Tuesday, March 19

I haven’t realised how extremely tired I was until my friend, the owner of the Magical Garden and the cabin where I am staying, left me alone. I texted Husby to tell him I arrived and everything was perfectly fine, then switched my phone off and sighed out loud “now I am offline”. This was the first surprise I gave myself.

I ate some bits and pieces, unpacked the essentials, used the gentlemen’s room, then left one lamp on and decided I needed real rest. So I went to lie in bed – there’s no door between the bed and the living space.

I sighed with pleasure as I stretched my aching bones, then decided the lamp was irritating me and I wanted the cabin to be lit only by the fire. I got up, switched the lamp off, then returned to bed.

I sighed with pleasure as I stretched my aching bones, then decided to get up and stop the toilet from doing that thing where you have to push the button again so it stops leaking indefinitely and making noise.

I sighed with pleasure as I stretched my aching bones, then shut my eyes. I opened them a moment later, alarmed, when I heard an odd sound – like a motorbike that’s going very fast, but the source of the sound was moving very slowly. It was an airplane. But the other noise, a louder one, was an owl looking for a one-night stand. I closed my eyes again and only then realised how extremely tired I’ve been.

*

In the last months, I’ve gone through a lot in my personal life, I ended up stuck in a legal dispute, and at the same time I am launching a book. If I had known earlier, I would have picked a different date, but the letter in which life was notifying me that it intended to get really intense must have gone missing. Coming here and getting off the grid for a week right before the book’s release date was probably shooting myself in the foot from the commercial point of view. But only now that I was able to rest have I realised how badly I needed it all this time.

After a while – it was still early – I decided to go for a short walk. To my dismay, I noticed some sort of brutal, bright light that made it difficult for me to do stargazing, so I turned… and faced the moon. It was so bright that I was literally casting a moonlight shadow. I gawked at the shadow, then back at the full moon. It was the only source of light around and no torch was needed. 

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This is exactly how it’s NOT supposed to be done…

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Gunnar found a new reason to live. He dreamt about forging horseshoes, and didn’t even mind that they weren’t swords. His work was now proudly displayed above the door, and the moment Gunnar entered the kitchen his eyes were automatically drawn to the spot until his mother got irritated. At that point he would apologise, pay attention to her for a minute or two, then withdraw into his imagination again. But Karl went away again and there was no way to tell when he was going to return.

Despite the burns, which were not healing as fast as he wished they would, the boy’s hands itched to grab a hammer again. He still had an unfinished nail in his pocket and felt he knew what to do even without his father’s help. Once three days passed without his return, Gunnar found enough courage – or desperation – to ask Sóley’s permission.

“Go,” she said, resigned.

This was too easy, thought Gunnar, confused. There must have been a catch somewhere. Nevertheless, he decided not to wait until she changed her mind, unlocked the door with sweaty hands, then looked inside. All this was his now, at least for a while. He opened the windows, as instructed by his father, then built the fire. His first attempt failed – simply because he was too excited to do it slowly. The boy ground his teeth and forced himself to be patient. The kindling, the crumpled paper. Gentle pulling and pushing of the blowers. Only when the wood was burning joyfully did he put a handful of coal in, then another, until the fire seemed just right. Now he could finally take the nail out of his pocket.

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Icelandic model horseshoe, decorated. If you bought one of the (sold out) super deluxe boxed set editions of Storytellersthis is what you’re going to get.

 

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This time, to Gunnar’s relief, Karl was away only for two days. Mother always got upset when father left, but this time she seemed to be upset with Gunnar for some reason. He didn’t like his mother very much and it seemed that she felt the same towards him, even though both maintained the facade of politeness that came with clenched teeth and white knuckles. It was her own fault, decided Gunnar. If she didn’t start fights with father, he wouldn’t have to go away to get some peace and quiet.

When Karl came back home, all smiles, he handed her a book. Sóley threw it on the table without even looking. Gunnar knew what would happen next. He’d be sent upstairs, to bed, and his parents would fight again. Why did mother have to be like this? Father brought her a present. At least they were quiet enough for their voices to become background noise and Gunnar fell asleep, the unfinished nail under his pillow.

*

“How are your hands? Still hurting?”

“Nay. They’re perfect,” said Gunnar and immediately began sweating at the thought he’d be forbidden from working at the forge ever again. “Never better. Excellent,” he said, avoiding his father’s doubtful gaze, hiding his shaky hands behind his back.

“Good! We can make your first horseshoe then.”

The boy relaxed at first before grasping the full sentence. “A gleaming horseshoe,” he mumbled, trying to sound happy.

Karl looked at him oddly. “Gleaming? Where did you get that from?”

“Eh… a story?”

“What story?”

“The one with the gleaming horseshoes, clearly,” snapped Sóley. Karl winced, but kept smiling. Gunnar turned his eyes away, staring at the forge door. It was locked, like always, but maybe he could somehow get his hands on the key, then work at night… no, they would hear that, maybe when father was away… but then, mother hardly ever left the house…

“Good,” said Karl. “We’ll make a gleaming horseshoe.” He chuckled and Gunnar blushed, although he didn’t know why.

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