Ye who read M.J.’s books probably haven’t met me yet. But that’s alright. My name’s Caitriona, and it’s a pure pleasure to meet ye.
While I live in the Norse village on St. Anne’s Cleft, I’m not Norse by blood. I was brought here against my will, by a man who’s not the full shilling, but all’s well. I’ve a few people in my life who make living here a pure joy.
Right after I came to this island, my new nephew Drostan decided that he, singlehandedly, would teach me how to be Norse. The lad was ten years old, seven years without a mum, and I couldn’t help but humor him. I remember the day he led me down the streets, determined to make a Norsewoman out of me.
“You use a lot of words that none of us understand,” he said to me, as we walked down the wood-paved streets. “If I look at you like this—” and he gave me a confused look that nigh made me laugh at him—“It’s because we don’t know that word.”
I suppose I’d already used a number of Irish terms, like ‘knackered’ and ‘gomey’ and ‘haymes’ and ‘eejit’ that no one quite understood. But Drostan kept walking, and I was content to follow him.
“Do we use words that you don’t understand?” he asked me.
“One of the sailors said that I was ‘yelling at the moose’ on the trip here,” I said. “What did he mean by that?”
Drostan made a face. “It means you were seasick.”
Faith, I was glad I’d a wee lad to ask embarrassing questions to. I couldn’t stand asking a grown person the same things.
“Do you know how to make mittens and cook skouse?” Drostan asked.
“I’m not sure what skouse is, dear heart.”
“It’s just soup. But it’s really good, because it cooks for a long time. Perchance Mrs. McKenzie can teach you. She’s really good at cooking.”
Drostan knocked on a longhouse door, and it was opened by a kind-looking woman who spoke Norse to him. I tried to smile, but I took a step backwards.
“Don’t worry, Miss Caitriona,” Drostan said. “This is the tailor’s wife, Geirhild. She’s going to get you a new dress.”
“I’m not needing a new dress,” I tried to object, but between Drostan and Geirhild, I was pulled inside and got asked a fierce lot of questions. Most of them were in Norse, and I looked helplessly at Drostan for a translation.
Drostan explained a few things to Geirhild and her family, and their words turned more sympathetic. The tailor himself, who seemed to be named Njord, talked to me in broken Gaelic and explained that the new dress was a gift. I wouldn’t be needing to pay for it.
I’ve been in far too many strange situations since then. But I’ve always found it nice to have a friend by my side and a prayer in my heart, even if my friend is a ten-year-old lad. In parliament meetings, I’ve found the wife of a visiting chief and stuck by her side. At the Norse pagan celebrations, it’s always Edana McKenzie who will sit in a corner with me and trade knitting patterns. And it’s a pure joy to know that, no matter what the circumstances, we can always find a friend to share them with.
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.