Friday, July 6, 2012

The Devil in Jutland (i)

This is a story I wrote a few years back.  We can consider this, as these things go, as a B side:

    The Devil in Jutland      

           “How can you say the Devil does not exist, after this?”
            The words caught in Soren Christensen’s throat before they fell out and hit the floor like leaden weights.
            A large wooden cross hung on the wall; to its sides, a stained glass window, sparsely adorned with scenes from the Gospels, let in a trickle of dim light.  Soren Christensen could barely see the closed coffins of his wife, his son, and his daughter through the haze of his grief and the failing light; his hands were shaking and he pressed them and pressed them, but felt no sensation, either of pain or strain.
            He said these words, but at no more than a whisper.  To say more would have been in direct contradiction to his entire life’s work.  But even the evidence of his eyes was a contradiction to his theology.  
           His wife, his son, and his daughter were in coffins.  They were all small.   She was a woman who would be called petite anywhere else, but on this stretch of the Danish coast facing the fierce gales and waves of the North Sea she was a common physiological type: small-boned, light women, with slim waists, elevated cheekbones and deep set eyes, as if from Tartar blood.  But they were not swarthy --  no, quite the contrary: their hair was so blond it was nearly white, and the eyelashes, so bleached and fine they blended seamlessly with pale skin.  His children, Rasmus and Maria, were duplicates of Katrina, his wife: diminutive angels swaddled in white and adorned in death by soft, blond halos.
            Soren Christensen was a dark man.  He had brown hair, which he parted down the middle, a waxed moustache, and nut-colored skin, which turned a deeper shade of mahogany when the cold north sun turned, by degrees, brighter, and suddenly produced summer in this land, spreading white light so intense it had the luminous glow of heaven.   
           And Soren Christensen was large: broad in the shoulders, square in the jaw,  his immensity  supported by thick, wide-set legs.  His hands were round, powerful, and forcefully appealing.  When he held a pen in his hand, the puny instrument was dwarfed by his massive digits, as if he was manipulating a child’s toy.  But all that awesome energy was kept in reserve.  He was gentle, affable, and soft-spoken.   
           His theological work involved him in no small amount of debate, but he was never known to raise his voice.  His great body was the only marker of force that he required.  It was also his greatest trump card: a visible symbol of his absolute surrender to Christ.  Soren Christensen was a man who, if he had not laid down his life to the Lamb of God, would have been a powerful, violent drunkard, a brutal womanizer, a capricious and quarrelsome man eager to enter a simply fight because he was all but assured he would win it.  His appetites would have ruled him.  But that was not his fate.  He had harnessed all his vast energies for God, and he worked ceaselessly and without rest for the glorification of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost -- the latter of which he likened to a fire that saved men’s souls.

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