‘Een brommer op zee’ (‘A Scooter at Sea’) by J.M.A. Biesheuvel

Suggested by reader Jos on Twitter | The J.M.A. Biesheuvel Prize is annually awarded to the best short story collection in Dutch. Founded in 2015, the prize is crowd-funded and the only award for short fiction in the Netherlands.

Because Biesheuvel’s name is attached to the Netherlands’ only short-story prize, I had high hopes for this story, which proved to be absurd and entertaining, as well as poignant. During the night watch, a young deckhand sees a light approaching. A strange encounter unfolds.“How can you ride on water?” asked Isaac in amazement.
“It’s a question of practising,” said the man. “I started by placing a pin flat on the water’s surface. Then I progressed to heavier and heavier objects. I was building up to my scooter, of course, and eventually I rode my first laps on the city pond. Nowadays, I ride all over the world. I don’t go on land anywhere, but I have to eat, so I regularly ride up to ships. I prefer going in the dead of night, because everyone is asleep then. At first, I used to ride up to ships in the middle of the day, but that drove some people completely magoo. At first they’d say it was the best thing they’d ever seen in their lives, but then they’d started talking nonsense or going crazy. I’m planning to cover 40,000 kilometres by sea, maybe a couple of kilometres more, as long as I make it all the way around the Earth. I want to do something no one else has ever done. That has always been my ambition.”

In Maatstaf, Volume 19, 1971-1972. Available online in Dutch here