That morning Mr. End, the insurance claims adjustor, had awakened at the usual time in his usual house, which his father had build with his own hands on an outcropping of solid granite. There he had awakened every morning since the day he was born. It was hardly possible that any claims adjustor could have found a more stable and peaceful place.
This morning was, however, not the same as all the other mornings. When Mr. End, while dressing himself in seasonably suitable attire, glanced at the thermometer attached to the window frame, he became aware of a change in the landscape. He could not see the highway or the bus stop to which the path from his yard should have led.
At first Mr. End thought that there was a thick fog that obscured all distant objects. Under normal circumstances this would have explained his perception. But when End opened the front door he observed that the summer day was clear and cloudless. Normal circumstances were out of the question. There was no fog, but still the path ended in thin air.
Mr. End remained standing on the top step. He appeared unperturbed, but nevertheless was breathing more deeply than usual.
Because of his job description he had become accustomed to many sights.
Catastrophe was one of the disadvantages of his profession. It was irregularity that brought him his regular income.
But End had never before seen anything like this. The plot of ground that the claims adjustor had inherited had become an island. But it was not an island in the Atlantic Ocean, rather in the ocean of the air. Either his yard had risen, or the ground towhich it had been attached had fallen down. How this could have happened he had not the faintest notion. The great change had happened in absolute silence, for he had slept soundly all night.
Mr. End realized something right away: even his Super Homeowner's Policy would not compensate him for the consequences of this event. For the company did not insure acts of God, and this was undoubtedly an act of God.
End got his binoculars and looked in every direction. But he saw nothing but blue sky and scraps of cloud. No other islands, nothing resembling land even in the distance. Quite far below flocks of birds flew, and surely they had to have a nest in a tree somewhere. But otherwise nothing was as it had been. The bus station and the highway were gone, gone the automatic teller machine and the beer grill. Gone, gone, gone. The dull rumble of passing trucks was silenced, the gasoline station's banners no longer fluttered.
The view was breathtakingly expansive, but it caused him uneasy thoughts. The claims adjustor stepped out to look in his mailbox. He wanted to know if there was anything in the newspaper about this event, since it was absolutely extraordinary.Then he realized that it was impossible, since if the newspaper had arrived, the destruction would have happened afterward.
The newspaper had not come. Nor would it come again; of this, the claims adjustor was absolutely sure. The mail carrier had only a bicycle.
End knew from past experience that what goes up must eventually come down. Purely of its own accord. If not, there is slight hope. The world was made like that, End had realized already at an early age. Time and gravity made the world what it was. But something had now happened to gravity. It was reasonable to hope that it was only temporary.
End suspected that eventually his island would also set down. Of course he could not be sure that it would land on the same spot where it had previously been attached. Perhaps the earth under it had gone on rotating in the same direction and just as regularly as it had until then. But his newborn island might be traveling along a different route entirely. When it finally landed, End might find himself in the Gobi Desert or in the middle of some big city marketplace.
The insurance adjuster hoped that the descent would not be a sudden crash, although he also hoped it would happen pretty soon. He was afraid that the sugar bowl he had inherited from his great-aunt, which was the most valuable object in the house, could not withstand a very abrupt landing. Today End would be unable to investigate accidents. Nor could anyone else investigate his accident. And he could not even go to the store. But fortunately End had flour and crispbread in his cupboard, and he had just stored in the root cellar the carrot and potato crop from his little vegetable garden. And there was a pond of clear water behind the house that was still in place.
Mr. End was a cold-blooded professional. He knew that what people think is certain and self-evident is in fact uncertain and unpredictable. He did not succumb to panic. And he decided to behave as he would on any ordinary Sunday, even if today was a weekday. Awaiting the descent which would shortly take place, End went inside to brew coffee and make a couple of cheese-and-cucumber sandwiches. He also tried the telephone. It was not working, but then he had not expected that it would be.
Insurance claims adjustor End sat down on his steps to eat his sandwiches. The wind ruffled his scanty hair. The air was as clean and clear as in high mountains. He saw clouds, clouds, clouds-there were clouds both above and below. It seemed to him that the house and lot were constantly moving, but he could not be sure of it without some fixed point of comparison. Perhaps the clouds were just rushing by.
Adjustor End recalled a question that his old philosophy teacher had once asked: "What can we do when we cannot do anything?"
It was an important question. It was the Question of the Day. And the teacher himself had answered it: "We can look at the event from a philosophical point of view. This means: although we cannot change events, we can change our reactions to them."
Here undoubtedly was an event that End could not change. But he realized that now he did not really want to change it. The day had its advantages. He was in no hurry, he had no schedule. The insurance company was not asking him to think up dirty tricks so that they wouldn't have to pay their clients' claims. Eternity murmured in his ears.
End had retained his sunny disposition in spite of the multifarious catastrophes which he had been obliged to witness. He sat up on the warm step and raised his head so that could see the clouds gliding by. Mr. End had been planning to go abroad on vacation. But he had not yet had time to buy the tickets.
"What luck, for now I can travel free and who knows how far. What lovely views! And I don't have to sleep in a strange bed. At the insurance agency they will be wondering what has become of me. Twenty-eight years, and never was I tardy! They'll surely believe that something has happened. They'll remember me for a while and then they'll forget. New insurance claims adjustors will come, just as qualified as I am and maybe even more qualified," End thought, content with his destiny.
What can we do when we cannot do anything? Raise our heads like investigator End, so as to better see the clouds.
© Leena Krohn