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Until the end of the world

melting

Tintin by Hergé

The ground underneath the feet of the quiffed reporter and his talking dog is heating up so much that the asphalt is melting. At the same time, a mysterious star appears in the evening sky, next to the big dipper. The curious reporter decides to call the star watch.

It is Friday late afternoon. The smell of onion meatballs and gravy appears, together with the sound of talking heads on the kitchen radio. I close my door and continue reading my comic.

According to the star watching scientists the star is actually an approaching meteorite bound for the destruction of Earth. Luckily instead, all it does is causing a massive earthquake and our hero is send out for an excursion with his dog and friends.

Dinner is served. From the high chair I can just see the full content of the table. My brother had just laid it. My mother puts the mashed potatoes on my plate, creates a hole in the middle and pours some gravy in it, together with a couple of meatballs. On the table is a bowl with Brussels sprouts in it. I say I don’t want them as they smell like my brother’s farts. Despite my protest I get them anyway, accompanied by some cucumber salad and my brother’s giggles.

My mother says something, to which my brother answers in a mumbling voice. They both look so tall and grownuppish. My brother is 7 years older and he is from another planet. He talks strange, his room smells like sweaty socks and his farts smell like sprouts.

After dinner we do the dishes together. He washes and I dry. He turns the channel on the radio to something with loud music. He puts some water in his long blond hair and puts it backwards and starts singing along the song on the radio. He grabs the scrubber and holds it in front of his mouth as if it is a microphone and starts making weird uncontrollable movements with his body. I laugh and he asks me to do the same. As I do, I look at the kitchen door to the balcony. It is pitch dark outside, so you can see clearly our reflection in the glass of the door.

Just Like Mine

The sand nestled itself between my little toes. I had never been to the beach with my mother before. Usually when I visited her we would go to the park or just cycle around the city, with me on the little seat at the front of her bike, my eyes navigating our way.

This time however, she took me on a short train trip to the coast on a mid-week day somewhere in May. She smelled kind of funny. A mixture of a rosy perfume and cigarettes, and her skin had something strangely familiar, in its somewhat pale complexion.

Back home it always smelled like fresh bread, as we lived on the second floor above a bakery. But that day when my mother came and collected me, it was the first time I realised that she, despite her constant smoking, smelled actually very nice and not just because of the perfume. For the first time in my life I felt a kinship and more than before I was interested where my mother would take me this time.

She had to choose the train compartment filled with a bluish layer of smoke and lots of grownups. My polite coughs were unnoticed until the dunes appeared from behind the clouds. My mother started talking, something about when I was a baby or something, but my attention took another path towards the windows that had a picture on them, a red circle with a hand holding a bottle.

We walked from the station across some grey, cubical houses towards the beach and I started running towards it, into the sand, leaving my sandals behind. I had been to the beach before, just not here and not with my mother. She slowly took off her flip-flops and walked towards me, into the sand and smiled at me.

I ran towards the sea, cold at first, but warmer on a shimmy. I saw my mother standing just before the shore. I looked back the other way. The sea had a gradient that went from a darkish muddy brown between my feet to a grey blue, ending up in a stark and abrupt dark ending at the horizon, only interrupted by the grey-whitish waves. Above it all, a pale blue sky was watching, with some laughing seagulls flying in formation in front of an impressive army of woolly clouds.

I walked back to my mother, who was now sitting in the sand, smoking a cigarette, looking at me with some frowns above the eyes, but also static, unmoveable, seemingly in deep thought.

She started talking again, but I noticed my wet feet had absorbed all the sand and little balls of wet sand were starting to form on my skin that I could rub off gently with my hands. Now and then my mother would stop talking and I would look at her, with her blue veins slightly visible through her skin and her blond hair, just like mine.

 

©2013 David Enker
Nederlandse vertaling (2017)