Excerpt of It's Fine By Me by Per Petterson
(Page 3 of 4)
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'What's wrong with your leg?'
'So what happened to the car?'
He laughed so much he almost fell off his crutches.
'I don't know. I didn't see it. Someone drove into me
from behind, and I blacked out and woke up in my grandmother's
spare room.' He laughed again, his whole face
smiling. 'When I woke up, I thought I was in heaven,
because the first thing I saw was one of those pictures where
it says Jesus lives.'
'So you believe in God then?'
'No, I never have, but when I woke up in my grandmother's
house, I thought perhaps I'd been wrong. Luckily
then, I worked out where I was. That picture had always
He leaned on his crutches, dangling one leg over the grip
and laughed non-stop. I had decided not to make friends
with anyone at this school, but this bloke was hard to refuse.
'Something wrong with your eyes?'
'I can't take the bright light,' I said and felt bad about
it, because that wasn't quite true, but it was truer than other
things I had said. 'I start throwing up straight away.'
'Fair enough,' he said, and there was a silence, and I felt
like a fraud. But then a ball rolled our way. I saw it first and
was going to give it a kick, but then he saw it too, got ready,
and using his crutches as a pommel horse, he thumped the
ball with his good leg so hard it flew to the other end of
the playground and smacked into the fence. It was impressive,
but not something you did on a football field.
'Not bad,' I said, and he just kept on grinning and said:
'My name's Arvid, by the way,' and then the bell rang.
This time it was easier to enter the classroom, I was not the
last one in, but I kept my glasses on. As long they left me
in peace, this day might be OK.
When we were all seated at our desks, Levang went up
to the dais and sat down as well, crossed his hands and let
his gaze wander around the class until it settled on me. He
smiled, I felt my neck go stiff, and then he said in a very
'Well, Audun. There wasn't much time in the first lesson,
but now I was wondering if maybe you could tell us something
about what it's like where you come from. Most of
the class, you know, haven't lived anywhere else but here
in Veitvet. What's it called, the place where you grew up?'
I should have known. He wasn't going to leave me in
peace. He was a nice man, no doubt about it, and he was
doing this for my sake, he wanted me to feel at home. I
'I mean, it could be interesting for us to hear about. Did
you live on a farm?'
'There's nothing to tell,' I said in a loud voice. The blackhaired
girl was giggling again.
Levang smiled, his face slightly flushed. 'Surely that can't
be true,' he said. 'I mean, you're thirteen years old, after
all. You must have experienced lots of things that are
different from what we are used to here.'
'I said there's nothing to tell!'
'Are you sure?' he asked. Then I got up from the desk,
grabbed my schoolbag from the hook on the side and made
for the door. No one was giggling now.
Arvid turned to look at me, but his eyes told me nothing
of what was in his mind.
'Oi, where are you going?' Levang said, and then he got
up and took a few steps to cut me off. I felt my whole body
tense up. I looked past his shoulder to the door, but there
was no point in trying.
'I've always done my homework,' I said. 'I've always paid
attention. You can see my school report if you like, but you
have no right to ask me questions about things that have
nothing to do with school.'
Per Petterson. Excerpt from It's Fine By Me. Copyright © 1992 by Forlaget Oktober, Oslo. English translation copyright © 2011 by Don Bartlett. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org