The following short story was inspired by a poetry prompt. Last month in our third Thursday group meeting, we were given a suggestion to write a poem in a different dialect. After spending six months in Fargo, North Dakota, and listening to A Prairie Home Companion for years, the North Dakota Norwegian way of speaking came to mind. What started as a poem turned into flash fiction. Click this link to hear me read it.
WHEN TWO NORTH DAKOTA NORWEGIANS WATER COLOR
In their retirement, Nils and Astrid spent a lot of time painting since their children were grown and scattered across the country. They took art classes at the senior center in Fargo and worked on their assignments together at home. Their love of painting didn’t keep them from bickering, but they always made up.
That June day in 2015 was no different. They were sitting in their back yard. The early morning sun shone in a cloudless sky. Birds sang, and the flower bushes’ scent wafted across the lawn. As Nils dipped his brush into the small container of red paint a little too vigorously, it splattered onto the white picnic table. “ufta, oh darn,” he said.
His wife looked up and frowned at the splotch of red against white. “Well then, you spilled it, you clean it up.”
“So how come you’re so cranky then?”
“Cranky, I’m not cranky. I’m not the one who spilled the paint.”
“Yes you are. You’re cranky because I dripped a little red paint on your nice white table.”
“Who says I’m cranky? I’m not. So clean up that paint then.”
“You are cranky. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be so mad about me spilling the paint then.”
“Oh shut up then about that paint and clean it up already.”
“Why should I? You made me spill it then.”
“I did no such thing then.”
“Yes you did. You distracted me.”
“Oh ufta tufta, you poor thing. You can’t multi-task so you blame me then.”
“Yeah, so if you’re gonna be so gung ho about it, you can clean it up.”
“Me, I didn’t spill the paint. You did.”
“Yeah, but you made me spill it.”
“Did not, but just to shut you up, I’ll…” In her haste to pull herself off the picnic bench, she knocked over the small container of water between them. “Oh ufta tufta, look what you made me do. Now, we got a real mess on our hands, thanks to you.”
“Me, you’re the one who knocked over the water.”
“Yeah, well, you distracted me then.”
“Well, now you know how I felt when you distracted me, and I spilled the paint so let’s just get some paper towels and clean this mess up together, huh?” Nils stood, turned, and embraced his wife. She relaxed, and a moment later, they kissed.
Author Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver
That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
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