Upstairs, downstairs

Issue 1/2000 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

From Harmia lämpöpatterista (‘Trouble with the radiator’, Gummerus, 1999). Introduction by Tero Liukkonen

The view

From here, I can see straight into their bedroom. The thin man chases the red-haired mountain of lard; round and round the room they go: the man is swinging something in his hand, I can’t see what, while the lard-mountain squeals until the man throws her onto the bed. The same thing happens every night; I can’t see the bed. Too low, and I wouldn’t want to, besides; lewd ugly makes me sick that I can even think of it.

Downstairs a young man is always watching TV, sitting there motionless all evening. The blue flickers, never turns on the light, a young man. He has long, slender legs and arms, but his face I can’t see, it’s too dark. There are painting tools on his window sill.

Upstairs are two slag-women; they drink all day and invite men into their filthy apartment. The darker one swigs red wine incessantly and pauses by the window from time to time, carrion, looks around her; she’s got something to hide. I have to crouch down when her dirty gaze comes this way.

I have good equipment. I can see right into the apartments on the far side; in the fourth one that lewd self-satisfied caretaker and his carrion-they waylay you in the courtyard and complain; I’d shoot him in the arse if I could. Red, I can’t even look at their beer-bellies; I take care of myself go jogging and my weights and machines are in the corner, I wouldn’t let myself look like –

I take a shower six times a day, sometimes more when the street smells the bus smells; last week a stinking fat dirty carrion sat next to me – pressed me against the window as she sat there, I had to scrub myself with a hard brush and couldn’t get rid of the smell. The caretaker’s carrion smells the same.

The young man switches off the television and comes to the window; I see his face for the first time. He’s really only a boy – dark tousled hair narrow shoulders. Looks this way but cannot see; my lights are off and I have a night lens but all the same it feels as if he is looking straight at me sees me, sees; I feel faint take a shower, it usually helps but the itching doesn’t stop, my head starts to ache.

I trim my moustache and sprinkle myself with talc, the skin of my cheeks is peachy…. I lie on the sofa; the cool satin feels good against my skin. I rub my loins against the fabric just a couple of times –

The boy has disappeared from the window; upstairs the dirty slags carry on, drinking and lying in the window; something darker falls down into the courtyard and a hairy man rushes to fetch it, a pair of black knickers. They float through the air like some obscene butterfly and settle in the children’s sand pit.

I stand at the window and lean silently forward; I feel the fever rising and my skin quiver into goose-bumps.

The man waves the knickers in the air in triumph; I see each black leg-hair. The caretaker waves his broom as well; an argument is brewing between them. The hairy man raises his fists; the caretaker creeps back into his hole. The women clap and cackle and nudge each other at the window.

The boy’s room turns flickering blue again; I can clearly make out his head against the incessant glow of the screen.

The same drama again on the second floor: the redhead squeals and lets herself be caught. Now I see what the man has in his hand – a black clothes hanger I wonder what they are doing with it I must take another shower.

Jack Kilmore

My name is Jack Kilmore. My name is Nick. And I go by the name of Johnny. Together we are the terrible Kilmore boys. We’ve got our guns… always. That’s how it could begin, my book. Mm -mmm, I’m going to write it, dad asked when. When I get paper writing things. When, eh. I got, I got, I got two names. They’re on the first page, Riina didn’t see them. Riina doesn’t know my names. Girls smell. Eikka climbed up on the desk today Eikka was there the teacher came in. She’s got breasts. I got a football for Christmas, I did. We played with it on the tarmac except that I didn’t let Eikka kick it because he left brown marks. Dad laughed. Dad is high, no tall a hundred and eightysix centimetres and a bit more. Tall, is my dad. Grrrr-rrrrr…. Gretsky. Wain Gretsky. Gretsky Wain. I’ve got balls. Eikka made his mouth go crooked, I felt like singing. But I didn’t sing while Eikka was there. Eikka is a difficult child, the teacher gave me a good look. She’s called Aila, it’s for her I’m writing the book with Jack in. Jack Kilmore. He certainly doesn’t ever take a bath, or sing. Or he sings sometimes, but in a low voice. Oh yes I do know oh yes I do, shouted Riina. But she doesn’t now. There was a mole’s nest in the stump, cross my heart and hope to die. Grandpa was in the forest with me but off it went into the stump, grandpa didn’t see. I saw it. I said to Riina, I bet you can’t guess who was in the yard when it was light. Riina said, I know it’s Jussi. It isn’t, and it certainly isn’t Froggy Alexander. Arno’s got a long one. Longer than mine but it doesn’t droop. Timppa has a small one, but Timppa has his own Jerkmasters pencil case. Then I whistled. The whistling came out of my mouth. Lucky Luke. Shit. Eikka got a detention. But tomorrow we’ll go to the tree-hut, I’ll take the stones with me my stones, Eikka doesn’t like stones. The green one is on top, it isn’t stone, you better believe it. Glass which has been polished for a hundred years, I found it on the beach when we were with dad and mum at the Playa Del Formis. Dad was playing frisbee, mum’s hat went in the water. Then we ate sole and came home, the sun was shining. A minus. Finnish is Froggy’s best subject, but he’s just spazzy. Spazzy-plazzy. What if you didn’t have blood in your veins but plastic, and then your enemies would be helpless and you’d have a ba­zooka like Skeletor and you’d be all plastic. Transformers are babyish. Mum is shit. Mother tongue. Mathsshitsporshit. Mum won’t wake up you better believe it. Dad is in the lounge, dad is high. Dad has a low voice. Dad doesn’t like… yes he does, daddy’s just really tired. Reallyreallyreallyre. Eikka’ s mum is in the kitchen. Eikka’s dad is drinking beer. Hey Froggy-Moggy, lost your balls have you. Eikka’s got a mum. Jouni’s got a mum and a half-dad, Eikka says he only has half a face and one leg in his bum. Mum is in the earth, except it’s not her but only her shell. Shitmum’s shitshell, shitshell la-la dad takes me on his lap. Big boy now no I’m not, yes I am, I’m Kilmore now I’m singing a cowboy song because mum likes Jack. Kilmore, just call me Kilmore. Because when a bird flies out of the sky and tells me things, things just for me, the bird has mum’s mouth, mum’s mouth.


When Antero said one morning that he no longer loved me I realised that I love him it was so simple I hadn’t thought much of Antero we’d moved in together because we got on and had interests in common. Now Antero was sitting on the side of the bed and looking at me or in my direction and saying that he would pack up his things immediately so that I could fulfil myself without him being in the way he was fed up of being a substitute and the love-affair was now over. Antero said these things in order and carefully he had thought about them all the time as we slept side by side and ate at the same table in Antero’s opinion I had not been present in bed or at table for a long time and he was quite right and now when I looked at him I realised that. And suddenly I was completely filled with love and all I wanted to do was stroke Antero embrace him and make pancakes for him nothing would be worth anything without Antero I would die without him. If he walked out of the door everything would stop and turn black as something really black my heart began to thump wildly and I nodded to Antero as a sign of understanding.

‘OK then,’ I said and tapped him encouragingly on the shoulder. ‘We need our own space.’

Antero got up very quickly and began to gather his things in earnest I watched and even helped a bit there wasn’t much to gather and then Antero telephoned his brother coming straight away I made us another cup of coffee and then the door closed behind Antero and Antero was gone.

Translated by Hildi Hawkins


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