were allowed to stay up longer and watch a movie, but at 11:00 Dad said it was time for us to go to bed.
At first we could hear them shouting at each other. But then it grew quiet. We lay in the dark along each wall.
âMorten, I whispered.
He didnât respond.
âAre you asleep?
Then I heard him crying; it was hollow and dry, as if he was trying to hide it. For a while I just lay there, waiting.
âIâm not interested in Rose, I said. If you want her, sheâs yours.
He kept going. It sounded like he could neither cry nor quit. I climbed from the bed and crawled over to him. When I lay down I got his elbow in my stomach. I caught my breath, then crawled back to my own bed.
C arl and Sonja huddle together around the small table. The kitchen is warm, and it smells of fresh coffee and toast. Carl sips his coffee; Sonja has drunk most of hers.
âWhat time do you need to be there? she asks.
â11:00, he says.
She rises and picks up the coffee pot.
She pours coffee for herself, and he reaches for a piece of toast.
âAre you sure you donât want me to come with you? she asks, returning to her seat.
âIâd rather go alone, he says. He coats his toast with orange marmalade.
She opens her calendar and finds the day: January 11, 1994.
âI had the same dream last night, Carl says.
She looks up.
He immediately regrets having told her about it.
âIt bothers me, she says. I donât like the fact that youâre going by yourself.
âItâll be all right, he says. Iâm not nervous.
He lays his hand on hers. She looks at him. Her eyes seem larger.
âAre you sure? she asks.
âYes, he says. Iâm positive.
W hen Sonja has gone, Carl carries the newspaper upstairs. He lays his bathrobe over the armrest on the blue chair and crawls under the still half-warm duvet. He begins to read. He skims the news, glances at the TV program, and picks up the culture section. Thereâs an article about Rembrandt that captures his attention. Chiaroscuro . He chews on the word a bit.
After reading the article, he rises from the bed and goes into Sonjaâs den. He pulls the encyclopedia volume that covers Q to Sve from the shelf, and returns to the bedroom. He reads the entry about Rembrandt. It lists a number of his masterpieces; the year in which they were painted is written in parentheses, along with their current location: Stockholm, Dresden, Haag, or Amsterdam. Carl regrets never having made the time to visit any of the museums named. As a young man heâd often gone to Rotterdam, and from there it would have only been an hour and a half by train to Amsterdam. Today itâd no doubt be even faster.
Carl looks at the painting that is reproduced in the encyclopedia. Its title is written in small letters under the black and white print: Jacob Blessing the Sons of Joseph . The painting shows an old, long-bearded man wearing a little headdress; he sits halfway up in bed extending his hand. Two small boys stand at the side of the bed; one is blond, the other dark. The old man gently touches the blond childâs head. The childrenâs parents stand behind them.
It occurs to him that even though the motif is sad, the scene is depicted with a tenderness reminiscent of happiness. Maybe it is because Jacob has lived so well and so long, so long that he can barely get up from the bed, so long that he has had grandchildren. Maybe also because the pillow that awaits Jacobâs head looks so pristinely white. Carlâs eyes rest on the pillow, then travel across the gray nuances in the paintingâs middle section to the motherâs face and neck. From here they move toward the center, toward Joseph. His expression is gentle, sad, his eyes are looking down, possibly in the direction of the children; he stands near the bed, so close that it looks as though Jacob rests his forehead against