Chapter 9: Two coincidences are not a coincidence

In which we follow our bumbling hero into another date and some rather disturbing conversations.

"I am glad you could make it." Lisa smiles warmly. She has a tendency to do that, now that Kurt thinks about it. It is different from the wide grin that Bodil often flashes him and others.

"No problem. I am more surprised that your family lets you go out twice in one week."

She giggles. "I think it evens out, since I haven't been out that much lately."

Hearing her giggle makes him think back to the conversation he had with Bodil. Is it really so? Is it all an elaborate act to get his genes and his money? He is hard pressed to think of any other reason why anyone would spend time with him. Well, Bodil does, and obviously she is not after his genes at least! But it is not as if girls are running him down, exactly. Then again, he is not giving them much chance. Had he not met Lisa under the most unusual of circumstances, she might never have gotten close to him...

He notices that Lisa is looking at him, as if expecting him to say something. "Sorry, I kinda got lost in thought."

"It is alright. I was just thinking that we might have time to buy some snacks before the movie starts."

It is Friday night, and he is on a "date" with Lisa again, despite the dark warnings from Bodil. Perhaps Bodil is jealous, she likes girls as well after all, and Lisa is rather attractive for someone in her late twenties. But probably it is just another of her ideas. Once Bodil has an idea, she will not give it up no matter what. Anyway, this time they are going to see a movie. This is something Kurt almost never does. He tends to download movies over the broadband, mostly anime, which also happens to be Bodil's favorite genre. So he has in a manner of speaking seen lots of movies with her, but never in the cinema. It feels so strange, almost unreal, to do this now.

"Actually" admits Lisa, "I am going to the cinema tomorrow too. I'm taking Alexander Hamilton to see the Abandoned Cat Story, an old classic that I remember from when I was a school kid myself. It's a bit of a tear-jerker, I guess. I cried a little myself. I remember there was a big girl sitting behind us, high school at least and pretty tall, with long black hair, she was crying so much I thought she would be drying up. I hope she had remembered to buy plenty of soda."

Kurt had of course not even thought about soda until now, but luckily there is still time. "It is pretty obvious that I am clueless about this whole thing, isn't it?"

"What? Oh, the movie. The Story of the Abandoned Cat hasn't been around for some years, so it's not strange if you missed it."

"No, I mean going to the cinema at all. I didn't even think to buy snacks until you mentioned it, and then I did not think about soda until you mentioned it."

"Tee hee! I didn't think about that, seriously, I just kept my mouth running. I'm good at that, at least. I can always talk, never mind if I have anything to talk about."

"It is true though. I really am clueless. You see, this is like my second time going to the movies."

"What? There must be a story behind that."

"On the contrary, there must have been a lot of stories that didn't happen."

"Tee hee, that's one way of saying it!"

"The simple truth is that my mother took me to the movies once, but she was rarely at home, and my grandmother did not think highly of modern movies, I'm afraid. I guess they did not make them like they did when she was young."

"I bet they didn't!"

Kurt strongly suspects that Lisa would have chosen a different movie if she wasn't going with him, despite her assurances that it interests her too. It is a kind of sci-fi comedy, with a plot as strange as the cast, if possible. The tentative main character seems to be Shmitz, an interdimensional agent with energy-manipulating bracers. There is his love interest, Sailor Delphina, a stereotypical anime magical girl with some power over water, and fish. Also frequently in the foreground is a were-porcupine from a lost civilization in the distant past, who varies between three different forms: A rather large but otherwise unremarkable porcupine, a young boy with spiky red hair, and a "battle form" as big as a grizzly bear and covered in steely spikes which can also be thrown with great force and precision. From time to time a somewhat humanoid lion shows up, strangely named "Windking" although there is never any sign of air-manipulation magic. A small girl with a huge hammer shows up from time to time wreaking havok, as does a drunk woman with a spear. There is a red dragon with engineering tendencies, and an enchantress with a tiger, and several others which Kurt is unable to keep track of. They are for the most part fighting an evil wizard of extreme power, but there are several strange subplots, in some of which characters are transformed into entirely different species. Needless to say, the good guys win in the end.

"So, how did you enjoy the movie?" asks Lisa when they come out in the cool night air.

"Me? I loved it, although I would probably have to see it two or three times to get it all together."

"Haha, me too. There was just so much happening, and with all the people and things constantly changing into other things. It was kinda like a dream, don't you think?"

"Now that you mention it."

"I mean, a porcupine that just suddenly changes into a boy! That's so crazy."

"It would certainly be hard to believe if it happened in our world."

"Haha, our world may be less exciting but at least it is reliable! People remain people, and animals stay animals no matter what."

Why does she keep harping on that? Could she possibly have heard...? No, there is no way. The only person except himself who knows is Bodil, and she would not tell. She doesn't even believe it herself. While it is true that she tends to talk first and think later, she wouldn't do that about something that could land him in serious trouble. And even in the unlikely case that she did, she would not do so to Lisa. In fact, she probably hasn't met Lisa since their ill-fated trip to Waterland. It must be a coincidence. But just to get an end to it, Kurt starts talking about how hungry he is instead, and the burger house that is conveniently located nearby.

Luckily the movie wasn't one of those big premieres that draw the whole town and the surrounding countryside. The theater had been only half full, and the burger house has a few tables left too. After a movie it seems a lot of people make a beeline for the nearest burger outlet. This is understandable. After all, unless you have already eaten dinner, the snacks won't be enough for a whole evening. Kurt is just glad it wasn't completely full. It would look bad to pick a place and not being able to eat there. They find a small table, and the gentleman Kurt stands in line for a while to get their food. When he returns to the table, Lisa has taken off the coat that protected her against the chilly winds of the Nordic fall. She is wearing a red and pink dress that makes him think of a flower. The contrast to Bodil could hardly be greater.

While you would be half blind to say that Bodil looks like a boy, she still dresses like one as much as possible. There is nothing flower-like about her clothes, that's for sure. Trousers in the winter, some variant of shorts for the rest of the year. Last he saw her, which was in fact earlier today, she was still in shorts mode. Of course, the way she bikes like a maniac, she is bound to keep warm anyway. She is also wearing T-shirts till well past the equinox. Not that she looks like a boy in her T-shirts, even the larger ones, but there is certainly nothing flowery about it. Of course, in the end this was one of the things that tipped him off that she was pitching for the rainbow team. So why does he suddenly think about her now? A little late for that. Not that it wasn't always too late, but he didn't always know it. There is some small core of perversity in a man, perhaps, that makes him more interested in the girls he can never have. And no doubt the same is true the other way, so that the boys that are taken get all the long gazes, and the ones that are free and single and desperate are studiously ignored. Not that he is bitter or anything.

"I see you made it back in one piece."

"Yes. Say, did you know that you kinda look like a flower?"

"What? That sounds like a compliment!"

"Well, I guess. I certainly did not mean it as an insult. But it is true."

"Tee hee. A woman wants to be pretty, at least when there are people around to see her."

"Ah. I guess so. It shouldn't surprise me. I guess I'm just not familiar with girls. Sorry."

"Actually I think it is somewhat charming. You say thing just the way you see them, instead of rattling off planned and rehearsed pick-up lines."

"Who in their right mind would do that?"

"You'd be surprised what people can do to try to impress the opposite sex."

"Isn't that kinda irritating?"

"Not the first times. But once you start seeing through it, very."

They eat in quiet for a while. Kurt can't help but think now that hamburgers, even the more advanced ones, are too simple and ugly things to be eaten by a pretty flower such as Lisa. He already regrets bringing her here. She is bound to think he has no taste, or loves money more than women. This is probably their last date together, but worse, she will probably spread the word around, making it even harder for him to date another girl in the future, should he somehow manage to gather enough courage to ask one out. 'Sorry, I've heard that you are really stingy and have the tastes of a backyard rat.' Nicely done, loverboy! Digging your own grave like that.

"Kurt, do you remember that porcupine?"

Oh no! She has still not given up on that, either. The disaster is complete. "Kinda."

"Wasn't it named Itland?"

"Now that you mention it, I think that might be it."
"It is a rare name, isn't it?"

"I don't really know any porcupines by name, truth to tell."

"No, I mean as a human name. I can only ever remember to have heard of one Itland before. Do you think he could have some role in creating the movie as well?"

"Sorry, I draw a blank here. Who is this Itland?"

"The author of The Spirit and the Flesh, among other novels. I've only ever read that one, but there was a list of other books he has written too."

"Does not ring a bell."

"It is a romance novel of sorts, though it is really either paranormal or psychological. And the funny part is that it is up to the reader to decide which."


"Yes. The heroine is a college girl, more your age than mine of course. Actually it starts during her first semester in the fall. She has always been the best in her class from grade school all the way through high school, but suddenly there is this boy who is unbeatable. He aces all the tests, he discusses with the professors like one of them, but there is more. His clothes are always clean and pressed, his home is without a speck of dust, and once he even stops a small band of criminals by his sheer presence and confidence, without lifting a hand."

"Sounds too good to be true."

"Yes. Eventually the heroine learns that he credits not himself but a kind of goddess from a higher universe, who only he can see. He claims that the goddess is helping him in every imaginable way. She is very real to him, but no one else can see or hear or feel her."

"Huh. Sounds nice."

"The girl does not believe him, of course. She thinks he is crazy, seeing something that isn't even there."

DARN IT. Kurt just bit his tongue.

One coincidence is acceptable. Strange things happen. He may be reading things into what she says. So her sudden talk about animals transforing into humans could be just an innocent attempt at conversation. Two coincidences in one evening, however, is unlikely to be coincidence. He forces himself to look straight at her. "What are you trying to say?"


"Why are you telling me this all of a sudden?"

"But... I thought you were interested in the book."

"And this is about the book, is it?"

"Well, it is about the name, really. I thought it was strange that the porcupine had the same name as the author of the book. What is it? You seem upset."

"Well, I think I have reason to."

"I don't understand."

She really looks like she doesn't understand. She looks a little scared, and he realizes that he is scowling. He looks down at his hand, and forces it to relax, to open up, the white knuckles slowly regaining their color. What would he have used those for, beating up a woman? He couldn't do that. He is not that kind of man who resorts to violence, or even threats of violence.

"I didn't mean to scare you. It's just... I really hate it when people don't believe me. I never lie. If I say something, no matter how unlikely it seems, it is true."

"Of course. You seem to be exceptionally honest, actually. I think I just said so myself, didn't I?"

"I guess so."

"I don't think a woman should just assume a man is crazy, but you have to admit that when he sees invisible goddesses, it is kinda hard to believe."

"Yeah, just like animals that change into people."

"So you think there may be a connection too? That's what I thought too!"


"I think the same Itland who wrote that novel, also invented the porcupine boy. It is the same kind of thinking."

"So that is what you tried to say."

"Well, I guess I was not very good at explaining it."

"I'm not really crazy just because I live alone, you know. If anyone was thinking that."

"Of course not! You are still so young, there is nothing strange about you being alone at your age."

"My father is not crazy either, he is just eccentric. Some people just devote themselves more to their talents than others, that's all."

"Oh. I'm sorry Kurt, I did not mean to be insensitive. I totally forgot about that part. I was just thinking about this novel and forgot what it might sound like. It was really not intentional on my part."

"I'm sorry too. I shouldn't take things so personally."

"Well, I'm glad we got that cleared up. I would hate making a bad impression on our second date."


"Or in other words, I'd hate for this to be the last time we meet outside school."

"You really mean that?"

"You are not the only honest person in the world, believe it or not."

"You want to be friends even though I got angry right now?"

"Actually I think it is a gentlemanly thing, to defend your father's honor. But I assure you that I didn't mean it like that at all."

So that's what she thinks. Or is it? It is all so confusing.

"And even though I took you to a weird movie?"
"I wanted to learn to know you better. Because the movie interested you, it interested me as well."

"And even though I picked this dirt cheap burger house?"

"We are both dirt poor college students, after all."

"You are sure a tolerant person."

"And you are a fascinating person. I noticed already before we met, when your childhood friend was pulling you up to the slide."

"I guess that's not what you usually see."
"Haha, no, it is not. I guess she is an interesting person too, but I don't date girls."

She does. But I can't tell you that.