Writer: O. E. Lönnberg
Sing, Sing, Foul Tongue
The girl went silent. She was clearly nervous: you could tell from the shaking of the paper. She was not beautiful – not in the way people are.
Everything was wrong with her face: the features were heavy, eyebrows bushy, skin wrinkled. Her hair was an ungroomed mane. The girl looked like what she was. A troll.
The girl tried to start her poem again. ”This morning I closed the window for the first time since May –”
The grumbling began again as soon as she opened her mouth. She pronounced the words carefully, but they did not fit her mouth. The words puckered and scratched like teeth that had grown askew. Eventually, the words drowned in scorn.
”Learn to talk, creature!” someone shouted from the crowd. His words were met with loud support; people cheered him and slammed their pint mugs against the tables.
For a moment the girl was silent. She stared straight ahead, into the emptiness somewhere far away. Then she started again.
The bar fell silent as people focused on listening to her sonorous voice and the way it stemmed from deep in her throat. She did not speak a language anyone in the room could understand, but she spoke the language that was her own, and after the words ended, the silence echoed.
Under the Heavy Waves
Father’s expression was grim. It was apparent from a distance that everything wasn’t as it should be with the fishing nets. As we pulled them up, they were heavy, as if the catch was humongous. Dad was the one who pulled it up and threw it on the deck.
”Look at it, boy,” father mumbled. ”That’s what the folk of the waters look like.”
And I looked.
The girl had been barely my age. She was severely tangled in the net, and the mesh had cut deep into her skin. The bleary, lifeless eyes stared at me from the bottom of the boat. They did not look human to me; they were more like the eyes of a fish.
I could imagine the panic, the desperate struggle when she had realized she could no longer reach the surface. That she would drown here, in this net of ours.
”If it were up to me, I would nail that filth to the end of the dock,” dad snarled. ”But your mother does not tolerate that, no, even though they had eaten every catch! She says it smells.”
He cut the girl from the net and threw the broken netting overboard. It was beyond repair. Finally, dad pushed the girl’s swollen body overboard. It sank slowly below the waves, and finally, the cloudy eyes disappeared from sight.
Cuckoo in the Nest
The girl was staring at her little brother. Something in her quiet, expressionless eyes made me uneasy, but I couldn’t just tell her not to look, could I? So there she stood and stared.
”It’s hungry,” she suddenly said. ”Like a little piggy.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. You didn’t speak about another person like that, not in our family! I tried to say something, but not a word came out of my mouth. Somewhere far away the cuckoo sang.
The sound reminded me of a similar summer evening many years ago. My daughter was just a baby then, and the cuckoo had sung then too. We had been sitting by the fire and listening to it with my husband, on an evening much like this one.
I had gotten anxious back then, and an undefined fear had taken over me. I got up and walked to the cottage to check that my daughter was alright. After all these years, I still could swear that at the moment when I walked up the stairs of the porch, I saw a shadow disappearing behind the corner. With my heart in my throat, I ran to the cradle.
There she was, waiting for me, eyes open and bright, but no sound. She had not cried. As I lifted my child into my arms, she went for my breast and fed more eagerly than ever before. I still remember that feeling: relief, mixed with confusion.
”I’m hungry too!” That wrenched me back from my memories. Yes, my daughter was hungry. My little girl. She was always hungry. Had been since that day. Every moment. The cuckoo sang again.