فصل 35

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فصل 35

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35

A MAN CALLED OVE AND SOCIAL

INCOMPETENCE

When Parvaneh, with panic in her eyes, runs right into Ove’s hall and continues into the bathroom without even bothering to say “Good morning,” Ove immediately disputes how one can become so acutely in need of a pee in the space of the twenty seconds it takes her to walk from her own house to his. But “hell has no fury like a pregnant woman in need,” Sonja once informed him. So he keeps his mouth shut.

The neighbors are saying he’s been “like a different person” these last days, that they’ve never seen him so “engaged” before. But as Ove irritably explains to them, that’s only because Ove has never bloody engaged himself in their particular business before. He’s always been a bloody “engaged” person.

Patrick says the way he walks between the houses and slams the doors the whole time is like “a really angry avenging robot from the future.” Ove doesn’t know what he means by that. But, anyway, he’s spent hours at a time in the evenings sitting with Parvaneh and Patrick and the girls, while Patrick to the best of his abilities has tried to get Ove not to put angry fingerprints all over Patrick’s computer monitor whenever he wants to show them something. Jimmy, Mirsad, Adrian, and Anders have also been there. Jimmy has repeatedly tried to get everyone to call Parvaneh and Patrick’s kitchen “The Death Star” and Ove “Darth Ove.” They’ve considered countless plans over the last few days— including planting marijuana in the white-shirted man’s shed, as Rune mighthave suggested—but after a few nights Ove seems to give up. He nods grimly, demands to use the telephone, and shuffles off into the next room to make a call.

He didn’t like doing it. But when there’s a war on, there’s a war.

Parvaneh comes out of the bathroom.

“Are you done?” Ove wonders, as if he’s suspecting this to be some sort of halftime interval.

She nods, but just as they’re on their way out the door she notices something in his living room and stops. Ove is standing in the doorway but he knows very well what she’s staring at.

“It’s . . . Pah! What the hell, it’s nothing special,” he mumbles and tries to wave her out the door.

When she fails to move he gives the edge of the doorframe a hard kick.

“It was only gathering dust. I sanded it down and repainted it and applied another layer of lacquer, that’s all. It’s no big bloody deal,” he grumbles, irritated.

“Oh, Ove,” whispers Parvaneh.

Ove occupies himself checking the threshold with a couple of kicks.

“We can sand it down and repaint it pink. If it’s a girl, I mean,” he mutters.

Clears his throat.

“Or if it’s a boy. Boys can have pink nowadays, can’t they?” Parvaneh looks at the light blue crib, her hand across her mouth.

“If you start crying now you’re not having it,” warns Ove.

And when she starts crying anyway, Ove sighs—“Bloody women”—and turns around and starts walking down the road.

The man in the white shirt extinguishes his cigarette under his shoe and bangs on Anita and Rune’s door about half an hour later. He’s brought along three young men in nurse uniforms, as if he’s expecting violent resistance. When frail little Anita opens the door, the three young men look a touch ashamed of themselves more than anything, but the man in the white shirt takes a step towards her and waves his document in the air as if holding an axe in his hands.“It’s time,” he informs her with a certain impatience and tries to step into the hall.

But she places herself in his way. As much as a person of her size can place herself in anyone’s way.

“No!” she says without budging an inch.

The man in the white shirt stops and looks at her. Shakes his head tiredly at her and tightens the skin around his nose until it almost seems to be swallowed up in his cheek-flesh.

“You’ve had two years to do this the easy way, Anita. And now the decision has been made. And that’s all there is to it.”

He tries to get past her again but Anita stays where she is on her threshold, immovable as an ancient standing stone.

She takes a deep breath without breaking their eye contact.

“What sort of love is it if you hand someone over when it gets difficult?” she cries, her voice shaking with sorrow. “Abandon someone when there’s resistance? Tell me what sort of love that is!”

The man pinches his lips. There’s a nervous twitch around his cheekbones.

“Rune doesn’t even know where he is half the time, the investigation has showed th—”

“But I KNOW!” Anita interrupts and points at the three nurses. “I KNOW!” she cries at them.

“And who’s going to take care of him, Anita?” he asks rhetorically, shaking his head. Then he takes a step forward and gestures for the three nurses to follow him into the house.

“I’m going to take care of him!” answers Anita, her gaze as dark as a burial at sea.

The man in the white shirt just continues shaking his head as he pushes past her. And only then does he see the shadow rising up behind her.

“And so will I,” says Ove.

“And I will,” says Parvaneh.

“And me!” say Patrick, Jimmy, Anders, Adrian, and Mirsad with a single voice as they push their way into the doorway until they’re falling over each other.

The man in the white shirt stops. His eyes narrow into slits.Suddenly a woman wearing beat-up jeans and a slightly too big green windbreaker turns up at his side with a voice recorder in her hand.

“I’m from the local newspaper,” Lena announces, “and I’d like to ask you a few questions.”

The man in the white shirt looks at her for a long time. Then he turns his gaze on Ove. The two men stare at one another in silence. Lena, the journalist, produces a pile of papers from her bag. She presses this into the man’s arms.

“These are all the patients you and your section have been in charge of in recent years. All the people like Rune who have been taken into care and put in homes against their own and their families’ wishes. All the irregularities that have taken place at geriatric residential care where you have been in charge of the placements. All the points where rules have not been followed and correct procedures have not been observed,” she states.

She does so in a tone as if she were handing over the keys of a car he’d just won in the lottery. Then she adds, with a smile:

“The great thing about scrutinizing bureaucracy when you’re a journalist, you see, is that the first people to break the laws of bureaucracy are always the bureaucrats themselves.”

The man in the white shirt does not spare a single look at her. He keeps staring at Ove. Not a word comes from either of them. Slowly, the man in the white shirt clamps his jaws together.

Patrick clears his throat behind Ove and jumps out of the house on his crutches, nodding at the pile of papers in the man’s arms.

“We’ve also got your bank statements from the last seven years. And all the train and air tickets you’ve bought with your card and all the hotels you’ve stayed in. And all the Web history from your work computer. And all your email correspondence, both work and personal . . .” The eyes of the man in the white shirt wander from one to the other. His jaws so tightly clamped together that the skin on his face is turning pale.

“Not that there would be anything you want to keep secret,” says Lena with a smirk.

“Not at all,” Patrick agrees.

“But you know . . .”

“. . . once you start really digging into someone’s past . . .”“. . . you usually find something they’d rather keep to themselves,” says Lena.

“Something they’d rather . . . forget,” Patrick clarifies, with a nod towards the living room, where Rune’s head sticks out of one of the armchairs.

The TV is on in there. A smell of fresh-brewed coffee comes through the door. Patrick points one of his crutches, giving a little poke at the pile of paper in the man’s arms, so that a sprinkling of snow settles over the man’s white shirt.

“I’d especially take a look at that Internet history, if I were you,” he explains.

And then they all stand there. Anita and Parvaneh and that journalist woman and Patrick and Ove and Jimmy and Anders and Adrian and Mirsad and the man in the white shirt and the three nurses, in the sort of silence that only exists in the seconds before all the players in a poker game who have bet everything they’ve got put their cards on the table.

Finally, after an interval that, for all involved, feels like being held underwater with no possibility of breathing, the man in the white shirt starts slowly leafing through the papers in his arms.

“Where did you get all this shit?” he hisses, his shoulders hoisted up around his neck.

“On the InterNET!” rages Ove, abrupt and furious as he steps out of Anita and Rune’s row house with his fists clenched by his hips.

The man in the white shirt looks up again. Lena clears her throat and pokes helpfully at the pile of paper.

“Maybe there’s nothing illegal in all these old records, but my editor is pretty certain that with the right kind of media scrutiny it would take months for your section to go through all the legal processes. Years, maybe . . .” Gently she puts her hand on the man’s shoulder. “So I think it might be easiest for everyone concerned if you just leave now,” she whispers.

And then, to Ove’s sincere surprise, the little man does just that. He turns around and leaves, followed by the three nurses. He goes around the corner and disappears the way shadows do when the sun reaches its apex in the sky. Or like villains at the ends of stories.

Lena nods, self-satisfied, at Ove. “I told you no one has the stomach for a fight with journalists!”

Ove shoves his hands into his pockets.

“Don’t forget what you promised me.” She grins.Ove groans.

“Did you read the letter I sent you, by the way?” she asks.

He shakes his head.

“Do it!” she insists.

Ove answers with something that might either be a “yeah, yeah” or a fierce exhalation of air through the nostrils. Difficult to judge.

When Ove leaves the house an hour later he’s been sitting in the living room, talking quietly and one-to-one with Rune for a long time. Because he and Rune needed to “talk without disruption,” Ove explained irritably before he drove Parvaneh, Anita, and Patrick into the kitchen.

And if Anita hadn’t known better, she could have sworn that in the minutes that followed she heard Rune laughing out loud several times.

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