Not him nor him.
I watch them all. The way they giggle at their own jokes.
Baron was so patronizing. As I am his brother, he was hoping for me to support his cheesy chieftain strategy. You can never tell who would fall for this.
Not him. Nor.
Dan. Dan did. Short for Dalmatian, not for Danny. Wore a beard as he would have a jewel. As he would have a bird should he be a pirate. Me happy. Me meeting Dan happy. Baron didn’t like Dan much. He said ‘Dan has got mandibles. He is an ant to me. The ant-christ. An ant with a Chi Ro on his head’. Baron had a lot of prejudices regarding people from Dalmatia. Some prejudices can be very specific, geographically specific I mean. Anyways, I liked Dan. So when Baron decided him off (I say decided because there is nothing Baron does not decide) it was because he was too servile, which was precisely how he was expecting us to be, I had a loyalty dilemma.
To my ears, dilemma sounds like chimera. Do Dalmatians have chimeras?
Dan didn’t wake up this morning. I checked on his legs, their rigidity. Their plasticity. Was alive as far as I could tell. I shouted Dan a few times but there he was. Impaled to his bed. Comatose. Silenced. Off. I rushed into Baron’s tent. ‘What did you do?’ Oh did I shriek as if a devil was creeping up my thighs. Didn't matter. Dan is still off.
Baron wanted him off and now he his. Baron swears he has nothing to do with it. That Dan was old, end of story. But I still find the coincidence suspicious.
I like how Dan breathes. Find it comforting. Rythm like a bell never allowed to stop dancing, hanging, banging.
So many people sleeping. So many things to plunder. The shelf is full of books. All of them dull. Now that Dan is off, we cannot afford to rob big. We rob little. Little demeures. Little small-town libraries and such. Dull. Without Dan, we are ants to me. Ants sans their bearded Christ. I thought that silence would be thicker. I was chosen to watch, tonight. I watch them all. And Baron dances before them, ghost without a chain, ballet dancer who knows the art of jumping but forgot how to fall. He’s playing boo and I watch the team. Not him nor him. And I put marks on their shaggy heads. 12 to Rock, with his badly balanced hips. 14 to Berndt. 33 to Matis. I like them all, but none of them is Dan. We are a Heavy Metal band without a drummer.
Baron comes to Dan’s room early. He holds flowers, tired flowers, treacherous-looking like a bunch of mushrooms growing in treacherous circles. ‘Treacherous bitch’ I scream. His eyes are red like he had too much of it. I scream ‘treacherous bitch’ and he hurls the flowers at me and I find it all so weird, him being him and me being me and us being a band of scoundrels, misfits, highway malefactors and casting curses and flowers at each other.
I don’t know when Baron decided to fall in love with Dan. I say decided because there is nothing Baron does not decide. Was it before I let myself be fed by the idea that I was?
How can these things be solved?
I smell blood, constantly, like a frigging perfumed toilet sanitizer. Thinking of Baron. Thinking of Baron telling me he hated Dan in order to keep Dan for himself. And what about Dan? Was he, from the beginning…was he servile because… I cannot think that way. Cannot.
Berndt went to another town. Sold all the books. Rendering Dull into Dullness. Came back with coal.
Dan’s body is so cold and I cannot even think of warming it.
It is winter.
My mouth tastes like blood. Still. Dry blood from a crippled dog, gutted flat.
This morning, Baron talked about taking care of Dan’s body. He said, ‘I thought in the car. Nobody sleeps there anymore, since the twins left.’ I quivered like the Tannenbaum in the song. Was it a tree? A cat? Baron said, ‘We can pile up all the blankets.’ And so we did.
* * *
Dan has been off for three weeks now.
I have never ventured so far from the lair.
I have reached the third town after the third town.
The adults look bigger here. They watch me come, smile, sometimes pet my hair. So many of them. Every single one is on. The off thing didn’t reach the neighbourhood. That’s why they are so nice and polite.
At a gas station, a woman wearing golden brown pupils like jewels asks me, ‘Where is your family?’ That’s the question, isn’t it? I’ve lost it. Lost Baron. The other guys. Lost them all. Because of Dan. Because.
‘I lost my family because I fell in love,’ I answer.
She smiles. Her teeth like witch nails.
‘Didn’t we all’ she says.
Short Story // Growing Up
Iuvan is a European writer, poet, translator and radio artist who has lived in Africa, Scandinavia, France, China, Belgium and a few islands in the Pacific before settling in Germany. Iuvan’s work has so far been published only in French and has been labelled as weird, slipstream, science-fiction or plain crazy. Iuvan’s work has been shortlisted for the following awards: Prix Merlin, Bob Morane, Mary Shelley, Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire and the Prix Littéraire des Lycéens.
Of the motivation behind the writing and the short story included here, Iuvan says:
‘As a teenager, I remember being lazy, exhausted. Slowing walking in bands, from tree to tree, on long beaches. Starting fights without cause. No Future was my moto. I lived in anguish but knew no fear. The teenagers I meet today strike me as dedicated, politically conscious, energetic and accountable. They walk ahead, while all I wanted to do was get off the train and sleep. I often wonder what it is like to grow up today. Not being cared for so much as being the new appointed caretakers. Knowing the world is inflammable. The acute sensation that there is a future. A fearful one. That’s how I came up with this Peter Pan pack on acid, reluctant actors of a drama where all main characters would have fallen asleep. A political fable about adult apathy and child vigour. My own claustrophobic and frenetically paced Soylent Green. A friend of mine fled Vietnam as an infant. By boat. Once in Europe, her family crumbled apart. Being the only one knowing French at home, she took care of papers, rent, school and hospital matters. I don’t mind, she said to me. My parents are both very young souls. I am the old one. I may be living my last incarnation, you know? Some of the children today may be as heroically serene as my friend. Most of them, I believe, are frenetically heroic.'