Excerpt from The False Note

[translated fiction]

“The wolf tone is a musical paradox.
An atonality we suffer
in the name of harmony.”

One of the trees has bloomed early. In the park in front of the conservatory. Dabs of pink along a dark core. What are they called?

Cherry blossoms, you’d say. You’re all grown up now.

Later I put on my black coat, the one with the silver buttons. My steps whisper through dry fallen leaves. You run on ahead. It’s October, maybe November. I pluck a leaf from a low branch of the flaming chestnut tree.

You paste the leaves on a sheet of white paper. I tuck you into bed.

God nat, I say. Gute Nacht, you say. Buenas noches, I say. Good night, you say. And I say buonanotte.

And then you say it: welterusten. You snigger, your green eyes suspect I don’t know what they expect, but this happens every time we get as far as welterusten.

Bon nuit, I smile. Your mouth is hidden behind the covers now, only your eyes are visible. Bon nuit, you whisper.

 

FREDERIK

—When the piano was invented it was believed that we had found a way to track and emulate variations in pitch that were tuned by means of a scientific system. It’s just like mathematics, she says.

She always says that. She knows he’s good at maths.

English is like maths. The piano is like maths. Even his grandmother is maths.

He’s better at maths than she is.

Keeping her eyes on his, Zoe plays a few chords.

He rests his fingers on the keyboard and strikes the same keys, two octaves higher up. His hands follow hers, slowly, confidently over the keys. Swift as an echo he sounds the right note.

—But we couldn’t reproduce the original sound, for there is a natural… falsity that would disrupt the logic of harmony if we were to include it. —Here, she says, resting two fingers on the keyboard. —Right after this key.

It doesn’t sound false to him.

—We call it the wolf tone, she says, because it sounds like a horrible choir of howling wolves.

He’s not sure he can hear what she wants him to hear.

She lifts her hands off the keys and reaches for her glass of red wine that she has placed on top of the piano. She swirls the liquid in her glass.

—Pretty neat, don’t you think?

She puts the glass to her lips and takes a sip.

He nods.

‘When you compose a score of music you have a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea: You can resort to the original system, embed the false note in the seventh tone and deliberately compose around it. You simply don’t create it, and we don’t even hear it anymore.’

She returns the glass to its perch on the piano and starts to play a piece that he knows, but he can’t remember what it’s called. She can do that. Pick up any old tune and make it sound good.

He gets himself a glass of juice from the kitchen and puts it down next to her glass on the piano. When he was little he wasn’t allowed to do that, but now she doesn’t mind.

—Before the new system was invented all you had to do was avoid the wolf tone, she says, her hands jump up an octave. —You couldn’t include it without ruining your composition; the tone is natural, but false. It’s very frustrating.

—So new tuning methods were developed. The system we use today dates back to the sixteenth century. A plan was devised to spread this natural atonality—the wolf tone—over the maximum number of piano notes; you could juggle the note, stretch it, but never eliminate it completely. This means that every composition we hear is ever so slightly off-key, she says, still playing her sedate melody.

—But we can’t hear it anymore. Our ears have become accustomed to the aberration. It’s just like a cabal, Frederik. A tuning system can never be cracked.

She looks pleased with herself. She likes the idea of a system that cannot be cracked.

—It is possible to crack a cabal, he says.

—Ah. In that case, imagine the sort of cabal that cannot be cracked, she says.

This he can very well imagine. He looks at her. She has a special way of meeting his gaze when she’s playing the piano; seeing him without seeing him at all.

—So, Frederik. Her fingers have stopped moving over the keys.

She picks up her glass of wine, gulps it down.

—When you compose a score of music you have a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea: You can resort to the original system, embed the false note in the seventh tone and deliberately compose around it. You simply don’t create it, and we don’t even hear it anymore. It’s extinguished by dint of choice, just as we would choose to stop creating the colour… olive green; after a while we simply wouldn’t see this shade of green anymore. If you choose to compose according the modern principle however, you can spread the wolf note evenly across the scales. One could argue that we’re masking an innate link between music and nature, and, in effect, making everything we play false—which we don’t hear either.

She stares at the keys for a moment.

—Do you understand, Frederik?

He nods.

—It’s just something we’ve come to accept. The price we pay for creating a sound that is all but perfect. It’s the paradox of music that we can cheerfully, imperfectly recreate a false world.

She stands up and goes into the kitchen.

—It’s just like pi, don’t you think? she calls after her. —Or a leap year. We have leap years so the calendar will add up nicely. Isn’t that so?

He’s not sure this is true. He stares hard at the keys. Narrows his eyes, tries to see them in a different light, identify some kind of veneer. She’s opening a bottle of wine. There’s a pop of a cork from the kitchen. She comes back with her glass and sits down on the piano stool next to him. Plays one of her melodies.

—You can also think of it in terms of the dial of a watch, she says, lifting her left wrist so he can see the face on hers.

—There are twelve musical tones on a piano, and there are twelve numbers on the face of a dial. If the space between each number were a tone, then a complete rotation would end one second beyond the twelve; you would never strike dead on twelve. It just wouldn’t work, would it? Because with every rotation we’d edge a little further past the twelve. A little further every time.

Frederik looks at her watch and nods. It is five minutes to midnight.

—So, we cheat a little. We falsify each tone, just a tad, to make sure that we strike the number twelve. Dead on. Every time. People like to relate things to something else that they understand.

She looks at him. The corners of her mouth curl into a smile.

—It’s a symphonic problem, not a melodic one, she says finally. —We want to create great symphonies, rather than meek melodies. So we bend the rules of nature to suit our own. Rather than the reverse. Does that make sense to you, Frederik?

He nods.

—That’s a very abstract conception, don’t you think. Thomas’ voice cuts into the room. He’s standing in the lounge doorway wearing his coat. He must have arrived only moments before. Neither of them had heard the front door.

—If we had bowed to the rules of nature, man would have ceased to exist as a species, he says.

His voice sounds brittle. —Why aren’t you in bed yet, Frederik?

*     *     *

Frederik goes to the bathroom to brush his teeth. He washes his hands. The voices coming from the lounge are rising. He knows it’s very late. He opens the window to air the room.

If all manmade instruments were invented so we could play nature’s music, which instrument could sound like fresh air flowing into the bathroom?

He knows now is not a good time to ask.

He goes to his room and pulls on his pyjamas. Smooths down the sheets, shakes out the duvet, and crawls in under the covers.

He cannot make out the words, but he can hear that his father is cross. That rumble in his throat. He knows he’s stayed up too late. He can hear her going into the kitchen.

—Why do you have to ruin everything, Thomas.

—You’re drunk, Zoe.

He can hear the fridge being opened. The kettle clicks on.

—You’re drunk, Zoe, she repeats after him.

—He hasn’t a hope in hell of understanding what you’re saying. It’s twelve o’clock at night, for Christ’s sake, and you open a fresh bottle of wine. He’s nine years old, Zoe.

His dad is really mad now. So is she. The door into the lounge bangs shut.

—You underestimate him, she yells after him.

A little later his dad comes into his room. He sits down on the edge of the bed, tucks the duvet around him. He stays sitting there for a while. Sighs deeply.

—Nobody has to be that smart at twelve o’clock at night, he says, touching Frederik’s cheek.

—But I do understand, he whispers.

Thomas sits completely still for a moment longer.

—Then you’re a very clever boy, he whispers back. —Sleep well, sweetheart.

He lies in the dark for a long time. Waits for her to come. She always does.

[…]

 

FREDERIK

He knows he shouldn’t call his grandmother. It would only make matters worse.

He can always turn up the volume. So he does.

But he can still hear it, the muffled sounds; as if wrapped in a blanket.

He has his phone in his hand. The battery is charged.

He thinks he’s about to fall asleep, but it’s almost impossible not to hear the smashing of glass. He turns up the volume even more, but the sound was there only a moment before. He’s fresh out of ideas. He turns off the music. It’s quiet downstairs. He listens. He knows he’s heard it again.

Some kind of banging noise. He’s not sure which. Maybe it’s nothing.

He sees the tangled mess where Bear, Chicken, and Duck used to be. The snapped rods. They spin round when a breeze blows in from the window. He takes it down. He should’ve kept his mouth shut.

He listens. Thinks he can hear something else, but it’s probably just the rustle of leaves outside.

He checks his timetable. He’s got double periods in English and maths. Followed by two single periods in science and IT.

He’s done all his homework.

He rolls over onto his side. Rests a hand on the wall; cool to the touch, its rough surface comforting on his palm.

*     *     *

He must have slept. She’s come into his room. His hand still on the wall, he listens to her breathing. He stays lying still.

She lies down on the bed next to him. She’s not touching him, but he can feel the warmth of her body. It feels nice. He stays quiet and tries to fall asleep.

*     *     *

When the alarm goes off she’s gone. The room is empty and the sun is slanting through the white curtains. He stares at the socks on the floor. Seven in all.

He thinks he’s about to fall asleep, but it’s almost impossible not to hear the smashing of glass. He turns up the volume even more, but the sound was there only a moment before.

He gets out of bed and goes for a pee, as quietly as he can, careful to aim for the sides of the bowl. Then he goes down the stairs and into the kitchen. He opens the fridge. Takes out the milk. Fetches the cereal from the cupboard. A bowl. He lays everything out on the dining table. His forgotten a spoon. He pulls a chair up to the kitchen counter and reaches for the sugar in the cupboard. Goes back to the dining room table and sits down. What could that noise have been all about? Maybe it was all in his mind. He puts his phone on the table next to his bowl and starts spooning cereal into his mouth. He didn’t have to prep anything for English period.

*     *     *

He searches for the eighth sock. Looks under the bed. He finds it—covered in fuzz. He shakes the sock and picks off the remaining bits of fluff. Sorted. Now he’s got a matching pair that he likes. He sits down on the edge of the bed, and pulls them on.

He knows that the door to the lounge bangs all the time. Little knocks against the wooden doorframe.

He looks outside. The sun is shining. He puts on his sandals.

There’s no packed lunch in the kitchen. He cuts himself a slice of bread, a chunk of cucumber. He deposits his sandwich in a plastic freezer bag.

He tiptoes to the lounge and opens the door, as if it’s been waiting for him all this time; he lets himself get sucked in. It’s the pane of the terrace sliding door. Splinters of glass are scattered everywhere. A cold wind is blowing through a big hole in the pane. She’s lying on the sofa. Wrapped in a blanket. He’s not sure if she’s asleep.

He backs out the lounge. Grabs his satchel in the hall. He clicks the front door closed behind him.

*     *     *

At ten minutes to two ‘o clock he climbs up the tree in the schoolyard and prepares to wait. The pupils from Third Grade are playing charades far below. His perch feels like a nest. Nobody can see him up here.

It’s already gone four minutes past two when it rings.

—Hi, Freddie, says his dad.

—Hi.

—How’s it going?

—Good, he says.

—What are you doing?

—I’m playing charades.

—That sounds like fun?

—Yes.

—Is Mom home?

—I’m not sure.

—Right, you’re not home right now, are you. Is everything okay?

—Yes.

—What did you have for lunch today?

He hesitates:

—Pizza?

—I’ll be home day after tomorrow.

—Okay.

—Shall I call again tomorrow?

—Yes.

—Right-y ho. Keep well, says his dad.

—Wait. What time are you going to call tomorrow, he says. But the line is already dead.

*     *     *

He goes round the back to the garden gate. It’s locked. There’s no hole in the sliding door. And he can’t see her in the lounge. He goes back to the front door and unlocks the door. She’s not home. The sofa is empty. The blanket is lying in a heap on the floor.

He sets up his computer on the dining room table. Jonas from Sweden is online. They’re on the same team.

*     *     *

He hears the keys in the front door. He doesn’t turn round, but he can hear the rustle of bags. She’s packing stuff into the fridge. Pulls open the bottom drawer. Fills the kettle with water from the tap and switches it on. Now he turns his head. She’s holding a tea tin in each hand.

—Hej, she says.

—Hej.

She’s not home. The sofa is empty. The blanket is lying in a heap on the floor.

—Would like some tea?

—Yes, thanks, he says.

She comes over, thrusts each tin under his nose in turn.

—Uhmm, he says. —That one.

He knew she’d be back to normal.

She lays the table, and sits down opposite him, her face sticking up over the edge of the screen. She’s bought some cake. She slides a plate over.

—Shall I put this off? he asks.

—No, you don’t have to.

They sit at the table together. A string of his teammates are mowed down in an ambush from the rear.

*     *     *

She fetches the tea as soon as it’s had a chance to draw. Pours them both a cup. She fetches the bowl of sugar and puts it in front of him. She’s remembered to bring a teaspoon.

She sits down at the table.

—I’m sorry, Frederik, she says.

She’s peering over the edge of his screen. Blinks. It looks as if she wants to say more. She picks up her mug. Her hand is trembling.

—That’s okay, he says, glancing up briefly. He sees two snipers on the roof. He fires.

—I haven’t been feeling well, she says. It will pass.

—Yes, he whispers, making a dash for another sniper on the roof.

 

Ulvekvinten
Copyright © Trisse Gejl 2016
Copyright denne udgave © People’s Press 2016

„Ulvekvinten er et musikalsk paradoks.
En falskhed, vi er nødt til at leve med,
ellers går stemningssystemet ikke op.“

Et af træerne blomstrede tidligt det år. Det stod i parken foran konservatoriet. Små, lyserøde pletter med en mørk kerne. Hvader det, de hedder?

Kirsebærblomster, vil du sige. Du er voksen nu.

Senere har jeg min sorte frakke med sølvknapper på. Mine skridt hvisler gennem de tørre blade. Du løber foran. Det er oktober eller måske november. Jeg plukker et lavthængende blad fra en flammenden kastanje.

Bladene klistrer du op på hvidt papir. Jeg putter dig.

Godnat, siger jeg. Gute Nacht, siger du. Så siger jeg buenas noches. Så siger du good night. Så siger jeg buonanotte.

Så siger du det: welterusten. Du fniser, og dine grønne øjne forventer, jeg ved ikke, hvad de forventer, men sådan er det, hver gang vi når til welterusten.

Bonne nuit, smiler jeg. Din mund er gemt bag dynen nu, kun dine øjne er tilbage. Bonne nuit, hvisker du.

 

FREDERIK

– Da man opfandt klaveret, troede man, at det endelig var lykkedes at forklare og genskabe alle naturlige lyde i verden. Man stemte simpelthen klaveret efter et meget præcist system.

Det er fuldstændig som matematik, siger hun.

Det siger hun altid, fordi han er god til matematik.

Engelsk er som matematik. Klaveret er som matematik.Selv hans farmor er som matematik.

Han er bedre til matematik end hende.

Zoe slår et par toner an, mens hun ser på ham.

Han sætter fingrene på tangenterne og slår de samme toner an nogle oktaver oppe. Han følger hendes hænder, der flytter sig langsomt og sikkert rundt. Som et hurtigt ekko finder han de samme toner og slår dem an.

– Men det viste sig, at man aldrig kan efterligne naturens klange helt. For der findes en slags … naturlig falskhed, der ødelægger hele systemet, hvis man prøver at integrere den. Her, siger hun, – efter denne kvint, og hun sætter to fingre på tangenterne.

Det lyder ikke falsk, synes han.

– Man kaldte den ulvekvinten, siger hun. – Fordi man syntes, den lød lige så rædselsfuld som ulve, der hyler i kor.

Han er ikke sikker på, han hører det, hun vil have ham til at høre.

Hun slipper tangenterne og rækker ud efter sit rødvinsglas, der står på klaveret. Hun holder det svævende foran ansigtet.

– Det er ret fint, ikke?

Så sætter hun glasset til læberne.

Han nikker.

Hun sætter glasset fra sig og spiller et stykke, han kender, men ikke kan huske, hvad hedder. Det er sådan noget, hun gør. Lige spiller noget, der lyder godt.

Han henter et glas saftevand og sætter det på klaveret. Detmåtte han ikke, da han var mindre. Nu siger hun ikke noget.

– Når man så komponerede musik ud fra systemet, skulle man bare undgå ulvekvinten, siger hun og hopper en kvint op. – Den er ubrugelig, den ødelægger ethvert stykke musik. Den er naturlig, men falsk. Det er meget frustrerende.

– Så lavede man nye stemningssystemer. Det, vi bruger i dag, stammer helt fra 1600-tallet. Nu forsøgte man at fordele denne falskhed, ulvekvinten, over så mange kvinter som

muligt. Du kan altså godt flytte rundt på den falske kvint, du kan udtynde den, men du kan aldrig komme af med den. Med det resultat at al musik, vi hører i dag, er en lille smule falsk, siger hun, mens hun fortsætter en langsom melodi.

– Men vi kan ikke længere høre det, for vi har vænnet os til det. Det er ligesom en kabale, Frederik, stemningssystemer kan aldrig helt gå op.

Hun ser glad ud. Hun kan godt lide, at det ikke kan gå op.

– Kabaler kan godt gå op, siger han.

– Nå ja, siger hun. – Men så forestil dig en kabale, der ikke kan gå op.

Det kan han godt forestille sig. Han ser på hende. Hun ser altid tilbage med et særligt blik, når hun spiller samtidig. Som om han både er der og ikke er der.

– Så Frederik, siger hun og standser.

Hun tager vinglasset igen og tømmer det i en hurtig slurk.

– Når vi gennem mange hundreder af år komponerer efter klangsystemer, må vi vælge mellem pest eller kolera. Enten komponerer vi efter det ældste princip, der samler falskheden ved syvende kvint, og sørger for at komponere udenom den lyd. Vi skaber den ikke, vi hører den ikke længere, vi udrydder den på samme måde, som hvis vi ikke længere brugte farven … olivengrøn. Så ville vi til sidst ikke kunne se den. Eller også komponerer vi efter det nyeste princip, der fordeler den falske kvint over hele klaveret. Man kan sige, at vi så har valgt at sløre et umiddelbart link mellem musikken og naturen. Alt, vi spiller, er derfor en smule falsk, men heller ikke det hører vi længere.

Hun sidder lidt og ser på tangenterne.

– Forstår du det, Frederik?

Han nikker.

– Og det har vi slået os til tåls med, det er prisen for at have en klang, der er næsten perfekt. Det er musikkens paradoks. Nu genskaber vi glad og uvidende en falsk verden.

Hun rejser sig og går ud i køkkenet.

– Er det ikke ligesom pi? råber hun. – Eller skudår, ellers går tiden ikke op?

Det ved han ikke. Han ser på tangenterne. Prøver at klemme øjnene lidt sammen for at se dem anderledes, for at se den lille falskhed. Hun åbner en flaske vin, han kan høre suget fra proppen. Så kommer hun ind igen og sætter sig ved klaveret. Hun spiller en lille melodi.

– Du kan også tænke på urskiven, siger hun og viser ham sit ur.

– Der er tolv kvinter på klaveret, der er tolv tal på urskiven. Hvis mellemrummet mellem hvert tal var en kvint, ville kvinterne først stoppe et sekund efter tolv. Du vil aldrig ramme tolv helt rent. Det duer jo ikke, vel? For hvis vi bare fortsætter, så bliver klokken næste gang lidt mere over tolv. Og næste gang lidt mere.

Han ser på uret og nikker. Klokken er fem minutter i tolv.

– Så vi snyder lidt og laver alle kvinterne en lillebitte smule falske, så vi rammer tolv rent hver gang. Vi kan bedst lide, at tingene passer til det, vi kan forstå.

Hun ser lidt på ham. Så smiler hun.

– Det er et symfonisk problem, ikke et melodisk, siger hun så. – Og mennesket vil gerne lave store symfonier, ikke bare små melodier. Så vi har været nødt til at bøje naturen mod os i stedet for at bøje os for den. Forstår du det?

Han nikker.

– Det er godt nok abstrakt det der, lyder Thomas’ stemme. Han står i døren ind til stuen med frakke på. Han må lige være kommet hjem. De har i hvert fald ikke hørt ham.

– Hvis vi havde bøjet os for naturen, havde vi ikke overlevet som art, siger han.

Hans stemme er irriteret. – Hvorfor er du ikke i seng, Frederik?

*     *     *

Frederik går ud og børster tænder. Vasker hænder. De taler hurtigt derinde. Han vidste det jo godt. Så trækker han ud i toilettet.

Hvis alle instrumenter er lavet i et forsøg på at kunne spille naturens toner, hvilket instrument skal så lyde, som når man trækker ud i toilettet?

Han ved godt, det ikke er nu, han skal spørge.

Han går ind på sit værelse og tager nattøj på. Han glatter lagenet og ryster dynen, før han lægger sig ned under den.

Han kan ikke høre, hvad de siger, men hans far er sur. Han taler med den der brummen. Han ved godt, han er kommet for sent i seng. Nu går hun ud i køkkenet.

– Derfor behøver du ikke ødelægge det, siger hun.

– Du er fuld, Zoe, siger Thomas.

Han kan høre køleskabet blive åbnet. Elkedlen tændt.

– Du er fuld, Zoe, efteraber hun.

– Han har jo ikke en chance for at forstå det der. Klokken er tolv om natten, og du sidder dér med ham og har lige åbnet en ny flaske vin. For fanden, han er ni år.

Han er rigtig vred nu. Det er hun også. Døren ind til stuen smækker med et brag.

– Du undervurderer ham, råber hun.

Lidt efter kommer Thomas ind. Han sætter sig på kanten af sengen og stopper dynen ned om Frederik. Han sidder lidt. Så sukker han.

– Så klog behøver man ikke være klokken tolv om natten, siger han og stryger en finger over Frederiks kind.

– Jeg kan altså godt forstå det, hvisker han.

Thomas sidder lidt.

– Så er du en meget klog dreng, hvisker han tilbage. – Sov godt.

Han ligger længe i mørket og venter på, at hun skal komme. Det gør hun altid.

[…]

 

FREDERIK

Han ved godt, at han nok ikke skal ringe til farmor. Det vil gøre det hele meget værre.

Man kan også bare skrue op. Det gør han.

Han kan stadig høre det. Men nu er det, som om det er inde i en dyne.

Han har mobilen i hånden. Den er fuldt opladet.

Han tror, han er ved at falde lidt i søvn, men det er næsten umuligt ikke at høre rabalderet af glas. Han skruer op, men det var der stadig lige før. Nu ved han ikke rigtig, hvad han skal gøre. Han slukker for musikken. Der er stille. Han lytter. Han ved, at det var der.

Måske er der en lille lyd nu. Men han er ikke sikker. Måske er der slet ingen lyd.

Han ser op på uroen, hvor Bamse og Kylling og Ælling var. Nu er der kun de hvide pinde tilbage, men de drejer stadig en gang imellem i trækken fra vinduet. Hun hev dem af. Han skulle ikke have sagt noget.

Han lytter. Tror, han kan høre lidt, men det er vist bare en raslen i bladene udenfor.

De skal have engelsk og matematik i to timer og så natur og teknik.

Det har han lavet.

Han vender sig om. Lægger en hånd på væggen. Den er kølig. Den nubrede overflade er rar at mærke i håndfladen.

*     *     *

Han har sovet. Han kan mærke, at hun er kommet ind i værelset. Han kan høre hende trække vejret. Han ligger helt stille. Hånden mod væggen.

Så lægger hun sig ned i sengen. Han kan mærke varmen fra hendes krop, selvom hun ikke rører ved ham. Det er rart. Han ligger stille og prøver at sove igen.

*     *     *

Da vækkeuret ringer, er hun der ikke mere. Der er tomt, og solen skinner ind gennem de hvide gardiner. Han kigger på syv sokker på gulvet.

Han står op. Han tisser, så stille han kan. Han styrer strålen op ad kummens sider. Så går han ud i køkkenet. Åbner køleskabet. Tager mælk ud. Henter havregryn. En tallerken. Han sætter det hele på bordet. Så går han tilbage og henter en ske. Trækker en stol hen for at nå sukkeret. Så sidder han der. Han ved ikke rigtig, hvad det var. Måske var det ikke noget. Han lægger mobilen ved siden af sig og spiser. Han havde ikke noget for i engelsk.

*     *     *

Han leder efter den ottende sok under sengen. Han finder den fuld af nullermænd. Ryster den. Piller det af. Nu har han to ens, han godt kan lide. Han sætter sig på kanten af sengen og tager dem på.

Han ved godt, at døren til stuen går op og i hele tiden. Små bump mod karmen.

Han ser ud. Solen skinner. Han tager sandaler på.

Der er ikke nogen madpakke. Han skærer en skive brød og et stykke agurk og kommer det i en frysepose.

Først nu skubber han døren til stuen forsigtigt op. Det er, som om den har ventet på ham, lader sig suge indad. Det er en af ruderne i terrassedøren. Der ligger glasskår over det hele. En kold vind står ind. Hun ligger i sofaen. Hun har et tæppe over sig. Han ved ikke, om hun sover.

Så tager han sin taske og lader hoveddøren falde i med et lille klik.

*     *     *

Klokken ti minutter i to klatrer han op i træet og giver sig til at vente. Dem fra tredje klasse spiller rollespil nede på legepladsen. Det er som en hule heroppe. Man kan ikke ses nedefra.

Først fire minutter over to ringer den.

– Hej, Frede, siger hans far.

– Hej.

– Går det godt?

– Ja, siger han.

– Hvad laver du?

– Jeg spiller rollespil.

– Er det sjovt?

– Ja.

– Er mor hjemme?

– Det ved jeg ikke.

– Nåh nej, du er jo ikke hjemme. Går det godt?

– Ja, gentager han.

– Hvad har I fået at spise?

Han tøver.

– Pizza? siger han så.

– Jeg kommer hjem i overmorgen.

– Okay.

– Skal jeg ringe igen i morgen?

– Ja, siger han.

– O.k., hav det godt så længe, siger hans far.

– Hvornår ringer du? spørger han, men forbindelsen er

allerede afbrudt.

*     *     *

Han går rundt om huset, om til havedøren. Den er lukket, og der er ikke hul i nogen rude mere. Han kan ikke se hende derinde. Så går han om til hoveddøren og låser sig ind. Hun er der ikke. Han ser den tomme sofa. Tæppet ligger på gulvet.

Han sætter sin computer på spisebordet i stuen og tænder den. Jonas fra Sverige er online. De er på hold sammen.

*     *     *

Senere hører han nøglen i døren. Han vender sig ikke om, men han kan høre poser. Hun sætter ting i køleskabet. Ryster poserne og folder dem sammen. Lægger dem ned i nederste skuffe. Hun fylder vand i kedlen, tænder den. Så tager hun tedåser ned. Hun stiller sig i døren ind til stuen. Nu vender han sig om. Hun har en tedåse i hver hånd.

– Hej, siger hun.

– Hej.

– Vil du have te?

– Ja tak, siger han.

Hun kommer hen til ham og holder først den ene og så

den anden dåse under hans næse.

– Uhm, siger han, – den der.

Han vidste, hun ville blive almindelig igen.

Hun dækker op på bordet og sætter sig overfor ham. Hendes ansigt stikker op over computerskærmen. Hun har også købt kage. Skubber tallerkenen hen mod ham.

– Skal jeg slukke nu? siger han.

– Det behøver du ikke.

Så sidder de der. En masse af hans medspillere er blevet skudt i et bagholdsangreb.

*     *     *

Hun henter teen, da den har trukket. Skænker op til dem begge to. Hun henter sukker til ham. Og en teske.

Så sætter hun sig igen.

– Undskyld, Frederik, siger hun.

Han kigger op over skærmen og blinker. Hun ser ud, som om hun vil sige noget mere. Så tager hun tekruset i stedet. Hendes hænder ryster lidt.

– Det er okay, siger han og ser ned og skyder to på taget.

– Jeg har det ikke så godt for tiden, siger hun. – Det går

over.

– Ja, hvisker han og forfølger en snigskytte.

 

Translator’s Note:

Some say that the act of translation is, in itself, impossible. How does one express what cannot be verbalized? How do you record the disintegration of a mind? Perhaps it is impossible, but the first time I read The False Note I had a very real sense of what it might feel like to lose your mind, and, being a translator, I was intrigued by the way Trisse Gejl imagined how this language of loss—a void of madness—would sound: the nuanced language of music forms the central conceit of the novel; the relative veracity of a tone, as and when it reaches the ear. Frederik has the innocence of a child, but the gift to identify the relative “falsity” of a voice, and this novel invokes the irresistible challenge to translate certain tones of discord into English. When I read the original, it is often the silence, a pause in speech, which resounds.

 

Lindy Falk van Rooyen is a Danish literary translator and holds an LLM in commercial law from the University of Stellenbosch and an MA in Scandinavian and English literature from the University of Hamburg. Her translations have appeared in Blue Lyra Review, Asymptote, and The Missing Slate. Recent translation publications include The Last Execution by Jesper Wung-Sung (Simon & Schuster, 2016) and What My Body Remembers (Soho Press, 2017) by Agnete Friis.

Photo by Elfriede Liebenow

Trisse Gejl is a Danish author and journalist who made her debut with the critically acclaimed novel Where the Dandelions Grow in 1995. She holds a Cand.mag in aesthetics and cultural studies from the University of Aarhus. Her novels have been nominated for several literary awards, including Danish Radio’s Literary Award in 2007 and 2012. The False Note is her most recent novel and was short-listed for the prestigious Blixen Literary Award in 2016.

Photo by Les Kaner