Author: Riikka Ala-Harja

The last Christmas tree

19 December 2013 | Fiction, Prose

A short story from Reikä (‘The hole’, Like, 2013)

A four-litre saucepan should last the whole holiday, Honkkila calculates, throwing a bay leaf into the borscht.

Borscht is excellent at Christmas, as it blends the traditional Finnish dishes – beetroot salad, baked roots, ham.

At the same time Honkkila remembers the tree. He’s always had a tree, for forty years. When he was a child his dad brought it in from the back forest. Since then Honkkila has fetched his tree from various places, from the market and last Christmas from the shopping centre parking lot, but for this Christmas he has no tree.

Honkkila looks at the clock. The shopping centre is open for another hour. Honkkila takes the soup off the hob and goes out.

The shopping centre loudspeakers are beeping out electronic Christmas tunes; there are patches of spruce needles on the empty parking lot.

‘Is there anything left?’ Honkkila asks the assistant. More…

Like father, like daughter

Issue 1/1999 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from Tom Tom Tom (Gummerus, 1998). Introduction by Soila Lehtonen

A father and daughter in a hospital back garden

Bits of nail flick to the ground as Kokko cuts Tom’s nails, leaving rather brittle nail-ends among the lichen. In the middle of the hospital afternoon they’ve made their way down to the little park, to care for the hands of both of them, all four.

In the days before Africa Tom used to nurse Kokko on the living-room sofa and cut the nails on her most difficult hand, pushed the cuticles back and taught her the care that ought to be taken of nails, or she’d have smarting and pain round the cuticles. Kokko used to plead to be taken into his nail cutting lap oftener than she should, even when she’d really have preferred to grow longer nails. More…