Friday, January 22, 2016

Go with the Floe 

A polar bear
a nurse
and a silver-haired busboy  
drift by the Reykjavik city lights tonight 
on a cold but cozy ice floe. 

"So, let's go around in a circle," says
the polar bear. "Would you care to go first?" 
he asks the nurse.

"I'm a nurse for a hip replacement surgeon
in Ghent, Belgium. So many hips every
week, it's all I do, and it gets so redundant.
I begin to feel replaceable myself. I dreamed,
as a girl, in my dreamy moonlit hopeful bed
of becoming a doctor, but I let myself get talked
out of my dream by uncles, grandfathers, professionals 
and Father. Men. No offense - you guys. So, I drink."

The polar bear thanks her; they look to the busboy. 

"My parents legally changed my name to IDIOT 
after I reached the second grade. Can you imagine?
It's hard to apply for work, or say my name anywhere.
I think this is why I still bus tables. One kind woman
decades ago hired me in pity, but I can't move up to waiter.
Think of it - 
Good evening, I'll be your server this evening, 
my name is Idiot! Care for a cocktail?
I brought this up to my mother in high school
but she only backhand-slapped me. Then father
slapped me back the other direction. My face, like
a hinge! So, I began to drink. From school days until
a couple of years ago."

"Uff, all those brain cells!" says the nurse. "Good thing 
you're so smart. And I can see that you are." 

"Thank you. And you?" says the busboy to the bear. 

"I was OK up north, I liked the overall atmosphere,
the bold blue and white tone of it all, and, of course, that," 
says the polar bear, pointing at the Northern Lights
above them. "I was alright with the lonely nature of it,
they called me the 'gregarious loner.' But then … it all melted,
and the gregarious side of my nature went south.
So, I was hurt. And I drank." 

The eyes of the nurse and the busboy look thoughtful
about the polar bear's story as they enjoy the impressionist
painting the Northern Lights and the lights of Reykjavik
have made together in the waters they're floating on.
The polar bear has impressed them, too. The nurse says,

"You are quite fluent. How did you achieve this?"

"It took time. Berlitz tapes. It was slow, getting
those tapes to our tiny, frozen post office!"

Heavy chunks of dark brown timber floating in the sea
bump into the floe, it startles everyone, but a light bulb
goes ON over the busboy's head. 

Meanwhile, the polar bear and the nurse gaze 
into the Northern Lights, the bear pointing out
various highlights, with a paw. Then, getting sleepy
they lay down on the ice, hugging themselves,
huddling in awe under the green sky. They are COLD.

While the busboy works under his light bulb.

He has hauled the timber aboard the ice, chopped
the bark off with the ice shards he's chopped
from the floe, and now again he chops
delicate yellow ruffles of wood he drops
one by one
into the ragged rough canoe he's made of the bark.
He lights the ruffles with dry matches from his decades
long employer - The Pewter Cup - and, FIRE!

The polar bear's black eyes open in white fur, he
nudges the nurse; they look down between their feet.
FIRE! Getting hotter, higher

The busboy stands behind the flames, smiling
silver hair shining. The bear and the nurse crawl
to the fire, hands and paws playing in the warmth.

"Well, I don't know how the hell we all got here,
how we met on an ice floe," says the nurse, "but
I'm awfully glad we met!"

"I am very glad," says the busboy, sitting down
by the fire.

"Where were we?" asks the polar bear. "Shall we
go on? It's a long way to dawn."

"May I say something, before we go on?" says
the busboy. He points across the water to Reykjavik.
"Over there, the University of Iceland Medical School."

The bear and the busboy smile at the nurse
sitting around the red fire on ice floating
under the shimmering green sky.

"How the hell, indeed," the polar bear roars out
(literally) loud laughter. "But who the hell cares?!" 

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