Chapter no 38

A Man Called Ove


Broadly speaking there are two kinds of people. Those who understand how extremely useful white cables can be, and those who don’t. Jimmy is the first of these. He loves white cables. And white telephones. And white computer monitors with fruit on the back. That’s more or less the sum of what Ove has absorbed during the car journey into town, when Jimmy natters on excitedly about the sorts of things every rational person ought to be so insuperably interested in, until Ove at last sinks into a sort of deeply meditative state of mind, in which the overweight young man’s babbling turns to a dull hissing in his ears.

As soon as the young man thundered into the passenger seat of the Saab with a large sandwich in his hand, Ove obviously wished he hadn’t asked for Jimmy’s help with this. Things are not improved by Jimmy aimlessly shuffling off to “check a few leads” as soon as they enter the shop.

If you want something done you have to do it yourself, as usual, Ove confirms to himself as he steers his steps alone towards the sales assistant. And not until Ove roars, “Have you been frontally lobotomized or what?!” to the young man who’s trying to show him the shop’s range of portable computers does Jimmy come hurrying to his aid. And then it’s not Ove but rather the shop assistant who needs to be aided.

“We’re together.” Jimmy nods to the assistant with a glance that sort of functions as a secret handshake to communicate the message, “Don’t

worry, I’m one of you!”

The sales assistant takes a long, frustrated breath and points at Ove. “I’m trying to help him but—”

“You’re just trying to fob me off with a load of CRAP, that’s what you’re doing!” Ove yells back at him without letting him get to a full stop, and menacing him with something he spontaneously snatches off the nearest shelf.

Ove doesn’t quite know what it is, but it looks like a white electrical plug of some sort and it feels like the sort of thing he could throw very hard at the sales assistant if the need arises. The sales assistant looks at Jimmy with a sort of twitching around his eyes that Ove seems adept at generating in people with whom he comes into contact. This is so frequent that one could possibly name a syndrome after him.

“He didn’t mean any harm, man,” Jimmy tries to say pleasantly.

“I’m trying to show him a MacBook and he’s asking me what sort of car I drive,” the sales assistant bursts out, looking genuinely hurt.

“It’s a relevant question,” mutters Ove, with a firm nod at Jimmy.



“I don’t have a car! Because I think it’s unnecessary and I want to use more environmentally friendly modes of transportation!” says the sales assistant in a tone of voice pitched somewhere between intransigent anger and the fetal position.

Ove looks at Jimmy and throws out his arms, as if this should explain everything.

“You can’t reason with a person like that.” He nods and evidently expects immediate support. “Where the hell have you been, anyway?”

“I was just checking out the monitors over there, you know,” explains Jimmy.

“Are you buying a monitor?” asks Ove.

“No,” says Jimmy and looks at Ove as if it was a really strange question, more or less in the way that Sonja used to ask, “What’s that got to do with it?” when Ove asked her if she really “needed” another pair of shoes.

The sales assistant tries to turn around and steal away, but Ove quickly puts his leg forward to stop him.

“Where are you going? We’re not done here.”

The sales assistant looks deeply unhappy now. Jimmy pats him on the back, to encourage him.

“Ove here just wants to check out an iPad—can you sort us out?” The sales assistant gives Ove a grim look.

Okay, but as I was trying to ask him earlier, what model do you want?

The 16-, 32-, or 64-gigabyte?”

Ove looks at the sales assistant as if he feels the latter should stop regurgitating random combinations of letters.

“There are different versions with different amounts of memory,” Jimmy translates for Ove as if he were an interpreter for the Department of Immigration.

“And I suppose they want a hell of a lot of extra money for it,” Ove snorts back.

Jimmy nods his understanding of the situation and turns to the sales assistant.

“I think Ove wants to know a little more about the differences between the various models.”

The sales assistant groans.



“Well, do you want the normal or the 3G model, then?” Jimmy turns to Ove.

“Will it be used mainly at home or will she use it outdoors as well?”

Ove pokes his flashlight finger into the air and points it dead straight at the sales assistant.

“Hey! I want her to have the BEST ONE! Understood?”

The sales assistant takes a nervous step back. Jimmy grins and opens his massive arms as if preparing himself for a big hug.

“Let’s say 3G, 128-gig, all the bells and whistles you’ve got. And can you throw in a cable?”

A few minutes later Ove snatches the plastic bag with the iPad box from the counter, mumbling something about “eightthousandtwohundredandninetyfivekronor and they don’t even throw in a keyboard!” followed by “thieves,” “bandits,” and various obscenities.



And so it turns out that the seven-year-old gets an iPad that evening from Ove. And a lead from Jimmy.

She stands in the hall just inside the door, not quite sure what to do with that information, and in the end she just nods and says, “Really nice . . . thanks.” Jimmy nods expansively.

“You got any snacks?”

She points to the living room, which is full of people. In the middle of the room is a birthday cake with eight lit candles, towards which the well-built young man immediately navigates. The girl, who is now an eight-year-old, stays in the hall, touching the iPad box with amazement. As if she hardly dares believe that she’s actually got it in her hands. Ove leans towards her.

“That’s how I always felt every time I bought a new car,” he says in a low voice.

She looks around to make sure no one can see; then she smiles and gives him a hug.

“Thanks, Granddad,” she whispers and runs into her room.



Ove stands quietly in the hall, poking his house keys against the calluses on one of his palms. Patrick comes limping along on his crutches in pursuit of the eight-year-old. Apparently he’s been given the evening’s most thankless task: that of convincing his daughter that it’s more fun sitting there in a dress, eating cake with a lot of boring grown-ups, than staying in her room listening to pop music and downloading apps onto her new iPad. Ove stays in the hall with his jacket on and stares emptily at the floor for what must be almost ten minutes.

“Are you okay?”

Parvaneh’s voice tugs gently at him as if he is coming out of a deep dream. She’s standing in the opening to the living room with her hands on her globular stomach, balancing it in front of her as if it were a large laundry basket. Ove looks up, slightly hazy in his eyes.

“Yeah, yeah, of course I am.”

“You want to come in and have some cake?”

“No . . . no. I don’t like cake. I’ll just take a little walk with the cat.”

Parvaneh’s big brown eyes hold on to him in that piercing way, as they do more and more often these days, which always makes him very

unsettled. As if she’s filled with dark premonitions.

“Okay,” she says at last, without any real conviction in her voice. “Are we having a driving lesson tomorrow? I’ll ring your doorbell at eight,” she suggests after that.



Ove nods. The cat strolls into the hall with cake in its whiskers.

“Are you done now?” Ove snorts at it, and when the cat looks ready to confirm that it is, Ove glances at Parvaneh, fidgets a little with his keys, and agrees in a low voice:

“Right. Tomorrow morning at eight, then.”

The dense winter darkness has descended when Ove and the cat venture out into the little walkway between the houses. The laughter and music of the birthday party well out like a big warm carpet between the walls. Sonja would have liked it, Ove thinks to himself. She would have loved what was happening to the place with the arrival of this crazy, pregnant foreign woman and her utterly ungovernable family. She would have laughed a lot. And God, how much Ove misses that laugh.

He walks up towards the parking area with the cat. Checks all the signposts by giving them a good kick. Tugs at the garage doors. Makes a detour over the guest parking and then comes back. Checks the trash room. As they come back between the houses alongside Ove’s toolshed, Ove sees something moving down by the last house on Parvaneh and Patrick’s side of the road. At first Ove thinks it’s one of the party guests, but soon he sees that the figure is moving by the shed belonging to the dark house of that recycling family. They, as far as Ove knows, are still in Thailand. He squints into the gloom to be sure that the shadows are not deceiving him, and for a few seconds he actually doesn’t see anything. But then, just as he’s ready to admit that his eyesight is not what it used to be, the figure reappears. And behind him, another two. And then he hears the unmistakable sound of someone tapping with a hammer at a window that’s covered in insulation tape. Which is how one minimizes the noise when the glass shatters. Ove knows exactly what it sounds like; he learned how to do it on the railways when they had to knock out broken train windows without cutting their fingers.

“Hey? What are you doing?” he calls through the darkness. The figures down by the house stop moving. Ove hears voices.

“Hey, you!” he bellows and starts running towards them.

He sees one of them take a couple of steps towards him, and he hears one of them shouting something. Ove increases his pace and charges at them like a human battering ram. He has time to think that he should have brought something from the toolshed to fight with, but now it’s too late. From the corner of his eye he notices one of the figures swinging something long and narrow in one fist, so Ove decides he has to hit that bastard first.



When there’s a stabbing feeling in his breast he thinks at first that one of them has managed to attack him from behind and thump a fist into his back. But then there’s another stab, from inside. Worse than ever, as if someone were skewering him from the scalp down, methodically working a sword all the way through his body until it comes out through the soles of his feet. Ove gasps for air but there’s no air to be had. He falls in the middle of a stride, tumbles with his full weight into the snow. Perceives the dulled pain of his cheek scraping against the ice, and feels how something seems to be squeezing the insides of his chest in a big, merciless fist. Like an aluminum can being crushed in the hand.

Ove hears the running steps of the burglars in the snow, and realizes that they are fleeing. He doesn’t know how many seconds pass, but the pain in his head, like a long line of fluorescent tubes exploding, is unbearable. He wants to cry out but there’s no oxygen in his lungs. All he hears is Parvaneh’s remote voice through the deafening sound of pulsating blood in his ears. Perceives the tottering steps when she stumbles and slips through the snow, her disproportionate body on those tiny feet. The last thing Ove has time to think before everything goes dark is that he has to make her promise that she won’t let the ambulance drive down between the houses.

Because vehicular traffic is prohibited in the residential area.

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