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AUTOFOCUS

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Martin Nygaard AUTOFOCUS Novel Hurra Forlag

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Martin Nygaard AUTOFOCUS English rough translation 2010 by June Joyce Š HURRA forlag Monolitveien 12 0375 Oslo post@hurra.no www.hurra.no isbn: 978-82-92941-20-1 Coverdesign: Clas Hansen Printed and bound at Scandinavian Book

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First book about Laurence Moth

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1 I sat on the smooth, bare rock aiming my airgun at a water flea in the pool below. The reflection of the soles of my shoes made them appear enormous. I wondered if it was true that men with large feet also had large penises. I hoped so and smiled at the thought as I held the gun between my blue trouser legs. I had let my mousy-blond hair grow for the last six months till it just covered my ears. My pointed nose coupled with a receding chin gave me a beaky sort of look. I had the water flea on target. The smoke from my cigarette got into my eyes and made them smart, but I knew that I looked cool. Boots, a Stetson hat and sunglasses would have given me the right image. I was reading «Kane’s Women» at the time and imagined I was firing his Winchester 44/40. Pat, Jonny’s younger sister, was watching me from the beach. I could feel her intense stare, and pictured her baby face with the knowing eyes. Missing my target gave me an excuse to show off in front of her and her friend. – I grazed her and she just stands there. It’s crazy that they can run around on the water like that. What’s holding them up? – It’s just water, Jonny stated from his wheelchair. 7

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– There must be something else, they can walk on it! – Water’s just water. H2O, haven’t you heard of that? Can’t we have some more music? Jonny was wearing a thin, knitted, polo necked sweater with wide brown and orange horizontal stripes. His hair was much longer than mine, thick, curly and dark. His eyes were brown too and showed how difficult it was for him to accept his situation calmly. Bitterness was lurking just under the surface. It had happened on their way down here to Hvaler. His father was crushed to pulp. What was left of him disappeared in the crematorium while Jonny was still in intensive care. I didn’t know his father well. He was a shy sort of chap who kept in the background when I visited, so I didn’t expect to get tearful at the funeral. But as the white coffin slowly sank to the waiting flames even I started to weep. Everyone wept. – I need to piss, I said under my breath, and turned to get up. – Come here Laurence Holden, Pat shouted. The girls hooted with laughter, not because of my hopeless middle name, Holden, but my leg had gone to sleep and I fell over. It felt dead when I knelt on it. Not painful, but very uncomfortable. Jonny had said that his legs felt like that all the time. I leant on his wheelchair for a moment and then limped across to the other end of the pool, waiting for the pins and needles in my thigh to stop. I knew that the girls could see me and that was the whole idea. They thought that I thought I was hidden behind the tall grass. How 8

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much could they actually see from that distance? It is difficult to piss with a hard on, but the pressure was high enough to send the urine through the erection. The cigarette glow burned into the filter, while the jet arched high and splashed down on the insects. Don’t drip on the trousers now, for Pete’s sake, I prayed. I threw the fag end into the water. Fizz. Blond Pat and dark haired Lisa lay face down on the warm polished rock. Pat had loosened the top of her pale blue bikini. My shadow was long in the evening sun as I sauntered down to them. Pat moved her arms close to the almost white skin on the sides of her breasts, while I sat down. – What are you two doing? In order to have something to do while the girls thought of an answer, I fiddled with the switches on a little electronic circuit card. – What’s that? Lisa asked. – A mosquito chaser, I said casually. – I am the Lord of the Flies, ha ha. – Can somebody turn over the tape? Jonny shouted. – You keep your ciggies close to your heart, Pat said stretching her long, slim neck in order to point with her nose. She was right. I kept my cigarette packet in my left breast pocket, my mosquito chaser in my right. – I’ll turn it over, Lisa said and snatched Pat’s bikini top as she got up. – Give it back, Pat screamed. 9

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She scrambled up folding her arms in front of her tiny breasts and waddled after her. It was supposed to be sort of serious though Lisa and Pat were both laughing. I tried to appear as cool and calm as possible. Like a US marshal, kind of patient and adult. But it was difficult to seem uninterested and at the same time send a 100 x zoom look trying to capture as much as possible for future reference. Jonny groaned with annoyance. – Cut it out, small fry! – Give it to me! Lisa stood behind the wheelchair holding the top out at arm’s length. I noticed Jonny was watching me. – Do you have to show yourself off like that Pat? It’s embarrassing! Just then Jonny’s mother Betty appeared with shrimps, juice and slices of melon for us. – Stop that nonsense Pat. – She always strips when I have friends visiting, Jonny complained. – Lisa ran off with my top! I pretended to look away while Lisa gave Pat her top back. Betty tried to look unconcerned. She had freckles on her neck and face. Her hair was long and chestnut coloured, and her eyes were green. Jonny did his best to lessen the slightly awkward atmosphere. – Was somebody going to turn that cassette over? His mother bent over him. – Can I fetch you something dear? – I can manage, Jonny said. 10

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– Enjoy your supper then. And Pat, you must come in at nine. – Oh, Mum! – You need to tidy your room. We have to drive home early tomorrow morning. Pat stamped her feet on the ground. Betty gave in reluctantly. – All right, ten then. – But school doesn’t start before the day after tomorrow, I said. – That doesn’t apply to junior school, Betty said triumphantly. – Oh, that’s not fair! Pat moaned. The sun had broken through the mist on the other side of Oslo fjord while we shelled the shrimps by a small bonfire. I sat in my sleeping bag and daydreamed about grandfather’s cottage on Tjøme. About the summers there; the musty smell of damp paper and unaired clothes, about the titillating advertisements for Tylø Saunas and the painful pleasures of wanking off over the dry closet in the annex, which smelled strongly of chemicals. Pat looked tired as she stared into the flames. Her pupils were enlarged, with flickering shadows of gloomy thoughts. There was a sort of electricity between us, but I couldn’t quite believe the sparks came from her. Perhaps she was the passive earth while I was an overcharged thundercloud about to flash lightning. Lisa’s constant giggling, while giving Pat knowing looks was really irritating. «Killing yourself to live» by 11

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Black Sabbath ground out of my almost new cassette player. It had cost over one month’s pay from my paper round. Lisa rummaged through my recordings and announced louder than necessary that she found my taste in music very dismal. This caused Pat to reply sarcastically – It’s OK being unsure of yourself, Lisa, but do you always have to be so deadly childish? I could see Lisa wince. – Can I have one of your fags? Jonny asked. – What for? You don’t smoke. – There has to be a first time. I fished out a cigarette and lighter from my breast pocket. – I’ve read your diary Pat, Lisa remarked nastily. – Lots of interesting things there . . . Jonny lit his very first cigarette. Pat tried to take it from him, paying no attention to her friend’s hidden threat. – You oughtn’t to start smoking, you know. Lisa stood up and gave me a hurt look. – I’m going home now. Someone must come with me. I had risen half way out of my sleeping bag ready to help, but Pat decided otherwise. – Jonny needs to strengthen his arms. And anyway it’s downhill all the way back. I sat down again. Annoyed, Lisa grabbed the handles behind Jonny’s chair, while Jonny struggled hard trying to smoke without coughing. He turned towards us. – No nonsense now Pat. You know what I mean. – Course not. 12

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The tape had stopped playing. We listened to the lapping of the water on the beach and breathed in the smell of smoke and seaweed. It began to get cold. – Do you think Jonny is going to start smoking? She asked. – No idea. – He’s bitter; he’s going to injure himself. – He’s already badly injured, I said. – Seriously, Laurence. Dad often fell asleep behind the wheel; always drove in the middle of the road. Jonny knows that. They must both have fallen asleep. But it’s not his fault! I’m frozen. Can you warm me? Her teeth were chattering as she slid into my sleeping bag. – I sleep badly, she said, lying close to me. – I have an empty feeling in my stomach, a sort of prickling, like an itch but I don’t know where to scratch. I tried to lay as quietly as possible, breathing in the smell of her hair. – I’ve started my periods. I looked down at her. – Not now, relax, I’m not about to bleed in your sleeping bag. I looked away. – Just before the summer holidays. It was a bit early. Mum didn’t seem to know how to handle it, just after the accident too. But then she suddenly wanted to celebrate it and took me out to a restaurant. There was no end to how free I would feel now, but at the same time everything was also really dangerous. Especially boys of 13

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course. She is even worried about you. – Me? Does she think I would take advantage of you? I said while thinking about the first time I ejaculated. I doubt my Mum would have celebrated that. Then she kissed me, her mouth open on mine and with deep concentration. She licked my lips as if trying it out. My erection came on immediately. This was after all something I had no control over and certainly not with Pat rubbing up against me. – What’s this? she asked mischievously. – Is it painful having him penned inn like that? – Yes, I gasped, – a bit . . . – Then we must let him loose, she said giggling. But before she had time to do anything Jonny came rolling back. – Pat! You . . . Pat hurried out of the sleeping bag, but not fast enough. – I knew it, he said despairingly. – She did that with Frank too. – No I didn’t! Jonny groaned. – She is completely sex crazy. Go to bed now, it’s way past ten. Pat was next to tears as she gathered her things together. I wanted to defend her. But I couldn’t, it wasn’t the right thing to do. Anyway I couldn’t leave the bag in my condition.

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We lay in our sleeping bags, looking up at the stars and nattering while Manfred Mann accompanied the grasshoppers. «The land no longer is a virgin. Empty sockets blankly stare at children making love to children. Children making love to children.» I had trouble keeping my thoughts focused after Pat. She had touched me. It was the first time. No one had touched me there before as far as I could remember. While I struggled to explain to Jonny how it felt to be taken into the day–care centre’s white, bare room with iron bedsteads lining the walls, I tried to hold on to the feeling of Pat’s finger on my crotch. – I reached only to Mums waist and could feel her stiff dress material against my cheek. A woman in a white apron and a funny hat came in to us. She smiled in a scary sort of way. I suddenly realised that I was being left behind with her and that my Mummy was about to leave. I knew that Jonny didn’t want to talk about the accident, not much about his childhood either. But he liked to tell about his father, the jazz music he played and his relatives from Czechoslovakia. That’s where he got his dark hair and eyes, and his slightly hooked nose. His father was apparently often away on tour and was a bit of a spendthrift. Jonny insisted that his mother was relieved that he died, but it didn’t sound very likely. I tried to continue telling about my earliest memories, but it was so painful that my voice soon petered out. Silently I relived how my Mummy had torn herself away from my grasp, and ran, while I was held back at the day-care centre. 15

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That awful feeling of being torn away has never left me. I locked myself away in one of the toilets and climbed onto the seat so that no one could see me. I undressed, garment by garment until I was completely naked, and tried to regain a feeling of security and belonging by playing with myself. Jonny fell asleep. I could finally find the relief I had longed for, and in that way concentrate on my experience with Pat in an ejaculation. I was working on it when Betty and her neighbour Tom came out for a swim. Lit by the full moon she let the towel fall and waded into the water. I saw her from behind and was well aware that when she came back she would come straight in front of me. Meanwhile I rolled my cock as if I was making a plasticine sausage. I was sore. The skin ripped and I felt blood on the palms of my hands. Tom waded out and splashed water on Betty. She asked him to be quiet because of us, laughing in a soft, intimate way. I heard her low voice thank him for the support he had given her at this difficult time. It irritated me rather that she turned my awareness away from her daughter. It was the experience with Pat I wanted as a background for my orgasm, but now it was her naked mother who was making the biggest impression on my prick. I lay on my side pretending to be asleep with my sleeping bag pulled over my head when she came out of the water. It came for me then in an emotional chaos.

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2 The sun had already risen at quarter to five. I rolled into the nearest shade, but gave up trying to sleep by seven. Jonny snored happily away in the sun while I had a smoke. My hands were sticky from dried semen and blood. I washed them at the water’s edge and walked up to the cottage with noble intentions of making breakfast. Two glasses with traces of red wine stood on the table. An empty packet of Dunhill cigarettes lay in the ashtray. A copy of the feminist magazine Siren and an American Readers Digest lay on the shelf under the glass toped table. The Readers Digest had an article about radioactive waste, how TV changes society, how blue bell-bottomed jeans were taking over the world, and an exciting story about the survivors of an air crash in the Andes mountains. I noticed an advertisement for a fridge I could fancy for myself. In addition to an icemaking machine in the door, it also had compartments for making red and yellow squash lollipops. I had barely started laying the table on the terrace when bleary eyed Betty staggered into the kitchen. – Crikey, are you up already? 17

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– I couldn’t sleep any longer, I said. – And Jonny? – He’s still snoring. Betty went out on to the terrace to have a look and came in again carrying the wine glasses and ashtray. – Honestly Laurence how is he? – He’s OK. – I wish you were right, she sighed. – Even Pat has changed since the accident. Do you think it’s normal to be so obsessed with boys? – I can hear you, shouted a warning voice from a room deep inside the cottage. Betty and I went out to fetch Jonny. Pat came when the breakfast was ready, spoiling for a fight. – You think all men are rapists. – I certainly do not, Betty said. – You would rather have a world free of men. – Men are fine enough in their way. Betty had changed out of her dressing gown into jeans and a white blouse. Her hair was fastened with a clip at the back of her neck, and I noticed she was not wearing a bra. A few hours ago I had seen her naked in the moonlight. – Why can’t I show an interest in Jonny’s friends without you going berserk? – No boy of fourteen would want a girl of eleven as a girlfriend, everyone knows that. Anyway it’s illegal. Intercourse between minors isn’t allowed before the age of sixteen. 18

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– Not when both are under age, stupid. – Both must be over sixteen for it to be legal, and I’m not stupid. Having sex with an eleven year old is called paedophilia whatever the age of the attacker. – Romeo and Juliet were both under sixteen. – But they didn’t have sex. – How do you know that? Betty gave up, and Pat pocketed a victory which kept her going throughout a full morning of tidying, packing and cleaning the cottage. But she wouldn’t have anything to do with me now. The car smelt unpleasantly new as I climbed in. The insurance had made it possible for Betty to buy a Volkswagen Golf with a 70 horsepower engine, radio and tape player. Jonny pulled himself into the front passenger seat. His wheelchair lay folded in the boot. Yes Sir, this was the little car with room to spare. Pat sat with me on the back seat. I just couldn’t understand her. Yesterday evening she had slid into my sleeping bag, yet now, when I tried to touch her knee she moved away and looked at me as if I was a pervert. – Can we have the radio on, she asked. – You know I don’t like music in the car when I’m driving. – Oh, you’re so hopeless. We drove through Fredrikstad and places with such depressing names that the very thought of being left behind anywhere there gave me goose bumps. The 19

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increasingly bad weather and Pat’s complete rejection didn’t make me feel any better. Tiredness overwhelmed me. The summer holiday was over. The car carried the injured family and the son’s raunchy friend to Oslo, to work, school and utter boredom. Betty suggested a game to shorten the journey. To count yellow cars. – For Heaven’s sake, we’re not kids, Pat snorted. She became even grumpier when we found this amusing and began to laugh. * Betty dropped me off at the bottom of the quiet cul-desac. Out in the rain I thanked her quickly and politely smiled at Jonny and glanced at Pat. She just stared out of the window. The three story high terraced house stood white, cold and dismissive in front of me. I didn’t feel at home here. I still longed to be back at Høvik and was sometimes even homesick for Mum’s England. My dad was born on the other side of the street. He studied at a university in England and landed in my mother’s office at «Petfoods» in connection with a school project. I existed as a logical possibility from the first moment the student and the young woman at the office exchanged glances, and was born a couple of years later. My childhood was spread over five locations, staying a few years at each place. This was for me just the last house, colder and more unfriendly than the others. I let myself inn through the outer door of the end section, 20

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my rucksack over my shoulder. The second door led into the hall which had a fireplace and also a door to a small flat. Mum and the lodger Helen stood talking in the hallway. We had inherited Helen when we took over the house from Grandpa and Grandma. Aunt Audrey and Uncle Noah had moved into our house at Høvik at the same time. Mum smiled and winked at me in the middle of the conversation. – But you couldn’t have known, she said, sucking her little finger. – I ought to have realised, I ought to have taken that chance, Helen snuffled. She was secretary for a film company, about 30 years old, very ladylike, well dressed, curly hair, earrings, sort of proper. The two women resembled each other, though Mum was nearer 40. – Maybe, maybe not, Mum said rather offhand. I slipped by into the stairwell having noticed that I had grown as tall as them during the summer. There was a built-in bench at the bottom of the stairs, and brass hooks with padded clothes hangers on the wall. We children had our own cloakroom in the adjourning laundry room. I felt that I was actually too big for the wire netting shelves for drying wet mittens and socks and the three hooks fixed low on the wall. I hung my jacket there nevertheless. – You took a chance, Helen said. Mum laughed. – So true, I certainly did. – Your husband would not have taken no for an answer. 21

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Helen broke into tears. I was glad I didn’t have to see that. Mum didn’t like emotional outbursts. She always left the room if things got too sentimental on the TV. I bet she was feeling pretty uncomfortable now. – It’s too late for me. I’ll have to wait for the divorce, wait for a second chance, Helen snuffled. But then she took a hold of herself. – I’m sorry. – No, no, you don’t need to apologize. – How is Bud? Is he terribly nervous? I could hear the relief in Mum’s voice. – Oh! Yes. I’ve just taken him to his first day at the new school. He had worried about it all summer, poor soul. I walked slowly up the spiral staircase. It was perhaps considered an architectural gem, but I found it long, bare and creaky. The staircase at Granny and Granddads home in England was much nicer, a narrow ordinary one with a soft carpet. Those stairs led up to the first floor bedrooms and a bathroom. Mum, Tiny and I shared a room last summer. My brother and me shared the double bed and Mum the extra one. I hadn’t learned how to masturbate then and remembered clearly the restlessness in my body. The same feeling as Pat gets I guess. My sexual feelings were directed towards Mum at that time. I wanted to lie close to her, and wanted her to touch me. One sleepless night with an erection I didn’t know how to handle, I almost got out of bed and went to her, but the fear of being repulsed stopped me. I knew that she could suddenly disappear without explanation. It was in a way as if I was 22

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still standing on the toilet lid at the day-care centre. The landing on the first floor of our house had a door leading into the sitting room and another into the kitchen. I continued up to the bathroom on the second floor and threw my dirty cloths into the laundry basket before I went into my own room at the end of the landing. I could breathe easier there. I lent my air gun against the bed under the window, connected my tape recorder to a homemade loudspeaker and put Deep Purple’s «Machine Head» on. The music eased a little of the acute restlessness and loneliness I felt, as I sat down on the black corduroy cushion in a white tub-like plastic chair. There were three built-in dark brown wardrobes at the other end of the room. A thick rope was coiled up over a hook by the radiator. It still smelt vaguely of gymnasium. A model airplane hung in a thread from the ceiling and a few old toys from Høvik still lay in boxes by the door. A low couch with cushions and mattress, also covered in black corduroy was placed against the wall and a not too smoothly planed table from woodwork class stood in state in the middle of the room. An unused ashtray carved out of a block of wood, burned with a gas burner, decorated with sculls and crossbones lay on the table. A poster of a naked, wet, bare breasted girl with a towel round her waist was taped up on the wall by the foot end of my blue painted bed. She looked just like Pat. A half finished model aeroplane lay on my dusty desk. There was also a rack for spice jars full of electronic components which I had mainly got from Uncle Noah. Next 23

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to it was a JostyKit catalogue and a petrol aeroplane engine from Terry, the boy next door at Høvik. On top of the spice jar rack was a shelf with a row of baby food jars holding materials for organic experiments, flour, sugar, milk, soil, mashed potatoes, spit and one with semen. Not much came at a time, but it did at least cover the bottom. It suddenly struck me what was wrong with my room. I had grown out of it. I was no longer interested in models and toys. The paintings on the window panes had to go immediately. The toys from my time at Høvik, the steam engine from England, the model aeroplanes and other building-sets, the Lego bricks and Donald Duck comics – it all had to go! I was no longer a child. Worn out after cleaning up, I glanced out of the window and saw Jonny sitting in his room on the other side of the back yard. He signalled that we should talk over the telephone we had rigged up between our rooms. I lifted the receiver. – It took you a week to paint that stained glass picture, he said. – I know, but it’s too childish. Jonny laughed. – Mum says we should hang onto our childhood as long as possible. – Only a teacher would say anything that stupid. – I agree. Shall we go out afterwards? – OK, after dinner. 24

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It came as a complete surprise that not only Grandma and Grandpa but also Aunt Audrey and Uncle Noah were in the sitting room. A family dinner, and on a Monday! That was dramatic. Before I had time to start the ritual handshaking and small talk, Dad opened the sliding doors to the dining room and proclaimed that the dinner was ready to be served. He was so busy deciding on where we should sit that he didn’t have time to say hello. But, so what, I hadn’t said hi to him either. Grandpa sat in the place of honour at the end of the table by the window. Dad sat at the other end. The rest of us placed ourselves down its length. When Grandma saw the dish of cranberry sauce on the table she just had to tell the story about what had happened to her mother when she first arrived in Stavanger. We had heard it 1000 times over, while this old lady, close to 70 years old, told it as if it was new to us. Aunt Audrey and Uncle Noah chuckled politely and even Grandpa’s hard chiselled face attempted to break into a smile. Aunt Audrey turned to Bud and Tiny in order to explain. I wondered what we were celebrating as Mum and Dad started dishing out the food. Warm plates had been placed on the tablecloth, which had a thick felt under– cloth, jars and dishes containing various condiments stood here and there on silver mats. Grandpa fastened his napkin meticulously across his chest on a gold chain with a clip at each end. – How is the moving coming along? He asked. Dad sat down. 25

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– The last few days have been hectic, he sighed. Bud started school today at Majorstua. – And Tiny has started kindergarten, Mum said smiling proudly. Grandma had always been especially interested in school and education. She fought heroically when Dad’s dyslexia wasn’t taken seriously at his school. He was just considered unintelligent. – How was it Bud? She asked sweetly. It was sickening to see how the creep took advantage of the situation. If he’d said: – Thanks, but it would be better with ice cream, I’m pretty sure he would have been given it. Tiny couldn’t care less. He had his lemonade. – How was your day at school? Dad asked me. – I wasn’t at school today. – Why not? His eyebrows gathered threateningly over the bridge of his nose. – How do I know? – Laurence has been staying with the Wig family at their summer cottage. Mum said, sending warning looks across the table. – Oh well, and how did that go? What was I supposed to say? That Pat had crept into my sleeping bag? That I had seen Mrs. Wig in the nude? – Fine I said, and took a slice of ham. The rain had stopped. The tracks from Jonny’s wheel chair faded from the paving stones along the picket fence 26

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around Grandpa and Grandma’s house. I had lived there as a small child and could remember how I ran away on my tricycle; ran away from my baby brother, from my strict father and my mother who just didn’t fit in. I pushed Jonny across Bygdøy Allé and had to lean my whole weight on his chair in order to shove him up Hafrsfjord street. – I expect they will pretend nothing’s happened – How can they pretend nothing’s happened when they see me in a wheelchair? – No idea. – As long as they don’t begin to feel sorry for me. – It might be difficult not to feel sorry for you, I panted behind him. At last we were at the top. The kindergarten next to the Vigeland museum was directly in front of us. We passed by the wooden box containing sand. The box Jonny and I and some other children had climbed on to when we gave Miss Cornelia the slip. – This is where Dad caught me after I’d done a bunk on my tricycle, I said as an apropos to our conversation under the stars at Hvaler. – He had borrowed a van from work. I thought I was doing nicely until a dark shape suddenly pounced on me and threw me and the tricycle through the rear door into the back of the van, locked me in and drove away. I didn’t even know it was Dad. – That sounds pretty hefty, Jonny said. – Yes, not exactly one of my best memories.

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We crossed Halvdan Svartes Street and caught sight of our pals. They were sitting on a bench between the flower beds and the Candela shell. Beautiful Barbie was smoking feverishly, fat Rachel was biting her nails, unpredictable Kathleen from class C was chewing gum franticly and tough red haired Frank stood transfixed on the balls of his toes causing his Levis clad legs to tremble. Their attempt at pretending that nothing had changed was in its preliminary phase. – Hi Jonny. – Hi Laurence. – How’re you doing? That question fell dead to the ground. Kathleen, Lisa’s big sister gave me a sinister stare. – Lisa told me what happened at Hvaler. You know that she and Pat are in the same class as your brother? – So what? Barbie stretched her neck, exhaling smoke. – What’s that? Tell us! – Pat is keen on Laurence! Kathleen said. – Jeez, she’s only in the 6th. form. Are you paedo? – Apparently, that’s what they say. And what have you been doing in the hols? – Just the usual, you know having sex with animals and corpses, Barbie mocked. – I’ve been at the cottage, mostly, Jonny remarked. Silence. – What did you do there? Kathleen asked. – Do you mean in my wheelchair? Not much really. Took pot shots at water fleas with my air gun and was 28

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driven to Sunnås for physical therapy. – Does that help? – Not much. – Poor you. Then Barbie blustered out: – Won’t you ever be properly well again? – No one seems to know. In the meantime I’m paralyzed from the waist down. Have to use nappies. Now I’ve said it. – You can still play kiss, pat and hug, I said with the best intentions. The atmosphere was so strained that any suggestions would have been accepted. – Jonny’s «it», Kathleen said. – Go on, hide! Jonny manoeuvred himself behind one of the shell’s three pillars while Frank took on the job as «postman». He pointed to each girl in turn. – I choose hug, Barbie said and hugged Jonny as if her life depended on it. Then it was Jonny’s turn to be «postman» and Frank looked as if he was terrified of getting Rachel too close. He peeped and tried to control the game. Rachel saw what he was up to and wouldn’t play any longer. She seemed to be looking at me. Barbie looked my way too. I was a bit taken with Barbie, but she was, and always has been Mono’s girlfriend. Mono is Specs’ best pal. Angela and Specs are going steady. Thank God they are not here now. – There are rumours about a flasher, Kathleen said coughing. – I’m really only a party smoker. 29

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– A flasher? What’s that? I asked trying to appear cool. Frank looked at me condescendingly out of his bright, blue eyes. – A bloke who flashes his prick, OK? I chose kiss when it was my turn and finished up with Barbie. It was all very innocent, but everybody watched closely. – On the mouth! On the mouth! Kathleen called, teasing me. I leant over towards Barbie, who closed her eyes and pouted. But my lips had barely touched hers before she suddenly pushed me away and screamed. Kathleen came rushing up. – What’s the matter? – He stuck his tongue out! Barbie shouted, spitting like mad. Kathleen looked at me contemptuously. – Did you? – No, I said. – It was horrid! Barbie howled. – Perhaps my lips were a bit wet, I said. Barbie spat at me. – You need to have agreed about that beforehand, don’t you? If you are to stick your tongue into somebody you have to ask first. Mono is going to be really mad at you. – But . . . – It’s almost like rape! – What? 30

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– Is that what they do where you come from? We call it tongue rape here. – Well, I like it, Rachel mumbled blushing violently. Barbie and Kathleen looked at her as if they had shit on their upper lips. Frank’s sun bleached eyebrows shot up. – Time to kip, he said. Paper round tomorrow. Are you coming Laurence? – Course, I replied, relieved to have an excuse to get away.

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3 I wheeled Jonny into the park at the Frogner Manor end, by the pavilion, where we caught a glimpse of some drunkards sleeping it off on the benches, and then exited at the main entrance. It was Jonny who, on his own two legs, had accompanied me to school for the first time in Oslo. It was after the Easter holidays in 8th grade. He was the only one I knew apart from Mono. We had been together at the same kindergarten. Jonny had begun to behave oddly as we approached the building where the Pakistanis lived, as if he didn’t want us to be seen together. At the time I thought he was getting fed up with me asking such a lot of questions about my new class. I understood afterwards it was my clothes and hairstyle that embarrassed him. There I stood with close cropped hair, a raincoat with long lapels and green Wellingtons. Underneath I wore shorts and a striped T-shirt. I looked exactly like Christopher Robin coming out of the Hundred Acre Wood as I spoke to the boys in the class for the first time. – Hello there! I’m your new classmate. Not a very successful remark. Even Jonny had to grin as he sat down on the steps with the others. No one was interested in getting a new classmate. At least not one 32

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who looked like me. Apart from a very few they were all dressed in identical, orange rainproof jackets. Almost all of them had flared Levi jeans pushed down into blue and white sailing boots, and they all had hair over their ears. We caught sight of Barbie and Mono just outside the school by the newly opened shop for wine making equipment «The Corkscrew». Barbie strutted around in an expensive short sleeved blouse making fun of my bouncy way of walking. I attempted to change my footwork and concentrated on keeping my head in a straight line behind the wheelchair. – I don’t mind you slobbering over my girl, Mono said threateningly as we approached the baker’s at the corner. – But not that you rape her. Understood? He ignored Jonny. Barbie smiled nastily, up yours, sort of. – It was all in fun, Jonny said. Mono inhaled smoke from his cigarette and exhaled between his knees without even looking in Jonny’s direction. Specs, wearing a T–shirt from Gran Canarias, sat next to Mono on the ledge under the display window. Angela sat on his lap in skin-tight trousers and a yellow top. As none of them seemed especially interested in Jonny’s situation I wheeled him around the corner into the short street named after some Arboe or other. We passed through the dirty white archway, and were subjected to a lot of indirect attention as we rolled across the playground. The other pupils’ hopeless attempts to 33

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look without actually looking and point without pointing were obvious. I noticed a ramp for the wheelchair had been erected in front of entrance D during the course of the summer holidays. Mr. Roach, the headmaster, stood there with a microphone. He was an old fashioned gentleman with a fob watch, highly polished shoes, a suit, a tie and combed back hair. We stopped in front of him and waited. When we were all gathered together he fumbled with his glasses and cleared his throat. – Welcome to all secondary school pupils, both new and old, and a special welcome to you, Jonny. We are so pleased to see you again after that dreadful accident last spring. It is a miracle that you survived and are with us today. All of us, teachers and pupils, promise to do everything we can to make your time here as easy as possible. He said a whole lot more of course, but that was the essence. Everyone clapped for Jonny and after that it was no longer necessary either to point or whisper. A group of girls had already surrounded the wheelchair and stood by the newly installed invalid lift along with the caretaker. Jonny was about to learn how to get himself to the gym, on the 1st. floor, his classroom on the 2nd. and the domestic science room in the loft. Everyone else had disappeared into their classrooms ages ago while we stood waiting for our new form teacher, Mrs. Sundew. There was a bit of pushing and shoving as I tried to get into the queue at the door. 34

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– Rapists aren’t welcome here, Mono growled, baring his teeth. Specs stuck his flat freckled face into mine. We could have started a fight then and there if Barbie hadn’t warned us that someone was coming. We rushed to the banisters and saw a large woman with permed hair, dragging herself slowly up the stairs. As she came closer we could see that her eyebrows were only pencil marks and her mascara lay in lumps on her lashes. She puffed and panted as she pushed her way through to the door. Her breath smelled so bad that those closest to her pulled back. Was this Mrs. Sundew? This beefy woman stood at her desk and blew up a sort of bathing ring. She placed the ring on her chair and sat down, waiting until there was almost silence. – My name, as you probably know, is Nina Sundew. I will be your form teacher this year, and if you are really lucky, next year too. I am a widow, live alone and have a grown up married son. I became a grandmother for the first time this summer. Are there any questions? Barbie put her hand up. Mrs. Sundew nodded: – If you tell me your name first then I will know which of you have learnt to speak. OK? – Barbara, Miss. How’s Mrs. Camberwell getting on? Has she had her baby? – We haven’t heard from her, Barbara, so I really don’t know. Any more questions? As chief bully Mono had to make his presence felt. – Why do you have such bad breath, Miss? The silence she had been waiting for came now. 35

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Mrs. Sundew stared at him acidly. – I’ll answer that when you are out of nappies. It was an amusing answer. There was scattered laughter. – More intelligent questions? No one else felt called upon. Mrs. Sundew sighed deeply as if there was something bothering her. – Today my dear pupils, you all have top marks in every subject. Yes, you heard correctly. Top marks in every subject, also in orderliness and behaviour. From now on there is only one possible way. Downhill. The remainder of the period was taken up with timetables, books and the opportunity to exchange desks and chairs while we tried to avoid her awful breath. I was a bit worried about the break. Blood was in the air. The showdown, which Mrs. Camberwell had so effectively kept at bay those few months from Easter to the school holidays, had to come now. The alleged French kiss was just an excuse. The bell rang, and even though nothing was said as we went down the stairs, I could tell from the atmosphere that something would happen. As long as I hadn’t been properly classified there had been a sort of uncertainty, but now everyone knew that Mono had to show once and for all who was boss. A ring formed automatically around us. Mono got nasty. – You rapist shit! I knew he wouldn’t hit me first. What he really wanted was for me to chicken out so that he and Specs could 36

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bully me for the rest of my life. The teacher on outdoor duty didn’t dare to interfere. I saw him run to the staff room for reinforcements. In the meantime the onlookers were shouting. – More blood, more blood, more blood, even though no one had been hit yet. Mr. Bug came rushing up. He had been named Majorstua’s Jason King; a detective hero with a lion’s mane of dark hair, thick moustache and a long black leather coat. Mr. Bug was shorter and lacked Jason King’s charisma, but he was a sturdy chap. His back muscles continued up through his neck, and his upper arms were the size of a girl’s thigh. I don’t mean Rachel’s but more like Barbie’s or Kathleen’s. Mono gave me a scornful look. If I didn’t throw a punch he would pocket a resounding victory. Just as Mr. Bug ploughed his way into the ring I lunged out at Mono and missed. Mr. Bug parted us and wanted to know who had started the fight. – It was Laurence, Mono said maliciously. – Is that true? I nodded. Mrs. Sundew was bent over her coffee cup with a cube of sugar between her wrinkled lips as I was led into the staff room. Mr. Roach gave me a searching look, and discussed with all present whether it was necessary to report it. Several teachers were inclined to let it drop, but Mrs. Sundew was intensely interested in justice and discipline. 37

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– We must set an example to show that we do not accept any form of violence, she insisted. So this meant a note home. A pity, but it was not significant at the time. The most important thing was that I had stood up to Mono and that Barbie had noticed me. After a couple of intense rounds of indoor bandy, we wandered down to the changing room. I pulled my sweaty clothes off and walked into the shower. There was always a battle to get under the best jets, so it was a matter of getting there first. After that you needed to keep a close eye on the taps. Many a one had been scalded by «amusing» classmates. Mr. Bug kept us in order and marched between the rows. – Wash yourselves properly now. Girls don’t like dirty boys you know. His voice carried strong and clear. – You must soap yourself in all over, every day, if you want to be properly clean. His dark eyes checked that everything was under control. – Use a little soap on your prick and it will glide smoothly in your hand, he said out of the blue. There was absolute silence. – Don’t pretend you don’t do it. All healthy boys wank off. Use soap and it won’t get sore. No one spoke. We all washed quietly. It got very steamy. – Relax boys, you needn’t do it now, wait till you get 38

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home. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Frank nodded in his direction and whispered to me. – Perhaps he wants you to lend him a hand. * I began to wonder how and when I should show my note from school to my parents. A letter from school on the very first day wouldn’t be well received. Dad didn’t look particularly cheerful either as he sat waiting for his dinner. Perhaps it would be better to wait until pudding was served. – How was school today? He asked Bud. I stared hard at him willing him not to say anything about the fight. – Fine thanks Dad, but Laurence wouldn’t come home with me. – Why not? Dad wanted to know. – I was with my pals, I said. – Couldn’t you be a little nicer to your brother now, when he’s new at school? – I am nice to him, but I don’t have to babysit him do I? Mum sent Dad a warning look. He controlled himself. – How was your new form teacher? I was rather surprised that he knew about her. – Mrs. Sundew? She’s OK. – And you Tiny, what have you done? – I’ve been with Grace. We played at sex. 39

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Even Dad had to smile at that remark, and the rest of the dinner time was quite pleasant. I decided to put off the confession for a while. Perhaps it was best to wait a few days before showing them the note. After dinner I took out my soldering iron, some old film canisters, electric motors, propellers, wires and tools from the drawers in my work table. I made a hole in the two canisters with a nail and glued them together bottom to bottom. I put a motor in one end, cut out a hole for the shaft in the plastic lid and threaded a propeller onto it. I put a battery in the other canister. One terminal was soldered to the motor, the other poked through the plastic lid along with a piece of wire. When the bare end of the wire was pressed against the terminal the propeller started to spin. Laurence’s fan was born!

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4 It was late August, but still light when I dragged myself out of bed to do my paper round. The little electronic alarm clock Aunt Audrey had given me for Christmas showed the early hours with large red numbers. It rang loudly and intensely, but it also had a snooze function; it could be silenced for 10 minutes at a time by giving it a slap on the top. That possibility was often used. The premises where we picked up the newspapers was situated at the corner of Elisenberg Road and Tostrup Street, it had been used as a paint shop in its previous life. I locked my bike, jumped over the trolley ramp and burst through the door. The old counter from the previous owner was still in place, and behind it stood Mrs. Hornet, Kathleen’s and Lisa’s mother with a sarcastic remark about my late arrival: – Well, I do believe Laurence is paying us a visit. I tried to be equally amusing. – Gosh. Am I too early? Where is everybody? The room was painted white, well lit and with benches under the windows, covered with posters advertising Aftenposten. A packing table stood in the middle of the linoleum covered floor. I heard Kathleen’s father park his Ford Escort outside. He had probably already 41

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done four rounds, but appeared awake, and in good shape, whistling cheerfully, sporting sideburns and back combed hair. It wasn’t possible to determine whether this Elvis imitation was disappointed or relieved over not having to do my round too. They were an odd couple, Kathleen’s parents. While her mother held the fort, her father did the rounds for all who were sick. I heard them talking in the room next door while I cut the strings on the two newspaper packages for route 245. I read through the list of changes, removed the stickers from those who had stopped the paper for the summer, and fastened a new key to my key ring. The old fogies talked about stupid things like school having started again, their cottage at Hvaler and how it was getting steadily darker in the mornings. At the bottom of one of the packages I found a complaint from Mrs. Jodis in the FIAT building. She wanted her paper delivered through the letter slot in her door. I groaned. This «through the slot thing» was super irritating. It’s so much easier to throw the newspaper on the floor by the door. With a bit of practice it’s possible to do whole corridors without leaving the staircase. You have to fold them properly, of course, and consider the aerodynamics. The paper must sail away with the fold foremost. I could even get them to fly around corners. But, when someone insisted on delivery through the slot I had to go all the way to the door and push a far too thick paper through a far too narrow opening. It ruined the whole operation’s drive. 42

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I had my Pepito in a rucksack and enormous earphones on my head. Cut off from other sounds the houses became dead, silent backgrounds for Black Sabbaths «Electric Funeral». My round started in Lindeman Street, a dark alley in from Thomas Heftye Street. The gloomy, ghostly back yards smelled of urine. Places that brought to mind thoughts of decay and bitter loneliness. There was dismal gray-brown plaster on the walls, and cracked asphalt with an abundance of weeds. Three dilapidated outer doors fitted with cheap locks, led on to worn staircases. They were steep, narrow and with steps so much the worse for wear that you had to be careful where you put your feet. It smelt of mould, dust and soap. An all right smell really. I sensed that decent people lived here; honest, hard working. The newspaper sailed elegantly over the banisters on the top floor and kissed the doormat, bringing the latest news: infectious seduction about accidents and death, almost as in «Hand of Doom». «Disillusioning, you push the needle in». On the other side of Lindeman Street stood a block of fashionable houses with front gardens and entrances off the pavement. Mono and his elder sister lived in one of these with their housewife mother and wholesale dealer of a father, dealer in toys actually. Life hadn’t been easy for the blond «afterthought». I remembered him from kindergarten, with a new pale blue pedal car. Jonny and I were sick with envy and therefore quick to bear the poor boy a hateful grudge. «Now you gonna die», with a bass note, rang in my ears. 43

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Outside the FIAT building I counted up nearly half the papers. Ozzie Osborne screamed like an air ride warning in my ears. Quite fitting, really, considering the sirens on the roof of the 9th storey. ÂŤJust like witches at Black MassesÂť. I took the lift up and started distributing the papers, floor by floor. One step into the wings was sufficient to get them to land within a reasonable distance from each door. But, on the 4th floor, where Mrs. Jodis lived, I had to leave the staircase and walk down the corridor in order to push it through her door. I had a strange feeling that I was being watched. I dutifully and laboriously folded the paper so that I just managed to push it under the brass flap without tearing it to pieces. I could feel that someone grabbed the paper from the other side. For a short moment we both held on to it. Mrs. Jordis? Suddenly it seemed so strangely exciting. Perhaps she was naked? Back at the depot I parked the trolley, put the keys and subscription book on the shelf, rolled a cigarette and took my schoolbooks out of the satchel. I had intended to use the time before school started to do my homework. I lay the books out on the bench; Geography, Maths, Biology, History, Physics and Social studies. As I lay them out I could feel tiredness seeping in, this awful, depressing tiredness. *

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The gang stood outside the corner bakery as usual. I took out one of my homemade fans and blew Mono’s smoke rings away. – Cool, he said and took it. He fanned himself and smiled. I swelled with pride. – Ten crowns, I said, and then saw that he hesitated. – But you can have it for free, I added hurriedly, in order not to ruin the friendly atmosphere. – I want one too, Barbie said, stretching out a slim hand. – I can’t give them all away, I said. – But you can give one to me, you gave one to Mono. – OK, as it’s you, but everyone else has to pay. – If you need money you can do a «break» with us after school, Mono dared me. The fans were soon very popular, not least because Barbie and Mono had one each. Half the class were fitted out with them by the time Mrs. Sundew finally sat down on her rubber ring. Barbie sank onto the chair next to mine. Specs sat right at the back with Angela on his lap. It was fantastic to feel the intoxication of popularity. I felt drunk with this sudden feeling. Mrs. Sundew breathed heavily behind her desk. She looked really bothered under her perm. She may perhaps have had red hair and freckles in her youth, but there was nothing left of that, just gray-brown powdered skin and tons of makeup. She looked at us over her glasses and sighed heavily. – What’s the matter with you today? 45

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Angela leaned over Specs, gave him a long drawn-out kiss, and made a tearful farewell scene before she walked back to her chair. All who had fans sat fanning themselves. Mrs. Sundew sniffed scornfully. – Do I want to teach a squadron of small aircraft? No, I don’t think so. I pushed my shirtsleeve up and lay my arm across Barbie’s desk. It was a pretty rash move, but luckily she started to tickle me. Her fingertips stroked lightly over the sensitive skin on the inside of my arm. Mrs. Sundew looked down at me scornfully. – Are you coming in for landing shortly? She laughed a little at her own joke. I don’t think she meant to be nasty; it was just her sense of humour. It’s possible I was a bit too self confident when I picked up Barbie’s fan and turned it on her. – This is to avoid your rotten fish smelling breath. There was a dead silence. Barbie stopped tickling me for a second or two; I turned the fan full on her. Mrs. Sundew stood up in all her immensity, and smiled contemptuously. – So my breath bothers you, Laurence? She looked around and snorted. – Does the smell from my mouth bother anyone else? Mono sniggered, but no one answered. Mrs. Sundew came up to my desk. I kept the fan trained on her, but she came nearer and nearer. I had to pull the fan back. The buzzing propeller was eventually only a few millimetres 46

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from my nose and her face. With a devilish gleam in her eyes she looked straight at me. I could see the network of veins in her eyeballs, the pale discoloured iris and the uneven edges round the pupils. – Do you perhaps want me to play with your little nostrils? She said, blowing so hard that it felt like a punch between the eyes. I tipped the chair back and held the fan in front of me like a crucifix. – Enjoy my lovely breath, Laurence! Her fat red nose came closer and stopped the propeller with a little slap. I lost my balance, hit my head on Rachel’s desk and fell flat on the floor. The class laughed and Mrs. Sundew was victorious. – Buzz, buzz, Laurence. You won’t get far with such a tiny propeller, you know. The fans were obediently packed away and I began to feel a dawning hatred. But Mrs. Sundew had more surprises in store. We were to vote in a member for the school council, and she felt strongly that I should be on the list of candidates. No one else appeared interested, so Jonny started clapping and the whole class followed suit. Mr. Graves, a notorious wearer of grubby turtle necked sweaters, lisped his way through physics. I had become over-confident after being elected to the school council and copied his lisping. – You’d better calm down a bit, Jonny whispered. But half the class was backing me up now. The girls 47

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giggled and Barbie turned and gave me a smile. My rising popularity caused me to throw one sarcastic comment after another without considering the consequences. – Calm down yourself, you lame eunuch. Luckily, not everyone heard that remark, but those who did were shocked. Mono, on the other hand enjoyed it. – That was good, Laurence. Lame eunuch. Cool! I felt on a par with the king now. Mono and I were sort of equals, or perhaps I had gone one better in brutality. Mr. Graves ignored me as he unlocked the equipment store. We were about to do an experiment with sulphur. – We take a little ssssulphur, I lisped behind his back, squirting spit. The girls giggled even more. – You think you’re in full control now, Jonny warned. – Wow, that really scared me. Come and get me then, or call for your dead as a doornail dad. That did it. Mr. Graves couldn’t ignore this, even though he knew that I had been given a note home just a few days earlier. – I don’t mind you making fun of me, Laurence, I’m used to that. But you must keep it at an acceptable level. My hearing is good even though I lisp. It isn’t necessary to shout at someone with speech problems, you know. But for whatever reason, you can’t speak to Jonny in that way, or to anyone else in this class. So that was that. I played dead cool and was sent out for the rest of the period. 48

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Barbie looked at me with a mixture of awe and curiosity when she came out. – You are really crazy. I was the centre of attention now, more popular than Mono and Specs liked. Specs tried to make fun of the way I walked, but Barbie stopped his little game. – Cut it out. You’re only jealous. Mono joined us. – Do you want to come along on a «break»? I had no idea what a «break» was, but went with them. – Course. It was Mono and me now. Specs had lost status and looked rather miserable. We were quite a large gang streaming across Frogner Square into Gimle Street and up to the grocer’s shop on the corner of Magnus Berg Street. Rachel and Kathleen took care of Jonny. – The old couple are completely senile. It’s really easy, Mono bragged. – We fetch crates of empty bottles from the cellar, take them to the shop, collect the deposit and buy cigarettes for the money. They would recognize Specs and me, but they’ve never seen you before. It took me some time to realise that we were going to steal. – Your luck’s in. The wife’s alone behind the counter, Mono pointed out. The gang hid behind some bushes a bit further down the street, while Mono pressed the door bell at the entrance next to the shop. Someone let him in. Barbie 49

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poked her head out from her hiding place while Specs and I stood pressed against the wall. Mono appeared shortly afterwards with a crate in each hand. – Just go in through the door at the corner, put the crates on the counter and ask for cigarettes, OK? I took the crates, turned the corner and went into the shop. The bell over the door gave a little pling. – Can I have the deposit for these? I asked the elderly lady. – And a packet of 20 Prince Cigarettes? She gave me the cigarettes and some cash in return. The old man appeared from the back room to collect the crates. I saw Mono waving frantically outside. I counted the money. – Can I have a chocolate bar too? The old man ran his finger along the edge of the crate and looked up at me. Then I realised that he had cut a little notch in it to detect frauds. He ran around the counter to catch me, but I was too quick for him. – Bloody brats, he shouted as we all ran off towards Thomas Heftye Street. We parked Jonny by the railings at the top of Gimle Terrace and sat down on the slope below. We could see Bygdøy and Ullern through the branches of the wispy birch trees. Some of the girls had stolen cigarettes from home, Seven Seas and Blue Master. – Those Menthol things are full of poison, Specs said, – cyanide in the tobacco. – Smoking is good for you, Kathleen remarked. 50

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– The glow warms well when it’s cold. I smoked and concentrated on looking as cool as possible, because I had been accepted by the coolest of the cool. The girls fought to sit next to me. Kathleen hung on to me, Barbie too. Only Angela was faithful to her Specs. – Can you give me a light? Barbie asked. – Course, I said and fished out my lighter from the breast pocket. – No, not that. I want to have sex, she said. – Have sex? Here? – You know. Glow to glow. Jesus! – She poked her cigarette on mine and inhaled, chuckling. – What was it like at Høvik? Kathleen asked. – Høvik was pretty tough. – Did you do break-ins there too? – Høvik was just crazy, I began, exhaling in the same cool way as Mono. – Ramstad School was at war with Stabekk. There were fights every Saturday at Ballerud. We shot at each other with airguns and threw dynamite which we stole at the building sites. We did break-ins and had sex all the time. Not only cigarette sex there, I can tell you . . . While I was lying about the wild life in Bærum we heard a noise behind one of the trees a little further down the slope. A man wearing a hat and coat appeared and flashed at us, moving the foreskin of his enormous cock slowly backwards and forwards. We hardly managed to react. He didn’t seem threatening at all, just stood there 51

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squirting rhythmically. We sat gaping, petrified. Barbie started to get up quietly; ready to make a run for it. – Crikey, he’s wanking off, Mono stated almost in awe. The flasher’s face was hidden under his hat, but I could see that he was wearing glasses, and that he appeared upset. He seemed suddenly to notice that we were watching him, as if he had been sleepwalking. – Sorry, he said in a choked sort of way, wrapped his coat round him and disappeared between the trees. Specs jumped up boldly to take up the chase. Mono threw stones after him. – Flasher shit! – Don’t throw at him, Frank called out. – You can earn masses of money by wanking off that sort. Using gloves of course. – Ugh, do you do that? Barbie wrinkled her nose in disgust. – Are you homo? Specs wanted to know. Frank gave a superior shake of his head. – Most flashers are bisexual, perhaps even paedophile, Frank said knowingly. – Such a lot you seem to know about it. Kathleen gave him a considered look. – What was it that squirted out? – Sperm, I said. – Eh? – Sperm, that’s what squirted out. – Piss, Frank said knowingly. – First sperm, then piss. – Piss sperm. 52

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We all laughed. – Do you wank? Specs asked. – Of course, don’t you? I replied. – No, I don’t actually, you wanker shit. – Piss-wanker, Mono rammed it home. The whole gang laughed at that. It was a relief to laugh after what had happened. I even laughed a bit myself. – Did you piss-wank a lot at Høvik? – Ha ha ha. – You were probably a flasher too, Barbie hinted. – And they found out and sent you here. Isn’t that right? Alone, branded and with their laughter echoing down Thomas Heftyes Street, I grabbed the handles of Jonny’s wheel chair. The slope was too steep for him to manage it himself. I had a really bad conscience and regretted deeply what I had done. – Are you awful mad at me? – Yes, Jonny said. – You were so unbelievably rotten to me in class. I can’t understand how you could say what you did. – Sorry. – You need to be careful with that crowd, Laurence. – I know. I ought to have listened harder to what he said. Jonny was actually trying to teach me something. – Can we still be friends? I asked meekly. – That remains to be seen, Jonny answered.

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I stood in the laundry room in my briefs, hanging my cloths up to air when I felt a coming hard on. It was uncomfortable because the rolling movement I had used so far made my prick sore and swollen. I carefully started to test out the technique the piss wanker had shown us. It was much better that way and now I also understood what Mr. Bug meant about using soap. Why hadn’t I discovered that before? I sprinted up the stairs still only in my briefs and locked myself in the bathroom. Mum called that dinner was ready but I just had to have it come for me first. And it worked! The feeling was far more intense now, and the jet splashed powerfully into the toilet as it came. Jet after jet squirted out while I thought about Pat and her mother, and for the very first time I pumped myself empty. The contractions in my belly squeezed out every last drop until I felt a deep calm spread all the way through me. I straightened up with a new found sense of bliss, a feeling I realised I had longed for for years. Every muscle, every fibre, every cell in my body was at peace. I had found heaven within myself.

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5 The newly elected representatives for the junior high classes gathered outside a door in the «D» entrance basement. I overheard the girls talking about a 50 crown note and some chocolate having been stolen from Barbie’s jacket in the cloakroom. Rachel’s name was mentioned several times, before Mr. Bug marched up to us on his short eager legs. He found the right key and unlocked the door for us. Correct and business like. – This has nothing to do with me, he announced when everyone was seated. – You are the elected delegates to the student council. Now it’s your job to choose a committee and begin work on independent political lines. Those of you who were on the council last year can teach the new members. Mr. Bug sat at the back of the room, and before I fully understood what was happening a blond chap from the top class was chosen as chairman. The process was just as simple as it had been in class. As we didn’t know each other he had proposed himself and was applauded in by nervous new members. So that’s how politics work. Kathleen was chosen as secretary and she proposed me as treasurer. I had an «A» in maths from last year so it wasn’t as ridiculous as it sounded. As soon as the commit55

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tee was elected Mr. Bug gave us each a key to the room. I was also given the keys to the cash box and had to sign for them on a piece of paper. The meeting was over and everyone hurried off to their parent-teacher meeting. I felt on top of the world. I also had my first wages since the summer holidays in my pocket: 461 crowns. Mum stood talking to Jonny’s mother when Angela and her tiny grandmother came out of the class room. Then it was Frank’s turn. His mother had a stack of platinum blond hair done up in the latest fashion, dark sunglasses and wore stiletto heels. Mrs. Sundew apologised because she was running a bit late. – Shall we go to town afterwards? I asked, on the spur of the moment. – Yes fine, Frank said. – The money is burning a hole in my pocket. It needs to be aired. It was our turn after Frank and his glamorous mother. Mrs. Sundew was all smiles and polite phrases as she shook mother’s hand. – We enjoy having Laurence in the class, she said surprisingly. – He’s outgoing, sociable and doing well, apart from the unfortunate episode at the beginning of term, but you have got a note about that. – Sorry, what note? Mrs. Sundew looked at me, obviously taken aback. She tried to save the situation. – It wasn’t important. Changing schools at that age is difficult for everybody. – But he started at Easter. 56

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– He’s new for me, and it’s all forgiven, Mrs. Sundew said, dismissing it with a smile. Frank was waiting in the playground. I tried to get rid of Mum. – What was that note about? – Nothing much, she said so. – I’d like to see it even so. – I haven’t got it here. – It should be in your satchel. – It’s at home. I was going to show it to you but haven’t had an opportunity. Mum was clearly disappointed as she crossed the playground. She slipped through the gate without looking back. Frank jumped down from the table in the shelter. – There are lots of cool places to go, he said, – But they are all on the other side of town. We hadn’t got further than to Valkyrien before Mono suddenly barred our path. Frank turned on his heels, but Specs blocked his retreat. – Frank owes us gambling money, Mono explained and grabbed Frank. – Poker, Specs added starting to search him. – I have to pay 10 percent of my wages at home, Frank squeaked, as Specs pulled the money out of his pocket. – So must I, I said, – you’d better let him keep . . . – None of your business, piss–wanker, Mono said – this is between us.

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At that point Rachel and Kathleen suddenly appeared on the scene, so nothing more was said. We were after all standing in the middle of Bogstad Road. – What’re you up to? Specs shoved Frank’s money into his pocket. – Nothing. – Please, Frank begged, – dad’s going to kill me. – That’s your problem, Specs said. They turned and left. – What was all that about? Kathleen asked. – I can lend you some, I told Frank, – so that you can pay your dad. – Frank shook his head. – I’m in too much debt already. Have to go, he said and ran after Mono and Specs. – Congratulations on being elected to the council, Kathleen said and gave me a hug while looking at Rachel. – Congratulations, Rachel said, on the point of giving me a hug too. This caused an embarrassing second or two. – I thought of buying some new cool clothes with my wages, I said. The girls were difficult to stop. They wanted to dress me up from top to toe, and Rachel was even willing to pay for it. – I’ve got money if you need it, she said, smiling deep down into her fat cheeks. – No, I’ve got enough, I said, getting more and more 58

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worried about Kathleen’s secretive glances. All the jeans were flared and a boring blue, but I managed to dig out a black Wrangler that only cost 30 crowns, a black denim jacket for 79, a T–shirt for 10 and a pair of super cool sand coloured boots made of canvas, with rubber soles and lacing up to the ankles. – You look sort of 1958 now. It made me think of Dad’s leather pilot jacket. It was from the early 50’s. Would look super tough with the stuff I had bought now. – Look at those sunglasses, Rachel said, pointing at a pair with a mirrored surface and drop-shaped glass. It wasn’t possible to see her eyes when she tried them on. They covered most of her face, but I wasn’t tempted to buy them. * I think Mum was on the point of mentioning the note when Dad asked his usual: How was school today, then? The last time I had tried to answer I almost gave the show away about Pat creeping into my sleeping bag, fighting at school, smoking and masturbating. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t like to hear that. Better to mumble «OK» or «not too bad» or something equally vague. But when it was Mum’s turn to answer the question she told us that Helen, our lodger had made it up with her fiancé and that they are getting married. Mum beamed with shared happiness. Dad looked worried. – We’ll have to find a new lodger, he sighed. 59

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After dinner Bud and Tiny left the room and Mum related what had happened at the parent-teacher meeting, including the missing note. Dad looked like a thundercloud. – Bring it here. Now! I scooted up to my room and came down again scared stiff. Dad snatched the book with the note from my hand, opened it and saw my effort at forging his signature. He looked up and regarded me with shock and disbelief. – How did you expect to get out of this mess? Do you intend to forge my signature on all the notes you get? – I don’t know. – You don’t know? Dad shook his head in despair. Mum looked upset. – We’ve been wondering for some time whether it was wise to move you from Ramstad, she said. – But it’s so deadly boring there, I groaned. – You could stay with Aunt Audrey and Uncle Noah during the week. The school has room for you in your old class. I’ve checked. So she had done that. Rung to that stupid school after the parent-teacher meeting. – But I haven’t been there since Easter. – You will soon fit in. Your friends Edward, Terry and Ernest are still there . . . We’re the ones who’ll miss you most. This was absolutely hopeless. – I like it at Majorstua. Can I go to my room now please? 60

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* The next morning Barbie moved her desk away from mine, and Rachel’s place behind me was empty the whole of the first period. Frank wasn’t there either; he was waiting for me during the break by the side entrance. He had an enormous black eye. – I couldn’t come to school looking like this, he said – I’m no good at telling fibs. Will you come to town with me? I asked Jonny to tell Mrs. Sundew that I was sick and had gone home. So we just walked off into the big unknown city. There really were masses of new experiences out there, undiscovered roads, colossal buildings and parks I never knew existed. Soon I had no idea where I was, north, south, east or west. It was easier before. The time Dad forgot to collect me from gymnastics class in Oslo when I was five. I thought all tramlines led to our house. I wasn’t even scared, just started to walk. I was dead lucky choosing the right lines. I even made it all the way home, strangely enough. Now I knew that tramlines could lead every which way. Frank took me to Compendium, a progressive record shop full of way out things, Indian hookahs, candles in the shape of penises, and incense. I was taken further and further into this forbidden world with Frank as knowledgeable guide. We were looking at some carved mating scenes in cedar wood when Frank announced that he 61

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had had sex with a girl in the holidays. He had met her at Nudist Huk. – Nudist what? – Nudist Huk, the beach at Bygdøy. Surely you know where Huk is, you immigrant. Of course I knew where Huk was. Had been there this summer with the rest of the family. I was sure he was having me on. – Mostly old geezers and old dames with kids, he said. – Naked as the day they were born. – I thought you said you met a girl. Do you go there often? – No you get tired of gaping at them. – Oh, yes, perhaps so. – Had to take her maidenhead, he continued. – Lots of pussy you know. – Yeah, sure, lots of pussy. – Most of them do it with tampons, but this one still had hers intact and was wild crazy. Wriggled about in bed like a Red Indian. I looked at him. Thin and pale with a black eye. Both tough and weak. Had he really slid into a cunt? Like the figures on the table in front of me? Frank’s pale, freckled body entwined by wild Indian legs pulling him into her. We came to Stener Street, not exactly the part of town with the best reputation. – How did you find Nudist Huk? I asked casually. – Mom and my old dad took me there. They were nudists and very free and easy. So free and easy that dad just left us eventually. My new dad is a lawyer and 62

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psychopath. He knocks mum about. I think he’s super jealous. He calls her a whore but at the same time he invites friends home for, well I don’t quite know; orgies perhaps. They have a waterbed and mirrors in the ceiling. I’m not having you on. We finished up in a gambling den. There were rows of pin ball machines along the walls. A longhaired bearded muscleman with a packet of tobacco tucked inside the sleeve of his T–shirt stood behind the counter. What threw me was that Frank knew him. He knew lots of others there too. Grown up men you wouldn’t think had any reason to be there. They were friendly, though, talked, put money on for us and let us play for free. This was Frank’s world. He knew all the code words, and I sort of lost him. The men seemed nice enough, but the whole setup was odd. They were the same age as dad, give or take 10 years. Difficult to know really. They were just old. – I’m taking a ride with Lance, Frank said suddenly. – I’ll be back soon. Wait here for me. – Yeah? OK. Frank slipped out. His red hair, college jacket with the name of an American school team, tough, expensive, new. And this Lance wearing a trench coat and flannel trousers. They got into a Mercedes. The shop owner gave me a look. A chap came up to me. Grown up, but not as old as Lance. – Shall we play? I’ll pay. He put in some coins, and for a while I thought it was 63

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fine. I wondered what he meant by «we», as he let me play all the time. I didn’t understand what was going on until he laid his arm across my shoulders. Then I suddenly realised how alone and defenceless I was. I panicked, in shock, and was out of the door before I had time to think. I ran without looking back, ran as hard as I could heading south towards the sun, in the direction where I hoped to find the fjord. It turned out to be correct. After a while I came to the square by the City Hall. I knew I could get a ferry to Bygdøy there. Releived by having escaped I jumped off the ferry and walked to the bus stop and roundabout, as Frank had described it for me. Then I saw the discreet sign-post «Nudist beach». I’d never even heard the word before, and wouldn’t have had a clue what it meant if Frank hadn’t enlightened me. The sign-post pointed down a gravelled path. I hardly dared go in that direction. My heart thumped in my chest. Would I see naked women now? There was a bar across the path, a little lawn, showers, toilets and absolute nakedness. Naked men and women walking around without it bothering them in the least, as if they were taking a Sunday stroll in the woods. They were mostly men on the beach, as Frank had said, and some small children. But there were lots of women too. Mothers bending over their children by the water’s edge so you could look right into their genitals and see their hanging breasts between their knees. 64

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I couldn’t go a step further. My condition was too revealing. I sat down on a stone wall trying not to stare. I didn’t know where to look. A woman wearing sandals, brown all over, stood quite near me. She didn’t seem aware that she was naked, rather like in the «Emperor’s New Clothes». She stood talking to a man clearing away trash on the beach. He leaned on his rake quite unconscious of his nakedness. His prick hang down, limp and uninterested. I stole a glance here and there and saw that was the case with all the men. How could they avoid getting a hard-on here? I was so randy after a while that I just couldn’t manage any more. I had to find relief. When I thought no one was looking I jumped off the wall and, bent double, made my way back to the gravel path, while my prick felt as if it would snap in my trousers. It was still as hard, painful and noticeable when I arrived back at the roundabout. I slipped into the woods by the side road to Paradise Bay, and tried to release some of the tension by running along the narrow pathways. But that was painful too, so painful that I had to open my fly and let my dick loose. It was such a relief. But at the same time I felt a new alertness linked to danger and suspense. I was walking along a path with my prick outside my fly and could feel my nervous system force itself into the ground, spread down to the roots, up into the ferns, the fungi, bushes, trees and out to the dark–green and yellow leaves. In the space of a few seconds I was stripped of my fuzzy humanness and had become a crystal clear and living part of nature. 65

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I found it so intoxicating that I had to have more, now. I stopped and began to undress. In the woods I stripped and stood as naked as the people on the beach. Here, a few hundred yards from where it was quite legal to be naked, it was not. I hid my cloths behind a tree stump and began to walk deeper into the woods, away from my clothes, away from the dulling sense of security. The tension, and being part of the moment, became so intense after a while that I found it hard to bear. I wasn’t even wearing shoes as I slid between the paths, crouched animal like with my fingers almost touching the ground, ready to panic, or throw myself to the ground, crawl under a bush and play dead. A breath of wind carried sounds of women’s voices. My first impulse was to cut and run, but something held me back, some tone of voice that was exciting. These weren’t the shallow voices of young girls. These were affectionate, warm and caring voices. I stole closer and saw two women lying on a blanket, sunbathing. I felt almost weightless and giddy as I stepped forward and showed myself to them, fondling my prick, using the new satisfying wanking technique. The women wore modest bikinis, but in my feverish state they were naked, part of my Nudist Huk vision. At what point did I actually lose my grip? Was it when Frank began to talk about Nudist Huk? Or was it earlier? In the spring, when the idea of pushing my penis into a vagina, no matter who’s, just took over? I would 66

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have used a teacher’s cunt, my friends’ mother’s cunts, not least Jonny’s mother’s cunt and my aunt’s cunt, which I could vaguely remember from my early childhood. Even my mum’s was considered, providing I didn’t know it was hers, which I couldn’t, as I had never seen it. Insensitive to pricks from pine needles and dry twigs I took another couple of steps towards them while I wanked off. When they saw what I was doing and that I had no intention of stopping, they lay on their fronts glaring at me. Perhaps they thought their staring would drive me away, but it didn’t, and when my orgasm came and I experienced that burst of intense pleasure mixed with an equally intense feeling of shame and fear, one of them stood up. – What do you think you are doing? Semen squirted, but they were now over the first shock and both on their feet. To my horror I now saw that these were not just two unknown women in the woods at Bygdøy. One raised her arm and pointed at me, while the possible consequences of this chance encounter exploded in my head. – You there! she shouted as I crouched low and made off at top speed. Then I trod on something sharp. The pain shot through my heel, but I didn’t stop. I was terrified that the domestic science teachers were following me. They could catch me and notify the police. I must be mad. Only a mad person would do what I had just done. I had become a piss-wanker and would end up in a madhouse. It was just a matter of time. 67

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Luckily, they didn’t follow me. I found my clothes behind the tree stump where I had left them. I dressed and began limping home, trying to deny in my mind what I had done. I tried to convince myself it was just a bad dream, but every painful step told me it was not.

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6 The door to the downstairs flat stood open. A friendly looking young woman in a paint-stained T-shirt and white shorts stood balancing precariously on a chair in the little sitting room. She smiled at me. – Hi, I’m Sandra. You must be Laurence. She had light brown hair, was a little shorter than me as far as I could judge, and had a large white spot of paint on her nose. – Yes, I’m Laurence. I replied and smiled back at her, before shyness overtook me and propelled me into the laundry room. I kicked off my shoes and tried to sort out my impressions from Bygdøy on the way up to my room, but was stopped by dad who stood in the kitchen doorway. I froze to ice. Had they already . . . ? Dad sat down on one of the kitchen stools. Mum grated carrots by the counter. – We wonder where you have been all day, Laurence. Mrs. Sundew said she had been informed that you had gone home because you felt unwell, Dad said, looking really downcast. – Perhaps I overreacted to the note from school and the forged signature? Something snapped inside, something that was under 69

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great pressure. I sank down onto the kitchen bench and told them that I had gone to town with Frank. I gave Frank all the blame for the truancy, but I also started to cry. Mostly with relief that it wasn’t the teachers from the domestic science class who had called. Mum defended me by saying that it must have been difficult to start school at Majorstua knowing only Jonny and Montegue from the day care centre. I nodded eagerly. It was difficult to adjust, difficult to appear tough. It was different at Høvik. My parents could see that I was having a bad time. They promised to sort out my problems. But I couldn’t talk to them about what really bothered me. At the same time I had to appear relieved that they had done the right thing, were going to make it up to me. I nodded, it seemed logical. – You can take a trip to Ramstad the day before the half term break. Will you do that? – Yes, I nodded. After dinner I said I would go to my room and do some homework. Mum and Dad gave me their most encouraging «this will sort itself out» smiles. But I couldn’t concentrate on my homework. Words and numbers swam around without making any sense. I looked up from the incomprehensible books and saw Jonny sitting in his room. A sudden longing hit me. I need him now. Someone to talk to. I could trust Jonny. With the old fashioned telephone against my ear I lay back on my bed and started to pick at the splinter 70

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in my foot, but could not get it out. I hungered after telling about Nudist Huk, but when I heard his voice I couldn’t bring myself to do it. He still seemed upset about what I had said in class, so I let him talk about moving the band from Mosquito Thomas’ basement to Hamna Youth Club. He wanted me to come and help. Jonny had done his home work, of course. I sneaked out of my room, past the sitting room door and stole downstairs. Unfortunately, Dad stood in the hallway talking to the friendly American girl. She was so cheerful that even Dad seemed to be in a good mood, probably against his will. I interrupted them quickly, explaining that I had to say goodbye to the band as I would be changing schools. Standing there with Sandra he couldn’t really object. The new room for practising had a low ceiling, but it was only Bass who had to stoop to get through the doorway. The equipment was piled around a worn out sofa that must have been left behind by the old occupants. While the lads in the band rigged up the equipment I asked Kathleen what had happened to Rachel. – She’s sick, Kathleen stated. But Barbie was of a different opinion. – She stole my money. The fact that she daren’t come to school proves it. – But she’s sick, I’ve spoken to her. – She was in the cloakroom that day. – So were lots of others, you know that! Barbie didn’t deign to reply, and sat down on the sofa 71

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with Mono, Specs and Angela. I opened the brown tool bag that I had made in handwork class in the spring. There were always some loose contacts to fix and some wires to reconnect. Jonny pulled out some sheets of music paper. – I have written a bit since we last met, and I have a possible job for us. Solo spaced out. – What? A gig? That’s great! Jonny told us about a Christmas show at Sunnås; that we could play there if we wanted to. – Of course we want to! But we can’t continue calling ourselves «Mosquito Thomas’s Dance Band» now that Thomas has left us, he said sensibly. A large fly buzzed around the room. Sticks managed to stun it with a swatter. Solo tipped it over into a plastic cup. It came back to life. – Perhaps «The Mosquitoes», Jonny said. – What about «The Lords of the Flies»? – What’s that? – A book and a film. Kids who crash-land on an island and start to kill each other. I think they even eat each other eventually. – Sounds cool, Solo said. – Suits our repertoire too. Have you fixed the mike now? I blew the smoke from the soldering away as I finished the last connection, squeezed the metal cap in place and screwed the jacket on to the jack plug. Solo touched the plastic cup with the mike letting the fly’s desperate buzzing sound through the loudspeakers. 72

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– That song is called «Busy, buzzy bee»! Solo struck a few accords on his Fender Stratocaster. A Peavey 100 watt amplifier made the riffs slam into the basement walls. He shook into a vibrato, stretching his neck as far as it would go, and yelled: – Don’t you fear the fly swatter, my busy, buzzy bee! Sticks beat the drums and gave the cymbals a couple of hard blows before we collapsed with laughter. I went home earlier than the others to get some sleep before the paper rounds next morning. Also, I still hadn’t done my homework. I sat at my desk, glanced at the cars driving in and out of the Skarpsno parking lot, trying to focus. But just the thought of doing my maths made me feel so incredibly tired. I forced myself to open the book and put pen to paper. I was supposed to solve an equation, but my pen just wrote English words. Come on baby, look and see. Come on everybody, look at me . . . .

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7 I had braced myself for Mrs. Hornet’s sarcasm but soon saw Frank sitting smoking on an upturned trolley under the lamppost. The papers hadn’t even arrived. I walked into the light; Frank blew smoke rings into the still, cold air. I upturned a trolley, sat down and took out my tobacco. – What happened to you yesterday, then? – He was just an old friend. – Old! Yeah I noticed. – And you? You weren’t there when I got back. – I couldn’t be bothered to wait, I said. In the FIAT building I folded the enormous pile of newspapers over my arm and took the lift to the top. The pile shrank dramatically as I flew down the steps throwing the papers in all directions. It was like dancing a limp ballet, but then I got to the 4th floor and had to deliver through Mrs. Jodis letter slot. I folded the paper in 3 lengthwise, quite suddenly imagining that the naked woman who was talking to the man clearing up the trash at Nudist Huk yesterday was in fact Mrs. Jodis. It was a most unlikely possibility, but it gave me an intense erection. I bent down and put 74

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my inky finger into the opening and flipped up the little hinged flap. As I was about to push the paper through I felt the urge to take a look. The very thought made my heart beat faster as I bent down and took a quick look into the flat. Was she there? No, just a dark corridor. But then I imagined that the woman from Nudist Huk stood leaning against a door frame in the darkness further in. I went down on my knees on the door mat, opened my fly and poked my prick in. I poked it in to Mrs. Jodis’ private rooms and imagined she could see me, as the domestic science teachers had. Again I felt the blood rushing through my veins, like dope, which changed me into an animal with a consciousness 100 times stronger than normal. I became part of the FIAT building; my nerve ends followed pipes and electric wires. I could feel someone turning over in bed two floors up. I wanked off in her flat, pulled out at the last minute and let it come in my hand. A click, the sound of a door? I fastened my trousers in quick time, pushed the paper through and got out of there smartly. I did the rest of my round in a daze, in despair at not being able to control myself. I felt as if I sat defenceless on the inside while madness took over. If I carried on like this sooner or later I’d be caught red handed. Luckily I was going to move. That should put a stop to this craziness. I told Mrs. Hornet that I would be moving. She didn’t say she thought it was a pity or anything. Just that it 75

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was OK. The round was short and in demand; perhaps Frank would be interested in taking it. As usual she was wholly absorbed in reading the newspaper. She read that the feminists had decided that pornography caused men to commit rape and deal in sex trafficking. Mrs. Hornet shook her head. – Men are sick. – Why? – Only men rape and use prostitutes. Can you imagine? And all that filthy pornography they watch all the time. Do they really get sexually worked up about that? I shook my head. – No it’s hard to believe, I said. – Have you seen porn? She asked, giving me a sharp look. – Have you? I asked. – Are you crazy? And I don’t want to either. * I stood in cold horizontal sunshine waiting for the clothes shop in Bogstad Road to open. It was late September. Lots of the women on their way to work had started to wear tights, but they still liked to show off their legs, some of them looked as if they would have been prepared to go naked if it had been in fashion. That thought made me feel randy, but I was fully aware, at the same time, that the important thing now was not to get randy. To succeed as a man was perhaps, when all was said and done, the ability to talk to a beautiful naked woman without getting an erection. 76

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What was it like to be a woman? Did they feel ashamed when their nipples hardened with desire? How did it feel to have breasts? The weight, the rubbing against material, the heaviness. The sway when they ran, when their breasts got out of step and started to swing out of control, how did they feel then? What was it like to have wide hips and nothing between their legs? Down there, out of sight, a cleft, an opening in the body, between hair and folds of skin, a bleeding wound? What did it feel like to sit on? What was it like to become an adolescent, with a body full of oestrogen? What thoughts and fantasies did girls have then, and were they so different to ours, when we were suddenly pumped full of testosterone? I imagined that I had long curly hair, that I could feel the weight of breasts and the broad hips with the emptiness in the crotch. I even tried to imagine what it was like to be seen, admired, sought after and desired. – The shop’s open now, I heard a voice say. The sunglasses were expensive, but I had to have them. They were the ones Rachel had tried on. The size and the mirror effect hid much of the face. I had even considered cutting or dying my hair. But the domestic science teachers hadn’t seen my clothes, so I reckoned I would be difficult to recognise if I wore those glasses, and anyway this was the last day before the half term break. My last day at Majorstua. Even though I felt relatively safe behind the sunglasses, I glanced uneasily up at the domestic science room on my way over the playground. The first period was 77

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almost over when I entered the classroom. My disguise worked so well that I saw a flicker of uncertainty in Mrs. Sundew’s eyes. She was in the process of handing over the mysterious 50 crown note. – The cleaners found it. – That’s not possible, it was in my pocket, Barbie said. – Then it must have fallen out of your pocket. – The pocket has a zip fastener. – Can’t you just be satisfied that the money has been found, Mrs. Sundew groaned. – But people have been suspected, Miss. We need to know who did it. – Nobody did it Barbara. You lost your money in the cloakroom and the note has been found. That’s the end of it. At this point, in order to take the sting out of any further comments from Mrs. Sundew, I rushed up and gave her the message that I would be leaving after half term. She had glitter in her makeup that day, and even smiled as she read through the message from home. – Laurence is leaving us. The class quietened. – Where are you going? Rachel asked, disappointed. – Back to Høvik and the class I left to come here. Rachel turned away. Mono looked astonished. – I was even starting to like you. – It’ll be boring without you, Specs said, looking as if he meant it. – Well, no. I can’t say it has been boring having you in class, Mrs. Sundew said, smiling happily.

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8 The town gradually disappeared and became detached houses, and then meadows and fields. I got off the bus. A feeling of desolation, abandonment and quiet helplessness hit me. Small lifeless houses stood in the broken low afternoon sunlight. A reminder of loneliness. I saw Høvik school slightly above me. The wing and the playground for the youngest, my class for the first years. That’s where I fought for my first love, and lost. I remembered how eagerly I had been looking forward to starting school, but soon realised that something was drastically wrong when our parents stayed with us and we were told to draw a car. And that was all that happened on the first day! When were we going to learn to read, write and do sums? The next day we were without our parents, but when the teacher asked us to draw a boat that did it. I drew my boat and gave up on school. I was obviously not going to learn anything there. It was the school break when I came limping to Ramstad. The splinter lay deep in my heel. Each step was a reminder of who I had become. My old school pals hadn’t seen me since before Easter. I pushed my sunglas79

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ses further up on my nose while I watched the activity in the playground. There were Cindy, Monica, Bobby and Tricia. I saw Chris who always won the boxcar races, the brothers Per, Peter and Arthur. Tony, Terry and Edward were exchanging football cards. They kept glancing towards me. But they were uncertain, of course. I looked quite different now. Chris was the first to recognise me. He ran towards me. – Laurence? They had found me out and I was immediately surrounded by old eager friends. They looked at me expectantly, surprised, as if I had come back from an expedition. – I see you are playing, I said joking. – Yeah, would you like to join us? Ernest asked enthusiastically. – To play? – Yeah . . . – Couldn’t we drink and have sex instead? Nobody understood what I was talking about. Luckily, Simon, our teacher turned up. A big smile. A bit of a fool really, but a fool you could get fond of. – Welcome back, he sang out, giving me a hug. I followed Simon when the bell rang. – We are planning a form of outing by canoe, he boasted, as we went in. That sounded really tempting. But I only needed to look around to realise that I didn’t belong there. The classroom was full of soft, cuddly toys and games. The windows were decorated with paper cut–outs, and the 80

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girls just giggled all the time. I shared Ernest’s geography book. – My model car track is really cool now, he said. – Montevideo! Simon’s voice rang out. – Peru? Tricia answered uncertainly. Perhaps she has got hair on her fanny now. Ernest looked at me hopefully. This is what he had been looking forward to; getting his good old pal back again. But I just couldn’t go home to him after school, even though I would have liked to in a way. I felt it was a matter of either falling backwards into my childhood or continuing into my youth. It was a sort of either Beatles or Black Metal. I had already thrown my childhood out of my life. There was no going back. But it was always pleasant to have dinner with my childless Aunt Audrey and her Indian husband. They were genuinely interested in how I was getting on, and I felt that I could talk about almost anything with them. I must admit that I lay things on a bit thick sometimes, pretended to be tough and very sure of myself. But, most importantly, I felt safe there. Aunt Audrey could be strict sometimes, but she would never slap me. It wouldn’t have occurred to Uncle Noah either. And now I would perhaps move into my old room on the ground floor. We sat in the dining room enjoying one of Uncle Noah’s Indian specialities, while Audrey talked about an old school friend, Mrs. Ramsey, whose son had cancer. – I’m his godmother and have followed him year after year, giving him birthday presents. 81

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I couldn’t believe it was true. Was my Aunt Ramsey’s godmother? – Do you know him? He goes to Uranienborg School and is a year older than you. – I don’t know him, but I have heard of him, I said. – He was so full of life, played football and went skiing. He didn’t smoke at all. I had my doubts, but didn’t say anything. – They had to amputate his leg in order to save his life. Just imagine; fifteen years old and lose a leg. She looked at me. It was always a problem as she had a squinting eye. – You mustn’t start smoking, she said. – But you just said that he didn’t smoke. – He got cancer, Laurence. Smoking gives you cancer. After dinner Aunt Audrey sat reading in the sitting room, while Uncle Noah and I continued connecting some logic circuits together in the kitchen. When it was finished it should be able to do some simple calculations and present the results in binary form on a row of light diodes. – This is a computer, Uncle Noah said smiling under his black curls. It sounded cool, but what use was it? – I would like to make a synthesizer, I said. What’s that? Noah asked. He only listened to classical music. – An electronic instrument that makes cool sounds. – You could try a multi vibrator, he said. Perhaps you can find what you need in the JostyKit catalogue. 82

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9 Bud and Tiny stared at me, terrified. I spat blood and saw that my hand was at a wrong angle to my arm, while something sticky was stuck to one eye. Bud rang the door bell. Dad threw open the kitchen window. – Haven’t we said you must stay outside? But he soon saw that something serious had happened, and in a matter of a second or two was dressed and ready with the car keys. Bud and Tiny both talked at once. Dad glanced up in the birch tree while opening the garage door. – A railway sleeper in the tree? I sat in the passenger seat as he backed his sky blue Volvo Amazon into the yard. – Is it painful, son? My mouth was full of blood. I couldn’t answer. He shook his head and seemed quite human as he drove us to the outpatients in Fredrik Stang Street. – Laurence, Laurence, you’re always in trouble of some sort or other. Dad signed us in and was given a queue number. We waited in silence. Every so often I had to go to the toilet to spit. Dad just sat there. I wasn’t used to having him so 83

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close. We didn’t know what to say to each other. Having bitten off part of my tongue I wasn’t too talkative either. Eventually a nurse called my number. I was given a local anaesthetic and had several band– aids stuck on my face. They took an X–ray of my arm and shone a light into my mouth. The tongue would heal by itself, the doctor said. Dad was there the whole time. He held me when I needed it, and patted me on the back when I sat waiting for my arm to be stretched. – Dad, about Ramstad School. – Not just now, he tried to stop me. – I don’t want to go back there. It won’t work. They put my arm into a leather strap and started pulling. Four adults stood one behind the other and pulled. One, two and three. They yanked it out and twisted the bone stumps back into place. Then on with the plaster cast. Back home Bud and Tiny interrupted their rice pudding intake in order to admire my plaster cast. Mum was glad to get me home again in one piece. Dad sat down at his place at the table. Some of his caring atmosphere could still be seen on his face. I tried again. – Going back to Ramstad School isn’t going to work. I’ll miss you all so terribly, I lied. Dad’s hands fell resignedly onto the table. – But everything is already arranged. You can’t have forgotten all your problems here? – With your help I’m sure I can manage. I’ll really make an effort. Honestly. 84

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* I was greeted as a war hero when I turned up at Majorstua after the half term holiday. Barbie moved her desk back to mine again and I placed my plaster encased arm across her table for scratching, tickling and care. Mrs. Sundew ignored me, delving into her bag for her bathing ring. – Your haemorrhoids, Miss. Do you get mess on them when you shit? This was Mono’s way of saying hello again. Mrs. Sundew just smiled. I’m pretty sure she liked him. They understood each other, were two of a kind. She perched up on her chair. – Women get haemorrhoids when they give birth. Try to drag a bowling ball through your backside and I think you’d get haemorrhoids too. – Do you mean that you gave birth to your son through your back side, Miss? A real shit kid. – Well, all boys are shit kids. Apart from my son. – Is it true that he works in the kiosk by the sports shop? Barbie asked. – He’s so cute, and he looks like you. – Yes he is cute. Do you shop there? Some of us nodded. – If you carry on being such choice idiots as you are now, I doubt whether any of you will get such a good job. A man who runs a kiosk has to be able to do maths. – Is he your son, Miss? – No child. My Philip works for the Foreign Office. I will explain what that means when you are big enough to understand. 85

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My plaster cast was full of signatures by the end of the day. But it was Kathleen’s party everyone was talking about. Apart from Frank who had taken my paper round that morning, and had felt Mrs. Jodis’ presence. – I’m sure she was looking at me when I pushed the paper through the slot; it smelt a little odd there too. Do you think she carries on or something? – In what way? – It smelt of pussy. – How does that smell? – A bit like fish, raw fish. When I got home Mum stood on the landing outside the kitchen with the vacuum cleaner in front of her. Her face looked gray. – You can do the vacuuming, she said. – Vacuuming? But I’ve just got home from school. – Precisely, and therefore you can do the vacuuming. – But I’m tired and my arm is broken. – I’m even more tired and depressed and I feel sick. So you must just take over. – What about Bud. Can’t he do the vacuuming? – He is going to do something else, and so are Tom, Dick and Harry. – OK, I said resignedly, – but first I’d like to relax a bit, have something to eat and read Asterix and Obelix. I made myself a plateful of Cornflakes and forgot all about the vacuuming as soon as I was in the middle of a good story involving the Gauls and Romans. I was listening to a tape and didn’t hear that Dad had come home 86

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from work. Suddenly the door burst open. – Aren’t you supposed to do the cleaning? – Take it easy, I said. – I’m going to do it. – When? – When I’ve read this comic. – No. You’ll do it now! I wandered over to the waiting Nilfisk. Cool name for a cool vacuum cleaner. I remember that I felt proud when we bought it. It was something original, even progressive, choosing such a special model. I even bragged about it at school. I pulled it up to the 2nd floor by my good arm and started working. After a while Bud and Tiny came home. I watched them like a hawk. – Have you noticed anything? – What? – In your room. They looked around their room like a couple of idiots. – I’ve vacuumed your room! I bellowed, deeply indignant at their lack of interest, – can’t you see that? I put the cleaner away and went down to the kitchen. Dad was toiling at the cooker. I sat on the kitchen bench trying to look adult and resigned. – The small fry didn’t even notice that I’d vacuumed. I groaned, but Dad wasn’t on my wavelength. – Perhaps you can lay the table. – But my arm’s in plaster. – You managed the vacuum cleaner. – Aren’t Bud and Tiny going to do anything? 87

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– Perhaps you can stop being so bothered about what others are doing. Mum is tired and unwell. We have to do our bit here. You are big enough to help out. – But I’ve already . . . – All right then, so don’t. I’ll manage myself. – No, I didn’t mean it like that. But that’s how it was. I sat on the bench under the window while Dad laid the table looking anything but pleased. He toiled like crazy with pots and pans. It smoked, it steamed, smelled and burnt. I wanted to leave the room, but felt caught, until he said I could go and tell Mum and the boys that dinner was ready. I was up on the 2nd floor in a couple of bounds. – You can come and eat now, you lazy lot! I shouted into their room with no consideration for what they were doing. I approached Mum’s bedroom with a completely different attitude. I could only see a little of her brown, wavy, shiny hair through the key hole. I gave the door a soft tap before opening it and tip-toed up to her. It was a shock to see that she was crying. Not a shuddering, sobbing type of crying. Just sad, despairing sighs that seemed even scarier. She couldn’t see me, but she knew I was there. – I’ll be down in a minute, she said, – you can start without me. I left the room, closing the door carefully. But I wasn’t so careful with my brothers. – Move your asses! Dad has made dinner for you. It’s getting cold. Show a little respect there. 88

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I had an odd feeling that I was the one in charge. Keeping it all together. Mum appeared with red rimmed eyes and wearing a pale blue dressing gown. She smiled bravely. Now everything was going to be normal again. – Come along then, she said to her boys in her gentle motherly way. A spooky, pseudo cheerful atmosphere reigned at the dinner table. Dad served fish fingers and potatoes, with an artificial smile. – Are Bud and Tiny also going to do something? I asked. Mum and Dad fell apart. This was obviously not a good question, but I thought it was important. – I have done the vacuuming upstairs. – Poor you, Dad said. – I didn’t mean it like that, I said. – What did you mean, then? – Fairness. That’s what I mean. Bud and Tiny looked as if they were enjoying this. They were pleased that I got all the blame. Dad tried to think of something else to say. – I thought we could take a trip to Tjøme this weekend, to close the summer house and get the boat on land. That was the last thing I wanted to do. – Kathleen’s having a party on Saturday. – Parties come and go, Dad said, – surely it’s not so important. But Mum had caught on to something. 89

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– Kathleen? – She’s in C class, Kathleen Hornet. – Do her parents know about this party? – I don’t know, I mumbled, – well yes of course they know. – We can easily find that out, Mum said. I saw the devilish look in her eye. She was getting her own back. I tried to prevent the catastrophe. – You don’t need to. Everybody’s going. It’s like a birthday party. – Is it her birthday? – No but wait, we are only going to meet there. – Will her parents be there? – We are gathering in her room. – Everybody? You said everybody was going. – Some. Jesus, I don’t know exactly how many. – We’ll find that out, Mum said, leaving the table. – Can’t it wait till after dinner? Dad asked. Mum turned in a fury. – No. I can’t stand all these lies, she bawled. There’s nothing but squabbling, lies and selfishness in this house. It’s not a pleasant place to be! You all demand, demand and demand. I can’t stand it anymore. All I want is a little peace; that you work together, are nice to each other, that you are interested in what’s going on around you. Crisis. I considered cutting the telephone wire, but she had already found the class-lists and dialled the number. – It’s Mrs. Moth. I hope I’m not disturbing you? I could imagine Mrs. Hornet, with a fag in her mouth 90

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and one eye shut tight, partly because of the smoke and partly because of a splitting migraine. – Is it true that Kathleen is having a party on Saturday? It was over and done, and everyone would know. – No, we just wondered. No trouble. Don’t mention it. Now Kathleen was in deep trouble. Bud looked thrilled at my expense. * Jonny was waiting on the corner with his guitar fastened to the back of his wheelchair. – Mrs. Hornet called, he said dryly. – I thought she might, I muttered. – Has she rung you too? – Mm, I said. – Some clot or other has let the cat out of the bag. – What an idiot, I said, with a nasty taste in my mouth. – I have written a piece I thought you could look at. Perhaps it can be used by the band. I gave him the sheet of paper. It was about his sister, but I hoped he wouldn’t notice, that he would see its artistic qualities and not bother too much about the subject. While he read my poem; read my innermost thoughts and emotions, I felt a little of the same feeling I had when I ran naked along the path. The inevitability, fate. There was no going back this time either. Jonny smiled. 91

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– Juicy stuff, he said and winked at me. – Can we use it? – Perhaps, he said folding the paper. – I’ll see what I can do. In the back yard at Hamna in Professor Dahl Street Mono threw himself at me like a tiger. – Laurence Holden the world’s biggest nitwit. I tried to ignore the remark, while I heard Barbie, Kathleen and Rachel agree to stay overnight somewhere. Mono waved Kathleen over. – Tell Moth about the telephone call. Kathleen looked at me with affected disappointment. – I overheard the conversation, she said, – it sounded as if the woman at the other end had an English accent. There was no question who was the guilty one. Cheated party goers buzzed around me with hate in their eyes while Kathleen actually seemed relieved. – There is only one way of getting out of this mess, Mono said seriously. – You must throw a party. – Me? – Yes, you must make it good again. I had no idea what to do. A new expectancy spread among the hateful buzzing. There was, in fact, a tiny possibility, but before I was able to make it known, Mono had more to say. – You are keen on Barbie, he said pointing at her. – I’m sure she wouldn’t mind being your girl for one evening if you can throw a party within the next three weeks. Barbie objected. The words got stuck in her throat. 92

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– Are you selling me off? Mono looked around and smiled. – Surely you can do that for us. – No I can’t. I’m not a whore! – This has nothing to do with being a whore. You’re only expected to be his girlfriend for one evening, that’s OK isn’t it? Kathleen gave her a nod. – Do it, then we can have a party. Nobody bothered to ask me. I just let them carry on. Barbie looked me over, sort of weighing me up. There was a big difference between tickling my arm and being my girlfriend. I smiled back. She was definitely the best looking piece in the whole school. Perhaps this would be the opportunity to get inside her knickers. – OK then, she said slowly.

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10 Dad had one foot on a kitchen stool, looking surprisingly cool, while he shaved. Bud was eating Cornflakes and giving Tiny, who was drawing, a deliberate jolt now and then. Mum stood at the counter buttering enormous heaps of sliced bread. The kitchen was full. There was no room for me. I decided to appear badly treated. – I may have done the paper round for some time now, but that doesn’t mean I’ve given up my place. – You haven’t been here for ages, Bud said – But I’m here now. I stood by the table and demanded my right to be there. Bud had to move over eventually. – I’ve heard rumours about you and Pat, he said calmly. I helped myself to Cornflakes and poured milk from a two litre carton which I could just manage to get my hand round. – Who says? – Evan. – But Evan’s blind. – Yes, and he’s so fed up with everyone confiding in him, that he repeats it all to me. Is it true that you and 94

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Pat have done it? Mum turned her head. – Have done what? She asked suspiciously. What was I supposed to say now? None of this would stay between us regardless. Perhaps I had something to gain by smearing it on a bit thick. – You mean when she crept into my sleeping bag. Mum stared at me. – She is only a child! She shouted in a high pitched tone. – She’ll soon be twelve. Dad stopped shaving. He had no idea what was going on. – Twelve? She’s in Bud’s class. What have you been doing? Such idiots they were. – We made love Mum. Haven’t you heard Manfred Man sing «Children making love to children». Mum covered her face with her hands and rushed out of the door. Bud stared at me with hatred in his eyes. He had become a different boy. Eleven years old and his jaw had a determined look. He had fastened a leather strap around his wrist, his hair had grown longer, he was much more sure of himself than he had been at Høvik. He too had stopped playing. He even used deodorant. – What’s the matter with you? I asked. – Is she your girlfriend or something? Bud threw his spoon at me. I ducked and the spoon hit the wall over the sink. Dad was upon us with a roar. 95

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– What’s this? What are you doing? – I was only going to ask if I could have a party here on Saturday, as Mum ruined the one that was planned. – What did you say to Mum? Dad picked up the spoon and gave the chip in the tile an engineer’s scrutiny. He suddenly turned round, his face bright scarlet. – What did you say to her? – Laurence said that he sleeps with Pat, Bud said icily. – I didn’t say that! Make love to, that’s quite different. Anyway it was ironically meant. – Go up to your room! Dad shouted at me. – I have to go to school, I’m late. I knew that duty, school and reports were the most important things in his life. – You’ll better get your lunch packed, while I go up and talk to Mum. Can you manage that without causing more trouble? He gave me a threatening and deadly serious look. – OK, so we can talk about that party later then? I asked. He gave me a surprised look. I was surprised myself; that I dared to talk like that. When Dad left the room I took over the parent role. – What do you want on your slices Tiny? Tiny looked up from his drawing full of tanks and bomber planes. – Can I have jam? – And you Bud? 96

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– I can make my own. – It wasn’t true what I said, Bud. It was just so tempting to say it. I haven’t done anything to Pat. The breakfast had hardly been a success. It was much better when I had my paper round and didn’t have to be with them in the mornings. As Mum took sick leave that day I had to take Tiny up to my old kindergarten by Vigeland Museum, to «Aunt» Cornelia who had also looked after me 10 years ago. Actually it was pleasant to walk Tiny to the old gate and be smiled at by Aunty there. Jonny called from Nobel Street and tore me out of the cosy atmosphere I had felt for a while. I waved goodbye to Tiny and struck off over the green. Jonny’s arms were now so strong that he could manage most things alone. – Did you ask about the party? – You don’t give a shit. Jonny looked surprised. – Don’t I give a shit, Laurence? – I’ve actually had a pretty rough morning. We walked through Frogner Park without saying a word, while the low sun tried to thaw out the frozen piles of leaves. A down-and-out sat between the columns outside the pavilion. I waved to him and he waved back. Barbie made fun of the way I walked, as usual, and with a splinter in my heel it was, of course, much less painful to walk on my toes. I didn’t need to pretend to look dejected and depressed. They had understood there was 97

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no luck regarding a party long before we reached them. Mono leaned his arm sort of by chance on Kathleen’s shoulder. He gave Barbie a look. She seemed rather confused, poor soul. – No party, no girlfriend. – I know and I don’t give a shit, I said. He got nasty. – But we give a shit that you mucked up Kathleen’s party. So if you manage to come up with something during the next three weeks, then Barbie is yours. By the way, are you still interested in Angela’s equipment? Barbie writhed at the way Mono played fast and loose with her. I shrugged and let my glance fall on PK from form C who was rolling himself a cigarette. He was a tall, bony type from the west coast with dark hair and brown eyes. PK was OK, apart from the fact that he hardly ever uttered a word. He was one of those Frank lost all his money to. PK was, apparently, a fantastic poker player. In lots of ways he resembled the ad for the tobacco brand he was smoking; the tough character wearing a long yellow leather coat, standing beside a yellow roadster. An ad which invited the smoker to become part of a dream. PK was like that, it suited him. Rachel came running towards us, shaking her head. Barbie looked upset. – Are you sure the trousers aren’t there? – I’ve looked everywhere. Mrs. Sundew was really quite amusing when she tried to speak the Queen’s English. She had a talent for parody, 98

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and this appeared to be her favourite. As my mother was English even I managed to keep up during these periods. – Please turn to page 67 in your textbooks, pupils. We were expected to speak English the whole time. That wasn’t really any problem. Æsop’s fable about the Hare and the Tortoise was on page 67. – It’s obvious who the tortoise here is, I said. Mrs. Sundew raised her eyebrows. – Really? And who might that be? – Well it has to be Jonny. – So . . . And what about you then? Mrs. Sundew bared her teeth. – No offence meant, Miss, but he has to be the slowest here, lame and everything. – Oh, that’s really smart. I imagine that the role of Hare would suit you. Let’s see how fast you can run. Mrs. Sundew pounced. I dodged her and ran between the desks with her hard on my heels. The class went wild. Jonny put his hand up. – May I interrupt the chase? Mrs. Sundew gave up reluctantly, breathing heavily and nodded to Jonny. – I have a unique piece of poetry here which might interest everybody. – Yes. What is it? – It’s a love song, Miss. Mrs. Sundew gave him a broad smile. – A love song! Permission granted. I noticed that he gave me a sly glance before taking up a folded piece of paper which looked suspiciously like 99

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mine. He cleared his throat and read in a load voice.

Come on baby, look and see. Come on everybody, look at me. I was fourteen and you were only eleven. What could I do? I fell in love with you. I felt you close in my sleeping bag. You touched my dick, now I feel so bad. I want you so bad, and it makes me so sad. Because I can’t go to bed with you. I don’t want to be a father too. So come on baby, look and see. Come on everybody, look at me. Jonny refolded the paper while loud giggling spread through the class. Mrs. Sundew looked rather puzzled. – Well, that was . . . interesting. Maybe we should analyze it? She started to make her way towards Jonny to collect the paper but he stopped her with a gesture. – I didn’t write it. The poet is sitting over there. Everyone looked in my direction. I had to smile. I actually hoped they would like it. The fact that it had been read aloud was a weight off my mind. Rachel backed me up. – I liked it. But Mrs. Sundew burst out laughing. She had to lean on Jonny’s desk. It tipped over and she fell. The class howled with laughter. She lay on the floor in all her vastness, pointing at me while tears of laughter poured from 100

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her eyes. She laughed so much that she couldn’t keep her arm up. I still sat smiling, stiffly by now. But when I felt my patience run out I packed my English book and took my satchel over my shoulder. Mrs. Sundew lay gasping while stripes of mascara ran down her cheeks. – Are you going now? To the Royal Albert Hall, perhaps? New bursts of laughter followed me out of the class room.

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11 Angela’s tiny grandmother opened the door. She asked me to wait while she waddled down the long dark corridor. It was difficult to get used to the flats at Frogner. People at Høvik lived either in detached or terraced houses. Angela came towards me smiling. The warmth and friendliness of her smile was quite extraordinary. She had a large mouth and an untidy amount of yellowish hair which stood up like a halo around her head. It was as if her hair lit up the corridor as she walked in front of me. Her room was small and faced the back yard. Her desk was full of peace–stickers; there was a chair and a reading lamp. The amplifiers stood displayed on an occasional table under the window and two guinea pig cages stood on the window sill. A small passageway with a wardrobe at the end was cleared around an enormous bed. Crutches were placed against the wardrobe door and an older, fair–haired boy lay on the bed, partly under a duvet, leaning against a pile of pillows, sucking a hash pipe. A girl, her face hidden behind long greasy hair, sat on the edge of the bed. The boy gave her the pipe. She inhaled deeply. 102

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– What are you staring at, you idiot? Ramsey asked. – Nothing, I said looking away. It was difficult to tear my eyes away from where his leg should have been. Was this really Aunt Audrey’s healthy, football playing god child? – Take it easy. He has money, Angela said. She stood leaning against the amplifier. The blue display, the silver knobs and the dark stained end pieces in polished walnut cried out to me. But I knew it would be quite impossible to pull a plausible lie at home. I just couldn’t afford an amplifier in that category. Ramsey growled angry from the bed. – Hand over the notes and get out. – You can have it for 200 crowns, Angela said, stroking her hand lovingly over the top. – I don’t know how to explain it at home, I said. – Just say you bought it second hand. – I hesitated. – 150 crowns, she bargained. Angela looked despairingly at me. The equipment was ridiculously cheap, but Mum and Dad would undoubtedly ask difficult questions. They would insist on knowing where it came from. The unknown girl looked at me through her mane of hair with a teasing curl of the lip. – Just buy it and get out, Ramsey snarled, taking his hash pipe back. The greasy girl was almost too full of concern and attention. She leaned over Ramsey placing one hand under the quilt and pushing her hair back with the other. 103

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He blew the smoke into her lungs as their lips met; she kept the smoke in while breathing out of the corner of her mouth. – Perhaps you would like a guinea pig? Please? Angela’s eyes begged. – Mum and Dad won’t let me, I said. – Such a pity. If you’re not allowed to do anything, and haven’t the gumption to decide for yourself, so would you kindly just get lost, Ramsey snarled. It was obvious that the greasy girl was wanking him under the quilt. – How much do you want for the guinea pig? I asked. * It was an unusually considerate Laurence who went down to dinner. Not late, and completely free from nasty comments to his brothers. – Your hair looks really nice today, I said to Mum who had obviously been to the hairdresser. Dad had a crew–cut which was just long enough to lay down as a tiny fringe at the hairline. – How was school today? He asked smiling severely. – Fine, I had a poem read out in English class. – Good for you. – I had written it myself. There was a pause while Dad chewed his food. – And you Bud, what have you done? – I’ve been with Evan. – The blind boy? 104

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– Yes, he came on a visit. He said it «looks» nice here. – What about school? – I don’t want to talk about school. – And you Tiny, did Laurence take you to the day care centre? – Grace hit me. I got sand in my eyes. I thought I’d better get it over with. – After school I stopped by Angela and bought a guinea pig, cage and all, for just 150 crowns. It’s called Miffle, the same as the little terrified creature that saved the Moomin family, do you remember? Mum and Dad exchanged a glance. Dad wanted the OK and got it. – Without asking? Where is the animal? – In my room. – You must give it back. – Please, I begged. – You should have asked first. – I know what the answer would have been. – And still you bought a pet? – Please. Dad’s hand crashed onto the table rattling the plates. – We have agreements and principles here. What do you think would happen if we just put them aside? What will your brothers think? That they can do as they like? – No. – That’s how it is and that’s how it has to be, you know that. – Please. – No! 105

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– But I can’t give it back . . . The look he gave me said that a clip round the ear was in the offing. . . . Not till tomorrow. By the way. I popped in to Granny and Granddad. They said I could have some friends in the basement, if it was alright with you. Mum and Dad exchanged a glance again and, without saying a word, agreed to let the discussion lie for the moment. The rest of the meal was taken up by strained small talk; about the difference between anchovies and sprat, and that sort of things. After dinner I helped clear the table and get the washing up under way. But Dad saw through me. – You can’t keep the guinea pig by doing that. It just has to go. I didn’t answer, just quietly left and joined the boys watching the children’s TV in the sitting room. When the program was finished Dad and Mum asked us to sit down on the sofa. Both Bud and I were rather worried. Tiny looked as if he expected to be given a bar of chocolate. Our elderly parents approached us with their arms around each other. I was pretty sure it meant no guinea pig and no party. Dad patted Mum on her tummy. – You are going to have a brother or a sister, he said proudly. – In the summer, Mum said. This could be very convenient for my plans. – Oh, that’s super, I exclaimed, clapping my hands. 106

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Bud reacted more naturally. – Another one? Tiny, on the other hand, showed his enthusiasm by doing a little improvised pantomime. I went up to my room while the boys were having their supper. I tried to remember what Angela had said about feeding. Dishes for water and feed came with the cage, and hay. When I needed more I could go to the pet shop. I lifted the brown, sleek haired guinea pig out of its cage to examine it. Angela said it was a female and she ought to know, but I wasn’t able to find any sex organs. From the sounds on the landing I could hear that Tiny had just gone to bed, and was aware, at the same time, that the moment of truth was at hand. Dad walked in while Mum was reading a bedtime story for Tiny. I was sitting on my bed with Miffle on my lap. Dad wasn’t angry, strangely enough. He sat down quietly by my side. – Would you like to hold her? I asked in a forced cheerful voice. – No thanks. He looked rather anxious. – I’m pleased about the little brother or sister, I continued, to soften him up. – I’m looking forward to that as much as to the party in Granny and Granddad’s basement. Dad sighed. – Yes, you mentioned that at dinner time. – Granny has even offered to bake buns for us if you say it’s OK. 107

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I could see him weighing the pros and cons. – We must be allowed to sit in the room above you. – Of course, I said. – And you must promise to give that animal back. – M-hmm. It was unbelievable. I had permission, but it was a pity that I had to return the guinea pig. After Bud also had gone to bed I sat in the wing chair with the telephone list for the class. Frank came on the line after a little chit–chat with his mother. – I can have a party, I shouted, – tomorrow. Mum glanced up from her knitting. I lowered my voice. – Where? – In my grandparents basement at 6 o’clock. – Cool, Frank said, – we’ll have time to visit the flea market at Smestad beforehand. – OK, I can take over my paper round again from tomorrow. The last person on my list was Jonny. I didn’t particularly want to talk to him after he had made a fool of me in class. But I didn’t have that many friends either. With Zappa’s «Dinah Moe Hum» on my cassette player in the background I drew aside the curtains and saw him sitting practicing on his guitar. He saw me and picked up his phone. – Sorry about reading out your poem, he said, – but you weren’t exactly nice to me either. – I’m actually quite pleased you did, I said. 108

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– You are? Jesus, Laurence, you can’t write stuff like that about anyone. – Why not? Jonny groaned at the other end. – Can’t you write music to it? – You must be crazy. – I’ve bought a guinea pig from Angela, I said changing the subject. – I thought you were going to buy some equipment. – Ramsey was in her bed, smoking hash and being sucked by a girl in the 10th form. – While you were there? It was really only wanking under the quilt, but I lay it on a bit thick to make it more interesting. . . . Got her legs in the air and asked if she had any cuties in there. Zappa sang. – Yeah, it didn’t bother them, but Miffle is cute. I lifted her out of her cage. Jonny looked at her through his binoculars. She was bums up kneeling . . . – Don’t try letting her suck you. – She has such long claws. Do you know how to cut them? – I’ve no idea. I took a pair of scissors from the drawer while I told Jonny about the party. Miffle pulled her foot away seemingly uninterested in having her claws trimmed. There were traces of blood. . . . Kiss my ora, Dora. It’s really angora.

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12 I enjoyed doing my paper round again, even though it took longer with only one arm. The old stairways in Lindeman Street seemed even scarier in the October darkness, but when I let my prick out into the night I became an invincible panther. I could feel the cool air on my glans and testicles as they hang loose and free. When I got to the FIAT building I saw to my surprise that Mrs. Jodis had cancelled her subscription. There was a little red marker in the book. I pushed my prick back in place and walked down the corridor on the 4th floor. The familiar door, letter slot and peep hole. What was it I wanted? What did she want? Did she want something more than just to read or not to read the morning paper? I bent down, opened the slot and peeped in. There was nothing to be seen in her hallway. I folded my own copy of the Saturday paper and pushed it through. That had to be my signal to her. My calling card. * Jonny, Frank and I had taken Bud with us. We were out of bounds when we left the west end of Frogner Park by the ÂŤWheel of LifeÂť. We saw a couple on horseback 110

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practicing in a field, and an Iceland pony with a chubby girl trotted by us on the bridle path in Monolith Road. The cemetery, enemy area. – Did you see that snowflake? Frank pretended to throw up. – White polo necked jumper, Snoopy badge and Fusalp jacket. – What about it? Bud asked. – Prejudiced, Jonny said. – They’re just prejudiced. Look, two your own age. We crossed Heggeli Road. Two girls of about eleven whispered to each other. They were wearing scarves and woollen coats and hats. We pretended we hadn’t seen them as we passed by. It felt unnatural, but it was their territory. They probably had contacts. Quite likely, a little whistle from them could get us surrounded and done away with. – They are following us, I said. – Cool, but rather young, Frank said toughening up. – Laurence likes them young, Bud said. I grabbed him. – Hi, she came to me, I don’t baby snatch. I almost gave up outside Smestad School. It reeked of well-to-do parents, and youths with red arm bands swarmed all over the quadrangle. They looked the picture of health and success. They probably didn’t even smoke. While I poked about in the heaps of clutter and junk, Bud had struck up a conversation with the two girls in woollen coats. Both had younger brothers about Tiny’s 111

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age. It looked as if Bud had made good contact with them. Jonny too, who told them about his sister Pat? Perhaps someone knew someone who knew someone. It was a small world. I listened to what they were saying, but decided to play big and tough, and that meant not bothering with such small fry. By then I had become absorbed with a wreck of a Husquarna 50cc moped lying on the asphalt. Some of the adults tried, but couldn’t manage to start it. I bought it for 50 crowns. The girls accompanied us on our way back. One of them had a sister with a horse in the garage. Typical for spoiled west siders. We waved them goodbye at Heggeli Road. – I expect they are going to play or put on an act, I said scornfully. Frank snorted. He cycled on the punctured moped. Bud sat behind him. – Can Pat and I come to your party, he asked – Hi, it’s not exactly a children’s party, Frank said. – I have no wish to go to a party with my little sister, Jonny said dryly. I was pleased he had torpedoed any possibility for Bud and Pat. * Grandma made buns as promised and Grandpa helped decorate the clothes lines. – We haven’t had a party down here since the fancy dress ball in 1908, he explained to anyone who could be 112

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bothered to listen to him. – Theatre painter Wang did the murals of Caecilian garden scenes. I doubt that any of my friends had heard of a set painter called Wang, but they were very impressed. The washroom was certainly the largest they had seen, and the murals were almost as lifelike as they were 70 years earlier. I hadn’t the patience to listen to the house’s history so I wandered over to Frank and Jonny who were rigging up an improvised disco player at the other end of the room. – I wonder how many will come, I said, starting to solder together wires from the two record players. – You have at least got Barbie for the evening, Frank laughed. – What a whore, Jonny said. – I would never have accepted that offer. – Cunt‘s cunt, I said blowing away the smoke from the soldering iron. – If you are looking for cunt you’re on the wrong track. You’ll find the best and hottest cunt on the girls who don’t dress to kill, Frank stated. – That’s what I’ve heard too, Jonny said – Those you wouldn’t think have even been kissed can be really potent in bed. – Like red Indians, Frank said with a bawdy laugh. – Pussy I said. – Yes pussy, pussy galore. – What’s pussy? Jonny wanted to know. – What about Kathleen, I asked casually. – No she plays hard to get, Frank said. 113

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– If you want cunt you should go in for Rachel. – Rachel? Are you serious? Who’d want to screw that lump. – She isn’t the world’s most attractive, I give you that. But cunt is cunt, as you just said. Mrs. Hornet came with Kathleen. Those who had beer hid the bottles in a flash. She inspected the premises and went up to talk to the grownups. I waved to Kathleen, but couldn’t leave the equipment as someone was bound to wreck it. Changing records is actually a fine job in a party where no one really knows what to do. I could see them come down the steps one after the other, take an uneasy look at the walls and try to find somewhere to sit. From my safe place behind the record players I also saw Barbie throw herself at Rachel, giving her a good thrashing. I turned down the volume of the Alice Cooper disk. – You’ve pinched my jeans! Barbie screamed. – Why would I do that! Rachel howled back. – I wouldn’t be able to wear them. – Well, the hair band you’re wearing was in my jeans’ pocket. – How can you be sure about that? – Because it’s from Spain you idiot. A bit odd that you should have one exactly the same. – I haven’t taken your jeans, Rachel said resignedly. – In any case there are thousands of those hair bands. The squabbling stopped when Grandma came down with the buns. For a moment I was afraid she was going to say something, but luckily she thought better of it. 114

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My friends sat on the floor up against the walls and took dutifully from Grandma’s tray while I played «Teenage Lament» so loudly that no one heard her wish us a nice party, and she was spared hearing the sarcastic remarks in return. Almost before she was out of the door pieces of buns were being thrown in all directions. I felt a bit sorry for her; she thought we were children still. Fancy making a mistake like that. Alice Cooper sang Is this the coolest way to get through your teens? Barbie solved her problems by drinking beer and pretending to be dead drunk. When I mentioned the agreement I had with Mono, Angela, Kathleen and some other girls surrounded her like bodyguards. It wasn’t possible to get near her, and what’s more she kept her eyes closed and snuffled; Mono, oh Mono, oh Mono. Some of the boys cut out all together, and started playing a game with the crown corks. Those who had brought pop felt left out. Some of then went. Solo, Sticks, a guy called Nevil and Ramsey’s old girlfriend appeared. The bigger boys had a field day. Angela was so drunk she couldn’t stand, but Nevil had more beer and he seemed to know the ropes. He sat on the stairs and planned our tourné, cool as ice. – He’s going to be our manager, Solo whispered, eyes shining. – I’ve told him about the Sunnås concert. He’ll fix all practical problems for a 10 percent fee. – We aren’t getting any fee, I said. – Who’s that girl? – You mean Nina? – No manager works without a fee, Solo complained 115

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behind me as I stumbled towards Nina. – Cool party here, she said throwing her dark hair over her shoulder. – Great location too. – Can I screw you? I asked hopefully. She stared at me. Her eyes flirted while she considered the question. I staggered a bit to show that I was drunk and couldn’t be blamed for my actions. – Come back when you are a bit older, she said. I just nodded and stumbled away dragging my feet. I could see Rachel out of the corner of my eye. She was sitting on the floor drinking beer with Frank. Her fat thighs threatened to burst through her corduroy trousers. Kathleen stood behind Jonny’s wheel chair. It looked as if they were trying to dance. I went to the toilet, sat on the seat with the door open and pretended to be knocked out by alcohol. I squinted out into the room. Were any of the girls looking my way? I opened my legs wide and threw myself backwards against the cistern. Could they see my dick now? I heard Barbie scream for Mono. The bigger boys were snogging with the drunken small fry they found lying in heaps against the walls. The mystical manager had two girls hanging around his neck already. Jane from the parallel class dived into the bathroom and threw up in the shower. Another girl had passed out. Someone got panicky and talked about alcohol shock. It was time for me to wake up from my toilet seat. I pretended to come back to life gradually in case some of them were watching, stood up so that all could see my nether parts and pretended to have difficulties pulling up 116

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my trousers. Through almost closed eyes I noticed that some of the girls were watching me. I thought I could use that sense of excitement next time I wanked off. Pieces of bun, fag-ends and empty crisp packets lay strewn all over the floor when I came out of the toilet. I wondered how many of my guests had actually enjoyed the party. Several girls were crying for some reason or other, and lots of the boys looked as if they were trying not to appear bored. Barbie came running towards me, throwing her arms around my neck, reeling, with tears in her eyes. – Take me, she said. – I’m yours. – What? – Take me. Do what you want with me. I’m yours. The moment she screamed, Mono and Specs shot down the stairs as if they owned the house. They impressed me almost as much as I despised them. Barbie spun around, threw herself at Mono and kissed him thoroughly while he let his cool gaze scan the room. Did she mean it? Could I have screwed Barbie if Mono hadn’t appeared on the scene? * I turned the music off when Dad came down at 11 o’clock. The party was over and it was quite incredible how sober they all appeared to be. They picked up their belongings quietly and unnoticeably before they crept up the basement stairs. I was rather worried about the mess. – I couldn’t prevent it, I told Dad who was frowning 117

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at the sight of cigarette stubs, piles of crushed crisps and pieces of Grandma’s buns. Strangely enough he didn’t seem surprised or shocked, more as if he had a suspicion confirmed. How could he have known? Mono was neither nervous nor shy of Dad. He organised a afterparty with the last of the guests on the way up the stairs. – Can I go with them, I asked meekly. He looked at me as if I had asked the most stupid question ever. – Absolutely not. – Can’t we do the cleaning up tomorrow? It’s Sunday. But Dad wouldn’t budge an inch. He helped Jonny up the stairs and fetched the Hoover, dustpan and brush. The cleaning was soon done, when the crumbs had been swept up and the shower washed. I was even allowed to turn the music on while I worked. Perhaps Dad would like Cat Stevens, I wondered, and put on «Tea for the Tillerman», but he didn’t seem to dig it. As we went home from Grandma and Grandpa’s I asked him why he wanted another child. He would soon be 42 years old, quite ancient, only marginally younger than my grandparents. We walked along the white painted fence. I felt a longing to hold his hand, but I didn’t dare reach out and take it. – We need someone to look after us when we get old, he answered quite simply. 118

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13 The whole class was gathered in front of the door waiting for Mrs. Sundew. There was something wrong. I could feel it as I came up to the landing. Barbie and Angela were practically foaming at the mouth. – Torturer! Barbie spat out the word. Angela leapt forward. – Bring it back today, you animal tormenter. I didn’t understand a shit. Barbie was in a fury. – Don’t play innocent, we know all about it. – What? Barbie could hardly bear to say it. – Your experiments with the guinea pig of course. You pulled out its nails. It makes me feel so sick I could throw up. Angela was ready with a new retort. – We are going to report you to the RSPCA. I had to say something. – It’s a lie. Barbie came on strong. – Ha, it’s a lie is it? She turned to Mono who was standing in the background looking serious. – Mono saw it with his own eyes. 119

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I glanced at Mono. He smiled nastily. This must be Jonny’s doing, but he wasn’t to be seen. Mrs. Sundew came shuffling up the stairs, five minutes late. We streamed into the classroom where I sat down at my desk while she blew up her haemorrhoid cushion ring. Barbie and Rachel dragged their desks as far away from mine as possible. Mrs. Sundew noticed it and smiled. – Well Laurence, have you farted? The class laughed, but Barbie felt she had to give the reason. – He’s torturing his guinea pig. Mrs. Sundew perched herself carefully on her ring and looked searchingly at me, sitting alone on my deserted island in the middle of the room. – Tortured his guinea pig? No I don’t believe a word of it. Barbie looked pained. – He pulls its nails out. Mono has seen it with his own eyes. Mrs. Sundew looked hard at him. – Have you seen this Montague? Mono nodded in the affirmative. She frowned. – But why would he want to do that to his pet? – Because he’s cruel, Miss. Mrs. Sundew breathed in calmly and leaned back. – Laurence does a lot of odd things, but he’s not cruel. That’s certain. Barbie’s long, gangly body twisted into a living question mark. 120

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– But Mono has . . . Mrs. Sundew gave her a hard look. – Listen to yourself. – But . . . – Are you so perfect? She shook her head in despair. – Oh . . . What had happened? Mrs. Sundew looked down at me and smiled, even winked. I lowered my eyes. Sometimes it was absolutely impossible to know what was going on. Mrs. Sundew assumed that the case was now closed and directed her attention to the whole class. – Unfortunately I have to inform you that I’ll be away for a few days, while I place myself on the operating table and pay for the pain a man has caused in my arse. She enjoyed the shock and quietness after this remark. – Don’t send flowers, don’t cry for me. It’ll be hard for you. I’ll bear the pain alone, as I always have. * I had almost forgotten the episode in the Bygdøy woods, even though each time I took a step my foot reminded me of the incident. But when I stood outside the domestic science room with my class mates it was as if the catastrophic meeting with the two teachers had just happened. My best bet was to play innocent and deny everything if they claimed to recognise me behind my sunglasses. 121

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Mono hung around Barbie and sent me smiles full of malice as I heard the teachers’ footsteps in the corridor. He had turned the tiny piece of interest Barbie had shown me at the party to pure hatred. I did my best to hide when the teachers appeared around the corner. I noticed their anxious looks as they turned to face us, and suddenly realized that they were perhaps afraid of me. Maybe I had caught them in doing something they wanted to keep secret. I could see them again, on the blanket, deep in the woods. What were they scared of? Jonny appeared from the lift. – Laurence, I need to talk to you, he said. – But I don’t need to talk to you, I replied, and kept my distance. We gathered at our allotted places; small kitchens with cooker, bench and cupboard. The sinks stood alongside the walls. The cupboards were badly equipped. Our group included Rachel, Specs and me. Baking with yeast was on the agenda, and the boys contested in making the finest tit–buns, decorating them with raisin and hazelnut nipples. I scowled over at Jonny and felt hate burn in me. – Do you know why there are no pedals on Jonny’s wheel chair? I asked loudly so that everybody could hear me. Obviously no one knew the answer. – It’s only his third leg that works and that’s too limp . . . Mono grinned, that spiteful rotter. I racked my brains. 122

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– Do you know what a wheelchair user and a dog have in common? Nervous anticipation around the tables. Jonny looked away. – Both have to lift a leg to piss. Then they came, Brenda and Esther. They stood in front of me, arms akimbo. – There’ll be no mobbing here, is that clear? I pretended not to understand. – Mobbing? It was only a couple of jokes. Esther looked at Jonny. – Do you agree, Jonny? He gave me a pained glance, then looked down and nodded. I was thrilled. – There you see. Only innocent jokes. Brenda inspected my baking tray. She obviously wanted something to upbraid me for and raised an eyebrow. – Do you have problems regarding women? They started to laugh, Jonny most of all. He almost fell out of his chair. – This is my tribute to women, particularly lesbians. What do you think? But there was something in their eyes that told me I’d better not go too far. – I like them, Rachel said, shooting out her own enormous bosom. – Why shouldn’t one let one’s own desire show though the art of cooking? The teachers looked at each other. – Well, why not, Esther said cheerfully. – One can play out one’s desire while cooking without it upsetting anyone. 123

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* I let myself in the front door and almost ran into our new American lodger. She pushed her hair back behind her ears. – Hi Laurence how are you? – Fine, I lied. My eyes slid evasively over the little table in the corner where her mail lay in a brass dish. She stared at me with a flirtatious grin on her lovely twenty odd year lips. – Would you like to come in darling? – I don’t know. – Carl’s here. You must meet him. I threw my gym bag into a corner, kicked off my shoes and was instantly reminded that my socks ponged. But it was too late to change my mind. Sandra thrust me into the flat I hadn’t seen since Aunt Audrey lived there. I was a bit taken aback when I saw Carl, an enormous fellow, at least 30 years old. He raised himself half way up to shake my hand. Sandra hurried after. – Carl, meet Laurence. Laurence, this is Carl. Carl’s grasp was real firm. I fell back into an old leather chair when he eventually let go. Carl sat in an upholstered sofa with his arm around Sandra. – Carl has been telling me about his life after he had been in Vietnam, Sandra said, giving him a challenging smile. I felt really out of place with my stinking feet. A bookcase with a record player and a Sony tape recorder stood against the end wall. They were listening to «Us and 124

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Them» by Pink Floyd. Carl looked a bit embarrassed. He had doubtless laid it on a bit thick in order to soften her up. He was probably sitting on a hard-on. «After all we are only ordinary men», Walters sang. – We had packed people in everywhere. The old wreck of a plane was so overloaded that it grazed the tree tops at the end of the runway. We found branches in the undercarriage afterwards. But we also had to fly low to avoid the radar picking us up. We careered down the valley only a few yards over the river bed where it crosses the border. Some of the passengers were so scared they shit themselves. It stank. I didn’t feel too good myself. The bloody field where we were supposed to land didn’t seem too safe. For all we knew there could be a whole gang of border soldiers waiting to mow us down. Carl took a break, put a grape in under his thick black moustache, sucked it and pressed the pips out between his lips. – What’re you talking about? I asked. He smiled. – I did some smuggling in South America. People. It was dangerous but profitable. I made twenty thousand bucks on my last trip, but we were pranged. The crate was hit in the side rudder and became impossible to fly straight. I was so happy I got it down in one piece that I sold the wreck and bought a chopper. You know what a chopper is? – I think so, I said uncertainly. – The one I owned was the finest that ever happened to a Harley Davidson. 125

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Sandra looked admiringly up at her friend. – I’ve bought an old moped, I said. – Have you seen «Easy Rider» with Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson? I hadn’t, and shook my head. – Look here, this is a chopper, he said, and started drawing on the newspaper. Sandra fetched him a sheet of drawing paper, and then stood behind my chair watching him. I could feel the warmth from her breasts, but was so embarrassed about my bodily smells that I wasn’t able to appreciate it properly. – How do you like school, Laurence? Sandra smiled sympathetically at me as she curled up on the sofa again. The pong from my feet was overpowering. – School? I had problems switching my thoughts from chopper to school. Sandra nodded encouragingly. Carl smiled too, though it looked as if he would have liked to say more. – Oh it’s pretty deadly. Have you seen my school? She shook her head. Of course she hadn’t. – It’s just like a prison, with walls and iron gates. All it lacks is barbed wire and armed guards. The buildings are as grey as death and the inside is so hideous you feel inclined to commit suicide. Carl smiled. – School is pure shit. Get out and see the world like me. You learn far more that way. I started to like the guy. Sandra wrinkled her nose and 126

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winked at him. – Don’t give him ideas. He has to go to school. She gave me an open, almost childish look. – Perhaps you could give your school a spot of colour? It was a fantastic idea. Why hadn’t I thought of that? Carl began to hug and pat Sandra. She looked ecstatic. It was obvious they wanted to be alone. I picked up the drawing of the chopper, and heard Mum call out that dinner was ready. – I think I have to go, I said and stood up. Carl saluted me. – Come back soon, Laurence, Sandra said. She wrinkled her nose like a rabbit and her eyes sparkled. – You are so cute! I sat in my room after dinner feeding Miffle, whom my parents now just ignored. Her nails had grown and were now fine. I took out my new Jostykit a bit half–heartedly; a mono stable multi vibrator which was intended to be the small beginnings of my Laurencesizer. I normally loved to play about with electronics. The smell of the melted resin in the solder usually gave me a high. But this time I didn’t enjoy working with it. I experienced a powerful restlessness. Carl’s South American adventures, the drawing of the chopper and Sandra’s parting remark danced around in my head. Cute? Was that the same as Zappa’s question to Dora asking if she has any «cuties in there» when she was «bums up kneeling»? Or was it something else? 127

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I gave up soldering and went down to the laundry room to work on my moped instead. With the long seat from a Tomahawk bike and a high handle bar I had lying about perhaps it could be a sort of mini chopper. Plans were beginning to take shape. But still it wasn’t possible to stop thinking about what Sandra and Carl were up to. Driven by extreme curiosity I crept into the hallway and immediately heard wild American squeals from the flat, Carl’s deep voice caused the walls to shake, and when I bent down to look through the key hole I saw Carl chase Sandra from the sitting room to the bedroom. I made a daring decision, put my shoes and jacket on and went out the back door. It was cold out. I knew I shouldn’t do what I intended to do, but at the same time acknowledged that I just had to. I crouched down under the windows, crept over the dry ground under the veranda by the wall. I approached her bedroom window, took a deep breath and stood up slowly to peep in. Unbelievable luck. Sandra stood facing the window with her sweater over her head. Her breasts pointed straight at me. Well rounded puddings with dark brown rings and almost black nipples, like large new baked buns. I was looking straight at the cake dish, but didn’t manage to duck before she pulled her sweater off. She jumped when she saw me. I ducked and crawled away. But the window was soon opened behind me. – Laurence, darling? I was so embarrassed; felt pathetically tiny, like a kid. 128

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But when I turned I saw she was smiling. It was crazy. She leaned out with her breasts swinging in the cold air, smiling and laughing as she shook her finger at me. I just sat there like an idiot. My eyes were popping out of my head, until Carl looked out from behind her. – What do you think you’re doing, you peeping Tom. Sandra grabbed the latch, pushed him back and closed the window. – Easy Carl, he’s only a child.

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14 Sandra’s breasts danced in front of my eyes in a nightmarish mixture of her finger’s «naughty, naughty» sign, her laughter and Carl’s angry look. It was a relief to wake up. Worn out after a bad night’s sleep I staggered up to the newspaper depot. Mrs. Hornet hung over the counter in her own private cloud of smoke and gave me a worried look. She had read an article in the morning paper about suicide amongst teenagers. – I feel so sorry for you who have to live through those difficult years. Thank heaven it’s over as far as I’m concerned, she sighed giving me my newspapers. I found an alteration to my list. Mrs. Jodis wanted a newspaper again, delivered through the slot. I just had to take it out in the FIAT building. I got more and more stirred up as I approached the 4th floor corridor. Exposing myself gave me an intense feeling of being alive. It was almost as if my agitation distorted the experience of time. Past and future didn’t exist, only the present. All rational thoughts disappeared. I dashed into the corridor with my fly open, my dick hanging out and my heart in my mouth. But the mystical Mrs. Jodis wasn’t there. The corridor stared emptily 130

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back at me. I felt both relief and disappointment at the same time. My dick calmed down as I folded the paper and I wondered whether I should wank it off there just outside her door. I bent down, opened the hinged cover and looked straight into a pair of male legs. I was so surprised I fell backwards as the door was opened. – Are you looking for someone? The man asked. I covered myself as best I could with the newspapers and got to my feet. – No. I was just about to push your newspaper into the slot. My voice shook. What if he had seen me through the spy hole? But he didn’t seem to notice that I held the newspapers in front of me. He just seemed nervous and short sighted. – Don’t go, he said, – I need to talk to you. I just stood there. It was imperative in any case that he closed the door before I went on my way. – We have a baby and my wife has to get up a lot during the night. I don’t quite know how to say this, but I’m worried about her, afraid she may do something silly, you see? I didn’t understand a thing, but I began to feel I had seen him before. He could actually be the piss-wanker. His height and voice matched. This could in fact be the man who taught me his good wanking technique. And whose turn was it now to stand with his dick out? An unbearable sorrow showed on his face. He snuffled. – We aren’t getting on too well. I’m afraid she will contact you and make advances. 131

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I could see he regretted this last remark. His eyes filled with tears as he reached out for the paper. * The first part of our double biology period dragged on. Mrs. Sundew was on sick leave, so Mr. Bug was her stand in. Mono and Specs got the girls screaming hysterically suggesting various torturing methods. – You can drown it in a bucket and watch its death throes. – Or cut off its feet with a pair of pincers and see it stumble around on its stumps. – Or blind it with a soldering iron. Mr. Bug tried to keep order, but no one listened to him. At break time I tried out the key I was given as a member of the School Council. It unlocked the classroom door. Mr. Bug had equipped the School Council committee with master keys. I crept into the room and was overwhelmed by all the possibilities offered. Letting my prick out here made me a real monster; a bundle of sexual drive, lust and the urge to desecrate. I desecrated Barbie’s jacket pocket, Rachel’s pencil case and was at fever pitch when I found Mono’s biology book. It opened up on a page with a photo of a naked man and woman. It suited quite perfectly. At the very moment it went for me I panicked. What if I was caught in the act here! With my heart in my mouth I sneaked out and locked the door. 132

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The bell rang for the next period soon after. The campaign against me for torturing animals continued as the class gathered outside the door. Jonny stood up for me. He thought he understood the reason for it. – Mono has planned this as revenge, because he’s keen on Kathleen and thinks she’s with me. Barbie’s eyes widened. Mono laughed roughly. – I couldn’t care less if you are going with Kathleen. – Mono is with me, Barbie said firmly. Kathleen had to go; her class was on its way in. – Jonny and I are good friends, that’s all, she said over her shoulder. Barbie demanded an explanation. – If Mono wanted to spoil your chances he’d have found out something about you. Mono smiled haughtily. Jonny turned to him. – We were talking about nails and I mentioned that I’d seen Laurence clip one of Miffle’s nails so that it bled. Can’t you just admit it? – Then it’s true! Angela screamed. – It was just an accident. The first time he clipped them. It doesn’t mean a thing. Everyone looked at Mono. He may possibly have admitted it if Mr. Bug hadn’t come just then. My heart thumped in my throat as we entered the classroom. Barbie’s pocket, Rachel’s pencil case. I could almost feel their hands on me. – Whatever’s this? Mono took a step back staring at his biology book. Everyone came to see. Frank scrutinized it closely. 133

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– Jeez, is it pussy? – It looks like sperm, Mono said horrified. – How do you know? I thought you didn’t wank off, I asked. – Well . . . The sperm had soaked into the paper; some of it lay wet in the margin. Barbie covered her mouth; eyes bulging. – Is it really sperm, like that flasher? She whispered. Mono just gaped. – Someone has wanked off in my book. You could have heard a pin drop. Mr. Bug didn’t know how to handle the situation. – It must be a conspiracy, Specs said. Only someone with a key can get in at break time. Mono looked up at Mr. Bug. – Then it has to be our soap wanker! The picture in the book must have been too much for him, and he had to relieve himself, don’t you think? Mr. Bug blushed and looked furious, but the class just started to laugh. Frank soon found the drawing of the Chopper in my bag. He pulled it out and let it go the rounds. Barbie tried to make me look stupid pretending to race around the class room with high handle bars. – My big brother has a motorbike, Rachel said. He has lots of spare parts in the back yard. Perhaps he has something you need? – No thanks, I said pulling a face to show the class quite clearly that I wasn’t interested in her. 134

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After school she was there; stood waiting for me by the gate. – I can show you the motorbike parts, she said. I shot glances around me. She knew I was scared of being seen with her, and was tired of it. – No one can see that we’re together, she said. – I can walk in front if you like. I nodded. – I have to go to the paint shop in Frogner Road, I shouted after her. She walked ahead of me as she had promised. I walked as far behind her as possible without losing sight of her. But I didn’t meet anyone I knew. Everything went well. She was waiting outside when I had bought the spray paint. – Can we walk together now? I nodded, but still didn’t feel quite safe. We were in PK’s street and I hoped for God’s sake the poker players weren’t looking out of the window. Rachel lived in Tostrup Street close by the newspaper depot. I slipped unnoticed into the yard behind her. And there, by what had once been a stable, lay her brother’s store of spare parts, and the brother himself under a Suzuki 750. He stood up, blowing on his hands to warm them. – Victor, he said – Laurence, I said. – He’s going to build a chopper, Rachel said proudly. – He has drawings and everything. – OK? Victor said. – What do you have? 135

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– Just an old Husquarna with a ruined engine and buck horn handlebars, long seat and the front wheel from a push bike. – I think I have an old engine here somewhere; Victor said and started to rummage about in a heap of parts. It has a wrecked exhaust cap, but you can probably come up with a provisional solution. He dragged out a two stroke with rounded cooling ribs. – A Zundapp 50cc. Good engine, he stated. – How do I fix it on? – Well . . . Some patent band and some strong bolts. You can do a lot without welding. – Gosh, yes. How much do you want for it? – If you’re a friend of my sister’s you can have it for free. It was difficult to say no to such an offer, it would have been stupid too. Victor was a real nice guy. A bit on the fat side, but really kind and pleasant. I thanked him and lifted the engine up. It was heavy, but no worse than I could manage using both hands. – I can help you carry it home, Rachel said. – No thanks. – Perhaps I could see your guinea pig? – In order to check on its nails? – You know very well that I always stick up for you, she said sulkily. Victor gave me a look; his sister’s new friend. – OK, I said avoiding his eyes.

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I took Rachel round to the back of the house and into the washroom where I had the moped. As soon as she realized I was going to work on it she became impatient. – Aren’t you going to show me your guinea pig soon? There was nothing for it but to lay the engine on the woodwork bench and cross my fingers. But it didn’t help. Mum and Sandra saw us as soon as we came through the door. Sandra winked in a way I couldn’t misunderstand, and I enjoyed being reminded of the previous evening, but it was very embarrassing. Mum seemed more surprised. Tiny was playing outside my room. – Are you sweethearts. Are you going to do sex? I pushed her into my room and slammed the door behind us. She saw the guinea pig immediately. – Oh it’s lovely. Can I hold it? I took Miffle out of her cage and placed her in Rachel’s lap. She fell into a trance and smiled like an idiot as she stroked and stroked her. She looked up after a while from the spoilt animal. – Laurence, I think it’s peed. She lifted her up to show a large wet patch on her thigh. I took the animal and threw her back into the cage. Rachel stood up gathering together small dry pieces of dirt. – Can you lend me some trousers? – Of course. She took her wet trousers off while I opened the wardrobe and pulled out a pair. Her thighs showed, round and shiny. Bud just mustn’t come in now, or Mum 137

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for that matter. She smiled courageously as she tried to pull them up. – A bit small perhaps? There wasn’t a chance. – I have a pair of tights, I said carefully. – You could pull your jumper down over them. She nodded. I dug down into my drawer and found a genuine blue Stoknes. She drew them up over her bulging legs. It worked perfectly. We had avoided a catastrophe. I had even seen her in her knickers, in my room. But then I realised I had made a dreadful mistake. I had forgotten to draw the curtains. Jonny sat on the other side of the yard and had watched the whole performance. I grabbed the house telephone, not giving a damn that Rachel heard every word I said. My future depended on this, my reputation too. – I just had to, don’t you see? – Had to what? – Bring her here. She wanted to see Miffle, didn’t she? – Well you don’t have any etchings to show her. – No, damn it, this is pure business. I was given a second hand Zundapp if I showed her the guinea pig. You don’t think this is something I wanted to do? The thighs within the tights moved about in the background. I turned to her hoping she would understand. – I would like to go home now, she said. I ended my conversation with Jonny. – Miffle pissed on her, that’s why she undressed. Now she wants to go home. I’m showing her out. Bye.

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15 Majorstua School was asleep; cold, dark and ugly. I raced over the playground, unlocked the door with my master key, and stood for a moment thinking of all the children who had been tormented here. All who had been crushed into this depressing hallway of gray–green concrete, and had their joy in life ruined by being imprisoned in hideous, narrow, airless cells. I shook the box of paint and heard the plastic ball whip up the contents, pointed the nozzle at the wall and made a stripe of colour up the stairway. It wasn’t exactly attractive, but I hadn’t time to think of doing anything artistic either. I carried on up and made uneven circles on the doors. Outside form C I had a sudden inspired idea and wrote in large yellow letters: «To Kathleen with the boobs. Regards from the phantom of the spray box». I studied what I had done while some of the paint ran down the wall in stripes. It looked all wrong, and I felt a strong urge to rub it out. Obviously that wasn’t possible, and the box was empty. I stared at the words; they just looked enormous and hideous now. Why had I done this? Giving the school some colour had been the plan, but what I had written on the walls was completely out of place. 139

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A sound! I dropped the spray box into the rubbish bin and scuttled down the stairs. My lungs and heart struggled to find their normal position, as I entered the room used for the school committee. My chest tightened with remorse. I padded up and down the room, writhing as if fysically in pain. I threw myself down into a chair and was about to put my head in my hands when I noticed paint on my fingers. I stared at them. This would give me away. I rushed to the tap and tried to wash it off with cold water. But it just made it worse, spreading it stickily and nastily between my fingers like a bad conscience. I sat holding my hands up to dry. Perhaps I could rub the paint off afterwards? The bell rang for class. The paint wasn’t dry yet. I tried to rub it off again, but it didn’t help. How would my friends react when they read what I had written on the wall? I had to laugh to myself in the midst of all my regrets. People would wonder whoever had done it. This episode would at least nip all the animal cruelty stories in the bud, and also the rumour Jonny had almost certainly intended to spread about Rachel and me. Kathleen was cool enough to take it. It was after all, a sort of homage. I listened at the door and could hear that all was quiet in the stairway. It was time I made an appearance. After a minute or two’s waiting I let myself out and ran up to the class room. I pretended to be out of breath and mumbled something about the tram being late as I sat down at my desk, trying to look innocent. We had Mr. 140

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Bug again. Someone tittered as I came in. I had an awful feeling it had something to do with Rachel. – Are these yours? Barbie asked, folding out my tights, while holding Rachel at bay with her other hand. – Yes, thank you, I said as dead cool as I could. – How did your tights get into Rachel’s bag, I wonder? Has she stolen from you too? – I haven’t stolen from anyone, Rachel shouted. Mr. Bug interrupted the scene. He was white with anger and looked dangerous. – Something very serious has happened today, he began and everyone quietened down. He looked us in the eye, one after the other. I rubbed my hands together under my desk. I had a sudden horror that I had got paint on my face or in my hair. – Someone has used spray paint on the walls and has badly harassed one of our pupils. That was also one way of looking at it. Mr. Bug looked straight at me. I stared back at him. – But we know who has done it, he said. He glanced away from me and out over the class. – We know it is a boy with a school key and that he is a member of this class. I give him the chance of admitting it voluntarily. That way the punishment will be milder. There was dead silence. I sat on edge. – Do none of you admit to it? Well it will be the worse for him. I took the bait. – It was me. 141

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Mr. Bug looked at me, and I saw a glint of surprise in his eyes. He had been bluffing. I stood up and sensed that the whole class heaved a sigh. Rachel had tears in her eyes as if I had hurt her in some way. – Well done! Mono cried. – You just love to make a complete fool of yourself. Mr. Bug held me by the collar walking with rapid, short strides down the stone stairs. It struck me how hard the school was. Made of stone, bare walls and concrete. Everything square, dark and cold. Wrought iron rails and balustrades, and high pointed shapes making one think of the middle ages, plague, slavery and coercion. I took a look at my masterpiece; the yellow stripe on the wall down to the ground floor. It wasn’t particularly well done, and I didn’t know whether I would manage to explain the idea behind it. Perhaps it was just as well I had been found out. Get it over and done with. Let others decide. No more nervousness and apprehension. From now on I intended to regret everything and do as I was told. We walked through the corridors on the ground floor, to a door between B and C entrance. A steel framed name-plate with white plastic letters hung on the headmaster’s door. Mr. Bug knocked and went in. He held the door open for me. Mr Roach stood by the window, turned and faced us. – So it is you again, he said, giving me a long thoughtful look. – Laurence, the boy we sent back to Ramstad 142

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before the Autumn break, but who was returned to us. He sighed and sat down behind his desk. It was large and tidy. The empty spray box stood there on a newspaper. – What have you done this time? Mr. Bug began to speak. – He is the boy who . . . Mr Roach raised a finger to stop him. – Let the boy explain for himself. I liked that. Mr. Bug looked down at the dark parquet floor, which was soaked in bad quality varnish from the war years. The same sticky shit Dad was battling with at Grandpa’s summer cottage. On his knees scraping it off the floorboards. – Well? I was about to put my hands in my trouser pockets, but decided against it. – I just wanted to give the school a bit of colour. Mr Roach considered this for a second or so. – Do you think you have been successful? – Eh, no, not really. But it was just a beginning. I met his eye above his glasses. A keen eye, surrounded by red, puffy skin. – What about the message on the wall outside form C’s class room? I couldn’t answer that, though I really wanted to. I squirmed, I felt quite empty. Mr Roach began to swell out, he puffed himself up. It didn’t look too healthy. – What on earth were you thinking of when you sprayed that nasty remark? 143

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I felt absolutely crushed. Hadn’t expected that. Tears swelled up. – I don’t know. Her breasts perhaps. Oh! No. – Breasts? A fourteen year old girl’s breasts? His voice was sharp and without mercy. I cringed under the onslaught. – Have you considered how Kathleen must feel now? Have you? I shrugged dejectedly. – No. – Who’s going to think of Kathleen if you don’t? – I don’t know. Mr Roach sat down behind his desk again. – You don’t really think much at all, do you, apart from breasts of course. I understood it wasn’t necessary to answer that one. He snorted. – As you are not able to think, we must start to think about moving you. – Moving me? – We have a special class at this school. – X class! Are you going to put me in x class? Mr. Bug said that if I owned up the punishment wouldn’t be so severe. Then you can’t put me into the X class. It just ran out of me. Perhaps I didn’t think much, but I talked at least when it was necessary. – You got a note home the very first day of term. I realised that I was standing on the verge of catastrophe. I wanted so badly to explain that I had meant well. I idolize her; her body is my dream, my desire. But 144

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I knew that sort of explanation wouldn’t go down well. – We must contact your parents and try to find a solution to the problem. I nodded. Couldn’t do much else. He despised me. I noticed how he struggled with his impulses, but kept cool. He turned to Mr. Bug. – Let him wash the filthy mess off himself. I had to leave my key in the headmaster’s office. Mr. Bug found turpentine and some rags. He popped his head into our class room as we passed to give them instructions, which of course wouldn’t be followed. We started with the writing on the wall outside form C’s class room. Thank goodness there was a lot of the period still left. Mr. Bug didn’t say much, just soaked his rag in turpentine and started washing. I hadn’t expected any help. Perhaps that was what he meant when he said the punishment wouldn’t be so severe. Kathleen and her boobs were a bygone piece of short poetry, and we were working on the border in the stairway when the bell rang. My inside squirmed. Here they come, now it’ll happen. I clutched the turpentine soaked rag and concentrated on the work in hand. Kathleen walked by with Rachel and a couple of other friends. It wasn’t possible to see how she felt. Rachel stood staring at me for some time as if sizing me up. Jonny passed by on his wheel chair lift. Specs slapped me on the back. – And we who thought it was the soap-wanker who had emptied himself in Mono’s book. 145

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I just ignored him. – But it was the piss-wanker after all. Mono came by too with Barbie on his arm and a crowd of his cronies. – We thought Mr. Wanker-Bug would like to know. Mr. Bug spun around and grabbed him by the collar. – Oh oh, Mono said rather uneasily. – You can be had up for that. You’re not allowed to touch me you know. Mr. Bug let him go, shaking with fury. – Get out of here! They walked away demonstratively slowly. – Wow, that really scared me, Mono said scornfully. We continued to wash for a while, I was really grateful to Mr. Bug for helping. – Does it upset you, I asked. He looked at me. – They call you soap-wanker, it’s not very nice. – If I let myself get too upset over that sort of thing I would have to find something else to do. Perhaps they will start calling you the book-wanker now. He laughed and smiled at me. He was really quite a decent chap. * Dad’s eyebrows swept up and his eyes stabbed me. Mum was dishing out a portion of sausages and mash. Bud and Tiny sat straight up and down eating. – We have had a telephone from school. 146

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Dad’s voice was slow and clear. I started to eat. After looking at me for a while he continued. – How could you do such a thing? I couldn’t answer this time either. – Your mother and I are very disappointed in you, and not a little upset. I rolled my eyes and chewed my mashed potatoes. – You obviously don’t think of us. How do you imagine we feel about being summoned to a meeting with the head master? This was dead serious. I couldn’t pretend it wasn’t there any longer. I had failed them, been stupid, let them down. I stopped eating and laid my knife and fork on my plate while trying to catch Mum’s eye. But she wouldn’t look at me. She avoided me. There was no comfort to be found there, I had displeased her. She was upset and disappointed in her eldest son. It really hurt when Mum was like that. Then I felt that everyone was against me. They laughed at me behind my back. I could feel it, could feel what they were feeling, their thoughts and words in the depths of my being. Mrs. Sundew and the whole class, the other classes and Sandra. Even Frank and Jonny snubbed me. It was the end of the road if Mum wouldn’t have anything to do with me. I felt tears welling up and turned away so that Bud and Tiny wouldn’t see. – I thought the school was so grey and miserable; I only wanted to give the walls a bit of colour. It wasn’t my intention to write anything, it just happened. I didn’t really want to, I didn’t mean to . . . 147

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My voice broke and my nose started to run. I glanced up at Mum again. She was looking at me now and gave Dad a sign that he should cool down. – But don’t you see that this just makes things worse for you? Dad was suddenly quite changed. – Yes, I gasped. – But I meant well. You have always said it counts if it’s well meant. Dad sighed deeply. – This meeting, he said. – Yes? – We tried to solve the problem last time by sending you back to Ramstad. I nodded. – What shall we suggest this time? – I want to stay where I am. – Why do you insist on that Laurence? – Because that’s where my friends are. – Friends? Is that what they are? Your friends? – Yes. * There was a meeting of the Student Union that same evening. Members of the school councils from the whole city were to gather to vote for or against grades in school. I expected to meet Kathleen there of course, but as luck would have it she took the same tram. I tried to keep my head down but she saw me. I began to panic when she came and sat down. 148

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– I’m sorry, I stuttered. – I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. – I wonder if you can do me a favour, she said in a matter– of– fact manner looking me deep in the eyes. – Oh, so you’re not angry with me? I said hopefully. – Barbie’s jeans finished up in my bag by mistake the night we slept over at Rachel’s, she continued. – Oh, yes? – Could you make sure that Rachel gets them without anyone knowing I had them, so that she can suddenly «find» them? She looked at me pleadingly. I nodded. – If you lend me the key to the room used by the school council, you can meet med there and give them to me early tomorrow morning, I said. She smiled and hooked it off her key ring. – You mustn’t think I pinched the pants or anything. I just took them home with me, and suddenly found them now. And we have accused Rachel of having them and everything. She gave me the key. I was about to say something, but she wouldn’t listen. Then she kissed me on the mouth. I was dumbfounded and wanted more, but she stopped me. – You could have found a more discrete way of showing your feelings. She said slyly. We got off the tram at Schou’s brewery. She took my hand, which still had traces of paint on it, and led me into the assembly hall at the bottom of Trondheim Road. It 149

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was crawling with people. We had to register, and were given our voting slips. The debate was well under way. There were angry cries. The chairman used his hammer. – I give up! someone shouted. We continued to hold hands while we leafed through the papers. Energetic people, who wanted us to vote either for the one or the other proposal, kept popping up. – We haven’t made up our minds yet, I said, when the voting slips were gathered together. – That’s not good enough, we were told. – They are being counted now. I couldn’t have cared less, I was too happy. It was just too much for me. An affair with Kathleen would cause quite a sensation at school, among the boys especially, Jonny, Frank, Mono, all of them. It would even give Mr. Roach something to think about.

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16 I woke up with a sensation I couldn’t quite place. After a few glances up at the ceiling I remembered. I was Kathleen’s boyfriend! It was unbelievable. I jumped out of bed, opened the first window in my Advent Calendar, and found a glittering angel. It was really cute, so cute that I was prepared to cut it out and give it to Kathleen. It was black as the ace of spades outside, but the darkness felt warm and friendly. The gloom of Advent would soon lead to a fantastic Christmas Eve. A few snowflakes fell to enhance my anticipation. Wet snow, large flakes that melted as soon as they landed on Elisenberg Street. I pranced about with the bundles of newspapers, enjoying the smell of printer’s ink; cuting the strings as I step danced on the linoleum floor. – What are you so happy about? Mrs. Hornet asked, stifling a sneeze. I grabbed her hands, swinging them about joyfully. – Don’t you know mother– in–law? – Mother–in–law? She stood still, frozen to ice. – What have you done? You don’t mean Lisa? 151

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– No, Kathleen of course, we became sweethearts yesterday. – I don’t want to hear about it, Mrs. Hornet said Daddy «Elvis» Hornet measured me up, wide eyed, as he carried his newspapers out to the car. The snow softened the sounds and lit up the dark backyards. I walked down the corridor to the Jodis’ flat with a certain amount of anxiety. I had no need to relieve myself now. I was sure Kathleen would soon offer me what I longed for. We were sweethearts, it was only natural. I folded the enormously thick newspaper, and was about to push it into the slot and make a getaway, when I heard the key turn in the lock. It wasn’t the piss wanker, I knew it wasn’t him. It would have sounded different. This was a woman’s way of opening a door, a careful, quieter way. One of Mrs. Jodis’ legs and an eye appeared in the doorway. I could only see half her face and a nail-varnished hand at her crotch. I cautiously held out the newspaper for her, but she just clutched at the door, with a leg on either side, her eyes never leaving my face. I felt as if I was being hypnotized. Her cheek shook and her nose twitched. I was about to push the newspaper through the slot, when she suddenly heaved a sigh, buckled at the knees and sank to the floor. Every paperboy’s nightmare hit me. Was she ill? I’d heard of a customer who had passed out in «Elvis’» arms. Luckily she quickly recovered, pulled her knees and dressing gown together and closed the door. All that was 152

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left of Mrs. Jodis was a faint aroma. I eased the newspaper into the slot while trying to identify the odour. Was it the smell of pussy? * Kathleen opened the door to the committee room while I stood wanking off over the sink. The look in Mrs. Jodis’ eyes, her naked thigh around the door, her foot in a gold slipper. What was she doing? Kathleen didn’t notice me pushing my hard–on back into my trousers, trying to get my zipper to meet over my erection. Perhaps she had no idea what I was up to. – Why did you say that to my Mum? She was displeased. The boobs I had mentioned in my graffiti swung inside her pale pink Kashmir sweater. – Do we need to keep it a secret? I bent over in order to cover up the situation inside my pants. She looked serious. – We need to talk, Laurence. – OK. – I think we should get engaged. – What? – I want a ring. I want it to be proper, so everyone can see. – Isn’t that a bit old fashioned? – Perhaps I’m an old fashioned girl, OK? – What about the rings? She dug down into her bag, opened her pencil case, and took out a couple of plastic rings. – I’ve never been engaged before, she said. – This is an 153

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important moment for me. I looked around at the bare, untidy room. – It isn’t exactly romantic here. She took my right hand. – I’m having my cast taken off today, I said. – Perhaps it’s best to use my left? – Then it wouldn’t be right, she said. All these practicalities surprised me a bit. We hadn’t even snogged yet. But she found a finger that satisfied her. She tapped her ring against mine and smiled. – Right, now we are engaged. You can kiss me. Kissing, proper kissing. I hadn’t done that since Pat had practiced on me in the summer holidays. Now it was for real. But the bell for first period just had to ring at that very moment. A quick kiss on the lips was all she had time for, before she pulled Barbie’s jeans out of her school bag and shoved them into mine. Then she took me by the hand and dragged me out into the corridor. She was clearly very proud. – Laurence and I are engaged, she kept saying, showing our rings off to all and sundry. During the course of the day everyone got to know. Even the small fry, Pat, Lisa, Bud and all their friends got to know, including Evan. The teachers all congratulated us. Mono and Specs just sneered. But Jonny was upset. I could see he was. I believe he had hoped for something else. But he congratulated me, nevertheless. – I hope some of your dreams come true now, he said, and winked. I knew exactly what he meant by that. 154

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* Mr. Bug fetched me from the committee room after the last period. Kathleen had just begun to give a very imaginative report from the previous evening’s meeting of the Student Union. What she told didn’t in any way coincide with what I had experienced. Dad and Mum were already seated by Mr. Roach’s desk. Mr. Bug indicated that I should sit down alongside my parents, and then, after a dismissive gesture from the headmaster, he left the room. I could see that Mr. Roach was actually rather nervous. He stole a glance at Dad, and then focused mostly on Mum. Not so surprising. Dad didn’t look too pleased. – He has dyslexia. I have the same problem, Dad explained. – You don’t seem to take it seriously enough here. – We are aware of that, Mr. Moth, but that isn’t why we are here today. – You can’t be certain, Dad maintained. – My mother had to struggle for my schooling, and I will also fight for Laurence’s right to an education. Problems with reading and writing can lead to frustration, I have experienced that myself. The difference is that I chose to react in another way. – You believe this is Laurence’s way of showing his frustration concerning these difficulties? He looked at me over the top of his glasses. – What do you think, Laurence? What was I supposed to say? It was probably as good a reason as any. 155

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– Yes, it’s possible. – But the unpleasantness. – She liked what I wrote. Look, we are engaged now. I showed them the ring. Mum couldn’t hide a little smile. Dad looked at Mr. Roach, but it was impossible to tell what he was thinking. – You made an awful mess of the school with spray paint. – That was because the school’s so grey and miserable. Mr. Roach sighed. – We have a special class here, he said, trying to get Dad’s attention. – I won’t go in that class, I said. – I imagine not, Mr. Roach cut me off. – I think you should also consider Steiner School. It has a lot to offer a boy like Laurence. Jens Bjorneboe has taught there, as I’m sure you are aware. – I don’t want to change schools, I said, knowing full well that mentioning that particular author would be to my advantage. – We understand that. But we are trying to help. I’m suggesting options, not threatening you. – I promise to do better, I said seriously. There was silence. The headmaster looked searchingly at me. – Well, if you can keep your promise, then. He glanced at his fob watch as a sign that the meeting was over. I began to whistle as we crossed the playground. I was 156

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thinking of the chopper and Kathleen. Dad gave me a hard look, so I stopped whistling. We found the Volvo Amazon. I crawled into the rear seat. Nothing was said as we drove. The two mummies sat like statues in the front seats. I lay back, watching the street lights whirl past on the way to the hospital. Dinner was eaten in absolute silence. The plaster cast had been removed. My pale, thin, wizened looking right arm was back in working order. I could eat with both hands. As it was forbidden to speak with food in one’s mouth, and the death sentence for singing at table, there wasn’t any possibility of celebrating. Dad had also stopped asking us what we had done at school, so very little was said. The truth is he had practically given up asking questions at all. They always made me feel nervous. I was scared of using the wrong word, or tone of voice, or expression, and often said the wrong thing about topics I wanted them to listen to. Then I was usually sent up to my room. We had both learnt our lesson now. That’s why it was so quiet, and I much preferred it that way. In any case, he only wanted to know what I did, not what I felt. I rang the doorbell to the Hornet’s flat at Frogner Square. Kathleen answered on the intercom and pressed the buzzer. The staircase felt raw and cold. It smelt fusty. I knew it well; it was on my paper round. I knew all the different entrances, stairways, sounds, smells. This one 157

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wasn’t too bad. She stood waiting outside the door on the first floor. It had panels of rough surfaced glass covered by a curtain on the inside, and a narrow, extra door on one side, which could be opened in order to carry large articles of furniture in or out. We crept along the corridor and into her room. It was fitted out with a couple of chairs in a flowered material, a pouffe and a small bedside table. – Have you given the trousers to Rachel? She whispered, as I sat down on one of the chairs. I shook my head. I could see Lisa spying on us on the other side of the door. Her mother appeared, gave me an icy look, and closed the door. – Are you sure I’m welcome here? – We are engaged. They have to get used to it. – I suppose so. There was an embarrassing silence. Kathleen became nervous. – Did you know I have a certificate to testify that I’m normal? She asked. – No, you haven’t mentioned that. – Mum thought there was something wrong with me because I always rubbed myself against the pillow and wet the bed. It happened in my sleep, a couple of years ago. She thought I needed to have my head examined. – OK? – An IQ test because you wet the bed? I’m not even sure it was pee. It didn’t smell of anything. – Could it have been pussy? – Pussy? 158

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– Some sticky stuff that women leak. Frank talks about it all the time. Kathleen looked doubtful. – I’ve no idea. But Mum was really pleased when I got that certificate to say my head was properly put together. – What happened to the bed wetting? – It stopped. Now I don’t feel anything. – Feel? – I’m not going to tell you everything, even though you are engaged to me. – Of course not, I said, feeling a bit embarrassed, and wondering how I could get us onto a sexier track. She sat on the bed. I stood up and went to sit next to her. – There’s something I need to tell you, she said. – About wetting the bed? – No, drop that, it was ages ago. In any case it wasn’t pee. – Pussy? – Maybe, but this is about Lisa. – What about her? – She’s told me about the man in the kiosk. – Which kiosk? – The one in Kirkeveien, close to school. She and Pat are given money and sweets to show themselves, and now they are beginning to get scared. She spoke so softly, I wasn’t sure I had heard correctly. – He lets them into the kiosk, draws the curtains and 159

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... – And what? – Well, they pull their knickers down, and he looks at them. – Christ. – Then he gives them sweets and money. I was flabbergasted. I had never bought anything in that kiosk, so I had no idea who this man was. – It’s just crazy. – Lisa said she thought it was quite amusing at first, but now he has begun to threaten them if they don’t do what he wants them to, and he’s started to . . . – What? – Wank off I think. Like that fellow did in front of us. The last time they were there he wanted them to touch him. – Cripes. – She’s pretty desperate. I had a sudden nasty feeling that I was already involved in this. That evening at Hvaler. Them playing about with their bikini tops, and their urge to show themselves. Pat’s itch, her kiss, the physical contact. Am I the cause of sending them into this man’s clutches? – Can’t they just stop going there? – And let him carry on with other young girls? Kathleen looked up at me. Her eyes begged me. I thought perhaps I might achieve more with her if I did something about it. – What do you want me to do? 160

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Kathleen looked down at the bedspread. – I don’t really know. We can’t say anything here. – Why not? – It isn’t possible to talk to Mum about such things. In her opinion sex is something unpleasant connected with being married. – Are they religious? – No, just very straight laced. You remember the problems about the party and everything? – What about your Dad? – He does whatever Mum says. If he gets to hear about this he’ll send us away. – Can’t you report this man to the police? – Me? Kathleen looked scared to death. – Then Mum and Dad would get to know. Better if you do it. She seemed to be on the point of giving me a kiss. I had put an arm around her during the course of the conversation. My fingers touched the sweater above her breasts. – OK. I’ll do it, I said. She rested her head against me, like a child in need of protection. I could have closed in at that point and fondled her tits, but it didn’t seem the right thing to do under the circumstances.

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* I was in a highly–strung erotic state when I arrived home. I stopped at Sandra’s door, listened, looked through the keyhole and tried the door. It opened almost of its own accord. It was absolutely quiet in the sitting room and the lights were off. I crept in and closed the door. The bedroom door stood slightly ajar. Perhaps she was sleeping. I peeped in. The water bed lay empty and unmade in front of me. The sheet was crumpled and the quilts in disarray. I tried out the mattress, feeling my knee sink into the water. I admired the wallpaper showing a south sea island theme; palm trees and sandy beaches, cut off by a little wash basin in the corner. I knew I was taking a crazy chance, but I was so randy and my dick so hard that I just had to press it against the sheet she had lain on, made love on, where her cunt had opened up for Carl’s prick. It was, theoretically, only the time factor that separated us. If my dick had been here when they were having it off, it would have been inside her at this point. I ripped off my clothes, lay down naked on the yin– and yang–patterned sheet and licked the stains while I wanked off. With the smell of her in my nostrils and the taste of her on my tongue, I came to a climax, throwing myself back on my knees at the last moment, in order to let it go in my hand. I was suddenly short of time. I rinsed my hand in the washbasin and rubbed the rest off on my thighs. Christ, what was I doing? I couldn’t run out naked, had to pull my trousers and sweater on at least. I grabbed everything 162

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else quickly. A sound? Another sound. I dived into the sitting room as someone came in through the back door. I was out in the hall in one bound. It could have been full of people; Mum, Dad, my brothers. Why was I doing these insane things? Thankfully, the hall was empty. I closed the door quietly behind me, and reckoned I was safe when I reached the washroom. I dressed myself properly, feeling satisfied, despite everything. It had been a good wank. And then I discovered to my horror I had only one sock. Perhaps I had dropped it in the hallway? Clinging to this hope I hurried back, the possibility of a catastrophe slowly dawning on me. No sock in the hall. I must have left it behind in the flat. I listened at the door. Sandra was already in the sitting room.

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17 I made a beeline for the kiosk on Kirkeveien. The man put his newspaper down and slid off his stool. I recognized him even though he was wearing glasses. It was definitely Mr. Jodis from my paper round. He smiled at me. – Would you like something? – No, I can’t afford anything, I said, wanting to leave. – What would you have chosen if you had enough money? I hesitated for a moment. The fellow seemed pleasant enough. – A coke perhaps, but I’ve only got five crowns. – You can have one for five crowns. It all suddenly began to connect. Flasher, piss wanker and kiosk man, messing with Lisa and Pat. Even so, it was difficult to imagine such goings–on in that small space. – I was wondering, I began, as he opened the bottle, – do you sometimes let people inside the kiosk? Mr. Jodis thought for a moment. – Yes, it happens. – Who? – Why do you want to know? Don’t I recognize you from somewhere? 164

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He smiled rather reservedly as he gave me the bottle. – You’re the paper boy, aren’t you? I shook my head. He oughtn’t to know who I was if I was going to report him. In any case, he wasn’t wearing glasses when he spoke to me outside the flat. Mr. Jodis peered at me. – You’re very much alike, he said, – any more questions? – No. Thanks for the coke, I said, and sauntered across the road. Kathleen sat waiting outside the bakery, chewing a bun. – I can’t imagine much happening there, I said. – That man seems harmless enough. – But I’ve seen it with my own eyes, Kathleen said, with an icy look. – Have you? How? – I saw them go in there. You have to report him. – But we have no evidence. – Someone has to speak out before it’s too late. He’s got to be stopped. Kathleen broke down, sobbing in my arms. – You must help me. – OK, I’ll try, I said, calming her down. – You wouldn’t want Lisa and Pat to be raped, would you? Because that’s what’s going to happen. – How can you be sure of that? – I just know. Woman’s intuition. I had my doubts. She must have noticed. – If you do this for me Laurence, I’ll reward you as only a woman can. 165

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* I went to the police station to report Mr. Jodis for assault. A grown up man who exploited children, a monster who exhibited his sexuality in front of them, who bribed them, deceived them, a paedophile. It teemed with blue shirts, of smart women behind the counters, and handsome men in offices in the background. The communities most wholesome, honest and choice people worked here. Well turned – out women and healthy looking men. The hands carrying papers here and there had owners with smooth, self satisfied faces. These were the «long arm of the law», hanging from the cold shoulder of the nation. What had I expected? A policewoman appeared at the information counter. Her smile was toothpaste white. – Can I help you? – I’ve come to report a man. – A man? And what has he done? – He has lured young girls to undress by giving them money and sweets. – How old are the girls? – Eleven. She raised her eyebrows. – Just stay here. Someone from the vice squad will come and help you. What’s your name? – Is that important? – Yes. I need your name; otherwise we can’t make a charge. – Laurence Holden Moth. 166

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– Age? – I’m fourteen. – In that case you can’t make a charge unless you have an adult with you. – Can’t I report a criminal act because I’m under age? – You can inform us about it, but not report it without an adult. I hadn’t thought of that. The policewoman made a telephone call, spoke to someone, and nodded, keeping her eyes on me. – They haven’t time. Can you come back tomorrow? – I would prefer to get it over with today. An elderly grey haired woman came to fetch me eventually. Her hair was fixed up in a bun at the back of her head. Her breasts were enormous and her trousers were buttoned up underneath them, her chin sticking out just above. She walked in front of me and showed me into an office. I sat down on a blue, wool covered institutional chair that was almost comfortable. The woman sat down opposite me, folded her hands on her desk and looked efficient. – You are here to report a flasher? – Yes, no, well, he works in a kiosk too. – And? – A girl I know, two actually, are given money to show themselves. And now he wants them to touch him. He ... I didn’t know quite how to explain it in front of this grandmother. 167

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– He, well, while he looks at the girls. – Wanks off? Is that what you wanted to say? – He has threatened to rape them if they say anything. – Where are the girls now? She glanced out into the corridor. – They aren’t here if that’s what you’re wondering. – That’s a pity. We could have heard everything first hand. What are their names? – Pat Wig and Lisa Hornet. – And your name is? She looked down at her papers. – Laurence Holden Moth? I nodded, always a bit uneasy in case of comments about my literary second name. – Do you know this man’s name? – Yes, Mr. Jodis, and he lives in the FIAT building at Frogner Square. A frightful thought struck me. – Perhaps he abuses others? – Perhaps, and perhaps he hasn’t done anything wrong. – I have seen what he does. – Have you seen it? I considered for a moment. This was no better than Mono, who had insisted he had seen me torture Miffle. But two innocent young girls were in danger here. – Yes, I lied. – And the girls have taken you into their confidence? – Yes, I said again. She sighed deeply. 168

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– This really depresses me, she said. – Me too, I said. – Will he be arrested? She regarded me with a mixture of weariness and resignation. – We will contact the girls’ parents first. – Their parents? Why? – They are minors, the same as you. – Will my name be mentioned? – Of course, you have been a witness to these acts. I winced. – Can I withdraw the charge? I asked. – No, why? – No? It’s not such a good idea to bring parents into this. I think we ought to forget the whole thing. I stood up. Wanted to make a quick getaway. – We are obliged to send a report to the child care department, expressing our concern. – What does that mean? – That the child care department looks into the matter first, and then gets back to us if necessary.

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18 I came a bit late to the first confirmation class. Frank and Jonny were already there. Some other boys from our class stood talking to pupils from B and C classes. They were all waiting under the archway leading to the side entrance to Frogner Church. A tall fellow with long, pale red hair and a full beard emerged from a doorway, beckoning us down into a basement. His hair and gentle expression gave him a Jesus like appearance. Frank and I helped Jonny down the steps, and pushed him into a room full of folding chairs. A little orange loose leaf file, sporting a cross on its cover, lay on each chair. The file was really cool. As we sat down, the chap with the beard positioned himself at the end of the room. His hands fumbled nervously in front of an enormous wool sweater. He introduced himself as Gerald. A sudden feeling of anxiety struck me as he went through the program leading up to the confirmation in May of the following year. I sensed that Gerald could see that I had no business there, an unclean in the house of God. I held my breath as his eyes swept over us. Thankfully, he didn’t look at me particularly. After making notes of the most important dates on a piece of paper, we were given a short sightseeing of the 170

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church. The organist was practicing loudly for the Christmas service, so we couldn’t hear much of what Gerald said. But I caught sufficient to gather that he hoped we had a pleasant Advent, before he let us out into Bygdøy Allé clutching our new orange files. The mild weather gave us the feeling that we had left the Christmas spirit behind in the church. I was walking home with Jonny when a woman stopped us. – Laurence? It was Helen, our previous tenant. She looked at me sadly. – Hi, how are you? I asked. – Fine, really fine. I’m expecting a baby, she said, placing her hand on her stomach. We hadn’t much to say to each other. Her mouth smiled, but the smile didn’t reach her eyes. – Say hello to your family, Laurence. Tell your mother that I’m very, very happy. I promised to do that. She hurried away. Almost ran, actually, down the little side street behind us. – Who was that? Jonny asked. – Just a previous tenant of ours. – How are you getting on with Kathleen? Yes, how was I getting on with Kathleen? For a second I considered being honest with Jonny, telling him the whole story. But I thought better of it. In any case, she was waiting for me by the kiosk on the corner. She seemed reserved, nervous, and sort of vulnerable as she crossed the road to meet us. I’ve got her now. I can press her if I like. 171

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– You can kiss, it doesn’t bother me, Jonny joked. She drew away, and again I had that odd feeling that it was all a little too business like. But she had promised a reward, and I must say I was dying to see what she had in mind. It was almost a disappointment that no–one stood waiting in the doorways or on the landings when I came home with her. Kathleen was really very pretty. A girl I thought Mum and Dad would like to see me with. I steeled myself for the usual «Oh, isn’t it cute», piss, as soon as we entered my room. Kathleen was no exception. They were all the same, almost programmed for it. I threw Miffle across to her, and left them to it for a while. – I did what you wanted me to, I began. She looked at me sullenly. – You said you would reward me. Her lips narrowed. Her face paled. – I expect you want to see my breasts, she said sadly. – Yes, I said. I stood up, drew the curtains, and sat down in front of her. – Can you lock the door? – I haven’t got a key, I said. I picked Miffle up from Kathleen’s lap, put her back in her cage, and stood in front of the door. – It opens inwards, so no–one can take us by surprise.

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Kathleen got to her feet, her eyes on the blue felt carpet. A tear trickled down her cheek. She crossed her hands and grabbed hold of her sweater. Now she would pull it up and uncover her fantastic breasts. Now, now, now. But she didn’t. She began to tremble. She started to cry. – This is what the man in the kiosk does, she said, her eyes full of tears. – But you suggested it, I reminded her. – It’s just the same. You’ve done something for me, and now I show you my body. The next thing will be you want me to touch you. – What would you like to do, then? I asked She shook her head. – I hate my body, she said. – You’ve the finest body I know of, I said. – And in any case we’re engaged. – I’m sorry, she snuffled. There was a pause. – Can’t we just go for a walk or something? I took the cassette player and two head phones with us. – You need a woolly cap, I said, taking one of Bud’s. – It’s not very pretty but it will keep you warm. We settled ourselves on the Chopper. The cassette player hung over my shoulder on a strap under my quilted jacket. Steppenwolf ’s «Born to be wild» poured into our ears. – Is it working? I asked, pointing to the head phone.

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She nodded, smiled, a bit dissatisfied perhaps, so that I wondered whether I should have given her a good shaking. The tension between us was strong, but I wasn’t able to interpret the signals, or perhaps didn’t dare. Didn’t dare think those forbidden thoughts. It was quite obvious in one way. She wanted me to take charge, that I should decide, threaten, force, conquer her, so that she could rid herself of her own aversion and feeling of shame. I had read about such cases in «Kane’s Women». I opened the sweaty petrol valve, getting a bit high on the smell of 4% oil-mixed octane fuel. Kathleen sat leaning against the back rest. I had shown her where to put her feet when we picked up speed. One firm tread on the kick starter and the Zundapp came to life. I pulled in the brake handle bar, which served as clutch, lifted the gear pedal to first, using the top of my foot, and accelerated by squeezing the right side of the handle bar. There wasn’t much padding on the seat front, so I had to press myself well between Kathleen’s thighs. She placed her hands lightly on my hips. The patent band creaked under the strain when the chain tightened. Kathleen squealed as the bike got under way. I stopped to pull her arms around my waist before driving onto the road. She left them there. The engine struggled to carry us out of the cul-de-sac. I headed eastward on Drammen Road towards town, then onto Munkedam Road and across City Hall Square. The leaky exhaust box made an awful racket, and I knew I was tempting fate. But I phased out the problems. We were the only two in the whole world. Life was now, just now. 174

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I leant backwards against her, felt the warmth from her thighs, her arms around my waist. We were as close together as it was possible to get wearing clothes. Dark asphalt streaked by under us. We drove onto the Moss Road, past the exit to the Motor Centre, and when we reached Kolbotten, I changed the tape and turned for home. As we passed Nordstrand the engine started to spin as if it was in free. I felt a slight blow against my leg. The chain had snapped while we were cruising along at 30 mph towards the sports ground. Luckily the rear wheel didn’t lock; we just lost speed and came to a halt by the tram stop. I turned the cassette player off. The chain lay behind us on the road somewhere. Kathleen was frozen. She jumped up and down, swinging her arms across her chest to keep warm. – What do we do now? She asked. – We take the tram home, I said, as I locked the chopper to the railings. – I’ll collect it later. I can’t afford to take it with me now. Everything was dead between us. Only the night and the freezing cold were there. The tram to Jar came eventually. We sat down, not speaking. I tried to kiss her, but she turned her back on me. Something was bothering her, which she daren’t slip out. Perhaps she didn’t even know what it was. Trembling, she wrote her name in the condensation on the inside of the tram window.

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19 We unloaded the equipment from the van Sticks’ mother had provided for us. Loudspeakers, amplifiers and instruments piled up outside the entrance to the assembly hall at Sunnås hospital. Jonny caught sight of old acquaintances. Stunning looking ladies in white coats flocked around him, kissing him and carrying on. The caretaker showed us through to the stage at the back of the hall, and explained where we could find the electricity we needed. As the electrician this was my job. Jonny had disappeared when we went out again to carry in the equipment. A young man steered his wheelchair down the corridor with a stick, which he held in his mouth. His head was fastened to a clamp at the back. His setup looked like something from outer space. He stopped and watched us struggling with the equipment. – Would you like me to help? I halted, holding a guitar case. – Help us? The fellow licked his steering stick and trundled across to the pile by the door. I put the guitar case down and wandered after him. – Put the amplifier on my lap and I’ll drive it in, he 176

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said, nodding eagerly. Bass lifted the amplifier onto this human transport trolley. The guy sucked on his stick again, turning his wheelchair, and off he went. He was right on the ball. I raced after him. Someone had to unload it onto the stage. It took ages to get everything in order. The lads were occupied with their instruments. I fixed the wiring, sat up the light installation, cranked up the microphone holder and managed, eventually, to get an amateurish version of the Laurencesizer ready. Jonny appeared with a girl in tow. She sat in a wheel chair, too. Perhaps I was a bit grumpy because of all the work, and that he hadn’t helped. He stopped in front of me. – Laurence, this is Sunny. And what a sun she was! Her large eyes regarded me in such a way that I just knew there wasn’t even the shadow of an ugly thought or dishonest motive behind them. She practically took my breath away. I stretched out my hand. She took it eagerly in her own. – Laurence, I said. – Sunny, she said. Jonny broke in. – Sunny was admitted a few weeks before I was discharged. He smiled warmly at her. – She helped me keep my spirits up. She had her own problems at first, that’s true. But after a while things improved. 177

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She smiled back at Jonny. A big, beautiful, adoring smile. The sort of smile born-again Christians can produce. Jonny continued. – Sunny made me see what I had left to live for. She got me to hope and fight, not just focus on what I had lost. At last we were ready. Solo seemed stiff and nervous, clutching his red Fender. Sticks had gone in hiding behind the percussion instruments. Jonny sat with his Ibanez on his lap, and Bass stood with his back to the audience, fingering with the knobs on the amplifier. I was in place behind the table with my multi–vibrator, and the control panel for the lighting. The hall was packed. There were wheel chairs as far as the eye could see. Sunny sat on the first row in front of Jonny. The lovely nurses perched on the window ledge. The fellow who had helped us wanted to control the lighting. I had pretty well promised him that. He hung around me like a dribbling asteroid. A grey haired, elderly gentleman suddenly jumped up onto the stage. The man wore a suit and tie. He hugged Jonny and then shook our hands. He had trouble reaching Bass, but managed a quick handshake there too. He looked out over the audience and smiled. – Many of you remember Jonny, who came to us last spring. Nodding from the hall. – Today he has come back with his band to entertain us. He turned to us with outstretched arms. 178

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– The Lords of the Flies. For a moment I thought that was the sign for us to begin, but he turned again to the audience, clasping his hands in front of him. – I would like to use the opportunity to reflect on something for a moment. What Jonny demonstrates here is incredibly important for us all. He shows us, namely, that a serious physical handicap is never worse than we make it. When Jonny regained consciousness after his operations, and understood that he would probably have to live the rest of his life in a wheel chair, he became depressed and lost the will to live. He looked at Jonny. Everybody looked at Jonny. Jonny kept his eyes on Sunny. – But look at him now, and consider. Give a thought to what we can manage when we first make a decision and go for it. He stood for a moment, scanning his patients. Everyone was perfectly still. – Now I will leave you to «The Lords of the Flies», he shouted, throwing out an arm. – Give them a big hand. And they did. He left the stage during the applause. Everyone who could, clapped, those who had hands to clap with clapped like crazy. The nurses on the window ledge gave a big cheer for Jonny, who blushed to the roots of his hair. I switched off the lights. Solo tore off a riff. Sticks gave his drums a beating, Bass thumped away, making the windows rattle, and Jonny vamped as hard as he could, while Solo took care of the vocal part with «The Sting». I 179

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controlled the light board I had fastened on a chip board in woodwork class at school. There was a mixture of blue and orange lamps. The spots followed the rhythm, and the strobe lamp danced over the gathering. The audience seemed stunned. The guy in his moon chair, eyes crossed, digged as much as he could with his head and tongue. I carried the light control panel over to him and placed it on his knees. He nodded intensely at a long plastic affair in a casing by his chair. I took it out. He opened his mouth and was in full activity as soon as he had it in place. He pressed buttons, moved handles, pulled levers and seemed to know exactly what to do. The band changed to «Hole in the skin, gang», while I took a breather. The synthesizer number came in towards the end of the program. I had a coke waiting for me backstage. I opened it with my teeth, hoping somebody would see how tough I was. Then I lit a cigarette and sang the refrain. – «Hole in the skin, hole in the skin. Can’t feel nothing when you creep in». I caught a glimpse of Sunny in the confusing mixture of blue light and strobe flash. Our man from outer space must have turned on all the effects simultaneously. Sunny was digging like crazy in her wheel chair. I had a strong feeling she would like to dance. She was the one who had convinced Jonny that one’s limitations were all in the mind. I put my fag out and made my way down to her. Considering the noisy circumstances, there wasn’t 180

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much point in trying to ask her. I grabbed her chair and backed it up, in order to signal my intention. She turned, rather startled, but smiled when she saw it was me. I rolled her out to the front of the stage. People moved to make room for us. When they started to play «Mister, the soup», I began to improvise. We were soon the centre of attention, making me feel uncertain. Sunny noticed this. The look in her eyes and her waving arms encouraged me. She let herself go to the music. It got wilder and wilder. She sat sway–backed, her hands over her head, in her own world. I took her hand, swung her chair round, and shuffled backwards and forwards, while Solo bellowed, – «Mister, mister, have you seen the soup?» Sticks and Jonny leant towards the mike and replied, – «I ate the soup, I ate the soup!» I think our dancing must have been catching. The nurses jumped down from their window ledge and dragged nervous patients out onto the floor in front of the stage. It became rather congested. Sunny and I had to restrict ourselves. I pranced about in front of her. She was in a trance. Her enormous eyes were closed; her hair billowed around her like an advert for shampoo. Her arms moved through the air, fingers like tentacles, and her breasts heaved under her thin sweater. I was completely carried away for a few minutes. Engaged or not, had I been alone with her I would have kissed her, would have sat across her and buried her head on my chest. I could have lifted her out of her wheel chair and carried her off. 181

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But now it was time for my synthesize number. Her eyes burnt the back of my neck as I climbed onto the stage and sat down by the little improvised frame I had made out of Dad’s old pieces of Meccano. Solo was just finishing «Demons and bugs». I threw myself at the potentiometer and turned on a thick, buzzing, mosquito sound. – «Sucking till you drop, sucking till you drop, sucking, sucking, sucking, yea, yea». Solo took out an orange fly swatter. – «Sucker, sucker, sucker». He stood with the swatter in one hand, and the microphone in the other, threatening, searching, as if he were looking for an insect, while I pumped out siren noises. – «Sucker, sucker, sucker». He suddenly whacked the edge of the stage, holding the microphone close. The loud speakers and the music stopped dead. I was as high as a kite, and could almost see the fish jump in Sunny’s sea-green eyes. An enormous success! The applause was loud and long. The band had to play an extra number. They chose «Kitin love», even though they hadn’t practiced it much. They made loads of mistakes, but no one seemed to notice. The musicians were completely worn out after the concert. I turned the lights on, while the audience on wheels rolled towards the exit. We sat wiping off sweat, gulping cola, and smoking, and were more than satisfied. The fellow with the light panel spit out his grip stick, and was 182

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at least as proud as the rest of us. I thanked him, said he could go now, but he insisted on helping us out with the equipment. Sunny sat spellbound in front of the stage, tired, hair in disarray, and happy. I could have gone to speak to her. Wanted to, but there was something about the way she looked at me. A look that was difficult to mistake. I wasn’t being conceited, but there was just no doubt what she wanted, and I had recovered enough to know what I had to do. Jonny trundled over to Sunny to have a word with her. I didn’t want to know what they talked about, but it did the trick. She looked away and rolled out. I’m engaged, I’m engaged, I tried to convince myself. Perhaps I was in love with her. It would have been so easy to give in, dive into her enormous, bottomless eyes and drown. Jonny wheeled himself across to me. – I don’t think Sunny is going to forget you so easily. – I know, I said, feeling rotten. Our friend with the steering stick rolled in and out with the heaviest pieces. His moon-car squeaked as if the batteries were going flat. At last Dad came to collect me. I wondered, for a while, if he would ask me about the concert, if it had been a success. And if he asked, what would I say? Would he like to hear that I had made an instrument from his old pieces of Meccano, or would he be angry? It was impossible to know how he would react. 183

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We were on our way home when I suddenly realized we could fetch the chopper. – Dad there’s something I need to pick up from Nordstrand, do you think you could drive that way? – Of course, he said, smiling, – what have you got there? I hadn’t really thought that far. – A moped. – A moped? – Yes, the one I’ve been working on. – The one with the skull on the tank? I nodded. – What’s it doing at Nordstrand? – I wheeled it there from the motor centre to the tram, but didn’t have enough money for the ticket. The front lights of the Amazon shone along the fence by the sports field. I saw immediately that something was wrong. As we got out and walked in the cold rain, I could see that someone had wrecked my chopper. The petrol tank was smashed, the spokes cut through, the seat slashed open and the wires pulled out. I just didn’t understand why. Dad looked at the wreck. – Did you make this? – Yes. – It’s very well done, he said. – It can’t be registered or repaired, I said, thankful for the rain that hid my tears. Dad came over to me; put his arm around me, to com184

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fort me. I felt something well up inside. An enormous flood of suppressed feelings it would have been such a relief to let out. I was about to put my arms around him and give way, when he sniffed my hair. – Have you been smoking again? I walked back to the car, swallowing the feelings that had almost overpowered me. Dad came along behind me. His question remained unanswered. We drove home in silence.

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20 Christmas Eve still ranks as the definite high light of the year. The big, last window on the Advent calendar was opened reverently alongside Miffle’s cage. A special picture was hidden here. Joseph, Maria, the crib, baby Jesus, the shepherds, the sheep, and the three wise men. The day above all days had arrived. Bud and Tiny were so hyperactive at breakfast; I thought I’d better calm them down a little. – Bud gets so excited at Christmas, the smaller the child the wilder they get. Dad attempted to reach me with his serviette. I tried to look wronged. – I only said they were looking forward to Christmas Eve. Cripes! There’s no other day that starts so incredibly slowly either. After watching Miffle eat a great load of straw, bit by bit, it was time to go to church. The lack of snow was disappointing, and the church was full of screaming babies. I had, previously, thought that babies grew up. Now I knew better. Screaming babies in Frogner church on Christmas Eve were a constant factor. But the organist managed to do his bit, which was something. 186

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We ate rice porridge afterwards, found the almond, were given the marzipan pig, and then had to take a nap. After the nap we were rested enough to stay awake through the feast at Grandma and Grandpa’s. The machinery of Christmas clicked into a higher gear, as we set off again in the darkness empty of snow. I had been given the honour of carrying one of the boxes of presents to the house my grandparents lived in. We climbed up the five marble steps, in through the black door, filing past Grandma, who greeted us just inside. Great Granddad had certainly built a house fit for a king to visit, though, as far as I know, he never did. Grandpa sat ready in his wing chair in the sitting room, by the cupboard containing games and toys for us when we visited them. An old bible with gold lettering and a double clasp rested on his knee. A faint scent of incense hung in the air. Tea was then served in Wedgwood cups; a detail I wasn’t aware of at the time. A cup’s a cup, and tea didn’t taste particularly good anyway. The bible looked heavy and impractical. Grandpa began to read eventually, so that part of the program was underway. We didn’t listen too closely, were just waiting. After the reading of the Christmas gospel we sang carols, from booklets where the pages didn’t correspond. This could be quite amusing. – Page nine in the bell book. – Page twelve in the flag book. – Was it «Silent night»? – No, «While shepherds watch». 187

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We sang all the carols, some of which were completely incomprehensible, until Aunt Audrey popped in through the double doors from the hallway. She pushed her glasses in place, focusing her good eye on us children, who, in the space of a second or two stood in a line according to height. This had been the tradition when Grandpa was the youngest and stood first. Now it was Tiny standing there, wearing a tartan waistcoat over a white shirt, navy blue trousers and well polished shoes. The excitement was intense. Someone started the record player in the hall. The doors opened, a gust of air from the enormous room made the candles flicker. The parquet floor, in diagonal squares, welcomed our eager feet. We were obliged to walk slowly, much against our will, while the record player churned out English carols in Mum’s honour. Step by step we crossed the hall, completely absorbed by the sight of the huge Christmas tree in the banquet room. And under the tree, under the wide branches, lay the gifts. We all needed to stretch our arms wide in order to hold hands round the tree. Grandpa, Aunt Audrey, Uncle Noah. Mum, Dad, Bud, Tiny, and me. Grandma was in the kitchen, while we were in heaven. All thoughts of headmasters, engagements, the police and the man in the kiosk had vanished. Thank goodness for Christmas. We still felt a bit lost in that immense room, even with the Christmas tree, parents, Aunt, Uncle, and brothers there. But what did that matter? Now we could open our presents! And while this was in progress, I marvelled 188

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at the grown–ups’ ability to show such delight in awful gifts like scarves, nut crackers, soap, bird tables, classical records in ugly covers and junk bought at cheap stores. There was a gift for me from Sandra. That gave me a shock. What could it be? I tried to open it when no one was looking, but that was impossible. Everyone was curious. It was my sock, full of mandarin oranges. – Why on earth has Sandra given you a sock? Mum asked. – One of yours too. – It’s only a Christmas stocking, I said, turning bright red. She had fastened a red ribbon around it, with a card attached, which read: Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, hope to see you soon again. Whatever did she mean by that? Then Grandma poked her head in and announced that dinner was ready. Tiny sat next to Mum. It was only just possible to see his head above the table. Mum, in a bright red frock, sat on the corner next to Grandpa, who was wearing a tie and a dark jacket with a white handkerchief in his breast pocket. The Danish PH lamp on Grandma’s desk shone in the background. The grownups didn’t seem very happy, but I didn’t give it much thought. Grandma, in a blue frock with a brooch and pearl necklace, sat at the far end of the table nearest the kitchen. Uncle Noah sent the dishes of sausages and Russian peas round. Aunt Audrey helped to serve Tiny and whispered to me. – The doctors can’t do anything more to help him. – Poor Ramsey, I said, as sympathetically as I could. 189

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– You can imagine what sort of a Christmas they’re having. One of the family’s grandfather clocks stood against the wall behind Grandpa. A red embroidered runner over a white damask tablecloth ran down the centre of the table. A tiny vase holding an ear of corn was placed by each plate. We were served cold pork roast, white bread and mustard, brawn, tongue and Grandma’s specialty, a salad of sliced pickled herring, beetroot and onion. We children ate until we were full to the brim, and couldn’t swallow any more. We were allowed to leave the table and play with our gifts for the rest of the evening, until we gathered again in front of the fire that had been lit in the library. The fireguard in wrought iron showed Great granddad’s family tree. Now there were nuts, mandarins and raisins from exotic countries to eat. Grandpa told us about the pirate captain, whose portrait hung on the wall above the fireplace. Also the story of the mysterious Father Christmas, who had come in, drank a glass of brandy, and left again, without anyone knowing who he was. Then it was time to crack the last nut, and the evening above all others was over once more. * The atmosphere at the Wigs’ was tense when I called for Jonny later in the Christmas holidays. Tom, their neighbour from the summer cottage, opened the door. He had apparently moved in. Jonny tried his best to ignore him. Some unpleasant remarks were made as we left. 190

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Jonny wasn’t very talkative with me either. He sat sullenly in his wheel chair, wearing his brown jacket, orange scarf, and woolly hat. His legs were well covered in a thick blanket. A bag of Christmas presents he didn’t want to keep hang from the handlebar. It was heavy going pushing him up the street, even though he helped as much as he could. What’s more I could still feel pain from the splinter every time I took a step. – Do you think Frank has managed to keep his promise? – No idea, I said, puffing up the last rise to the children’s playground. – I’m definitely not going to start again. – Me neither, Jonny said. But he had never actually started. Frank sat on the bench, smoking, his shabby school bag in front of him. He smiled when he saw us. – Didn’t I just know it, Jonny said, scornfully. Frank glanced at his cigarette. – It’s my friend, he maintained. – You can’t throw your friends out at Christmas. I looked longingly at Frank’s fag. – If it hadn’t been for Ramsey, I’d have scrounged one off you. – Pooh, don’t think about him. Here roll yourself a ciggie. Frank threw his packet of tobacco over. I could feel the need welling up in me. A sort of emptiness in my body, an imbalance which could only be cured by inhaling deeply a few times. Frank pulled an ugly vase out of his bag. 191

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– The cancer probably didn’t have anything to do with smoking, I said, not very convincingly. Jonny fished out a book. – Boring as hell! Read it at Sunnås. Lots of drivel about the good life you can have, even though you sit in a wheel chair. It was obvious Frank wasn’t interested in that book. War and action were more in his line. I dragged out the book Aunt Audrey had given me. «Peter’s baby» by Gun Jacobson. – This is really stupid. Loads of piss about having an alright life if you have a baby. We exchanged gifts and joked while I thought of all the fibs I had told my Aunt. She probably thought I had already slept with a girl. I told her everything, bragged a bit too. I couldn’t talk to Mum and Dad about such things. I’m sure that was the reason for giving me that particular book. I had actually read it too. It was really stupid. No boy in the whole world thought the way Peter did. He hadn’t a randy thought in his head. What’s this! He’s a sixteen year old Daddy, for Pete’s sake! If girls read this book and thought boys were made that way, they were in for a nasty surprise. – It’s as ugly as sin, too, Jonny said, pointing to the pea green lino print on the cover. – Who would fancy reading a book that looks so revolting? – It isn’t made for us, I said. – When was the last time you were in a book shop? Mothers, Aunts and Grandmothers are the ones who buy books for us, and they probably think it looks fine. 192

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– Well I don’t want it, that’s for sure, Frank said. Publishers could have learnt a lot from the music world if they had really wanted to sell their products. Books needed to be sold where young people shopped. I didn’t know much about this, but the cover for «Peter’s baby» was so ugly it must have been a deliberate decision. Perhaps books with attractive covers looked cheap? «Kane’s women», for example, had a cover that made me want to buy it, and it was sold in ordinary kiosks. «Peter’s baby» was only for sale in book stores, and was so hideous that no one my age would touch it with a barge pole. Apart from which, the subject matter was deadly boring and also untrue. No doubt it would win some literary prize or other. Everything is possible in topsy–turvy land, but I didn’t manage to swap it. Kathleen and Rachel appeared round the corner by the entrance to Frogner Manor House. There was something determined about the way Kathleen walked that boded ill. – We need to talk, she said, without even nodding to the others. I stood up, my new «Think positive» book for wheelchair users in my hand. Kathleen waved an envelope about. – Are you responsible for this? – What is it? It had the official stamp of the Oslo Magistrates Court. She took the letter out, babbling incoherently. 193

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– It’s a case, a summons, against a man called Jodis. Is he the man in the kiosk? I nodded. – I have to show this letter to my Mum and Dad. Have you any idea what will happen then? She was on the verge of tears, or perhaps she was already crying. Perhaps she had been crying for some time. – I only did what you asked me to. – Are you crazy? Jonny’s mother will also get this letter. Do you think she’ll be pleased? – No … Kathleen pulled her ring off. – I’m breaking off our engagement, give me yours. The letter addressed to us had to be stopped. But halfway down our street I realized it had to be read too. The court would expect an answer. If they didn’t get one they would send another letter, perhaps registered, or even by messenger. Things had to function. I found the letter from the Magistrates Court on the floor, just inside the door. It was addressed to the old ‘uns. I hid it under my sweater and smuggled it up to my room, while a desperate plan began to take shape in my mind. I needed to find Dad’s signature in my school report book once again, and do what had to be done. I crossed a boundary that evening. Jonny hadn’t got home early enough. His mother had already opened the letter, and her reaction was instan194

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taneous. Pat rang Lisa. Lisa said it was all my doing. Pat and Jonny’s mother wanted me to come and explain myself. The invitation came via the house telephone. – I don’t understand what you are up to, Jonny said. – Me neither. – You don’t either? Mum is all broken up and this Tom type is fuming. You’d better come over and explain yourself. – I daren’t. – Tom says he’ll pay you a visit if you don’t come. I don’t think you want that, somehow. An awful darkness enveloped me. It was as if all traces of light were suddenly exchanged for varying shades of black. When I rang Jonny’s doorbell the blackness around me was so absolute I thought I was losing my sight. Tom opened the door this time too. He looked exhausted. Betty stood weeping in the background. – I can explain it, I stammered. But could I? Pat looked at me with an irritating smile on her lips. I sat in their sitting room, and started on the story Kathleen had told me. – Why ever did you listen to her? Pat interrupted, – she’s only jealous. – Hold your tongue, Tom roared. Their mother sobbed quietly, following the proceedings in a detached sort of way. – Perhaps we should hear what Pat has to say, Jonny suggested. 195

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– No! Bellowed their erstwhile summer cottage neighbour, furiously. – There’s the little shit that’s to blame, he said, pointing at me. – He went to the police with a neurotic teenager’s sexual fantasies. He leant over me. – Do you think this will make life easier for Pat? – I thought it was the right thing to do, I stuttered. Then he hit me. Betty jumped to her feet. – That’s enough, Tom, you can go. – What? – I don’t want you here anymore. – But I’m trying to save your family. – No, Tom, you’re destroying it. It’s over now. Just go. I was suddenly in the middle of a different story. Both Jonny and Pat gloated openly when Tom was shown the door.

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21 I hated beer. Couldn’t stand the stuff, and I had already thrown up. Each of us sat on a plastic carrier bag, among the sparse bushes by the steps below the pet shop, preparing ourselves for the pre party gathering at Angela’s flat. But PK gulped it down. He even looked as if he liked it. I put my bottle to the ground and lit a cigarette to get rid of the taste of beer and spew. PK’s throat gurgled. He had emptied the bottle before I was halfway through my smoke. – You drink like a fish. PK just dug down in his bag and pulled out another beer, opened it and carried on, taking no notice of me. He couldn’t care less whether I drank or not. Sitting like this in the bushes gave me a lovely sensation of isolation and freedom, of being uninvolved in life’s fuss and bother. I could easily see a future for myself with a plastic bag in one hand and a sleeping bag in the other. PK belched long and loud. His second bottle was empty. He looked at mine, didn’t say a word, just stared. – You can have it, I said, passing it over. I couldn’t understand that he had room for it all in his skinny body. Perhaps he had learned a few tricks from 197

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his father. I rolled myself a new cigarette, and peeped out through the snowball bushes’ thin, friendly branches. All the bushes at school had thorns, planted deliberately to tear us to pieces.The education authorities must have been motivated by an inherent evil. They pressed us together on an asphalt covered school yard, chased us home with tons of homework, bullied us in the classrooms, stamped on us and tormented us for so many years that we all ended up disabled. We’re not talking about short adult years that fly past on the wings of duty, and a thousand other tasks, but never–ending children’s years. They were the equivalent of a life sentence, minus the possibility of being discharged early for good behaviour. PK emptied all the bottles, belched, stood up and threw his bag onto his shoulder. I scrambled up too, catching sight of a magazine lying half hidden under a bush close by. Stepping sideways I picked it up, saw that it was full of pornography, and tossed it into my bag. PK staggered out onto the street. I caught up with him and gave him highly necessary support down Eckersberg Street. I began to be infected by his drunkenness as we weaved along the pavement. It was easier if I reeled about too, eyes down, snuffling a bit now and then. We reached Angela’s entrance, tottered in, and fell on the steps. Great fun. PK was really in a bad way. It was impossible to get him on his feet again. We crawled and dragged ourselves up the stairs, laughing idiotically. I leaned him against the wall and rang the door bell. Angela opened, and we staggered into the dark 198

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entrance hall. PK landed in a sea of coats and jackets. He struggled to free himself, while I chortled like an imbecile, down on my knees. Angela smiled uncertainly, pulling PK to his feet. We tore down the corridor, while I steered him by the arm, making a bee–line for the door to her room. Grandma peeped out of the sitting room. Angela smiled like a princess. – Just some friends, Gran. Smoke hang heavy in the small room. The bed was over populated with a crowd of completely stoned individuals. I floundered over to the cupboard and let myself slide down until I was sitting, my head swaying from side to side. PK lay motionless on the floor, and Angela closed the door behind us. I noticed that the equipment she had tried to sell me still stood on the little occasional table. An intense din from the song «Space Ritual», from the acid rock band Hawkwind’s album pervaded the room. I tried to orientate myself, as I let my head shake about as if I was spastic, mouth half open and eyes mere slits. Ramsey lay in his usual spot. I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach when I caught his eye. It was obvious he hadn’t long to live. His eyes flashed hatred. Not so surprising really considering he knew he would soon die. Specs and Mono were absolutely blown away, gaping into some sort of crazy land their stoned condition cooked up for them. Angela sat on Specs’ lap and reached for Ramsey’s pipe. This was just too boring. I had to get up; took ages about it, snuffling a bit. – Ugh, I’m so drunk. 199

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I thought there might be some reaction so I exaggerated a bit to be on the safe side. – Absolutely pissed. I looked around hopefully, but only met Ramsey’s sarcastic glance. He stared me down, the corners of his mouth showing contempt. – Stop playing the fool. That struck home. He had seen through me, found me out. I stood naked, a hostage in a hashish den. But I had to carry on the charade, and pretend I hadn’t heard. It was at that point I saw the dark head belonging to my boss’s daughter lying buried in Mono’s lap. Kathleen sat up, trying to focus properly. My pretence at drunkenness disappeared in a flash. Ramsey was ready with a new volley. – Get out. That sounded like a good idea. I tipped forwards; using what remained of my theatrical talent, grabbed my bag, and dived out into the dark hallway. I fumbled along the corridor, my posture improving with each step, found the spring lock and let myself out into the safety of the staircase. PK just had to lie there. He was dead drunk. Could just as well be there as anywhere else. Out on the pavement I gulped down a couple of breaths of refreshing air, tried to throw off the feeling of humiliation, and turned my nose towards home. It wasn’t very late. Perhaps I could get something to eat before the evening’s fireworks display started. What’s more, I had a secret treasure in my bag. 200

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The magazine I had found among the bushes turned out to be a Swedish «Weekend SEX». Just to have it lying on my table gave me a fantastic kick. I kept an ear open to the door and stairs, while I turned the pages. There was very little text in the magazine. Just a series of photos showing couples screwing, licking, sucking and screwing again. Every one of the pictures contained enough eroticism for masses of wanking moments. I had porn to last a lifetime. Rachel’s image slid into the porn pictures while I wanked off. I had begun to appreciate her properly when she had changed in my room. She had started to tickle my arm in class, in the last while. I let her carry on, trying to make nothing of it in front of the others, but I enjoyed each touch. It was so lovely to feel the warmth from her body. She smelt sweet, of soap and summer. I was actually a bit sorry when the Christmas holidays arrived. As I fantasized about us in full action, I decided to write her a letter. An honest letter telling her exactly how I felt; that I longed for her body, that we should do what was shown in this magazine together. I used a lot of New Years Eve in writing. But when I was about to deliver the letter the next morning, I lost courage, and it still lay in my inside pocket when I hung the bag with Barbie’s trousers on the door to Rachel’s flat. I hurried off to devote the first day of the New Year to gathering up undetonated fireworks.

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* Walking to school after the holidays, my intention was to make more of an effort to improve my conduct in the coming year. I would let bygones be bygones, and try hard to get better marks, especially in order and behaviour. Mono and Specs stood in their corner, smoking. Specs had Angela hanging on his arm, of course. Mono was trying to paw Kathleen in a detached sort of way. Her large boobs stuck out like a camel’s humps under her white wool sweater. She slapped his hands away. He laughed crudely. Rachel appeared with the bag I had hung on her door. Specs grinned at her. – Have you got banana paste on your sandwiches today? This caused Mono to laugh so hard, smoke got into his windpipe and he started to cough. – Very funny, I’m sure, Rachel said, lighting a cigarette. Kathleen moved over to stand by her side as a sign of support. But this didn’t bother Mono, not Mono. – Perhaps Laurence would like to hear what happened at Thomas’ place on New Year’s Eve? – Leave it, I said, hoping to make an impression on Rachel. He sneered, and came closer to where I was standing. – Jeez, are you keen on fat Rachel? Perhaps you’d like to taste her banana paste? 202

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I didn’t quite know how to tackle this. Mono obviously wanted to pick a quarrel. Jonny shook his head, Rachel lowered her eyes. There was silence. Here was my chance. I could have stood up to him. I would almost certainly have got the worst of it, but it would have given the girls something to think about. Instead I looked down and mumbled. – ‘Course not. Just get on with it. Frank lit a cigarette and chuckled. – She sat all evening throwing up. She had spew from the neck down, even in her shoes. We had to clean up the mess. – Shut up! You make me sick, the lot of you, Barbie said. Then she looked at me. – Don’t believe a word they say! Believe and believe . . . I could imagine it only too well. – Mono and Specs lay her on the dining room table and undressed her. She had spew in her bra and shit marks in her knickers. – That’s enough! Barbie, Angela and Kathleen began to thump Frank. He pushed them away, and continued. – She really needed washing down. Now Mono took over. He almost danced about on the pavement. – That’s when Specs came with the banana. He peeled it and pushed it in, it was quite a sight. Rachel was so far gone, she had no idea what was happening. We lads 203

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were going to make banana split with chocolate sauce and everything. But then she woke up and went crazy. The girls left in protest. Mono took a drag on his cigarette. Specs continued the story. – They say she’s unhappily in love, and therefore don’t give a damn, drinks, just lets things happen. Talks about wanting to die. I knew then that I should have stood up for her ages ago, but didn’t have the guts. Daren’t show that I was fond of her. We weren’t particularly curious about Mrs. Sundew’s operation or how she was managing. Apart from Mono and some of the girls, there were very few who liked her. But when we saw her I think we all got a shock. – Whatever’s happened? Barbie asked. She was one of the pupils who had sent a Christmas card and flowers from the class. – Jeez, couldn’t you find the bottle this morning? But Mono’s attempt at a joke wasn’t even answered by a grunt. Mrs. Sundew didn’t say «hi», didn’t say anything, other than tell us to open our books and read a few pages. While we were busy doing that, or pretending to at least, she stared miserably out of the window. The corners of her mouth trembled. For a moment I thought she was actually crying. – We can’t have this, Barbie said, marching up to her. – We would much rather have the stinking old hag we are used to than this. Mrs. Sundew managed a tired, empty smile, and sent 204

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Barbie back, saying everything was OK. Rachel stopped Barbie on the way back to her desk. – I found your trousers at home yesterday, she said, handing over the bag I had hung on her door. Barbie looked at it. – Yesterday? – Yes, Rachel said. – I tidied my room, and they just turned up. The school council had a meeting in the last period. I had to be there. I was, after all, a member of the board, with my money box and account book. Kathleen had been informed that the results of the «Give a Day Operation» were to go to Botswana. She told us how financial support would be given through local brigades that gave training in farming, building and the textile industry. While she was putting us in the picture, I looked at her kissable mouth, which no one could kiss, boobs no one could fondle and heart no one could reach. Such a waste, really. She walked around as the very picture of health and beauty, yet not wanting to share it with anyone. I stared at my ex girlfriend, trying to get her to show some sort of emotion, a blush, a glance. But no, she wouldn’t look at me, appeared as cold as ice. I wondered too about what Mono had done to her later on New Year’s Eve. The impressions of what the boys had told me had taken place at Thomas’s, raced around in my head. Had all this really happened while I sat at home writing that letter to Rachel? 205

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* Dad was away again on business, and I could see that Mum was struggling. I was the «man in the house», sort of, when Dad wasn’t at home. He always made a point of stressing that, asking me to take care of Mum and my brothers. She was pregnant, it was obvious now. But I just slackened off when Dad was away. Sometimes I quarrelled even more with Bud, too, because I knew Mum wouldn’t punish me as Dad did. She just turned sad and distant, and left us to ourselves, and that was worse for Bud and Tiny. All I really wanted was for her to be happy. Wanted to cheer her up, hear her laugh, like she did when she spoke to her sister on the phone, with crossed legs and the receiver to her ear. When she had these conversations, I could see that it was only her body sitting in the chair. Her soul was far away in another country. I had a strong feeling we boys didn’t belong in her dream world. But I didn’t do a thing to strengthen my position in her real world. I could have done the dishes, the vakuuming, tidied up. But I hadn’t the energy. It’s the absolute truth. I just didn’t have the energy.

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22 The thought of Rachel with a banana in her fanny got me really worked up on my paper round. I had already let my dick out by the time I got to the FIAT building, but soon felt that an open fly wasn’t enough. I needed to go much further. I had to do what I had done in the woods on Bygdøy, I had to be naked. As the lift started to move, I was wearing nothing more than my socks and shoes, and a pile of newspapers over my arm. I was transformed into a manic Mr. Hyde junior. I felt full of concentrated energy. My heart thumped, all my senses were wide open. It was as if I was seeing, hearing and feeling for the very first time. I was now on the 8th floor. My clothes lay in the trolley on the ground floor. If anyone opened a door, I was done for. On the 4th floor I hid my lower abdomen behind the newspapers and tip–toed carefully into the corridor. Mrs. Jodis peeped round the door. I froze to ice, but didn’t run, and saw that she beckoned me to come closer. She was wearing the same dressing gown as the last time I saw her, and she smiled knowingly as I approached her. Her eyes opened wider. I was very close now, hardly daring to breathe. Time stood still. From that moment 207

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everything happened in slow motion. Would she report me? Would she laugh at me, or punish me somehow? I stood in front of her and lifted the newspapers up to my chest. She looked at me in such a way that I felt my cock growing hard. I held out a newspaper to her, but it wasn’t that she was interested in. She took a step forward and squatted down. She put her left hand between my legs. I could feel my cold balls cupped in her warm hand. I was at bursting point. She studied me through heavy eyelids, winking occasionally, slowly, lingeringly. Then she grasped my dick with her right hand, pushing back the foreskin. Mild, incredibly exciting electricity streamed through my body. I closed my eyes and moaned while she wanked me off with long, deep, greedy strokes. I felt dizzy; the corridor swam before my eyes. I tried to detach myself, see it from the outside, record the incident with my inner camera. Her hand moved rhythmically backwards and forwards while she tickled my balls. My knees shook. I felt I was about to come, and had no idea what she intended to do about that. Should I stop her, pull away and shoot at the floor? I think she sensed my anxiety, and carried on even more eagerly. I gave up, let her do what she wanted with me, and collapsed when it all shot out. I thought I heard her moan as I floated away on the last drawn out wank. I found myself somewhere I hadn’t known existed, in an even larger heaven than the one the piss-wanker had shown me.

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But I didn’t remain in that heaven very long. She was in the process of wanking the last drops out of me when the door was thrown open. My dick jumped out of her hand, and for the fraction of a second the world stood still. Mr. Jodis gaped while Mrs. Jodis stood up slowly. All my arteries became suddenly full of ice. – What the hell . . .? Mrs. Jodis threw herself at him, while I turned and ran as hard as I could go. I heard her laughter behind me, her voice full of scorn, anger and despair. – Do you understand now what it’s been like for me? I heard a loud slap and a howl from Mrs. Jodis. Her voice changed, replaced by a hopeless crying which resounded tragically down the corridor. Mr. Jodis got up speed and screamed after me down the stairway. – I’ll beat the living daylight out of you, you young devil. I ran down the steps, hearing doors being opened. Jesus! What if he gets down before me! But I managed it, grabbed my clothes, and was on my way into the snow covered park by the time he came out of the door. – I’ll kill you, he roared. I glanced back over my shoulder, and registered, terrified though I was, that he wasn’t wearing his glasses this time either. But I was sure that he was following me, and daren’t look back again. I ran until I hadn’t breath left in my body, and collapsed on the frozen, icy ground under a bush by the Vigeland Bridge. If he found me now, I wouldn’t be able to defend myself. I lay there waiting for footsteps and a beating. 209

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Gradually, I got my breath back, but shivered so with cold that I couldn’t stay hidden any longer. I poked my head out, looking around carefully. There was no one in sight. The park was deserted. Only statues of small children in rows down to the little ferry-landing under the bridge. * Later that day Bud told me that he and Pat were a twosome. – Is it true about the man in the kiosk? He wanted to know. He came into my room. – It wasn’t anything serious, I said. – Hasn’t Pat told you about it? Bud shook his head. – But why did she have to witness then? – The judges need to know exactly what happened. I took a look at the little jars with my experiments, and picked out the one with some mouldy liquid in the bottom. – Do you know what this is? Bud shook his head and took an instinctive step backwards. – Sperm, I said. – It’s been lying here for months. It’s separated out now, do you want a sniff? – No, Bud said. I took a sniff. It ponged something awful. – Have you started to wank off? I asked. 210

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– You promised to show me that magazine, Bud said. I was a bit reluctant. It was heavy stuff. Perhaps too advanced for an eleven year old, even though he would soon be twelve, and tried to look fourteen. But something had to be done. I had to make sure he didn’t wander around for years, as I had, not knowing how to wank off. I opened the bottom drawer and pulled out the well– thumbed magazine. He leafed through it. The photos were obviously a surprise to him. He gaped. I thought he was about to dribble, but I let him look in peace. It was almost a religious moment, a sort of confirmation. Bud would never be quite the same again. Mum and Dad were alone downstairs. The door to my room stood open, so that I could hear if they came too close. Even so I didn’t notice that Tiny had sneaked in and was taking a look behind Bud’s back. – What the hell are you doing here? I said when I saw him. He was speechless, looking at things he didn’t think were possible. I snatched the magazine back like lightning. – You mustn’t tell anyone. Not anyone, do you understand? If you do I’ll skin you alive. * I was late, and pretty well out of breath, when I met up under the archway by the church. Frank had wheeled Jonny to the door in the back yard. He had been to 211

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Ramsey’s funeral. – The church was crammed full, Frank said. – At least as many as when your father went up in smoke, Jonny. I had no idea that bloody–minded junkie had so many friends. That gave me a twinge of bad conscience. Aunt Audrey had mentioned it, and, as I knew him, asked if I would be going. After we had found room for Jonny’s chair, we were greeted by a very self–satisfied Gerald preacher. – Were you given lots of super Christmas presents? He asked. No–one bothered to answer. It went without saying. – Can anyone tell me why we celebrate Christmas? Another stupid question. Our parson was extra inquisitive today. – To get presents, of course, one smart Alec said – Any other good reasons? – It was the day Jesus popped out, wasn’t it? Typical Frank to say something like that. – Popped out? – Yes, well, was born then. – Exactly, we celebrate the birth of Christ. Who ought to be given presents then, if it’s Jesus’ birthday? No reply. – Obviously Jesus. We ought to give gifts to Jesus to show that we love him. Then why do we give gifts to each other instead? Gerald gazed searchingly at us. 212

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– It’s a bit difficult to find his address. Frank again. – You can leave, Frank, if you intend to continue in that stupid way. Frank stayed. – Jesus gives us gifts, because he is good and it’s his birthday. Who, then, should we thank for our presents? A low, restless murmuring could be heard. – We must thank Jesus for our gifts. Let us pray now, and thank him. Gerald folded his hands. – Dear Jesus. We sit here today to thank you for all the fine presents you have given us . . . – What rubbish. I said it softly, but loud enough to stop him. – I beg your pardon? He looked bothered. Like teachers do sometimes. – I can’t sit here and thank Jesus for the building set I was given at Christmas. Bud and Tiny gave it to me because they thought I would like it. Jesus had nothing to do with it. Gerald took a deep breath. – Can’t you understand that Jesus has seen your wish and had a hand in you getting your building set? – No. It doesn’t make sense. I couldn’t see the logic in it. It was just plain stupid. I could see he was trying to keep calm, breathed in and swelled out, but still managed to maintain his mild Jesus expression. – Laurence, I can’t explain it any better. In our relati213

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onship with God and Jesus there will always be a lot we don’t understand. We can only rely on our faith. If our faith is strong it will conquer all doubts. He folded his hands again, turned his face upwards and closed his eyes. – We thank you for the gifts we received, and for the building set Laurence’s brothers gave him for Christmas. That made me really angry. – Why are you including my brothers in the prayer? The Jesus face began to twitch. He turned his attention to the others. – Can you take a break while I have a few words with Laurence? The boys thought it was a fantastic idea, and disappeared in record time. Gerald shouted after them. – Don’t forget, there will be a presentation of all confirmands at the evening service. Everyone must be present. I was alone with the parson. He sat down beside me. – What’s your problem, Laurence? I didn’t particularly want this conversation. What’s more his breath smelt. – It’s not a problem; it’s just that I’m not sure I believe all this. Now he looked even more like Jesus. – It’s not easy for me to give confirmation instruction if you keep interrupting. – But aren’t we here to discuss our faith? 214

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– Yes, of course, but we must also learn about how Jesus works among us, about the Almighty and so forth. We don’t have time to discuss whether you believe or don’t believe each small detail. You must tell yourself you believe, and hold on to that, then God will give you the strength you need to make the right choices. – How will he do that? «Jesus» sighed deeply, his eyeballs rolling behind his lids. His breath began to make me feel queasy. – He will give you a sign to show you are on the right track. But you must be patient and open up for these signs when they come. Do you understand? There was no point in discussing things further with him. I ought to have realised that from the beginning and just played along. – I’ll try, I said. After all, it was only a confirmation I had to get through in the spring, involving super gifts too. Gerald smiled. He thought he had converted a doubter to his way of thinking. – Good for you, Laurence, things will work out fine. I’m sure the Lord will watch over you. I stood up, feeling more than a little groggy. The church service seemed unending. We sat on folding chairs in front of the alter steps, facing the congregation. I tried to concentrate on keeping awake. I counted benches, the organ pipes and the pale faces of the sparse audience, staring at us. A handful of parents were also present. Religious parents. Not many of us had that sort. 215

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Then, of course, there was the flock of living dead. They sat spread out along the front rows, wearing hats, and deliberating on the wording of their obituaries. The poor things could barely sit comfortably, but even so participated in the ritual gymnastics. Up and down from their benches, their arthritic backbones creaking. Everything flowed in time with the parson’s droning voice. I felt my eyes grow heavy, terribly heavy, my head fell forward, I could hear distant, un–tuned voices singing. – Laurence . . . Laurence Holden Moth! Someone pinched me. I shot up, caught the parson’s ruff full in the face, staggered backwards and fell down onto my chair again. I lifted my hand to my eye and peered at the parson with the other. He looked worried for a moment, but then he smiled, sidestepped and called Frank’s name. That was it. Frank stood up and was introduced to the congregation. I thought I heard someone titter and cast a glance in Jonny’s direction. He was trying not to laugh. I had to smile a bit myself. It was cool, seeing Jonny laugh. I really wanted him to laugh and be happy; felt a responsibility for him. That was the truth of it. * I sat in the bath, looking at the sky over Bygdøy and listening to the sound of the traffic on the motorway, while I picked at my foot and thought about Rachel. Not about the banana spread or the porn picture of her, but out of necessity. I needed her, needed love, physical love, and if I didn’t get that sort of love, I was scared of 216

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what I might become. Thick skin covered the splinter and encased it. But the skin had softened enough, after lying in the water so long, that I eventually managed to get hold of the splinter with a pair of tweezers, and could pull out a long, orange piece of glass. I dried myself, padded into my room, took out the letter I hadn’t delivered to Rachel on New Year’s Eve, and read it through closely. The intention was there, but the message seemed too direct. I tried again to be honest about what I wanted from her. I tried to explain that it wasn’t, first and foremost, to be her boyfriend, but that I wanted to have sex with her.

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23 I could feel it immediately I came into the depot. Kathleen’s mother inhaled so deeply her face wrinkled up in pain. The little, dry, sinewy creature beckoned to me. I stood on the opposite side of the counter. She didn’t pull her punches. – You’re fired, Laurence! It didn’t come as a surprise. She had been far from friendly ever since I had reported the man in the kiosk to the police. – Now, right now? Can’t I at least do the round today? – This very minute, Mr. Moth. I don’t know whether I can believe all the rumours I’ve been hearing, but I’ve been given clear instructions. The depot was full of people loading up their trolleys. They pretended they weren’t listening, but I could feel their ears flapping. She stood staring at me, taking a new long drag on her cigarette. – You’ll get what we owe you by post in a day or two. I looked down at the counter; tried to smile. – OK, goodbye then. She didn’t move a muscle, just looked coldly at me. I understood it was all over, and turned to go. Her hoarse 218

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voice stopped me. – Laurence! I glanced over my shoulder. – Do you know why you’ve got the sack? I just shrugged, and walked out into the darkness. I made my way towards school, my spirits dropping as I walked along Lindemann Street. An intense feeling of sadness and loss hit me. I recalled the well known stairways, remembered the names of the subscribers. I thought of all who lay sleeping while I aired my dick and threw newspapers onto their doormats. I cast a glance up the facade of the FIAT building as I passed. The man from the kiosk lived on the fourth floor. The piss wanker who got me fired. I could understand him. Catching your wife wanking off the paperboy! «Elvis» would shortly be delivering the newspaper to the man who, allegedly, had been messing with his daughter. But it could all be a mass of lies. It wasn’t certain he was the man who had wanked off in front of us either. I suddenly felt sick and had to stop. I closed my eyes. It felt as if large parts of me were missing. I had reported a man for things I could have done myself, had in fact done myself. They should have taken me, have locked me up. I was a piss-wanker-flasher. Being fired from my job was the mildest of all possible punishments. I fell to my knees, arms frantically clutching myself in order not to fall apart.

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* Mrs. Sundew stood in front of her desk and said she had something to say to us. She wanted to be the person who informed us, didn’t want us to hear it from others. – I know there have been rumours at school relating to the man in the kiosk, and that he has been taken for questioning. She paused. – That man is my son. I lied to you because he was a disappointment to me. I was disappointed in my husband too, in all men actually. She studied the floor. We held our breath. – He wasn’t very bright. I rejected him, thought he took after his father. But I know now that it was my inability to give affection that made him insecure. I am the one who has made him what he is now. You must love your children. You just must, even if you don’t really like them. I had never experienced such concentration in the classroom. – My son has a baby. But he is only a child hungry for love himself. I was brought up without love, he was brought up without love, and his child will suffer the same fate. My son can’t go back to the childhood I ruined for him. Her head bobbed slightly, as if in irritation. – All of us get hurt sometime or other in the process of growing up, it’s not that. But we don’t all get an equal chance in life. And those who start without security or 220

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love have a hard time. So the piss-wanker was Mrs. Sundew’s son. I think many of us were uncertain we had heard correctly. How would she manage to carry on now? Luckily she was soon her usual self, and we preferred it that way. But no–one forgot her little lecture on mother love. As for myself I just wanted it all to be over, so that I could continue with my life and find a tiny bit of cunt as soon as possible. It was woodwork class. All the boys in the same year had it together. I stood with Jonny, Frank and PK, turning a pipe bowl in stainless steel. Frank mentioned the school cinema. – A nude female, something to look forward to. Shall we try to get some of the girls up to the loft afterwards? Jonny pushed his goggles up. – Who shall we ask? – What about Rachel and Kathleen? I suggested, pretending the choice was quite accidental. – I can ask Kathleen at the school council meeting afterwards. We are planning the «Give a day», operation and so on. – I’ve got a date, PK said. Frank jumped. Just the fact that PK had actually opened his mouth to say something was a sensation. – Do you have a girlfriend? You haven’t said. Who is it? – Her name’s Linda. – Jeez, which school does she go to? 221

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PK pointed in a westerly direction with his thumb. – Have you got mixed up with a snobby piece? Isn’t that a bit weird, for us proletarian poker players, I mean. PK objected to that remark. His lips tightened, his jaw stiffened. – She’s not like that. We had managed to persuade Rachel and Kathleen to come along. We staggered, giggling out of the side entrance to Frogner Cinema, after seeing the stupid film «17 summers». In the crush coming out, I had put my letter to Rachel in her jacket pocket. Now I had to make a quick getaway. – See you. Frank flung out a fist. – Where are you going? – Home. – No you’re not. Come up to the loft with us. Afterparty, right? Rachel and Kathleen caught up with us, pushing Jonny. – I can’t carry him up on my own, Frank said. It was cold. Sooner or later Rachel would put her hands in her pockets. I grabbed the nearest one and pulled her along. – OK. Party!

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Autofocus, Martin Nygaard, 2005. Teenage 14-17  

Laurence Moth is new in town, and tries to act cooler than everyone else. At the same time he is knocked off balance by a flood of hormones....

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