We live in Denmark. I have an older brother, Aalma. He complains that there are no other boys in our division. We live within a park bordered on all sides by a decaying stone wall, one built centuries ago. The wall extends higher than the two of us put end to end, even in the most deteriorated parts left from the riots 30 years ago. To exit from the park we usually go via the north gate, the one nearest our stone house. The north gate opens onto the old town.
Aalma has met some local boys from the gamla stan and plans to see tham again this afternoon. However, he is afraid to meet them alone. He thinks they might taunt him or steal his lunch money. He gives me some of his clothes and say's he'll split his allowance with me at the soda shoppe if I come with him and pretend to be his younger brother. I put on his knickers, a white shirt and a worn pair of shoes. Most everything fits except the shoes. Though I am 3 years younger than Aalma, we see eye to eye. He says he'll call me 'Qualle' (Kaal-eh), and we practice so as to not accidentally reveal my identity. I insist on wearing his floppy tweed derby and, over his initial objections, he agrees. A kid brother should wear a large hat too big for his head.
While our mother works in the garden Aalma sneaks me through the carriage house and out the back yard to the gate. We run from the park and quickly reach the gamla stan. On a streetcorner Aalma shouts to a group of boys standing by a bench on the opposite side of the street. In crossing I trip on a cobblestone and am mearly hit by a passing carriage. The passing coachman yells as his hackney swerves to miss me. I stand and make a face at him as he glares over his shoulder.
The boys welcome Aalma with hearty punches over his shoulders and handshakes with three fingers. Aalma introduces me and they all slap my hand.I have to regularly push the derby back from my forehead to keep it from falling to the ground. They tease me that my shoes are too big.I shrug my shoulders, push the hat back and pretend to dance. They laugh... I am having the desired effect for Aalma.
After the introductions we walk down the street to an ice cream shop where, as promised, Aalma splits a soda with me. He gets strawberry, my favorite, even though I know he prefers chocolate. Then we go to the docks and skip rocks on the beach by the bay. One boy, Finnus, brings back two cod heads from the docks. He throws one to another boy, then takes his and pretends to make it talk like his mother. The other boy does the same. Finnus' cod head eats the other one, then Finnus throws them in the water. the water has a large blood streak in it. I do not know if it is from the cod heads or not.
Aalma regularly takes me with him. With the endless rain in the summer we often take to mudfights in the city park of the gamla stan. Mother has been complaining that Aalma seems to dirty his clothes twice as fast as she can clean them. He shrugs his shoulders. I have to cover my mouth to keep from laughing.
One day Aalma gets in a fight with a new boy from Lithuania. His name is Boris and he doesn't speak much danish, but often bullies us, calling us names in Lithuanian. He corners Aalma against a tree and starts punching him. Aalma wrestles him to the ground but Boris doesn't stop. None of the other boys intervene. Boris is very big. I run over and kick him from behind in the shins then push him off Aalma. I grab Aalma's hand and run from the park terrified.
Aalma is coughing, I am crying. His nose is bloody. He wipes it on his sleeve, covered in mud. 'It will wash out. mother won't know. I'll rub it in with the mud.' He calms me down and says he was glad I was there. he makes me smile. I say I will always go with him if I can push Boris in the mud.
I have to start school this year. For the occasion mother has made me three new dresses. I do not like them. I do not like school. They make the girls sit in separate classes and teach us silly things like sewing and needlepoint. However, Aalma regularly shares his primers with me. He tells me about geometry and mathematics. He teaches me how to do multiplication in my head. I have learned how to read faster than any of the other girls because of Aalma.
Aalma tutors me throughout his schooling. When I enter the 8th forme I am allowed to sit with the boys in some of their classes. I do not like the boys in my class. They make fun of me and often tug at my skirt. They are not like the boys I used to know when we played with fish heads.
Sometimes Aalma takes me out as his kid brother, but not in the local village. We travel by train to Gierdsvaardt, further along the coast. I change in the station bathrooms. I am now taller than Aalma so his clothes hang idly from the ends of my wrists and ankles. One day we buy some second hand clothes from a church that fit me. I hide these in our shed.
Aalma and I have decided to go to Gierdsvaardt for the summer festival rather than stay in the village. Mother and father think Aalma has a girlfriend in Gierdsvaardt and thus inisist that I go along to make sure he satys out of trouble. Aalma will start university in Gierdsvaardt in the fall.
I am 14.
We wander around the market stalls near the stan centrumet waiting for some people Aalma knows. Many of them are students at the university and are much older than I. After a while I become very restless and bored, and wander off to listen to the cries of the meat vendors at the far end of the market.
I stand near a platform where a man cries prices for parts of animals cut into halves and quarters. The carcasses have ribs extending from below the decapitated head to beyond the flanks . . far more ribs than they should . . . I try to count the number of ribs in a side but I continually lose track of how far down I have counted and have to start over again. I take a look behind me and follow a large black carriage making its way through the throngs of people in the streets Two big horses pull it. They have irridescent coats of some brown-black color that shine oddly even in the overcast streams of daylight reaching the market square though the roofs of the stalls. The carriage reaches a clearing and speeds up, but then it stops abruptly as the horses bolt, sending it onto the sidewalk. I see that it has hit a young girl crossing the street. She has fallen onto the cobblestones. Before a crowd forms I am one of the ones encircling her. She is turning blue, a swirly blue that begins at the tip of her nose and radiates outward. I feel my hat fall from my head. Her cheeks swirl blue in clockwise and counter-clockwise directions. Her eyes turn blue. She shuts them. All I can see is her blue, blue face. I rush forward and place my hands on her cheeks. I can feel their blue under my fingertips. I pinch her nostrils and tilt her head back. Her purple lips roll forward. I blow into them. I do so again. A man grabs my suspenders. He is tearing me away from her, shouting loudly at me. 'I don't want to kiss her.. ' I don't turn around. 'She'll die.' Someone releases me. I pinch her nostrils again and blow air into her mouth... I should look to see if her chest rises, but I only put a finger on her neck. I feel her carotid pulsing. I turn to blow air through her lips again but they have lost their purple hue. She has started coughing and crying. A man displaces me, staring at me with wild eyes. He says something to me in ... English. I think I understand. He is her father.the anxious woman with the large flowery hat must be her mother.
The police and a doctor arrive in an official looking carriage, black with gold trim. The doctor goes over to the girl, since moved to the back of a cart with some blankets and hay. The doctor opens his black bag and removes a large metallic instrument. It has a smooth end like a spoon, byt with many holes along the bottom. I don't know what the instrument does. I have never seen one like it before. A nearby woman stops him and points to me from the crowd surrounding the incident. The doctor turns and briskly walks towards me.
'What miraculous thing did you do to revive that young girl?! . . It looked as though you breathed the life back into her . .'
I don't know what to say. I don't know what to call what I did. I thought everyone knew how to do it. . .People look at me with awed expressions. I see Aalma with his friends trying to reach me from across the crowd.
'I, . . . it was nothing . . anyone could do it . . it just seemed right.'
I suddenly feel very tired.