It was high time he got going with the project. He’d been sitting
around doing nothing for long enough. Well, not exactly nothing. He’d
hung out at friends’ openings, drunk lots of red wine and generally
moped around licking the wounds of his latest failed romance. He’d
also managed to distract himself with one or two fleeting relationships.
But as always when he hadn’t painted for a while, he was starting to
feel uncomfortable, right down to his bones.
But the plan was ready. So when the funding approval finally landed on
his hall floor, it was too late for excuses. He went straight out to buy
what he needed: paints, canvases and a set of quality brushes. He rang
the elderly woman who rented out her house in Trosa to members of his
artists’ association. The house was perfect, totally secluded and with
a little jetty leading out into the sea.
‘Oh, really sorry, but it’s already rented out, right through till
the end of autumn.’
He was furious with himself for not booking earlier. It wasn’t as if
he’d just decided on this, it was what had kept him going while he was
doing all that dossing around and partying lately. He was going to go
away and work round the clock. If all went well, he’d have the project
finished in a month.
‘I’ve got another place, a little old crofter’s cottage, just
north of Ludvika. Would you be interested in that at all?’
It was a bit of a mental leap to change his plans from the coast to the
northern interior. He loved the sea. He’d been looking forward to
walking down the beach feeling those early autumn winds and tasting the
salt and seaweed in the air. But the idea of something different, a
little forest hideaway in Dalarna, well, why not? He always went south
to the Med when he got free time, so he had seen very little of Sweden
above Stockholm. To be honest, he didn’t really think he was missing
much, but he decided to go and find out. He just had to get some work
done and for that he needed peace and quiet. Dalarna would definitely
give him that. Absolute middle of nowhere and a million miles from any
A few hours later he’d got the key, packed his car and was on his way.
He decided to take a little detour via Örebro first, to call in on some
old friends who lived in a big, old wooden house. He thought it’d be
nice to have a few beers and a chat about old times before going into
isolation. However, it turned out the collective had grown. There were
now ten people from five different countries: Denmark, Holland, Italy,
Sweden and … the republic of Örebro, according to Tim the American
video artist. Tim had never felt quite so at home as he did now in
Örebro. In short, things were a bit livelier than expected.
After much eating, drinking and banter, Pelle got out his guitar and a
big sing-song was soon underway. Everyone wanted him to play their own
favourites, but they sang along to whatever came up as best they could.
After an hour or so the frantic guitarist’s fingers were close to
bleeding. So, despite loud protests, he was forced to stop playing. Then
they ran out of wine. The ones that lived in the house went around and
dug out every drop of liquor they could find. This turned out to be
quite a lot. Gabriel enjoyed a whisky or two and was soon kissing and
cuddling with a Danish woman. Nothing more happened though. He got bored
listening to her, she wouldn’t stop talking. He felt too drunk anyway
and ended up falling asleep on the sofa.
He awoke next morning feeling really hungover. His head throbbed, his
mouth was dry and his tired mind was spinning with self-critical
thoughts, mainly about how he still hadn’t learned to say no to the
whiskies and shots that always turn up at the end of a night like that.
Everyone seemed to be in the same condition. It wasn’t till about two
o’clock that Tim and an Italian girl went out to buy some things for
brunch and the remaining bodies started to shift. After a long shower
and a several-hour brunch he finally felt capable of continuing his
journey. By that time the rest of the household had started to slide
into a state of giddy semi-drunkenness again and the Danish girl was
snogging a guy from Holland. Gabriel gave everyone a hug, said his
goodbyes and left.
It was only two hours from Örebro to Ludvika, but as it was almost
evening when he left it was already dark when he approached the town. He
looked around curiously as he drove into the seemingly deserted small
town. The neon sign of a closed Dollar Store caught his eye, standing
half-hidden behind a petrol station.
A house of Mammon for people with none, he thought. Amazing how people
feel compelled to buy, buy, buy, he continued philosophizing to himself.
But it also occurred to him that that was exactly why he was able to
make such a good income himself. Even though he always insisted that art
was essential for a rich life, he knew that at the end of the day, if
survival were all that mattered, his paintings had no value.
Soon the chunky, red-brick powerhouse of ABB loomed to the left. Tight,
irregular rows of houses lined the opposite side of the road. One, a
little concrete-stone box, another, a little red, wooden house with
white paintwork and, in the middle of them all, a totally tasteless
purple one! A group of lads were hanging about by an old 60s rock n
roll-type car parked by a hot-dog stand.
Creative entertainment, he thought sarcastically.
A one-metre-high Dala horse on the traffic island in the middle of the
main road that passes the railway station made him laugh and shake his
head. He couldn’t understand how people were still fascinated by this
old, romantic symbol of the region. Then he thought maybe this week he
could allow himself to be inspired by them. Maybe liven them up a bit,
make them a bit more up-to-date, so they better reflected modern
society. How about stress horses, LCHF horses, pride horses, revolution
horses … The idea brought a smile to his face at least.
But then I’d end up tied to a midsummer pole and burnt at the stake he
thought, laughing even more to himself.
Almost everywhere seemed closed and dark, even though it was Friday.
This was certainly no booming hub of nightlife and entertainment. But
who knows? He’d always imagined that there was probably a lot more
going on in these small towns than big city dwellers realised. But it
would take a newcomer without contacts quite a while to root out the
best parties. And anyway, he was here to work on his project.
No matter how much he tried to fight it, that recurring feeling kept
coming back. He tried to keep it at bay, but it showed no mercy. It kept
coming back and hitting him as hard as it always did. That longing. That
feeling of angst. Longing for something, for someone …
He turned up the heating in the ancient Amazon. It was starting to get
colder and the windscreen kept steaming up. He didn’t really like
having the heating on too much when he drove alone for fear of it making
him drowsy. But he was nearly there.
When he turned left at the empty roundabout he caught sight of a man
chasing a woman. When the guy caught up with her he seemed to throw
himself at her with enough force to knock her off balance. She managed
to stay on her feet but hit her head on a lampost. He slowed the car,
fearing he was about to witness a violent assault. But then the pair
started kissing each other. As he drew level with them he put his foot
down and left them in the darkness.
A good way down the main road to Borlänge, now on the other side of
Ludvika, he glanced down at the milometer. After four dark kilometers he
turned onto a partially overgrown track, kept on up the hill and came to
a building. Exactly according to the instructions. As soon as he parked
and switched off the engine he was in total darkness and silence. He
peered out into the night, trying to let his eyes adjust while he lit a
cigarette. It didn’t really taste of anything, but it satisfied his
craving for nicotine.
It was a cold night. Stockholm still had a late summer feel, but up here
September was most definitely autumn. But the cold air woke him up and
made him feel fresh after sitting still so long in the car. He got out
and stretched his legs, freeing some of the stiffness in his body. He
stood and stared at the dark, clear sky and the glittering stars. This
far away from the lights of the town the sky was so much more intense.
And the silence... No sounds from cars or people. No horns, no laughter,
no shouts, no loud ticking from street crossings and no distant sirens.
He stubbed out his cigarette in the cold earth and made his way
tentatively through the compact darkness. He felt his way to the door
and managed to get the key in the predictably stiff and difficult lock.
‘Just don’t push it in too hard, or it’ll never turn.’ He
repeated to himself.
It took him a few trips to and from the car before he had got all his
canvases, paints and brushes into the cottage. When he had lined
everything up along the wall in the biggest room he made one last trip
to the car and stopped still again.
This silence. Wonderful but frightening. There and then he made a
decision. He took his iPhone out of his inside pocket and switched it
off, without even looking for messages or calls. He put it in the glove
compartment, then closed and locked the car.
There. All contact with the real world closed. Now I should finally
manage to get something done. He filled his lungs with the cold air,
looked up at the stars one last time and walked inside locking the door
carefully behind him.
He hung up his new Filippa K coat and hat on a hook in the hall, but
kept his black trainers on. Then he had another more careful look round
the cottage. It didn’t take long. There was only a kitchen, a bathroom
and one big room with a bed, a small sofa and a chair. Next to a
white-tiled fireplace was a stack of firewood. He prepared and lit a
fire. Then he opened a lukewarm low-strength lager and sat himself down
on the rug to get close to the fire. The light from the fire danced over
his face and glowed on his slightly ruffled, dark brown hair. He
unconsciously scratched his beard as he decided to throw another chunk
of wood on the fire. Then he sat for quite a while as the fire slowly
warmed the room.
Excerpted from "Three Days in September" by Luna Miller. Copyright © 2016 by Luna Miller. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.