The first chapter of my next book, “The Marmalade God,” will be this week’s blog post. The book will be released in November if everything goes as planned. It’s been a long time coming – I started writing when my children were young, I think the first three chapters were completed sometime in 2008. However, mothers of young children don’t have much time to write, so it has taken until now to become (almost) finished.
The book will be available in both Swedish and English.
“Why on earth did I choose this miserable way?” Lisa thought to herself as she rounded the fifth corner in ten minutes.
“Not a single straight meter and any number of crossings. These old alleys are really no help when you have to be on time.” She knew she wouldn’t make it to the meeting in time, the meeting that would decide whether or not she got the position as head of department. More than anything, she cursed her own stupidity for taking what she thought was a shortcut through the old quarters. When she missed the bus, she should have taken a taxi instead of venturing into alleys she didn’t know.
The cell phone rang, but she didn’t bother to answer it, didn’t want to admit she messed up, there were plenty of people there who would enjoy watching her do it, and she wouldn’t let them.
“Oh no, one more dead end!” she muttered, and sat down dejectedly on a low wall that framed a small tufted planter. There were some half-dead geraniums and the occasional rickety tagetes, someone had obviously had ambitions in the spring but lost interest or energy during the summer. There was no point trying to make it on time any longer, she wasn’t going to get there, in fact it seemed like she wouldn’t even be able to get out of this miserable neighborhood without help.
“I give up!” she thought. “I don’t care about the damn job, let the prestige seekers have it and I’ll be happy.” She sighed, but then realized that she wasn’t feeling very dejected at all. On the contrary, she felt adventurous and expectant, as if anything could happen.
In front of her on the other side of the street was a small shop. “The Marmalade God” it said in squiggly white letters on a black forged sign. In the shop window, masses of small marmalade jars and pots crowded the space together with greeting cards and paintings. Everything was framed by flowers. Not artificial flowers but carefully tended potted plants, she saw that now as she curiously drew closer. She liked flowers, especially potted plants. Cut flowers felt a bit unnecessary, , they died so quickly, but you could live with potted plants for a long time. She liked marmalade too, perhaps a little too much. At least that’s what she had said to herself when she looked in the mirror this morning, after eating several hearty marmalade sandwiches for breakfast.
“I think I’ll check it out, it seems to be a place to my taste.” she thought and opened the door.
Inside the shop she was greeted by myriads of small and large cans stacked on shelves around the walls. The air was pleasant, slightly scented with fruit and berries, spices and – she noticed – new books. A shelf just inside the door contained books, postcards and small paintings, but she only gave it a quick glance. It was the marmalade that interested her.
There was strawberry marmalade, rhubarb marmalade, rose marmalade, apple with mint and honey and many other varieties. For a long time she was completely absorbed by the different names, but eventually she discovered that each jar had something more written on its label. “Table of contents,” she thought at first, but it didn’t look like that. She took a jar of rose marmalade and read it more carefully. “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24) she read.
“What kind of place is this?” she thought in surprise. “How can you think of writing something like this on marmalade jars, that seems completely screwed up! Is it something from the Bible or what? The owner must be some religious fanatic, I should probably leave.”
She proceded to check a few more jars. On the blackcurrant marmalade it was written: “See and taste the goodness of the Lord, happy is he who flees to him!” (Psalms 34:9)
“This is getting worse and worse,” she thought, “why would you do something like this?” She was about to pick up a jar of rhubarb marmalade when she felt more than saw someone standing next to her.
When she turned to see who it was, she was met by a small, stout woman in a linen dress and a large apron. She looked like a fairy tale character, Lisa thought, while at the same time feeling embarrassed by the fact that she had completely forgotten that there must be someone working in the shop.
Had she been talking to herself when she read the cans? She did that sometimes when she got involved in something or upset and it had worked against her more than once, when someone happened to hear what wasn’t meant for their ears at all.
“Do you find something you like?” the woman said kindly.
“Yes, I do,” said Lisa, a little confused, “but why in the world is this stuff about God on the jars, isn’t that a bit over the top?”
“You might think so,” said the woman, “but when God told me to open this store, he also told me to write a Bible verse on each jar, as a reminder that marmalade should be made from berries and fruits, not from God.”
“Do you think it was God who told you to open this place?” asked Lisa indignantly, at the same time thinking that here was one of those poor deceived beings who explained her delusions by saying it was the voice of God. “I at least hope she’s not dangerous,” she thought. “She doesn’t look dangerous, but you never know with delusional people, maybe she can’t stand being questioned. I have to be careful with what I’m saying.”
“I don’t think so, I know.” said the woman confidently. “He has proven to me so many times that it was right that if I had any doubts at the beginning, they are gone now. You see, I really can’t do much other than make marmalade. I grow berries, fruits and flowers in my garden, and I love marmalade, as you can see,” she laughed, gesturing meaningfully to her big belly.
“Eventually I had so much marmalade that I could never eat it myself, and my friends and relatives were quite tired of my little jars, so I asked God if He would give me something to do with it, even though I’m neither particularly smart nor handy.
“Sell your marmalade in your own shop,” he said. I honestly thought he was nuts, how would I be able to manage something like that? I who knew nothing about money and business. He didn’t give up, I kept hearing the same thing, so I began looking for somewhere to set up shop, and eventually ended up here. I’ve been doing this for a year now, and it just gets more fun every day.”
Lisa said nothing, but thought that it was probably time for her to leave, before she got really confused. She thought she should at least, for the sake of decency, buy some marmalade, so she selected a jar of rose marmalade, which she had not come across before, and asked for the price. Then came the next shock.
“I don’t know,” said the woman calmly, “it depends on what God wants you to pay.”
“And how will I know?” Lisa said cautiously, for she felt herself getting really scared, there was something strange about both the woman and the shop that she couldn’t put her finger on.
“You will ask him for a sum, of course,” said the woman, “and when you have it, you will pay.”
“Oh, but I don’t usually pray to God,” said Lisa, “I don’t think he exists.”
“Pray anyway,” said the woman, “and then pay the amount you get into your head. He exists even if you don’t believe in him.”
Lisa wasn’t going to pray, but she made a rough estimate of what a marmalade jar of that size could cost and decided that thirty kroner was probably ok.
“Is thirty enough?” she asked.
“Yes, if that’s what God has told you.” the woman said kindly. She accepted the money and as Lisa walked out the door she said, “God bless you today! Welcome back!”
“Never!” thought Lisa, “I’m not setting foot there again, what a strange place!”
In any case, it was high time to try to get out of this neighborhood and report to work before she ran into more religious fanatics. She had seemed quite harmless though, the little woman, kind and naive, she was probably not dangerous. Maybe she would go there again if the marmalade was good.
But there was that thing with the payment – and the Bible words – it didn’t feel quite right when she didn’t believe in God, especially not in the Christian God, he seemed cruel and insensitive.
She would have to think about it, and try the marmalade of course, she would do that as soon as she got home.
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