Peter Veen is a copywriter, writer and visual artist from the Netherlands. He has more than 1500 pages of non-fiction to his name, wrote advertising texts for all kinds of companies and governments, published poems and stories in several online and offline magazines, and exhibited dozens of art installations. Right now he focuses on writing very short stories and making sound art, based on spoken word. Also he likes accidental photography, pictures that are taken unintentionally. In all disciplines Peter Veen searches for a simple approach that derails almost unnoticed.
Every week -mostly on Sundays- you can read a new very short story on his blog (Dutch only for now) and on Facebook. Special photos appear occasionally on the photo page. Accidental photos mixed with short stories in English can be seen and read on Instagram. And below (previously published in several art projects).
If you wish to read more short stories in English, please contact post @ peterveen. nl or call +31 6 542 723 15.
Sneeze (a Covid-19 story)
A dust devil hovers over the adjacent field. We’ve seen many of them lately. I run and let myself be captured by its tail. It smells like dirt. The hairs on my bare legs and arms stiffen. I grab a tight hold of my cap that wants to fly away and feel small grains of sand in my eyes and nose. For three seconds, the wind tugs at everything I have. Then the deep warmth of the field fills the hole again. I hear a bird I don’t recognize. Turn on the app to name its sound and suddenly sneeze the tickle out of my nose. Probably human, Birdapp reports. Two crows caw at everything that moves, each from their own tree. While keeping the appropriate distance.
“This beast was scared,” I say, tasting the meat. “It tastes like fear with a dash of panic and a hint of bewilderment. I taste being displaced and missing the herd. Yes, this meat was scared. Very scared.”
My host looks surprised and takes a bite from my plate.
“It tastes exactly as usual,” he says. “Eat around it. Or eat it anyway. It has been paid for, the beast has already been slaughtered, a waste to throw it away.” He washes his words away with white wine. I take a sip of my tea of freshly picked mint. And wonder whether the plant has seriously suffered.
Breakfast buffet (a Covid-19 story)
She uses the tongs to takes some bread from the basket and then puts them back for the next hotel guest. She scoops some quark into a small bowl. Uses the spoon to add some jam. Uses the knife to scrape some butter from the bowl. She puts them all back just like she found them. The man in front of me in the six-foot social distancing line coughs into his right hand. He steps forward, then reaches out his cough-covered hand to take the quark spoon. And the bread tongs. And the fork lying next to the slices of cheese. Of course, I’m next. I step aside to make way for the cook carrying in a fresh bowl of fruit. He takes the spoon from the nearly empty bowl and puts it into the new one. He smiles. I offer him and everyone else my friendliest nod. Even if everyone started kissing right now, we couldn’t be more connected than we are in this moment. Brothers and sisters, that’s what we are. Everyone facing the same fate. As I disinfect my hands once more upon leaving the breakfast room, I know that the true connection already lives inside of me now. Making a home for itself via my hands, mouth, and stomach. Definitely. Indefinitely.
They walk through the field, side-by-side, as if lovers. As I get closer, they escape onto a narrower path. The scent of sheep envelops me, fills my nose, fills the space between skin and clothes, fills every pore. I could pass for a sheep myself now that I smell like this. Wandered away from the flock, just like they have. Slipped out of the shepherd’s sight. Missed by the dogs that are supposed to herd me. They look at me, waiting until I take another step. They’ve got nowhere to go. The area is closed off with wire netting and steel fences. I seem freer. I can open and close the gates. Yet I still keep following the old, well-treaded paths, until the sheep scent is completely overwhelmed by the scent of a freshly washed man I hadn’t seen.
Repeat (a Covid-19 story)
What will I do? Mop the floor? Hm. I might as well leave that for some other day. Washing up can also wait. Mow the lawn? I’m sure it will be ok for another day or two. I take a book from the pile that waits to be returned to the library. Browse through it, read a line and remember why it’s lying unread on the return pile. Maybe I should read it anyway now that I can’t get new books for weeks? I turn on the TV. The news I’ve seen three times before is on. The movie channel? Another rerun. A talkshow I already saw last night. Computer on. Skip through the Spotify playlist with new releases. Turn computer off again. Too cold to sit outside. “Tomorrow will be warm and sunny,” says the weather report. So I decide to mop the floor anyway. And instead find myself sitting at the table with a cup of tea and Saturday’s unread newspaper.
Sometimes a dead man comes along. Unannounced like a rain shower on a summer’s day. A chill accompanied by tears, a hole in time that opens, then slowly fills up with daily things like driving, eating and walking the dog. I pull my boot up out of the dirt clay and see how the mud flows back, the space that briefly existed slowly being swallowed. Until I take another step and force the next hole by sinking away, pulling loose and walking on. When I look back after a hundred meters, not a trace from where I came. Sometimes someone who has died a long time ago touches me, until I move, the hole closes and I forget, forget to remember, can’t even remember.