Humle & Honning
(“Bumble & Honey” – Tiden Norsk Forlag 2001)
A sweet and poetic little tale about two creatures and their love affair in the woods and by the sea. (So far this novel has been published in Norwegian only.)
English translation of a part of this book:
(Translation: Ren Powell)
Bumble lives in a tree. The tree grows in the wood, and the wood is near the sea. A road winds through the wood, around mossy boulders and moors filled with shoes.
The road ends at the sea. Those that would continue must be familiar with the waves and the seaweed, and feel their way carefully. Not everyone makes it. It isn’t enough to have webbed toes and five fingers on each hand.
At night Bumble sits quietly in the tree and listens to the roaring of the waves, to the sounds of the mating whales. He’s never seen the sea, and he never will! The wind, arriving from distant shores, carries such thoughts with it.
He’s not lonely.
He has Grunt.
Bumble isn’t afraid of falling pine cones or of animals that glide past under the cover of darkness. He isn’t afraid of spruce needles, and each stone that pokes through the underbrush inspires him to whistle a child-like melody.
Some days the wind steals the pine needles from the trees.
Sometimes the leaves turn at night.
Near the sea, Honey lives with all her stuff. She doesn’t mind the wind—she goes wherever the wind blows. Into the wood to steal apples, if that’s what needs to be done. But mostly, she stays near the shore, where the stones are rounder and warm and everything tastes of salt—as it should. At night she sleeps on her rubber mattress and dreams wet dreams. She swims with the fish, a thousand meters deep, through underwater grottoes and shipwrecks. She holds her breath until she wakes—and even then, for just a bit longer. The waves lick her toes in a lazy rhythm while she sleeps; first the big ones, then the small. It’s what they’ve agreed.
Night steals away, allowing the day to slip in with all the noise from the grass growing and the pine cones losing their grip. Bumble sits in the tree waiting for the sun to stick its head up over the treetops. Until then, he’ll neither eat nor think. Until then, he won’t wonder what this day will bring.
Grunt stands, silent, on her branch.
Palle and Kalle sleep.
Soon the sun will flood the wood and new sounds will rise: a choir of sniffling noses move through the trees. Bumble bends forward and looks. Some pip-squeaks are hopping around on the stones below. They chatter and laugh, stop for a moment and point up at Bumble.
“Bumble’s sitting up there,” they say.
“He looks like a pine cone,” they say.
The Hormones are on their way to the post office. As if there would be a package for scoundrels like them.
“Throw us some coins, Bumble!” the Hormones shout.
“Show us your stamps, then, Bumble,” they shout.
“Go wipe your snotty noses!” Bumble shouts in return.
Of course they don’t do as he says; they make sniffing noises, loud as trumpets, startling the sun as it climbs above the horizon and bathes the wood in cheerful light.
Bumble snorts. The Hormones can forget about seeing his stamps. That kind of thing isn’t for amateurs.
Now, the tip of Bumble’s nose is warm. He climbs down from the tree and runs through the wood, over spruce needles, moss and tree roots, along creeks that spring from nothing, and past boulders, large as houses.
On the shore, Honey is awake and has done her morning exercises: four stretches to the East and five to the West. Two big yawns and fifteen hops on each foot in the hopscotch squares drawn in the sand.
Now it’s the waves’ turn. They’ve been patient, Honey thinks as she skips into the water. They are waiting for her there, eager and happy.
The white waves snap at Honey’s back. She groans and splashes after them. “Just give it up, boys!” she shouts. “You’ll all get yours. Just wait and see!”
She runs onto the beach and hops back and forth before throwing herself into the sea again in surrender. The waves caress her thighs, tickle her where she is most ticklish, lifting her into the air like a queen being carried through town on a litter.
Bumble sits under the milk ramp and counts his toes. Are they all there? He thinks so, be he can never be sure. Then he thinks about his stamp collection. It’s been neglected lately. Left alone, and left to the curious beetles in the matgrass. But they can still be salvaged.
The road is deserted and hilly, filled with potholes and the shadows of trees. But Bumble can’t see the shadows. He sees the sun pushing through the treetops.
Bumble has nine toes on his left foot.
Eight on his right.
That’s just as it should be.
Bumble has plans to rearrange his stamp collection, to put the stamps from Monaco behind the stamps from France. Now, Monaco comes before Morocco. It doesn’t work well. It makes more sense to move them after France. He wants it that way. That’s better.
There is so much that can be done with the stamp collection. There are so many methods to sort them. Size is one method, color another. He closes his eyes and pictures a stamp from Belize: blue sea and something that looks like a yellow sail far in the distance.
He opens his eyes again. The sun has moved a little and is shining on an anthill on the other side of the road. Thousands of small, industrious ants are at work.
Honey is sunbathing. She’s hungry. Her stomach is growling loudly—louder than the roar of the waves beating on the beach.
She thinks about apples, apple pie, apple juice.
She thinks about potato chips, hot dogs, and mustard from Dijon.
But thoughts don’t fill the stomach, thinks Honey. Food fills the stomach.
She fumbles in her sack and takes out a bottle of cod liver oil: more than enough cod liver oil. But no one to share it with.
Her stomach rumbles again, a low, friendly rumble that sort of tickles. She’s very hungry, but there’s no reason to rush anything. The apples aren’t going anywhere, and if they do, they’ll come right back when she calls.
Her hair pulls her toward the wood.
“Yeah, yeah,” mumbles Honey. “Everything in it’s time.”
A Range Rover appears from around a bend in the road. It has a roof-rack that is loaded with a surfboard and a sail.
Bumble’s thoughts have wondered off on their own. He’s thought about women and all that goes with them. About soft curves and hidden canyons, about hair that smells of lilacs and skin like soft caramels.
With a rise in his trousers and grass on his knees, Bumble crawls out from under the ramp. He opens the gate and the car drives through—just as it passes Bumble, the window opens a few centimeters and a hand drops a few coins onto the ground. Then the driver speeds up and the Rover disappears between the trees.
Running through the woods, Bumble holds the coins tightly in his fist. They are warm. This will make Grunt happy, he thinks. Now Grunt and Palle with be happy. And Kalle.
He stops by his tree. Looks up through the branches. High up there are his friends. Now they will have a coin each. Then he’ll need to get something to eat.
As he climbs, Bumble wonders how much money Grunt and Palle and Kalle have. Enough to buy a tent? A Primus stove? A stamp from distant Bengalia? A knife to whittle willow flutes?
He thinks about the word knife. Shivers.
Bumbles stomach growls—louder than the wind in the trees.
Thinks about apples, apple pie, and apple juice.
He thinks about potato chips, hot dogs and mustard from Dijon.
But thoughts don’t fill the stomach, thinks Bumble.
There is a house in the middle of the wood. There is a fence around the house and beyond the fence is an ocean of grass that grows wild and tall as the grass of the savannahs in Africa. A birdbath shimmers in the grass, and a lawn mower has been stashed under the veranda.
Bumble stands by the fence near the house. On the other side of the fence are the apples, big and green and shiny. It’s time to pinch a few apples; Bumble climbs over the fence and eases himself onto the grass on the other side. The grass is tall and it makes swishing noises as he walks.
Bumble has seen the savannahs in Africa. He has stared at the stamps from Kenya and Zimbabwe until his eyes were sore. The animals there are different from the ones in the wood where he lives. They have long legs and rarely climb in the trees.
There is an element of danger, sitting up on a branch studying stamps. He can’t even clean his glasses—if he did he would fall like a pine cone losing its grasp when one least expects it.
The largest apple dangles from a branch up high. Bumble climbs up and stretches out his arm, but the apple has already made up its mind: it’s coming down. Now it falls to the ground, slowly, as though it had all the time in the world, as though there was no reason to rush anything.
It finally lands in the grass.
“Thump!” it says.
A wind blows through the trees.
The whole world shakes.
Honey covers her face with her hair and sits completely still. She holds her breath and holds tightly onto the apple that fell and rolled over to her.
It’s her apple.
It’s going into her stomach.
Bumble has seen her now. He sits in the apple tree and sniffs the air, staring at her as she sits there with her hair in her face. For a moment, her eyes had been big and open, and he had felt her gaze cut through her hair and the apples.
Does he smell the sea? Shells that are about to open and display their fruits?
He can’t be sure.
He’s never seen a shell, and he never will.