Yellow Angel

Short stories, 1990

Here I am at Tine’s confirmation, listening to all the speeches, thinking of the last time I was at a family gathering. At that time I was an old lady. A chubby, frustrated madam. Now I am different […] I wonder what they were thinking. I mean: I know what they said to each other out loud and what they said to me when they came to visit at the nut house. But I wonder what they were thinking separately, deep inside behind the family facade. Whether they longed to be the ones to let go of everything and just rage. Noticing now once again Inge’s nervous movements and Else’s unrestful gaze flashing up and down the table, I do actually think they must have envied me a little. Some place behind the drapes they realize another life is possible. And that I have embarked into it. If they are willing to see me like I am now that is – several kilos slimmer and many alcohol levels fresher. Maybe they don’t want to see it. Maybe they only want to see that I haven’t been to the hair dresser’s, that I haven’t cleaned my shoes and that I am wearing an old dress …
Confirmation, p. 14 in Yellow Angel
He sees her dancing in the sand along with the others at a late night party. She is dressed entirely in yellow, and she is the one they all wish they could be with. He talks to her until the late hours of the night. He tells her about his dreams. He kisses her all morning and he has never made love like that before with anyone else …
… He spends the night in a hotel. The North Star that he calls Venus, is shining in through the window. He dreams and wakes up and feels homeless and confused. The yellow girl is dancing in the sand in front of him, all dressed in red with her beautiful hands. He sees her in gushing blue in front of the mayor, sees her dance and dance in her wedding dress with a young man who is in the process of writing his thesis. They lie down and dream of yachting and stars. When he wakes up he feels like a small piece in the great puzzle of life.
All the colors of the rainbow, p. 53 and 61 in Yellow Angel

The famous cinematographer Tove Lind is at a women’s film festival in New York, where her movie is nominated for The Golden Venus in the short story Belonging:

It was impossible to reach Denmark, all lines to Copenhagen reported busy. Tove was sprawled on top of her bed, crying to the sound of John’s voice when she reached New York.
    Hello there, what’s going on? Are they being mean to you?
    I have been nominated for The Go-golden Ve-henus.
    What? The golden Penis?
    John Moore, cheerful and carefree. If only there weren’t a twenty-hour drive between them.
    If only it were. I miss you.
    Of course. All those women. What’s the matter?
    She sat up: The matter is that I don’t belong anywhere. I am horny and alone and burnt out and I don’t fucking belong anywhere, John!
Belonging, p. 112 in Yellow Angel

The narrator finds her mother dead of an overdose in the short story The Face of Love:

… Your mouth was open like in a deep sleep. Your face calmer and smoother than ever. Your eyes looking without blinking. You were at peace, the accounts were settled. All your nightmares were over. They had become mine.     Death is quieter than living silence. Not a movement, not a hint, no air around you. You yourself had become air. You were nobody. The living room held its breath, while I sat there holding your fist in an oblique angle. Your skin burst when I touched you. You were still human but also a boundless hole, which could never be refilled. Infinity ahead of me even though I screamed and screamed. Did you hear anything? Was your hearing capable of perceiving anything? They say that hearing lasts longer than the doctors can explain. If you heard my scream I hope that you got a hell of a bad conscience. It was horrible of you to disappear like that. I hate you.
The Face if Love, p. 126 in Yellow Angel

Like You Like Me (short story in Yellow Angel, written in English)

It begins with a hunger. She opens the fridge and eats her dinner and longs for someone to talk to. In other people’s houses she looks at the bedspread and feels lonely. She gets herself a cat. It bites her fingers. She goes to bars and drinks too much and smokes too much and walks home alone. She stops drinking and goes on a vegetarian diet. She stops smoking. She gorges herself at night, half asleep in front of the fridge. She stops looking in mirrors.
    She begins to dream through her hunger. One morning she opens the door, and outside the landscape is vast. She can hear a heart beat. She listens. When it gets dark, she begins to walk.
    Maybe the heart is not black and blue, but red like her own. Maybe it’s a heart that knows how to listen. Maybe it poses some new questions instead of all the unwanted ones.
    She walks and walks. Faces yell at her, birds shit on her, sand gets in her shoes, and the wind makes her eyes hurt. All the while as she walks, she hears the sound coming closer. Now it’s all around her, the beat is drumming from under her soles, she is inside the heart now, she is inside the throbbing sound, she is inside – a discotheque.
    This is different from sand and wind and bird shit, this is familiar and different. Her shoes start to dance, her feet are light and her arms open. Her face gets warm and her voice begins to sing. She has a song. Here she dares to sing it without asking first if it’s okay.
    There are other singers on the floor. She sings and they answer back. They form a circle and dance and sing. They dance two by two and they kiss. They go home together and make love. Their hearts are red, and they ask questions when the night is over. Do you like me? Are you like me? I am like you do not know. I do like you. Do. The sound of their hearts can be heard far away.
She buys a flat with her new singer. They spend all their savings and salaries on the flat and the new bed and table and chairs and curtains. They get themselves two cats. The singer cooks lovely food and they eat dinner together. They have a mirror over the bed, and they spend a lot of time there. They plan a trip to Paris. They listen to each other’s hearts and sometimes go dancing. But not very often, because it takes too much energy to sort out voices afterwards; you sang too loud, no I didn’t yes you did, and you sang with that bitch, no I didn’t yes you did. You are like me and I don’t like me like you now.
    They go to Paris and they come back to their lovely home and their happy cats. They support each other in getting good degrees and better work. They are making out fine, getting even better jobs. They can afford to listen to their own hearts instead of the hearts of other people.
    They do a lot of good with their skills, and they plan a trip around the world. They come home every evening and jog for an hour before they feed the cats and then make themselves a nice French dinner and talk about their trip. Then they watch the television. They talk a bit about the cats and go to bed early. They hear a sound far away, but it doesn’t disturb them.
    They get a year’s sabbatical and go around the world. They see wonderful things and get wind in their eyes and sand in their shoes and bird shit on their shoulders. They do many things together, they even make love together sometimes.
    They come home.
    They go to work and let everybody see the photographs from the trip. They come home and feed the cats and jog around the house and prepare Chinese food and watch the television. They go to bed early and talk about the cats. The cats need help. The cats must be depressed, they’re acting funny. The singers lie on their bed and look at the mirror in the ceiling and decide to take it down. It makes the room too bright. It’s too decadent with mirrors in bedrooms. Besides, the glass might fall down and hurt you.
    They eat more than before, now the mirror is gone. They come home from work – and they cling to each other, because one of the cats has strangled itself with the telephone cord. They realize that they have done the deceased wrong by keeping it inside the flat all day with no other energy but cat energy, and they buy a dog to keep the survivor company. They call the dog Amigo. They begin to cook dinners once a week and put them in the freezer, to avoid all the everyday cooking. They tell each other it’s good they don’t smoke while watching television. They consider asking questions, but forget how they like to be asked. Maybe she likes me this way now. Maybe no other likes her this way.
    They feel a hunger that makes them gorge themselves late at night. They go to bed and feel lonely. They go for walks now and then and save their money for a meditation workshop.
    The dog starts to bite the cat. The cat runs away through an open door. It can hear a sound far away, beating. The cat feels a great hunger.
Like You Like Me was written in English 1988 as a paper for a panel at the Feminist Book Fair in Montreal that year. It was printed in French in TROIS, a Canadian revue d’ecriture et d’erudition, and in Danish Gul engel (Yellow Angel), a 1990 collection of short stories by Bente Clod.

The press wrote …

Jette Lundbo Levy, Information, November 23rd 1990:

Lust – repulsion and the mystery of birth […] accounts of ordinary people and situations all circling around lust and love as life-giving but also threatening elements in a reality otherwise devoid of meaning. Bente Clod purposefully stylizes her stories; some of them resemble parables and fairy tales. Others carry out their motives, so that they go against the story and end it in a verbal point …

Preben Meulengracht in Jyllands-Posten, November 23rd 1990:

It may sound like banal mysteries; but Bente Clod is neither banal nor mystifying. She is a matter-of-fact author who masters the art of writing a story so that it opens up a sense of meaningfulness. And furthermore she is capable of playing just enough with her style to make it border on the ironic as well as the elflike.

Carina Waern, June 2nd 1991 in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter in a joint review of twelve Danish books:

… Finally one of the Danish Women’s Rights movement’s figureheads Bente Clod, who with her collection of short stories Yellow Angel demonstrates a deep humanity with a sense of the boundless holes and situational comedy of everyday life. The title story is about an abandoned woman who runs amok in blind jealousy. Maybe I think that Bente Clod – who isn’t at all concerned with biography – goes the furthest way toward a meaningful Women’s Literature which might as well be men’s literature, since these short stories feature just as many men as women. No proud ideals are formulated here; the expectations of the author are not dressed in historical figures. It deals with how life can behave here and now.