Two absurdist short stories from the short story collection “Imprudent Stories” (“Uforstandige historier”)
The first of the two absurdist short stories. Short story number 2 in the collection.
Look at me, now!
Henry’s aunt, Anna, had enormous teeth.
His other aunt, Elisabeth, and his mother, Maria, also had big teeth, but not as big as aunt Anna’s. Even though both of them were well endowed by nature, you didn’t really notice them when they were together with Anna, whose teeth just filled up everything.
Henry always felt an uncertain anxiety when aunt Anna was coming. And when he heard the doorbell ringing he ran into his room, closed the door behind him and hid in his wardrobe. Even though the air was stuffy and hot in there, and there was a stale smell of old wool and mothballs, but at the back of the wardrobe the voices from the hall sounded as if they came from far away, right until aunt Anna uttered her usual cry:
“But, where is my little night?”
Then the door to his room was opened, and he could hear his mother and aunt Anna walking around in the room laughing.
“But where has Henry gone?” aunt Anna cried. “Does he not like his favourite aunt one little bit anymore?”
“But you know that Henry has always been so fond of you, Anna!”
“But aunt Anna is also very fond of her favourite little nephew! But where has he gone?
Shortly after, the door of the wardrobe was abruptly opened, and while aunt Anna was laughing loudly, and his mother was parting the clothes Anna stretched her arm into the wardrobe and began pinching Henry’s cheek.
“Hello, Henry! Do you not at all acknowledge your favourite aunt anymore?”
It was terribly awkward, but fortunately there were none of his friends present, and Henry couldn’t avoid looking close up at aunt Anna’s teeth, which exposed themselves in their full, incredible length right up to the bright red gums.
And then one day it was suddenly over with aunt Anna’s teeth.
Right then she stood in the hall and didn’t at all look like herself.
“Well, what do you say?”
With a little smile Aunt Anna showed her new row of white teeth which were placed unnaturally deep inside her mouth.
Henry’s mother clapped her hands.
“But they are really nicely made, Anna … It’s just incredible …
But when Henry was listening to the talk about men, and where there is life, there is hope, suddenly he discovered that it was not any longer aunt Anna he was looking at.
Now it was aunt Elizabeth.
Henry stared at her gigantic set of teeth which stuck out and filled the whole of her face when she was laughing.
He just couldn’t stop looking at her when she was laughing.
But then all of a sudden aunt Anna pulled something white out from her bag.
“Have you seen this?” she cried, “di da, di da,” and held it up in the air. I had my dentist make this plaster cast … Now, what do you say? It’s fancy, isn’t it?”
There was complete silence.
“But, Anna?” Henry’s mother said.
“Really, Anna!” Elisabeth added.
Both aunt Elisabeth and Henry’s mother looked with disgust at the plaster cast which Anna had placed in the middle of the coffee table.
Aunt Anna turned towards Henry.
“You at least understand me, don’t you Henry? … We two understand each other! … And do you know, if I one day find myself a husband and grow tired of him, then I can frighten him away with these!” She took up the plaster cast again and held it close to Anna’s and Elisabeth’s faces, laughing loudly.
In the period after aunt Anna’s change Henry couldn’t get aunt Elisabeth out of his head.
Her teeth turned up in the most awkward situations. She was there when he was playing football, when he was solving quadratic equations, when he was being examined in the French revolution, when he was brushing his teeth, when his mother came in to say good night … She was always there. And in the night he woke up in the middle of dreams where she was smiling at him.
And now, after aunt Anna had begun showing up with a man in a white shirt and a checked tie whom, it was said, she was going to be married to, it was always Elisabeth who came into his room, opened the wardrobe door and pinched his cheek.
“Hello, Henry!” she said, and then she laughed right in Henry’s face.
But one day aunt Elisabeth also showed up with her plaster cast in her bag and was quite another person.
“But this is nice,” Henry’s mother said. And aunt Anna nodded and joined in, “Yes, it is quite nice, actually!”
And while they were talking about how clever dentists are today, and about a good bachelor friend of Anna’s new husband, Henry discovered that now it was his mother who had big teeth.
They were just gigantic, and when she was laughing you could see her gums and the exposed necks of her teeth.
And she was laughing all the time. She laughed noisily and freely. And with her mouth open!
Henry looked away.
When aunt Elisabeth next time came to visit, she was with an unfamiliar man and she completely left it to Henry’s mother to laugh noisily with her teeth.
“Is there anything the matter, Henry?” her mother asked.
“Yes there is! You are not looking at me. What’s the matter?”
“Nothing,” Henry answered and looked away.
“But I can see there is! After all I’m not blind! … “What’s the matter with you? … Now, look at me!! … Please stop making a show of yourself! … Look at me, now! …”
The second of the two absurdist short stories. Number 15 in the collection:
We pay Tribute to Birger’s Memory
Philosopher Søren Bag Nielsen’s funeral speech at Birger’s bier.
When we today, shattered in our deepest hearts, are gathered here at Birger’s humble bier, we are asking the same questions that human beings of all times have asked when they were standing face to face with the inevitability of death.
Birger is dead.
His life was short.
But is a life simply measured in time?
Shouldn’t we measure the meaning of a life by its level of involvement? By its depth of feeling? By the meaning this life has to its dear ones?
Birger’s life was short, but we who are gathered here know it, It was also full of value.
Birger’s greatest joy was biting. That’s what his dear ones tell us. And as a matter of fact he was endowed with powerful jaw muscles and a strong set of teeth.
Birger was a magnificent specimen of his breed.
Even when small he discovered the joy of gnawing bones, and he sharpened his biting skills by his energetic consumption of huge numbers of bones, which he devoured with an outright stunning speed and a crunching and noisy pleasure.
Birger was in the way of a true pitbull not only preoccupied with his pleasure-loving gnawing of bones, he was also a loving creature. With religious devotion he gave himself to his role as the protector of his home. In his short life many postmen and friends of Birger’s family experienced the great love he felt for his father and mother. Many didn’t know how to interpret Birger’s extraordinary appetite for life in the right manner. That’s why encounters with an uncomprehending world quite often led to heartfelt disappointments for Birger. After all Birger on the whole had a great need of physical activity, and he was so full of energy that many neighbours misinterpreted his liveliness. After all it was this liveliness that in the end made several of the residents on Birger’s road begin that lawsuit which turned out to lead to his tragic and all too early death.
Birger had his own special beauty which, sad to say, was only understood by his dear ones. He had a multifaceted personality, the whole gamut to play on, and in spite of his appearance, which many saw as frightening, he had a fragile and sensitive nature. Sometimes he could be absolutely loving, as well as he could insist on his protecting the territory of his dear one’s.
Birger had his very own ideas of things, among these also that of the family’s friends and acquaintances.
You could say that Birger judged people carefully. You might also say that Birger was a little bit dominating when it came to sorting out among his parent’s acquaintances. After all Birger just wanted the best for his dear ones, and his love could sometimes turn out to be a little bit dominating which many misinterpreted as jealousy.
It’s true that during the three years Birger’s life, it drastically thinned in Birger’s family’s long-standing circle of friends, who not always understood to read Birger’s behavior constructively. It’s also true that often there were problems with the insurance company. Demands of increase of premium and own risk, yes, even threats of termination constantly hung in the air until eventually it all went wrong, and the family lost its insurance protection, sadly enough shortly before the accident struck.
There are limits to how much resistance living creatures can bear.
No one can cope with everything. No one can bear day in and day out to bang one’s head against the wall of prejudiced dissociation.
Maybe Birger didn’t understand the loving care which was the reason behind the house arrest he was subjected to while the lawsuit took place.
Maybe it was just too much for a sensitive and misunderstood dog.
Maybe Birger no more could keep down his need of more room to manoeuvre in, and unfortunately Birger’s father was the only one present.
One thing is certain, Birger didn’t act withy evil intent.
Animals can’t be evil.
By nature animals are good.
As Birger’s mother again and again stressed in our conversations, Birger’s father would never have blamed Birger. Well, Birger wasn’t easy to control, and Birger’s father found it difficult. But as he always said, Birger is a good dog.
Let this statement from Birger’s own father remain as the lasting memory of Birger.
Birger was a good dog.
And he who departs from the norm will seldom be understood.
We pay tribute to Birger’s memory.
May I finally on behalf of Birger’s mother invite you to a treat at Birger’s mother’s, Ndr. Fasanvej 39B, 3.tv. Coffee and cake will be served and wine and beer for those who prefer this. We will all walk together. The walk takes just 5 minutes.
The two shortstories can be red in Danish in “Uforstandige historier”. The titels are “Se så på mig!” og “Ære være Birgers minde”: https://www.stenjacobsen.dk/?page_id=2531