In the morning there was more rain and the river ran gray with mud. The camions were mired and the caissons would need two days of good weather before we could use them again.
Spazinni had been out very early and caught three lovely trout. He layered them in his rucksack with damp rushes from the river.
“No more fish today, capitano,” Spazinni said. “The gods have made the river angry. Today we go to IKEA.”
“Yes, capitano?” Renzo said. I knew he was sick of sharing a closet with Father Dunasetta and had his eye on the Kvikne wardrobe. We both understood that the Kvikne was not fine and true, that it was mainly particleboard with a fiberboard back, but I said nothing of this. We would go to IKEA.
“Spazinni,” I said, “gas up the barattare.”
At IKEA we behaved foolishly. With the Swedish meatballs we drank too freely of wine and were asked to leave by the commissario. This embarrassed Father Dunsa, who had come along at the last moment. Then Spazinni and I shamed Renzo for favoring the Kvikne until he upgraded to the Hurdal, which is mostly solid pine.
Later in the afternoon an altercation broke out in the kitchenwares. When it was over the priest had lost a tooth and was more apologetic than before. I helped Renzo load the Hurdal into the truck and went to smooth things with the manager. Perhaps I myself would purchase a piece of furniture, she said.
I told her it would please me to take the Hemnes daybed frame with three drawers.
The morning brought more rain. We drank coffee in the cocina. I watched two crows work the gray stubble in a field.
“Today, Rollo,” I said to Spazinni, “the Hemnes."
“Aye, capitano?” he said. “Depend on me as your second.”
In my quarters I stepped into the coveralls. It was important to maintain a line, true and pure, not to allow the coveralls to bulge or pucker. My glance fell on the Hemnes instructions and I saw the little man in the drawings maintaining just such a line.
The Hemnes had come in two flat boxes. They were heavy and smooth and cool. When we opened them there was a gentle off-gassing of Melamine.
“Rollo,” I said, “there are to be 27 of these.” I pointed beneath the little man on the instructions to what looked like a small set screw, numbered 116894. “And 22 of these.” This too looked like a small set screw but with the number 108462. “And 16 of these.” An even smaller screw, numbered 109049.
In the beginning the work went well, although Spazinni was still drunk from the night before. We made steady progress with the Hemnes. Its frame was held together by wooden dowels that Spazinni handed me with brutal, uncertain fingers.
“Bear up, Rollo,” I said, “or these Swedes will get the better of you.”
“No, capitano,” he said. “It is only this weather and that I remain a little potted.”
In the early afternoon there was cheese and beer in brown bottles that the priest had bought to soothe his embarrassment.
“I envy you,” he said to me. “You are a builder. You see results of your efforts.”
“I am a drinker of beer,” I told him. “I am no builder.”
It was not necessary to return to the room, to look again at the Hemnes, but I took two bottles and went back.
All would be muddled, I knew. Ruined. As the morning wore on I had forced several connections, and the Hemnes was now forever out of square. In his distemper Spazinni had stripped many of the small set screws. His eyes did not meet mine when we left the room.
The Hemnes stood as bravely as it could when I returned, but it could not hold the line. It tilted slightly in my direction, as if it had been listening for my return. When I sat on the daybed platform the Hemnes collapsed sideways into a cool flat pile.
“Fiberboard,” I thought.
The commotion brought Father Dunasetta to my door. “Oh!” he said, “the Hemnes!”
“It’s all right, Dunsa,” I said. “Have no concern. It is not worth mentioning.”
Spazinni appeared at the doorway and stepped quickly away. I pulled something sharp from my buttock. It was one of the tiny screws, a 116894.
Later in the day I walked out into the rain and watched the hills darken to night. Now the snows will come to the mountains, I thought, and the fishing might improve. Then the camions will freeze in the mud and there will be no more talk of Kvikne and Dombas and Knutsdorp.
I pulled the Hemnes assembly instructions from my field jacket and looked again at the little man. He held the line, true and pure, even when the drawing made clear that he himself could not understand the instructions he was trying to follow. His smile collapsed as the Hemnes had.
This is what happens, I thought. You might make sport of their meatballs, but in the end the Swedes get the better of you.
After a while I walked in the rain to the river where I tore the little man to pieces and threw him to the trout.