A Brief History of The Viking Conquest of America
Big Ole walked across the sea from Norway to Newfoundland, said Father, on stilts of glass, on legs hacked from a forest of ice-trees. He left behind a fat wife with a face scorched and dull as an old copper pot, a herd of ramshackle goats, and a bevy of children who would not shut their pie-holes. Halfway across the sea he met Harald the Mad, who was headed back the other way with his bride atop his head. The bridal veil gathered bluefins in its mesh, and two virginal blonde braids skimmed the foamy swells.
(Father was a beekeeper. What else?)
Older Brother took a comb and made one clean part down the center of his skull. Stinking of Brylcreem and Flor Finas, he glad-handed his way through the Great Depression, all slow plaid and fresh prairie armpit. He spent his off hours knee deep in mud, flinging his coat over a mudpuddle that stretched from Embarrass to Bad Axe. And they came, they came! In gingham and starched white bonnets, in smart skirt sets with silky jabots, in calico, in galoshes, in panniers, with spit curls peeking from beneath pilot caps, eyelashes flicking the eye side of snug goggles, tethered to the wings of biplanes, their striped scarves flowing straight out behind them. On horseback, on tandem bicycles, on penny-farthings, dangling from ornithopters they came, in Model Ts, Groucho riding shotgun, Harpo in the boot. The cinema! Dizzy with the contraptionariness of it all, Older Brother rolled up his shirtsleeves, married and divorced a librarian named Marian, and rolled up a cornfield behind him.
Big Ole lifted his brass-banded foot from the sea and planted it deep into the white rocky shores of Newfoundland. He shook off the sea and began walking. Once he arrived in a forest clearing, he rubbed a stick and a piece of flint together and produced a blue flame. The flame leapt into the air and froze solid. Big Ole rubbed a stick and a piece of flint together and produced another blue flame. This flame too leapt into the air and froze solid. Big Ole sat on a tree stump and wept, and each tear froze to a deep, coruscating blue. In just over an hour Big Ole had produced enough frozen blue flames and frozen blue tears to craft a glorious blue chandelier. He hung it in the sky over the Upper Peninsula. His heart flopped like a fish.
We traded in the coach-and-four for a souped-up jalopy loaded down with what we'd managed to save from the rains and strapped the beehives to the roof, and headed south along the Hall of Fame corridor. Younger Brother's pants legs, instead of growing longer, grew shorter. We roared through the shantytowns of the Great Plains inside a dust cocoon with Father's screaming head sticking out the top. We followed an army of bible salesmen at a safe distance through towns made entirely of churches. Churches made of dust, and alley glass, and pointing fingers. The locals held town council meetings during which it was unanimously decided to let the village idiots settle the score. Within the month Father's name was on the lips of every bounty hunter and lynch mob from Skedonk Junction to Hell, Michigan.
Big Ole walked the frozen river west along a path of whalebacks, said Father. He cracked the whalebacks open and dug out their blond bones. Snugging down into a blowhole with only a reindeer hide and a Bowie knife, Big Ole whittled the bones into a sixty-piece set of baroque-handled flatware complete with soup ladle, kugel server, four tiny fish forks and a cheese cleaver. He laid the whale meat out on his tongue to thaw. In the lumber camps of Quebec, a lumberjack whistled while honing his axe blade. The whistle froze solid and floated off into a starless sky.
We hitched a covered wagon to the back of the jalopy and hitched the jalopy to a low-hanging star. We looted our way through the Eisenhower administration, leaving behind us a black road that couldn't catch up, a curling ribbon of smoke. Our faces stared out at us from wanted posters, but we had long since traded those faces in for longer, leaner ones. Outside the township of Welcome we came to the place where the old wooden coasters went to die, their curved tracks undulating like the backs of sea serpents from a black sea of parking lots. We took off our hats and held them to our hearts. There was nowhere left to park.
Big Ole hibernated for a year and a day inside the whale's carcass. He dreamed the dead whale's dreams instead of his own. He slept right through the April thaw and the whale carcass floated downstream, disintegrating bit by bit until Big Ole found himself in a shallows floating on his back, looking with one eye straight up into the nostrils of a flaming blue ox.
The Battle of Timber Town
The blue ox opened its mouth and yawned a mighty yawn, said Father, and the song of Timber Town leapt from its throat, surprising Big Ole with its plaintive mewl. But Big Ole had places to go, and people to see. He flicked the big ox in the center of its glowing eye and the creature shattered, instantly and irreversibly, into one million pieces of blue glass, save for its mighty head, which Big Ole instantly appropriated, using it to replace his own. You could never tell when having an ox head might come in handy.
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