Filmi poikki

by Hanna Marjut Marttila

Scene 1: A little monkey named Tarina tells a big secret in the middle of the night

Tarina woke me up at exactly three o’clock to tell me she’s pregnant again.

I know the exact time for the simple reason that when she poked me to wake me up I happened to glance at the clock, just like anyone would if someone woke them up in the middle of the night. You look at the clock.

I was using a flashlight for my bedside lamp because my lamp was broken, and when I aimed the beam at the alarm clock, the hands really were pointed at exactly three o’clock.

I also drank some juice, which I always have on my night table because I often get insanely thirsty at night.

I usually wake up pretty quickly.

So I’m not at all slow to wake up like people you usually see in films.

Where the alarm clock can ring and ring and the film person still can’t wake up for the life of him.

Then the film person–the actor, I mean–reaches out and gropes for the alarm clock, and finally manages to stop the racket the clock is making, but then goes immediately back to sleep, of course.

The next shot could be where the actor is driving some whacky old light blue VW bug, like maybe to a funeral, and when the actor finally walks through the doors of the church, he falls down, of course, and the noise echoes through the respectable gathering, and all the funeral guests are very embarrassed for the miserable klutz.

The actor could have his hair messed up, too, or his tie crooked, and at this point the viewers would presumably have formed a pretty firm opinion of the personality of the character; that he’s forgetful and unreliable, because he’s late, and on top of that he’s a clod who stumbles through church doors, but still there’s something human about him because he drives a light blue bug and is a deep sleeper.

I’ve thought about becoming a film director some day.

But my films would never have that kind of heavy sleeper in them, or at least not a light blue bug… But you should keep one thing in mind: It’s extremely unlikely that I’ll realize my dream of being a film director. But that’s a whole other story.

Besides, some of these heavy sleepers are at summer camps for at-risk families, or maybe just some normal kids’ basketball camp – in real life, I mean. And it often happens that some camp director guy bangs on some horrible percussion instrument to wake up all the little campers and yells, hey all you little campers wake up, and after that you end up with about a hundred campers that can’t wake up for the life of them.

But I’m no heavy sleeper. No no no. I wake up quick. Lightning quick.

I kind of think that the reason I wake up lightning quick is because I’ve never slept very long or very soundly, because our family’s nightlife has always been fast-paced and richly eventful, which is why we have a habit of saying — in a joking way — that everybody in the family is a nocturnal swift-moth.

And that must be why Tarina wanted to tell me her secret in the middle of the night; we’re a nocturnal family.

Tarina: I’m pregnant again.

That’s how she said it. Completely laconic. Then she went and sat on the red amanita mushroom stool, and didn’t say anything else.

Laconic means something somebody says that’s brief and pithy.

I know the word from family counseling.

Our family’s family counselor is named Lisa, and we think she’s very nice, although it is somewhat trying that she says laconic all the time.

I’m going to state laconically that your family’s everyday functioning is not up to spec.

I hope this doesn’t sound overly laconic, but you can’t all celebrate Christmas at home.


That’s how Lisa always talks: laconic this and laconic that. But she’s a totally good-natured person and at least she never talks down to us.

But I wasn’t good-natured at all when Tarina woke me up and told me she was pregnant again.

When I heard Tarina’s horrifying words (and glanced at the clock and drank some juice and got my mind around what she had told me), I wanted to know precisely and immediately what name to put on this thing, how to form some kind of complete picture of the situation.

The first thing I wanted to know was, hadn’t she supposedly been taking birth control pills? And didn’t we set up a crystal clear birth-control-pill-taking regimen when she got pregnant the first time?

And didn’t we have a deal that in addition to the birth control pills, there should be a condom on the set every time, now and forever? And so how in the heck could it possibly be that she could be pregnant again?

But Tarina wouldn’t say anything.

Not a single word. And the way she sat there on the mushroom with her lip zipped made me even less good-natured than I may have been previously.

Ok, some of you are going to immediately wonder, what the hell kind of brother is he, asking her a bunch of practical shit when the poor girl is obviously at her wit’s end? I’ll tell you right from the start that it’s always been a principle of mine to get to the heart of a problem quickly and systematically, with legal precision. Otherwise life can get wicked difficult.

The only way to prevent problems from deepening, and possibly ruining your whole life, is to get a grip on practical matters right away.


Actually, it makes me think of Lisa again, because she’s also a firm believer in getting a grip on problems from the practical end.

For instance Lisa and I don’t believe that a person should start with their feelings when a problem comes up, because too much feeling can keep a person from thinking clearly.

Like when somebody’s on a sinking ship.

Wasting time with shades of emotion will do you no good. You have to take charge and do something.

What I mean is, a person on a sinking ship won’t usually go in for discussing how it seems cruel to have water splashing in your face and a boat that’s about to capsize. No no no. The first thing that a person on a sinking ship should do is to check if there are any life jackets and figure out the right way to put them on.

If me or Lisa found ourselves on a sinking ship, don’t even try to tell me that we wouldn’t have already known ahead of time where they keep the life jackets. We would. End of story.

And me and Lisa would have found out ahead of time how to put the life jackets on. Just the opposite from the kind of people who start yelling and screaming, in the middle of the stormy ocean, we’re all gonna die, so let’s hurry up and say that we love each other, and maybe we should say we love God, too, putting the brakes on any sensible action with their emotional behavior.


It’s the same thing with this. Just like I’m not a heavy sleeper, I’m not one of those individuals who, when his sister tells him that she’s pregnant, starts getting emotional and going on and on, like oh, how terrible for you, give us a big hug.

When problems come up you have to do some detailed background research.

In other words, at what point did you blow it? Where did the problem start, basically? What was the root cause of the whole problem?

Which is why I stuck to the fact-finding, and asked if the root cause of this pregnancy problem might be something along the lines of Tarina having forgotten, for instance, to take her birth control pill.

So how in the world could this birth-control-pill forgetfulness possibly have occurred?

We had a strict agreement that she would take a birth control pill directly from her night table first thing in the morning, as soon as she opened her eyes. So how could she be pregnant?

Nothing. She just sat there like an idiot on the stupid mushroom stool and didn’t say a word. She didn’t even make any kind of gesture whatsoever. She was like some kind of bizarre, zipped-lipped, motionless statue.

Except that she had the granite ball that she got from Grandma years ago, that she always has with her, and was rolling it around in her hand.

I was amazed.

Both by her zipped-lipped statueness and her birth-control-pill forgetting.

In the first place, Tarina is not in any way a zipped-lipped, statue-like person by nature. On the contrary, she is a fast-moving, cussing uber-loudmouth.

In the second place, I was under the impression that the whole pill-taking thing had become fairly automatic and routine for her.

We had agreed on a birth-control-pill-taking regimen where every morning she wouldn’t do or think about anything before taking her birth control pill: no breakfast, no shower, no writing dreams in a diary rigamarole (which is one of her heavy habits), and definitely no text messages to one of her dopey friends, like hi, what kind of mascara are you gonna wear today?

No no no. A glass ready on the night table with a drink of juice in it in the evening, a birth control pill down the hatch first thing in the morning, and only then would she start doing her other stuff.

And saying that supposedly there was no juice on the set and she forgot her birth control pill on the way to the kitchen is no excuse, because you can swallow the pills just fine without any official drink. Because the pills are really small and they have a slippery surface which makes them very easy to swallow. Plus they have a thin layer of sugar coating so they’ll taste good. Not any tremendous sugar coating, of course– don’t get the idea that they’re like some kind of sugar bomb you get from Shop n’ Save– but they taste a little bit sweet. Birth control manufacturers were thinking about women, alright, when they took the trouble to put the sugar coating on, because as far as I can tell every woman in the world loves sweets, whether in the form of a birth control pill or a sugar bomb.

Tarina, at least, loves anything sweet, and so does our mom, and Grandma was a big sweet-lover– bulk candy and chocolate, too. Basically all the women in our family have been runners after anything sweet.

And what about the condoms?

The condom issue was also of particular interest to me.

After Tarina got pregnant the first time I took on the job of making very sure that she always had condoms on the set, and this was a completely open thing in our family. If you’ve got the idea– the totally stupid, dingbat idea– that we would get condoms for her on the sly without telling our parents, you’ve got it wrong.

My mom even has a habit of asking regularly if I’m sure that I’ve taken care of getting Tarina her condoms, and she even says sometimes, in a joking way, Thursday’s in charge of the family condoms.

Thursday’s my nickname.

My real name is Torsti.

But I thank God, the very same God that people yell at on a sinking ship, that nobody remembers my real name, because it’s a straight up dingbat name, so everybody calls me Thursday.

They named me Torsti so it would sound good with Tarina.

Tarina and Torsti. Brilliant.

Tarina’s name comes from our grandma, who was named Darjaana.

Darjaana is some kind of a twist on a Karelian name, because Grandma’s mother was from Karelia, but that’s a whole other story again.
I don’t remember Grandma’s mother’s name, but our mom’s name is Meerit, and it’s some kind of a Karelian deal, too, from what I understand.

I’m not just in charge of condoms, I’m also in charge of the family laundry, cleaning, shopping, and Dad’s medicine.

Mom is in charge of the family finances and food preparation. I’ve been mulling over what Lisa would think about me taking charge of the moolah.
Tarina is supposedly in charge of the houseplants and the garbage, but since she’s not at all a practical person, but more of a fast-moving, cussing uber-mega-loudmouth, who is deeply opposed to practical tasks or activities of any kind, the houseplant care and garbage removal at our house have naturally been in pretty poor shape.

Dad isn’t in charge of anything except resting, because he’s so sick, but that’s another story again.

The basic reason that I’m the one who’s in charge of Tarina’s condoms is because I’m a more careful person than she is, to tell you the truth.

Being in charge of the condoms doesn’t bother me at all.

I mean, if some of you have again got some bizarre idea like that boy must be mortified to have to buy his sister’s condoms, then I can set you straight right off– it makes no difference to me whether I buy cigarettes, condoms, or sugar bombs from the Shop n’ Save.

To return to the sinking ship comparison and Tarina’s impractical personality; don’t even try to tell me that on a sinking ship our Tarina wouldn’t be the harshest of the screaming emotional types. She would. And don’t tell me she’d be a sensible searcher for life jackets, either. Not a chance.
In a worst case scenario, there in the listing bark, she would start screaming something about fate, because this fate mumbo-jumbo is Tarina’s favorite thing.

Our Tarina is, you see, a fatalist.

A fatalist is someone who believes that everything that happens in their life is decided ahead of time.

Which reminds me that just as the women in our family have always been crazy about sweets, and their names all have a Karelian emphasis, they’ve also all been fatalists.

Fate this and fate that, and you might as well at least have some damn chocolate on top.

If our Tarina really were on a sinking ship, once again, don’t even try to tell me she wouldn’t start in screaming, out on the stormy seas. She would, and to top it off she’d scream about this very theme of fatalism.

It is my fate to die on the stormy ocean!

This whole thing is dictated by fate!

Hello, comrades in fate!

This bucket of bolts is going down, but we don’t care, because it’s our fate!


That’s exactly what she’d scream.

Alright, alright. Tarina does have other sides to her. She is quite a complicated person in all ways.

Of course, everybody in the world has many different sides to them. I mean a person isn’t just always the same. But our Tarina has an exceptionally large number of different sides.

In these really bad films there’s always some person who’s just nothing but an emotional type, or just nothing but a poker face, and that’s all there is to the film’s gallery of personalities.

It’s always the same formula.

Of course, in some kids’ fantasy films there’s an argument for this kind of setup, so good and evil can battle each other. That way little kids can learn to develop a concept of the basic patterns of life. But it just doesn’t compute for me how you could present this kind of simple sketch of life for adults. It simply isn’t true, and it isn’t an honest picture of people or life at all.

I’ve studied these film questions all on my own from a lot of different books.

But nobody will believe that I’ve studied these film questions all on my own from a lot of different books because people always think that in a nocturnal family like mine, where everyday functioning is often non-existent, there isn’t a single idiot in the family who could study film theory, or any theory, basically, because every member of that kind of family is now and forever a worthless loser.

Preconceived notions like that generally make me really annoyed and non-good-natured.

And it doesn’t matter to me that the basis of these preconceived notions might rest on some statistical facts, because I think that it’s important to make room for other kinds of ideas.

I don’t mean that I don’t believe in statistical facts. It’s just that sometimes there might be a teeny tiny possibility that things could go a different way than the statistical facts predict, and you’ve got to understand that you should make room for this teeny tiny possibility.

There isn’t anybody who’s been to as many family counselors as me and Tarina, and I can tell anybody anytime that they are the very crowd who figures these preconceived ideas are plenty good enough for them. I don’t even want to think about the ideas of ordinary people.

By ordinary people I mean the kind of folks who have a little better situation than, for instance, us. Outwardly, at least.

The kinds of families where the parents have real jobs and you see them bustling around downtown.

Then there are people who are worse-off. I mean the kinds of families that live off of society, where the parents haven’t had a job in ten or fifteen years, and you only see them on the outskirts of town.

The better-off people nearly always have the wrong idea about lives of the worse-off ones, and the worse-off ones have the wrong idea about the better-off ones.

I don’t want to be one of those dingbat stupid types who thinks that people who are better-off don’t have any problems of their own, although money does make a difference, because better-off people’s problems aren’t as noticeable as worse-off people’s.

Plus better-off people and worse-off people avoid each other, and neither one of them knows how to feel comfortable around the other one.


That’s another reason that I like Lisa. She doesn’t have any of these tiresome preconceptions about anything in the world, even though she knows tons of statistical facts.

If Lisa says I’m afraid you can’t celebrate Christmas at home, because your parents are going to drink like fishes, she doesn’t mean that we can’t discuss other possibilities, which is lucky for us.

With a lot of people you wouldn’t be able to.

And Lisa doesn’t think that a member of a nocturnal family that has lost its grip on everyday functioning can’t very well become a film director, even if it is statistically very improbable.

Because according to statistics, if an at-risk family has a lot of risk factors, then the children in that family almost never succeed in life.

Lisa has read a lot about these statistics, and she’s told us about them, too– I mean she’s never tried to paint a pretty picture of the hard road we’ve got in life– but she still stresses all the time that there are possibilities if we just say yes to life. It’s like she says yes to us, but in a totally unyielding way.

We will not yield.

No yielding.

She often says that.

And when she says it, she’s not the slightest bit laconic. Her eyes smolder behind her thick glasses and her thin face turns dark red with will power.

And her voice picks up speed, feverish and strong, and makes the rest of the world hush up, and bow and curtsy.

I sometimes think that Lisa has probably put a little checkmark by who knows how many risk factors on our family’s chart, but she still keeps on supporting us.

Once, when I was plastered, I thought I was in love with Lisa, just like another time I was plastered and I thought I was in love with this girl name Moosa. But let’s forget about my plastered love imaginings.

Oh yeah, another thing about Lisa is that she also thinks that it’s perfectly possible that the parents in an at-risk family can change, if they really exert themselves, like our parents started to exert themselves when Tarina got pregnant the first time. But, like I said before, that’s a whole other story.


OK, then.

But anyhoo, this birth control pill and condom thing interested me a great deal, and I didn’t intend to yield.

I demanded more and more elaboration.

I mean, even if Tarina happened to have the misfortune of forgetting her birth control pill for one reason or another, there was still the back-up procedure, by which I mean the condoms that I bought her.

Tarina and I had a deal that she would keep condoms in lots of different places; in her purse, in her backback, her pencil bag, her glasses case, and in her make-up case. So the possibility that she could have been condomless was exceedingly baffling to me.

If you’ve got that little idea game going again, where you’re thinking that maybe Tarina didn’t have her backpack or her pencil bag or her glasses case or even her purse with her, you can be absolutely certain that she had her make-up bag with her, because she is a make-up fiend and she can’t live without her make-up bag.

So how the hell was it possible that she didn’t take a condom out of said make-up bag and use it?

And please don’t imagine that I would want to know any terribly personal details of Tarina’s bedroom activities. On the contrary, I was actually relieved that she continued to behave like an absolutely mega-class zip-lipped statue there on the mushroom stool.

Because if she had started to report something like, I was with my boyfriend, and we were having such a good time that we forgot the condoms… I probably would have passed out right then and there, because that kind of thing coming out of your own sister’s mouth can wreak havoc on the nerves and cause you to lose consciousness.

A person can lose consciousness due to nerves for many different reasons, but hearing about their own sister’s sex life is sure to do it.

After I had quizzed her on the matter of birth control, the natural next stage of the discussion (ignoring the fact that I had received no answers from her) was of course to ask her how long she had kept her perverted secret to herself.

In other words, what situation were we looking at, time-wise?

And then the worst, and most important question: Who was the father?

The father question was understandably difficult for me to spit out because thinking about a question like that was totally excruciating.

Who was the dork, anyway?

But of course I had to know, because the father question was central from a technical-political point of view, just to find out whether the father in question could possibly be of any use or offer any help in the matter.

But no no no. No answer. I don’t know how in the world she did it, but Tarina kept her mouth shut!

Our Tarina is generally the kind of person who, as soon as she sees that she’s in a weak position or that she’s really messed things up, she’ll tear into you like a wild animal.

And don’t even try to tell me how she might have this wild-animal tendency because of one or two fairly heavy experiences.

I believe that Tarina has this ruckus-raising personality because she comes from a nocturnal family… Or maybe not, I don’t know. Hell, the idea just came into my head. There isn’t always an overwhelming lot of sense in some of my ideas, unfortunately.

On the other hand, as I believe I already mentioned, Tarina’s case is an extremely complicated one, and it isn’t at all easy to predict how she’ll behave or react.

At the moment she had decided to react with a zipped lip.


Extremely annoying.

Her behavior was starting to be really trying.

Finally I said to her that if some answers to my questions didn’t start trickling out of her and pronto, she was going to get the boot right out of my room. No mercy.

Then I aimed the flashlight beam at her face and I said, Tell me who’s the dork that’s the father!

For a minute there was nothing.

For several minutes, nothing.

I waved the flashlight beam around some more, from her face to the ceiling to the wall, and finally, quite suddenly, she threw her damn granite ball in the air, snagged it smoothly in her hand again, looked right at me, and said, It’s Kolja, of course.

Then she covered her face with her hands and started to cry.

Great, I thought.

Just great.

I’ve got her fucking bawling now.

Tarina had messed things up good, so I let her bawl in peace.

But. But. But, when she said It’s Kolja, of course, it inevitably made my head hurt and my blood pressure shoot up, because Kolja is the worst possible candidate for fatherhood that I can imagine.

I don’t know if a worse candidate for fatherhood exists in the whole world.

I really mean it. In the whole world.

The news of Kolja the father was shocking to hear, but it’s another one of those things that’s not as unambiguous as some bad filmmakers might think, or as simple as some family counselor’s narrow preconceived notions and statistical facts might lead them to believe.

If some bad film director created a portrait of the guy who was the cause of Tarina’s pregnancy, and the script said that Kolja was the worst possible candidate for fatherhood in the whole world, you can be sure that this pathetic filmmaker would portray Kolja as some kind of Russian ladies’ man, very good-looking, or maybe rich and well-dressed.

But the reality is just the opposite.

Kolja’s been in love with Tarina as long as we’ve known the guy.

And that was the root of the problem right there.

What I mean is, I was totally sure that if Kolja heard about Tarina’s pregnancy, there would be no holding him back.

He’d start right in planning some intense wedding thing and he’d call the president and say, Have pity president Tarja. We wish to marry, even though my girlfriend is only sixteen.

Russians are really heavy into weddings. Just like they’re into New Year’s, name days, and some damn International Women’s Day thing, they are also into weddings.

And then Kolja would think that all the problems associated with their situation would turn out all happy as soon as they were married. Kolja has no sense in his head. It’s full of appalling Russian fantasies. A really upsetting case. I don’t even want to think about how Kolja would manage on a sinking ship.

Besides, the last time I heard Tarina say anything about Kolja, all she said was that he was a super stupido Russian turd who can get flushed for all I care.

Kolja used to claim to be lucky at lotto, but you’d have to be crazy to say that, or even listen to it. Just like he said he was a person with business sense.

My business sense tells me to buy a lot of lotto tickets all at once.

My business sense tells me that we could make a lot of money selling slices of my grandma’s fruitcake in front of the Shop n’ Save.

My business sense tells me that we should sell slices of my grandma’s fruitcake to other grandmas.


OK already.

You just couldn’t take any of his business ideas seriously if you had the tiniest bit of sense because Kolja is Kolja. He’s a nuisance.

I put up with Kolja for the sole reason that he likes movies, too. But that’s another story again.

But why was it that Tarina had said, Kolja, of course?

It didn’t compute for me, not on any level.

It seemed to me that what Tarina said would indicate some kind of deep feelings of love or some other highly emotionally charged phenomenon, or maybe some unfathomable fate rigamarole (like In a certain sense, it is my fate to be with that Russian turd Kolja), which is Tarina’s blanket method for understanding all the world’s issues and problems.

Thursday: How could it be Kolja?

I swung the flashlight beam back around to her face, but she had zipped up her lips again and refused to comment on the Kolja megaproblem. Not one word.
It was really dark in my room, because there wasn’t any light except for the flashlight.

It hadn’t started to get light, even though it was almost the summer solstice.

Then we heard all kinds of noises.

We heard the neighbor’s radio, then an empty tin can or some other object rattling in the street.

Noises always have a particular sound at night.

And contrary to what you might expect, night noises always calm me down.

If I can return for a moment to the world of film, a lot of stupid movies use the sound of a tin can at night as a scary effect.

First somebody’s murdered in a dark, empty alleyway, then they show a lonely, rusted fruit-cocktail can rolling down the murder alley.

And the tin can is always shown with the camera following it, trying to get the viewer to go along, like it’s a fuse, and something’s going to explode soon.

If I do ever get to be a filmmaker, and if I ever have a scene in my film with a fruit-cocktail can in a murder alley at night, I would at least use a little bit of handheld technique in the scene.

Handheld is when the camera isn’t attached to a stand, but instead is carried on the cameraman’s shoulder.

That way the natural movement gives the shot its own feel and its own pace, which works or doesn’t work, depending on the skill of the director and how careful the cameraman is.

There’s one Finnish movie that uses the handheld technique particularly skillfully.

I don’t remember what it’s called now, because I only saw a little bit of it on Kolja’s video, but it really was a Finnish movie and the scene that I saw was wicked good.

It’s hard to fathom how important this film stuff is to me.

And I’m always embarrassed to talk about the importance of the world of film.

I’m the kind of person who honestly doesn’t get embarrassed buying condoms for his own sister, but I’m the kind of person who does get embarrassed talking about things that are important to me personally.

Of course, this embarrassment about film stuff comes from the fact that the statistics show quite clearly that an at-risk kid can’t be interested in the world of film.


But the world of film is really important to me.

And the world of film is really important to me because whenever I see something really good in a film, I have a feeling of happiness.

It’s very rare for a person to have a feeling of happiness.

So, the handheld scene that I saw on Kolja’s video made a pretty big impression on me, and made me happy, and it felt for a moment, in the middle of an ordinary, merciless day, like life was good, like there was nothing to worry about, in a way, nothing hurt, everything was in balance and problems would work themselves out eventually… But then Kolja spoiled everything.

What he did was click the machine off all of a sudden and say What are you staring at, you Finnish fag?

Kolja often said that I was a Finnish fag.

But I didn’t mind that much, because he called almost all Finnish guys fags, and he did it because of his own low self-esteem about his Russian background.

Then Kolja said that a handheld camera was old-fashioned stuff.

And when I said that I’d never seen handheld shots in a Finnish movie, anyway, Kolja totally freaked out and screamed at me that Finnish movies are the shittiest movies in the world.

He said he, at least, couldn’t think of anything shittier than a Finnish movie, that Finnish film was the greatest shit product in the universe, and besides the director of that movie had a name that sounded Polish, so the handheld scene we saw didn’t even count as Finnish.

Just a click… and the fantastic handheld scene was lost, and so was my moment of happiness.

Thursday: Why’d you turn the movie off?

Kolja: Because you’re a damn Finnish fag! And this movie’s a piece of shit!


That’s the kind of tiresome Russian asshole with low self-esteem he is.

But Kolja’s also a contented, optimistic dope and, most of all, he’s the world’s worst candidate for fatherhood.


OK, then.

But anyhoo, things were heating up and banging around in my brain, like, how was this possible?

How could Tarina be pregnant, and with Kolja?

It seemed completely ludicrous.

Ludicrous means that something is against all common sense. It’s a word our father uses quite often.

Our father doesn’t’ generally use a lot of those kinds of words, or any words, actually, because he’s so sick that he doesn’t say anything at all, but he likes to use the word ludicrous.

Life is ludicrous.

I’m in such a ludicrous mood.

Tiger cake is ludicrous.

Then Tarina started sobbing in earnest.

She cried out loud, her thin frame was shaking, and since she’s an ardent lover of mascara, thick black tears started running down her cheeks.

I tried again to get her to talk, but no no no. Nothing. And pretty soon I realized that she really ought to go to sleep. I wished she would so I could think the whole thing through in peace.

Her crying, or alternatively her zip-lipped statueness, prevented me from thinking.

So I wanted her out of my room, but I still wasn’t going to get sentimental.

I mean, I didn’t say to her softly, Everything will be alright, dear sister. Have some juice. No no no. Not at all. Instead I said to her completely laconically, Off to bed now, little monkey. We’ll talk more later.

I call her little monkey pretty often.

Because she’s little and monkeylike.

She’s a yeller and a screecher and a jumper, for instance.

Tarina: You won’t tell them right away tomorrow, will you?

She said it so suddenly that I almost jumped when her voice snapped on all at once.

She meant, of course, that she didn’t want me to tell our mom and dad, at least not right away.

To be honest, I think Tarina may have been hoping that we would never have to tell our parents anything about the pregnancy.

I thought for a minute about what we should do.

What if we never told anyone about this second pregnancy?

Except maybe Lisa, because Lisa was the kind of person that you wanted to tell everything to.

But the idea of not telling our parents anything about this second pregnancy was pretty tempting.

The thing is, it was very possible that this news would have a profound effect on many of our family’s familial-political agreements, on whether they would last, whether we’d keep them or break them, which could cause all kinds of very distressing problems.

It was also plain as day that Tarina and I were capable of handling the problem and crossing it off our list just fine by ourselves, even without Lisa’s help.

What I mean is, what if Lisa had to tell our parents about it, because of some kind of legal clause about at-risk families, in which case wouldn’t it be more sensible to handle the problem on our own, and not even talk to Lisa about it?


But then I realized that that wasn’t a good idea at all.

Of course we should be as open and honest as possible, because there was too big a risk of getting busted.

On the other hand, I didn’t think it was a good idea to talk to our parents about it the very next day, because the day in question was a Thursday, and Thursdays, and most especially Fridays, are always their whole own thing at our house, but that’s a whole other story again.

Thursday: I won’t tell anybody about it tomorrow.

That’s what I finally promised, but I felt it necessary to add that Tarina should not dream for a minute that we could whitewash this thing or find some easy way out, because as soon as the weekend was past we were going to bring the subject up with our parents completely openly.

And we were also going to call Lisa first thing Monday morning at 9 o’clock, when she has her consulting hours, and tell her everything.


So everything was clear.

Thursday: I assume that’s clear?

Tarina: No fucking shit.

I’ve preserved Tarina’s words here, not because she was cussing, but because her expression was so snappy.

And I felt, lightning quick, that there was some great danger lurking, like there always is in our nocturnal family.

At this point I can probably mention a certain circumstance, which is that, just as members of nocturnal families are lightning quick waker-uppers, they also are unusually quick to react and to predict when something might be about to explode, and in this instance I was absolutely right.

Tarina: No fucking shit I’m going to tell them.

That’s what she said. Then she said Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, over and over.

I cuss quite a lot, but Tarina can really cuss.

You see, Tarina’s so childish that she likes to say fucking stupid, fuck society, fucking juice can, just for fun.

Or maybe not.

Actually, it just occurred to me that almost all the women I know are super-mega-cussers.

Besides Tarina, my mom cusses an awful lot, and so did our grandma, and that girl Moosa that I once thought I was in love with when I was plastered cusses something awful. So it seems that my life is filled with a large proportion of cussing women.

But then Tarina really dropped a bomb.

Because then she said, absolutely laconically, without wavering in her expression at all, that we sure would have to tell our parents, as soon as possible, for the simple fucking reason that in a few fucking months they were going to be fucking grandparents.

I plan to keep this baby.

Then she got up from the amanita mushroom stool just like that, put the granite ball in her pocket, wiped her nose on her sleeve, and marched out of my room.

I closed my eyes.

I thought about the stormy sea again.

That we were on a stormy sea and we’d left every last life jacket on the shore and the storm was going to capsize us for sure, like little toy boats.

I might as well mention that besides thinking about the toy boats, I was also pondering how, considering how many risk factors there were in our at-risk family, Lisa was probably going to end up listing an extra-risky risk factor on our family risk factor list, something like: The at-risk family of losers in question has a teenage daughter who is expecting a baby — future outlook exceptionally weak.

I aimed the flashlight at the alarm clock, coming in for a tight close-up.

The hands pointed to 4.

The neighbor’s nighttime radio was playing.

translated by Lola Rogers

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