He sent for me by his golden boar.
Gullinbursti was the pig’s name, and he was as tall as me where his back arched with glowing bristles. I knelt and looked into his fire-ball eyes. “I do not love your master,” I told him.
The pig stamped his hoof into the mud at my knee and replied, “He bade me return only with you.”
“Then you must remain, for I shall not go.” I turned and the boar stood still in my garden, among the sunflowers and blooming roses.
I grew used to his bristles gleaming at night. The shine diffused through the pale curtains at my window and lent my bedroom a heavenly atmosphere, which I suspected was his master’s point. What I’m sure his master did not expect was that instead of reminding me of him, it made me fonder of his pig.
Gullinbursti was rooting about in the early autumn detritus that blanketed the woods behind my house. It was the third week of his residence, and I carried a tray of tea and cookies out to him. I knew he was uninterested in mint tea, but thought the scent might please him and that the cookies would be a treat.
I knelt on a mound of damp leaves, uncaring as their wetness soaked into the hem of my skirt. Where my bootheels kicked through them, rich, rotting smells rose up and I smiled. Autum is my favorite time, when everything is dying and calming down, when the rioting colors of summer and their wicked passions begin to cool.
When the summer gods forget you.
Or, that’s what is supposed to happen. I waved at the large reminder of my god’s memory, and he trotted over. It was a wonder his delicate golden hooves could carry the solid weight of him. “I’ve brought cookies,” I said.
The pig lowered himself down with grace, his narrow white tusks glinting in the sun. “Thank you,” he replied. “We are low on sugar in Alfheim.”
“Another reason I should not wish to live there.” I smiled, and held out a snickerdoodle in my palm.
Gullinbursti snuffed into my hand, and nibbled at the cookie. “I am certain my master would secure whatever you desire should you return with me.” Crumbs tumbled out over his tongue as he spoke.
“Unfortunately, Golden Hair, what I want is my freedom.” I bit into my own cookie. “Do you like the forest?”
“These oaks are unlike the oaks at home, so wide-spread and low to the ground.”
I waited, chewing thoughtfully.
“Yes,” he finally said. “I like it. And you would like Alfheim, Julia. The river run clear and all the fields bloom with rainbow flowers. When you wish for shade, you will have shade, when you wish for rain, so there would be rain.”
“Sounds boring.” I ate another cookie, and offered another to Gullinbursti.
A pea-green Caprice Classic station wagon with wood panels bumped up the dirt road and jerked to a halt in front of my house. Clarie hopped out, slamming her door. I always expected it to fall off at the impact. But she kept her car together with duct tape and more than a little magic.
“Hey, Jule! Guess what? The gallery at the cathedral agreed to – holy crap, is that….” Her big brown eyes widened farther and she stared at the pig up and down and up and down, so she looked like her own bobble-head.
“Golden Hair,” I swept my hand to encompass him. “Yes. Gullinbursti, meet my friend Clarie Caplionne. Clarie, close your mouth.”
“You have got to let me paint you,” she squeaked.
Gullinbursti bowed. “If Julia so desires.”
Clarie stared at me with her lips pursed and I knew better than to say no. I laughed and said, “I’m sure you have your things in the trunk. You’d better get them, because we don’t know how long he’ll be here.”
She nodded frantically and dashed back to the car. I put a hand on Gullinbursti’s wiry hide. “I imagine she’ll like the roses as a backdrop. She’s been painting them since we were ten.”
He rubbed one of his tusks gently against my hip and moved off. I made my way to the station wagon and allowed Clarie to pile my arms high with a tacklebox of paints and several stained towels smelling of alcohol. “Jules,” she hissed as she balanced a four-foot spiral pad of canvas paper between her hands, “Jules, I thought that thing with Freyr was way over.”
“So did I. Do you want some lemonade?”
She stopped as abruptly as her car. “So he’s what? Courting you?”
“Julia, have you asked him?”
Instead of answering, I picked up my pace. I couldn’t help thinking of his golden smile and the awful brilliance of his eyes. I’d heard them called emerald green and the green-of-new-leaves, but for me they’d been a rich blue and his fingers had teased my skin until I’d cried.
“You don’t trust yourself with him,” she said. Her hand closed around my wrist, and she took the tacklebox away. Setting it down on the ground, she sighed. When she stood again, her bangs hung raggedly in her eyes. “Julia, he’s a god. You say yes to gods.”
“Saying yes suggests I have a choice.” I tugged away. “Golden Hair is waiting.”
From my kitchen I watched Clarie and the immortal pig. Clarie forgot about me in the frenetic energy of her art, and Gullinbursti was patient as always.
I thought of what she’d said, and the implication that my resistance was stupid.
The sun found all the brightest shades in Gullinbursti’s mane, surrounding him with an aura that made my eyes pinch and water.
I imagined that in the winter, it would be like having that same sun take up residence in my gray garden. My lips twitched up, as I thought perhaps that my flowers would continue to bloom and there would be roses against the white snow. And Gullinbursti and I would wander through naked forest. I’d make hot cocoa and cookies shaped like angels.
And maybe his master would forget, finally.
image by RcktManIL