Luvussa 1: Silly, Silly Mormons
I was born January 1st, 1988, the very second after the ball dropped. Two seconds before, I would've been born 1987. Nyyrikki, my big brother, never let me forget that. Neither would äiti. If I were born a few seconds before, maybe somethings would be different. For one, I would be older. For another, I might've known my father, Eino. Nyyrikki also told me Eino got into an accident on the way to the hospital, and died December 31st. Two seconds before I was born. I might've passed him. Maybe.
Wow. Sorry, that's a very grim, very depressing opening. That is nowhere near how awesome my story is. My name is Lemminkäinen Kaleva Yli-Hannuksela. Try saying that five times fast. Scratch that. Try saying that once. Don't worry. I have three nicknames you can choose from, none anywhere near as long and hard to say as my real name. You get to choose between Lemmin, Lemon Cane, or Kagin. Well, not exactly Lemon Cane. That's exclusively Nyyrikki's. Sorry. Again.
I guess I should actually get to the stupid story now, huh? I've filled you in on everything important, haven't I? Let's see...Nyyrikki, Eino, äiti...I guess. We'll see. Probably forgot something already. I'll start when I was twelve. That's the best time to start.
I leaned against Nyyrikki's shoulder. "Glad to get away from the devil?" he asked, still practicing stupid English. I nodded sleepily. We had to get up at five in the morning after driving seventeen hours down to Helsinki. I'm surprised Nyyrikki's not ready to pass out, so much more surprised he's not already.
"Stupid kusipää," I managed around a yawn. I could tell the whole jet lag thing is going to be hell. Four. Hours. Difference. At noon, I'm going to be ready for dinner. When dinner actually comes around, I'll be ready to pass out. Stuipd America. I just agreed to go on this trip to escape my step-father, Jarno. Oh. Guess I left him out. Oopsies. Like I even care about him. He's a prick. End of story.
Nyyrikki and I signed up for a student exchange. We were going to spend a whole school year in Chicago, Illinois while two (unlucky) people from their school get to spend a whole year back in our home, Nuorgam, Utsjoki, Suomi. You might know Suomi as Finland. Nuorgam is the coldest, most northern city...town in Finland. Sometimes, it's considered the most northern part of Europe. I just prayed they were ready for the midnight sun during the little summer we get there and the no-sun winter. Poor saps.
Then, I thought, Will Nyyrikki and I be ready for the year round night and day? We've grown up knowing there wasn't a sun during winter, but there was too much sun during summer. Well, what we call summer. It's more like early spring to others. I glanced up at Nyyrikki. Dark circles were forming around his eyes from lack of sleep. The other night, I heard him and Jarno yelling at each other again. I wondered if he stayed up late that night. When was the last time he took a snooze?
He had nice, dirty blond hair that was slicked back to give the illusion that he wasn't a punk, as Jarno would call him. He had his ears pierced twice, which in our family was a big deal. A male with both ears pierced once was never thought of. Having both pierced twice was beyond imagination for Jarno and äiti. He had chocolate brown eyes that always looked happy, except when around Jarno. They don't get along at all. I guess I pretty much said that three times already. Anyways, Nyyrikki's face was extremely unique. His nose was big, but fit well on his oval-ish face. From the pictures I've seen of Eino, I know he got his face from isä. Nyyrikki teases me and says I got my looks from äiti. Äiti herself says I've got too much fat to tell.
I'm chubby. No, scratching that. I'm fat. I admit it. I've got body fat to give to fifty anorexic kids. I wear extra large everything. I could go swimming in the oceans and whales would start singing, "We are family!" I admit it. Nyyrikki says I shouldn't mind. I should be proud of my fat. Jokingly, he'd say, "Some people would starve for a body like yours." Even though Nyyrikki tried to get my self esteem to it's best potential, I've always felt bad about myself. Always thought, "oh, look at the ugly, stupid nerd in the mirror," or, "why do you think Batman would want you as Robin? You can't even run five feet without doubling over in exhaustion."
Ignoring the jiggly part of my body, I wear big, Coke-bottle glasses that, of course, have tape in the middle. They broke while Nyyrikki and I were playing one day. I have a sparse collection of comic books ranging from Wolverine to Spiderman to the Hulk to, my favorite, Batman. I don't care who you are or what you say, Batman is the best hero in the whole world. I wish I could be Robin just so I could bask in Batman's shadow. Someday, I would get a tattoo of him somewhere on my body. Somewhere.
Nyyrikki started petting my head, pushing back the bowl-cut hair. When I say bowl-cut, I mean...my mom put a bowl on my head, cut off the hair that hung out. Not even joking. "We'll be thousands of miles away from him and Annika. Life is going to be great," he whispered. Nyyrikki gave up on calling äiti, well, äiti. He decided he would call her Annika. He promised that, once he was old enough, he'd disown her and Jarno and move to Helsinki, as far away from them as he could while still in Finland.
"Have you been to America before?" I asked. I guess the two Cokes I chugged before the flight gave me a small kick of energy, not letting me pass out like I wanted to.
Nyyrikki was two years older than me, fourteen years old. "No, but I've heard there's more freedoms. Maybe, while we're here, you can get your ears pierced like me." I cringed. Didn't needles hurt? Almost like he read my mind, he chuckled, "It won't hurt that much. If you ignore it." He continued to stroke my hair, making my eyes heavier. "Go to sleep, pikkuveli."
We stayed with the same family, the Mucci's. I almost always called them the Munchies. Haha. The family consisted of Clayton, the isä, Dollie, the äiti, and two sisaret, Selena and Alana. Alana went to the middle school I was to attend, while Selena attended Nyyrikki's. Clayton worked as a construction worker and always seemed to be dirty, while Dollie was a Real Estate agent. I wondered if she sold houses Clayton made.
They picked us up at about six their time. By that time, I was sure my brain was mush and would slide out of my ear. I slept soundly on Nyyrikki's shoulder as we traveled to the Mucci's house. I couldn't even tell you how to get there.
That morning, at eight, Clayton had us get up for breakfast. It took me almost all day to realize Nyyrikki and I were sharing a room I was so tired. Nyyrikki took another day to realize that fact. At our first breakfast, Dollie asked us to tell them a little about ourselves.
"Well, just as a warning," Nyyrikki started explaining, showing off his amazing English speaking abilities, "Lemmin will talk nonstop about Batman if you let him." I tried not to chock on my toast as I started laughing. "I, myself, am just..laid-back, I guess?"
Selena giggled at him. It wasn't a secret she had a crush on him. Sadly, Nyyrikki didn't feel the same way back. "So, how about we tell you about the rules and that here?" Clayton said gruffly. He explained some basic rules. You know, no running with scissors, no this, no that. He added, "On Sundays, we all go to church. The only reason one of us doesn't go is if they're sick."
Nyyrikki and I exchanged looks. We made it clear to Jarno and äiti that we didn't care for God or Christ or any of that and we certainly weren't going to worship them. Nyyrikki raised a brow at the Mucci's. "Do...do we have to start worshiping like you all do? Or...can we just hang out at the church, be groovy, drink a little wine during communion?"
Dollie laughed at that. "Well, first of, our church doesn't have communion and we don't drink wine. But, we don't care if you worship like we do or not, just as long as you go to church with us. Who knows, you two might meet some friends."
Nyyrikki agreed, which meant I agreed. "Just...one last question," Nyyrikki muttered, sticking a finger up, "What religion are you? I don't mean to come off as...religion-ist or anything."
Dollie answered again, "We attend the Church of Latter Day Saints. Most people actually refer to us as Mormons."
Nyyrikki and I exchanged looks again. "What's a Mormon?" I asked.
"We're a type of Christianity. You'll see tomorrow."
Clayton cleared his throat. "Which reminds me. Nyyrikki, when we go to church, this might be stepping over a line or something, but could you leave your earings out?"
Nyyrikki played with one of the spikes poking out of his earlobe. "Um...I could put in plugs or something. I don't really go anywhere without something in the holes. I heal fast, which sucks for piercings." He flashed his amazing teeth. "I've got ways of hiding them." He really did. He hid them from Jarno for two whole months.
Clayton didn't seemed too thrilled with that, but decided it was best to leave it at that. Can take the kid out of the fight, but can't take the fight out of the kid. I can't seem to recall a lot from Saturday, mostly 'cause I was half asleep, half dead that whole day, but Sunday...was weird.
We walked into the church, which was a small brick building, and was greeted by a small, gray haired man. He shook Nyyrikki's and my hands. He said to call him Brother Steep, and he called us Brother Y-H. No 'and'. Both of us were Brother Y-H. After some weird ceremony with singing and standing and sitting and bread and water and people talking for what seemed like five hours, Selena and Alana took us to something called "Sunday School". Ugh.
The teacher was a twig-like lady with brown and gray hair in a loose bun who the class called Sister Ozzenburg. Ozzenburg. I still don't like that name. She called Nyyrikki Rick, while I was...whatever L-name came out of her mouth. That included girls' names.
"So, Rick, Larry," she started, pushing up her half-moon glasses and squinting through them at the two of us, "Did you go to church back in Finland?"
Nyyrikki shook his head, being the more social brother. "We didn't, and I'm sad to say we didn't bring a...um...Lemmin, mitä Raamattu Englanti?"
Remember me saying Nyyrikki knew a lot of English? I was the one that actually was completely fluent in English. I finally spoke up, "We didn't bring Bibles."
Sister Ozzenburg shook her head, but said, "That's all right, Lizzy. I'm sure someone in the class can share with you."
Now, Nyyrikki could read English perfectly fine. I couldn't. Selena generously sooted her chair closer to Nyyrikki and plopped her book on his lap. I glanced to the kid next to me. He was smaller than me, very short, and had dark brown hair and big, blue-gray eyes.
He placed his Bible on his leg closest to me. "Here, we can share," he muttered under his breath. "I'm Masagiv, by the way."
Sister Ozzenburg was stupid to let Masagiv and I even sit together. We talked nonstop about superheroes and everything. She tried combating our chatter with asking us questions. I learned quickly, if she asks you a question, your best answer is, "Jesus." If you really didn't know the answer, the second best answer was, "Jesus Christ." If not that, "God" followed by "Holy Ghost".
Nyyrikki kept snickering every time she called on me. Jokingly, I'd end up saying, "Batman," "the Joker," "Bruce Wayne", "Catwoman", "Robin", and everything else that has to do with Batman. Sister Ozzenburg didn't like that.
The next hour of church (even though these "hour long sessions" seem more like "seven hour sessions"), was something called Young Men. Well, we had Young Men while Selena and Alana had Young Women. Masagiv was in this hour, too. Clayton was the teacher in there. Thanks to my better judgment, I used Jesus as most of my answers instead of Batman.
After the lesson, which went in one ear and out the other for me, Clayton let us chat amongst ourselves. Everyone asked Nyyrikki and I, "What's this in Finnish?", "What's that in Finnish?", "What's Finland like?"
For the last one, Nyyrikki and I jokingly said, "Dark and cold, like a bathroom." After church, we returned to the Mucci's house, where Dollie and Alana started cooking. Selena took Nyyrikki up to her room to help her study her foreign language...if you could call it that. I rolled my eyes as Nyyrikki flashed me a look before he disappeared upstairs. I decided to help Dollie and Alana.
To their surprise, and probably everyone else's, I'm a good cook. I've always been good at cooking. I mean, back then it wasn't superly amazing like it is now. Close, though. Nyyrikki and Selena came down right as Dollie shouted for dinner, and Clayton returned from his garage. We all gathered around the table, and just as Nyyrikki and I went to reach for the foods we wanted, Dollie stopped us, "Prayer first, then we eat."
I, grumbling of course, recoiled and folded my arms like Nyyrikki did, with Selena's unneeded help. Clayton told the prayer, which was a lot less dramatic as I thought it would be. I remember watching American films, and I always thought the prayer was supposed to be all over the place with shouting and laughter. Craziness.
After the meal, Nyyrikki and I scampered upstairs, brushed our teeth and changed into pajamas. Nyyrikki and I lied in our beds, staring at each other, snickering about how church went. "Batman is Jesus," Nyyrikki laughed.
I added, "And Joker's God." Nyyrikki laughed harder, holding his ribs together with his arms.
"Oh, Jumala, Lemon Cain! You're going to kill me!" I snickered, taking my glasses off and setting them on the nightstand. "Hyvää yötä, pikkuveli. Unelma mahtavia unia," were the last words I heard before drifting off to dreamland.
luvussa = chapter
äiti = mom
kusipää = cunt
isä = dad
pikkuveli = little brother
sisaret = sisters
Mitä Raamattu Englanti? = What's Bible in English?
Jumala = God
Hyvää yötä, pikkuveli. Unelma mahtavia unia. = Good night, little brother. Dream wonderful dreams.