Bagatelle for lovers and four ducks

Slightly absurdist short story

Number 3 in my last published short story collection “Pell-mell” (in Danish “Hulter til bulter”) in English and Danish.

17 slightly absurdist short stories in which the world suddenly proves to be different from what was usually expedted.

Bagatelle for lovers and four ducks

The sun was burning and there wasn’t any place left on the dry lawn, which was completely crowded with sunbathers and far too many dogs.

   Definitely he wouldn’t lie where there were dogs.

   She found a small place which was empty down in the moist part behind the big group of shady hardwood trees by the canal.

   The grass was greener there and more lush, but there were quite a lot of ducks.

   That was the snag of it.

   Dogs or ducks!

   “Here,” she said and placed the rug so it was halfway in the shade. “You can’t have everything you want in this world.”

   He shrugged. What could be wrong with a little water and some ducks.

 

She put the basket down and started unpacking while he stretched out in the shade.    

   “Yes, he doesn’t need the sun,” she thought.

   He had lit a cigarette and had placed himself flat on his back. Absentminded he was staring up into space.

   Once in a while he yawned.

   In the end he dozed off, while the cigarette was burning between his fingers.

 

She had unpacked the basket, placed pita bread, vegetables, lamb and cheese on the paper plates, and started pouring the wine.

   He stretched, stubbed out his cigarette in the grass, and then he got up halfway leaning on his elbow and looked at her.

   “One with lamb and vegetables and one with cheese.”

   He smiled sleepily.

   She broke off the top of a bread and opened it.

   He gazed absentminded across the canal, which wound through the dark green treetops that hung down above the sluggish water full of yellow duckweed.

 

They had eaten every thing there was, and he had just helped himself to the last cup of red wine.

   She began to pack. The waste she put in a plastic bag. The left overs she put in the plastic boxes she had brought along.

   It was when she was packing the boxes she felt the hand.

   “No … not here …” she whispered.

   Gently he forced her backwards and put her on the back.

   She looked up into his face.

 

It was when he had settled backwards on his elbow and was smoking a cigarette.

 

It came sweeping love about the surface of the water. Flapping wings hit holes in the duckweed, which started waving movements in the form of small circles that was spreading and breaking against each other. Tree drakes came flying behind her. The green feathers were shining against the yellow surface. The first one got hold of the female’s brown wing but she got free and reached the bank, just below where we were sitting. The drakes were above it at once. Nonetheless she succeeded in jumping up on the bank and into the green area. It was just a couple of metres away. The first drake caught hold of her neck and then the second one mounted her. When it had finished, the first one stopped biting, and she was just about to get away, but with the second drake’s biting of the wing the third one came forward to take over the neck biting. Now the first drake mounted her, and she was gradually overtaken by a dull calm. The satisfied drake was standing next to her preening his feathers. Shortly after the first drake had finished, the third could mount. Soon all three drakes were preening their feathers. Confused the brown female got up. She stood for a while shaking herself, and while the drakes waddled down to the canal and jumped in the water, she started preening her feathers.

 

She had turned towards him.

   “Aren’t they disgusting?”

   Then she saw it.

   The look.

   God help me if he wasn’t staring interestedly at the ducks and with a satisfied smile around his mouth.

   It was just incredible!

   “What do you think? … Maybe you think that it’s just okay?”

   He turned at looked at her.

   “Maybe you think that it’s just the order of nature?”

   He smiled.

   “Maybe that’s the way you are thinking?”

   She had got up and was shouting.

   “Maybe that’s the way you really think?”

   He looked up at her.

   “They are just ducks!”

   He turned and pointed over the canal where the four ducks were swimming peacefully together.

   “After all they are good friends!”

 

She was standing there and knew at once what she should have realized long ago.

   “You don’t have a damned clue!” she had screamed.

   The smile had now disappeared completely and he had been sitting looking foolishly at her.

   “You don’t understand anything … Not a thing, I tell you!”

   Shortly before she disappeared behind the trees he had still been sitting and looking blankly after her.

 

When she thinks of him he is still sitting there with the foolish look on his face. He is still sitting there at this moment. He is sitting waiting for her. He is sitting waiting for her, again and again … for ever … in vain …

   As a dependent dog …

   As a dog forgotten outside a supermarket, she thinks.

 

The same story in Danish/Den samme historie på dansk:

Bagatel for kærestepar og fire ænder

Solen bagte, og der var bare ikke plads på den tørre plæne, der helt var fyldt op af solbadere og alt for mange hunde.

   Han ville i hvert tilfælde ikke ligge dér, hvor der var hunde.

   Hun fandt et lille stykke, der var tomt, nede i den fugtige del omme bag den store gruppe af skyggefulde løvtræer ved kanalen.

   Græsset var grønnere der og mere frodigt, men der var en del ænder.

   Det var så hagen ved det.

   Hunde eller ænder!

   ”Her,” sagde hun og anbragte tæppet, således at det lå halvt i skygge. ”Man kan ikke få alt her i verden.”

   Han trak på skuldrene. Hvad skulle der være galt med en lille smule vand og lidt ænder?

 

Hun stillede kurven fra sig og gav sig til at pakke ud, mens han strakte sig i skyggesiden.

   ”Ja, han behøver jo ikke sol,” tænkte hun.

   Han havde tændt sig en cigaret og lagt sig fladt ned på ryggen. Fraværende lå han og så op i luften.

   Indimellem gabte han.

   Til sidst lå han og faldt hen, mens cigaretten røg sig selv mellem fingrene på ham.

 

Hun havde fået pakket hele kurven ud, anbragt pitabrød, grøntsager, lammekød og ost på paptallerkenerne og gav sig til at skænke vin op.

   Han strakte sig, skoddede cigaretten i græsset, hvorefter han rejste sig halvt op på albuen og så på hende.

   ”En med lam og grøntsager og en med ost.”

   Han smilede søvnigt.

   Hun brækkede toppen af et brød og åbnede det.

   Hans blik strøg fjernt ud over kanalen, der snoede sig ind gennem de mørkegrønne trækroner, som hang ud over det dovne vand fuldt af gul andemad.

 

De havde spist, hvad der var at spise, og han havde lige skænket det sidste krus med rødvin op til sig selv.

   Hun begyndte at pakke sammen. Affaldet lagde hun i en plastikpose. Resterne kom hun ned i de medbragte plastikæsker.

   Det var, da hun var i færd med at anbringe pakkerne, at hun mærkede hånden.

   ”Nej … ikke her …” hviskede hun.

   Han tvang hende blidt bagover og lagde hende ned.

   Hun så op i hans ansigt.

 

Det var, da han havde lagt sig bagover på albuen og var i færd med at ryge en cigaret.

 

Den kom strygende lavt hen over vandoverfalden. Baskende vinger slog huller i andemaden, der kom i bølgende bevægelser i form af små cirkler, som spredtes og brødes mod hinanden. Tre andrikker kom flyvende bagefter. De grønne fjer lyste mod den gule flade. Den første hagede sig fast i hunnens brune vinge, men hun rev sig løs og nåede frem til bredden, lige neden for, hvor de sad. Andrikkerne var over den med det samme. Alligevel lykkedes det for den at hoppe op over bredden og ind på det grønne. Det var bare et par meter væk. Den første andrik bed til i nakken, hvorefter den anden andrik besteg hende. Da den var færdig, holdt den første op med at bide, og hun var lige ved at slippe væk, men med den anden andriks bid i vingen trådte den tredje til for at overtage nakkebiddet. Den første andrik hoppede nu op, og en mat ro begyndte at falde over hende. Den tilfredsstillede andrik stod ved siden af og pudsede sine fjer. Kort efter var den første andrik færdig, hvorefter den tredje kunne stige op. Snart stod alle tre andrikker og pudsede fjer. Den brune hun rejste sig fortumlet. Hun stod lidt og rystede sig, og mens andrikkerne vraltede ned til kanalen og hoppede i, gav hun sig til at pudse fjer.

 

Hun havde vendt sig imod ham.

   ”Hvor er de modbydelige!”

   Så opdagede hun det.

   Blikket.

   Gud hjælpe mig om han ikke sad og stirrede interesseret på ænderne og med et veltilfreds smil om munden.

   Det var bare utroligt!

   ”Hvad synes du? … Du synes måske, at det sådan bare er helt okay?”

   Han vendte sig og så på hende.

   ”Du synes måske, at det bare er naturens orden?”

   Han smilede.

   ”Det er måske sådan, du tænker?”

   Hun havde rejst sig og stod og råbte.

   ”Det er måske sådan, du tænker i virkeligheden?”

   Han så op på hende.

   ”Det er jo bare ænder!”

   Han vendte sig og pegede ud over kanalen, hvor de fire ænder svømmede fredeligt sammen.

   ”De er jo gode venner!”

 

Hun stod dér og vidste med ét, hvad hun for længst skulle have indset.

   ”Du forstår sgu ikke en skid!” havde hun skreget.

   Smilet var nu helt forsvundet, og han havde siddet og set dumt på hende.

   ”Du fatter ikke en dyt! … Ikke en dyt, siger jeg dig!”

   Kort før hun forsvandt bag træerne, havde han stadig siddet og kigget uforstående efter hende.

 

Når hun tænker på ham, sidder han der stadig med det dumme udtryk. Han sidder der også i dette øjeblik. Han sidder og venter på hende. Han sidder og venter på hende, igen og igen … evig og altid … forgæves …

   Som en afhængig hund …

   Som en glemt hund uden for et supermarked, tænker hun.

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