Even after slaying the ice dragon and the fire titans, my father would insist that the most dangerous creature of all was the Englishman.
I should have listened better to my old man. But I always treasured his presence more than his advice. After groaning into his chair, he’d unlatch his greaves, and pat the air twice from his pockets.
That would be my signal to land into his lap. I was big for my age: 7 years, 17 cubits, and 125 stone. But what was that compared to him? He was so solid, and he smelled of love and redwood as he knuckled my hair and laughed.
Soon his face turned as dark as the peat-cloud near the garden. “Claes, beware the Englishman. It is a strange world when something so small takes so many syllables. But that’s how they are, too. Always grasping and grabbing, every one of them taking and tearing until there’s nothing left for anything else. Each one thinking ‘Oh, I am so small, nothing will be lost if I have this little bit.’”
My fingers were lost in the curls of his beard. The rumbling of his chest ceased, and I sensed that his silence required a response. What little wit I had for talk consisted in twisting the last words I could remember into a question.
“So why don’t we, father? Just give them that little bit?”
“Ah, and that’s how Avalon was lost,” he said. “All the beasts and fields of Low Heaven would not be enough for a single Englishman. And remember, Claes, there are millions of them.”
But what was a million? And what was that compared to my father? Still, I felt a tremble of something as he gripped me. “In their size and greed they unite the infinitesimal with the infinite,” he said. “It is beyond my knowing.”
This was lost on me, and already my only thoughts were on the texture of his scarf, which I ran endlessly through my hands.
It was I who discovered the stalk, and I would have told the others, but it felt just like my father’s scarf, and so I played with it instead.
That was the first time I saw Englishman Jack.
Even if I could, I would not speak of how the monster Englishman Jack turned and tricked me. Asking about my toys, our routines. Gaining my trust. Taking my father. It shames me still to remember what I thought was friendship destroy what I know was love.
As he fell, my father took only a few awful moments to assume the shape and size of the Englishman. He vanished before my sight, shrinking and shrinking. Strange, the air that took him seems emptier than ever.
Although I am heir to everything stretching from here to the Roof of the World, more than anything, his loss is what I have. Even in this demiparadise, I do not know how or where I could live happily ever after.