Profiles

2 October 2014 | Fiction, Prose

Rosa Liksom’s first book, in 1985, was a collection of short prose; she has also written novels, children’s books, plays, comic and picture books. Her new book, Väliaikainen (‘Temporary’, Like, 2014) – a return to her signature very short prose – features beasts, machines and men

He’s there in the living room. We’ve gotta be very quiet. I left the computer on, and the reading lamp. I’ll go in and turn them off, quietly. Or the computer at least. I can watch Emmerdale on the little tv in the kitchen. You wait here. OK, I turned off the computer but I left the lamp on so I wouldn’t wake him up. I put his nap blanket over him. He’s laying on his left side now. That’s good. Whenever he wakes up on his right side he gets awfully grumpy. Let’s go in the kitchen so we don’t disturb him. The poor guy. It’s been hours since he’s had a good sleep. You know, I think it’s the depression again. It started on Monday when he was supposed to go to his guide’s job.He didn’t taste his breakfast, even though I brought it to him in bed. I had to go to the hospital, my shift was starting, and he just laid there in the bedroom with his eyes open… I don’t know how long it’s gonna last this time. Last month he was depressed for three days. I think it’ll pass more quickly this time because he’s napping a little bit, and licking his paw now and again.

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I decided to have a perfect summer wedding, kind of like Jemina’s was last summer, but different. Jemina started doing her wedding arrangements a year and a half beforehand. It wasn’t enough time. Her schedule was so crammed for the last couple of months that she had a nervous breakdown and was sent to a mental hospital. I decided I wasn’t going to get caught in that trap, so I started planning my wedding three years before the deadline. A Midsummer wedding was a must – otherwise what’s the point – and it had to be in a big church – the cathedral, of course. They have the best decor.

The minute I told my friends there was a wedding in the works I immediately had five volunteers: Kelly, Ann, Jenna, Melina, Sara and Tiia. I chose Kelly, Sara and Melina to be bridesmaids because they’re uglier than me. The show was on the road. I called Dad in Brussels and he promised me ten grand right away, but that’ll hardly pay for anything. So I called my grandpa in Madeira and he was totally excited and said he would send me twelve grand. He always tries to show Dad up. The rest of the money came from Mom (who whined about always being the moneybags), and my godmother, who’s a make-up artist, and loves a party, plus my aunt, who sent me five thousand. She thinks Mom, who’s her sister, is a stingy, deadly bore. So – excellent! I had forty thousand in the wedding kitty.

I spent a few weeks browsing the web, looking at a gazillion wedding planning sites, and I found a US company that’ll handle all the little details and the swag – napkins, origami, bows, that sort of thing…. All that little stuff was ten thousand for two hundred guests. Then there was the wedding gown. I checked out every bridal shop in town but they were all truly horrible. So me and the girls took three trips to Stockholm, then I found exactly what I wanted in Paris. And it was as cheap as the average price here in Helsinki, just five thou. Plus the shoes, bag, gloves, underwear and stockings of course. I got all those on the Champs Èlysèes for less than seven thousand.

So I had the dress, the swag, and the church. Dad helped me get into Halikko Manor for the reception. All this took two years. Then I had to put together a menu, and a program, and a guest list. And the gift registry, of course. I planned the menu with the chef at Halikko. He was super cool from the very first moment we met. I spent five wonderful weekends with him.

So on Midsummer Eve eve Dad arrived from Brussels and I showed him everything me and the girls had put together. He just sighed, he was so proud of me. That evening while he was tasting the wine and admiring me, he asked who the groom was. I was like, the groom? And Dad was like, didn’t Jemina have some hairy dude at the altar to say I do? And I was like, yeah. So I called the girls and I was like, what’re we going to do? Sara said I should ask Jasu to be the groom. He goes to Tech. Just the sort of thing a techie’s good at. I told her I can’t ask Jasu, he’s a head shorter than me. Then I thought of something. I called the chef at Halikko and asked if he would walk down the aisle with me and do all the stuff a groom does at a wedding. He said he didn’t see why not, except that he was already married. I told him that was no problem, and he showed up and handled all the groom’s choreography very professionally. He was perfect.

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Before I left for work I told Rosie I wanted the floors spic and span before I got home. Mack’s job was to wash and dry a week’s worth of laundry. I didn’t have to say anything to Betsy. Just a glance and Betsy knows the bread should be baked and ready by five o’clock.

I got home about five minutes to five. Rosie was sitting in the middle of the living room floor, hardly even started before she got stuck on the fringe of the rug. A quick kick and a squeal and she was on the job again. All that was waiting for me in the kitchen was a guilty silence. I said what now. Betsy was sitting helpless, full of flour and yeast, and nothing to show for it. I looked at the plug. She was plugged in like she should be. Oh for God’s sake. I forgot to turn her on when I left. I apologized and she gave a cheerful whistle and got to work. I went to the laundry room. Mack had all his chores done. His bright eye shining cheered me up and I started ironing the undies. Before I knew it Betsy gave a shout from the kitchen to let me know there was oat bread with flax seeds ready to eat.

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My girl came to see me from Bucharest on my ninety-first birthday and she threw me a party and invited everybody in town. Five of us altogether. Drinking good coffee, sopping it up with some nice sweetrolls, shooting the breeze. Then when everybody’d left my daughter looked at me with her head cocked for a minute and then she says, how about we make you a ‘profile’ on Facebook. I said those skypes we been doing once a week was plenty enough for me. But she wouldn’t give it up. She ordered me to sit down at the machine. I said there aint nothing in my life I want to write about on there. So she thinks for a long time and then she fairly jumps in her chair and gets an idea and says let’s not make a page for you, let’s make one for Pekka, and she takes a close-up of Pekka’s face and then a full-length one with him sitting there in his lazyboy, all ears.

So then she goes back out to Europe and I’m here looking at Pekka’s page. There were two messages. One was from her in Bucharest and the other one was from Laura in Kallio, down in Helsinki. So I write a message to this Laura saying Pekka’s outside right now looking at the birds. And Laura answers that she just finished eating and now she’s going to go loaf around. That’s how it started. Three years ago. Now Pekka’s got three thousand two hundred and three followers, all over the world, from Brisbane to Petsamo. The ones he’s friended the deepest are this hairless fellow named Petro in Brazil and this one Cantonese guy named Shuin. That Shuin is awful smart, always thinking up all kinds of stuff to do. Seems like half the world is amazed at the stuff Shuin thinks up. Now I’m a monolingual person, I only speak the normal language. Cause when I was little there was just the two-week traveling school. Rest of the time I was working in the barn with the cows. But Mr Google’s there for us linguistically challenged people. I copy the messages and posts that Pekka gets in that chopstick Chinese and paste them in for Mr Google to translate and just like that I’ve got the thing back in my normal language. Then I write Pekka’s posts in my own language and there’s Mr Google to translate it into any language I like.

Used to be I felt so lonely was afraid I might turn into an artist. Now any time I have a hankering for company I just go to Pekka’s Facebook and there’s somebody there wanting to chew the fat. I tell them how the hunting went in the shed this morning and how I got myself a nice fat mouse under the old bread table again.

Translated by Lola Rogers

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