Trafika Europe 1 - Northern Idyll
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56

drink. He inhaled their sweet womanly aroma, and a female

relation from Bakkahella told him that he had always liked

it when women were sick, because they were so compliant.

She tried to smile, said he had always been a blowhard.

No one entered the church. Ever since the measles had

come to hold sway, the church only opened its doors to the

dead. Up to eight coffins at a time stood on trestles in the

choir and down the central aisle. According to established

protocol in cases of disease, the coffins were tarred within,

and the smell of tar and decay filled the church with a

perpetual gloom. The dead were taken from their homes as

soon as possible, and they were either washed or prepared

in some other way before the cart retrieved them. An old

tradition dictated that a corpse’s big toes be bound together

to prevent the dead from walking, but measles had

undermined most traditions. And who knew if the dead

even wanted to walk again. Why would they? In May and

June death in Tórshavn was about as naked as it could get,

and to ghost around when autumn storms were shrouding

the city in a salt sea fog – that was something one could not

bid the living or the dead.

Adelheid dried her tears and smiled. What a bizarre coffin

flotilla it must be, she thought, that met out on eternity’s

waters. The sails were whatever clothes people had been

wearing when they died: nightgowns, pants, shawls, and

tattered shifts.