by Jenny Jägerfeld
Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 6 and up
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Stockholm Text (July 15, 2014)
About the book:
A coming of age story that centers around seventeen year Maja who, in the midst of coping with the fact that her mother has Asperger's and a complicated relationship with her father, falls in love for the first time. Written by professional psychologist, Jenny Jägerfeld, this novel is told with such bare bones honesty that one can’t help but be drawn in. Maja is both wise beyond her years and naïve in ways one wouldn’t expect. Her story begins with an accident that leaves her 'on the floor bleeding' and ends with a bittersweet revelation.
It was a quarter to one on Thursday the twelfth of April: one day before the so-called unlucky thirteenth. I had just sawn off the tip of my left thumb with an electric saw.
I stared at my thumb—what was left of it, I mean—with its pale midwinter skin and the pinky-red stuff inside. The flesh. In a detached kind of way I noted that I’d sawn it off quite neatly, that the edges of the cut were straight, which was good. Wasn’t it? I searched my mind for relevant experiences but I came up blank. Empty. My knowledge of sawn-off body parts was distinctly limited. Regardless, the cut suddenly became fairly difficult to make out because a massive stream of blood spontaneously spurted right up into the air. Like a tiny geyser.
The saw fell to the floor with a violent crash. Perhaps I dropped it, perhaps I threw it away from me; I don’t remember. I grabbed my thumb with my right hand and held it tight, so tight my knuckles turned white. One second passed, then another. I watched as the saw jerked across the floor, its blade wildly vibrating.
Suddenly it felt as if my stomach was emptying itself of its contents, as if I was in a lift and the cable had just snapped, and instead of slowly travelling upwards I found myself freefalling down the shaft. I was forced to let go of my thumb and grab the back of the chair to keep my balance. That was the green light for the blood: now it spiralled and poured and pumped out from what had once been one of my most important digits. The starched front of my button-down men’s shirt was sprayed red.
Shit. Dad’s going to be angry.
This ought to be hurting, I thought objectively. Why isn’t it hurting?
At that very moment a bomb detonated right in the middle of my hand.
And then another.
The pain was red hot and hard. The pain was absolutely, inconceivably agonising. I tried to breathe but I couldn’t. My throat had closed up. The oxygen had run out.
I looked around the studio in mute panic. All work had stopped. No one was at the potter’s wheel. No one was moulding plaster, bending metal, or messing about with papier-mâché. They were just staring silently in my direction, in the direction of the pool of fresh blood on the floor. At my bloodstained hands and the blood-red handprint on the back of the wooden chair.
They were silent.
They had never been so silent. The only thing you could hear was the saw aggressively attacking the floor. The sound of metal teeth against stone.
It was as though I was forty metres under the sea. The pressure of thousands of square metres of water made my body slow and sluggish. My vision became indistinct and cloudy and the sound of the saw was elongated and distorted. I looked at my classmates. They were gently undulating at their workbenches. Like seaweed, I thought dreamily, in the split second before I finally managed to gasp in some air and scream at the top of my lungs. It was a raw and rasping sound, as if I hadn’t opened my mouth all day.
I screamed, wide-eyed, as one explosion after another went off in my thumb. I screamed like I had never, and I mean ever, screamed before and it was impossible, totally out of the question, to stop. I tried to meet Enzo’s eyes but his expression was difficult to read behind his protective goggles. The elastic around his head was so tight that it dug into his skin and pushed his chubby cheeks upwards, squashing them together underneath the scratched lenses. He broke away from the frozen crowd, moving jerkily like a robot. Without taking his eyes off me he bent down and picked up something small from the floor, something a pinky-red colour, and he stretched out his arm to give it to me. When I didn’t make any attempt to take it he placed it in the palm of my right hand. Then he sank silently to the blood-covered floor, less than a metre away from the saw.
Valter ran. He ran so fast his soft curls flapped about. Normally his movements were slow and dignified. Not now. Never before had I seen him move so fast from his desk to our workbenches at the back. I didn’t hear the characteristic clicking of his heels against the stone floor and that surprised me until I realised it was my own voice, my own continuous bellowing, that prevented every other sound from reaching my ears.
I looked down at my unmangled right hand and studied the object in my palm. I knew what was lying there but still I couldn’t understand it. I just couldn’t, somehow. It was too . . . absurd. Plain out disgusting, in fact.
There in the palm of my hand lay a part of my body. A part of me.
The tip of my thumb.
It was so light, no heavier than a pea, or maybe two. I could hardly feel it.
I didn’t want to look at it but it was impossible not to.
The upper rounded surface of the nail was intact. A little sliver of wood shaving had fastened in the bloody, fleshy side. I glimpsed something white behind the blood and realised it was my bone. My own skeleton.
Abruptly the aggressive hacking of the saw stopped. Valter had wrenched the plug from the wall. And at that exact moment I stopped too, as if the saw and I had been connected to the same socket.
There was silence. An echoing silence.
Valter took a step towards me. He stood too close, like someone with poor social skills, and his breath hit my face in small, minty puffs. He gulped and in his grey-blue eyes I could see alarm. Maybe even panic. It was something about the speed of his irises racing from side to side in tiny, hardly perceptible movements. A few seconds passed as we stood like that, our eyes locked together.
Then there was a noise, a drawn-out whimper. Simultaneously Valter and I looked down at the floor. There was Enzo. It was like someone had paused a frame in a horror movie. The saw was less than ten centimetres from his right ear. He had blood on his cheek and in his hair, and splashes of blood on his goggles. My blood. His brown eyes were staring and his mouth was gaping as if he was about to scream but had been distracted. I noticed that his fly wasn’t zipped up properly.
Suddenly there was the sound of tentative footsteps and electronic tapping. I looked quickly over my shoulder and a blinding bluish-white flash went off right in my face.
It was Simon. Naturally it was Simon. He moved his mobile phone closer to my hand.
Then he pointed it at the floor and Enzo.
The blood, the goggles, his zipper. Everything was illuminated by that deadly flash.
Click. Click. Click.
Self-consciously Enzo shut his mouth. He cleared his throat. From his humiliating position on the floor he said:
‘Stick your thumb in . . . in your mouth. The tip of your thumb, I mean. That’ll make it easier to sew it back on, that’s . . . that’s what I’ve heard.’
Everything started spinning. I heard the click and his voice like an echo, but weirdly distorted:
Click. Stick your thumb in . . . in your mouth.
I fell backwards and my head hit something hard.
It was a merciful release when everything went black.