Impromptus

by M.H. Vesseur


III

The rails draw two parallel lines across a sheet of paper, because that’s how white the snow has made the land, and that’s how white the clouds cover up their precious sky; clouds can be very possessive when it comes to that. The lines rip the landscape like a dagger. Like they rip my heart, Orlach thinks. He stands with his back to the station as if he wishes never to look back — and why should he?

Towards the horizon, as withdrawn from sight as everything else, the rails seem to hesitate. Then they forget their original destination and bend towards the left.

Like my heart, Orlach thinks. Like my weak heart when I see her standing there.

VIII

For no reason at all Yasunari had woken up too early. It being a Sunday, it was too early even for coffee. Because that would wake up his wife as well, and Yasunari saw no reason for that. Unable to go back to sleep, as happened more and more often now that he was getting older, he decided to go for an early morning walk.

Outside the wind was in the pine trees. They stood like a black curtain under the unborn morning sky, moving with the air and swishing.

Suddenly the pine trees appeared to Yasunari as beings larger than life. He felt that while all humanity was literally bored to death —he himself felt literally that he was dying slowly of boredom rather than growing old— the pine trees were not in the least bored. They simply stood there and moved in the wind. The very idea of boredom was unknown to them. What a way to stand, Yasunari thought.

XIII

Returning here serves no purpose. Sergei is aware of this. His awareness can’t be ignored, for it has traveled with him all this way, hovering overhead oppressively. It has even brought a tailor with it, who is dressing it up in a suit made of clouds. By now, this gray veil of awareness darkens the sky and Sergei’s mood alike.

The land seems to be following suit. It lies beneath a thick blanket of snow—undoubtedly tailored by the same craftsman and laid out, by some mysterious haberdasher, across the hillsides as far as the eye can see. The only signs of these invisible ‘men of the cloth’ are tiny clouds of breath in the icy air, before Sergei’s very eyes. He remembers everything that took place here and he knows there should be scars in the landscape. Though he sees nothing and no one, his feet tell him there are things under the snow. Could they be his comrades? Could they be the enemy? You will all take off your white suits in the spring and be naked before the world, Sergei thinks. Trust me.

A cold wind starts to blow, and Sergei feels tired and smells the breath of the tailor. Sergei is ready to have his measurements taken like the others now.

 


M.H. Vesseur has published fiction in literary magazines in the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada and the US. Among his stories are Sketches of a Worldwide Christo and Jeanne-Claude, In Snuff Park and Burning Neil Armstrong. He lives in the forests of the Netherlands.

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