Short Story

Among the Pastries Sits a GraveScott Olsen, May 27,2012

Jan Van Ostberg rolled in his Grave. He’d been dead for 12 years now, and he was getting used to it. He walked down the cobble-laden street and smelt hues of vanilla, the many merchants selling pastries; wisps of cream flew out of him. But he was still dead.

The fragrances shook him. Poor Jan was shaking in his boots out of ecstasy.  He never quite felt so great, though he knew not the reasoning for his elation. He fell back from the street and hung under one of the low, waving awnings jutting out from the humble, homely coffee colored apartments that littered the street. Jan Van Ostberg stood for a while, keeping his eye on the merchants.

He stood there watching them, a blank stare on his face. Jan Van Ostberg’s admittedly pitiful countenance began to seep out of him, twisting round into worry and suffocating the many inhabitants of the bustling market. Not to mention, the living dead always look quite gruesome, no?

That particular day, the second of the week, a young lad named Gustav happened to be on an errand to the market, not of particular importance, he needed only to retrieve a few pastries for his mother.  Gustav worked his way through the growth of men and women shopping for various vanities, cakes, creamed foods and those delicacies so easily described with the word “velvety”. The boy, tiny for his age, but of expansive mind, ran about searching for his object in vain. Aggravation taking hold of him, little Gustav ran to the street side lined by apartments, and on which Jan Van Ostberg stood.

The tyke noticed him first, as Jan was invested so intensely in watching the market at the time. Gustav immediately noted that the man next to him was undoubtedly appalling. He wore a suit of imposing black, but grimy, and coated in a thin dark secretion. Jutting cheekbones marked his face, his eye sockets settled so deeply upon his skull they appeared hollow at first glance, but were in fact occupied by two dull glazed eyes.  Surprisingly, despite his grotesque appearance, Jan Van Ostberg seemed to have a pleasant smell to him.

Gustav, a naturally inquisitive boy, and a tad audacious for his age blurted a sudden question; “Oy, Sir, whas that guck all about your soot?” Jan’s peerless observance of the marketplace was undeniably shattered by the young lad’s inquiry, as even the dead bolt at the birth of knowledge. “..Hmmmm?….” Out of curiosity, if nothing more, Jan Van Ostberg found himself squatting to address little Gustav, “Oy, I said whas on your suit mister.” Gustav squawked. The dead man let loose a hearty chuckle which echoed round the street. He spread his arms wide and began in a heavy-handed discourse, on far too lofty for our young Gustav to even begin to comprehend. The words snaked around the boy and tickled his chin wet and inviting. He gazed brightly at the horrid face, whose mystic diatribe managed to keep his attention, in spite of the noticeably rancid breath it expelled. “…And I ask you tiny one, can you understand? Why, why do they all sell their pies and pastries?… I’ve been long now pondering why…I see no reason! No reason but to it all but death! …And I’ve already passed as you know little one.,.” Jan rambled for ages, far into the evening, approaching the morning of the next day.

Gustav van Abshoven rolled in his bed. He sorely regretted falling asleep so late. He had hardly been up for a minute when he realized work was steadily approaching. But Gustav didn’t move. He hadn’t moved for 12 years now.  He recalled his meeting with the man Jan Van Ostberg many years before. The man, who had become a good friend of his following the fateful market conversation, had passed on two years ago. Gustav always felt particularly sour when remembering the conversation at the market… Rather, he’d felt sour for 12 years. Though he spent years studying, the conversation still perplexed him. The answer to Jan’s question evaded him. “Why do they all sell their pies and pastries?”

Gustav glanced at the clock. He was a minute late for work. He glanced out the window down at the men about the street, closed his eyes, and rolled into his Grave.