The Wooden Expression
A honk wakes me. I glance at the clock. 6:22 AM on a …. it takes me a moment to remember the day; Saturday. It’s six in the morning on a Saturday. What kind of person is up at this hour?! I get up from my bed and sneak a look through the curtains with my eyes. Or, well, my good one eye.
My room is essentially the basement of the villa, so my windows are at ground-level, thus limiting my sight, but even so I still manage to make out some details. People are moving in and out of Harvarsson’s house, the house next to us. Correction perhaps; what used to be Harvarsson’s house. He suffered a stroke three months ago, and the house has stood vacant since then. But not anymore apparently.
A small of army of people are carrying cardboard boxes inside. But where is the occupant to-be…?
As soon as I spot him I wonder how I missed him in the first place. He is tall, standing close to two metres. His height and his expression are the only things I can make out. And that expression?
If one is stern, and ten is Ivan Drago on Botox then that man is a solid eight. I shake my head. It’s too early for this shit- I hit the sack again.
“I said, go away!”
An old man looks in through the gap of the door. “I have made pancakes. American-style. That’s all.” He closes the door. I just lie in my bed, contemplating whether it’s worth getting up for pancakes or if I should try to get some sleep. I look at the clock. 10.09. Agh. Better get up. Not as if would be able to sleep again.
I get up and walk across my room. At a generous twenty-two square metres the room is half the size of some people’s apartments, not that size is anything that care about. I open a bureau and rifle for some clothes. Sweatpants, a large t-shirt with the text “Where do whores go” followed by a silhouette of a small scarred man.
I take a look in the turn of the century mirror that adorns my left wall. A young man, with dusky skin, an eye-patch covering his left eye and shoulder-length hair stares back. I step closer to the mirror.You can even see the beginning of the scar, the scar which starts above my eyepatch. If I were to remove it the reflected image would show a vertical scar starting above my eyebrow and descending down across my left eye. My useless eye. The other scar is much easier to spot, and by the same token much harder to hide. It starts slightly to left of my nostrils, extends over the ridge of my nose before splitting into a horizontal Y-shape paralell with my right eye . At the very least the scars don’t look so red anymore, and they don’t ache as often as they used to, so I got that going for me.
That’s me. Rune Fallowfell.
It could be worse. Thanks to my skin the scars don’t stand out as much.
Let me tell ya; getting used to look like a combination of Ichabod Crane and Frankenstein’s Monster is one thing. Gettting used to scars that throb as soon it rains, or when there is lightening, or when you smile, that’s the real bitch.
I take one hand through my hair.It’s long. Too long. If Mom was here she’d- I grab that thought and I grind it into dust before it grabs hold. Mom is dead. Dad is dead. Alexandra is dead. They’re all dead. Thinking about them won’t do me any good.
I walk up through the villa, to the second floor. The house, or my house really, consists of two planes, a basement which I occupy, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, two living rooms and is in general meant to be lived in by a large family. Too bad only an old man and grumpy teenager lives here now.
I find Hermann standing in the kitchen wearing slacks and a proper vest.He grabs a pan and flips a pancake over in a deft move. The clothes look like they cost 2000 kronor, which means that they probably cost 6000. The rumor is that someone once asked him dress more casual. So he removed the tie. When asked why just the tie, he replied, “I have never liked them. Besides, they can be used to strangle a man, if used properly”.
“Sit, sit.” He motions to the kitchen-table. ” I have made enough pancakes for an army, so don’t disappoint me now.” I grab a stack of three, apply butter and syrup between each pancake and I start to eat. Meanwhile, I glance at Hermann.
He isn’t much to look at. Short. Bald. In shape, as much as seventy-something man can be. He works as an accountant, but I know for a fact that he hasn’t always been one. Under that vest are scars, a big jumble of them. And then there is the Bloody Night incident. Once upon a time, on Halloween, a couple of seniors of the local gymnasium decided to paint Hermann’s house in red- nobody knows the reason why, maybe they saw him as an convenient victim or something. Hermann didn’t bat an eye, wasn’t the least outraged, to the vast disappointment of those four seniors. He didn’t file an report, and the incident was soon forgotten. But about a month later, someone painted the houses of those four seniors in red, almost if to retaliate. The police examined the red fluid, thinking it be paint. It wasn’t. It was human blood, and all four of the houses had been covered in enough of it to fill a dozen people. Needless to say, nobody has ever bothered Hermann again.
He also happens to be my legal guardian. My parents made him my godfather when I was born, with the promise of “should anything happen…”, and unlike the circumstances of most people, something did happen.
Namely a car crash. I won’t bother you with bloody details, and they were bloody, but when the smoke cleared there wasn’t much to bury. Pieces really. I stab the second stack of pancakes with more force than I’d intended. “Rune.” I look up. “What?”
“There is a week left…. how do you feel?”
My stomach twists and knots, like a pretzel. One week. I glance briefly at the clock. More like 155 hours, twenty minutes and four seconds left.”I feel fine. Dandy. Superb.” Hermann’s expression is incredulous.
“You don’t seem fine.” He shakes his head and changes the subject. “Have you heard about our new neighbour?”
“Actually I have. He woke me up. At six am.” Hermann sighs. “You don’t have to be so literal. The therapist has spoken to you about this, yes?”
“It’s not easy. I am who I am.” “And nobody wants you to be any different. Just… just try to reign in some of your impulses.”
“Anyhow. You should-”
“… greet him.”
“…if he wants any help?”
“Ah cmon, Hermann, you know how I feel about strangers.”
“I do. Which is why I think it would be best for you to meet some more. Look, in the spirit of a compromise– ten minutes. All you have to do is survive ten minutes. Deal?”
We stare at each other. Seconds, even minutes pass. Eventually I feel my eyes starting to dry up, and I have no choice but to blink. Dammit! Seriously, he must be using eye-drops or something in order to be able to stare like that. No ordinary person have eyes that moisturized!
“Yes. You have a deal. Now let me finish my pancakes in peace.” Hermann cackles like an old lady.