Luna's Dance

Luna belongs to Rowling. The story itself should, if fair is fair, belong to Stefan Sundström who wrote it before me, but about another girl and another village (and with less pizza). This is really some kind of testament from mine side about my own home village and those who still live there, but that doesn't really matter. This is about Luna, and she is herself wherever she is.

The evening was young. The air was cold but clear. Yellow and orange maple leaves were accumulating in the street outside the large, slightly dirty window. Autumn was on its way. The man behind the counter was mixing pizza-dough, for the third time this day reflecting that fate indeed had a curious sense of humour, chasing him from his warm home country in the south to become a pizza-baker here at the rim of the North Pole. But at least, in Sweden he was not likely to be shot due to his political opinions. That was worth the inhuman winters, he thought.

Slowly the pub was getting crowded, or at least less empty. The man behind the counter nodded to the patrons as they entered, one by one or two by two. They were all known customers, many of them as regular as the rain. He poured up a beer for the old man in the neighbour house and muttered a greeting. The man lived alone and visited the pub almost daily for the company. A woman with worn clothes nodded to him and went straight to the slot machines in the corner. She never spent much, and never expected to win, but she enjoyed the short moment of hope the beeping of the machines gave her. The man behind the counter served a bunch of youngsters a beer each and took their pizza orders. They were not legally allowed to drink, but he served them anyway, figuring that they could be allowed a taste of freedom now and then. He never served them more than they could handle, though, and they never pushed it. Then entered a couple well into their fifties, dressed up as if they were going to a posh restaurant and not a small village pizza shack. The man behind the counter straightened his apron and gave them the pizza list with as much of the air of a real restaurant waiter he could muster. They took their time choosing, eyeing the stained piece of paper with serious faces before choosing two of the more expensive alternatives. The lady at the slot machines went over to the old man at the counter to exchange a few polite phrases about the news and the weather.

Pizzas were emerging from the oven, covered with golden molten cheese and smelling of exotic places, at least places more exotic than this small village. Someone had put a coin in the jukebox, making it play one of the latest hits. A couple of members of the local car-driving gang entered, they were around their thirties, wore sweaty t-shirts with their logo of a burning, American car and were already drunk. Bellowing for beer and pizza they sat down at one of the center tables of the pub, noisily telling each other stories about fights and parties and women. The well dressed couple glanced at them with disregard, the youngsters with awe and fright. The women at the counter smiled at them. More people were slowly drifting in from the evening outside. A boy in his twenties with a girl a few years younger, holding hands and sharing a cigarette. A woman in black clothes and red eyes. A tired man, still in his overalls from work. The man behind the counter answered the phone and scribbled down a few notes about the pizzas ordered. He took care to write in Swedish instead of Arabic, both because he needed the practice and because he had learnt many of his customers got nervous from an alphabet they couldn't read, even if only on a pizza-note. He pored up another round of beer for the car-driving gang.

The door opened and the fresh, crisp autumn air entered the room, banishing the smell of cigarettes, sweat and pizzas for just a moment. In the doorway stood a girl, no more than fifteen years old. Her clothes were a strange assembly of orange, bright yellow and green, and she wore a knitted cap made of wool coloured almost luminous violet. Cascades of entangled dirty-blond hair fell over her shoulders. From her ears dangled a pair of radish ear-rings and around her neck, just visible under the orange-green coat, hung a necklace made of corks. Her large blue eyes were curiously taking in the room, her nostrils seemingly doing the same. She took a step forward, closing the door. One of the gang-members eyed her and said something to his mates, earning a roaring laughter. The youngsters also glanced at her curiously. Seemingly unaware of this she approached the counter and slid down on one of the bar-stools. She smiled warmly at the man behind the counter who moved a bit closer to be heard over the noise of the pub.

"Vad kan jag hjälpa dig med?" he asked, noticing that she had not blinked once since she had entered the room. She just shook her head and pointed at her left ear.

"Svenska ej prata," she answered with clear, slightly high-pitched voice.

"Sorry. What can I help you with?" he repeated. "Do you want a pizza" he added, noting how skinny she was. The girl tilted her head to one side, as if regarding him from another angle.

"I can understand what you say now."

"Eh... that is good," he said, waiting for her to continue, but she didn't, so he went on. "You are not from here?"

"I am to here!" she stated simply. He thought it over and smiled at her.

"So am I, I suppose. Are you American?"

"No, I am Luna, and I am from England. I am here with my father and I would very much want something to eat, thank you." He handed her the menu, and the moment after realized it was written in Swedish

"What do you like to have on a pizza, Luna?" he asked instead. The girl frowned thoughtfully.

"I like chocolate bars and trout, or maybe tomato and pepper. Also, scrambled eggs and toast is nice. What do you like the best?"

"Er... we don't have those things. How about ham and mushroom, or maybe just vegetables and cheese?"

"No thank you, the Or-animal lives in cheese, and I wouldn't want to eat that." She was silent for a moment and added. "No, I just want a pizza with tiny bits of chicken, and some tomato on it. And a butter-beer to drink"

Amazed, he scribbled down her order, not noting that he was writing in Arabic.

"What about Coca Cola?"

"Only if there are no bubbles in it. The bubbles go up to your brain, you know. Makes you fuzzy."

In the end, she got a glass of milk. He served her pizza and charged less than he would have done. She paid with a hundred-kronor-note and examined her change curiously. She was not counting it, he noted. She was only studying the coins.

"We are hunting for the Crumple-Horned Snorkack," she said with her mouth full of pizza. "Me and my father. It was sighted not far from here a few years ago. Have you seen it?"

He shook his head, not knowing what the Snorkack was or if it lived nearby. He had tried to get to know his new home country as much as he could, but there was rarely time for excursions in the wild with the business and that. He then had to leave the girl with her pizza for his other duties. He answered the phone and wrote a pizza-note in Swedish. He poured another round of beer for the gang-members and looked around. The youngsters sat whispering, playing with their cell-phones and glancing at the girl at the counter. The woman at the slot machine had lost again, and the old man at the counter remarked on it. The young couple was holding hands and sharing a beer. The old couple was not holding hands, and they had a beer each. The gang was getting noisy, and the man behind the counter could only hope they would not pick a fight this evening. The girl named Luna had finished her food and was looking around, curiously. She held a piece of wood in her hand. One of the youngsters put a coin in the jukebox again and it started to play, but it was not a song from the hit-lists. The youngster looked at the display in disbelief and thumped it a few times, but the song did not change. It was instrumental, with a fiddle and a horn and a drum and a few other instruments the man behind the counter did not recognize.

"I feel like dancing," Luna said, emerging from the stool and walking into the center of the room.

And dance she did. Slowly at first, turning on the spot, her arms outstretched, but wilder and wilder, and the music was beating faster too. A song had been added to the instruments, a female voice, a clear, high, vibrating voice singing in a langue no one recognized, even if the man behind the counter somehow could swear it was Arabic. The girl twirled, her hair flying behind her like the tail of a comet. Laughing, almost knocking a chair over. The music and the dance filled the pub. The youngsters were staring. The club members were cheering and clapping and whistling. The old man and the woman with red eyes were just looking, something sad and longing in their eyes. The woman at the slot machine had left the game and now stood up, nodding slightly to Luna and started to dance herself, wild, as if trying to imitating the free, happy dance of the girl. Luna was laughing. The youngsters and the club-members stood up, almost in the same instant, throwing themselves into the dance. One of the club members was too drunk to stand up, so he fell over. The old man got up from the counter and helped him to a chair next to him. The young couple got to their feet and jumped into a tight dance. The old couple exchanged a glance and stood up as well, he bowing slightly to her, emerging in a dignified, yet tender dance, much slower than the music promoted. The entire room was full of dancing, laughing people, and in the middle of it all was Luna, twirling, leaping, laughing, spinning like a tiny motor, energizing the entire crowd. The man behind the counter suddenly found himself standing in front of the woman with the red eyes, offering her his right hand, leading her to the dancing crowd on the floor to join them.

This is a dream, he thought, and we will wake up any moment. I only hope we will remember it afterwards.

The door opened and the fresh, crisp autumn air entered the room, for a moment cooling down the dancing, laughing people. The girl stood in the door, her hair yet again partly hidden behind that horribly coloured cap, her face red from the exercise.

"I have to go," she said. "Wish me luck on the hunt for the Snorkack. Hej då!"

And she was gone.

The dance went on for a while. The youngsters and the gang members were maintaining it longest, but even them giving up after a while. The patrons went back to their tables, their counter and their slot machine, but something had changed. There was a new, friendly atmosphere in the pub. People were talking more freely, laughing more vividly. The woman with red eyes asked the man behind the counter about his home-country, the one he had fled from. It was the first time anyone had done that since he moved into this village.

They did not talk much about the girl, neither that evening or later. They all knew deep in their hearts that whoever she was she would not come back, and somehow they felt that the memory of her was better preserved in silence than in words. So they preserved it in silence, but even if they did not talk about her, they often thought about her and were grateful.

Incidentally, the girl was a witch. The people in the pub did not know that. They only knew that a very special girl had passed through their lives.