from “The Boys”

Liten Momo

Here’s an extract from Jessica Schiefauer’s young adult novel Pojkarna (The Boys). It was originally published by Words Without Borders. There’s a movie of the book coming out next year and the picture above was taken on-set by Karolina Pajak. Now, onward to masquerades and magical flowers…

It was a balmy night, spring had started to slip into early summer, the trees’ leaves were thick and bright green. We didn’t speak, we only looked each other in the eyes and received the paper bags that Momo ceremoniously handed to us. And when I opened my bag in Bella’s room, my heart started beating so fast it hammered in my ears.

She had made me a tiger costume. There was a hooded coat and a pair of elbow-length gloves, the tip of each finger adorned with a golden claw. There was no mask, no plaster to hide my face, but she had taken a thin nylon stocking and painted it with dark-brown filigree. I pulled the stocking over my face and lifted the hood onto my head. Then I looked in the mirror.

A shriek escaped from me and hit the glass, it bounced sharply between the walls of the room. I couldn’t get a proper look until it died away. Shere Khan shimmered in the mirror. He glared at me, yellow eyes glowing, his face dark and threatening. The broad coat and hood concealed my usual mannerisms and when I moved, he moved too, but not like a girl with a pimpled back and a body full of worry. He moved like a king, and we were one and the same, he and I.

Yes, Momo had really outdone herself. As I walked toward the garden with the weight of the coat upon me, I realized that she had planned this evening down to every last detail. Lanterns illuminated the greenhouse and apparently she had managed to get hold of a large stereo because pounding drums and dark rhythms spilled from the greenhouse, an undulating melody that made me think of gold and glinting eyes. She greeted us inside the greenhouse where the party was to take place, and as I came closer I saw an explorer standing by the wooden table, sporting a white safari hat and a waxed mustache. I glimpsed the mysterious flower’s head through the doorway, it nodded gently as if she were craning her neck to get a good look at us. The terrace door opened and the explorer laughed with delight as a silverback entered. He supported his steps with his knuckles and when he was very close he unleashed a howl, and I couldn’t help but join in on the laughter.

The explorer bowed, and with a sweep of his gloved hand he gestured to the table.

“Welcome to the tropics, my friends. Dinner is served.”

It was a clear, starry night. We lay on the lawn outside the greenhouse, resting our heads on each other’s stomachs. Momo had taken off her safari hat, her hair rippled over my tiger-chest. The flowers around us had opened up, their soft interiors glowing in the darkness. She looked at us through the doorway, her face was open and smooth and it made me think of butterflies, how their pointy proboscises pierced sacs of nectar, how they sucked it in. I propped myself up on my elbow and raised my glass of tea with a practiced gesture.

“Would it please the gentlemen to add some true drops to the brew?”

I moved Momo’s head off my stomach. She looked up with surprise when I wrapped my coat around me, walked up to the flower and started inspecting the teeming vessels in the center of its head. They were like small blisters protected by petals, straining and aching and filled with something that had to get out.

Bella, in her unwieldy gorilla costume, stood up. She had been in high spirits the whole night, alternating between her gorilla howl and howling laughter, and now she was so hoarse and tired that she swayed as she made her way to the greenhouse.

“Oh yes! New life will course through our bodies, and the stars will take our secrets to the grave!”

Then Momo giggled. She couldn’t help it with Bella striding so comically across the flagstones. The pants of the gorilla costume had hitched themselves up, revealing the tube socks she was wearing. But Bella gave her a stern look and Momo got hold of herself and said:

“Let us make a pact, gentlemen. Let us brew a Magical Potion and drink together. Let us never speak of our drink to any mortal, whatever may come!”

And as she spoke, she raised her glass of tea to the heavens, and we raised ours as well. Bella skipped forward toward me and carefully pulled the flower’s head down.

“Yes, I swear, I swear!”

We swore our oaths and I pierced one of the small blisters with the claw of my index finger. Thick nectar seeped out.

One drop for each glass.

We toasted. Then we gulped the tea down because suddenly it tasted irresistibly sweet and spicy. And when we looked up from our glasses, when we looked at each other’s faces, a deep silence fell over us.
Read the rest of the extract here:

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