Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Funeral for Sven

It's writing challenge time, brought to you by Indie Ink. New writers are always welcome to sign up for next week's challenge by following the link above.

Week 23
My Challenger: Amanda
My Challenge: Why were you down at the river last night?
Who I am Challenging: Marian
What I Challenged Them With: Starting with the letter A, every next word should start with the next letter of the alphabet. You *must* cycle the alphabet at least four times, but you may continue further.... (She completely blew me out of the water with her answer--awesome beyond imagining! GO READ IT! Or, ya know, drop dead... Or something...)

A Funeral for Sven

"Sven Holmstrom-Lagerstrom."

"Excuse me?"

"Sven Holmstrom-Lagerstrom. Did I stutter?"

"Look, I... Um..." Hildegaard trailed off. Found the train again. "Grandma, look, the police found a dead, crisped up body floating in the river. Someone said they saw you down by the river that night. Do you think you could do a little bit better than ripping names out of Eric the Viking?"

"Eric who? Do I know him?"

Hildegaard sighed for what seemed like the nth time that night. The last thing she expected to be doing after commuting for three hours back from Manhattan was to be talking to her 97-year-old grandmother in a police holding cell. Never mind that her grandmother couldn't possibly have lit a man on fire and then dumped his body in the river--her nursing home was two hours away! Let alone having the strength to drag a body down the muddy banks!

"No, Grandma. I just--you just need to tell the police you weren't there, they must be mistaken, and this will all go away, okay? Okay, sweetie?"

"But I was there, child. You think my mind is going, don't you?"

Hildegaard looked toward the two-way mirror rather than allow her grandmother to see the truth in her eyes.

"You see, Gladys never did like fire."

Another trip down a forgotten memory. She turned once more to face her grandmother. "Excuse me?"

"Well, she didn't! She almost died in one as a little girl, you know. And when they read the will and it said that Sven wanted a traditional Viking funeral? She nearly died right then and there! Well, not then and there, of course. We all agreed in front of the lawyer that it probably just meant we would have to wear longenhergan. Then we went home and had one of Louisa's grandchildren do that... What's that thing called, dear?"

Hildegaard stood there, hands on hips, a look of anger and confusion warring across her face. "Grandma, you are making no sense whatsoever!"

"No, darling, really... Internets? Gosling something on the Internets?"

"You mean googling?"

"I'm not sure. Sounds like that might have been what she called it. And a wicked pedicure, if memory serves."

Hildegaard turned toward the mirror. "I'm seriously hoping one of you out there is taking notes. If this doesn't prove my grandmother's not a murderer, I'm not sure what does!"

"Don't raise your voice, dear. Use your indoor voice."

She slumped down in a chair opposite the elderly matriarch. "Sorry."

"Where was I?"

"Looking at goslings on the intranets." She laid her head down on her folded forearms in defeat.

"Oh, yes. Thank you, dear. Anyway, when we heard what the intranets had to say about, you know, traditional Viking funerals, well, Gladys was quite beside herself, as you can imagine." She cackled. "Oh, my. But what could we do? A last will and testament isn't something to sneeze at, you know. Have you seen my crocheting, dear?"

Mumbling through her arms: "No."

"No matter. Well, that meant the longenhergan was out--"

"Ma'am?" A policeman entered the room. When Hildegaard looked up, she could tell he was trying his damnedest to suppress a smile. "I'm sorry to interrupt, but could you please clarify something for us?"

"Why, sure, sweetie! What is it?"

"What is a l-... long-... longenhergan?"

"Why, you know... The helmet. The helmet with the horns! Only the very best Vikings wore them, you know."

"Of course. Thank you, ma'am." He turned and closed the door behind him, but not before Hildegaard heard the peals of laughter.

"You see, grandma? You see? They're gonna have to go for an insanity plea if you don't just tell them you weren't there."

"Don't be silly, dear."


"Where was I? Oh, yes, so, we all went back to Gladys's house, you know, friendship and comfort in times of grief, that sort of thing. We started baking a Vänskapskaka, you know, while we discussed the funeral--"

"A what?" she asked wearily.

"A Vänskapskaka. Oh, it's simply delicious! Remind me to get you the recipe--"

"No thanks, grandma."

"Ma'am?" started the policeman, entering again.

"It's a cake, dear. A traditional friendship cake. Take proper notes, now, young man, I hate repeating myself, you know. Good penmanship!"

"Yes, ma'am," he replied, grinning from ear to ear.

Hildegaard's head slumped back down.

"You call that posture? You'll ruin your back, dear."

She waved one hand lazily in the air, then allowed it to flop back down on her tangled hair, head down, nose to table.

"So we, of course, looked into renting a boat."

Hildegaard didn't even bother asking.

"And you can't just have any boat for a Viking funeral, as I'm sure you are aware."

"A boat. For a funeral. Grandma, really."

"Hush, dear. So we called up Louisa's grandson again, and he was so sweet, oh, just so sweet! He ordered us on the bay a nice krigsfartyg! It was perfect! It even had a mermaid carved into the front--sent us pictures on Louisa's little phone thingumabob!"

"I'll ask before smiley comes back in--a krigsfartyg?"

"A boat, dear. Do you know none of the mother tongue?"

"You've been in the U.S. since you were two, grandma. Speak in English, for god's sake! We may get out of here before--" She glanced at her watch, then sighed. "Never mind." She placed her head gently back on the table.


"Yes, dear. Taking very legible notes, yes?"

"Yes, ma'am. So we're to understand you purchased a boat--from which bay? The Chesapeake? The Hudson?"

"No, no, dear, it was another thing on the intranets, had a vowel? Oh, now I feel like Vanna! Is she still on the television, dear? Vanna White?"

"Do you mind?" the young policeman asked, gesturing toward the other empty chair at the table.

"Oh, and so polite! Hildie, dear, you could do to date someone so respectful and dashing."

"Listen, Smiley," she said, raising her head and glared at the officer. "We done here? Some of us have to work in a few hours."

"Just a few more details, ma'am. This is officially a crime investigation. You can never be to careful."

"Ibay? Obay?"

Hildegaard sighed. "Ebay, grandma?"

She shook her head. "I don't think so... But anyhow, it was very nice. He even had it 'rushed' to get it in three days! Such a sweet boy." She turned her aging head toward the policeman. "Such a nice young man."

"Please, ma'am, go on."


"This ridiculous story, grandma."

"Oh, yes, yes. The krigsfartyg. Well, it arrived--on a tractor, if you can believe that! We were all there on Gladys's patio when they delivered it. We wanted them to take it right down to the water, mind you--"

"So, you were at the river?"

"Don't rush me, young man."


Hildegaard rolled her eyes. "Grandma--"

"Dear, enough with the attitude. You'll never land a husband being so hostile all the time. Am I not right, officer?"

He shifted in his seat, stifling giggles once more.

"Now, the delivery man said he wasn't licensed to do that--you know, take it to the water for us, and the funeral home gentleman said he wouldn't deliver the body to the river either! Well, I was in a huff, and poor Gladys was fit to be tied! But then Louisa remembered she had another grandson with a pick-up truck! So soon we were on our way!"

"Do you know the names of these grandsons?"

"Oh, dear, I... Well, officer, I would hate for them to get into trouble on our behalf, but..."

"I can get you Louisa's phone number, officer," Hildegaard offered.

Her grandmother huffed at that. "Well... So, we all piled in, stopped by the funeral parlor to claim Sven, much to the funeral personnel's dismay, mind you, and headed off toward the river.

"Well, let me tell you, never was there a prettier sight! Gladys had brought some lovely flowers, as did I, and Hazel and Louisa had some old blankets! With her boy's help, we managed to get the boat on the water and arranged Sven just so...

"He looked so peaceful..." She trailed off.

Hildegaard watched as Smiley proffered a tissue. "Grandma?"

"Yes, dear," she sniffed, wiping the tears from her eyes.

"Not to seem insensitive, but... Well, it is two in the morning, and..."

"That late! Well, you don't say! My, my, my. Well," she sniffed once more, "as I said, Gladys was always afraid of fire."

"You covered that already," Hildegaard snapped.

"Young lady! I've half a mind to take you over my knee and slap you on the tubbenburbles!"


"Buttocks, young man. Pardon my language." She gave a baleful glare to her granddaughter.

The walls and closed door did nothing to dampen the laughter from the outside hallway, and even officer Smiley couldn't hold back the giggles. Hildegaard sighed, this time in defeat.

"So I did it. I lit the match, and as we watched, Sven went to be with the good Lord, just as the sun was setting on the horizon. The boat caught the current, and before we knew it, it was all ablaze and drifting off around the bend..." Her eyes drifted away, her gaze in her mind's eye, watching Sven once more.

"So, to clarify, ma'am, you were down at the river last night?"

"For Sven Holmstrom-Lagerstrom."

Previous Challenges I have answered:


Marian said...

love it, LOVE it. LOVE. LOVE!
also, uttering the word "buttocks" around here results in peals of laughter, too.

The Drama Mama said...

Yes. I love this. Wow, what a great story. Don't the Vikings have the best words? Almost as much fun as making up your own language. ;)

Carrie said...

this was a very entertaining story! What a delightful Grandma :)

Small critique: at the very beginning, Hildegarde calls her Grandma sweetie. That doesn't seem realistic. Would a grandchild refer to her grandmother that way?

And the grandmother's use of sweetie to the police office seems inappropriate as well. I could see her calling him dear, but not sweetie.

Regardless, a really fun read

R.L.W. said...

Very creative and fun to read! Excellent work.

Amy LaBonte said...

OMG, I loved this story. Thanks for a great time!

Amanda said...

How fun and creative. I love it.

Tara R. said...

I LOVED IT! Your dialog between the characters was perfect, the voice of the grandmother and granddaughter was very realistic.

Cedar said...

Jason, you had me giggling… lovely, as always. So much fun!

Karla said...

You are a master at dialogue, truly! Your characters each have such unique voices and are so rich in depth and complexity. A wonderful read!

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