The Atom Station

The Atom Station by Halldór Laxness Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: The Atom Station by Halldór Laxness Read Free Book Online
Authors: Halldór Laxness
friends who never spurned a carelessly locked door or a back window off the hook at night,” said the organist. “By constant night-vigils for two years, and all the diligence and conscientiousness it is possible to apply to one’s work, they managed to scrape together a sum equivalent to half a year’s pay for a dustman. Then they spent another two years in jail; eight man-years’ work, all told. If such people are dangerous, then at least they are a danger to no one but themselves. I am rather afraid that my friend Bui Arland and the others in F.F.F. would think that a poor return over eight years.”
    â€œBut yet his son goes out and steals fifty minks,” said the unself-conscious policeman.
    â€œMy God!” I said. “Bui Arland’s son!”
    They noticed me than for the first time, and the organist came over to me and greeted me, and the two men introduced themselves; one of them was a cheery, broad-beamed man, the other a serious young man with hot eyes that peered at you stealthily. The police had got wind that little Thord Arland, the one called Bobo, and a friend of his, had stolen these fifty beasts; they had slaughtered some of them down by Ellid River, but the rest had escaped.
    â€œWhen the good children of better people go out in the evenings before bedtime,” said the organist, “and steal fifty minks to amuse themselves, or a few crates of spare parts for mechanical excavators, or the telephone wires to Mosfell District, that is just as logical a reaction against their environment as the actions of my two friends—and just as innocent. It is impossible to escape the fact that an object which lies in salt water will absorb salt. The thievery that really matters, on the other hand, takes place elsewhere. You asked whether I wanted to have everything in the country stolen; now I shall tell you a secret: everything in the country is being stolen. And soon the country itself will be stolen.”
    I was still standing with my gloves on in the middle of the room, gaping.
    â€œWhat will happen to the poor child?” I asked.
    â€œNothing at all, fortunately,” said the organist, and laughed. “Unless of course the Chief of Police phones up his daddy and they chat about the younger generation for a while and laugh and then fix up the next bridge night.”
    â€œWorse luck,” said the unself-conscious policeman. “Brats like that should be publicly thrashed at Austurvoll.” *
    The organist laughed, amiably and sympathetically, but thought this observation too naive to answer.
    Then the self-conscious policeman uttered his first words and addressed his colleague: “Have I not often told you that they indoctrinate you with whatever sense of justice it suits them best for you to have? You have a petit-bourgeois sense of justice.”
    I was going to say something more, but the organist came over to me and put his arm round me and walked me out of the kitchen into the living room, closed the door behind us, and made me sit down at the harmonium.
    When the half hour was up and the organist opened the door to the kitchen again, the self-conscious policeman was still sitting there reading a book, but the unself-conscious one had gone away home.
    â€œI’m sorry,” he said. “I couldn’t be bothered going home to my suitcase. But now I’m on my way.”
    His teeth were whole, and when he smiled he looked positively childlike, but before you knew it he started frowning again and began to peer at everything in that stealthy way that makes a girl say to herself and mean perhaps something rather special: “He’s different from the others.” But yet somehow I had the impression that I knew him. Did he know me?
    â€œStay as long as you like,” said the organist. “I’m going to make some more coffee now.”
    â€œNo more coffee for the time being,” said the self-conscious policeman.

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