This new short story by Eija Hetekivi Olsson is now being used in schools in Sweden. Last year Counterfire published her In the Suburban Sauna and here we publish the first English translation of her latest work

Eija Hetekivi OlssonHe lit the match and flicked it at the loo. She liked the smell of sulphur and pulled him close. Liked the looker-smell better, like wild raspberries, wanted to pin him down and wild-snog but let him go and watched the match slow-spin through the air, past the inky tag on the door, and hit the bin. Somebody’s blood stained hanky caught fire and then the poo paper. At the bottom of the quick-melting plastic bag was a spray can. “Shit”, she thought just before the flame exploded. The clean roll of hand paper in the unclean dispenser above also caught fire. It smoked like hell. She knew what she should do, but refused. He got hyper and bolted. Simon the looker with the sexy Bolt bum. Her future boyfriend, if she got her way. Old enough, but a coward. What the fuck.

“Hey, man, stay here for fuck’s sake”, she yelled at him and waved her arm. The bangles rattled.

“Hey, woman, shake that ass and come over here” he yelled back. “Laila … down with that booty on me, girl all I really want is you down on me, put it down on me”, he sang.

So darned lovelynoying, she thought and sneered “Shake that ass yourself, wannabe asshole”.

The fire alarm started ringing. It was less loud than last week, had gotten tired. She left, keeping pace with the ringing and into the sundried schoolyard that was slowly being filled with people. The outdoor bin had been replaced with an armour bin. It had burned too, after everyone had watched the new monkey fence being raised around the asphalt from Affe’s social studies lesson. The same fence that she’d cut a body sized breathing hole through, using the tongs from carpentry class.

Simon came outside too, said “Laila” again and smiled. She almost died when he said her name, but she’d never let him know. She boxed his shoulder and bit, took a pretend-bite of his tongue. He loud-moaned and pressed his hands against his loveheart. She turned around and peeped through the classroom window. The door was open. She saw the teacher, Swededude, tap-dancing outside the loo in the corridor putting out the paper fire with the foam extinguisher. Fire foam squirted on his paleface too. She cackled at it and took out her iPhoney. Took a horrorcool pic of him, zoomed in, uploaded it to Facebook and cackled at that too.

Further down on the window, it said FML. The alarm went quiet. She pulled up her leggings.

“She want it, I can tell she want it, want me to push up on it”, Simon continued lovelynoying.

“Boy you are a beauty, well I am a beast, they must have been trippin’ to have let me off the leash”, she warned and winked him off. Got stressed because he left. Lit a cigarette with the leopard lighter, sucked and blew in hyperspeed. Put it out again with the black fake Converse and fixed up the mascara lashes with her fingers. Fixed up the sweater which matched the lighter too. Farted quietly and went inside.

Simon was nowhere to be seen. She got more stressed, he could bump into the new, cocky girl in the corridor. The bitch who had pushed up her boobs for him.

The paper fire was gone, the loo bath foamy. The smoke had gotten thinnerand taken over the place. Her locker too, apparently. The locker next to hers was burned. The paint dark brown and bubbly. She scratched it. Flakes flew. Inside the locker was a pile of ashes. She never left anything in her locker except for cigarette butts and the used ugly-books.

She took out the Swedish book, the front cover was flimsy and several pages were missing. Spat yellow on the floor, locked and went to the classroom where the lesson hadn’t even started but was already derailing. Surprising. Not. Classes always derailed with Swededude, never with Affe.

There was a paperball fight and Ahmed was breakdancing. He was the best. Matches fell out of his pocket. She rushed through the room and sat on the desk behind him. Threw a free ball on his head.

“You may not have learned that it’s dangerous playing with fire, your parents may not know, but it is dangerous and I want you to confess to starting the bathroom fire Ahmed”, said Dude. Ahmed stopped dancing.

“Hey, wasn’t me, I swear… and what the fuck are you saying about my dear parents, you racist or what?” said Ahmed. He looked furious.

“You… I actually help immigrants, to help you get jobs.” Swededude was hardsweating like everyone in the tinyflats. “Far too many are unemployed in this neighbourhood, you should be aware of that.”

“Your mum can be aware of that”, she thought-growled.

“Hey, we’re not immigrants, we were fucking born in Sweden”, she said before Ahmed. She got up and took a step closer to Ahmed.

“And if you mess up you will have a difficult life, you know… yes… I am so tired of… Immigrants have huge problems here because they’ve messed up just the way you have”, Swededude kept babbling to Ahmed, as if she hadn’t said anything. “And do not call me racist, or I’ll kick you out”, Dude added and threat-waved his teacher hand.

“Then don’t call me an immigrant, I’m no immigrant”, Ahmed agreed with her.

“So you’re not dark?” said Swededude. “You may not have understood it yet but this is a class for immigrants and I don’t expect you to speak as good Swedish as the others, but I do expect you to not set fire to bathrooms.”

“You fucking idiot!” she screamed inside her own head and got so annoyed her heart started racing. And what others, she wondered. Everyone in this second-rate school took Swedish classes for immigrants. Everyone! She Conversed to the corridor to keep from flipping.

“I’m no immigrant!” Ahmed repeated, sounding even more furious.

“Be quiet and sit down… no, get out you too… I said get out!” Swededude yelled. Fatima giggled.

“Hey, you stupid?” Ahmed screamed. “And my mami is a cleaner, working all the fucking time… How the hell are you gonna help her, you giving her a pay rise or what?”

Swededude had enough, he attacked Ahmed, she heard it. Chair legs got tangled, a chair fell over. More giggles. Ahmed stumbled outside and kicked the bathroom door, the foam on it quivered. Kicked the classroom door too, it slammed, and said “cocksucker”.

“Your pizzeria sucks cock”, she said to lighten things up a bit, but it didn’t help. Ahmed made her think of a ticking time bomb. He could explode like the flame because of what Swededude had said.

Affe was also swededudey, but not as much and he wore fake Converse like her, but yellow. He was a bit gayish, but cool.

“Laila, wazzup?” he said while staring at his monitor. Had a feeling it was her anyway. She liked that, but not his staring at the screen.

“Hey, can’t you teach Swedish too instead of that idiot?” she asked and sat down nearby. Her heart still raced. And her temples were pounding.

“Naah, I can’t and I don’t want to interfere with his classes”, he said and kept reading. His bumpy forehead stopped where the hair should well have started.

“Yo, UFO, you’re already interfered… And I can’t fucking stand him anymore, no one does.” She slid closer. Wanted to know what was more important. Incendiary school fire was the name of the website he was reading. “Who writes like that, helloo?” She tease-laughed at the novice who used the word incendiary, as if not all school fires were incendiary. At least they were here.

“The Swedish government invests millions in research of school fires during a time period of five years” Affe said and hot-scratched his scalp. He too seemed to have a high pressure inside, wanting to vent. “This is the final year, two thousand and twelve, and the fires have only increased” he continued. “Several schools burn every day and… oh, the reasons they speak of here… oh, dear, I have to go and… Watch that.” He pinky-pointed at the laptop computer and trotted backwards to the teahcers’ loo.

“Chill out, who you talking to… go take a shit.” She nodded him to speed up and got curious. Clicked, scrolled and devoured the words disturbed family relations… abnormal children… problematic teenagers… many behavioural disorders… personality disorders… paranoid and psychotic… biological…

“Shiiit Sexy, look what those Swedish government people write about us, can’t believe my eyes”, she said to Simon who finally came back, sat down next to her and leaned in to get a better view. His hot and hairy arm skin touched hers. Her heart beat harder.

“It’s those who, like, do research about why schools burn and such”, she explained. “Your dad can be paranoid”, she said to the Swedish government. Had red dots before her eyes like on the hanky before and tease-laughed more. “And what the hell does that mean, pathological disorders… Helloo… and look at that… what, those who burn schools also commit sexual assault, what do they mean?”

“Don’t know lass, but I can add some sexual salt if you want?” said Simon and raised his hands to protect himself from being beaten. She punched his stomach.

“Aah”, he complained but couldn’t help but smiling again. He was sold. She read aloud. “Treatment for young arsonists… Barefoot. Pupils should be barefoot to create a calmer atmosphere. It’s not easy being tough with bare feet.” She laughed out loud.

“Misfits”, said Simon and shuffled the laptop into his arms. “Fucking zombies, it’s not easy being tough with no brains”, he elaborated. “Bet they haven’t heard this one.” He closed down the arson site and played a song on YouTube. Leaned his knee against hers. I come to revenge for my broken dreams, I didn’t come to wait tables or park limousines, I come to get up from my hands and knees… I’m gonna burn down… she listened but was interrupted. Ahmed was pushed against the wall by two older guys. The meaty one had a tribal tattoo on his neck. Swededude soured past and saw it happen, but didn’t do anything. He was going to drink gossip coffee with his colleagues. She hated him and when she saw Affe returning, she rushed outside. Took out her lipstick and put a red S between the letters on the window. Now it said FMSL. Fuck My School Life.

She didn’t know how she would endure. Affe said that more than half of the pupils graduating last year had failed. Because they didn’t endure or approve of school, she knew and ran to the hole in the monkey fence. She stepped through, just to breathe a little and think about something else. Or about nothing, before her brain boiled to Cambuulo.

Simon was hanging about outside the main entrance with his buddies, turned around and tossed his eyebrows. She got volcano hot, kissed her kiss my ass finger and showed it to him. Put on her headphones, turned up the volume and vanished… yours backwards through time at the speed of light… I’m yours, you’re mine, two satellites not alone…

Next time she smelled the wild raspberries she wouldn’t let go, they would be thrown… deep into space and the lasers split the dark, cut right through the dark… and tremble from the overdose and… this is hardcore, and I’m indestructible…

Her entire body was drumming now. She took off the headphones and heartbeat through the hole in the fence again and into the schoolyard, at the same time as two cop cars blew past and stopped in front of the high-rise to the right.

The uniforms ran towards Ahmed’s entrance, but that wasn’t where the people selling knives and Kalashnikovs lived. She rolled her eyes, hated the cops as much as Swededude. Saw the new, cocky girl bump into Simon.

Her heart raced. She put her veil straight and tightened it. Pulled out the bangles, put them around her knuckles and made a flying start towards school.

Eija Hetekivi Olsson, born in 1973, is a Swedish writer. She grew up in Gårdsten and Bergsjön, both suburban housing project areas of Gothenburg. Her bestselling debut novel, No Child’s Land (Sw. Ingenbarnsland) portrays a child growing up in those suburbs during the 1980s. Young Miira is a strong girl with a big heart, who fights back and raises her voice whenever she is expected to accept injustice. She thinks a lot and wants to learn everything. The raw depictions of class and the author’s uniquely unconventional style of writing attracted a significant amount of attention, and No Child’s Land has been highly acclaimed by critics and readers alike. It has won numerous awards and been nominated to some of Sweden’s most prominent literary prizes.
Los Angered was originally published by Myrios Novellförlag and is used in Swedish schools.

(Translated by Anna Fock)