فصل 22

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فصل 22

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22

A MAN CALLED OVE AND SOMEONE IN A

GARAGE

Ove and the cat sit in silence in the Saab outside the hospital.

“Stop looking at me as if this is my fault,” says Ove to the cat.

The cat looks back at him as if it isn’t angry but disappointed.

It wasn’t really the plan that he would be sitting outside this hospital again.

He hates hospitals, after all, and now he’s bloody been here three times in less than a week. It’s not right and proper. But no other choice was available to him.

Because today went to pot from the very beginning.

It started with Ove and the cat, during their daily inspection, when they discovered that the sign forbidding vehicular traffic within the residential area had been run over. This inspired such colorful profanities from Ove that the cat looked quite embarrassed. Ove marched off in fury and emerged moments later with his snow shovel. Then he stopped, looking towards Anita and Rune’s house, his jaws clamped so hard that they made a creaking sound.

The cat looked at him accusingly.

“It’s not my fault the old sod went and got old,” he said more firmly.

When the cat didn’t seem to find this to be in any way an acceptable explanation, Ove pointed at it with the snow shovel.“You think this is the first time I’ve had a run-in with the council? That decision about Rune, do you think they’ve actually come to a real conclusion about it? They NEVER will! It’ll go to appeal and then they’ll drag it out and put it through their shitty bureaucratic grind! You understand? You think it’ll happen quickly, but it takes months! Years! You think I’m going to stick around here just because that old sod went all helpless?”

The cat didn’t answer.

“You don’t understand! Understand?” Ove hissed and turned around.

He felt the cat’s eyes on his back as marched inside.

That is not the reason why Ove and the cat are sitting in the Saab in the parking area outside the hospital. But it does have a fairly direct connection with Ove standing there shoveling snow when that journalist woman in her slightly too large green jacket turned up outside his house.

“Ove?” she asked behind him, as if she was concerned that he might have changed his identity since she last came here to disturb him.

Ove continued shoveling without in any way acknowledging her presence.

“I only want to ask you a few questions. . . .” she tried.

“Ask them somewhere else. I don’t want them here,” Ove answered, scattering snow about him in a way that made it difficult to tell whether he was shoveling or digging.

“But I only want t—” she said, but she was interrupted by Ove and the cat going into the house and slamming the door in her face.

Ove and the cat squatted in the hall and waited for her to leave. But she didn’t leave. She started banging on the door and calling out: “But you’re a hero!!!” “She’s absolutely psychotic, that woman,” said Ove to the cat.

The cat didn’t disagree.

When she carried on banging and shouting even louder, Ove didn’t know what to do, so he threw the door open and put his finger over his mouth, hushing her, as if in the next moment he was going to point out that this was actually a library.

She attempted to grin up at his face, waving something that Ove instinctively perceived as a camera of some sort. Or something else. It wasn’t so easyknowing what cameras looked like anymore in this bloody society.

Then she tried to step into his hall. Maybe she shouldn’t have done that.

Ove raised his big hand and pushed her back over the threshold as a reflex, so that she almost fell headfirst into the snow.

“I don’t want anything,” said Ove.

She regained her balance and waved the camera at him, while yelling something. Ove wasn’t listening. He looked at the camera as if it were a weapon, and then decided to flee. This person was clearly not a reasonable person.

So the cat and Ove stepped out the door, locked it, and headed off as quick as they could towards the parking area. The journalist woman jogged along behind them.

To be absolutely clear about it, though, no part of this bears any relation to why Ove is now sitting outside the hospital. But when Parvaneh stood knocking on the door of Ove’s house, fifteen minutes or so later, holding her three-year-old by the hand, and when no one opened and then she heard voices from the parking area, this, so to speak, has a good deal to do with Ove sitting outside the hospital.

Parvaneh and the child came around the corner of the parking area and saw Ove standing outside his closed garage door with his hands sullenly shoved into his pockets. The cat was sitting at his feet looking guilty.

“What are you doing?” said Parvaneh.

“Nothing,” said Ove defensively.

Some knocking sounds were coming from the inside of the garage door.

“What was that?” said Parvaneh, staring at it with surprise.

Ove suddenly seemed extremely interested in a particular section of the asphalt under one of his shoes. The cat looked a bit as if it were about to start whistling and trying to walk away.

Another knock came from the inside of the garage door.

“Hello?” said Parvaneh.

“Hello?” answered the garage door.

Parvaneh’s eyes widened.“Christ . . . have you locked someone in the garage, Ove?!” Ove didn’t answer. Parvaneh shook him as if trying to dislodge some coconuts.

“OVE!”

“Yes, yes. But I didn’t do it on purpose, for God’s sake,” he muttered and wriggled out of her grip.

Parvaneh shook her head.

“Not on purpose?”

“No, not on purpose,” said Ove, as if this should wrap up the discussion.

When he noticed that Parvaneh was obviously expecting some sort of clarification, he scratched his head and sighed.

“Her. Well. She’s one of those journalist people. It wasn’t bloody me who locked her in. I was going to lock myself and the cat in there. But then she followed us. And, you know. Things took their course.”

Parvaneh started massaging her temples.

“I can’t deal with this. . . .”

“Naughty,” said the three-year-old and shook her finger at Ove.

“Hello?” said the garage door.

“There’s no one here!” Ove hissed back.

“But I can hear you!” said the garage door.

Ove sighed and looked despondently at Parvaneh. As if he was about to exclaim: “You hear that, even garage doors are talking to me these days?” Parvaneh waved him aside, walked up to the door, leaned her face up close, and knocked tentatively. The door knocked back. As if it expected to communicate by Morse code from now on. Parvaneh cleared her throat.

“Why do you want to talk to Ove?” she said, relying on the conventional alphabet.

“He’s a hero!”

“A . . . what?”

“Okay, sorry. So: my name is Lena; I work at the local newspaper, and I want to intervie—”

Parvaneh looked at Ove in shock.

“What does she mean, a hero?”

“She’s just prattling on!” Ove protested.

“He saved a man’s life; he’d fallen on the track!” yelled the garage door.“Are you sure you’ve got the right Ove?” said Parvaneh.

Ove looked insulted.

“I see. So now it’s out of the question that I could be a hero, is it?” he muttered.

Parvaneh peered at him suspiciously. The three-year-old tried to grab hold of what was left of the cat’s tail, with an excitable “Kitty!” “Kitty” did not look particularly impressed by this and tried to hide behind Ove’s legs.

“What have you done, Ove?” said Parvaneh in a low, confidential voice, taking two steps away from the garage door.

The three-year-old chased the cat around his feet. Ove tried to figure out what he should do with his hands.

“Ah, so I hauled a suit off the rails, it’s nothing to make a bloody fuss about,” he mumbled.

Parvaneh tried to keep a straight face.

“Or to have a giggle about, actually,” said Ove sourly.

“Sorry,” said Parvaneh.

The garage door called out something that sounded like: “Hello? Are you still there?”

“No!” Ove bellowed.

“Why are you so terrifically angry?” the garage door wondered.

Ove was starting to look hesitant. He leaned towards Parvaneh.

“I . . . don’t know how to get rid of her,” he said, and if Parvaneh had not known better she might have concluded that there was something pleading in his eyes. “I don’t want her in there on her own with the Saab!” he whispered gravely.

Parvaneh nodded, in confirmation of the unfortunate aspects of the situation.

Ove lowered a tired, mediating hand between the three-year-old and the cat before that situation went out of control around his shoes. The three-year-old looked as if she was ready to try to hug the cat. The cat looked as if it was ready to pick out the three-year-old from a lineup at a police station. Ove managed to catch the three-year-old, who burst into peals of laughter.

“Why are you here in the first place?” Ove demanded of Parvaneh as he handed over the little bundle like a sack of potatoes.“We’re taking the bus to the hospital to pick up Patrick and Jimmy,” she answered.

She saw the way Ove’s face twitched above his cheekbones when she said “bus.”

“We . . .” Parvaneh began, as if articulating the beginnings of a thought.

She looked at the garage door, then looked at Ove.

“I can’t hear what you’re saying! Talk louder!” yelled the garage door.

Ove immediately took two steps away from it. At once, Parvaneh smiled confidently at him. As if she had just worked out the solution to a crossword.

“Hey, Ove! How about this: if you give us a lift to the hospital, I’ll help you get rid of this journalist! Okay?”

Ove looked up. He didn’t look a bit convinced. Parvaneh threw out her arms.

“Or I’ll tell the journalist that I can tell a story or two about you, Ove,” she said, raising her eyebrows.

“Story? What story?” the garage door called out and started banging in an excitable manner.

Ove looked dejectedly at the garage door.

“This is blackmail,” he said desperately to Parvaneh.

Parvaneh nodded cheerfully.

“Ove ackatted de clauwn!” said the three-year-old and nodded in an initiated way at the cat, clearly because she felt that Ove’s aversion to the hospital needed further explanation to whoever was not there the last time they went.

The cat seemed not to know what this meant. But if the clown had been anywhere near as tiresome as this three-year-old, the cat didn’t take an entirely negative view of Ove hitting someone.

And so this is the reason why Ove is sitting here now. The cat looks personally let down by Ove for making it travel all the way in the backseat with the threeyear-old. Ove adjusts the newspapers on the seats. He feels he’s been tricked.

When Parvaneh said she’d “get rid of” the journalist, he didn’t have a very clear idea of exactly how she’d manage it. Obviously he didn’t have expectations of the woman being conjured away in a puff of smoke or knocked out with a spade or buried in the desert or anything of that kind.In fact the only thing Parvaneh had done was to open the garage door, give that journalist her card, and say, “Call me and we’ll talk about Ove.” Was that really a way of getting rid of anyone? Ove doesn’t think, properly speaking, that it’s a way of getting rid of anyone at all.

But now it’s too late, of course. Now, damn it, he’s sitting here waiting outside the hospital for the third time in less than a week. Blackmail, that’s what it is.

Added to this, Ove has the cat’s resentful stares to contend with. Something in its eyes reminds him of the way Sonja used to look at him.

“They won’t be coming to take Rune away. They say they’re going to do it, but they’ll be busy with the process for many years,” says Ove to the cat.

Maybe he’s also saying it to Sonja. And maybe to himself. He doesn’t know.

“At least stop feeling so sorry for yourself. If it wasn’t for me you’d be living with the kid, and then you wouldn’t have much left of what you have now for a tail. Think about that!” He snorts at the cat, in an attempt to change the subject.

The cat rolls onto its side, away from Ove, and goes to sleep in protest. Ove looks out the window again. He knows very well that the three-year-old isn’t allergic at all. He knows very well that Parvaneh just lied to him so she wouldn’t have to take care of the Cat Annoyance.

He’s not some bloody senile old man.

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