My cousin is scared now. Really scared. She moves backwards towards the bed.Body Tactics, p. 54I won’t tell anyone,I go on,but keep away from those bitches, they are bad company. It’s only a matter of time before you’ll get arrested, the lot of you.
Body Tactics is an independent continuation of Body Effex and is about Ursula, dreaming of a career as a makeup artist. She returns from London, the winner of a body-paint competition and holding hands with her first real girlfriend. Her family is waiting at home and they have difficulties accepting that she has fallen in love with a girl. Also at home Patricia and her hardcore girl gang are waiting; they believe Ursula owes them money. Bente Clod has once again written a captivating novel, that hits you spot on with direct depictions of the turbulent life of a contemporary youth.
Body Tactics was published by Høst & Søn on November 6 2008. The first book about Ursula, Body Effex, was released in 2006.
We are falling through the air. Leaning on to each other, Cecilie and I fall asleep and don’t wake up until Louise tugs at me and says we need to fasten the seat-belts.Body Tactics, p. 10
Slumberous we see Copenhagen Airport approaching, first land and water, then houses, then trees and finally the runway, receiving the bumps from the wheels. Cecilie squeezes my hand. How long were we in London? Ten days? Twelve?
It feels like a whole life. A whole new life.
In baggage claim we are fidgeting impatiently. Finally all of the materials I have bought for John’s Special Effects workshop come rumbling down the belt. I load them onto a cart and almost forget my backpack, because I’m busy checking that nothing is missing from the gear, but my sister saves it and slams it on top of the load before it takes another round.
Take out the brush,Louise whispers.
I take out the Golden Paint Brush from the purse. Not that golden anymore, the gold dust is on Cecilie’s body and on mine, but only she and I know that. Kurt and Gerda and Thomas and Louise and Cecilie help push all of the makeup products I bought through customs.
CONGRATULATIONS ON THE FIRST PRIZE, URSULA! A big red banner says. A poster with the winning photo of me and Cecilie is attached to a stick, which John and Lotte are holding up high in the air along with their company banner from BODY EFFEX. I stop, blinded. How did they get a hold of that? Cecilie’s cousin Bob must have sent it. And there’s mom and dad next to them with Danish flags.
Lotte is wearing a wedding dress with tiny bleeding hearts sprinkled all over the white dream. John is in tie and tails, probably for the first time in his life. His black suit is also sprinkled with the little glittering hearts. They put down their banners and posters and run over to grab me and my brush lifting it into the air. We are jumping up and down around each other. My knees go soft with joy. Mom and dad are beaming and both trying to give me the first congratulatory hug, John and Lotte shake me and pad my back.
Did you two get married?!I ask, amazed.
No but we will,John says, looking proudly at his bride, and putting his arm underneath hers:We just wanted to try out our suits.
We have champagne waiting at home,mom tells me and gives me one of those really big hugs.
The parents greet each other warmly. Gerda and Kurt are going to come to our place, they had it all figured out beforehand.
And I’m still just wearing my ancient black leather pants with spots of paint and the worn out dark-red leather jacket and a creased turquoise top from my bag, handed to me by Cecilie’s cousin Bob before the hectic departure from his house in London, when we nearly overslept. The heel on my one suede boot is coming off and my page boy hair, supposed to be straight, is all ruffled. But the worst part is that I didn’t have time for any makeup whatsoever and I have pimples on my forehead. Mom notices of course, I know that she will help me as much as she can as soon as we get a few minutes. Right now John and Lotte are all over me and I’m forced to let go of Cecilie’s hand. She is shivering in her old, red coat, her gipsy meets pirate look. Her elegant pantsuit from the London disco, gone, her slicked back hair and white gloves, gone. The big red curls are rustling around her head, so that I need to reach out a finger and touch her index to be able to stand it. The electricity is on, reconnection.
We push all of the carts outside. Dad and Kurt insist on loading all the heavy material into John’s old Volkswagen, so that his fancy clothes won’t get all creased. John doesn’t know what leg to stand on while dad is maneuvering bottles and boxes into the car. The brilliant loser has a thing with dad. When he stops by it’s mainly to have a chat with dad. Tell him how things are and get a fatherly pad on the shoulder.
We pile into the cars and drive home quickly to our street. The house suddenly seems so small squeezed in tightly among the other little three story houses in Abildgårdsgade, smaller than Bob’s town house in Camden. The kitchen window reveals mom’s party preparations: There are salmon and crab salad sandwiches on the dining table by the bench, and little flags all over the table cloth. In the middle a layered cake with the inscription CONGRATULATIONS URSULA! in the frosting.
We bustle inside. I forget all about concealer for my pimples. John unfolds the banner on the floor. It goes all the way into the living room.
I am completely overwhelmed. Usually we’re celebrating Louise’s excellent grades. They have been impressed of course by the photos of the costumes, masks and lookalikes, I’ve made in John’s workshop, they have put up with a fair amount of acrylic and fake blood in the kitchen sink, but they never celebrated it as something positive. Maybe this could loosen up dad’s ambition to get me to go to high school, just a bit …
My aunt opens the door with hectic rosy cheeks and a Colgate smile. She’s blond like dad and not much taller than me. I had forgotten all about that. Here’s the reason for my dwarf size. Mom and Louise are both tall and dark.Body Tactics, p. 55
Our greetings are exuberant and Cecilie hands over the flowers. A woman appears behind Auntie Karen, smiling friendly.
The dyke is wearing a neat denim jacket over a rose blouse. She works with children I recall vaguely. They’re actually quite feminine, to my relief. Both in jeans and pastels. We leave our jackets in the hallway.
It’s my first visit to a lesbian home. It feels fantastic. The two women show us the large, bright apartment: the living room with a coffee table made of glass in front of the TV, the bedroom all white with a double bed of bamboo that makes my stomach tickle a little bit. Here they spend every night. Exactly like every other married couple in a double bed. Karen points at a closed door with a Heavy Metal poster:
Anna’s room. She’s not at home, unfortunately.
We exchange a glance. Anna is the one I need to talk to.
So when did we see each other last?Line asks.Wasn’t it –
The night before Christmas four years ago.Karen replies promptly, getting up and fetching a photo album. Cecilie suddenly has my cell phone:
Can I take a picture of you guys?
Oh sure. If only Anna was here.
My beloved herds us together and takes a group photo with Karen holding the photo album. She snaps us from various angles, seals our Hesselberg blood and our short, dense figures with Line who is one head taller than us. Line takes a photo of Karen, Cecilie and me. Then we sit in the couch and go through the family photos from the birthday party.
All the pictures of our family are from when we were young and all got together annually until that night before Christmas four years ago. I feel bad already looking at the pics of three-year-old Anna. A terrified little girl looking fearfully at Louise who just pulled her hair. Underneath the table I have drilled my nail into one of the many wounds on her legs. She looks so scared in all of the photos that I almost can’t take it.
An hour later I put down my bag with gently trembling hands in front of Anna’s dismissive profile. She’s wearing black warn out army boots cracking in the front, a black tank top and black spider’s web tights underneath her short skirt.
I want to apologize to you for Louise and me. We were some rotten kids back then.
She doesn’t react, keeps on reading the titles of the school books and filling her bag.
I’m leaving in a minute but I would like to know if that’s the reason you attacked me that day in the forest.
She turns around abruptly.
I’m serious about the apology,I repeat entreatingly.We couldn’t see it back then, Anna, but we’re very embarrassed about it now, it’s really completely, completely understandable if you wanted revenge.
My punk cousin squints. I bend down and take the box from my bag, quickly unwrapping the protective tissue from the head and then I hold it out to Anna:
And then you took it out on Lisette Kronhøj. Did you take part in that, Anna?
My cousin is scared now. Really scared. She moves backwards towards the bed.
I am running and running. My body is aching from lack of sleep and too many runs, my sight is wobbly, I keep imagining what it must be like to be forced down a basement and put through the treatment Marie went through.Body Tactics, p. 208
My sister’s breath is right behind me. Louise refuses to leave me alone even though I find it tough being with anyone.
Ursula! Stop! Three times around the lakes, that’s enough!
Enough. Her body isn’t full of the fear and adrenaline, stringing me along. I wriggle free of Louise’s hands and storm up the grass lope, towards our row-houses, home in safety.
I keep bathing. Trying to wash off the experience. The sight of the naked, bleeding Marie with her long, cut off hair sticking to her body. The female police officer who tore off her jacket and covered Marie before calling the ambulance. Nadja and I stood by Marie, holding her hand until the ambulance arrived. Wiped the pee and the vomit off her face as much we could. They had put out a cigarette on her cheek. I can’t stand the sight of cigarettes. Or sleep.
Louise lets herself fall onto the bench in the kitchen and breathes while I finish a carton of juice. She is trying to help me with the restlessness, and the anxiety. And will take me to the shrink tomorrow. I was there yesterday as well, it’s good to talk about it but the body doesn’t forget. Let’s go for another run I suggest.
Louise moans:That will have to be with Nadja. Not me.
Steffen Larsen, Politiken, December 13 2008:
Love creates joy
Joy opens Body Tactics, a continuation of Body Effex (from 2006). Falling in love is Bente Clod’s specialty. She can write lightly as a bird and flamingly about burning hearts. She did so in the trilogy about the songbird Thilde from Nansensgade, which secured the author the big prize from the ministry of Culture.
Birte Strandby, MetroXpress, December 10 2008:
Cecilie is Ursula’s first true love and the overwhelming emotion is only slightly disturbed by her dad’s complete resistance towards the relationship […] It is a compassionate novel about a young girl and the first time she falls in love […] Bente Clod has previously picked main characters who were outside of mainstream and her talent for being cutting edge is one of the things that makes her books a different reading experience.
Mille Klemmensen, Out & About, December 2008:
An important and well put together piece of Young Adult fiction, with the courage to deliver an almost nauseating happy ending, invigorating and pleasant in a genre with way too many shaving blades and cut wrists.
Buy Body Tactics here