A faint sound emerged from the night; or maybe it was an almost imperceptible smell that drifted out of the darkness, soothing somehow, like the smell that comes off of boats and wet wooden docks, and though Tweety didn’t grasp it intellectually, he felt how it affected him. It very nearly discharged something inside him, opened it up like a jammed valve in the back of his mind, and all at once he realized that he still had the power.
It positively teemed inside him, especially in his groin and the back of his legs. But mostly it nested inside his chest, stirring in there like something alive. Like a cat. Or maybe it was a bird, the kind that’s on a coat of arms, a silvery bird with its wings spread, and there was no doubt about it; it made him throb. It was almost even better than what he felt at Brownie’s, or what Little Faun’s corsets did to him. Or that redhead on Temppeli street who had black seamed nylons, and a little pussy shaved as smooth as porcelain. But still he acted like nothing was happening. He just stood in the usual way, acting naturally, and tried his best not to think about the whole thing.
But Tweety knew what he was doing–he wasn’t supposed to think about the power. It wasn’t allowed. Like laughing. And it wasn’t some Joe Blow who said so, it was God himself. But it was best not to think about that, either.
Anyway, just thinking about the power scared the hell out of him. As bloodcurdling as when he was a child and he could hear the willy eaters grinding their teeth in the dark, or like the times when he was suddenly sure that cancer was lurking in his bones, or that he’d get AIDS if he didn’t make a green light. Or when he’d get it in his head that Reino might die, or Granny–that he might kill them somehow without meaning to. And it wasn’t just malice. It was punishment for thinking about the power, punishment for it even existing, and for his existing. And when it all flared up at once in his mind: good-bye power. After that, even the most gorgeous woman in the world would get to toddle away, falling down drunk, naked and ready from toes to tits, but it would have been a waste of time to try anything.
Tweety waited a moment, and when nothing gnawed at him he glanced at the other men on the street, scanned both directions for a while, gazing a little longer across the driveway, where “Nightclub” burned in red letters. But still nothing important happened. Just the night dancing, with its skirt blazing in the sky, and the smell of Töölö Bay, and a hint of the smell of August, too, that hazy, dreamy smell that always came at this time of year, when the swallows flocked together during the day.
“Summer is dying,” he whispered, a little as if he were standing at an open grave, and after a brief pause he brushed the front of his shirt, almost like a genuflection, over the very spot where the pocket was, where his knife, just sharpened to a keen edge as evening came on, and the Pouch, were waiting. The movement was completely unintentional, but still there was something startling about it, as if there smoldered inside him a barely restrained desire to send someone else into the bosom of the earth.
He didn’t really want anything like that. He thought the time would go quickly. His internal clock said so, and it wasn’t fast or slow. He also thought about how he knew how to get through the door, and that he was invisible. He was right, at least to the extent that few people would have noticed him. And he didn’t hide at all, he just leaned against the wall in his usual place in front of the arch of the entrance, right where it all had started, and had so far gone pretty well. From the first he had kept still (he was a master at that when it was necessary), plus his clothes were deliberately gray, the same even gray as the granite foundation, and at a glance he was doubtless like some part of the building, a column or something that only dogs would notice when they dribbled a puddle at its foot.
But Tweety wasn’t waiting for a dog. He was waiting for a woman. He still didn’t know who, or what kind of woman, but somewhere deep down he already knew that it would turn out to be a blonde that night, like Wheatenhair, and maybe a little bit pudgy, too; the kind with jolly jiggling breasts and a plump butt. She might even have a teddy or a bustier–he loved those. He could almost see how it would fit: clinging and skintight, like a second skin, and inside would be straps like strands of silk, and a little bow or a flower for decoration. But most of all those lacy cups, holding her breasts like caressing hands.
“Jesus,” Tweety gasped, and made a move to leave–but he was too late. The door of the nightclub moved, then moved again, but the person hesitated coming out. Maybe they were stopping to wait for someone, but they kept their hand on the latch, holding the door ajar. Yellow light flowed out onto the street like liquid, and didn’t dissipate, though the darkness lapped up as much as it could. And voices flew out, mere booming echoes, but still he was able to tell what it was like in there: dim lamps and expensive drinks, and leather, and fine wood, and silk on the women, and drifts of perfume in the air like jungle vines–although he knew of other smells; he’d smelled plenty of different smells coming from the clothes of the people leaving that place.
Tweety glanced sideways; no taxis to be seen. That was a good sign. He got a warm feeling and was suddenly certain that the person coming out would be Her.
But a man came out, the asshole. He was fairly drunk and stumbled out sideways, like the building had squeezed out a turd. His outfit was even brown. Otherwise he looked like the kind of guy whose whole life revolved around Rolexes and Beemers. He stood holding the door open and a woman came out after him. A blonde. Tweety’s insides flared up so that he had to force his gaze downward. He looked at his shoes long enough to say their names–the shoe on the left was Tessy and the one on the right was Moses. Only then did his throat loosen up enough that he dared to look at the woman again.
Lord she was gorgeous! About his age, or maybe in her thirties, thin, but at the same time well filled out, like a doll. Her face was beautiful in a doll-like way, nearly symmetrical, and her dark painted mouth glistened like a berry waiting to be eaten. And her hair–it was really almost white, and covered her forehead like a curtain, but around her ears it suddenly broke free and swirled in a shower over her shoulders.
She was dressed sharp, too. Her jacket was like cream, underneath she was wearing a silky-looking sweater. Her body moved just right inside it. It was probably textured with lace, too. And she smelled like perfume and skin and armpits warm from dancing. But the best thing was her skirt. It was a short miniskirt, green and swishing like jewels. It didn’t even try to cover her rear end. It was just the kind of rear end a woman should have, the kind you notice and immediately want to know what it feels like in your hands.
They didn’t waste any time. They headed to the right, toward Töölö Street, side by side, but keeping a distance between them so it was clear they were meeting for the first time. That’s how it looked anyway. Or smelled. But the man made his move quickly. He stepped closer and threw his arm around her waist in a familiar, practiced gesture. He may have squeezed her furtively. She giggled and stumbled after him. She had a nice giggle, like a rabbit dashing away with a little bell around its neck.
Tweety kept himself still. He never started moving right away, and he wouldn’t now, although he was quite sure they hadn’t noticed him. Besides, he had to have the christening first.
“Your name shall be Silky,” he whispered, staring at Silky’s buttocks. They were worth staring at. They swung playfully under her dress, almost like they were laughing together–and they had a reason: they must have known from experience what amusement awaited them.
“And you shall be the Body,” he continued, in a kind of growl, glancing summarily at some place between the man’s shoulders. He didn’t even know himself how that kind of name came to mind. He usually christened the man the Pig or the Hog. The Body startled him somehow, a little like seeing a flag at half mast. But it was too late to change it. The Body was the Body, and he was walking with his arm around Silky, coming to the corner of the park and turning left.
Tweety shook his head, shaking the unpleasantness out of his mind, and then listened again to the night, but with a purpose now. His ears were pointed, and fuzzy at the edges like a troll’s or some sharp-toothed beast’s. A car went by on Mannerheimintie, or at least a car’s sound and lights, and far off in the direction of Kallio an ambulance howled, wailed like a tormented dragon being dragged down the street.
The night seemed primed, like the first notes of Thus Spake Zarathustra. But it was Carmina Burana that started to play in his head, and he tore himself away from the wall.
Tessy and Moses flitted silently along the asphalt, and Tweety picked up his pace. But it was still just an act. He really was ready to stop any time, to take off running, or stagger like a drunk, or sink like a shadow behind the cars. He himself probably didn’t even know it, but it was all there inside him, as if written on some mysterious disk. The real program for what was coming would initiate inside him of its own accord.
He came to the corner. Silky and the Body passed the hotels and continued straight ahead. Their pace was unhurried, as if they didn’t have a long way to go, and apparently they were on their way to Silky’s place. In front of the nightclub and again at the corner she had made an almost imperceptible pointing gesture. Only now, when he saw them again, did Tweety realize that the man was quite a big guy, but he didn’t stop to think about it. He didn’t usually think about the men as part of the picture, until it was time to take care of them. He was very much a master of that rule.
To tell the truth, he didn’t want to think about the Body because of the fact that he himself was relatively short and slight–perfectly well-built, slim-featured, with thin, work-hardened fingers. Only his head didn’t fit the picture. It seemed to belong to someone else, just like Tweety from Sylvester and Tweety. That’s where he got his nickname, and also from the fact that he’d wanted to be a bird since he was a kid. His real name was Martti, but he’d never liked it. Even before he started school the other kids had figured out how to put an “F” at the beginning.
They walked single file along the ridge of the night, a fair distance between them, but Tweety could still catch Silky’s scent in the air now and then, the thrilling, sweet scent of her perfume, and the sour smell of the evening’s drinks, and at those moments he wanted to rush closer, just so he could hear how her stockinged thighs hissed as they brushed against each other. But he let it go, satisfied that he’d get to pet them, bare. That made him think how sweet it would be if he could be her bustier. He would spread out over her skin and caress her everywhere at once. Though of course it would feel strange if your own face was suddenly made of elastic, with gaping hooks in your lips. Still, it would be worth it. Unless she threw her whole outfit in the washing machine as soon as she got home.
The air smelled like grass and mud and earthworms. They were already coming to Hesperia Park. But the Body and Silky went past the park, continuing along the street on the other side. After the hedge they turned right and Tweety had a powerful feeling that they were almost there. Silky almost radiated it. She was getting ready for something; she changed the rhythm of her steps and lurched a little as well, and even checked furtively to be sure her shoulder bag was still there–and of course in her bag were her keys. Tweety darted from the shelter of the hawthorns.
He stopped when he came to the end of the hedge. His eyes were mere slits, watchful. He didn’t see Silky any more; she had just disappeared around a corner. The street must be Ensign Stål street, the one that narrowed into a dauntingly steep hill. Tweety slipped out from between the cars, and again his right hand glided to his knife pocket, as if on its own. The bottom of the pocket was full of paper rolled into little balls, like tiny birds’ eggs. He chose the second one that found his fingertips–the first one couldn’t necessarily be trusted, it might be overambitious–then, in a practiced motion, he rolled it into a tighter ball.
Tweety stopped at the intersection, rested his free hand on the wall, and peered around the corner. He did this artfully, so that he almost became one with the stone, until he saw what he wanted. He had guessed right; they had stopped halfway up the hill and stood just twenty meters ahead. The Body stood with his hands on his hips and Silky dug through her bag like she was gutting a fish. The keys jangled and they both burst out laughing.
Silky went up the stone steps and the Body went close behind her, swaggering a little, but with an indefinable rubberiness, and it dawned on Tweety that they were a lot more drunk than he’d thought. But that in itself was good. The Body would manage one time at the most, if that. After that they wouldn’t need to be coaxed to sleep, and when they slept, they’d sleep soundly.
The door opened and they stepped inside, or rather the entryway sucked them in, and Tweety was already moving. He dashed up the hill, his feet stabbing the ground like sewing needles, holding the wad of paper in his hand, stretched out in front of him, and somehow he saw that there were no other pedestrians, no bulging eyes, and also that the door had already started to close. But he wasn’t worried: the distance wasn’t even ten meters. Plus he knew entryway doors: they were slow, as ponderous as whales at a wedding, and the springs on some of them kept the door ajar as long as a couple of minutes.
Then Tessy was on the steps, and Moses right behind her, and Tweety grabbed the handle with his free hand–it was a heavy hunk of copper, like a horse’s penis–but he didn’t stop the door completely, just slowed its motion. The fingers of his right hand groped in the bolt recess and found the cold metal latch, and at the same time jammed the paper egg into its angular cavity.
Tweety caressed the handle. Through the crack he could see a glimpse of Silky and The Body. They were waiting for the elevator with their backs to him, and The Body held his hand under Silky’s blazer and caressed her neck. Then the door closed. Tweety controlled his panting. He wanted to hear what the lock would say. It said “Click,” but the accompanying “clack” was missing. Tweety’s chest filled with warm, happy joy.
“The goddamned lamp is broken!” he groaned the next moment, as if he were frightened of his own happiness, and the words, at least, alerted him–he himself didn’t know what they meant. Still, they plopped out of his mouth sometimes, often right at the time that the excitement was petering out. But it wasn’t time for it to peter out or dissipate yet. It was time for a stomach full of crawling fingers, and for being alert. Tweety scanned around himself again, without hurrying. He dissected the street and cars and houses, especially the windows, but he didn’t see any lights. He didn’t even see the usual old lady you see everywhere, unable to sleep, sneaking around, staking out the street, in order to avoid growing old and dying so frighteningly alone.
He crossed to the other side of the street and hoped that Silky lived on the side of the building that faced the street, but he didn’t turn toward the windows yet, it would’ve been too early. He saw in his mind how the elevator came to a stop and the Body began to pull open the accordion door, the defaced sign that read “Children under 12 must be accompanied by a pervert,” and now Silky was reaching toward the lock, maybe she was annoyed by the neighbor’s gravy stinking in the stairwell like armpit sweat.
Tweety stopped at the wall of the opposite house and turned around. Silky’s house was grand: it had five floors and large, recently replaced windows, but they all shone dark. He leaned his head back, and it felt to him like they just came into the foyer and that quite soon a light would go on somewhere–unless she lived on the courtyard side. Although that wouldn’t be a problem: he knew how to get in through the entryway, or he could climb to the floor where the elevator had stopped; after that it was no trick to listen at doors for where she lived.
A light went on! It was the fourth floor, the farthest window on the right, which Tweety saw immediately. At the same time he sketched out the floor and knew that Silky’s door was the last one on the left as you came out of the elevator. The light was pale at first–it was of course a reflection from the foyer–but immediately a lamp came on in an inner room. It was one of those big rice paper balls that women particularly like. He’d often thought about how wild it would be to ignite the bottom edge of one of them and start a farewell fire.
Someone came to the window and pulled the shade down, and Tweety was sure that it was Silky. There was something in the silhouette that was so graceful, and besides, they were in her house. The Body had no doubt already yanked off his shit-brown jacket–but he didn’t want to think any more about that. He also didn’t want to stand there waiting too long, somebody could come along asking unnecessary questions, or at least take note of him. And he knew from experience that waiting around was bad: that’s when the power drained away between his toes–and when it came time to move, he didn’t want to suddenly be Martti–the guy who stuffed himself in Tweety’s hide all day and swiped it for himself, just like he did his clothes, using them like like they belonged to him, so that Tweety was left with nothing but rags.
Tweety started up the hill. He was staring intently at the asphalt, but in reality he was looking inward, watching for what would turn up in his mind. His mind was in some degree unusual. It had a captain’s bridge and a main deck, a little like a sailing ship of old, and then the uncountable mass of lower decks, which were so dim that you had to move through them with a lantern, the lowest of these so deep that their air was filled with the faint stench of formic acid; and from all of them came murmurs and whispers, and on Sundays, music, when a harmonica orchestra of maggots played.
On the very first deck there was a naked woman displayed on a glass chair, but Tweety paid no attention: you couldn’t go on all fours when you were outdoors–and besides, he already knew what he wanted. He wanted it when he came home at the end of a day of work to Wheatenhair’s house.
“My darling,” Wheatenhair said–she was at the door to meet him, she had of course heard him swing the Merc into the driveway.
“You must have had quite a day,” she continued, and her voice was a comfort. When he heard it, he had permission to be tired, to just be himself.
“I sure did. They faxed the new spring designs from Brussels. But Weckman didn’t remember the heels, of course.”
“Hell, sometimes I have a mind to fire him. But he has such an impeccable sense of fashion trends. He can sniff out the next season’s colors exactly.”
“Darling,” Wheatenhair said again, and came closer. To hell with Weckmans and shoes; she was a splendid woman. She was blonde and stately and above all intelligent. She was his wife. And at that moment, from the apartment behind her, came the smell of roast beef and garlic potatoes, and the calming sound of Herbie Mann’s soft flute floating from the living room.
“Darling,” she breathed, wrapping her arms around him. She was there, quite secure, soft and warm. She pressed her face into his neck and tasted it in small kisses. She loved him. And it wasn’t just that she needed him, or used him for money–it was LOVE–like a power current that flowed from her fingers into him, and he felt good, and he knew that life had meaning.
“Darling,” she ran her fingers over his back, and only now did he notice that she was wearing the raw silk robe that he’d brought her from London. It slid open on its own, and he moved his hand to her waist. Her skin was like satin. His fingers searched, and under the coat she was wearing a black brassiere, the one that was like a poem flushed with longing, and she had on those panties, the kind that would have fit in a matchbox, and thin, lacy stockings that stayed up by themselves.
“Darling,” she whispered, and silently opened his fly, and then they went toward the bedroom, Wheatenhair in front, her buttocks tight against his groin, and with his right hand he caressed her breasts, their raisin noses, and his left hand glided over her smooth belly, and lower, over the skin below her waist, and then there was meadowfleece in his fingers, and, suddenly, honey as well.
“Darling,” Wheatenhair stammered.
First from behind. Then the missionary position. Then in a chair with her on his lap, then on top of the desk. He didn’t say anything. His hands spoke for him: they rolled up the morning coat, his little fingers pulled her pants down, and Wheatenhair sighed and bent over, and there were her white hips, and her buttocks; and his penis was like a copper door handle.
Tweety turned onto Ensign Stål Street–coming from Hesperian Street as he had before, but from the other direction now–and immediately looked up. Silky’s window was dark, just like he’d thought. It had been a little over an hour.
He headed straight to the entrance, with calm steps now, as if he were on his way home. Just before he reached the door he tugged at the zipper of his shirt and thrust his hand to his breast pocket, and his fingers immediately found the knife handle. He fingered it for a moment, long enough to find the silver skull’s face sunk into the wood, the eye sockets, the teeth, and only then did he make sure that the Pouch was in its place. It was like a second heart. It was a narrow pocket of sewn chamois, and when he shook it, he could hear the soft jangle of metal, almost like there were bars of brass inside, and some animal gently gnawing at them.
He went up the stairs, grabbed the handle, and pulled. The door opened. Of course it opened, he knew it would all along. He scooped the paper egg out of the bolt’s nest, slipped it into his pocket, and stepped inside, and Carmina Burana started to play in his head again, the part where the women’s voices are at their most powerful. He stood on the doormat without moving and listened to the music, and to the sound of the door as it closed itself. The blue wedge of streetlight grew narrower and narrower on the floor, and then it wasn’t there anymore, and the lock said “click-clack,” and that was very good.
Tweety didn’t turn the lights on; he never turned the lights on. He gave his eyes time to adjust and tried to guess what position Silky slept in; on her stomach, he thought, with her hands under her head and her legs spread a bit. Her teddy would have ended up on the floor, just an empty shell now, but with her smell still in it, and maybe it would find its way to his hand when he came, silent and low, along the floor, like a gigantic boa constrictor.
From Harjunpää ja rakkaudden nalka (Helsinki: Otava, 1993). By arrangement with the publisher. Translation copyright 2007 by Lola Rogers. All rights reserved.