:This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product ofthe author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons,living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Nobody knew my rose of the world but me
The American girl. . .
It happened at Bule Marsh 1969–2008. . .
The District . . .
Bengt and the American girl(Bengt’s story) . . .
The house in the darker part of the woods(Sandra’s story 1) . . .
The most beautiful story ever told • The story about the house on the First Cape/Doris’s
The women and the whores(Sandra and Doris’s story 1) . . .
1. The women • Women in a state of emergency • 2. . . . and the whores • The end of the Mystery
with the American girl
When the summer throws you away (Sandra and Doris’s story 2) . . .
Doris’s death • Going away
The Music (Sandra’s story 2) . . .
The planet without Doris • The road out into the Blood Woods • The lover • The most secret
Scenes from a marriage (Sandra eavesdropping among the shoes, somewhat later) . . .
Sandra Night/Doris Day, Doris Night/Sandra Day • The girl turned toward the window • The last
“The day the music died. And I started living.”(the return of the Marsh Queen, a few yearslater) . . .
The Winter Garden, 2008 . . .
The Winter Garden, 2008 . . .
Acknowledgments . . .
THE AMERICAN GIRL
THIS IS WHERE THE MUSIC BEGINS. IT IS SO SIMPLE. IT IS AT the end of the 1960s, on Coney Islandin New York. There is a beach and boardwalk, a small amusement park, some restaurants, fun slotmachines, and so on.
There are a lot of people here. She does not stick out from the crowd. She is young, fifteen-sixteen, dressed in a thin, light-colored dress. Her hair is blond and a bit limp, and she hasnot washed it in a few days. She comes from San Francisco and, before that, from somewhereelse. She has all of her belongings in a bag she wears over her arm. A shoulder bag, it is blueand has “Pan Am” on it.
She walks around a bit listlessly, talks to someone here and there, answers when she is spokento, looks a little bit like a hippie girl, but that is not what she is. She is not anything,actually. She travels around. Lives from hand to mouth. Meets people.
Do you need a place to crash?
There is always someone who asks.
And you can still live like that, even during those times.
She has a few dollars in her hand, ones she has just gotten from someone. She asked for them,she is hungry, she wants food. Really she is just hungry, nothing more. But she is happyotherwise, it is such a beautiful day here, outside the city. The sky is endless, and the worldis large.
She sees a few kids who are pretending to sing in front of a machine where you can record yourown song. They can still be found here and there even during those times, and exactly at placeslike these: “Record your own song and give it away to someone. Your wife, your husband, afriend. Or just keep it for yourself.”
Like a small silly memento.
She steps into the machine just for fun and randomly starts feeding coins into it.
You can select background music, but she does not. She pushes Record and then she sings.
Look, Mom, they’ve destroyed my song.
It does not sound very good. It really does not. But it does not mean anything.
Look, Mom, what they’ve done to my song.
The words do not fit very well with reality. It is such a beautiful day out there.
And when she has finished singing she waits for the record and gets it.
And then she suddenly remembers that she is supposed to meet someone here.
She is in a hurry to get to the designated place, it is a park.
She is going to meet a relative. A distant one. Not the relative, but the distance to the placewhere the relative lives. It is a place on the other side of the earth.
That was the girl, Eddie de Wire. The American girl who was found drowned in Bule Marsh, theDistrict, a few years later. A place on the other side of the earth.
IT HAPPENED AT BULE MARSH 1969–2008
IT HAPPENED IN THE DISTRICT, AT BULE MARSH. EDDIE’S DEATH. She was lying at the bottom of themarsh. Her hair was standing out around her head in thick, long strands like octopus tentacles.Her eyes and mouth were wide open. He saw her from where he was standing on Lore Cliff, staringstraight down into the water. He saw the scream coming out of her open mouth, the scream thatcould not be heard. He looked into her eyes, they were empty. Fish were swimming in and out ofthem and into her body’s other cavities. But later, when some time had passed.
He never stopped imagining it.
That she had been sucked down into the marsh like into the Bermuda Triangle.
Now she was lying there and was unreachable, a distance of about thirty feet, visible only tohim, in the dark and murky water.
She, Edwina de Wire, Eddie. The American girl. As she was called in the District.
And he was Bengt. Thirteen years old in August of 1969 when everything happened. Eddie, she wasnineteen. Edwina de Wire. It was strange. Later when he saw her name in the papers it was as ifit was not her at all.
“I’m a strange bird, Bengt. Are you too?”
“Nobody knew my rose of the world but me.”
She had talked that way, using peculiar words. She had been a stranger there, in the District.
The American girl. And he, he had loved her.
. . .
There was a morning after night, a night when he had not been able to sleep. At daybreak he ranthrough the forest over the field over the meadow past the cousin’s house, the two decayedramshackle barns and the red cottage where his sisters, Rita and Solveig, lived. He jumped overthree deep ditches and got to the outbuilding by the border of Lindström’s land.
He walked into the outbuilding. The first thing he saw were the feet. They were hanging in theair. Bare feet, the soles gray and dirty. And lifeless. They were Björn’s feet, Björn’s body.Cousin Björn’s. And he was also only nineteen years old that same year, when he died by hisown hand.
They had been a threesome: Eddie, Bencku, Björn. Now it was only him, Bencku. He was leftalone.
And so, he stood and screamed out into the wild dazzling nature of late summer, so quiet, sogreen. He screamed at the sun, which had just disappeared behind a blue cover of clouds. At adull, calm summer rain cautiously starting. Drip-drip-drip in an otherwise total and ghostly
calm. But Bencku screamed. Screamed and screamed, even though he suddenly did not have a voice.
He became mute for long periods of time. Thoroughly mute: he had not spoken that much before,but now he was not going to say anything at all. According to the diagnosis, a clinicalmuteness brought on by a state of shock. As a result of everything that had happened during thenight.
Another child was also moving around in the District then. She was there at all possible andimpossible times of day, in every place, everywhere. It was Doris, the marsh kid. DorisFlinkenberg who did not have a real home then despite the fact that she was maybe only eight ornine years old.
It was Doris who said she had heard the scream at the outbuilding by the border of Lindström’sland.
“It sounded like a stuck lamb or the way only someone like Bencku sounds like,” she said tothe cousin’s mama in the cousin’s kitchen in the cousin’s house where she gradually, afterBjörn’s death, would become a daughter herself, in her own right.
“It’s called a pig,” the cousin’s mama corrected her. “To squeal like a stuck pig.”
“But I mean lamb,” Doris would protest. “Because that’s what Bencku sounds like when hescreams. Like one of those lambs you feel sorry for. A sacrificial lamb.”
Doris Flinkenberg with her very own way of expressing herself. You did not always know if shewas serious or if she was playing a game. And if it was a game, in that case, what kind?
“One man’s death is another man’s breath,” Doris Flinkenberg sighed in the cousin’skitchen, so delighted over finally having her own home, a real one. Only someone like DorisFlinkenberg could say “One man’s death is another man’s breath” in such a way that it didnot sound cynical but, actually, almost normal.
“Now, now, now.” The cousin’s mama said to Doris nevertheless, “What are you actuallysaying?” But there was still something soft in her voice, in a calm and settled way. Becauseit was Doris who had come to the cousin’s house and given the cousin’s mama her life and allher hopes back after the death of Björn, her darling boy.
But who could have imagined then that only a few years later Doris would be dead as well.
It happened in the District, at Bule Marsh, death’s spell at a young age. It was a Saturday in
the month of November. Dusk slowly transformed into darkness and Doris Flinkenberg, sixteenyears old, wandered through the woods on the familiar path down to Bule Marsh. With quick anddetermined steps. The growing darkness did not bother her, her eyes had time to get used to itand the path was familiar to her, almost too familiar.
And it was Doris Night, or was it Doris Day, or was it the Marsh Queen, or one of the manyother identities in the many games she had already had time to play in her life? You did not
know. But maybe it was not important anymore.
Because Doris Flinkenberg, she had the pistol in her pocket. It was a real Colt, certainlyantique, but in working condition nonetheless. The only thing of value that Rita and Solveighad ever inherited from anyone: a distant ancestor who, according to rumors, had bought it in1902 at the big department store in the city by the sea.
Afterward, when Doris was dead, Rita would swear she did not know how the pistol, which wasstored hidden away in a specific spot in her and Solveig’s cottage, had gotten into the handsof Doris Flinkenberg.
It would not be a complete lie, but also not entirely true.
Doris came to Bule Marsh and she walked up Lore Cliff. She stood there and counted to ten. Shecounted to eleven, twelve, and fourteen too, and to sixteen, before she had gathered enoughcourage to raise the pistol’s barrel to her temple and pull the trigger.
She had already stopped thinking, but her emotions, they swelled in her head and her entirebody, everywhere.
Doris Flinkenberg wearing the Loneliness&Fear shirt. Old and worn now. A real cleaning rag,that was what it had become by this time.
But anyway, in the space between two numbers the resolution had taken hold of Doris Flinkenberganew. And she just raised the barrel of the pistol to her temple, and, click, she pulled the
trigger. But first she shut her eyes and screamed. Screamed in order to drown herself out, todrown out her fear, and the shot itself, which she would not hear anymore, so that was evenmore absurd.
Shots, I think I hear shots.
It echoed in the woods, everywhere.
It was Rita who heard the shot first. She was in the red cottage about a third of a mile fromBule Marsh with her sister Solveig. And it was strange, as soon as she heard the shot she knewexactly what had happened. She tore her jacket from the wall and ran out, through the woods tothe marsh with Solveig after her. But it was too late.
Doris was already dead as a rock when Rita made it to Lore Cliff. She was lying on her stomach,with her head and hair hanging down over the dark water. In blood. And Rita lost it. She toreand pulled at the dead and still warm body. She tried to lift Doris up, and how absurd wasthat, to carry her.
Carry Doris over troubled water.
Solveig had to do everything in her power to try and calm Rita down. And suddenly the woodswere filled with people. Doctors, police officers, ambulances.
But. Doris Night and Sandra Day.
In one of their games.
They had been two, actually. Sandra and Doris, two.
Doris Day&Sandra Night. That was the other girl, she had also had many names, which they madeup during their games. Games that had been played with the best friend, the only friend, theonly only only, Doris Flinkenberg, at the bottom of the swimming pool without water, so far. Itwas Sandra, she was bedridden for weeks after Doris’s death, in a four-poster bed in the housein the darker part of the woods that was her home. She lay with her face turned toward thewall, knees bent and pulled up toward her stomach. She had a fever.
A stained, worn nylon T-shirt under the big pillow. Loneliness&Fear: the other copy of the onlytwo in the history of the world. She squeezed the shirt so hard her knuckles turned white.
If she closed her eyes she saw blood everywhere. She was in the Blood Woods, wandering there inthe darkness, confused, like a blind person.
Sandra and Doris: it had been the two of them, they had been best friends.
And, only Sandra Wärn out of everyone knew this: Sister Night&Sister Day. It was a game theyhad played. And in just this game she had been the girl who had drowned in Bule Marsh manyyears ago. She who was called Eddie de Wire. Her, the American girl.
The game had another name as well. It had been called the Mystery with the American Girl.
And it had its own song. The Eddie-song.
Look, Mom, they’ve destroyed my song.
And all the words and peculiar sayings had also belonged to the game.
“I’m a strange bird, are you too?”
“The heart is a heartless hunter.”
“Nobody knew my rose of the world but me.”
But, shadow meets shadow. There, in the darkness, those weeks when Sandra did not leave herroom, it happened sometimes that she crawled out of bed and stood by the window and looked out.Looked out over the muddy landscape out there, over the familiar, low-lying marsh, over theclump of reeds . . . but more than anything toward the grove off to the side. That was thedirection in which her gaze was drawn. That is where he was usually standing.
And he was standing there now, looking at her. Her behind the curtains in the room with thelights out. Him out there. They stood there across from each other and stared at each other.
One of them was the boy, and he was Bengt. Quite a bit older now. The other was the girl,Sandra Wärn. Who was the same age as Doris had been when she died, sixteen years old.
2008, the Winter Garden. Johanna is walking in the Winter Garden. And everything is stillthere, these many years later.
In Rita’s Winter Garden, a park, a world all by itself. A defined space for entertaining,recreation, enchantment.
A world in and of itself, for games, also adult games.
But at the same time it is an intricate combination of public and private, conventional andnormal, but also the secret, forbidden.
Because there are things in the Winter Garden you do not talk about, things you only imagine.Underground and above. Secret rooms, a labyrinth.
You can walk down there and experience almost anything.
All of the old things, in their own way. The District and its history are also in the WinterGarden. Like pictures on the walls, names and words, music.
Carry Doris over troubled water.
Death’s spell at a young age.
Nobody knew my rose of the world but me.
I walked out one evening, out into a grove so green.
Shots, I think I hear shots.
Look, Mom, they’ve destroyed my song.
In the middle of the Winter Garden there is kapu kai, the forbidden seas.
Doris Night. And Sandra Day.
2008, the Winter Garden. Johanna is walking in the Winter Garden. She works here after schooland on the weekends.
You have access here after the other areas are closed. Johanna can be alone here, she likesbeing here.
Johanna loves the hours when she rambles around on her own in the Winter Garden, with musicflowing in her ears. The Marsh Queen’s music.
She is seventeen years old, it fascinates her.
But she is also looking for something special. That room, that red room. It happened at Bule
, the forbidden seas.Marsh room. That which belongs to kapu kai
What happened at Bule Marsh once, everything is in that room.
She ended up there once by mistake. She has looked for it but never found it again. And now sheknows for sure that she has to find her way there again.
Because it was like this a long time ago, New Year’s 2000 when the Winter Garden wasinaugurated. It was that night eight years ago.
It was her and her brother. They were not supposed to be there, their mother Solveig hadforbidden them.
But they went through the woods anyway, just the two of them, in the middle of the night, andthey came to the Winter Garden.
The children came to the Winter Garden, which revealed itself in the woods, there where theSecond Cape began. The ornate old-fashioned letters over the gate drew your thoughts to an old-fashioned garden in another country, with sphinxes on both sides of the entrance, and thelight, most of all the light. A silver and metallic shine so strong that the children who had
.come out of the darkness of the woods were blinded
It was so beautiful, so tremendous.
Stirring emotions the children had never felt before.
They walked in toward the clear, sharp light, toward the people and the party, to everything
BARON VON B. LIKED TO PLAY POKER. HE WAS NOT ALWAYS lucky, but he took the defeat like a man issupposed to. That is to say, he paid out without making a face.
In the beginning there was the District. The Second Cape and the First Cape and the great woodsand something else too. In the beginning was the war, and the war, it was lost.
Certain areas caught the eye of the victorious nation, the great land in the east, areas thatwere highly desirable for future military exploits and just in general, and the country couldkeep its independence regardless.
One area was handed over to the victorious nation, for a time. The District was located in justthat area. Consequently, the people were evacuated and everyone was forced to move, and laterduring the years that followed it was as though the area was closed off from the outside world.
It was during these tumultuous years that Baron von B., who happened to own almost all of theSecond Cape and a significant portion of the woods and so on, sat down at the poker table. Andplayed. And lost. And played. And lost.
Against the cousin’s papa and the Dancer. They won everything.
The whole of the Second Cape, a significant portion of the woods, and so on.
And some years later when the occupied area was returned it was not the baron but the cousin’spapa and the Dancer and his wife with their three children who came to the District. Andsettled there. Like a real clan.
And that is what they were in the beginning. But shortly thereafter the Dancer and his wifewere killed in a car accident and the three children became orphans.
The three children: that was Bengt and the twins, Rita and Solveig.
BENGT AND THE AMERICAN GIRL
BENGT AND THE BUILDINGS, 1969. AS A CHILD BENGT WAS fascinated by the buildings on the SecondCape. They were built on land the cousin’s papa had sold for large sums of money. The SecondCape was a peninsula jutting out into the sea, one of the most beautiful places in theDistrict. The area was divided into individual parcels of land on which houses were built,modern vacation homes for an exhibition of country living, one of the first public displays ofits kind organized in the country. When the exhibition was launched one summer at the end ofthe sixties, the houses were sold one after the other, for the most part as vacation homes forpeople with money, the houses were not exactly cheap, and often to people without any ties tothe District.
They were unique houses, utopian houses. Houses built in a bold, new architectural style. AndBencku, he knew about architecture, he knew those houses. He had studied their blueprints anddiscussed them with the architects, he had hung around the buildings while they were beingbuilt. So he was obsessed with them long before they were finished.
He also saw himself as being the expert on them; he knew more about them than their futureowners, more than the architects who had drawn them. Because he was the one who was from theDistrict, the only one who knew the houses in that environment.
And the surroundings, the District, it was his world: the Second Cape, the First Cape, the fourmarshes, and the long, deep woods that ended by the marshes in the east—there where the housein the darker part gradually came to be built.
And the entire District existed in Bencku’s head in a truly unique way. That is what he drewon his maps. He would devote himself to these maps during the remainder of his youth.
Bencku and the maps. They were not exactly a secret. He spoke about them, in any case, with thepeople he knew well. But there were not many who got to see them, almost no one, so manythought it was just talk. That it was just Bencku who wanted to seem self-important, as usual.
But they existed. They existed in reality. Little by little Bencku drew in almost all of thehouses, all of the places, everywhere in the District. But in his own way. He used pictures,codes, and his own names. Names that were a mixture of the traditional names in the Districtand all of the words he had made up or looked up in books. Kapu kai, for example, it means
secret ocean in acronesian.
The names also served another purpose for Bengt. It is like this: he thought that regardless ofwho was going to come live and own the houses on the Second Cape, the houses were, by virtue ofhim being the one who had named them, his. Just like everything was his.
Bencku himself. He was thirteen years old then, tall, and looked considerably older. A surlyand taciturn fellow, who kept to himself for the most part; except sometimes, when he was amongpeople he knew, it could happen that impassioned, he opened up and held lengthy expositionsabout this and that and it seemed as though he was the only one who was interested.Architecture and crime, monochronics within landscape architecture, that sort of thing.
“Bencku is bananas,” his sister Solveig would often say to her twin Rita when it was just thetwo of them in the red cottage.
“He has a screw loose,” Rita would second. It was a time, at the beginning of time, once long
, when the sisters had always been in agreement.ago
Rita, Solveig, Bengt: the three siblings did not have very much in common, though they were alltall. And that there was not much of anything else was something Rita and Solveig were reallyvery careful about pointing out.
And all three of them were “cousins” in the cousin’s house. They had been taken in by thecousin’s papa and the cousin’s mama, whom the cousin’s papa had married when his brother andhis brother’s wife had been killed in a tragic car accident when the three siblings werelittle. The cousin’s mama had a son of her own when she came to the house, he was Björn. Andthe cousin’s mama, she was Superintendent Loman’s daughter, and basically someone who stoodwith both feet firmly on the ground in all kinds of weather.
Cousin Björn shared a room with Bengt on the second floor of the cousin’s house. Björn waseighteen years old, worked in the woods and might go to school to become an agronomist. For themost part he hung out in the barn on the cousin’s property, tinkered with his moped or withjunk which there was a great deal of in the cousin’s papa’s extensive collection. Bengt wasoften there with him; Bengt and Björn, they stuck together.
They were best friends despite the fact that Björn was five years older. And in some way theywere a lot alike, for example both of them were rather quiet. Björn’s silence was lessnoticeable than Bengt’s, it was like Bengt was a bit more prickly. Björn was well liked andfriendly, and easy to get along with.
Björn and Bengt: together they made an amusing, odd couple. People would sometimes say the
. Bengt, thirteen years old, and half a head taller than Björn, the older,collected silence
thoughtful one. The cousin’s mama used to say “the apples of my eyes” about both boys.
. . .
So that is the way it was before Eddie came, before Bencku met Eddie and everything changed.And once everything started changing, everything happened very quickly. In less than one yeareverything that had been would be destroyed.
Eddie from the boathouse on the Second Cape, Eddie with the guitar and the thin, flat voice,but it did not matter. Eddie who spoke with a strange accent and with phrases that weresometimes very bizarre, but that still, and maybe just because they were so strange, made animpact on you.
“I’m a strange bird, Bengt,” she said. “Are you too?”
Eddie, the American girl.
Eddie most beloved, but in the mire.
Eddie most beloved but gradually in the mire.
Private property. When the houses on the Second Cape had been sold, Bencku no longer had anyright to them. The new owners moved in and took over the entirety of the Second Cape, made ittheirs. In their eyes Bengt was an odd one, an intruder who walked on other people’s propertywithout permission.
You could see him between the stylish buildings on the stretches of woodland, in the yards andin the gardens at all hours of the day. Or on their beaches and on the jetties that weresticking out like tongues between the cliffs. It seemed like he was everywhere, and always inhis own way. And there was no one who could stop him.
“Aren’t you going to go home and play in your own yard?” someone might yell.
“The public beach is in the other direction. EVERYONE is allowed to be there.”
“Doesn’t your mother get worried when you’re gone so long?”
Bencku did not answer, barely took any notice of them. And it was not outright frightening butcertainly rather annoying. But among themselves the adults on the Second Cape did not speak outmuch about this nuisance. Despite everything, Bencku was just a boy, and a child.
Little by little signs with PRIVATE PROPERTY or NO TRESPASSING started popping up. Someproperties were enclosed by fences that were painted a brilliant yellow or red in order to