One day everybody’s going to Byrk. And on another day they’ll leave there. It’ll be autumn and the rain will beat their faces. Byrk is far, but the road home is longer, and they’re going to freeze until not a nerve’s left in their bodies, and trailers will pass, they don’t yield, hell no, and the only thing everybody will see are the lights on the other side of the fjord, because it’s the middle of the night and there’s no light, and no food, and no dry clothes, and you’re going to sit there swearing, because you’re going too, you won’t be spared, hell no, and you’re going to stop so you can jump into the fjord, but you can’t, you can’t find the fjord, it’s too freaking dark, and where did summer go? you’ll ask, autumn already, it’s fucking impossible to keep track of the seasons, you’re thinking, I know, and I know how it will start, how it started.
Nothing made this summer seem any different than all the others.
It started with me standing on the old tractor at Berflot spreading muck as usual. I stood on the wagon with a shovel and spread the muck on the fields. Good, strong calf-dung it was, and the tractor rolled nicely down the slope in first gear. A nice early summer day it was. But wouldn’t you know the old heap jumped out of gear? And there we went, towards the main road, at a helluva speed. It’s so steep at Berflot, you know, you can almost stand by the house and piss on the road. I thought of jumping but then I thought I’d try and steer the little bugger. But before I knew it, we hit the asphalt with a bump, and the tractor broke in two pieces in the middle.
Everything went completely black. But in reality, when I rubbed my eyes and could see, everything was brown.
I was so fertilized I grew hair where I used to be bare as a baby’s buttocks.
I couldn’t do a thing without a tractor. It’s one or the other, I thought, now you have to make a choice in life, I said to myself. One or the other: a new tractor or a woman. Both: impossible. Tractor: difficult, I thought while making my way uphill. I couldn’t use any fucking tractor. It had to be an Aebi. A ‘59 or ’60 it had to be, the old type. That or nothing. Handlebars, two wheels in front, two on the wagon, and four-wheel drive. The fucking only thing usable. Where it’s this steep anyways. Impossible to get hold of that model. I started on a plan. Normally I don’t make plans. So much to do, with one thing and the other, nothing else to do than spit in your hands and start working, it’s been that way as long as I remember. But now it was all suddenly different somehow, with no tractor there was nothing I could do.
The rest of the summer I washed myself, cleaned myself up, took care of everything, bought a jug of moonshine from Peter, and every time the chance was there I went to the pub or down to Brenner’s old boathouse where everything was happening that summer. It was exhausting. No matter how many baths I took, no matter how much i scrubbed the muck out of every wrinkle and hole in my body, how much I straightened and combed my hair, the only message I got was that I smelled of dung, and no woman would freaking look at me long enough even to blink.
One day I sat talking dung with Brenner, nearby was an obnoxious guy who relentlessly tried to get a word in. None of us knew how he had come in, and I had just grabbed his collar to show him the right way, which of course was ‘out’, when I suddenly discerned a couple of words in his porridgy dialect.
He couldn’t avoid hearing what we were talking about, he said. We’d been talking tractors as usual. This idiot from a distant fjord further south claimed he had a tractor he would sell to me.
“I don’t believe you”, I said.
It’s impossible to get hold of that kind of tractor, and now a little fat guy with less in his head than a smoked herring claimed he had just the tractor I had to have, and I could buy it.
Yes, if I went to Byrk to get it myself, I would even get it for free.
Not for a moment did I believe what he said.
But no matter, I took the bus to Byrk.
I never thought I’d make it there. I never take the bus. But with no tractor there was no alternative. And in the end I arrived. After a lot of trouble I found the farm just as I had heard it described, it was in a terrible terrain, far from both sea and people.
It was the idiot’s wife who opened the door. Or, so I had a bloody hard time believing. It was a little lady with long black hair. Her face I didn’t see until she moved her hair to the back of her shoulder, but then it was like a revelation, a summer in itself, beaches in her chins and butterfly wings on her eyes, and I couldn’t muster a single word, I just stood there gaping, and you know what happens if you stand near enough staring into another person’s eyes, all of a sudden it’s not the eyes you are seeing, but yourself, the mirror image of yourself in her eyes. I didn’t come to my senses before I realised I was staring into the gape of my own mouth in her eyes, which couldn’t have lasted more than a couple of seconds, but it was frightening. I backed off two steps. I can’t remember whether she had already spoken. Anyway I proceded to present my errand.
As I stood there talking about my tractor that had broken in two pieces all of a sudden she was crying. Was the story that sad, I thought, but before I knew it I had her head against my chest. She said something, she spoke, but it was impossible to grasp anything because of that damned dialect, I stood there saying “now, now, in the end all will be well”. And from then on it was just crying and kissing and laying down, and it was away with the thermal clothing, and it was moaning and groaning, before I woke in a bed in Byrk, and there was this woman playing with the new grown hair on my chest. I asked her whether she didn’t want to come with me back to Berflot, but I wasn’t able to understand her answer. She spoke continously, but what she was saying was still a mystery to me. She showed me the tractor. It was a wonder. Just the same model I had had. A bit worn of course, but no rust, virtually. I think maybe she was asking something, but it’s one of the damned curses of that dialect it’s impossible to distinguish questions from normal speech, it just sounds like they’re asking and asking forever, and by then I had fastened the rope to start the engine, and was ready to pull it.
It started fine.
This was wonderful. Before I knew it I was sitting on the seat, the tractor was on the main road, I was under way, and just then I saw that the trees were starting to become yellow, the air had started to get cooler and some ugly clouds were conspiring over the fjord. Autumn was already here, and it was too late for fertilizing, too late for crops and harvest, too late for everything, and it wouldn’t make any fucking difference whether I had a tractor or not.
It started giving off black smoke as I came to Eid. And after that it only became worse. It looked as if the motor was going to call it a night before I came to Beks. That would be unfortunate. A tragedy. Everything depended on the motor taking me to Beks. I had driven all day, and night arrived. I felt nothing, it felt as though my body had taken leave already. The thermal clothing was wet all through. I could see the road only because of the spits of flames coming from the exhaust pipe. Everything was uphill and wood, scabby old pine trees. I counted the curves, the bends, becoming ever narrower and ever more frequent the higher up I got, left, right, narrower and narrower, no feeling in my body, the fingers stuck to the handlebars, my back frozen to the seat, tractor in the middle of the road, no cars, not even a fucking lorry, and I had to get to Beks, that was the only thought in my head, because if I made it to Beks all would be downhill from there, and some way or another I was sure I was going to make it.