My name is Sigrid. I was born on this side of the Sjerstad Fjord, and have lived here my whole life. I am seventeen years old.
I work as an apprentice to a carpenter called Trond, a job where I do most of the carrying and lifting and have done since I first started there part time two years, which conveniently coincided with an ‘incident’ Trond won’t divulge any details on but which has left him with quite a bit of back pain, which he manages with the help of a cocktail of booze and barbiturates.
As a boss he’s otherwise fine and even quite indulgent, provided I get everything done and keep the customers away from him. He says weird stuff sometimes, because he’s almost always out of his mind– which puts people off. But I think he’s quite funny, and he has good taste in music and in books.
Obviously my first edition copy of Bukowski’s Crucifix in a Deathhang was a gift from him. A thank you for the time I lent him money to bet on a horse he ‘had a good feeling about’ that came out moderately successful –the ‘proudest moment in his life’.
It’s a bit of a dreary read, but it’s a good enough collection of poems. I’ve had to hide it from my mother, though. Wouldn’t want her to think that I’m harbouring any intellectual ambitions.
‘Keep expectations low and people won’t bother you’ Trond always says when I am taking an order. It’s a good piece of advice, and certainly a half decent business approach in a place where our one competitor is a ferry ride away and is as unambitious as we are.
I read recently in the newspaper, though, that at some point people will get used to ordering things on their computers from anywhere in the world. I mentioned this to Trond, but he brushed it aside and told me to stop reading nonsense.
I am not sure Trond has ever even turned our computer on. I saw him shouting at it once, though. Obviously I manage our accounts.
There’s a saying we have here: Women are as useful as empty bottles. He likes to repeat time and again, when he’s in a bad mood, and usually when I’m washing up his dishes. It’s weird though, because l’m pretty sure I am woman, and I am definitely not useless to him.
‘You’re not one of those women, I think he means,’ my friend Ole helpfully chimed in, when I spoke to her about this.
‘You know, lazy, precious and ungrateful –like me.’
Ole is kind of my hero. She’s an A-grade student headed for Bergen University who I think last opened a textbook about five years ago and has somehow since managed to trick her parents into financing all outsourcing of school work that got her to where she is now– our fjord’s golden girl.
She’s a budding business woman in her own right, earning around a thousand Kroner selling photos of her feet to a small but dedicated and generous group of fans. She doesn’t really need the money, though. She just likes the feeling of being a working woman, and of being needed.
Carpentry is my calling, and I am grateful for everything Trond has taught me from the comforts of his red-wine-stained sofa and to the dulcet tones of Immortal’s In the Heart of Winter. But I do have two other big passions: rowing into nowhere in my little boat, and cannabis.
My name is Ole, I am a girl even though I have a boy’s name. Don’t ask me why. Actually, you can ask me why. It’s actually quite an interesting story. My father had always wanted a son and to call his son Ole– named after his father– Ole Peterson. So when I was born they called me Ole, even though I am a girl and have always been a girl. I have no question about this and it doesn’t worry me.
Sometimes they say because I have a boy’s name I have a strong personality. When I was little I liked to walk up and down many stairs and I would cry if no one came with me. I liked to tell people what to do. When my mother held my hand, I would hold hers, they said. I would lead. Even if I didn’t know where I was going. My father gave me his father’s model airplanes. I found them boring.
I wanted barbie dolls instead, like Sigrid had. That is why I played with her then, maybe the only reason. She was so quiet and uninteresting. I still keep some dolls I never returned.
My therapist says I have no real friends –that I cannot call Sigrid a friend because I am not very good to her, even though I find her quite dependable and sometimes even quite useful. Sigrid has strong rowing abilities and a nice little boat passed down from her father. When it’s not raining and the sea is still and black like oil, we go out sometimes. I talk because it’s quiet and nobody but Sigrid and the seagulls can hear us. Sigrid listens with her eyes a little bit closed.
Sometimes she asks me to sit by the oars while she sits at the front, so she can feel more movement in the waves. So we swap places, I don’t mind. See, I am a good friend. It’s annoying that she does not have her own little engine, though. She can’t take me very far.
Sometimes we go far out enough to get to the little island Sigrid says no one ever goes to except her. I don’t think this is completely true, but I do believe her when she says she wouldn’t mind living here sometimes. There is only an abandoned boathouse with red paint that is going purple. We have to be careful not to touch any nails.
My mother finds it strange that I spend so much time with my strange little friend Sigrid. When I move to Bergen I am sure I will have a boyfriend.
My name is Trond and it is not short for anything. It is a fine Norwegian name. We have many famous Tronds. My father gave me the name because there is nothing complicated about it. That does not sound very interesting, but he was not that sure what else to say about it when I asked him. I live on the same street that my parents did when I was growing up. It’s a good street. There are no problems with it.
When summer comes the grass grows high, I can see the fjord from here but almost everyone can see it from everywhere. Once I went on holiday to London. I have also been to Paris and also Stuttgart. You cannot smell the sea in these cities. I do not think I’ll go back. I don’t like pigeons and all the dog shit. I like my bed here, it’s a good bed. I don’t see many people, maybe one or two when I cross the street, maybe Arthur sometimes when he comes over and we talk about the horses. Arthur says he always wins so much. I have not seen him win once. What is a friend who always lies to feel good? Sometimes I go to the pub but lately I feel like they look at me with a lot of judgement.
Sigrid tells me I should shave my beard sometimes cut myhair. I am going to be sixty next year what is a girl doing telling me how to look, a girl and my employee, sometimes I talk to her openmymouth but different words come out that I say come out don’tcome out. Sigrid is a good kid. Sometimes I go totheshop, come back with many little bags of sugar in my pockets, pull them out one by one give them to sigrid, a funny joke.