MONDAY, MAY 2, 2005
You might think he could have made up his mind earlier, and been man enough to inform his surroundings of his decision. But Allan Karlsson had never been given to pondering things too long.
So the idea had barely taken hold in the old mans head before he opened the window of his room on the ground floor of the Old Folks Home in the town of Malmköping, and stepped out into the flower bed.
This maneuver required a bit of effort, since Allan was 100 years old, on this very day in fact. There was less than an hour to go before his birthday party would begin in the lounge of the Old Folks Home. The mayor would be there. And the local paper. And all the other old people. And the entire staff, led by bad tempered Director Alice.
It was only the Birthday Boy himself who didnt intend to turn up.
MONDAY, MAY 2, 2005
Allan Karlsson hesitated as he stood there in the flower bed that ran along one side of the Old Folks Home. He was wearing a brown jacket with brown trousers and on his feet he had a pair of brown indoor slippers. He was not a fashion plate; people rarely are at that age. He was on the run from his own birthday party, another unusual thing for a 100-year-old, not least because even being 100 is pretty rare.
Allan thought about whether he should make the effort to crawl back in through the window to get his hat and shoes, but when he felt his wallet in his inside pocket, he decided that it would suffice. Besides, Director Alice had repeatedly shown that she had a sixth sense (wherever he hid his vodka, she found it), and she might be nosing around in there even now, suspicious that something fishy was going on.
Better to be on his way while he could, Allan thought, as he stepped out of the flower bed on creaking knees. In his wallet, as far as he could remember, he had a few hundred-crown notes saved a good thing since it probably wouldnt be free to go into hiding.
He turned to take one last look at the Old Folks Home that -- until a few moments ago -- he had thought would be his last residence on Earth, and then he told himself that he could die some other time, in some other place.
The 100-year-old man set off in his pee-slippers (so called because men of an advanced age rarely pee further than their shoes), first through a park and then alongside an open field where a market was occasionally was held in the otherwise quiet provincial town. After a few hundred meters, Allan went around the back of the districts medieval church and sat down on a bench next to some gravestones to rest his aching knees. The piety in the area was not such that that Allan worried about disturbed. He noted an ironic coincidence. He was born the same year as a Henning Algotsson who lay beneath the stone just across from the bench. But there was an important difference Henning had given up the ghost sixty-one years earlier. If Allan had been more curious he might have wondered what Henning died of, at the age of thirty-nine. But Allan did not get in to other peoples business, if he could avoid it which he usually could.
Instead, he thought that he had probably been mistaken when hed sat in the Old Folks Home, feeling as if he might as well be dead. However many aches and pains he suffered, it had to be much more interesting and instructive to be on the run from Director Alice than to be lying rigid six feet under.
Upon which thought the Birthday Boy, despite his complaining knees, got up and said goodbye to Henning Algotsson and continued on his badly planned flight.
Allan cut across the churchyard to the south, until a stone wall appeared in his path. It wasnt more than three feet high, but Allan was a centenarian, not a high jumper. On the other side was Malmköpings bus station and the old man suddenly realized that his rickety legs were taking him towards a building that could be very useful. Once, many years earlier, Allan had crossed the Himalayas. That was no picnic. Allan thought about that experience now, as he stood before the last hurdle between himself and the station. He considered the matter so intently that the stone wall in front of his eyes seemed to shrink. And when it was at its very lowest, Allan crept over it, age and knees be damned.
Excerpted from The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. Copyright © 2012 by Jonas Jonasson. Excerpted by permission of Hyperion. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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