This short story is my first serious attempt at something other than poetry, and a desire to share with everyone. Since our visit to Iceland was in 2004, this story has been in the works for 8 years. It is based on people we met and cultural places that we visited.
Below is part 1 of this short story. I have ideas for the rest, but have decided on its direction yet. So, to be continued in another post.
The March sun rises steadily behind morning cloud cover and leftover moisture hanging in the cool salty air.
The silence here is unnerving. Well, maybe not what we usually think of silence, but rather, what is missing from sounds ushered into the open living room windows – car horns, jackhammers, sirens, or even crying children – instead replaced by ambient music from the corner cafe, that rises and falls like ocean waves lapping a distant beach. And Leroy’s bark breaks the moment.
Thoughts turn to the first cup of coffee and Joline’s homemade caramel rolls using a secret family recipe, that I have so far lacked enough guts to pry from her.
Leroy’s insistent barking hastens the need to dress and leave the house. Down the dark blue painted stairs creaking with each step, the white walls are bathed in an eerie orange glow – cold, yet soft. Stopping before closing the door behind me, I look down toward each end of the street, and take in what is Iceland. White breasted seagulls fly beneath the canvas of scattered grey and blue skies. Browning treetops hang on to the remaining scraggly leaves now encased and illuminated by the emerging orange and fierce yellow.
Automobiles line both sides of the narrow street that intersects with Main Street where the cafe is a cornerstone of this neighborhood. and a popular destination for both locals and the tourists passing by on their way to the Hallgrimskirkja Lutheran Church (the one with Lief Eriksson in the front).
Blocks before seeing the green neon coffee cup sign, I could have closed my eyes and followed the smell of fresh roasted beans and arrived there safely. Even Leroy sniffs the air and gains a bit of bounce in her step.
A few empty wrought iron tables are situated on the sidewalk in front of the cafe. I tie Leroy’s leash around a chair leg, near sparse day-old crumbs and purple tinged pigeons ambling about, peaking furiously at the thinly moistened cement, and head in for coffee.
As I had hoped with a somewhat child-like glee and anticipation at Christmas, Joline was working this morning and with body language that suggested she was waiting for me – this day has perked up. After ordering the usual of Sumatra, black, and a caramel roll, I grab a newspaper and head back outside. Before sitting down, Joline was kind enough to bring a bowl of water for Leroy.
What better way to start a Saturday than local gossip in the latest edition of the Reykjavik Grapevine. Amidst the celebrities, fishing reports detail the seasonal quotas for various species of fish and which canning operations are close to their limit. Also of note, the price of imports, including alcohol and, is increasing. It is getting more expensive each year to get a buzz in this country.
Looking up from the newspaper, I notice a bicyclist navigating carelessly or perhaps on purpose with a well executed slinking “S” across the cobblestone streets. Sitting atop the painted red frame with oversized rubber tires and white sidewalls, an old worn and weathered leather seat, basket in the rear, was a burly rider wearing pristine white gloves and shorts. He successfully made it to the next intersection and far from view without hitting one automobile. Impressive, I raise my cup to you.
My coffee mug says welcome to Iceland and I briefly remember I am a visitor of sorts here, as my residency has not yet been approved. In some respects I am a tourist experiencing this land from the outside, with a distant hand on the pulse of a culture so different and raw from the upper Midwest environment I arrived from. Most days I lose myself and blend with the people and activities that may seem mundane if recently arriving, but I am fascinated by their thoughts and approach to daily life. I soon forget the reasons for leaving home and seeking to be lost here.
Standing to get another cup of coffee, I stopped when Leroy barked at a distant squeaking noise. The air was calm and clear and whatever this was grabbed hold of my attention with curiosity as to its origin.
Waiting patiently for something to emerge, a minute or two later a large blue hat came over the hill, on top of a older woman, wrapped in a dark brown wool sweater, white scarf with one end at her knees, blue slacks, blue shoes. She appears to be pushing an off-white colored buggy with one squeaky wheel. She stops in front of the store on the corner. She takes out a pack of cigarettes and brandishes a lighter. Thick smoke disperses to wisps and fades into a birch tree.