Fodspor

Paul's morning
Paul woke up because he was cold. Yesterday, when he had read the weather forecast in the newspaper at the library, he had read that they were promising snow. He had imagined something gently drizzling and not this, where sky and earth were almost one. And how dark it was! Paul thought it was only eight or at most half past, but when he looked at his watch it was just after ten. He shook his long, curly hair away from his eyes. What a mess! Wine bottles and tea mugs everywhere, and candles stuffed into some of the bottles. The ashtrays, thankfully, he had emptied before tumbling into bed yesterday, or was it this morning? He got up, shivering from the cold. He could see his own breath in the air; the thin walls of the house offered little protection from the cold. He poured kerosene on the stove; judging by the cold, that it had run dry just after he had fallen asleep. He crawled back under the duvet and felt the despondency spreading through him. First he had to clean up, and the light was so dim because of the snow flurries that he probably wouldn't be able to paint today. He hoped his mother would not arrive too; she seemed to enjoy making unannounced visits and berating Paul for his messy apartment and ditto life. And come Tuesday he had to hand in his assignment if he didn't want to be expelled from school. Paul's body had warmed up again and he fell asleep.
When he woke again somewhat later, the sun was shining and the light was just as he had imagined it. Leaving bottles behind, he grabbed his painting gear and ran into the garden. There he sat down on an old, tree stump and painted. It was such a beautiful, dilapidated, old garden. The owner of the house was a little old lady - like you'd imagine an old-fashioned grandmother with aher hair in at bun at the nape of her neck, white hair, long dresses, and bright blue eyes. Paul had already used her as a subject several times. In return, he pruned the trees and mowed the lawns in summer. He pruned the trees as he pleased, it was not always either professionally correct or appropriate, but always beautiful.
Paul had immediately fallen in love with both the lady and the old garden when he came to Copenhagen four years ago. With joy in his heart he had left the small village of his childhood and taken up his studies at the Academy of Art with great enthusiasm. His father had died shortly afterwards; he had been all his life a plain farmer, and the last years of his life had been overshaded by anger and sorrow at the boy's fanciful ideas, which he did not at all understand. After his father's death his mother had moved in with a sister in Lyngby. She had turned bitter, and Paul bore the brunt of it. She thought he was to blame for his father's death. Paul had inherited quite a nice sum of money, and his fellow students, who did not have his abilities and honesty, had known how to leech  on him. It was gradually dawning on Paul that the world and people were not as honest and straightforward as his family neighbours in the small town.

Anders' world
    It was the first Sunday in Advent. It was a quarter past nine, and the alarm clock rang, Anders quickly jabbed at it and got up. It was dark, cozy and warm in his little attic room under the roof. He had lived there for the last couple of years, renting cheaply from a distant aunt, whom he did not see too often. He looked out of the skylight and saw the snow falling. For a moment he stood staring out over the lakes, watching the trees sway in the wind. Then he went to the tiny bathroom and washed in lukewarm water. What a luxury on such a snowy morning. After dressing in his warmest clothes, he took his bicycle lights and shoes in hand and quietly crept down the kitchen stairs, no need to wake up his aunt.
    Outside the weather was cold and windy, it was a bad weather for a bike ride, but Anders enjoyed the wild weather. He biked to church through the whirling snow in the sparse light of the new day. The sun was rising late, and the snow clouds were doing their part to keep the light down. The blizzard abated as he cycled, but the cold did not abate. The cold frosty air ran like dry ice water down his chest, cleansing his head of the last remnants of sleep. As usual, Anders was on time. Inside the porch he shook his coat free of snow, took off his hat and stepped into the quiet, still slightly dim church. He knelt down in his usual place on the right side of the church and quietly collected hiomself for Mass.
    Father Augustine entered in his cassock and lit the candles on the altar. A little later, the electric light also turned on. The bell rang and Father Augustine and the young altar boy entered. In the middle of the Mass, the snow stopped and the sun came out: as the priest came forward to address the congregation, the incense could be seen clouding around him and drifting slowly down the pew rows.
    "Domine, non sum dignus ... Lord, I am not worthy..." Anders prayed with the others, and then went forward to communion. He knelt and received the Lord's body at the hands of the priest.
    Anders quietly went back to his pew, where he knelt for a long time after communion, praying for his deceased parents, his brother, his sisters and the friends who were close to him.
    Later Anders stood quietly in the doorway, blinded by the bright sun, and enjoyed the smell of the clean, crisp air. This was the kind of weather incense was made for. The frost-clear, snow-filled air smelled fresher and cleaner than anything, and the sweet, warm spicy scent of incense was a heavenly contrast. Anders felt warm and comfortable in his warm winter coat, he enjoyed the snow and the cold, for he knew that this was his last Danish winter for a long time, maybe forever.
    Yesterday he had been to confession with Father Augustine and now he was filled with happiness and ready to break all ties behind him. And on Wednesday he would go on a retreat for a month or two, and then he would go to southern Germany as a novice in a monastery there. After Mass, he said Goodbye and Happy Sunday! to all his friends and Father Augustin, his old parish priest. Only his siblings, a few of his friends and the priest knew he was leaving.
    Back home, he packed his bag with the things he owned in this world. A toothbrush, some spare clothes, a German dictionary, the Bible and a breviary in four volumes. In his pocket he had his passport, some money and his rosary. He had paid for the room for the current month and tomorrow a big van would pick up the few cardboard boxes he had filled with things. They were to be sold and the money given to Father Augustin. He always gave so much to those who needed. His siblings had gotten what they had asked for, only a picture of their parents they hadn't made him to give away. Since he had become a Catholic at fifteen, he had not had much contact with his family. His siblings couldn't understand it, and his parents had died in a car crash when Anders, the youngest of four siblings, was only sixteen.

     The answering machine went on, as he did not pick up the telephone when it was ringing. Paul just stood there listening. It felt like a piece of fiction, he had won a prize for the painting he had submitted. Delightfully surprised he scribbled the number and went outside to calm down a bit before calling the committee. He was still afraid it was a trap, some of his friends pulling his leg. On the other hand this would probably cross the border from pranks to skulduggery. Hesitantly he picked up the phone, and groaned as he looked to the slip of paper in his hand. Drops of water from the umbrella in the corridor, still wet after yesterday's showers, had made the number illegible.
     His fertile mind invented ways and means of making the scribble legible: Ironing, lemon juice ... then from a corner of his mind rationality spoke: "Just listen to the answering machine once again!" With a deft move he made the tape rewind to the beginning, and found a new slip of paper and waterfast ink in his selection of writing materials.

***

     Paul easily found his seat on the train to Germany, smokers and then a middle berth, just as he had requested when he bought the ticket.
    He sat down at the window and lit his pipe. When the big watch outside said two minutes to departure, he was still alone in the compartment. Paul was glad to have the whole place to himself; it had been right to leave on a Tuesday. Just as the departure whistle sounded, the door opened and a young man with short blond hair and a small beard dropped a bag on the seat opposite him and said a brief "Hello!" and immediately went back out into the corridor.

    Anders had been running the last bit of the way to the train. It was a nice surprise that so many of his friends and the old Father Augustine had been there to say goodbye to him, but they had been so late that there had only been time for a short, warm goodbye before he received Father Augustine's blessing, and all the good wishes of the others and ran the rest of the way to the train.
    He stood in the corridor, gazing absent-mindedly at the greying horizon until the train had passed Valby and he had caught his breath again. He was slightly annoyed. He had expected to have the compartment to himself on such a weekday evening, he was tired, and had been hoping for a good night's sleep in a deserted train. Now he was going to have to share the compartment with this long-haired artist type who would probably play guitar all night. Anders went into the compartment, put his bag in the net and with a sigh let himself down on the seat opposite the long-haired man.
 
    Anders sat for a while, looking around the compartment at the pictures in the small frames on either side of the mirror opposite, and smiled quietly to himself when he saw that one of them depicted the square in Bussenville.
    Paul was actually half asleep, but the return of the other man had brought him so much back to reality that he now sat studying Anders through half-closed eyes. He followed the other's gaze, and when he saw the smile on the other's face, he was suddenly back to his school days in Bussenville.
    "But you're Anders, aren't you?" he exclaimed, "what on earth are you doing here on a Tuesday night?"
    "Yes, my name is Anders," replied the latter, "but who are you?"
    "Don't you recognize me?" Paul asked, puzzled, as he brushed his hair away from his face with both hands.
    "Yes, now I can see and recognize you, Paul. What a coincidence. Are you on your way home from a long lasting weekend party in the capital, or what?" Anders asked "I remember your partying habits from school, and ..." Anders' diatribe petered out.
    "No, I'm actually on my way to southern Germany. To a little town called Burgdorf.
    "On a holiday?"  Paul asked, surprise making his voice shrill.
    "No, I'm going there to develop my painting skills. I won a scholarship." He told Paul in few words about the painting from the snowy day.
    "I'm also on my way to Burgdorf," Paul said with joy in his voice. "I'm going to enter the novitiate there!"
    "WHAT?" Anders exclaimed, "Have you become a saint..."
    "No, of course not, but I found out that ..."
    "Tickets, please!" a voice sounded from the corridor, and a burly ticket inspector poked his head through the door. He looked at the tickets and found everything as it should be. "I understand that you already know one another," he added. "Should I keep your tickets and passports until tomorrow? That'll save you being woken up at the border and after the larger stations all the way to Munich."
    "Yes please." Anders and Paul replied in unison.


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