The following afternoon I went to Dad’s. I had put on a white shirt, black cotton trousers, and white basketball shoes. In order not to feel so utterly naked, as I did when I wore only a shirt, I took a jacket with me, slung it over my shoulder and held it by the hook since it was too hot outside to wear it.
I jumped off the bus after Lundsbroa Bridge and ambled along the drowsy, deserted summer street to the house he was renting, where I had stayed that winter.
He was in the back garden pouring lighter fluid over the charcoal in the grill when I arrived. Bare chest, blue swimming shorts, feet thrust into a pair of sloppy sneakers without laces. Again this getup was unlike him.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi,” I said.
“Have a seat.”
He nodded to the bench by the wall.
The kitchen window was open, from inside came the clattering of glasses and crockery.
“Unni’s busy inside,” he said. “She’ll be here soon.” His eyes were glassy.
He stepped toward me, grabbed the lighter from the table, and lit the charcoal. A low almost transparent flame, blue at the bottom, rose in the grill. It didn’t appear to have any contact with the charcoal at all, it seemed to be floating above it.
“Heard anything from Yngve?” he asked, of my older brother.
“Yes,” I said. “He dropped by briefly before leaving for Bergen.”
“He didn’t come by,” Dad said.
“He said he was going to, see how you were doing, but he didn’t have time.”
Dad stared into the flames, which were lower already. Turned and came toward me, sat down on a camping chair. Produced a glass and bottle of red wine from nowhere. They must have been on the ground beside him.
“I’ve been relaxing with a drop of wine today,” he said. “It’s summer after all, you know.”
“Yes,” I said.
“Your mother didn’t like that,” he said.
“Oh?” I said.
“No, no, no,” he said. “That wasn’t good.”
“No,” I said.
“Yeah,” he said, emptying the glass in one swig.
“Gunnar’s been round, snooping,” he said, of my uncle. “Afterward he goes straight to Grandma and Grandad and tells them what he’s seen.”
“I’m sure he just came to visit you,” I said.
Dad didn’t answer. He refilled his glass.
“Are you coming, Unni?” he shouted. “We’ve got my son here!”
“OK, coming,” we heard from inside.
“No, he was snooping,” he repeated. “Then he ingratiates himself with your grandparents.”
He stared into the middle distance with the glass resting in his hand. Turned his head to me.
“Would you like something to drink? A Coke? I think we’ve got some in the fridge. Go and ask Unni.”
I stood up, glad to get away.
Gunnar was a sensible, fair man, decent and proper in all ways, he always had been, of that there was no doubt. So where had Dad’s sudden backbiting come from?
After all the light in the garden, at first I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face in the kitchen. Unni put down the scrub brush when I went in, came over and gave me a hug.
“Good to see you, Karl Ove.” She smiled.
I smiled back. She was a warm person. The times I had met her she had been happy, almost flushed with happiness. And she had treated me like an adult. She seemed to want to be close to me. Which I both liked and disliked.
What do you think about Knausgaard’s work? Have you read his books? Do you relate to Karl Ove the character? How do you feel about semi-autobiographical works of ‘fiction’?