For love or money

Issue 2/1994 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Paratiisitango (‘Paradise tango’, WSOY, 1993). Introduction by Markku Huotari

The bishops’ dilemma

They are waiting for Blume in the front room of the office. On the sofa sits a man whom Blume has never learned to like. He himself chose and appointed the man, for a job not insignificant from the point of view of the company. Blume has good reasons for the appointment. If he employed only men he liked, the business would have gone bankrupt years ago.

Reinhard Kindermann gets up from the sofa and waits in silence while Blume hangs up his overcoat. Mrs Giesler stands next to Blume. She does not try to help her superior take off his coat, for she knows from experience that he would not tolerate it, but the old man does allow her to stand next to him and wait in silence, like a servant expressing submission.

‘Here’s that letter from the bishops,’ Kindermann says when they have reached Blume’s own office and the door has been closed. Blume takes the letter, goes behind his desk and begins to read it. He reads slowly, Blume has always been a slow reader, but Kindermann knows that few people can read a text as carefully as he, and few will immediately identify the words that add or subtract meaning, that withdraw from responsibility or imply that it will be met.

Blume has already been warned about the matter: the Catholic bishops of Bamberg have, under the leadership of their archbishop, expressed their indignation about the fact that Super Blitz magazine, which they support through both advertisement and investment, publishes articles with titles such as ‘School for Orgasm’. The articles are in flagrant conflict with Christian morality. Moreover, the magazine’s cover pictures are consistently provocative. The cover of the latest issue shows a young woman in a vinyl corset, without any other clothes.

‘I’ll reply to this one,’ Blume says. Kindermann interprets this as a command to leave. ‘Ask Mrs Giesler to come in, please.’

Blume hears Kindermann say, in the outer room, that Dr Blume has a job for her, and in an instant Mrs Giesler is sitting on the chair in front of Blume’s desk ready to take dictation.

‘To the Archbishop of Bamberg, all greetings etcetera. With reference to the statement published yesterday evening in which the bishops of Bamberg, under your direction, withdraw from the publishing sector of our company and deplore the content and covers of Super Blitz magazine, I beg to be allowed to remind you of the following: when, earlier this year, the bishops approached our company and expressed their wish to invest 320,000 deutschmarks in our publishing sector, two other, more conservative magazines were initially suggested to them. These, however, did not appear to interest your representatives, particularly when they heard that Super Blitz had increased its circulation more rapidly than any other magazine and was selling 950,000 copies a week, as a result of which its profit was greater than that of other magazines. According to the recollections of our publication director, the cover of the issue of Super Blitz that we showed your representatives showed a woman dressed in a red vinyl costume. Because I have no expert knowledge of the colour symbolism of the Church, or any profound knowledge of the Church’s attitude to vinyl costumes, I am unable to assess how much more offensive a black corset is than a red one. All the same, I shall be disappointed if the institution you represent gives up its shares in our company. I believe, nevertheless, that the sale of the shares will not cause your organisation any financial loss. As a precaution, I shall mark this letter for your personal attention. Yours sincerely etcetera.’

Blume falls silent for a moment, then asks Mrs Giesler: ‘Can we send a letter like that?’

‘Dr Blume has always been sharp-worded in his letters.’

‘Sharp-worded but just?’


‘Leave out the reference to the colour symbolism of the Church.’

‘I will, Dr Blume.’

Chance, providence or a personal decision?

What made the Hungarian Emil Torday go to study in Munich, and from there, in the midst of his studies, to Brussels? It can hardly have been his ambition to work in a Brussels bank as a humble clerk. And above all: what made him, at the age of 25, go to the Belgian Congo? The monotonous work of a bank clerk can hardly have inspired him, but not every bored bank clerk of the turn of the century decamped to another continent, to an unknown environment.

Emil Torday arrived by ship at the mouth of the Congo river in 1900. From there, he moved to his posting in Katanga province. His task was to observe the border with Northern Rhodesia. Belgium had reason to suspect that Britain would attempt to extend its African colonies. Torday had no other responsibilities, however, and so he had plenty of time for field-trips, for hunting and for learning the local languages and customs.

In his remote posting, Emil Torday was happier than he had ever been in Europe.

Marianne looks at Torday’s photograph and realises that she is squeezing Wilbur’s hand harder than she means to. Wilbur feels the pressure but does not pull his hand away. After a long lunch, their cheeks rosy with wine, they have come to see an exhibition of some of the art-objects Torday sent back to Europe from the Congo. The exhibition was Marianne’s idea, and Wilbur had nothing against it. He said, as so many times before, in that previous life, that he was ready to go anywhere with Marianne, even to an agricultural exhibition!

In the photograph, Torday is wearing a sun helmet. He is sitting on the verandah of his house. On his lap are a dog and a spotted wildcat. I don’t even know what it is! Marianne thinks. A puma? A panther? It certainly isn’t a lion! I don’t know anything about Africa, or about animals! I don’t know anything about anything! All my knowledge is about money, buying and selling it. Of course Emil Torday had to go to Africa! It was absolutely essential! People can’t live their entire lives merely changing money, taking loans and granting them. It’s not enough to fill a life.

Marianne is already looking at another photograph. In it, Torday is crossing a river. An African man is carrying him on his back. The water is already up to his knees, but the white man’s clothes, shoes and socks have not yet got wet. Beside the African swims the same black and white dog that was sitting on Torday’s lap. The river does not look very deep. It is possible that Torday will not get wet at all in the crossing. The opposite shore is lined with thick rainforest which conceals within it a great adventure.

Another gaze, another head

‘What is your name?’

‘Antonia, but they call me Toni.’

‘How old are you?’


‘Are you German?’

‘My mother is from here, my father from Poland.’

‘Do they live together?’

‘I’ve never seen my father. I don’t remember him, anyway.’

‘What does your mother do?’

‘Works in a factory.’

‘What about you?’

‘I’m studying philosophy.’

‘Who is your favourite philosopher?’


‘What was the last work of his you read?’

Jenseits von Gut und Böse.’

‘Isn’t he a bit old-fashioned today?’

‘I don’t think so.’

‘Do you think that you will complete your studies some day?’

‘I don’t know. Mum studied at university, but dropped out when I was born.’

‘What are you smiling at?’

‘I’m wondering whether Dr Blume has washed his hands.’

‘He has, but I can go and wash them again. Wait.’


‘Are you scared of Aids?’


‘And you always use a condom?’

‘Of course.’

‘Where did you buy those shoes? Paris?’


‘Can you turn over on your stomach?’

I’ve got some bad skin on my back.’

‘Turn over all the same. It looks good to me.’

‘Just under the shoulder-blades. There.’


‘My ankles are too thick,’

‘What else?’

‘My nose is too big and my breasts are too small.’

‘Your nose is the most beautiful part of your face.’

‘If he were to meet me in the street, Dr Blume would’t recognise me.’

‘I would. On account of your nose. Did Jürgen say anything in particular?’


‘Have you ever had an orgasm?’

‘No. Or I did once. Never with a client. Not with a man, or a woman either. Once when I was masturbating.’

‘Orgasms don’t interest you?’

‘No. Not at the moment.’

‘What does?’


Into a deep sleep

Refugees have been arriving for three days. The sick room is full, even its corridors, as is the school. Marianne has been going into the centre of town early in the morning and returning home only late at night. She has been buying more food and medicines. The UN refugee officer has come to assess the situation every day. He wants numbers, and he has got them. He says the situation at other border crossing-points is the same. The government in the neighbouring country is still formally in existence, but the parties are accusing each other and each side is taking arms. The civilian population is trying to flee the coming confrontation while it still can. The UN man does not promise the sick room any more funds. He commends the fact that the situation looks better than in many other places, and asks whether the government has increased its support. Marianne says that the hospital is still dependent on private funding. She is content, almost proud, although she tries not to show it. She feels as if she has achieved something concrete.

In the afternoon, Sister Felice comes to fetch Marianne. Her expression is grave. She takes Marianne by the hand and leads her toward the sanatorium. The big room is filled from one wall to the other with beds, proper and makeshift. Sister points to two camp beds. Each holds a child, a couple of years old, mere skin and bone.

‘I don’t know how far they have walked, but they collapsed out there in the yard.’ Marianne asks where the children’s parents are.

‘They only have a cousin with them.’ Felice points to a bed against the other wall, where a fifteen-year-old boy is lying. ‘A temperature, nothing serious,’ Felice says before Marianne has time to ask. ‘He had one of the little ones on his shoulders when they arrived.’ At that moment one of the little children begins to vomit green phlegm. The whole of his body shudders. Felice turns the child on his side so that he cannot choke on his own vomit. The attack starts again when Felice gives the child a drop of water. The child’s eyes are closed, he looks as if he is sleeping, although the shuddering gets worse all the time. Marianne fetches a towel and uses it to clean the child’s face. Then she takes the child in her arms and moistens his lips lightly with the towel. She presses the child against her and gradually the shuddering weakens and eventually stops. Marianne can feel the child’s body calming and he sinks into a deep sleep. Felice signals for Marianne to put the child back on the bed, but Marianne wants to hold him in her arms for another moment until she can be sure that he does not wake up as he is moved to the bed. Felice says she is going to the other ward. Marianne remains in the room with the child in her arms. She is the only adult in the large room. Quiet snuffling can be heard from every direction. Only now does Marianne realise that she is sitting down for the first time that day. That is another reason why it feels good. After a few minutes, the quietness in the room begins to send her to sleep. She moves her neck to stay awake. When Felice comes back, Marianne is in the middle of a yawn. She is a little embarrassed, but Felice does not pay any attention to her, but looks at the child, puts her ear against his chest, and holds the thin wrist to take his pulse. Then she takes the child from Marianne’s arms, almost wrenches him away, and says abruptly: ‘This child has gone to meet his maker!’ Marianne cannot speak; neither can she stop herself shivering.

News and its bearer

How long has the man been standing in the yard?

He is covered in dust, but nevertheless easily recognisable as the priest Marianne has bumped into a couple of times in town. The man is standing on the verandah under the garden light, in the most visible place possible, as if he wanted to show that he is on respectable business. Or perhaps he merely fears that a dog will attack him from somewhere. He stands in the lamplight waiting to be noticed. And now, passing by the window, Marianne notices him.

Marianne steps out of the house and goes up to the man. He tries to hide his tiredness, greets her politely, smiles a little, and says he hopes he is not disturbing her. Marianne shakes her head almost angrily. How thoroughly the European colonial masters have succeeded in humiliating the black man! She wants to show at once that the mere thought that the man might be disturbing her is impossible. It is quite clear that he has come to the house to ask for help, and Marianne wants to show that it is not always necessary to come cap-in-hand to Europeans to ask for help. She gestures for the man to sit, goes to the kitchen to ask for some juice for him, and returns to the man and the chirping of grasshoppers.

‘It was not my intention to come and disturb you in this way,’ the man begins again. Marianne waves a hand as a sign that he need not apologise:

‘How can I help?’

‘I should trust in God. Believe that he will send me help before long.’

The man twists his hands and seems to sigh with relief when Paul brings some juice and he can concentrate on what he has to say. When the servant has gone and they are alone again, Marianne looks at the man expectantly.

‘The police are after me,’ the man exclaims, and then falls silent. He drinks his juice in careful sips.

‘Why?’ Marianne asks. It sounds almost like the question of an interrogator. There is no sympathy there. She merely wants more information.

‘My residence permit has run out.’

‘Why don’t you renew it?’

‘There are too many of us here. The government wants to send us all back. Or at least those who cannot – or don’t want to – buy a residence permit from them. I can’t afford it, but now it isn’t a question of money. Some people can go home; not me. Not while the present government is in power.’

‘What if you’re repatriated?’

‘I hope that God will preserve me from such a fate. I told you already. If you remember. I belong to the wrong tribe. And in addition I criticised the government when it restricted freedom of speech. I was so naïve. I tried to act as a voice of conscience. You have to pay for that. But it was a task given me by God. Perhaps I disappointed Him when I left the country. I just saved my own skin.’

‘What would you like me to do?’

‘You are Canadian? I think there are already many refugees there?’

‘Ye-es,’ Marianne says, a tinge of doubt in her voice.

‘This is terrible. The world is full of refugees. It’s difficult to tolerate us.’

‘No, it’s not a question of that,’ Marianne says. The man’s self-pity annoys her, although she understands the difficulty of his situation. No one should stoop so low as to humiliate themselves, especially not educated people, like this priest. But Marianne’s irritation is also caused by embarrassment. She knows the man is in the right: it is difficult for Europeans and Americans to tolerate refugees. Even our own poor and unemployed sometimes seem too much.

‘Another possibility is to try to carry on from here, but the borders are dosed now.

They haven’t been guarded as closely for a long time.’ Marianne knows this is true. Refugees have ceased to arrive at the hospital.

‘Have you enquired about asylum in the Nordic countries? In Sweden? Or Norway, for example? Or Finland?’ It feels strange to Marianne to mention Finland.

The man shakes his head. Marianne thinks.

‘It would be one possibility,’ she says slowly. She looks the man straight in the eyes. He starts, almost jumps. Then he is on his feet and about to make his departure. It feels good to Marianne. She has not thought of any solution to the man’s problem and knows that finding one will, in any case, take days.

‘Where can I get hold of you, if something turns up?’ Marianne asks.

‘It’s best if I come again,’ says the man.

In sickness

Wilbur does not know where he got the cold, and neither does it interest him. He does not wish to admit that he has reached an age where illnesses are the most important thing in life. His nose just started dripping, and nothing seemed to help. Ludmila gave him tea with honey and some draught of her own whose Russian name Wilbur did not even try to learn and which apparently could not even be described in English.

After a couple of days, the cold turned into a cough. Wilbur recalled the meeting between Chekhov and Gorky at a New Year celebration for 1903, when Chekhov’s tuberculosis was already troubling him badly. The writer nevertheless made light of it and took part in the celebrations organised by the Moscow Arts Theatre. When the serenades had been sung and the supper, served in the foyer, had been eaten and Chekhov’s young wife was being danced until she was dizzy, the writer moved to the side of the room with Gorky to converse and exchange news. The music, general merriment and hubbub made it impossible to speak in a normal voice, and shouting brought on a coughing fit. In the end Chekhov said: ‘It could be said of the two of us: they exchanged some particularly interesting coughs.’

Then Wilbur’s cold reverted to its earlier state: his waste paper basket filled with handkerchiefs and his nose began to turn red. The cough did not let up. Tea with honey was no help, or Russian draughts or English vitamin C.

In the end, after many days, at this very moment, Wilbur grows tired of being ill. He goes to the wine cellar, chooses a wine that is more expensive than usual, not one of the most valuable, because it would be wasteful: with his senses dulled by his cold, he would not be able to enjoy it. But good enough to bring a touch of celebration to the everyday. Ludmila has put Natasha to bed and is downstairs watching the television. When Wilbur comes in with glasses and a bottle, the girl switches the television off: she still feels herself to be a visitor to that extent. Wilbur has tried and tried to urge her to be at home, but at the same time he is so friendly and polite that Ludmila cannot help feeling like a guest. On the other hand, Wilbur has never come into her room, never shown the slightest interest in her. Ludmila has no reason to feel rejected or neglected, but somehow Wilbur’s indifference nevertheless irritates her. When she last asked whether she should leave, Wilbur answered: ‘Where would you go?’ What possibilities were left? Nothing but pleasing the master of the house, and for that reason the American detective on the television can go on looking for his sex murderer by himself, without the moral support of his Russian admirer, when the English wine-columnist steps into the room with glasses and a bottle.

‘Who is your favourite poet?’ Wilbur asks Ludmila, pressing the sharp point of a corkscrew into the soft flesh of the cork. Ludmila is surprised by the question. They have never spoken about literature. When Ludmila has occasionally, in passing, mentioned Russian poets, Wilbur’s face has taken on a strained expression, and so she has immediately fallen silent. That is why, now, she is surprised.

‘And don’t say Pushkin. All Russians say Pushkin, as if there weren’t any other poets in the country!’

‘All Russians?’ Ludmila cannot restrain herself from asking.

‘All the millions of Russians I’ve asked the same question.’

‘But Pushkin is our greatest poet! Even Lenin understood him.’

‘There must be something wrong with the man.’

Wilbur offers Ludmila another glass of wine and goes to sit in the armchair next to the sofa. He raises his glass, and so does Ludmila. Wilbur takes a large gulp and begins to gargle with it in his mouth. Ludmila tastes a cautious sip, but then changes her mind, takes a whole mouthful and tries to do as the wine expert does, but the gargling is not successful, the wine goes up her nose and Ludmila has to run to the bathroom. When she comes back, Wilbur has emptied his own glass and moved on to the sofa next to Ludmila’s place. He is pouring himself some more.

‘The first time I drank wine through my nose,’ Ludmila says.

Wilbur does not reply, but after a moment asks the girl to recite something from Pushkin. Ludmila thinks for a moment, then takes the tiniest of sips of wine, just to moisten her mouth and lips, adjusts her position on the sofa and, her back straight, begins to recite. Exotic sounds flood from between her lips. Wilbur does not understand a word. When she has finished, Ludmila explains.

‘Tatyana’s farewell to Onegin.’

‘What did she say?’

‘I can’t translate. Farewell.’

‘What do you think of Mayakovsky?’

‘We had to learn it by heart at school.’

‘He wrote fine love poems.’

‘We didn’t read those.’

During the conversation, Wilbur drinks another glass of  wine, puts the empty glass on the table and places his hand on Ludmila’s left breast. He does it clumsily, but he can do no better. The girl’s breast is large, heavy. Wilbur has seen it many times when Ludmila has been feeding Natasha; he has also seen it before, during an off-colour dance performance, but he has never touched it. Now he is touching it, without any spontaneity! There cannot be a more pathetic lover in the world than he! But he does not want to stop. Only if Ludmila were to demand it, and the girl hasn’t said anything yet, or moved his hand away. She is looking Wilbur straight in the eyes. Ludmila’s expression does not contain a smile, or irritation either. Suddenly her face changes. Ludmila shifts position, straightens her back from leaning against the sofa, raises the hem of her blouse so that both breasts show, and says, decisively, ‘Suck!’

Visitors from another planet

Kiukkonen is in his old office transcribing Stebo’s tapes when there is a knock on the door and the woman colleague who works in the next room announces that he has visitors. The woman pulls a face from which Kiukkonen concludes that the visitors are unusual ones.

‘Someone from this planet?’

‘See for yourself,’ the woman whispers, leaves the door open and disappears. Kiukkonen gets up from his chair, glances at himself in the mirror next to the door and pulls his stomach in. At the same time two black men appear in the doorway. One of them glances at a piece of paper in his hand and asks:




Without asking, the men step into the room. Kiukkonen gestures for them to sit on the chairs next to the wall, goes to his own writing chair, turns it to face the room and waits. The visitor who asked Kiukkonen’s name appoints himself spokesman. He asks if Kiukkonen is the Mister Kiukkonen who is writing a book about an individual called Hassan Stebo. Kiukkonen says he is.

‘His name is not Hassan Stebo.’

‘Very possible,’ Kiukkonen concedes.

‘He came to Finland on false papers.’

‘Follows from the preceding statement. I came with him.’

‘According to Finnish law, that’s deception of officials.’


‘His real name is James Augustus Henfield.’

Kiukkonen says nothing.

‘He has also sometimes used the name James Augustus Montserrado.’

Kiukkonen wonders why people who change their name often want to keep something of their former name, even if only the same initials.

‘He has never been in a priests’ seminar.’


‘He had a military education. Partly. He was expelled from the military academy for disciplinary reasons. This was before he joined the Special Branch. You know what the Special Branch is? The security police.’

Kiukkonen nods.

‘He rose quickly there. He had a suitable character.’

It occurs to Kiukkonen that he should start taking notes.

‘In the end he became its leader. None of his relatives have been killed. Not a single one. Unless in the very last few days. And he has never been tortured. He himself is a torturer.’ The African takes a wallet from his pocket, and extracts a battered photograph. It shows a man lying on the floor of a room. Beside the man’s head the feet of a guard can be seen, in big marching boots. A dark streak leads from the man’s head to a puddle. ‘He left the country, had to flee, when the war turned out as it did. Now they want him back.’

‘Who do?’

The African glances at his friend.

‘Mr Henfield has blood on his hands. He is covered in blood. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.’

‘At home or by Interpol?’

‘At home, at any rate.’

Kiukkonen turns in his chair and takes a pen and paper. At the same time he switches on the tape recorder.

‘OK. Let’s begin at the beginning.’

Bad behaviour

On his way to the meeting, Kindermann feels more certain than before. Everything has gone well, expectations have been fulfilled, catastrophes avoided, but when he sees the habitual slightly dissatisfied expression on the face of the deputy chairman of the board, he feels himself to be what he has always been: the highest-paid lackey of the company’s top management. But he decides that the tone of this meeting will nevertheless be different from before.

There is so much business that they have to start going through it at once. Kindermann has nothing against that. He has never had much to say to this man. They live in different worlds. Kindman does not hunt, at least not four-legged animals.

‘So, what did it look like over there?’

‘According to the doctor, everything’s going well.’


‘There’s a long way still to go. If he ever gets there.’

‘Well, will he?’

‘Since we haven’t started eating yet, I’ll tell you how things are. Someone else has to know too. If you will permit me. Blume is in a wheel-chair. According to the doctor, he’s said a couple of words and his posture has apparently improved. While I was there he didn’t say anything, but sat there like a sack of potatoes. And picked snot out of his nose and rolled it between his fingers. That’s how it is.’

‘Oh my God.’

Before the meeting, Kindemann thought about what to say of his visit to the hospital, how much detail to give. Now he has told the story, and he feels better. The responsibility is shared. The deputy chairman draws patterns with the prongs of his fork on the white tablecloth, then says:

‘Blume’s sons’ lawyer rang. Very much a preliminary call. I got the impression that the boys don’t have any accurate knowledge about what’s going on now, but that they realise that the reins are out of their father’s hands. They’re ready to sell their share. If the price is right. And if we can get the new wife to agree.’

‘Can’t we give them some part of the whole? A little bit. They could do what they wanted with it.’

‘If you say so, you must have a suggestion.’

Kinderman looks thoughtful and then mentions the media stir about a respectable publisher being part of the pornography industry.

‘It’s Blume’s own operation,’ Kindermann says. ‘If we were to give it away –.’

‘His own and not his own.’

Kindermann knows the idea will not go through.

‘Its profit is better than any other sector’s,’ the deputy chairman says. ‘When you can’t touch, you have to make do with looking. You know the figures for that area of the business. You don’t live off honour and handsome annual reports. You could ask the accounts department to see what kind of share they’re talking about. I’ll look after Mrs Blume. For the present. The essential thing is to lose as few profitable units from the company as possible. The paperwork is a different matter. You are right.’

‘I suppose the present wife’s money will stay in house whatever happens.’

‘The sun shines in the south of France, and there are always houses for sale there. Italy is full of slim-hipped men. I don’t understand young women. Worry about it if you think you need to. But you think Blume won’t be back again. I’m asking you officially.’

‘I’m not a doctor.’

‘You have eyes in your head.’

‘You don’t run a company by rolling balls of snot.’

‘I just wanted to know. The matter is clear. It’s a pity. Bad behaviour on God’s part.’

Silence descends on the table. Kindermann glances at the man opposite. He seems suddenly to have aged. The man realises it himself, you can see it from his expression. Kindermann hasn’t the heart to look him in the eyes.

The necklace

The man has been looking out of the window all evening. The road-traffic lessens when the workers go home. When the shop closes its doors, the last remaining pedestrians disappear from the street. The man takes from a cupboard a coat, a cap and a pair of gloves. He waves to the doorman of the residence and says he is going out for a breath of fresh air.

‘Do you feel like some company?’

‘I’m just going round the block. Thanks all the same.’

The outside air feels good. It’s a different thing, standing outside and filling your lungs properly, from sitting at an open window. The man sets out walking toward the park. The window of the corner shop is already decorated for Christmas. It is the only shop in this area, it sells everything from food to cheap jewellery. The selection of goods reveals that price is more important to its customers than quality. The man glances at a gold-coloured necklace. There can’t be anything genuine about it. The man continues on his way. He decides to take the same route as on the previous evening: to go round the park and come back along a different street. He crosses the street to the park side, it feels pleasanter to walk there. The man calculates that he has already been in Europe for three weeks.

He does not see where they come from. Suddenly they just appear from somewhere, take hold of him, push him on his stomach to the ground, and before he can say anything his mouth is gagged with strong plastic tape. He thinks he is suffocating until he realises he can breathe through his nose. His hands are twisted behind his back and handcuffed. Then he is dragged, on his knees, to a nearby tree. Three men have hold of him. No one says a word. When the man raises his head, he sees that a woman has appeared from somewhere on the street corner, pushing a pram. Then he feels the handcuff being freed from one of his hands; at the same time, two men push him back against the tree by his chest and face and the third twists his arms together behind the tree trunk. Then the handcuffs are fastened again. He is bound to the tree. He cannot move his legs because he is still on his knees.

One of the men takes a car tyre from beside the tree trunk. Another has a bottle in his hand, from which he starts pouring liquid into the tyre. He turns the tyre so that the liquid runs everywhere. The man tied to the tree feels the smell of petrol in his nostrils. The rest of the bottle is emptied over the outside of the tyre. The man’s head is pulled away from the tree by the neck so that the tyre can be dropped between the tree and his neck like a loose necklace.

‘Greetings from home, Henfield. From all your relatives.’

The man tied to the tree tries to turn his head to shake the tyre off, but there is not enough space for his neck to move. The man closest to him takes a box of matches from his pocket, strikes a couple of matches and throws them toward the man. One of the matches goes out in the air, the other flies, burning, to its goal. The tyre bursts into flames. The men leave, running. The woman standing on the street corner with the pram, too, has disappeared.

Translated by Hildi Hawkins


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