It’s Just Another Place, novel excerpt by Hilde Susan Jaegtnes

Art: The Neon Demon

This is an excerpt from the novel “Ugly Writing”, published in Norway 2016 by H//O//F, original title: “Styggskrift”.

Naked. It’s just another place. I go here sometimes, get cold if I don’t take care, stay as long as I can, let the walls close in on me.

The piss-ants crawl out of the radiator, bump into the window facing the sun. I crush them one by one. How can something so small bite so hard? My big toe pops out of my pantyhose, I have to mend it, shift my weight to the strongest foot before I keep running.

Banjo strings on the internet radio, light, mischievous, noncommittal. A teenage couple strolling along a creek in America’s deep south. The girl in her white dress bounces lightly as she walks, changes effortlessly between a march and a waltz, light-light-light-light, dainty-dainty-dainty. Adorable, obedient, soft doll in the sun. I lie on my stomach, on top of the comforter, the other comforter fills the crack against the wall. The boy holds her hand in a firm grasp to prevent her from being blown away. Such a nice, pretty girl. Everybody in town knows her, loves her, protects her. Dainty, dainty, such a good girl. I twist my arm behind my back and lower the back of my hand onto the juicy dome of my ass, invite another hand, the taciturn, no, the landlord, he is always available for a property inspection, especially when it’s an inconvenience to me. Such an obedient girl lying here and waiting. Submissive little pet. The landlord has an ass tight as a trampoline and a Sunday school haircut, a wealthy West-end vocal grind and bleached teeth. In his house, no one is allowed to lock the door.

A hand above, the other below as I embrace myself from both sides. All the shapes I can make under the comforters. I weave a hexagonal pattern in the air with my hands like I was taught. Up the jagged spine, out on either side along the ribs cradling my lungs in a basket. A finger jab into the goose bumps between the lowest rib and the upper part of my pelvis. So easy to cut me in half. The landlord pinches me so hard I get the hiccups. The hand plunges down on my belly, pauses while the radio changes to a song with a train beat, cha-choooo-cha-choooo, snorting out the steam. I try out the beat, can it be used, too fast, I can’t get there alone.

A chat window pops up on the screen and interrupts the banjo, it’s the landlord, home alone for the weekend. Ask nicely, little pet, and I will show you… Another chat window pops up next to the first, the plumber, just millimeters away, at a hotel on the Norwegian West Coast, they don’t know of each other. Both want to show me photos of the effect I have on them, manicured nails hold the swelling tool proudly up to the belly, close-up of timid Norwegian foreskin. Look at what will be inside you soon, my pet. Send us photos of yourself, we want tits, we want ass, put two fingers in your cunt and spread yourself out… dainty, dainty, dainty. Take a photo like that, no, use the self timer. Aaaaahhh, so sexy. Where are your hands now? One of my hands continues to type, I have to hold both swellings erect in the tiny chat windows, the piss-ants are biting me, but I don’t have time to crush them, I have to get them inside me and me inside myself, all of me up hard as far as I can reach, I only have two hands. Not both of them are mine. Mmmm. How many fingers? Are you wet?

Silence. The landlord’s chat window doesn’t move, it costs too much to keep him and my hands in motion at the same time. Can’t afford to forget the rest of me. An accusing finger jabs into the back of my knee, the dent in my shin, an old soft tissue damage from when I slipped in the pinewood stairs. The bone that connects the leg to the foot. Mustn’t forget the small parts, rub them warm, collect all the exterior parts and build a wheel of pain. What are you doing now? I don’t have time to explain, too many people in the room. Many, who else? The foot, mustn’t forget the foot. The feet are ashamed of being attached to the body. A baby can stick its entire foot in its mouth, eat its own parts, caress, be good to me. Such a sweet baby.

Now I’m lying heavily on top of you, pushing it far far in, won’t let you get away, don’t move, says the plumber’s window. Windy winding. The misty water inside of me comes rushing when others call for it, not when I’m alone. You will do as we say. March, says the landlord, waltz, moans the plumber, each calling for their own beat. I push them down, not daring to taste myself, don’t want to chose the beat, but I end up with a six-eight time signature, one-two-three-four-five-six in a whispering gallop. Such a dainty little filly.

Back on my spine, the back of my hands a little warmer now, still below body temperature. Wide circles with my knuckles, both hands pressing me down, but they intercept. Something feels alien. I can’t find any more spots on my body that no one has touched. The hands have different temperatures. One of the hands is covered in coarse, green veins and dark hairs, a hint of gold around the ring finger. The hand settles around my windpipe, squeezing a gentle reminder. Steady now. Don’t run. Quiet, or we’ll take all your air and blow you to blackness. Good girl.

There are too many of me in the room. The hands reject each other, turn numb. I am blown out, slap my laptop shut, kick the comforter against the wall and stick my head between the four pillows. Trickling sounds from the radiator. Inside, the piss-ants shriek with laughter.

Hilde Susan Jaegtnes is a screenwriter, poet, novelist and performance artist based in Oslo, Norway with an M.F.A. degree in screenwriting from USC, Los Angeles. She was born in Pennsylvania in 1973, and has since lived in Norway, Iceland, England, Key West, Switzerland, Honduras and California. Several of her screenplays have been produced, and her published literary works include the poetry collection Det er noen som lyver (Someone must be lying), the flash fiction collection Minner nytes best alene i storm (Memories should be savored alone during storms) and the novel Styggskrift (Ugly Writing).


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