Dag, Marte, and the chairperson sat for a long while—well over an hour—for their audience with the Nobel president. While they sat, a parade of other persons entered, spoke to the receptionist, and after a minute or two entered the president’s inner sanctum.
“What goes?” Dag said occasionally, loud enough for the receptionist to hear and frown. “We just sit here while others come and go. Don’t they know we have an appointment, that we were summoned?”
Marte elbowed him each time he said this while the chair chuckled to herself, refusing to glance to the receptionist. Finally the receptionist’s phone buzzed, she picked up, spoke, and hung up.
“You may go in now,” she said.
Our trio rose on creaky knees and Dag pushed open the large oaken door to the president’s office. The president, a frowzy woman with salt and pepper brown air, didn’t look up; instead she continued scribbling on a yellow legal pad. Finally she glanced up and smiled.
“Is there a problem, Madame?” said the chair.
“I was prepared too tell you I disapproved of your choice,” said Madame, “but it seems fortune has changed my mind.” She looked to each of the three in turn and said, “Would either of you like coffee?”
Almost in unison the three answered in the affirmative, and the president picked up her phone, said, “Hilde, three coffees. With all the accoutrements.”
They made small talk until Hilde brought in the coffee, set it on a low table before the president’s desk. When they’d stirred their concoctions, Madame said, “I want to emphasize that your choice is unusual, but I will defend it to the board. Mark my words, however…” she paused to shake a stubby finger, “…I will not be so benevolent if next year you nominate the likes of…what’s the curly hair Welshman’s name who does the dirty dancing?”
“Tom Jones!” shouted Marte. She’d bolted from her chair in speaking, but now she blushed and slipped cautiously back.
Madame nodded. “It was my son who got me over this. He’s one of those…”
“Hippies?” asked Dag.
“Yes,” said Madame. “He played me songs from his iPhone, and I must say, your Dylan can’t sing any better than the alley cat that’s been camped outside my bedroom window.”
“Well, that’s not what the award’s for,” said the chair.
“Of course. Let me compliment you on your daring in this, Mona. It may very well give all the fiction and nonfiction writers out there pause for thought. So many of them live with their heads in the clouds. Well, that’s it, really. Keep up the good work, won’t you?”
They were shuffling their feet in preparation to leave Madame’s suite when Dag said, “Tell me, if you don’t mind, what was the most memorable song your son played for you? Out of curiosity, I mean.”
Madame didn’t speak for a moment. Then: “I preferred one named ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’, myself, but Hans…” She stopped to mimic the comical smoking of a cigarette. “…He preferred ‘Rainy Day Woman.'” She frowned. “It had some numbers attached to it as well.”
“We should go, Madame,” said the chairperson, “and thank you so much for your support.”
Outside the suite, the chair blew out a breath and laughed. Loudly.
“What?” asked Marte.
“Those two songs her son played? I wouldn’t have dared suggest them to our committee.”
~ Coming up: The Ceremony ~
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