The chapter below is from the sci-fi, triller book Fear is in the Air by Eva Newermann
Stavanger – Norway
We are booked into the Atlantic Hotel in downtown Stavanger. The lobby is filled with flags and flowers.
My room overlooks a small lake called Breiavatnet. There is a lighted fountain in the middle. Everywhere there are hundreds of flags blowing in the wind. The Norwegian flag has the same colors as the American flag, red, white and blue, so this is just like the Fourth of July.
I wait two hours before I call Erik. He picks up the phone right away.
Probably been sitting staring at it.
“Hi, when can we meet?” He asks.
“Well,” I pause. “I’ve been thinking. Tonight is no good. I’m too tired. Tomorrow I’ll have a car for two days. Last time I was here, three years ago, I heard about the Pulpit Rock. I am planning to stay at the Pulpit Lodge tomorrow evening. I have already booked a room. What if I pick you up in the afternoon and we drive up there. Will that work for you?”
I can hear some heavy breathing.
“Sure, that sounds great. I have to spend some time with my relatives during the day,”
Right, probably his wife and five kids…
He continues, “But after that, I’m all yours.”
The next morning, May 17, 2003, I wake up with a start. It’s only 6 in the morning. It sounds like the hotel is being bombed. I run to the window. Outside is a red bus filled with young people, wearing red hats and red jumpsuits.
Farther down the street I see a blue bus and people dressed in blue. They are setting off firecrackers, blowing whistles and honking their car horns. Some are dancing and singing.
Later on I’m told these are college kids, celebrating their graduation as well as May 17, the day when Norway became independent from Sweden in 1814.
This red and blue gang also drives around to all their teachers’ private houses, waking them up at 5 in the morning.
At 9 in the morning, the parades start all over the country. Every school has its own band playing. It’s like an explosion in colors. They are wearing beautiful national costumes, called bunad, usually with gorgeous jewelry and handmade needlework.
Everybody is waving flags and shouting in Norwegian.
“Hurra, hurra, hurra for Syttende Mai!”
In Oslo at the Royal Castle, the Royal Family will be on the balcony for hours, waving to all the children parading by.
All day and evening there is small and large celebrations with family outings and different activities. There are shows with famous and infamous people performing.
This is the time you have your first ice-cream cone outdoors, even though it’s still cold in Norway.
I went outside and had an ice-cream cone with two scoops, strawberry and vanilla, topped with whipped cream and a teaspoon of strawberry jam. Terrific!
At noon three other crew members and I go to one of the maritime restaurants surrounding the harbor.
In the old days these warehouses used to store corn, fish and flour. Inside, the furniture is made out of rough timber and all the lamps are lanterns from old sailing ships. In the ceiling hang large fishnets and green glass buoys.
“Give us the most unusual dish you have on the menu.” I tell the waitress.
The captain raises both arms; “Oh, I don’t know if that’s a good idea, Ewa.”
I grin at him, “Don’t be such a pussy!”
The waitress looks at me for a while and then speaks. “Do you care how much it costs, or how long it will take to prepare?”
“No,” I say with a smile, “just bring us wine and water and surprise us.”
Five minutes later the waitress returns.
“I just have to give you some information about the food you are getting,” she says smiling.
“We usually eat it only before Christmas time. It was a traditional dish for the West coast, but today it has become a delicacy all over Norway.
“Some people think it’s a bizarre tradition, but I can reassure you, it tastes really good!
“However, I would recommend instead of wine that you drink some beer and aquavit before we serve you.”
We are all listening, more or less worried. What’s this all about?
“I warned you earlier,” the captain says, “we should not let Ewa order her bizarre food!”
Turning to the waitress, he says, “Can you tell us the name of this dish?”
“Smalahove,” she says, very slowly.
“Smalahove,” we all repeat, looking at each other.
It doesn’t mean a thing to us.
“Bring the beer and aquavit.” I say.
They don’t know I’m driving to the Pulpit Rock with my Viking later in the afternoon. So I’m just going to pretend that I’m drinking. They have very strict rules in Norway for DUI.
Finally, after 45 minutes, the food arrives. By then everybody is feeling the effects, from the beer and aquavit.
Four waiters are carrying huge plates with silver lids.
When they put them in front of us, we all wait and then take the lids off simultaneously.
“Oh, my God!”
Lying on the plate, staring up at me, is half a sheep’s head! Complete with an eye and a tongue sticking out! It is dark brown and looks as if it has been grilled before being cooked.
Later I learn that they burn the wool off the head.
There are potatoes and cabbage stew to go with it. The waiters keep assuring us it tastes really good.
“You are supposed to eat the eye last, like a dessert,” our waitress is giggling.
When we all get our breaths back, I start tasting the meat. It is delicious! Now we all start eating.
“Skaal, Skaal for Smalahove and the aquavit!”
“See, I told you to trust me,” I say to the captain.
He shakes his head.
“Ewa, you are some crazy, crazy lady!”
Right on the money, buddy!