Tapenade. Gro Dahle


Din volumul „Hvor som helst, hvem som helst”.

It was the tapenade. The one he’d had with her when they had been in Paris last time. The olive and tomato tapenade. She didn’t know where she was going to put it. On the shelf with the flour and the sugar and the flat bags of soup and sauces? In the fridge? In the storage room? She went about for three days asking herself where was the best place to put it. On the fourth day she thought it belonged there, on the countertop. There was also a nicely shaped glass and a label that was decorative and tasteful. So she left it there.

There was something else with the red onion. She left it lying on the front of the countertop. She simply got rid of it after the dinner preparations, just pushed it to the side. Yes, she pushed the red onion into the wall next to the tapenade and left it. And there it remained lying. Not alone for long. It got company. It was the bowl of grapes that still had few left in it. She thought maybe she’d have them for supper, but when the evening came she had forgotten about them and instead ate an apple and drank a cup of tea.

The day after, the mail was hanging at the edge of the counter. It was not advertising, which went straight into the paper collection, but not personal mail either, that would have been opened immediately, nor was it bills. It was just a bank statement, and she was going to take care of it, she would place it next to the other papers, just not now, a little later. Thus, it was there. And it attracted several things, attracted a change of address release, a glove that had actually been lying on the floor, a hammer.

Now the countertop was messy, she saw it, she thought about it, she had to take the hammer into the storage room, but not right now, she would take it later. And the hammer drew half a pack of biscuits from brunch, the butter was also there and a newly washed plastic container she should have put in the cupboard. But she could not wait for it. So she went to the store. And that’s when it really took off, for she left all the goods on the counter. There was no room in the closet. And there had to be somewhere she could put them. Besides, she would use most of them for dinner. There was the bag of tomatoes. There was the pack of scallions. There were two cans of cherries. And the can of peaches. There was pizza spice, cinnamon. Cucumber, cabbage. There was rice. Two packs of rice, one she would open, the other waiting to find its place in the closet. There was a white bag of sugar, but she had forgotten that she had already bought sugar, there were already four kilos of sugar in the cupboard, so the bag of sugar remained on the countertop. She would deal with it later.

In a way, she found it cozy. When she came from the hallway and into the kitchen, she thought it was really cozy. It was like a farmer’s kitchen, she thought. It was such a homey, unpretentious farmer’s kitchen. A rustic Provence kitchen, she thought, and thus it was done. She had named the kitchen counter as the storage for vegetables, mail and both dry and canned goods. The pack of rice had begun to spread its fine, white grains between the other goods. The dishes had also begun to pile up. Plates and cutlery filled the sink and gradually crept farther and farther to the stove on the right. The detergent was standing in the place it had always been, but was no longer visible behind the oil, the ketchup, the sea salt and the thermos. The white washing brush, which used to stand in a white plastic container for storing such things was fleeing beneath the lettuce bowl on its way to the corner. The cloth no longer hung on the faucet, instead it lay inside a pan. There were unwashed glasses in the sink. During daytime, the dishes multiplied exponentially. All of a sudden, the dinner plates were balancing on a structure of deep bowls. The plastic bags had crept from under the cabinet and onto the floor.

The next day there was no longer any space on the countertop and the table had to be used. It was initially newspapers and mail, but it was not long before the food moved from the counter and cupboard and onto the table. The sofa was a warehouse for papers. The chair next to the wall was a rack of clothes. Bags of groceries were standing on the floor by the fridge.

She had no idea where all the crumbs came from. It was as if they had flocked from all the houses in the neighborhood and settled here with her in a wide strip in front of the kitchen sink. The strip was becoming wider and the crumbs had soon taken the floor under the dining table and was heading for the threshold of the living room. Crumbs became mixed with sand, small stones, pine needles and dust that had gathered in large dots. Just looking at the floor made her tired. Just looking at the sink, countertop, table! And she could not clean. Could not bear to vacuum, could not find the broom, did not go out with the garbage. Just looking at the counter made her tired throughout.

It towered up. And finally she sank to her knees. And when she first got on her knees, she could not get up. She rolled over and stood still. That was when she felt the dust come. It came from everywhere. She heard a faint hiss that grew in strength. She first saw it as a grayness, a haze along the floor surface. At first she thought there was something wrong with her sight. Then she realized that there were clouds of tiny particles that approached. She closed her eyes for a moment. Then she felt it. It was like a faint breath. It tickled her skin with lint and dust-balls. It was over her and around her on all sides.

Then she noticed how it tingled her nose, itched her eyes. And she could see a thin layer of gray dust on the skin of the hands and arms. When she blew on it, it whirled up in tiny twinkling lights. She was just lying in the dust looking at it through the brighter fields of sun that came through the kitchen windows. A silent ballet of dust and light. And she was so tranquil. The only thing that existed in the world were these glimpses of dust in the light. And for the first time in weeks, she smiled and surrendered. And dust enveloped her, covered her mess and no one knew she was there until a few days later.

It was beginning to darken. The light had moved from the south window to the western one. Then she heard someone unlock the front door. Stepping in the hallway. She heard someone shout:


And then again: „Hello? I’m home.”

His steps got closer now. He was in the kitchen. They stopped next to her head. He doesn’t see me, she thought, because I am not here, she thought and did not breathe. The entire room held its breath.

„What in the world has happened here,” he said, and she could hear the crackle in his knee as he bowed down. She heard his breath. He was scared. Of course he was scared. She touched his hand. She tried to wave. Then he stopped for a moment. „Oh, then,” he said and moved away a cardboard box. „Is this where you are?” he said. He had the angry voice even though he did not say angry things. He just breathed. He removed some plastic and slightly crumpled tissue paper from her face. Now she looked straight at him. He had that look.

„Dear God,” he said, shaking his head.

„It was the tapenade,” she said, „the one you brought from Paris.”

He helped her up, brushed her, picked the lint and pine needles out of her hair, removed a small sugar ant, caressed her cheek. He had to laugh. To think that it would go so wrong. Only three weeks and two days.

„You’re weird,” he said. Then he kissed her on the forehead. Put his arms around her, hugged her, lifted her up.

„It was not so bad,” she said, almost without breath as he held her so hard. „It was so nice with the afternoon lights,” she said, „how the dust sparkled. You should have seen it.”


Og nissen bøyer hodet for sola. Gro Dahle


Din volumul „Hvem som helst, hvor som helst”.

And the gnome bows his head for the sun

Day after day he goes through the thicket to feed the deer. He counts the birds and makes a note in a small yellow book. He pats the fox on its back, he sings to the hare. Night after night he sits under the spruce tree to hear the cones fall. He is inside a big lung. Everything fits together, the gnome thinks and leans back against the tree trunk. A back support. And the moon kisses him on the forehead.

When he comes home, there is steam on the windows. The gnome takes off the wet jacket and hangs it over by the stove. The floor is covered with dry pine needles and heather and white moss. And the little son has locked himself in again.

„You get to talk to him, you” says the wife with raisins between her teeth.

„Which one?” asks the gnome, „The fifth?”

„Who else” answers the wife.

The gnome goes up the narrow staircase, while the wife hauls the cat out from the oven by the tail. He knocks on the little door.

No one answers.

„My little fay” says the father.

No one answers. But with his ear against the door, he hears the chugging inside. Then he lures him as skilfully as he can, with cream porridge in his voice and butter islands and cinnamon and sugar. He lures him with Christmas and bells and a great gift waiting for him in the closet. But his son still does not open the door. Then, the father begins to threaten. He says:

„If you don’t come out now, we’ll send you to the humans. And you’ll have to sit all night long in a room that smells like smoke. And you’ll have to drink tainted water, drink juice that sticks in your mouth. You’ll have to wash your hair twice a day with soap that burns your eyes,” says the gnome and peeks through the keyhole.

He sees nothing but the key. He goes on: „And you’ll live so tightly packed in the tower that you hear the neighbors crying through the walls and there is a foul smell in the stairwell and if someone cries for help, no one comes running. And you’ll have to sit inside days in a row under a blue light that stings your eyes. And it is not allowed to speak, it is not allowed to walk around, it is not allowed to sing and certainly not allowed to dance, says the gnome. And your bones will wither under you because you are just sitting and sitting all day, trapped at a square table, all day in a room with almost no air. And if you don’t come out now, we have to send you there”, threatens the gnome, „and the others will push you so you would fall and hit your front teeth. And when you’ll fall, you’ll fall hard. If you run, your knees and back will hurt. And your arms will fall asleep in your pockets. And your eyes will be nearsighted and confined never to see far and wide.”

Thus says the gnome and listens with his ear to the keyhole. It’s quiet in there. Very quiet. He may be asleep, thinks the gnome. He is hungry for porridge. Hungry for his wife that smells of vanilla and cardamom, cinnamon and brown sugar, flesh and coffee and diesel. The day has started to roll. The darkness presses in from the corners. Soon he must light the lamps. „Come out, then,” he says to the door. „Come forward, then,” he says. „Otherwise we have to send you to the humans. And once there, you’ll start to cough,” he says. „For the air is not to breathe in. You will begin to cough, my young boy,” says the gnome. „And the cough is going to settle deep in your throat. And when you breathe, you’ll feel like you never get enough. And you will hear strange noises in your throat. And there are diseases there. And they have wild animals in the house. And if they do not hold them in place with chains, the animals will bite. And they eat happy food while watching kicking and fighting. And they scare the birds out of the woods and they shoot for the foxes. And they catch the hares in snares,” says the gnome. „And the smoke from the garbage dumps darkens the sky and soot gets stuck in the mouth. And everything they touch, it turns to poison. And the poison flows into the ground, into the rivers, into the sea. And the fish die. And everything dies. They whale stock routes through the woods. Build cities, raise factories. Wipe out all in large areas, bushes, grass, trees. Then the air is gone,” says the gnome and kneels next to the door. Then the son unlocks it. And the gnome gets up and smiles. And the son is small and pale.

„How do humans look like?” asks the son, „Are they big?”. „Yes, big, huge,” says the father, „with long fingers and tall, pointy boots. And they have black in their teeth.”

„I don’t believe in humans, I,” says the boy. „I don’t believe in either humans, or trolls or black holes,” he says with filled eyes.

„No, then,” says the gnome and twists his beard. „But you do believe in porridge, is that right?”

Yes, the son believes in that. And in fudge and gingerbread and donuts and almonds and kinks. The food is ready. Everyone sits around the table. And the room glows with porridge. And it is almost Christmas. Almost Christmas. And the warmth spreads through the room like warm milk with honey. And the gnome says loud and clear so everyone can hear it, that this year the fifth one will join the Christmas round through the forest with food for animals and bells and lights.

Later, when the house is caught in slumber’s grasp, then the gnome and his wife pair up next to the wall. And the short, broad wife stands on all fours like a badger. And they are so quiet, so quiet in the dim light. In all directions, as far as the eye can see, there is the dark brown wood with heavy shoulders. And everything is both beautiful and ugly.