St. Lucy’s Day

Gunnar Torvaldson rode in his cutter, his horse pulling with its head down against the combined weight of sleigh and occupant. Lamps swung on its sides. He watched the horse’s haunches rise and fall, the crystalline air blowing from its nostrils. It was mid-December, in fact approaching Lucia’s Day, where candles would be lit to celebrate the return of the fugitive sun. Today it made a faint, brief, appearance near the horizon, then sank again into darkness. It would be weeks, months, before daylight fully re-appeared. The naked trees by the track crowded in and creaked, snapping in the cold. In this near-darkness, lit in part by the brilliance of stars and wavering curtains of aurora, Gunnar fled to Oslo.

He had his reasons.

In the twelve weeks which preceded his exile, Gunnar worked as village clerk and book-keeper to Peder Olavson, the dour pastor of St. Luke’s—an ancient stave church nestled in hemlocks and birch of a small farm community on the outskirts of Frederikstad. He dutifully maintained the records of the parish—financial and otherwise—a job ordinarily performed by a rural pastor, who in this instance announced to the congregation that he had no mind for money and wisely sought the help of a man who did.

Gunnar was forty and nice-looking in an ordinary way. Neither tall, nor short, he had dark hair which fell in his eyes, a middling build running toward the thickness of middle-life, and the soft hands of a man unaccustomed to labor. He was quiet, retiring, a little melancholic, distant. He was a widower. His wife, Anja Nilsdatter died in Kristiansand, a victim of the consumption which plagued the cities. They had no children. For this, he felt guilty—and grateful.

He did have an air about him—something that sat uncomfortably with the inhabitants of the village. None could entirely say what it was about the man which made them uneasy. Men who were good with numbers were not always good with people, they reasoned. But rumors persisted that he had led a different sort of life in Kristiansand—one that did not involve his late wife. All taken into account, he considered himself lucky to have found work. His move to Frederikstad allowed him a fresh start—he was young enough to begin again and he did have a head for numbers. Thus he dedicated himself to the betterment of the parish Slowly its people opened to him, and hopeful mothers began to introduce their daughters. He was polite, nothing more. There was indeed something about him.

Olavson, his employer, was wiry and short, with sinewy arms, a deeply lined face and short, kinky, dirty-blonde hair. A Lutheran with a peculiar love of the Old Testament and the Pentecost, he thundered from his pulpit; warning of hellfire and damnation for all gathered should they not heed his admonitions—sloth, greed, pride, gluttony, envy, wrath, lust…all awaited the unwary parishioner and all were sure to lead directly to perdition. Gunnar, so new to the village, and so much apart, twisted uncomfortably in his pew, troubled by conscience.

At the root of this was his experience of Christian, the grown son of his landlord, Per Jansson. He had spotted the young man in the barn some time after his arrival in the town, on the bitter, trailing edge of autumn. The man was tall—of heroic stature—with straw-blonde hair and an open face; clear grey eyes, a full, ruddy mouth. Gunnar stood stock-still at the sight of him. Their gaze had locked for too long and the man had waved to Gunnar—a beckoning rather than a greeting—a lazy, “come on over here” gesture that made Gunnar redden and hurry away to his room where he latched the door. He stood panting and desperate, until he tore at his clothing, rent his trouser buttons to beat and pull at his cock until he shot over the quilt-laden spindle bed with a bark. He imagined himself consumed by the generous mouth of this man. He heated some water on the kettle in the fire. He cleaned himself and the quilt, then sat on the edge of the bed and held his head in his hands.

His horse and cutter were in the barn. Eventually he had to see to them. When at last he ventured forth, the landlord’s son acted as if he did not recognize Gunnar at all. He fetched the shaggy brown gelding without word or a glance at him. For this, Gunnar felt a mixed sense of relief.

Christian shrugged and stood back while the accountant inspected his animal, running his hands down its hard legs, passing his hand over its rump. He bent over and picked up a hoof—inspected the sole of its foot. He whistled softly to himself. That’s when the young man had the impertinence to run his hand over Gunnar’s haunch and down the back of his very own leg. He froze as a statue, his breath caught in his throat, his heart hammering a frantic tattoo in his chest, his cock a sudden, painful burning spike in his trousers. Christian Person stood close and pressed into his cheeks so that he could be felt hard, as well. He stepped back and walked without looking back, to the ladder leading to the loft and mounted until his hobnailed boots disappeared into the gloom over head.

Gunnar’s head spun in helpless, mindless, arousal. He followed—an automaton. The loft was fragrant with the sweet vanilla scent of hay and there was little light except for that which rose through the floorboards and the mow hatch, cast from the lamps lit in the stable below. He blinked in an attempt to adjust to the light. A voice said, “Here,” and Gunne reached out into the dark to find his hand clasped firmly and guided to the man’s burning cock. He pulled the flesh back and breathed in its earthy stink—sweat and something richer, riper. He fumbled with the buttons of his trousers, felt them tumble to his ankles, felt the cool air assail his burning balls, felt the groom’s calloused fingers pressed into his head, heard the rustle of hay underfoot, the soft voices of the horses calling below, the rasping prickle of the straw on his belly, under his knees, the burning tear of the big man’s cock against his asshole, a rending and clasping, indescribable pleasure-pain; the clean linen smell of come, and the faint rotten fruit scent of shit rising on waves of light and warmth. He cried with the release of it, puddling his load in the dusty, dried broken grass.

But Gunnar’s guilt flooded back and he moved house the following week, finding refuge at Arne Stevenson’s place. Gunne tried to put the Viking out of his mind, but failed miserably. Compelled to return, he wandered the icy tracks back toward Jansson’s, his path lit by the red glow of the guttering sun. His prints in the snow led again and again to the barn; to that savage tryst. After, filled with dread, he would promise himself he would never return. For two weeks he tried—running into the snow in the dead of the night; flinging himself naked and burning into the deep drifts in an attempt to cool his ardor. He scourged himself with broom by the fire. He wept. Then on the thirteenth day, the young man tapped at his window, slid through its thrown-up sash, wound himself through Gunne’s night-clothes and suckled him until he was spent and shaking. All seemed lost.

And so he sat in the whitewashed interior of the church, on a stiff oak-hewn pew and reviewed his multifarious sins in the face of the all-seeing eye of God. He retreated to the office later to count the offerings and write to the parish seat for more funds to build a small school nearby. In his mind he composed desperate letters to the late Anja and lewder letters to Christian Person. He’d sit, looking vacant, staring at his ledger, or worse, would choke his turgid cock to a shuddering death beneath the desktop.

The door to the office creaked open and Peder Olavson hovered in the gap, a worried expression further tightening his hard-edged features. He stood in his severe, high collared black robes and hat. “Are you unwell, Gunne? You don’t seem to focus so well on your duties as you did when you first came here. What is it? Are you still in mourning? Are you troubled?”
Gunnar considered for a long time. “I am well in body, pastor, but I’m troubled.”

“How troubled?”

“By unclean thoughts, I’m ashamed to say.”

“Of what nature?”

“Of life in Sodom.”

Shock registered on the face of the preacher.

“Have you had these thoughts for long?”

“For all my life. Through my marriage. Forever.”

“Have you acted on these thoughts, Gunne Torvaldson?”

Gunnar looked away and wept, his hand shading his eyes.

“What have you done to rid your self of such thoughts? Such…deeds?”

“Prayer, pastor. Prayer and scourges and baths in the snow.”

“And it has not worked.” A statement—not a question.


“I will help you pray to drive this demon from your soul. Get on your knees.”

Olavson returned with a birch switch and an ardent, fiery gleam in his eye.

Gunnar rose from the chair, its feet scraping noisily on the boards of the old pine floor. His knees buckled and he sank slowly over the chair’s cane seat.

“Repeat after me: Oh Lord

“Oh Lord”

Deliver me from this disease of sin which infects my soul.”

“Deliver me…”

The cane rose and fell on Gunne’s buttocks and back as Olavson’s face reddened. The veins stood out on his bulging forehead, on his scrawny neck. Gunnar burned with mortification. When it was done, Olavson stalked from the room, ashen, casting a savage look at his wife, who stood by the door, an inquisitive look on her face.

“Go home,” he said.

Gunnar was certain that his punishment would not end there. Olavson would certainly consult his bishop. They were almost surely to recommend he leave. The next day, Gunnar answered a newspaper advertisement calling for a book-keeper at a mill in Oslo. Two agonizing weeks later, he received an invitation to be seen by the managers.

And so it came to pass, that on the eve of the eve of St Lucia’s day, Gunnar Torvaldson, late of a small village near Frederikstad loaded his cutter with his few possessions and wrapped in heavy rugs, his lanterns lit against the mid-day twilight, set off for Oslo. The bells attached to his harnesses, jingled in time with the brown gelding’s ambling gait.

* * *

His hotel—a modest one—nonetheless had a view of the Royal Palace and the bustling street below. It was lined with shops and cafés. Gunnar, eager to unwind, ventured forth into a drinking establishment. He sat quietly in a corner, his hat still on his head, his muffler pulled around his neck. Looking up from his third ale, he noted a woman across the room. She bore a passing resemblance to Anja—thin and dark-haired, with the angular body of a boy. She laughed a bit too loudly, and wore too much rouge to be called pretty or to look respectable. Her hair had come undone under her bonnet. He returned to his drink and to his alarm, when he looked up again, found her walking toward him, a glass of cloudy liquor in her hand. The men, whose company she had been keeping watched her, laughing and pointing, as she crossed the tavern floor, her dark silk skirts and crinolines rustling.

Her name was Lucia—Lucy—like the saint whose honor it was to return the sun to the sky. She made him drink more and try the foul-tasting stuff she herself swilled. Gunne’s head swam.

She held her head high as she walked ahead of him across the lobby of his hotel, past the concierge at the desk, who leaned out further to watch her as she passed. Gunnar watched as Lucy held the sodden hem of her skirts above her ankles and mounted the stairs in front of him, showing her buttoned shoes and the thick cotton hose which clad her legs and creased, sagging slightly at her ankle. She paused and pulled up a stocking, and resumed her climb, her heels clattering too noisily on the spiraling marble staircase.

In the room, she stood in front of the window watching the white-clad street with its glowing gas-lamps and the hustle of holiday-shoppers.

“Ten kroner,” she said to him and unbuttoned the cape clasped at her throat. It fell to the floor in a puddle around her feet. “Twenty for a ‘special.'”

“What’s a special?” asked Gunnar, feeling oddly aroused and queasy all at once.

“Ten is for straight, twenty is for my bottom, or for games, or for my mouth.” said Lucy.

“Twenty then,” said Gunnar, reminded of how Anja would once upon a time beg him to press his cock into her backside, and how he was both reluctant and inflamed about pleasing her this way.

Like Lucy, Anja was boyish and slight. In a woman, Gunnar found this appealing. She stepped away from the window. He placed his fare on the nightstand and turned to kiss her, still wearing his dark topcoat damp with melted snow. There was so much hope in that kiss—hope for redemption, hope for communion with Anja, hope, hope.

Lucy smelled of violets and fennel. The scent shouted at him from her scrawny bosom. Awkwardly he began to explore, his right hand fumbling down her bodice to the gap between her legs, groping through the crepe and her crinolines, half hoping to find more than empty space there. He did not. His penis rose and fell with each fumbling feel. She undid her bodice, turning her back to him to unlash the corset which forced such womanly shape as she had onto her narrow frame. Her body was covered with red marks from the stays, like the excoriating marks which still, yellow and fading, crossed his ass. She undid her skirts, threw them over a chair. For a moment she looked like a holy woman, scoured and defiant. Her hair fell down around her shoulders, her face was pale, her lips and cheeks, livid.

Gunnar pushed her onto the bed. Its mattress, slung on ropes tied to its rails, swung and creaked. A mass of wild black hair bristled between her legs, strong-scented, feral. Gunnar wavered.

“If only…” he began.

“If only what, duckie?”

“God, forgive me…if only you were a—a boy…”

She was on her knees, her ass in the air. She peered at him over her shoulder.

“You like that? I can be a boy. I can be whatever you want… my bag—pass it here.”

She rummaged in the bag, and eventually drew out a wooden replica of a penis. It looked like it might be of oak—it had a light color, almost like flesh, and a strong spiral grain. It was attached to a double belt.

Kneeling on the edge of the bed she buckled the contraption around her hips and thrust it at him, making it bob.


Gunnar smiled, and stiffened perceptibly.

She looked at him with approval. “Do you like to give or receive?”


“I bet you’ve never had one this hard,” she mocked. “Come here, let me se if you can take it.”

Gunnar undressed and knelt beside her. She ran her hands over the swell of his ass, noting the fading marks. “You’ve been a bad boy, I see.” She laughed.

Gunnar colored and groaned in agony.

She kissed the bruises; ran her tongue through the cleft of his ass, over the point of his tailbone and into the hard knot of flesh begging beneath it. She spat and pressed her finger into the pucker, which gave way easily. She spat again and again, noting with some satisfaction that he was quivering hard and when she finally pressed the tip of her tool into the gaping hole loosened by her fingers he moaned as if in great pain.

“Do it,” he said and knelt near the headboard, leaning over. She pressed into him again—four, maybe five strokes were all it took as she pinched his nipples to galvanize his pleasure and ribbons of jism shot against the board’s polished walnut face.

She dressed perfunctorily.



“I love you.”

“Don’t be stupid: you don’t.”

“If only you could stay with me,” he began. “If only you would stay with me—maybe I’d be different—maybe I could change. Maybe it would be alright.” He sat on a straight backed chair, naked, his shock of black hair in his eyes.

“No,” she said simply. “That would not work.” She dressed hastily and left, her head held as high as before.

He watched her leave, listening to the click of her shoes on the broad stone stairs.

Minutes later, a knock was heard at his door. It was the concierge. He stepped into the room, fidgeting, looking about nervously as if expecting a monster to fling itself from behind the heavy drapes. Gunnar was to leave immediately. The hotel was modest, but it was not a brothel. The woman who had accompanied him to his room was recognized by a chambermaid as one of the neighborhood’s prostitutes. Gunnar remembered how the man had stared, leered, even, as Lucy crossed the lobby. He doubted the story of the chambermaid, but it was for nothing. The management could not tolerate damage to their reputation, said the concierge. Gunnar would find the bulk of his belongings in the lobby. His horse and cutter would be fetched from the mews. He was to go. Now.

In a daze, his blood thundering in his ears, Gunnar dressed and began to pack. What ever would he do? Where would he go? What would become of his job prospects? In her haste Lucy had left her false penis behind. For a crazy moment Gunne wondered if he should find her and return it. She was sure to miss it. It had been kicked under the bed. He wound it in a pillow-slip, thrust it into the pocket of his coat and stalked wordlessly to the lobby where he paid for his trouble with trembling hands.

He drove toward Nordstrand where great shards of ice heaved themselves into a jagged, blue-white mosaic. The Oslofjord blazed with red light cast by the sun’s faint embers. He tethered the horse, and walked along the snowy pavement, looking desperately out across the water toward Holmenkollen. Couples walked alongside him, passed him, laughing in the swirling snow. Women in fur, their hands held in muffs, men in greatcoats and beaver hats.

A tall boy walked toward him. They knocked shoulders and Gunne caught the arched eyebrow and pursed pink lips of the youth, and knew the collision had been no accident. He spun around and walked on. The youth stood and watched as Gunnar leaned against the railing on the walkway by the edge of the shore. He drew the wooden phallus from his pocket and flung it over the floes into the fjord; flung it as hard as his shaking arms would allow. Turning toward the young man, he clutched his head and screamed back at the city, but his voice was lost in the frigid wind.

© 2003 Helena Settimana. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

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