Jon sat next to the Queen’s chair. His book opened near to the middle. A small stain, the shape of a fingerprint at the bottom corner of the right hand page. A smudge of fading brown that could have been dried blood from a pricked finger. The room was full, there were more new faces sitting in the places where recent friends sat not long ago. He cleared his throat and spoke.
“Today we’ll learn about one of the most famous battles in Iceland. Snorri wasn’t there. He was in Norway. He fled the country when things started to heat up. I’m not saying he was a coward but he wasn’t a big fan of putting himself in harm’s way, where he might lose an arm or a leg or maybe even a head.”
Jon coughed and took a drink of water. His voice continued to fail him. He passed his book to Rudy, pointing with a crooked finger where he was to begin reading. The room was full, Jon was disheartened that he was not able to continue the talk himself. Just the same, the story would be told.
“The Battle of Orlygsstadir,” Rudy Wernbacher announced.
Jon sat back, his mind drifting, imagining the cold rocky plain of the farmstead at Orlygsstadir in the north of Iceland, long and flat between distant snow covered peaks, the low rumble of a faraway volcano, perhaps preparing to come to life.
Rudy finished reading the chapter.
“Quite a bit of violent action there,” Rudy said. “You have a way with gruesome storytelling. I think a couple of the old ladies might be put off.”
Jon’s distant daydream stare melted slowly as he returned from his reverie. One by one each face in the Sunroom cleared before him. Some faces familiar, some not.
“I think that’s all we can handle for today,” Rudy said.
“Lunch,” a chicken like voice cackled from the far side of the room.
People rose slowly from their seats and made their way to the door on cue, as if commanded.
There was a new face sitting in the chair that was usually occupied by Mrs. Remple. Tucked beneath the chair was the wicker knitting basket with the ball of pink yarn, an unfinished scarf and pair of long white knitting needles.
“Sometimes it’s hard to believe,” Jon mumbled.
“What’s that?” Rudy asked. “Believe what?”
Jon turned his head slowly to Rudy. The face morphed, blended like it was molded and reshaped from the old Snorri into his friend Rudy Wernbacher.
“You’re not Snorri,” Jon said.
“No,” Rudy shrugged.
“I thought you were Snorri.”
“From your book? I’ll never be famous like that guy. Quite a character.”
“My 19th great grandfather.” Jon’s eyes were wide. “Like he was just here or I was there.”
A shaft of sunlight crossed through the room projecting the shadow of the tall Swedish Aspen from the garden onto the large flat screen TV. The shape danced slowly in the soft breeze.
“It’s time for lunch,” Rudy said.
“Mrs. Remple forgot her knitting,” Jon said.
Rudy helped Jon stand. “That must have been some battle eh?”
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