Suggested by Joost Nijsen, founder of the publishing house Podium, one of the champions of the Dutch short story, regularly publishing collections and anthologies by local and foreign authors.
This story sets off like an ordinary walk in the park, but you soon find yourself in the woods, where you tumble down a surreal rabbit hole, which leaves you wondering what happened, gasping with surprise and disgust.“Do you come here often?” she asked with a perfectly poised smile.
“How often is often?” the poor man shrugged. “Maybe two or three times a week. It’s beautiful here, as I said, and you live in a wonderful house. Very impressive, that white among the green”
“It was very expensive, but I think it’s worth it. It was my late husband’s. It’s ever-so-tranquil living here. Everything seems easier when you live in a house like this. Do you have a nice place?”
“I have a room in the centre of town. It’s small, but I live comfortably.”
“A house is so important for one’s wellbeing. It makes up for so much of life’s misery.”
The poor man could no longer contain himself.
“You’re absolutely right!” he cried. “So very right. I can’t tell you what I wouldn’t give to live in a house like yours!”
As he said this, the two Great Danes leapt into the canal with playful enthusiasm. Minutes later they scrabbled onto the bank, barking wildly. They sniffed around in the leaves with their wet noses. Then, as if rehearsed, they both stopped, squatted on the wet quay and, with the look of those absorbed in prayer, twisted out two giant piles of poo. There was a distance of approximately a metre and half between the two boluses, which lay steaming in the autumn morning chill.
The lady, who had been sitting ducked down deep in her priceless fur coat contemplating the man’s words, suddenly got a strange twinkling in her silver-blue-shadowed eyes. An unfamiliar, but not unpleasant, tingling made its way from her toes to her tummy.
“I’d like to make you an offer,” she began. “Did you see what my two darlings were up to a moment ago?”
“They leapt into the canal,” replied the man. “They’re such swift, athletic creatures, as anyone can see.”
“I mean on the quay,” the lady pointed. “Over there. Those mounds are impossible to ignore.”
Her mother-of-pearl polished nail directed his gaze towards the two glistening dark-brown piles of dog poo.
“If you eat those two turds, I will give you my home. The home of your dreams, along with the garden and everything in it.
From the collection Begeerte (Desire), 1995. Available in English translation in The Penguin Book of Dutch Short Stories, Penguin, 2016. Available online in Dutch here