"Here, let me give you a light." The American boy held up his lighter.
"Dat will not work in dis wind."
"Sure, it'll work. It always works."
The little man removed his unlighted cigar from his mouth, cocked his head on one side and looked at the boy. "All-ways?" he said slowly. "Sure, it never fails. Not with me anyway." The little man's head was still cocked over on one side and he was still watching the boy. "Well, well, So you say dis famous lighter it never fails. Iss dat you say?" "Sure," the boy said. "That's right." He was about nineteen or twenty with a long freckled face and a rather sharp birdlike nose. His chest was not very sunburned and there were freckles there too, and a few wisps of palereddish hair. He was holding the lighter in his right hand, ready to flip the wheel. "It never fails," he said, smiling now because he was purposely exaggerating his little boast. "I promise you it never fails." "One momint, pleess." The hand that held the cigar came up high, palm outward, as though it were stopping traffic.
"Now juss one momint." He had a curiously soft, toneless voice and he kept looking at the boy all the time. "Shall we not perhaps make a little bet on dat?" He smiled at the boy.
"Shall we not make a little bet on whether your lighter lights?"
"Sure, I'll bet," the boy said. "Why not?"
"You like to bet?" "Sure, I'll always bet." The man paused and examined his cigar, and I must say I didn't much like the way he was behaving It seemed he was already trying to make something out of this, and to embarrass the boy, and at the same time I had the feeling he was relishing a private little secret all his own. He looked up again at the boy and said slowly, "I like to bet, too! Why we don't have a good bet on dis ting? A good big bet." "Now wait a minute," the boy said. "I can't do that, But I'll bet you a quarter. I'll even bet you a dollar, or whatever it is over here some shillings, I guess." The little man waved his hand again. "Listen to me. Now we have some fun. We make a bet. Den we go up to my room here in de hotel where iss no wind and I bet you you cannot light dis famous lighter of yours ten times running without missing once." "I'll bet I can," the boy said.
"All right. Good. We make a bet, yes?" 'Sure. I'll bet you a buck." "No, no. I make you very good bet. I am rich man and I am sporting man also. Listen to me. Outside de hotel iss my car. Its very fine car. American car from your country. Cadillac." "Hey, now. Wait a minute." The boy leaned back in his deck chair and he laughed. "I can't put up that sort of property. This is crazy." "Not crazy at all. You strike lighter successfully ten times running and Cadillac is yours. You like to have dis Cadillac, yes?" "Sure, I'd like to have a Cadillac." The boy was still grinning. "All right. Fine. We make a bet and I put up my Cadillac." "And what do I put up?" The little man carefully removed the red band from his still unlighted cigar. "I never ask you, my friend, to bet something you cannot afford. You understand?"
"Then what do I bet?" "I make it very easy for you, yes?" "Okay. You make it easy." "Some small ting you can afford to give away, and if you did happen to lose it you would not feel too bad. Right?" "Such as what?" "Such as, perhaps, de little finger of your left hand." "My what!" The boy stopped grinning. "Yes. Why not? You win, you take de car. You looss, I take de finger." "I don't get it. How d'you mean, you take the finger?"
"I chop it off."
- Roald Dahl: “Man From South” (1948)
Exhibiting Artists: Mikael Lo Presti, Chadwick Rantanen, Oscar Tuazon.
Photos: Vegard Kleven, Courtesy of the artists and STANDARD (OSLO).
May the Bridges I Burn Light the Way
STANDARD (OSLO), February 10 - March 11