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Searching – A Serial Novelle Chapter 22: “For whatever might come”

By Patrick Cabello Hansel

By the time they reached Ingebretsen’s there was a line out the store, down the block in front of the poster collective and La Que Buena, all the way around the corner on 17th. Angel’s Mom and Dad decided to go to the Mercado Central rather than wait in line, but Angel and Luz were curious to see what this great fuss was about.

When they got to the end of the line, they stood behind an elderly couple, holding hands and smiling. The woman nodded at them and said something that sounded to Angel like “Lotten barn in”. There was that word again: lotten. He had heard it from the strange man in the park; the waitress at Maria’s had told him it meant “Let”. Let the barn in?” Angel thought. What is that supposed to mean?

The woman noticed the perplexed look on Angel’s face and said, “Don’t worry; it’s an old Santa Lucia day blessing. You two do know it’s Santa Lucia Day, don’t you?”

“Yes!” Luz said, “That’s why we’re here! But what are all these people doing in line?” she asked.

“Buying lutefisk, my dear”, the older gentleman said.

“Lutefisk?” Angel said. “What is lutefisk?” He was beginning to tire from so many foreign words.

And then the eyes of all in line turned upon our happy couple, and as with one voice, shouted. “Lutefisk!” Luz thought it sounded like a shout to greet a king, Angel believed it to be a spell to cast out ancient diseases. And then the voices separated, but kept shouting:

“Lutefisk! The food of the gods!”

“Lutefisk! The curse of the Swedes!”

“Lutefisk! The mother of all fishes!”

“Lutefisk! My father’s dying wish!”

A man standing ahead of the elderly couple said, “You know, my uncle Sven kept his lutefisk in the trunk, in case he got stuck in the snow.”

His friend, a man tall enough to be a giant said, “You mean, to eat it and stay alive?”

“No!” the first man shouted. “To put under his tires and slide away!”

Another man chimed in. “You know Ole kept his lutefisk in the outhouse.”

“Yeah,” said another, “until Lena complained about the smell!”

And up and down the line it went. Ole this, Lena that, Sven too. One joke after another. Till it seemed that the whole world had been populated, not by Adam and Eve, but by Ole and Lena, shoving cod fish into barrels of lye in the mother country*.

After about a half hour, a burly man in a white apron came out and shouted, “This is the line for lutefisk only. If you’re not buying lutefisk, you can follow me.”

So Angel and Luz left the cold cod line and entered the warmth of Scandinavia. They saw little Santas and elves and angels, with the words “God Jul” everywhere. Here we go again, Angel thought. I know what God is, but Jul? Jewel, like a diamond or emerald?

It seemed like the lady in a Norwegian sweater read his thoughts. “’Jul’ means ‘Yule’ in English” she said, and when she saw that that didn’t make sense to the two young Mexicanos, she said “Jule is another word for Christmas, so God Jul is our way of saying Merry Christmas.”

Whew! thought Angel. For once, something that just means what it says!

“We want to celebrate Santa Lucia”, Luz said. “But we’re not really sure what to buy, and we don’t have a lot of money. What would you suggest?”

“How about some nice Swedish cookies”, she said, and taking Luz by the arm, steered them around the crowd to the cookie display.

Angel looked at all the Swedish looking cookies: ginger thins and orange thins, till his eye landed upon the box at the top, which said “Galletas de avena con coco y chocolate”. Can’t get any more Swedish than that, he thought, laughing.

They bought the cookies and walked down the block to the Mercado Central. Luz ordered a mango shake from La Reyna de los Jugos, and Angel a champurrado from La Loma. They sat in silence for awhile, each praying for the other. Luz put her hand on Angel’s.

“You know we’re going to have to search for whoever is after us, don’t you?”

“After us? You mean…”

“Yes, Angel, I’m with you no matter what. Are you afraid of what’s coming?”

“No. Yes. I mean with you I’m less afraid. And you?”

“The same”, she said. “After all, I have my Angel with me.” She smiled, reached out and grabbed Angel’s nose and playfully twisted it.”

“And I have my Luz. My Santa Lucia, my light”, Angel said, reaching out to play with Luz’ nose as well.

And if the busy Christmas shoppers watched at all, they would have seen two young lovers, who had never made love, had barely kissed, but now held each other dearly by the nose. For better or for worse. For whatever might come.

* For a more complete rendering of Ole and Lena jokes, see “Uncle Wayne” @ St. Paul’s. Viewer discretion is advised.

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