The True Cost

Prompt image for the Fandango's Flash Fiction prompt

For Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #129, where we write about the image below, from the Google Photo Frame.

The sweet town of Parvic is a second-class resort in the Norwegian Alps. Sixty years ago, the town’s great and good pushed for the resort idea both to create a viable economy and to halt the drain of youngsters to the cities. Parvic has stayed relatively unfashionable – we never caught up to the already-established resorts. But we do have one thing going for us. We’re nestled immediately beneath Gravemtor, a popular peak for mountaineers during our short summer, and a micro-industry has developed to cater for the often-affluent visitors. The mountain itself is technically challenging, although small enough that a good climber could be up and down within a day.

But not last year.

COVID-19 meant that Norway closed its doors to travellers, even mountaineers, and the only people to conquer Gravemtor were those lucky enough to live nearby.

Hello, I’m Magnus Haarland, and I bucked that trend. While most people moved away from Parvik, my gorgeous wife, Camilla, and I moved in the other direction. You see, I used to work in the oil business in Oslo. I earned good money, but it took its toll on my health. Camilla would often comment on how tired I appeared, and I was always on the lookout for a change of pace. So, when the hotel in Parvic came onto the market it seemed the ideal opportunity to get out of the rat race for good. And Parvic seemed the perfect town to settle, just to slow things down, to enjoy life while I still can.

Running the hotel is bloody hard work. I mean, to do anything well requires effort, but I did at least think that we’d turn a small profit each year. To be honest, it’s hit and miss. But I’ve seen for myself how important these climbers are to our bank balance. A busy season with them sets us up for the rest of the year – it’s just a shame that their good months are so short.

Last year almost did for us. Thanks to COVID, we lost almost all the season. We had to close the hotel, and that was yet another hit on our savings. I opened again last September but really, nobody felt safe yet, nobody wanted to come here, trade was slow and I closed up again just a month later, this time for the entire winter.

But I really thought things would get better. Now, people have had enough of being cooped up, they want an excuse to live once again, to spend some of that money they just saved. I’ve always had a good nose for these things, that’s why I was always one step ahead in Oslo.

So what did I do? I spent the winter improving the place. Every room has a fresh lick of paint, and I finally replaced all those tired old fittings. You should have seen me work! Every room is getting a makeover, and there are just a couple more left to complete before I open up again, and we say Goodbye to COVID for good..

And, do you know what? I was right. The bookings started as a trickle, but as of now, the hotel is full to the rafters for the Easter holiday. Traditionally, that starts my year, it’s a good chance to make some early money. With people’s attitudes, perhaps 2021 might be our saviour year, after all?

Okay, they hit us with another lockdown in January, but so what? I was closed anyway, so it just gave me all the more opportunity to focus. And in any case, it will be over by Easter, so none of my bookings will be affected. On the contrary, it will just make people want all the more of a release.

But then there’s Camilla. She nods in agreement, but she was always more cautious than me, and I can see she’s worried. After so many years together, there’s very little she can hide from me. And, to tell the truth, I’m worried too. But we’re in so deep here, what can we do? We have to grit our teeth and see things through to the end. Things will come good, they always do.

She’s sitting there now, glued to the TV in our lounge. Our idiot of a Prime Minister is broadcasting live. But what’s he going to say? He saw last year how he almost ruined us, he must have learned something from that. He knows that the country is on its knees, he can’t possibly inflict any more harm on us, otherwise there’ll be no country left to govern.

But I’ve got five minutes yet, time enough to fix that light in #14 before that prick comes on.

Camilla settled down to watch the broadcast. A haggard-looking Paul Hauger, the country’s Prime Minister came on. Vaccinations had been slow, because Norway simply did not have the buying power of its EU neighbours. The trend was good, Hauger claimed, and the vaccines, when they arrived in numbers, would be the game-changer. But for now, Hauger announced, there would need to be another four weeks of lockdown. The briefing was short, but sour.

Camilla instantly calculated that this would take them beyond Easter. Tears welled up in her eyes.

“M A G N U S”, she shrieked.

Fearing a dreadful accident, Magnus dashed back to the lounge to face Camilla sobbing loudly. She wailed through the tears, “He’s taken Easter from us, Magnus. He’s taken Easter.” Mouth agape, Magnus pulled her to him, and they embraced for what seemed like forever. When they eventually parted, Magnus whispered:

“Don’t worry, darling, take a deep breath. I’ll call the accountant in the morning.” As he himself slumped, Magnus realised how tired he felt.

Author: Mister Bump UK

Designed/developed large IT systems, interrupted by a stroke in 2016, aged 48. Now mix development of health-related software with voluntary work and writing. Married, with an estranged daughter.

11 thoughts on “The True Cost”

    1. All guesswork, I’m afraid. I have no idea how Norway approached covid, nor how Norwegians felt about it. But I’m glad it sounded convincing, thanks. That timeline would have been approximately true for the UK, I can’t imagine they were much different.

      Liked by 1 person

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