can have happened to that magnifying glass, Christian? asked the old man as his butler handed him the telegram and reported his failure. The Chief glanced at the message, then went to the window and said: Unless I left it outside yesterday.
Kristjan thought he remembered seeing his employer wandering around the previous afternoon with a book in his hand, Dickens, he believed, as it had the same leather binding as the collected works. Oliver Twist had been lying on the Chiefs bedside table yesterday morning but was there no longer, so it seemed likely to have been the one. He had looked round all the guesthouses, by the Neptune Pool, in the billiards room, where he remembered seeing the Chief sitting for a while before sunset yesterday, by the fountain with the statue of David, and in Miss Davies room, though she hadnt been there for over a week and wasnt expected until next weekend, when the Chief was planning a costume ball.
Had he thoroughly checked by the swimming pool? He stopped in his tracks, trying to remember whether hed looked under the table on the side where the old man usually sat. He didnt move on again until hed convinced himself that he had missed nothing.
2.

 
WALKING INTO THE NIGHT — OLAF OLAFSSON



The magnifying glass was of medium size, with an ivory handle gilt-embossed with the Chiefs initials: WRH. He had borne it a grudge ever since the Chief fell asleep in his poolside chair last year with a book on his lap, the magnifying glass clutched in his right hand over an open page. Kristjan had been in the house fetching a cold drink for Miss Davies when he heard the screams.
He set off immediately at a trot, trying to balance the drink on its silver tray, through sunbeams and shadows, and dropped the glass at the sight of the Chief lurching to his feet with his jacket in flames. The book lay burning on the edge of the pool at his feet but he was still clutching the magnifying glass. He seemed dazed with sleep, so Kristjan grabbed him round the waist and leaped into the pool with him.
It was remarkable that the Chief had only slightly singed the back of his right hand but otherwise escaped unharmed. Once hed grasped what had happened, he stroked his shirt where it had caught fire, and said:
Where were you?
Kristjan put an arm under his shoulder and helped him up onto the side of the pool, where Miss Davies was waiting for them. The gardener and two girls from the kitchen, who had rushed out when they heard the screams, now retreated out of sight so the Chief wouldnt realize they had witnessed his humiliation.
3.

 
WALKING INTO THE NIGHT — OLAF OLAFSSON


Where were you? he repeated.
He was just fetching me some lemonade, dear.
She helped him indoors while Kristjan swept up the charred remains of the book and picked up pieces of glass from the path where he had dropped the drink. He worked methodically, taking care not to cut his fingers or burn himself on the still smoldering book. Oliver Twist, a first edition, bound in light-brown leather. Before going inside to change, he emptied the water from his shoes.

Kristjan quickened his pace. The hunt for the magnifying glass had disrupted his day. He pulled the watch from his pocket and squinted at it. Half past two. MondayMay 17th. San Simeon, May 22nd, 1937, was engraved at the top of the menu for Saturday nights dinner. Hed found two spelling errors and had them corrected. The Chiefs shoes were waiting to be polished and he stillhad to make a clean copy of the guest list for the costume ball. A cool draft sneaked from the shadows, and for a moment he imagined someone was breathing on his neck. He started.
Klara, he whispered. Is that you again?
It was by accident that he found it on his way back to the house. A glimmer caught his eye on his way past the four statues of Sekhmet, the lion-faced Egyptian goddess of war and battle; a flicker on the balcony behind her.
4.

 
WALKING INTO THE NIGHT — OLAF OLAFSSON

What a relief ! He couldnt wait to bring it to the Chief.
He wiped the dust off the handle and polished the glass with his handkerchief as he hurried back to the main building. It was getting cooler but he didnt notice. In the distance the sky was
darkening. A whistling breeze swept over the hill but the cypress caught it. The bell clanged. He knew the Chief would be pleased to see his magnifying glass again.
5.


slenska

HLL MINNINGANNA — OLAF OLAFSSON


Kprusviurinn drpir skugga snum. Honum skrikar ftur stgnum upp a aalbyggingunni en hann hrasar samt ekki. Trablm augnh egar hann rttir r sr og glarsir bei handan eirra, en hann gengur a kprusviinum og hallast upp a honum til a kasta minni. Honum er heitt svrtum ftum sdegisslinni og hann fer vasann og nr hvtan klt til a erra svita af enni og vngum. fjarska strjkast gvirissk vi sjndeildarhringinn en nr fleyta lognldur ljsbliki milli sn eins og brn a leik. Hann fr hugbo um andvara og allt einu fer snarpur ytur um trn og klfur slst bjllu rum klukkuturninum. Einu sinni svo agnar hn. Hann finnur angan af lofnarblmi vindinum; hn berst honum um lei og hann stingur kltnum aftur vasann og heldur fram.
Hsbndinn er binn a tna stkkunarglerinu snu. Hann leitai a v fyrir hann morgun svefnherbergi hans og svlunum t af v, gotnesku bkastofunni vi hliina og niri mttkusalnum, fyrst vi smritann og borinu me psluspilunum, san hj taflborunum, en alls staar rangurslaust. Hann htti a vsu leitinni bili egar smritinn fr skyndilega a sua, tvst fyrir framan tki og bei ess a skeyti birtist sem hsbndinn hafi veri a ba eftir.
1.

 
HLL MINNINGANNA — OLAF OLAFSSON


Hva hefur ori af stkkunarglerinu, Kristjn? spuri gamli maurinn egar hann rtti honum skeyti og tilkynnti honum um lei a leitin hefi ekki bori rangur. Hann las papprinn flti, gekk svo a glugganum og sagi: Nema g hafi gleymt v egar g var ti vi gr.
Kristjn ykist muna eftir v a hafa s hsbnda sinn rlti sdegis me bk hendi, Dickens getur hann sr til, v hn var bundin sams konar leur og ritsafni. Oliver Twist var nttbori hans grmorgun en er ar ekki lengur svo honum ykir lklegt a a hafi veri hn. Hann er binn a leita umhverfis ll gestahsin nema Casa del Monte, Hs fjallsins, vi sundlaug Neptnusar, billjardstofunni ar sem hann man eftir a hafa s gamla manninn sitja stundu fyrir slarlag gr, vi gosbrunninn me styttunni af Dav, herbergi ungfr Davies enda tt hn hafi ekki veri hr rma viku og s ekki vntanleg fyrr en um nstu helgi egar au hsbndinn tla a halda grmuball.
Var hann binn a leita af sr allan grun vi sundlaugina? Hann nemur enn staar til a rifja upp hvort hann hafi nokku gleymt a ggjast undir bori bakkanum ar sem gamli maurinn er vanur a sitja, hvort hann hafi ekki rugglega leita ar og stlunum tveimur vi bori, stendur grafkyrr uns hann ykist vera binn a fullvissa sig um a ekkert hafi fari framhj sr.
2.

 
HLL MINNINGANNA — OLAF OLAFSSON


Stkkunargleri er mealstrt, handfangi r hvtu beini me gylltu fangamarki hsbndans: WRH. Hann hefur reyndar v illan bifur eftir a hsbndinn sofnai fyrra stlnum vi laugina me bk kjltu sr og stkkunargleri hgri hendi ofan bkinni. Hann hafi veri a n svaladrykk handa ungfr Davies egar hann heyri hrpin, hafi stanmst fordyrinu leiinni t v eitthva flgrai a honum sdegisgninni sem honum fannst hann urfa a henda reiur , eitthvert flkt hugskotinu sem truflai hann, svo hann st grafkyrr og fylgdist me slarljsinu fikra sig inn um hlfopnar dyrnar eins og a vri a reyna a frimlast vi skuggana inni fyrir.
Hann heyri fyrst pin ungfr Davies. Hann br vi og hljp af sta, yfir slargeislann og skuggana, og sleppti glasinu egar hann s hvar hsbndinn brlti ftur me skyrtuna og jakkann ljsum logum. Bkin l brennandi bakkanum vi ftur hans en hann hlt enn stkkunarglerinu eins og a skipti hann mli. Hann virtist ekki almennilega vaknaur svo Kristjn greip um hann mijan og stkk me hann t laugina.
Gamli maurinn hafi svina verulega hgra handarbaki en sloppi a ru leyti. egar hann virtist vera binn a tta sig hva hafi komi fyrir, strauk hann kviinn varlega ar sem kvikna hafi skyrtunni, en sagi svo:
Hvar varstu?
Kristjn setti handlegg hans yfir xl sr og studdi hann upp laugarbakkann ar sem ungfr Davies tk mti eim.
3.

 
HLL MINNINGANNA — OLAF OLAFSSON

Garyrkjumann og tvr stlkur r eldhsinu hafi drifi a egar pin heyrust, en n fru au afsis svo hsbndinn si au ekki vera vitni a niurlgingu sinni.
Hvar varstu? endurtk hann.
Hann var bara a n lmonai handa mr, elskan.
Hn studdi hann inn, en Kristjn spai saman skunni af bkinni og tndi upp glerbrotin af stgnum ar sem glasi hafi brotna. Hann fr sr hgt, gtti ess a skera sig ekki fingurgmunum ea brenna sig glinni sem enn lifi bkinni. Oliver Twist, frumtgfa, bundin ljsbrnt leur. ur en hann fr inn til a skipta um ft, hellti hann sundlaugarvatni r sknum. a sng fugl grein lognerrinum.


Kristjn greikkar spori. Leitin a stkkunarglerinu er a setja daginn r skorum. Hann dregur ri r vasanum og prir augun egar hann les a. Hlfrj. Mivikudagur ntjndi ma, reiknast honum til. San Simeon, 22. ma 1937 hafi stai efst matselinum sem bi var a tba fyrir laugardagskvldi. Hann hafi fundi tvr prentvillur honum, en n er bi a leirtta r. Skr hsbndans ba ess a hann beri og ar a auki hann eftir a hreinrita gestalistann fyrir grmuballi um helgina. Kristjn opnar dyrnar a Hsi fjallsins en lokar eim samstundis aftur v hann finnur sr a ar hefur enginn komi.
4.

 
HLL MINNINGANNA — OLAF OLAFSSON

Svalur gustur smgur t r rkkvuu hsinu ur en hurin fellur a stfum og rskotsstund finnst honum eins og anda s hlsinn honum. Honum bregur en hann hreyfir sig samt ekki.
Klara, segir hann. Ert a ?
a fer ytur um hina en kprusviurinn fangar hann svo hann nr ekki lengra. Greinar hans svigna og laufi titrar, skuggar ess jrinni eins og bliknandi rnir.
5.


     
The Ledge
editor-in-chief: Stacey Knecht, info@the-ledge.com
Thanks to: De digitale pioniers and
Het Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds
Design: Maurits de Bruijn

Copyright: Pieter Steinz, Stacey Knecht
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