Monday, 7 October 2019

ALS: 'Duivel'


Earlier I always used to bake my own bread, every day. Flour, yeast, salt, lukewarm water. Suddenly I stopped doing so, I don’t know why. This week, twenty years later, I’ve started again, I hadn’t lost the knack. As I was taking it out of the oven, a man was standing next to me who I hadn’t heard come in. He said: ‘I can smell bread.’ It was a man I vaguely knew, a tramp. I said: ‘You came in without knocking. I’m not at all keen on that.’ He said: ‘I did knock. You didn’t react.’ I said: ‘That’s precisely why you should have stayed outside. I would have talked to you on the doorstep, as I am afraid you are the devil.’ You make me think of Nicolo Paganini.’ The man said: ‘Never heard of him.’ I said: ‘He was a virtuoso violinist and composer. Nobody could play like he did. For that reason people thought he must be a sorcerer. After he died he couldn’t be buried, no town had a licence to bury anyone who had made a pact with the devil. Everyone was afraid of him. His son spent decades hawking his embalmed corpse around with him.’ I was aware that I was offending against the rules of hospitality, but the bread was still too hot and there was nothing else edible in the house either. Fortunately, I was helped by the unexpected arrival of my granddaughter. She was putting her bike down as I let the tramp out. She’s very good at dancing, she’s got a Brazilian mother. I asked her if she could dance a little for the gentleman. She did so, quite unabashed, exceptionally well. The tramp too seemed satisfied.

To hear him read the story in Dutch, go to:

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