So it was that
Olav played his trump card. No salmon, maybe, but tomorrow, on his farm, they
would be gathering the first strawberries of the season—so, a strawberry party
for our last day!
In western Norway
you are constantly gaining the impression that you have penetrated a film set
of one of Grimms' fairy tales. To get to Olav's house we walked through a dark
pine forest, and there in a clearing of bright green grass was the woodcutter's
hut, only it was much bigger and with gaily painted shutters. A fairy-tale
candy-colored pony grazed in the valley fields alongside the river where they
were already gathering the strawberry harvest. A beaming Mrs. Olav stood
strawberries. There's no one fonder of strawberries than I am. But never had I
been seriously offered as many as I was getting now, an enormous bowlful that
would have done for a family of six. Prichard was getting the same treatment.
Olav was moving around opening bottles of beer. Everything was to scale. Mrs.
Olav staggered in with a pitcher of cream, then went back for sugar. She
evidently found much satisfaction in watching us eat. I got about a third of
the way through and looked up. Mrs. Olav was smiling, but there was something
steely in her look as well. I had a sudden, vivid recollection of Hansel and
Gretel. What was all that about fattening people up? But I made it to the
bottom of the bowl. Prichard, looking a little pale, had done the same. We were
not getting away with just that, though. Mrs. Olav was into the kitchen again
and out with the master bowl. We hadn't seen this before, but Mrs. Olav, a big
woman, could only just get her arms around it. Refills all around. Prichard, in
cowardly fashion, pretended he had a headache and went outside. How I did it I
shall never know. But I cleaned the bowl again, saving the team's honor.
We had to buy a
salmon to take home. That night we packed away the giant rods, the hawser
lines, the king-sized flies that had never seen action. We put in an early call
so that we'd make the Hovercraft to take us down the coast.
Oddly, though, I
didn't sleep well. I clicked wide awake before the early call came. There was
something terribly wrong that I couldn't pin down. I stood up to the mirror,
but the trouble was not anywhere I could see. And then it became clearly
localized. I felt cautiously round my back, then the seat of my pajama pants.
Extraordinary corrugations made themselves known, together with heat and a
Have you ever
tried to explain a problem like that to a blonde goddess in a small-town
drugstore who can't speak English?
Norwegian for strawberry rash?
They ought to do
something about that Sunndal troll.