Friday, February 01, 2013

Bjorn's dream

Another in my series of short stories from my book "Discovering America":  Bjorn's dream

The little radio beeped and buzzed. I hoped the racket could not be heard.  Outside in the swirling snow of the Norwegian winter there was no hope, no future.  But, here inside the small hut there was this magic revelation.  Tuning the radio, listening intently on the earphones to the wooshes and static I searched for her voice. I only knew her as "Julie."  That was her code name, but I secretly hoped that it was her real name.  It was somehow voluptuous, and full of promise.
Then suddenly, at the appointed time she came through. She said my call name "Bjorn, Bjorn, over." It was weak, since we were quite far from London, if that was where she was really located, but it was her.  My heart leaped and my mouth went dry.  I struggled to reply, "Julie, Julie, receiving you, over."  We repeated the passwords set for the time, and then she got down to business.  She gave me a list of code numbers and repeated them, but she left a few repetitions out.  These were the key elements in the code. Included were instructions from the Norwegian Government in London to local resistance commanders. I felt warm, I felt that I was part of an army doing something for my country, instead of a lonely young man isolated in a small hut on the top of an icy mountain in the middle of nowhere.
After I had given her my coded estimates of German strengths and locations, we allowed ourselves our usual brief forbidden chat. ''How's the weather in London?" "Oh, its fine, a nice spring day," "here too" I lied.  "The trees are blossoming," she added.  "I'm coming soon to take you out to the park," I replied (let the Germans think it was more code if they intercepted it).  "I'm looking forward to that, when this madness is over.  Over and out!"  "Over and out!" I replied, and her voice was suddenly gone.
I quickly turned off the radio, I had been on too long. I packed it up and carefully stowed it in its plastic container, it was more valuable than gold.  Then I put it back into its biding place behind the stove. It was important that it not get wet.  As I did this automatically I felt the fading glow of her voice inside me.  I imagined her, a beautiful British girl, with her auburn hair swept up and back, her skin glowing with vibrant life, her cheeks ruddy from the climate.  As I started to prepare myself for the ski trip back down to the valley in the swirling snow I imagined her figure, her wonderful body. Then I opened the door and struggled out, and all thoughts were gone as I descended swiftly into the white darkness.
This time things had gone normally.  But, as I descended past the crags, the weather suddenly cleared.  This was not good, it meant that in the moonlight I could be seen.  According to my training one had to assume that one could be seen, and take evasive action.  I stopped occasionally to survey the situation.  The Germans always had patrols out, and they had powerful binoculars.  I had nothing incriminating on me in case I was stopped, except for my identification papers.  But, I was breaking curfew, and if caught I could be tortured or killed.
Everything looked clear, the village slept in its white cradle.  Few lights were visible. I continued to ski downwards. Suddenly I saw them over on the side, about a mile away.  My heart skipped.  If I could see them they could see me.  I turned aside and moved away from the village. There was still a long way to go.  Then I saw another group of them coming towards me.  They had been waiting on the top of the crags.  They probably knew that I would be coming this way, from some Quisling, damn him, or they had been watching me for some time, and now were taking advantage of the break in the weather.  I zigged back in the direction of the village, but making for the pass that lay to the southwest. I know this area like the back of my hand. If necessary I could give them a good run for their money.
As I threw myself downwards, using the trees where possible for cover, I heard the men shouting to each other in their guttural tongue. I saw their lights jumping up and down as they skied behind me, and over on the other side of the valley I could see the pinpoints of their lights indicating their progress.  My heart was pumping like an express train.  Could I make the pass below the village before them? If I could I might escape down into the forest or even down to the fjord.  My whole being focused on that. Then I heard shooting behind me. They were getting closer. A thought came into my head, "I hope they kill me rather than capture me. I don't know if I could withstand the torture,"
The pass was coming closer, but so were they.  They were expert skiers, and they may have had Quislings with them, guiding them.  My mind was focused on that one thing, getting to the pass before them.  But, then I saw that the other patrol was making good progress on the smoother side of the valley and I was in danger of being cut off.  What to do?  Go faster!  But, risk falling!! As I twisted and turned, swerving in and out of the slopes, another thought came to me.
After this was over I would go to London, and I would meet Julie, and I would take her out to the park, and the trees would be in blossom, always in blossom.
London was magnificent after the war.  Even though the Luftwaffe had smashed whole sections of it to rubble, the City still shone with a pristine clarity. The bright sun reflected off the rain-slicked streets.  It all had an air of unreality.
I walked nonchalantly through the town, dressed in my Norwegian Army uniform, light blue compared to the drab browns and grays of the other uniforms.  Men looked at me to see what country I was from, and young women eyed me with a smile, looking and laughing to each other in their fetching way.  But, I could not be deterred from my path, my journey.  I was on my way to meet Julie in Green Park. They had told me that this was the most beautiful park in London, and although it was near the Government offices, it was still intact.
It had taken quite a bit of wrangling to organize myself this trip to London, and then to trace Julie.  It was strictly against regulations, they told me.  But, I was so persistent, that finally they gave in. I suppose it was not unusual that a young man linked to his only lifeline, a young woman far away, would develop an interest in her, maybe even an obsession.  I had to meet her, and it had to be here and now.
I walked down the curving pathway near to the pond with the ducks.  She said she would be waiting there, by the bridge feeding the ducks.  I saw her in the distance, she was wearing a brown tweed coat, with a multi-colored scarf on the back of her head, and she leaned on the railing, with one foot displaced behind her in a very feminine way.  Her hands moved like a dancer as she threw the crumbs into the air. It was like a dream.
I came up to her, and she turned to look at me.  She was more beautiful than I had imagined she would be, she was stunning. The sun flashed in her eyes as she turned and it was a miraculous moment.  I was transfixed staring at her, the moment seemed to last forever. I extended my hand and she hers, and we touched, ever so lightly.  I took everything in, it was as if I had existed only for this moment.  A thrill went through my body, I was alive.
I had always wanted to go to Norway.  I suppose it was the connection I had had with the underground resistance.  It was just a job then.  They taught us how to talk to them, keep them guessing, keep their morale up. Poor boys stretched out on the edge of nothing, risking their lives. Only afterwards did it seem exciting, romantic.
I had found his real name, even though we were not supposed to know, and I had traced his calls to near the village of Geiranger, perched high on the magnificent Geiranger Fjord.  After my divorce I left my kids with my mother and took this trip alone. It was something that I had to do.
In the village I walked up the hill to the war memorial. God, there was one in every little town and village in Europe, in the world! It was hidden past a curve in the road overlooking the valley and the fjord. It was a weathered stone obelisk set on a stone plinth overgrown with grass and weeds. On it was inscribed the list of wars that had taken the lives of men and women from the village. I glanced around at the magnificent scenery, with the ice-capped mountains surrounding the green valley. It was spring and the trees were in blossom and bees buzzed lazily around.  I could see the pass that led down to the fjord and beyond that the water sparkled in the distance.
I walked towards the memorial with some trepidation.  I had so wanted to meet him, Bjorn. What a pity!  I stood before the monument with the names carved on it.  I stretched out my hand, and touched his name lightly.  I took everything in, it was as if I had existed only for this moment.  A thrill went through my body, I was alive.


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