Miriam Boolsen

Illustration by Cody Cobb

THE ONE and THE OTHER, busy with their business. Something they forget and pick up again all the time. Embroidering or sawing or building or . . . Something. Something concrete.

THE ONE and THE OTHER are two creatures that have been around forever. Everything they do is extremely important, but does anyone remember why? On the other hand, somebody has to busy themselves with the task of making the Earth spin around, and THE ONE and THE OTHER aren't afraid of hard work. And then there is the question about somebody coming or not, and maybe you are not supposed to talk about it at all.


THE ONE:  How is the world doing today?

THE OTHER:  Don't know, haven't looked yet.

THE ONE:  You smell.

THE OTHER:  No, I don't.

THE ONE:  I bet you were in the kitchen again, eating herring. With raw onions. Onions, I say!

THE OTHER:  No, I wasn't.

THE ONE:  I can smell it. And what about the plants?


THE ONE:  Again . . . The cat chasing the mouse.


THE ONE:  The cat chasing the mouse.

THE OTHER:  Yes, what?

THE ONE:  Nothing. It was a long time ago. You don't think about that anymore, do you?


THE ONE:  You don't think about that anymore, do you? The cat chasing the mouse.

THE OTHER:  Did it.

THE ONE:  Always. You didn't think about that, did you? You didn't see it. You don't see it. The things. I do . . . Where was the dog buried?

THE OTHER:  . . .

THE ONE:  Well?! Where was the dog buried? What do you think? Where there was room for it, of course. Naturally . . . I wish it would rain.

THE OTHER:  You're impatient. Always were.

THE ONE:  No, I'm not.

THE OTHER:  Yes, you are. Always were.

THE ONE:  What's up today?

THE OTHER:  Nothing much. It's time. For the world. To go on. And us helping.

(They close their eyes.)

THE ONE:  I see the humans being afraid.

THE OTHER:  Shh . . . don't have to. Don't have to be afraid. Everything will be alright. Or not. But today it will, don't have to be afraid.

THE ONE:  I see the children being ill.

THE OTHER:  Shh . . . you're not alone. Sitting there, lying there, you are not alone. Never. Feel for yourself, this is not being alone, is it? Feels different. There you are. Right. (Opens her eyes.) That's enough, isn't it?

THE ONE:  The animals.

THE OTHER:  Oh, the animals, do I have to do the animals? I'm hungry.

THE ONE:  You have to do the animals first.

THE OTHER:  But what should I say to them?

THE ONE:  Just close your eyes, you will think of something.

THE OTHER (closes her eyes):  The animals.

THE ONE:  Yes, the animals.

THE OTHER:  The animals are everywhere.

THE ONE:  Yes of course.

THE OTHER:  Would you be quiet? I am trying to work here.

THE ONE:  But then say something.

THE OTHER:  I will if I get the chance.

THE ONE:  The animals.

THE OTHER:  Yes, the animals. The animals are everywhere and often they aren't noticed at all. But they are there anyway. And they are part of it all. That's very important. Thank you, animals. We thank you sincerely. Without you the humans wouldn't be able to make it. Don't think that it remains unnoticed. Something like that?

THE ONE:  Yes.


THE ONE:  Do you think it will pass?


THE ONE:  The war?

THE OTHER:  Which war?

THE ONE:  This one.

THE OTHER:  Don't know.

THE ONE:  But what do you think.

THE OTHER:  Not yet.

THE ONE:  Not yet?

THE OTHER:  No not yet.

THE ONE:  Why?

THE OTHER:  Something has to happen first.

THE ONE:  But what?

THE OTHER:  I don't know. Something the humans are waiting for.

THE ONE:  I don't understand them.

THE OTHER:  You don't have to understand them. Luckily. If I had to understand them I would never get anything done. It's none of my business. Luckily.

THE ONE:  No, me neither.

THE OTHER:  That's not what we are here for.


THE ONE:  Aaaah, it's getting cooler. We could go outside.

THE OTHER:  It's closed outside.

THE ONE:  Why.

THE OTHER:  They're using it.

THE ONE:  What for.

THE OTHER:  There are so many of them now.

THE ONE:  Since when.

THE OTHER:  For some time.

THE ONE:  Since when has it been closed down.

THE OTHER:  Since . . . last week.

THE ONE:  You never told me.

THE OTHER:  I thought you knew.

THE ONE:  How would I know, you never told me.

THE OTHER:  What is there to tell? Outside has been closed down. Like that. From now on there's only inside.


THE OTHER:  Then you'll just have to think about how it used to be.

THE ONE:  But that's not the same thing.

THE OTHER:  No, but just as good.

THE ONE:  That can't be true.

THE OTHER:  Why not?

THE ONE:  It's not the same thing at all. What if . . . if I don't remember how it used to be?

THE OTHER:  Then you've got a problem.

THE ONE:  Well.

THE OTHER:  You will have to do something about it.

THE ONE:  Like what?

THE OTHER:  Like, talk to me about it.

THE ONE:  But you know absolutely nothing about outside.

THE OTHER:  No, but I'll pretend I do.

THE ONE:  And I would have to be grateful for that then?

THE OTHER:  No need for that, I'd be glad to do it.


THE ONE whistles, annoyingly.

THE OTHER:  What are you doing . . . what is this?

THE ONE:  I have to whistle to remember how it used to be, whistling is from earlier days.

THE OTHER:  Whistling is timeless.

THE ONE:  Not for me. (Whistles.)

THE OTHER:  STOP. I'll tell you about how it used to be.

THE ONE:  From the beginning?

THE OTHER:  From before the beginning:

The world is a cow licking a salty stone. It is neither dark, nor light. Nobody needs to see the world, because there is nothing to see yet. Not even a flower in a meadow. Much less someone thinking about it. Everything is at the same time, it is before The Time. Then there is a spot of light and around it is darkness. The first darkness ever. And then there is a before and an after.

THE ONE:  And we?

THE OTHER:  We are after. First of all there is a below to walk on and then there is an above in order not to disappear. And then we go and sit underground, because now the rest is there too.

THE ONE:  But we know about everything.

THE OTHER:  We know about everything and everything knows about us. Not a leaf on a branch that slips our attention. Not a tooth in the mouth of a squirrel that hasn't come to our knowledge. Like the waves wave, like the leafs leaf, that's how we are in the world. Invisible, but everywhere. And the humans have never heard of us, but they know we are there.


THE ONE:  Do you think somebody will come?

THE OTHER:  Do you?

THE ONE:  I don't know, maybe you had heard of something?

THE OTHER:  No, not me. You?

THE ONE:  Of course not, otherwise I wouldn't ask.

THE OTHER:  Someone always shows up.

THE ONE:  Yes yes yes!! Once in a hundred years somebody shows up! I meant now, today. Maybe you had heard of something, but obviously not. You don't care if anyone shows up.

THE OTHER:  They aren't supposed to come.

THE ONE:  No, I know that. That's why I want it. If they were meant to come, I wouldn't want it.


THE ONE:  Whatever became of your knitting?

THE OTHER:  I gave it up.

THE ONE:  Why?

THE OTHER:  I didn't feel like it anymore.

THE ONE:  But you were a real talent, what are you going to do now? Have you considered crocheting?

THE OTHER:  Crocheting isn't the answer.

THE ONE:  No, you're probably right, you know more about it. Wool was always your territory. And? Already spent your time on something else?

THE OTHER:  Listening, the whole morning.

THE ONE:  So. Heard anything yet?

THE OTHER:  A moose and its two wives. They were whispering. Three is never a good number. One is always going to feel left out.

THE ONE:  What about the deaf one, the blind one, and the crippled one?

THE OTHER:  That's different, they have known each other for so long. And they are busy with other things.

THE ONE:  That's true . . . are they never going to drop by?


THE ONE:  The deaf and the blind?

THE OTHER:  They are too busy with keeping an eye on the cripple.

THE ONE:  It could be the day of the one-coming-in.

THE OTHER:  Do not speak gratuitously about the one-coming-in.

THE ONE:  But he might come?

THE OTHER:  He might come, yes.


THE ONE:  I don't remember anything about the way it used to be.

THE OTHER:  Doesn't matter.

THE ONE:  Doesn't it?

THE OTHER:  No, it wasn't anything special.

THE ONE:  Are you serious?

THE OTHER:  Nothing much.

THE ONE:  You remember?

THE OTHER:  Bits. Pieces. Things.

THE ONE:  Aha.

THE OTHER:  We had braids.

THE ONE:  Both of us?

THE OTHER:  We both had two.

THE ONE:  So four?

THE OTHER:  Four altogether, yes. And something about bare feet and a dress.

THE ONE:  Which colour?

THE OTHER:  Blue. And something about dolls. One was called mummy, one was called daddy and so on.

THE ONE:  I don't remember anything of it.

THE OTHER:  It wasn't worth remembering.

THE ONE:  No, I believe you, otherwise I would have remembered it.

THE OTHER:  You were never good at remembering.

THE ONE:  But you are, you still remember everything.

THE OTHER:  Not everything. For instance, I have forgotten the milkman.

THE ONE:  Oh yes?

THE OTHER:  Totally. Every morning he came by with fresh milk, he even said good morning to me and yet I don't remember him at all anymore.

THE ONE:  Strange.

THE OTHER:  So you would say, yes, he deserved otherwise.

THE ONE:  It looks like it. He could have married you.

THE OTHER:  Could easily have happened.

THE ONE:  And now he is disappeared.

THE OTHER:  Clueless.

THE ONE:  Lifeless.

THE OTHER:  Childless.

THE ONE:  Expressionless.

THE OTHER:  Homeless.

THE ONE:  Poor milkman, that's not what you had in mind.

THE OTHER:  That's how fast it goes. One moment you're busy on your milk route, whistling, and the next thing you know you have joined the brotherhood of weightlessness.


THE ONE:  Today is another kind of day.

THE OTHER:  You think so?

THE ONE:  I know, I feel it.


THE ONE:  Feels different, sticky. This day will stick around, it won't just go away.

THE OTHER:  And what would happen?

THE ONE:  I don't know yet, but it won't be like yesterday. Won't be like the day before yesterday either.

THE OTHER:  That would be nice for you.

THE ONE:  Neither for you.

THE OTHER:  What will happen to me then?

THE ONE:  Something will happen for both of us.

THE OTHER:  Have you been talking to someone?

THE ONE:  I don't need to, things like that you just feel.

THE OTHER:  I don't feel it.

THE ONE:  No, you were too busy knitting.

THE OTHER:  I told you I'd quit.

THE ONE:  Too late.

THE OTHER:  I don't believe you.

THE ONE:  Doesn't matter. It'll be overwhelming, nobody will ask you whether you agree or not, it will turn your world upside down and mine as well.

THE OTHER:  And that would happen today?

THE ONE:  Yes, today.


THE OTHER:  You look different.

THE ONE:  I feel different.

THE OTHER:  What has changed then?

THE ONE:  I'm thinking about the future.


THE OTHER:  We haven't looked at the plants for a long time.

THE ONE:  The plants, well, the plants. What is that really. Dill, parsley, chamomile, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, what does it mean, really?

THE OTHER:  Those are good plants.

THE ONE:  Yes, but quite small all of them.

THE OTHER:  They are herbs.

THE ONE:  Decoration. No big bushes, no big branches. No tree trunks to grab hold of or saw right through the middle. They can't fall down with a lot of noise. They have no crown for the wind to blow in, no leaves bigger than your hands.

THE OTHER:  They just don't grow to be that tall.

THE ONE:  Yes, well I don't blame them—well, as a matter of fact I do. Just because someone says, "Hey you, parsley, don't grow to be that tall, grow real slow and drink just a little water," that doesn't necessarily mean you should actually do so.

THE OTHER:  We could go and have a look at it.

THE ONE:  I don't feel like looking. Nothing has happened anyway. Since yesterday. Since the day before yesterday. I don't feel like slow-growing plants anymore. I want movement, I want big roots growing underground and pulling houses up. I want houses being pulled up and tiles flying off and a storm carrying the tiles and eventually crushing them.

THE OTHER:  We could discover something.

THE ONE:  Like what?

THE OTHER:  That Portugal isn't next to Albany.

THE ONE:  Is already known.

THE OTHER:  The direction of the winds.

THE ONE:  I know them by heart already.

THE OTHER:  That some animals undergo a sex change.

THE ONE:  Everybody has known that forever.

THE OTHER:  You could write a poem.

THE ONE:  About what?

THE OTHER:  About how the snail was crushed on the road.

THE ONE:  Was it?

THE OTHER:  Of course. No one saw it.

THE ONE:  That's what you get if you insist on being small.

THE OTHER:  You have become hard.

THE ONE:  It's not about being hard, it's about making a conscious decision.

THE OTHER:  Not everybody has your background, your self-confidence.

THE ONE:  Do you think the one-coming-in can come if it's raining?

THE OTHER:  It makes no difference for the one-coming-in.

THE ONE:  All footprints have been washed away.

THE OTHER:  That doesn't mean anything. If the one-coming-in has to come, he'll come.


THE ONE:  There once was a mouse.

THE OTHER:  . . .

THE ONE:  It was having a hard time.

THE OTHER:  . . .

THE ONE:  Stomachache . . .

THE OTHER:  . . .

THE ONE:  Headache . . .

THE OTHER:  . . .

THE ONE:  Heart problems . . .

THE OTHER:  . . .

THE ONE:  What would you tell that mouse to do?

THE OTHER:  Not to worry so much.

THE ONE:  It was a mouse that worried a lot.

THE OTHER:  Think about something else.

THE ONE:  It couldn't.

THE OTHER:  Do it anyway.

THE ONE:  Do it anyway?



THE ONE:  I dreamed that the furniture had come alive. We had a party, I was cracking jokes with the table and the chairs were off their face.

THE OTHER:  You still think a lot about what's going on outside.

THE ONE:  Of course.

THE OTHER:  You shouldn't, everything comes around sooner or later.

THE ONE:  Yes, but what good is a fox in the distance that I can barely see? What good are a couple of ducks flying by and half a year later flying back the other way? What good are moles in their holes and toads sitting listlessly by the pond letting one fly after the other pass by?

THE OTHER:  Everyone is just doing their best.

THE ONE:  But I want more, I want it to be a special day, I want them all to come along, I want life here and for everything to be seen. At the end of the day I want everyone to fall down together—tired and content.

THE OTHER:  Eventually everything will come.

THE ONE:  How can you be so sure?

THE OTHER:  Every day I look out the window. One day it's snowing, another day it's raining, on the third or fourth or fifth day it's spring.

THE ONE:  I wish I had your conviction.


THE ONE:  Now I'm going to love you passionately.

THE OTHER:  How were you planning to do that.

THE ONE:  I don't know, but there's got to be a way.

THE OTHER:  Sometimes I think about your knees.

THE ONE:  My knees?

THE OTHER:  Yes, there is something very touching about your knees.

THE ONE:  And then you forgive me everything?

THE OTHER:  More or less.

THE ONE:  I wish I had something like that.

THE OTHER:  My knees aren't that pretty.

THE ONE:  Yes that's the problem.

THE OTHER:  Maybe my neck, my neck isn't that bad.

THE ONE:  I should say I'm more attracted to your ears.

THE OTHER:  My ears? I never could have guessed . . .

THE ONE:  Couldn't the roof collapse for once?

THE OTHER:  Difficult, difficult, this house is terribly solid.

THE ONE:  Strange that we never once slipped on the stairs and broke our necks.

THE OTHER:  Sometimes coincidence is hard to understand.

THE ONE:  Yes.


THE OTHER:  We are out of wood.

THE ONE:  The trees are old.

THE OTHER:  They are just as old as we are.

THE ONE:  Exactly.

THE OTHER:  They'll fall down sooner or later.

THE ONE:  You used to be beautiful.


THE ONE:  Not anymore.


THE ONE:  If the one-coming-in should come, you will be beautiful again.

THE OTHER:  I know.


THE OTHER:  One day the sky was blue, bluer than usual and everybody wondered why. The man said to his wife: "The sky really is blue today" and she answered: "Indeed, this is bluer than blue, this is sky-blue". And when they came into the garden it was as if the plants were greener and the birds were singing just a little more cheerfully. "What could it be," they said to each other, piling up the weeds, "what could it be," and they stood still and listened. But there was nothing else to hear than the wind and the birds. And later, after dinner, they stood in front of the window and looked out. And they opened the window a little but they heard nothing. And later, lying in bed, they said to each other: "It was probably nothing, it was probably just a very happy day" and they went to sleep.

THE ONE:  You've got dreams!

THE OTHER:  No, I don't.

THE ONE:  Yes, I heard it in your voice.

THE OTHER:  My voice is just my voice, it has nothing to do with me.

THE ONE:  But I heard something.

THE OTHER:  I didn't say that.

THE ONE:  I know for sure.

THE OTHER:  You're imagining.

THE ONE:  It sounded like a dream.

THE OTHER:  It wasn't a dream.

THE ONE:  You are longing for something. I know it.

THE OTHER:  I don't long.


THE ONE:  Are you sorry?

THE OTHER:  For what?

THE ONE:  For leaving the city?

THE OTHER:  There was nothing in the city.

THE ONE:  Really?

THE OTHER:  As empty as a shoe box.

THE ONE:  And the humans?

THE OTHER:  They had already gone somewhere else.

THE ONE:  And you didn't know about that?

THE OTHER:  Nobody left to tell anymore.

THE ONE:  Not so much as a note?

THE OTHER:  Eaten.

THE ONE:  The rats?

THE OTHER:  Yes, the rats.

THE ONE:  Never afraid to get down to it.

THE OTHER:  Always wanting to be the good example.

translated from the Danish by Miriam Boolsen and Madeleine van Leer