Oscar K. & Dorte Karrebæk

Translated from the Danish by

Charlotte Barslund

Høst & Søn/Rosinante & Co. 2009

What will you be when you grow up?


“And pull your woolly hat over your ears, August, properly, do you hear me!?”

He hears nothing.
With his hat over his ears.
And his bag in his hand.

The doormat.

Wipe your feet on the mat!
Shoes with laces. Ginger biscuits!
Away in a manger …

“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you.
You look like a monkey and you smell like one …”
“August!” Mum’s lips tighten.

My little Monster leans with one hand against the wall.
‘Hallo, Monster!’
“Time to go, August!”

Hurry down the stairs – one, two and twenty-four!

Monster slides down the banister, on his bottom,
and splits his trousers.

‘Do you want to come into town, little Monster?’
‘Not really … not looking like this.’
‘Oh, please. And pull your woolly hat over your ears, properly …

Out in the street.
It snows and it blows! Coughs and colds. Sniffles!

The houses groan.
Fingers grow numb with cold.
Bracing wind
and ruddy cheeks. Apple dumplings!

If you step on the cracks be-tween the pa-ving stones you will have bad luck! Black sta-tues, ba-by ti-ger. And two little Mus-lim girls!
Mus-lim, Mus-lim!
Splish, splash, splosh!

No life boats.

“August, you’re getting your shoes all wet!” Mum says.
One! Two! Stand!
‘Are you keeping up, little Monster?! Don’t go near the water or God will come and He’s good at stuff. If there’s anything He’s good at, it’s that.’
‘Can He sew? I’ve got a hole in my trousers …’
‘Of course He can. His pins are making a lot of noise already.’

Frosty the Snowman, your carrot is dripping.
His hat and some pieces of coal fall off.
Right into the sewer.

The water carries off a paper boat.

The soldier is missing one leg. And the Ballerina balances on one foot.
“August!” Mum calls out.

Oops, the boat went down the drain.

“Come, August, we’re going to the cemetery.”
Mum takes big strides.

Caption: Hush, little baby don’t say a word. Mama’s gonna buy you a mocking bird!

Caption: Hello, me!
Through the heavenly gates.
An angel! White!

Miss Holm rests here.
And the doves hang their heads.
Weep tight!

“Why don’t we visit Granddad?” Mum suggests.
“With pleasure!”

Lieutenant Colonel Lassen with a crucifix and a trimmed hedge.
The Bogeyman is in the ground.
I bet it’s cold today, Granddad!
And we all fall down.

“August, please would you fetch the rake?”
“No, thank you.”
“Well, do it anyway!” Mum says.
The good mood spreads. There are the tools.
Tools. Fence. Cap.
The gravedigger has a hole in the ground.

‘Watch out, little Monster! The angels are descending …
Watch out, don’t step on them! Then we’ll have to mend them!’

The rake smiles with its teeth.
“Hello, rake! Please could I borrow you for a moment?”

“Can I say something?”
“God sews all the angels!”
“Are you sure of that?” Mum frowns.
“Oh, yes! And all the people in the whole world.”
“Including people from Africa?”
“Yes, He’s very busy.”

The spade is having lunch.

“Please would you put the rake back?” Mum says.
“Yes, of course.”

‘Goodbye rake! And God bless you!
‘Does God do it for free? Sew the angels and all the people?’
‘Yes, of course, little Monster. No charge.’
‘Then why can’t He fix my trousers?’
‘Oh, come on! No! No! No! Of course He doesn’t sew monsters! He’s far too busy.’
‘Then I’ll step on the angels and squash them.’

“August! What are you doing?!” Mum is cross now.
“You’re stamping your feet.”
“Oh, am I?”

Caption: Can I say something?

‘Goodbye, angels! And sorry for the inconvenience! Say hello to God, please! You don’t step on angels, do you now, little Monster. Hello?! He’s talking to you!’
‘Monsters can’t hear a thing with their woolly hats over their ears!’
‘Well, in that case I’m very sorry.’

Out through the gate! Yellow! Flower!
The sun is shining, the snow is melting.

Caption: You can take your woolly hat off now.


“Hey kitty, kitty!”
“Miao,” says the little cat,
catches an angel and tears its wings off.
God will need to get his sewing machine out now.

‘And why are you sulking, little Monster?’
‘I’ve ripped my trousers. And there’s a hole in my pocket.’
‘Okay, we’ll ask God.’
A snowdrop!
A Valentine’s card!
An angel with no wings.
A little friend, who cares for you
A loving greeting brings.

Post box! Red!

God will be so pleased to get a letter.
I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, blue.

“August, do you need a wee!?”
“Mm-hmmn! Are you coming with me?”
“No, I’ll wait for you outside.”


Clothes off. Clothes on. Clothes …
‘Oh, what’s that little worm doing?’
‘Pull the sides, little Monster, and it’ll wee in a spray.’

“Are you coming, August?” Mum calls out.

Yes, yes. Clothes off and clothes on …

“We’ll sit down in the sun,” Mum smiles.

Hello, idiot! Normal calling!
August is crazy!
August is crazy!

Why do they say that, the children with their school bags?
But he already knows. Different. Idiot! Retard.

But now it is time for lunch. Open the bag.
Take out the lunchbox. And his miniature post box with his money.
It is red and it rattles.
Egg, tomato and greaseproof paper. A feetloaf sandwich. And two more with potatoes and chives.

‘It’s the angels’ favourite food, little Monster.’
‘Is that right?’
‘As far as I know …’

There they are again with their school bags:
Crazy-August! Crazy-August!

‘They need their noses punched, little Monster.’

Rain! It cascades down from the sky.
The angels are weeing.
Raindrops drum on the umbrellas.
Luckily, they have remembered theirs.

“Come on! Hurry up in here where it’s dry!” Mum urges him.
“I’m coming, I’m coming.”

A dog! A stray, it shakes the rain off its fur,
Spraying it to all sides.

‘What do you think you’re doing, little Monster? Your feet are all black.’
‘Galoshes. Galoshes of Fortune. Happiness is black. On the whole.’
‘I see, right … And the angels, what about them? Do they wear squashes?’
‘Galoshes. Yes, why not …

The whole street is teeming with angels and black flippers and wet wings.
They splash and paddle. Splatter and slosh. And they jump
into puddles. The world is in topsy curvy – wellies won’t help!

The rain stops and the sky clears.
The umbrellas close. Job done!
“Come, let’s have some hot chocolate!” Mum says.

Hot chocolate with whipped cream.
Gosh, it’s hot! It’s almost steaming!

“Oh, August, really! Now who is that?!”

‘Oh, no, little Monster! Did you bring the stray with you inside where it’s warm? What’s its name?’

“It’s Henning! He’s an angel dog.”

The square is bustling. It is pickling season.
Beetroot and cucumber. Gherkins and pumpkins.
And green tomatoes.
The boiling vinegar tickles his nostrils.

“Two pounds of potatoes! And some silver onions!” Mum says.
“The angels eat silver onions every day. And golden nuggets. And pink clouds. On a stick.”

“August, August. What’s to become of you when I’m not around anymore ...” Mum sighs.
“Nothing …”

Apples and fears. But she is here now, his Mum.

Blue, blue is the sky, it hurts the eye.
The angels fall apart at the seams. And God gets busy with His needle and thread.

‘I’ve got holes in my pockets as well!’
‘Do you now, little Monster! And you’ve ripped your trousers. What are we doing to do? It’s impossible to keep monsters these days. Perhaps you can get my Mum to do it.’

“Do you mend holes? My little Monster has a hole in his pocket and in …”

“We’ll fix it when we get home, August! Put your woolly hat on.”

The fog creeps around the streets with the angels in dark grey coats. The angels look like ghosts.
When they stand underneath the lamp posts.
Night watchmen.

A girl! A chubby one! With a bag like August’s.
Tipping the scales.

“Please may I wave?”
“Alright, go on,” Mum says.

The mentally disabled children are waiting for the bus.
They wave back.
One, two, eight conkers.
Two people, one August and one dog.
If they have enough matches.

‘Your woolly hat, August!”

A sausage stall! Hurrah!

“… and one in a roll.”
“Yes, of course. Here you are, August!”

The paper burns in his hand.

“Now, let’s sit down on this bench and wait until it gets dark.” Mum sits down.
“Why are you giving me pills?”
“It’s for the best, my little August. I’m so very tired.”

Cold wind in the dark.
White birds fly.
Snow is falling, a sprinkling of icing sugar.
The trains run on time.

There is an angel beneath the lamp post.

‘Good evening, August!’
‘Good evening, Angel.’

It is late now,
Time to go home.
Yes, good heavens, it’s more than a thousand o’clock!

Rock a bye baby on the tree top,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.

Through the tunnel. How dark it is.
Goodbye, my little Monster! Goodbye me!

Through the darkness out into the light,
Up the heavenly ladder, where I will sit at God’s
right hand and fudge the living and the dead.

The white birds grow smaller and smaller
until they fit into my pocket.

… take me into Thy care.