It’s a burning hot summer and Adam is on a burning mission. In search of some peace of mind, after having been jilted by his girlfriend, he climbs to the top of an abandoned storage silo in the centre of Oslo. He seeks consolation in falling asleep in the sun but is soon amazed to discover the sun has other plans and a lot more to offer him than a mere suntan. The sun is a fat god out to help Adam realise his mission – to grow up.
In trying to focus on growing up, Adam realises life is inside-out and back-to-front. The big issues might be small and the small ones enormous. Adam’s father confides in him that he might be dying at the same time as Adam is caught up in philosophising with Ibsen, wooing a new woman, learning how to roller-blade and striving to cook the perfect steak. Then to zoom in even further, Adam also likes to indulge in trivia, such as, how much honey does a bee produce in its lifetime. What – trivia, did you say? Not for the bee, it isn’t.
Jon Ewo has written an accessibly modern and stimulating novel which is not necessarily limited to a teenage readership. Through Ewo’s penmanship, the protagonist Adam tells his story. He speaks to the reader directly, even asking us to put up our hands if we can relate to any of the situations he describes. We are Adam’s audience, Brothers & Sisters, his congregation listening to pick up a few hints on life’s big picture, or life’s smaller ones, depending on what side of the sun, or moon, we’re standing on.
TUESDAY JULY 2ND
«Adam can’t be bothered playing
with nerds anymore.»
Sun rises 04.01
and sets at 22.41
Brother & Sisters, sorry for the flashback just now.
Today, I’ve decided I’m tired of moaning and wailing over something that happened in the past.
I am tired of Caroline.
I am tired of being tired.
The average brain weighs 1.3 kilos and 80% of it is water. Today, I reckon the water in my brain is lying there without the slightest ripple. It’s tired of being used on thoughts of that girl. She’s not worth it.
I’m back on top of the silo. It’s the second day I’ve rung Hermansen, my boss at the errand office where I’ve got a summer job, to say I am sick. I’ve got a broken leg and the flu. My kidneys are giving me gip and my liver is acting up again. Hermansen notes everything down on his notepad and expresses moderate interest. I am just a feeble, sixteen year old summer worker. Between schools. Just one of the 35 cyclists he has in his stables. He’s not really fussed. There are plenty more of us where we came from.
But that’s not how my day begins. It’s seven o’clock and the house is stirring. The tram rounds Birkelund Park corner at speed, screeching and sparking against the tramlines. At the traffic lights on the other side of the park, cars are revving and stressing to get through on green. When I look out the window, I can see people darting in all directions to get somewhere important. Grünerløkka has come alive. It smells of summer, pollen and coffee.
I sneak into the shower ahead of my sister, Gloria. She curses and bangs on the door, but I feign a whistle and let the water wash away the sweat from the night before. If you’re wondering why Gloria has such an elevated name, you’ll have to ask the next man in line for the shower.
Dad tries covering his now not so discreet stomach with his blue, moth-eaten bathrobe. His straight, wiry hair looks like a brush and his beard is indescribable. Untamed might be the word. It’s hard to tell looking at Dad now, but he once sang in a punk band called Bullet. His big moment came when they had a studio session to cut a single which they released themselves; a thousand copies in total, and sold them all. Now, he’s an actor with an obscure theatre company due to perform an Ibsen play in a couple of weeks’ time. He is adequately mad and crammed with nerves. So, the idea for Gloria’s name sprang from Dad’s head. Gloria was the name of a hit record some American punk chick once sang. Don’t ask me how parents get it into their heads to name their daughter after something like that. Anyway, to be kind to Gloria, I think I’ll just call her Sis from now on.
I spend an extra two minutes in the shower to raise the temperature in the corridor outside. When I come out, I notice Mum has also taken a queue ticket. In contrast to Dad, Mum can look like she’s still a member of a punk band. She’s told us that’s where the two of them met. Bullet had lost their base player and were in need of a new one. Up until then it had been a strictly male band. But then this girl turns up in a leather jacket. Half her hair’s dyed green and she’s wearing a black leather beret. In her hand, she’s carrying a well-used bass guitar – a fender copy – that’s been inherited from her older brother who once played in a rock and roll band. On this, she’s learnt some hefty bass riffs which she plays to impress the three Bullets. It works. It works so well Dad asks her out the very same evening to see a Norwegian punk band called Meat. Dad insists he was the one to charm her round that evening while Mum says she took all the initiative and Dad just followed like a sheep.
Whatever. The thing I wanted to say was Mum still resembles a punk. The green hair has simply been replaced by a blonde spike and, unlike Dad with his blubber, she’s still as thin as two planks nailed together. But let me tell you, Brothers & Sister, it’s nothing to be proud of, having hip parents. You kind of expect the old folks to be slow and have as much interest in what’s going on as a pair of mittens. However, unfortunately, this poor storyteller is lumbered with a couple of examples that just won’t lie still, as parents should.
Reidar, Gøran and Petter envy me for my two old stumps. They say they’d swap theirs with mine any day. On the one hand, I’d gladly swap but on the other, you’ve got to kind of drag the old folks around with you once you’ve already been given them as a christening present.
I reckon though, if the lads had breakfast at my house, they’d soon change their minds and retract their offer of trade. When Mum and Dad, and Sis and I get together over coffee, juice, bread and a selection of spreads, it sounds like a punk gig of the shrillest and most clangourous kind.
«F___ ! THAT COFFEE’S HOT!»
«WATCH YOUR MOUTH OR I’LL POUR IT ALL OVER YOUR LAP.»
«FINE, AT LEAST I’LL BE THE SAME TEMPERATURE ALL OVER.»
«CAN SOMEONE PASS ME THE MAYO AND MUSTARD. I’VE GOT TO HAVE THE WORKS ON TOP OF THIS CHEESE. OTHERWISE IT JUST TASTES LIKE – CHEESE!»
«MAYO AND MUSTARD! ARE YOU MAD?»
«YOU CAN TALK! LOOK AT YOU WITH A LOAD OF JAM AND SOUR CREAM ON TOP OF GOATS’ CHEESE!»
«IS THERE ANY MORE HAM?»
«ASK YOUR FATHER. HE DID THE SHOPPING YESTERDAY!»
«THE HAM’S HERE!»
«IT’S PASSED THE BEST-BEFORE DATE! A WEEK AGO! UGH, IT’S MOVING! LOOK AT IT!»
«WELL, GIVE IT HERE, I’LL KILL IT FOR YOU!»
«WHO BOILED THESE EGGS? IT’S LIKE GUNGE IN A SHELL!»
My family always talks in capitals at the breakfast table. We love and hate each other at the same time. It’s as though we have to let off steam before we can start chewing on the first corner of the day.
«I am going crazy!» wails Dad as he storms back and forth searching for his clothes and slurping from a cup of coffee.
«He thinks he’s only started going crazy now!» Mum quips, pouring herself a second cup of black pick-me-up. «I’ll be pleased when his Peer Gynt play finally opens.»
«Have you seen my trousers?» a voice hollers from the bedroom.
«Can’t you go to your rehearsal without your trousers, Helge?» asks Mum and winks at us. «You are presenting Ibsen’s play as a rock opera after all. Peer Gynt might look quite sexy with a bare bum.»
«Very funny,» says Dad, appearing in the doorway with one hairy leg stuck inside his trousers. «This is a serious project, you know. No-one else has ever done Ibsen as rock before.»
«And it’s doubtful anyone will do it after you either,» teases Mum and plays absentmindedly with a bit of Ryvita.
«That’s really mean, Vivian,» huffs Dad, pulling his belt so tight that we officially hear his fat being squashed.
He turns to me and observes the smirk I have fixed at the corners of my mouth.
«You’re a load of vultures, snakes and mongrels! I’m moving out tomorrow!» he explodes and grabs his file. First he slams the kitchen door making our fillings rattle, and then he slams the front door so the picture in the hallway falls down for the twentieth time.
Sis has been sitting with her head bowed for the past five minutes, in an attempt to find some morning peace. As though that’s ever possible with this family. But when the doors are slammed and the picture drops, she starts, knocks her cup on the tabletop and splashes her clean, white shirt and face with coffee. Her make-up streaks nastily. First, Sis cries, «ARRGGHH!» and then follows it up with «WHY IS THERE NEVER ANY PEACE AROUND HERE IN THE MORNING? I CAN’T STAND IT ANYMORE! I’M MOVING OUT TOMORROW! FOR SURE!»
«Maybe you can get a place with your father,» Mum replies dryly and reaches for the newspaper no-one’s touched yet.
«I hate the lot of you!» is the last we hear before she too slams her way out of the flat.
«Love you too,» says Mum, studying the obituaries’ column. It’s a creepy habit Mum has at breakfast time. She reads the death announcements and likes to quote the off-the-wall dedications written about the deceased. For example, «She was a candle for all of us during dark times… With him we have lost support for the Norwegian apiarists… She lived by her motto: The sun never goes down on life’s happy boys… etc.»
They have driven us crazy on many occasions. She can be really weird. Mum just lives on coffee, obituaries and wisecracks in the morning. She is normally more amenable after about two hours at work, after she has «got to grips with the day,» as she likes to put it. How an ex-punk gets to be manager for a large florist shop, I have no idea, but that’s the way it is. A base-playing punk wrestling with roses, carnations and lilies just sounds back-to-front to me.
«Did you know, Mum, the first time a fork was used for eating was on the 25th June 1630?» I ask her when we’re alone.
Mum doesn’t reply, so I continue: «And ready sliced bread was invented in 1954.»
Mum glances at me, at the newspaper, at me again and then sighs. «Sometimes, I think there’s something seriously wrong with you, son. I don’t know anyone who knows so much about so many irrelevant things. If you fill your head with anymore of that trivia, it’ll start falling out the back. Do you honestly believe it is normal to talk to one’s mother about such things at breakfast?» She grins and runs her hands though her hair. «Remember, I am a very sensitive soul.»
«Yeah, ’cause you only read the obituaries at breakfast, don’t you,» I retort quickly and grin back at her.
«Only to see how I’m doing,» Mum replies and suddenly her eyes focus on the paper and she exclaims: «Oh, I went to school with him.» She smacks her lips and shakes her head softly. That says just about everything about Mum.
When I think about it, I think my whole family is weird. Sis is no exception. With a friend, she runs a shop downtown on Storgate called Urban Action. They sell skateboards, roller blades and the fattest bikes. Plus a stock of stash you’ve got to have if you want to be urban: sunglasses, headbands, cycling shorts, hefty sports equipment and other kit that can make anyone look like a character from Mad Max.
If you ask me, I’m the only normal one.
Now, Brothers & Sisters, there might be some of you out there who reckon you can’t be that normal if you spend your mornings on top of an enormous, sage-green silo, high above the ground, with a sheer drop on all sides. My only explanation is that, from time to time, a guy living in the city has to have some time to himself. And there’s no other place in a five mile radius to find that.