Glimpse: Leaving Tomas for dead

Knut and his shipmate Anne revisit the place where his life changed.

He led her to the high school. Two more shots of vodka. For each of them. “I was student here, in what we call high school.” He was quiet, remembering. “I lived with Johanna down that street,” and he pointed toward Helgugata, where his aunt still lived with his mother.

Knut led Anne around the edge of the building, into the teeth of the wind. A patch of beaten turf between the back of the school and a precipice overlooking a soccer pitch below, tucked against the fjord that wrapped around the town. Their hair blew wildly. He drank again.

“No different.” he said. “I warned him not to say those things about Kali.” Knut was talking to himself more than to Anne. “Someone put a shaming pole in front of my aunt’s house. I knew it was Tomas, and he didn’t deny it. I have no choice. So, I challenge him to fight and we came here after school.”

A brief splatter of subarctic rain in their faces. “There was no fields down there, just the sea,” he said, nodding toward the water several fathoms below where they stood. “I did nothing wrong. It was a fair fight, and I was stronger.”

Knut had told himself for thirty years that he didn’t mean to hit Tomas so hard that he could not get up. But standing on that ground again, he wasn’t sure.  He remembered it more viscerally, the taste of his blood from a split lip. The concentration of thought. His hand on the boy’s throat, driving him as forcefully as he could to the ground, pinning him there, slamming his fist into Tomas’s head, the sense that the enemy was giving up, had no more resistance. It had been just the two of them and the falling night. Something stopped him. Knut stood over the boy a moment, picked him and carried him around the front of the school. There was no one around.

“What happened?” Anne asked.

“I took him to my aunt’s house. Johanna called a nurse. She took me in her car on the road beside the fjord and over the single-lane bridge.” In her car, the first leg of his journey into exile, he asked his aunt if she thought Tomas was alive, if he was going to be okay. Johanna said, bleakly, that she didn’t know.

“When we reached the farm, my father was furious. Cakle was very scared and Hekla too. My father said I would go to America, to my uncle Oskar. My aunt would take me to the air field.”

“This is how you ended up in Newport.” Anne said.

“My father ordered me to go. For my own good, he said, but also Tomas was from an important family that could make problems for us.”

“What happened to the boy?”

“I thought he was dead, that I’d killed him.” Knut turned to her, reached for the vodka. “Now Hekla says Tomas is still alive. He lives in Akranes, where we docked Vindmylla.”

The northwest wind stopped blowing, as it sometimes does. “Sheesh,” Anne said. Pointing in the dark to a brightly illuminated building off to the right, she asked: “What are those lights?”

“It was the town pool,” Knut said. “Looks bigger now.”

“I should get a bathing suit,” she said.

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