Oh, Are You Going to the Palace, Too?
Ragnar and an official-looking briefcase go to City Hall shortly after Despina and Mr. Paterson leave. Inconspicuously scanning the crowd waiting to board the ferry Prince Carl Phillip to Drottningholm Palace, Ragnar follows Svein's tour entourage that traipses up to the top deck, choosing to sit in the open on benches around the outer edge. He arranges things so that Mark is on one side of Despina, and he occupies the other, unconcerned when Svein fills out the rest of their perch.
For an hour, in between Svein's rhapsodies about the abundant unspoiled natural places inside Stockholm itself, details about the temperature range experienced by Stockholm's residents, the shipping, historical size, importance, wars and Viking influence on the culture of Stockholm, Ragnar cleverly pumps information from Despina.
"Any after-effects from your nightmare?" says Ragnar, speaking low to keep the conversation private.
"Well, I'm still a bit sleepy, but I'm NOT entirely sure I can blame THAT on the nightmare!"
"Oh, didn't you sleep well?" repeats Mark solicitously.
On the far side of Mark, Mr. Peterson gives an aborted chortle.
"It reminds me of the buildings in London. All that green lawn would sure make a lovely place to canter Ibn."
"Oh, my God! Don't even SUGGEST it! You'd probably set off another international incident. I can just see the headline: Norwegian Prince Chases Flaming Princess Across Scandinavia."
"Viking Prince? I didn't know you were a Prince. As in part of the Royal family? I didn't see anyone that looked like you in the pictures of the Royal family!"
"Not the Royal family. We put some foreigners on our thrown at the start of the 20th century. I am a VIKING prince -- we've LONG been out of the country-ruling business, although there is a cachet to being part of the old time royalty."
Despina calms down. "Oh! I think I understand..." She looks at the scenery around her again, mainly to help her regain her composure. "And just LOOK at that fountain! Why, it's low enough for me to take him wading in! Is it enchanted, like the Queen's fountain?"
"Enchanted? The fountain you bathed the horse in was The Fountain in Vigeland Park. It's not enchanted," says Svein, frowning in puzzlement.
"Is that a lion or a gargoyle?" asks Mark.
"His face sort of looks as if it might have been the model for the one in The Wizard of Oz."
"If you Americans are going to refer continually to that movie, I'm going to have to buy a copy, get it transferred onto an European format, and watch it!"
"Good luck, Ragnar," quips Svein in his normal voice. "That movie is older than both of their ages put together. I sincerely doubt it's even still available. At least here, they're just TALKING about it. When we were in Elsinor at the Kronborg, the castle that was home to Hamlet, they all got out in the gardens and pranced around on the gravel walkways, singing Follow The Yellow Brick Road and taking real exaggerated strides... They were so outré other tourist's kids got behind them and mimicked them. It was horrid!"
"No, it wasn't! We all sang on key, and even the spontaneous harmony fit the style of the original composition."
"I've never before wanted to crawl under a bush or grow wings and fly out onto one of the offshore islands to hide so nobody would know this was happening on one of MY tour groups!"
"Well, I like that! The fellow videoing us thought it was great! He was really cracking up!"
"That may just say more about the tastelessness of American tourists, perhaps," quips Ragnar, staunchly supporting a fellow Scandinavian, even though he has no idea what the song is, nor how well or poorly Mark and Despina sing. "I simply MUST see this movie! I think, good or bad, I'm sorry I missed your performance."
"What is it with you guys? Last summer, every time someone would report to Mickey that Paul Peter and I or whoever else was handy, had 'performed', he'd say the very same thing, word for word!"
"Mickey is the sheriff, no? But Paul Peter? He is...?"
"The teacher whom I work with back in Iowa that was also working down on the Stone Circles Reservation last summer... but I didn't know he was going, nor did he know I was, so it was quite an unpleasant shock. He spent the whole summer trying to ah... give me um... help me... well, we just plain don't get along very well, and last summer did NOTHING to change that! He likes to keep everyone upset. HE was quite spectacularly successful. I like things calm and peaceful, but... Gee, actually, I think I caused more of the situations than he did, but ... ah... Oh, forget it!"
Ragnar smiles encouragingly at her, but Mark and Mr. Peterson frown in confusion.
"I don't know about over here, but any big town's video store stocks The Wizard of Oz in Iowa," puts in Mark earnestly, trying to ease Despina's obvious distress.
"But, Iowa and Kansas are neighbors, no?"
"Kansas is below Nebraska, the state just to the west."
Ragnar gives a satisfied nod of his head.
He's as vain about his knowledge of geography as he is about his prowess with languages.
(Scathing note to self: Okay, dumb-dumb, just what deep secrets did Ragnar trick Despina into revealing in THAT conversation? What ones did you WANT him to discover? Make a list and check the stuff off and maybe it might happen, suppose?)
Last updated 11/10/04.