At the pace of a snail I walk along the sandy path to the main road. At the junction I lazily wave my horns and decide to turn to the left. Whoever wants to go to Granny’s can turn to the right.
I don’t want to go to Granny’s. I want to go far away from Granny’s.
The snail has four little legs. But when the snail is in a hurry, it grows a thousand. The legs of the thousand-legged snail are also small and soft, but when they all get going, they really speed along. They run away from the police superintendent, from the rector, from Grandpa.
No no no. Not away from Grandpa. Grandpa rises up from under the ground and the haystack. Grandpa creeps from inside the mattress. Grandpa kills the little birds from the bottom of his tummy and conquers their nest. Grandpa is a big young cuckoo, that sleeps inside me and cuckoos inside me.
Cuckoo boom cuckoo boom. The grandpa cuckoo cuckoos in time to my heart. When my heart pauses, Grandpa goes cuckoo.
Grandpa’s nest is shaped like a circle. Grandpa is inside the nest and doesn’t come out of it. And I can’t get inside to turn Grandpa out of my nest, my circle.
A car is speeding along the main road. The sun dazzles me badly, and I can’t make out the colour of the car. Is it Grandpa’s Lada?
I jump into the verge of the road and hide among the frosty stalks of grass.
I count the seconds. One cuckoo two cuckoos three cuckoos four cuckoos. The car stops, a door slams. Heavy footsteps shake the ground. They can’t be Grandpa’s steps. Grandpa is light as a snowflake, and he can’t make any sound while he’s moving.
There’s an eclipse of the sun. I suddenly confess all my sins and make the sign of the cross.
‘What are you doing in the ditch, Saara?’
Superintendent Kukko peers at me from the near distance.
‘Are you, indeed. Get up and I’ll give you a lift.’
‘I’m not going to Granny’s.’
I can’t think of the right answer. I cry to Jesus for help. Without meaning to, I shout out loud, and bursting with laughter Superintendent Kukko lifts me high in the air and points to the sky.
‘That’s where Jesus is. Don’t disturb him. I’ll see to it that you don’t have to go to your Granny’s.’
The pit of my tummy turns over. Grandpa is turning over on his side there. I don’t understand what Kukko wants, but follow him into the police car.
We drive into the yard of the police station. When Kukko goes inside to call Heikki and Kirsti, I open the glove compartment and find a big truncheon there.
Kukko arrives with a beaming face and says that Heikki and Kirsti will be glad to take me. On seeing the truncheon he looks sad and says that it’s not for children.
‘We only use it if we have to. Like if Grandpa tries to escape from prison.’
I put my hand on my tummy and reflect that Grandpa isn’t going to escape anywhere. Grandpa is going to stay in the nest.
‘Is your tummy sore?’ Kukko asks, with concern.
I shake my head violently, and Kukko drives off. On the way he explains to me that the truncheon is never used to hit anyone on the tummy or the head. It’s only used on the soles of the feet and then only if a very bad criminal is involved.
I see Grandpa lying on an iron bed in prison and Kukko beating him on the soles of his feet. Grandpa’s pain passes like electric shocks from the soles of his feet to his head. I tell Kukko that Grandpa mustn’t be harmed. I can feel Grandpa’s pain. Kukko glances at me in surprise and doesn’t say anything. For the last bit of the journey I stare silently at my toes and try not to cry.
translated from Finnish by David McDuff
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