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Category Archives: Short stories/Korte verhalen

Endling (Whimword entry)

‘You?! You have to be recreated, or else it will be the end of creatures just like you??’ professor Doublebore wasn’t sure he’d heard right. His ears were stuffed with years of knowledge, as he’d like to call it. Objectively (or factually) he had a beard that was so intensively present that one could never be sure it was covering just his chin or actually his entire upper department, which happened to also cover his brains and hearing equipment. Such as his ears.
‘Well…yeah!’ the man that was stood in front of him claimed.
Professor Doublebore didn’t know what to say to that. In front of him was a man that hadn’t been the best example of a human being be that useful, as one could put it politely.
To be precise, the man was quite despised. Professor Doublebore wasn’t sure if it could be pointed out so incredibly bluntly though. After all, the man had just been explaining to him how he was so very important -which professor Doublebore had been able to notice the man was anything but. The only thing to do now was to cushion the blow, he thought.
But how does one do that to a man who so clearly thinks he can’t be missed?
‘I have told several people I have my genes continued, but I have been told I can not ever be sure that the kids I’ve claimed to be responsible for this are actually mine’, the man in front of him proceeded.
‘How is that?’ the professor asked, even if it was just to win a bit of time. He had seen the pics of the children and knew fairly sure they were in fact of the man stood in front of him, but he had gotten intruiged now.
‘Well, I’m a devouted christian and so is my wife, and we’ve nearly only had sons, but I sort of….’
‘Was told they’re actually of Brain’s, the family accountant?’ Doublebore filled in the suspicion. He knew this type of thinking.
‘No!’ unsure face of man in front of him now.
‘Well, now that you mention it…’
‘It wasn’t, just to be clear’, Doublebore felt he needed to say that.
‘So, who is it then?’ the man asked, relieved.
‘Well, you see…’ Doublebore started.
‘Yes?’ anxious face.
‘I don’t think they actually meant you had to do anything. I think they simply meant they’d hope you to be the last man standing in your opinions. You will have to be very daft to keep your faith the way you have been doing’. Doublebore explained.
‘But how…’
‘You have been boring Jesus from above. He actually quite liked people. You, however, not so much’ Doublebore said.
‘Really? How’s that?’
‘Well, for starters, you’re Jacob Rees-Mogg. One of these days, your children will tell the world that you’re a huge bastard and a vile hypocrit. Really, someone needed to stop you anyway. It will be your own children. They will be better’.
Stunned face.

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Knock, Ireland

To say I ended up here by accident is weird. You don’t end up in a city or small town such as Knock by accident, right? People don’t end up at a pilgrimage that way. You were supposed to go there. Or the sweet Lord has guided you there.
To be fair I would have thought the same if it had happened to anyone else. Not because I’m an atheist, that’s the least of the problems in this scenario, but simply because I was guided through the loveliness that Ireland has to offer by my two aunties.
Both lovely, but severe nutcases. Each in their own right and each with their own set of charming characteristics. I’m named after one of them, so how bad can they be, eh?

So how did we end up there, then??
I’ll tell you. First one thing you have to know: both my aunties are incredibly sweet and funny, and incredibly stubborn. The one who was doing most of the driving, hates maps. Even satnav. She refuses to use any of those. It’s not that she can’t read a map, but during driving, she likes the whole experience, thank you very much! She literally drives the car the way vikings and skippers sail(ed) their boats: by looking into the sky. She looks at where the sun is and she keeps in mind where she wants to see it at the end of the day, that’s the direction she will drive in. This could be by highway, but she takes D-tours just as easily. She is the kind of person to like the tour just as much as a the destination.

My other aunt will give away how we ended up in Knock, so that’s why I saved her for last: she collects holy water trays. You know the ones you keep on your wall, for instance, to make a quick pray?
They are a hard find. This is one of the things collectors of anything get a kick out, yes I know. To find a trinket of your collection when abroad is the big thing there too. But her collection is really quite specific, so as soon as we saw signs for a carboot sale, she would go: ‘oh, let’s check it out, they might have some!’ and most of the time, she was right about that, too. She had collected a few during our roadtrip. Given that we were travelling with a camping van, there was quite enough room for her collection to grow. Then, one morning, without any specific plans -except for ending up in a place I do no longer recall the name of, we drove there.

We were driving through, what we didn’t know was the main road in Knock. Whilst the aunt driving was watching for directions to go, the other, collecting aunt, goes:
‘Hey, this place has holy water trays!’ and after that:
‘This place too!’ and so on. And so on. And so on.
So, we parked the van, auntie tried to remember exactly where she saw the trays, then noticed:
‘Oh wow, every store here has those trays?!’ it was like a Walhalla for her. She went nuts in one store after another (from having to search for any, she now suddenly had to pick, as buying all of them would’ve been impossible) and then there was the chapel and the whole story of Knock.
Because of course, as true idiots, we had entered the city backwards (typical), so the explanation came last.
While being in awe of all that we had just discovered, the square where one can actually fill up anything that might contain fluids with Holy Water showed itself to us. I was reminded of the many holidays I’d had as a child on campingsides in France instantly. Because yeah, basically that’s what they looked like. With far smaller taps, as the stores all sold bottles in a massive range of varieties of shapes. Mother Theresa, Mary, Jesus, Joseph, anyone who looked holy enough. With a small blue cap. All to fill up these beauties of Holy Water Trays that my auntie collects.

It was a magnificent find.

Later, I visited the place with my (then) fiancé. We then actually went to the museum to see what had happened, to learn about the story of Knock. It’s a lot more convincing than anything I could put here. So knock yourselves out and go visit Knock. Even if you’re not religious, it is a friendly and not so crowded pilgrimage to take.

 

 

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What about Eve?

‘Where the hell is Eve?!’ Burt shouted, after stumbling downstairs, still sleepdrunk.
He had heard an unusual noise from the backyard. Which had made him decide to walk towards the sound. Which had now resulted in him seeing what it was that made that sound.
It was one of those moments, that simply only ever happened when Eve was to be found somewhere.
Why on earth he would request for her presence was beyond knowledge though, as it wouldn’t help a thing. It wouldn’t help anything, except it being slightly more logical that there appeared to be a cow lying in the backyard, just in front of the sandbox Burt had put there only days ago, to please his son Sammy, who was nearly two years of age.

‘Eve, I think…’Mary-Ann, his wife, wanted to fill Burt in, who was raging with fury by now. His neck had a nice red color. Though Mary-Ann wasn’t nearly as happy with Burt’s rage, she had to admit she liked the particular color that had formed in Burts’ neck.

If it had been a shade in a fabric, she’d most definitely want to wear it.

‘I don’t care!’ Burt shouted. Mary-Ann could have known that. The question of the whereabouts of her daughter, were rhetorical, merely a byproduct of what was important now: how to get rid of this particular cow?
‘It’s just that in moments like this, she feels even less like my daughter’, Burt explained, though it was quite hurtfull.
‘Oh you bastard!’ Mary-Ann cried. That was to be expected.
‘Go take a hike with your ‘she’s not my daughter’!’ she said, “I am going to put the kettle on”.
Now there was a good idea, even Burt thought.
The cow wouldn’t just disappear. It made a rather awful noise, yes, but nothing they could do about it or that, right now.
‘Where’s Thomas and Sammy?’ Burt asked surprisedly, when they sat down to actually drink their tea. He could barely hear himself think with all that mooing. It was like being interrupted by his toddler.
‘I suppose they are still asleep’, Mary-Ann replied, like nothing was different at all just now.
‘How can they be asleep when there’s a massive cow mooing all the way through the neighbourhood?!’ Burt replied, almost disgusted.
Mary-Ann noted a hint of envy.
‘Dearest, just because you awoke from that noise and woke me up, doesn’t change the fact one can shoot a cannonball next to their beds when they’re asleep. You know very well your lovely sons don’t wake up unless it’s time to play’.
Burt just looked stunned. A bit jealous, even. That his boys could sleep and not him.
‘I think we should phone the vet’, Mary-Ann said, as she took the cordless and started dialing for information. It took Burt about five minutes to reply, as he was gazing outside the glass backdoor that seperated them from the stoned backyard, which had the moaning cow in it. Neighbours were starting to become curious and gather at the gates of the garden.
Burt tried smiling to them, until he realized they were laughing at him, rather than being polite.

They knew, too, it was Eve’s presence.

He decided not to go out, as he heard Mary-Ann talking to the vet.
‘Ah yes, good idea’, he finally said.
‘…you could be here within the hour? Oh, that would be great!’ she said. Burt just took a sip from his tea. Staring at the cow, and Mrs Johnson, who just climbed over the fence as to comfort the cow.
‘Haha, species finding species’, Burt laughed.
He thought he was allowed a rather offensive joke as the neighbours were so clearly making fun of him and his misery.
‘Come, now we go outside’, Mary-Ann said to Burt. He hadn’t even noticed she’d ended the phonecall.
‘Why, it’s there?’ Burt said, wondering why they should have to go outside while it was very obvious the cow wouldn’t move one bit.
‘Yes, but the vet says we have to keep the cow warm’, Mary-Ann said, picking up a woolen blanket from the couch.
Thomas and Sammy usually played with it and as such, it was never clean. It seemed perfect for this occasion.
‘Well, join Mrs Johnson, who seems to be singing lullaby after lullaby for that cow’, Burt said. He wasn’t lying. Mrs Johnson had a voice like a volcano, and unfortunately not a very pleasant one. Mary-Ann politely joined Mrs Johnson’s presence, holding the blanket. At that point she noticed how windy it was, outside. It had to be, ofcourse. How else would a cow end up in a backyard that wasn’t even close to any farm where there were cows to be found?

‘What’s happening?’ Burt heard Thomas coming down the stairs. This made Burt slightly agitaded again.
‘What woke you up?’ he asked, highly sarcastically surprised.
‘Well, Mrs Johsons’ singing’, Thomas said. He walked passed his stunned father, in his red pyjama with helicopters on it.
‘There’s a cow in our garden!’ Thomas exclaimed on a tone as if they’d just won the lottery.
‘Why is there a cow in our garden? Can we keep it? Can we call it MooMoo?’ he asked Burt. It always amazed Burt how quickly Thomas could get to the point of asking something.
‘Well, that’s a good couple of questions’, Burt said. He had no idea what to tell his son. He just took a sip of his tea, wishing it were whiskey or something else involving a lot of alcohol. That way it should be so much easier to forget about all of this.
‘Sammy!’ Thomas yelled, ‘Sammy, come! There’s a cow in our backyard! Mommy has gone out to sing with Mrs Johnson’, he was very exited to tell his little brother this news. Sammy, all of 2 years old and a bit territorial-driven, only said:
‘Not in my sandbox! Not with my new shovel!’. Then Sammy tilted his head up.
‘Can I have a peanutbutter and jelly sandwich?’ he asked politely.
Burt was quite surprised over the request of his 2-year-old, but he gave into it anyway. It was easier to distract himself with something as silly as a peanutbutter and jelly sandwich than anything else at the moment. Thomas wanted to run outside in his PJ’s.
‘No way, Thomas, at least put on a robe, or a coat, and your feet are bare’, Burt said. That was the moment Mary-Ann stepped inside again.
‘Mrs Johnson woke me up with her singing’, Thomas whined.
‘Dearest, there is a cow in the backyard crying, and you woke up by the sound of Mrs Johnson??’ she sounded surprised.
‘Yes, you have weird children’, Burt said, making a peanutbutter-jelly sandwich for his youngest.
‘What are you doing?’ Mary-Ann asked, ‘It’s not a Sunday, you’re not supposed to have a peanutbutter-jelly sandwich now!’ Burt rolled his eyes.
‘There’s a cow in our backyard, which has been moaning all night, there’s a woman singing lullaby’s for it, which woke up our lovely boys, who weren’t woken up by the sounds of that massive cow landing up in our backyard, and you are fuzzing about the fact that it’s not Sunday enough to make a bloody peanutbutter-jelly sandwich?!’
Sammy had found his way to the cupboard and just managed to get the jelly jar out there. The jar was too big and way to slippery. It fell on the kitchenfloor and broke. Sammy started crying as he saw Burt’s face, which was bright red as he was still annoyed with the nonlogic of this morning. The same red Mary-Ann also liked so much on the wall in the diningroom. Though it might be a bit agressive there.
‘I want peanutbutter-jelly!’ Sammy cried.
‘Come here love’, Mary-Ann said, taking their toddler in her arms. Sammy came to cuddle, and at that moment, Eve stepped downstairs.
‘Eeeeeeeeve!’ Thomas screamed while running happily into her arms.
‘I knew you were here!’ Thomas said, cuddling her.
‘Oh? Why? What happened?’ she asked surprised, looking at her mother and stepdad.
‘Don’t tell me you didn’t hear…’
‘Moooooo!’
‘…that!’ her mother finished her sentence.
‘Oh, THAT! I had my music on all night, with my noise cancelling headphones. A plane could come fly by and I wouldn’t hear a thing! But errrm…yeah, well…that’s….ooooh is that tea??’ she walked into the kitchen, as if the kettle had some sort of huge magnet in it, but genuinely distracted.
‘When did you come home?’ Mary-Ann asked her eldest.
‘Not too long ago, actually’, she admitted.
‘About an hour or two, three ago, by any chance?’ Burt asked.
‘Dude, what’s with the sarcasm? Don’t think I don’t hear it!’ Eve said, slightly offended. Then she looked at the clock.
‘Well, I think…’, she watched her clock, ‘well, yeah. That might be right?’
‘Right’, Burt said, looking at Mary-Ann with a stern face.

‘What did you do?’ Eve asked, when Burt had passed them to go shower.
‘Oh nothing, I produced you, is all. Go and have breakfast dear, all will be well, soon’

And so the day started.

 

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Autist op een begrafenis / Autistic attending a funeral

We zaten in de kamer met z’n allen. Te rouwen. Daar zijn begrafenissen voor. Lekker uitgebreid janken. Dat kan enorm opluchten. Toen kwam Tanja binnen. Ik zette me alvast schrap.
Tanja is autistisch.

‘Kijk eens, tante Carla en oom Theo, ik heb een nieuwe trui gekocht!’ zei Tanja, met iets te luide en bovendien uitgelaten stem. Het viel me nog mee.

‘Eh ja, prachtig, schat’, stotterde tante Carla wat beduusd. Wat moest ze hier nu weer mee?

‘Ik heb ‘m in de vlaggetjesweken van de C&A gekocht’, denderde Tanja voort met kinderlijke stem. Haar niet aankijken had geen zin. Ze tetterde door over hoe de verkoopster haar had rondgeleid door de winkel en had geholpen met uitzoeken.

‘Nou, wat fijn’, deed tante Carla toch een brave poging, tussen een paar slokken koffie door, om te beantwoorden aan Tanja’s behoefte aan goedkeuring.
Fysiek gezien was Tanja dan dik in de dertig, haar brein was dat beslist niet. Niet altijd. Ze klonk nu meer als een 8-jarige, als ik het zelf moest typeren. Eentje die zich een houding probeerde te geven. Geen idee had hoe dat moet.

Ondertussen had Harry zich een weg van het koffiezetapparaat in de keuken naar de voorkamer gewurmd.

‘Och god, is Tanja ook weer lekker bezig?’ vroeg deze geamuseerd.

‘Ja, eigenlijk zouden we haar even af moeten leiden’, zei ik.

‘Dan zitten we wel meteen aan haar vast, dat weet je’, bracht hij in. Daar had hij gelijk in. Op dit moment was niemand daar happig op. Ook ik niet in die zin, want ik was net zo hard in de rouw.

Tanja was zenuwachtig, dat kon je haar ook niet kwalijk nemen. De spanning in de woonkamer was te snijden.. Men wilde de stilte bewaren, dat Tanja haar mond zou houden.
Een autist voelt dergelijke spanning niet. Dendert daar overheen. Voor haar was de trui, gekocht met korting, verkregen door geplakte vlaggetjes, met behulp van een soort personal shopper kennelijk erg belangrijk. Ze zag er netjes uit, dat moet gezegd. Zo zou haar stiefmoeder, de reden dat we hier stonden te rouwen, het graag gezien hebben. Die had zich overigens sowieso kapot gelachen om haar manier van doen. Haar stiefmoeder had het erg op koopjes. Ze zou zo trots als een aap zijn geweest.

Later, na de begrafenis op het kerkhof, vroeg Tanja haar vader ineens:
‘Wat moet ik eigenlijk doen?’ verlegen om praktische informatie. Ze wilde doen wat hoorde, maar had geen idee wat dat was.
‘Het is gebruikelijk om iemand een hand of een knuffel te geven, en gecondoleerd te zeggen’, legde haar vader heel praktisch uit. Tanja was helemaal niet van de fysieke affectie. Het verbaasde ons, haar vader inclusief, dan ook zeer, toen Tanja inderdaad ineens een knuffel gaf en ‘gecondoleerd’ mompelde.
Haar vader barstte in huilen uit.
De zon scheen op het ijswitte landschap in de molenstreek.

We were in the room altogether. Mourning. That’s what funerals are for, after all. Then Tania entered the room. I braced myself.

‘Look, auntie Carla and uncle Theo, I’ve bought a new sweater!’Tania says with too loud and far to elated voice. Though it could be worse, I have to admit. 

‘Err yes dear, very nice’, murmered aunt Carla a bit dazed. How was she supposed to deal with this?

‘I’ve bought it in the discount week with all these stickers!’ Tanja went on, like a train with no mercy, with a childlike voice. Not looking at her had no use. She raved on about how the saleswoman had toured her through the store, helped her pick the best clothes for the occasion. 

‘Well, that’s so nice dear’, Carla does a brave try for satisfying the obvious needs of Tanja to have some kind of approval for her actions, between a few sips of coffee.
Physically speaking Tanja may be deep into her thirties, socially & emotionally she’s more like a twelve year old, which varies through the year. At this moment, I’d say she was about eight in that department. An eight year old trying to find a comfortable spot, both physically and mentally. And having no clue how to do that. 

Meanwhile Harry had worked his way from the kitchen to the livingroom. 

‘Oh god, is Tanja at it again?’ he asked, amused. 

‘I think we should try to distract her at some point’, I said.

‘Then we’re stuck with her, as you know full well’, he reminded me. Point taken. Nobody felt like that, nor me. I was mourning, like the rest of them. 

Tanja was nervous, something you could hardly blame her for. You could cut the tention in the room with a knife. People wanted it to be quiet, silent, for Tanja to keep her mouth shut.
An autistic person doesn’t feel this kind of tention. Just goes on and on. To her the sweater, purchased with a discount, gained with stickers on a piece of paper, with the help of some sort of personal shopper, very important. Apparently. She was looking quite smart, I gotta say. HEr stepmother, the one who had died, would have loved it. She would have laughed about Tanja’s way of drawing attention to herself. She would have been so proud. 

A bit later, at the graveyard, Tanja suddenly asked her dad:
What should I do exactly?’ shy for practical information. She wanted to do what was right, without knowing what that was exactly.
‘Usually people shake hands or hug and say “my condoleances”‘, her father replied in a likewise practical mode. Tanja had never been much of a girl/woman for physical contact. So we were so surprised, her father included, when she suddenly DID hug her father and said “my condoleances”.
Her father bursted into tears.
The sun shone on the ice landscape in the windmill district. 

 
 

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