Sunday, 7 October 2012

Short Story: Summer Lovin'

The website "What's Up Finland?" organised a short story competition recently. The theme was "the Finnish summer" and the story had to have "at least one Finnish character and have some understanding or a view of the Finnish culture".

I had never written a short story in my life, but I thought I would give it a go. So here it is: my very first short story.

Summer Lovin'


“You know what, Marita? I think nothing beats the Finnish summer.”

Mervi was chatting with her friend Marita in the garden of a mökki – a Finnish summer cottage. They were relaxing, sitting in stripy blue and white deck-chairs, in the shadow of a large dark green parasol.

“Just look at this”, continued Mervi, “a lovely garden surrounded by trees, a beautiful lake. The weather is perfect: sunny, warm but not too hot. No wind. Just per-fect!“

“All around this lake, people are enjoying their summer break, communing with nature. They are working in their gardens, cutting down trees, mowing the lawn, watering the plants and the flowers… Men wearing just shorts, women in their bikinis, soaking up the sun. I love it, I love it. It gives me such a buzz just talking about it.”

Mervi was always very passionate about her country. For her, there was no better place on Earth than Finland.

Her friend Marita was listening to her politely. She knew that when Mervi was speaking excitedly about something, there was no point in interrupting her.

“Oh, and the saunas…”

Mervi was now onto one of her favourite subjects.

“What a fa-bu-lous invention, possibly the best invention in human history! I mean, only the Finns would come up with the idea of getting naked together in a hot and steamy room, whipping themselves with twigs of birch to get the circulation going, then running outside still naked to cool off. What a fantastic idea! The French, for all their ooh-la-la, would never have thought of anything like that, would they? Not even the Marquis de Sade.”

Mervi had never actually read the Marquis de Sade and knew nothing about his works, but she liked to pretend she was more cultured and cosmopolitan than she actually was. In fact, though she quite liked books, she had never read anything. She had also never travelled abroad: the only flights she had ever taken were in Finland.

Suddenly, Mervi spotted her boyfriend, who was looking at the flowers at the other end of the garden.

“Hey Matti, why don’t you come and join us here? It’s nice in the shade!”

Matti either didn’t hear her or chose to ignore her. He simply continued inspecting the flowers. Mervi turned again to Marita.

“Matti and his stupid flowers… That’s all he bloody cares about. I’ve tried to get him to engage with people a bit more, but no, Matti prefers flowers,” Mervi sighed.

“By the way, you are very quiet today, Marita. What’s up?”

Marita took a deep breath, and sighed slowly and audibly – the way only Finns know how to.


Marita paused.

“You know Maikku?”, Marita asked her friend.

“Maikku, Maikku…” repeated Mervi, scouring her little brain for a clue.

“Yes, Maikku… Young, good looking, gets all the guys…”, Marita added helpfully.

“Ah yes, Maikku the man-eater!”, exclaimed Mervi. “What about her?”

“Well,” Marita began, pausing briefly for effect, “yesterday evening, she and I went together to a barbecue on the other side of the lake. It was perfect weather for al fresco eating; you know, it was balmy, no wind…”

“By the time we arrived, most of the guests were already there, and many of them had been to sauna.” Like most Finns, Marita omitted the “the” in front of the word “sauna”. In Finland people go to sauna the same way as they go to church, without an article. That’s how important it is.

“So,” continued Marita, “people were sitting there, with towels wrapped around them, sipping cold beers and waiting for the sausages to cook. “

“Now, you know Maikku… The moment we got there, she started checking out every potential man in attendance. The host, who was busy cooking the sausages, looked fairly tasty to me, but Maikku had had him before so she wasn’t interested.”

“Then, Maikku spotted this guy sitting alone on a rock. He was tall, dark and handsome. Foreign-looking, maybe from Italy.”

“Well, that was it. Maikku could never resist exoticism. She could not control herself any longer, she wanted him. She immediately made a beeline for this guy. And she was pretty confident she would get him.”

“So Maikku moved subtly closer to him – well, as subtly as Maikku could ever be. However, when the guy noticed her, he immediately got up and started walking away, turning his back on her.”

“You know Maikku though. That wasn’t going to put her off; she could never resist a good chase. So she went after him. He signalled to her that she was irritating him, but she wasn’t daunted, she kept coming back.”

“Eventually, she managed to creep up behind him when he wasn’t looking, and nibble his ear. That must have been the final straw for him. He turned around quickly, and slapped her violently. He hit her so hard, the brute, that he actually killed her…”

“Oh my God”, interjected Mervi. “That’s terrible…”

Mervi paused respectfully.

Then she took a deep breath and sighed, before adding: “I guess that’s just life though. It doesn’t change my view that nothing beats a Finnish summer for us mosquitoes.”


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