Four… three… two… one…
Froderik was unable to see or hear anything. He was standing up but felt as though he were sitting. The tears were welling up, but more important in this moment was to find out why his back and head were aching so badly. Where was Frank and why was everything suddenly so loud? There was some sort of peeping sound of various frequencies. His ears… Froderik pressed his hands against the sides of his head. His hands… they were also hurting. He peered down at them. They were bleeding. He could feel something warm trickling down his neck. He reached to touch it and inspected his fingertips. What he saw made his heart race even faster.
“What are you waiting for?” Frank had asked two hours earlier. “Your parents aren’t at home and we have at least two hundred fireworks on our hands. It’s a complete waste if we don’t do it now. Frank was referring to the unexploded firecrackers that the two friends had painstakingly gathered during the early hours of New Year’s Day.
As for Froderik, he was feeling scared at the thought of repurposing the neighbours’ cat as a suicide bomber. The animal had never done him any harm. In fact, she seemed to be quite fond of him. This was why Mrs. Johannsen had always asked him to feed the cat when she was on holidays with her husband and her daughter Elvira. The cat was innocent – this could not be denied. Elvira, however, was Satan in a dress. Froderik could never forgive her for ramming a stick between the spokes of his bicycle when he was passing at full speed. The subsequent fall had left Froderik unable to walk normally for weeks and had given him nightmares that left him drenched in sweat. And Elvira was devious. Just one example: Every single time that she handed the chocolate ice cream to Froderik – the one that he traditionally received for feeding the cat – she would sneeze on it in an obviously fake yet disturbingly disgusting manner.
The cat was officially hers and by Frank’s standards of interpretation it had thus earned its fate – a death by proxy. Froderik wanted to believe the same, but it was Frank’s suggestion that the actual target of the attack was Zoltan that led him to agree to the murderous plan. Zoltan was Farmer Molter’s watchdog and guarded not only the farm but also the main entrance to the village.
As a creature of this earth, Zoltan was characterised by a troubling combination of high aggressiveness and indescribable stupidity. Likewise, the dog’s physical appearance could not honestly be described as dignified, unless judged from the perspective of a coyote bitch with a preference for tough-guys. In the flesh, he looked like an unexpectedly successful mixture of wolf, jackal and Saint Bernard. That the dog was disloyal and disturbed needs hardly be mentioned. And like an overly zealous nightclub bouncer, only those who had first given him a little something on the side were permitted to enter the village. If you had something for him to eat, you could buy his favour for at least the time it took for him to gobble it up. By the time of your next encounter, however, any past bribes were long forgotten. And if you had nothing to hand, you could be sure of a long detour before you got home. Unfortunately, Frank and Froderik never seemed to have anything to hand. In fact, every time they cycled past Molter’s farm, they felt in fear of their lives. There was always a high probability that Zoltan would race out of the gate – foaming at the mouth and wild-eyed. Here, it was wise to remember that Zoltan was not the kind of dog whose bark was worse than his bite. Zoltan barked and he also bit: feet, legs, schoolbags. He was also known for trying to push kids off their bikes, with even worse consequences to follow if they fell off. In short, sooner or later it seemed certain that Zoltan would eventually snack on – if not entirely eat up – either Frank or Froderik. And it was this outcome that the two friends were determined to prevent.
“Now we open up the firecrackers and pack the powder into the piggy bank,” ordered Frank in grave tones. Using their rather blunt penknives, the two boys attempted to split the gathered firecrackers down the middle with the aim of removing the small amount of powdered black gold that was sequestered inside. This could then be poured into the belly of a ceramic piggy bank, kindly donated by Frank.
With great concentration and his tongue clenched firmly between his teeth, Frank emptied the contents of the last firecracker into the pig. “This is a proper fragmentation bomb,” he muttered to nobody in particular. Froderik nodded knowingly. The plug was screwed back into the belly of the pig, upon which Frank artfully lobbed the keys into the wastepaper bin. They rattled with a significant finality. “It’s at least half full,” he said, giving the pig a shake and holding it up to his ear. “And now we tape it up.” Froderik reached for the all-important insulating tape, which had come in a ten-pack of different colours. “Uh-oh,” said Frank, waving an admonishing finger at his pal. “We mustn’t forget the fuse.” Froderik clicked his fingers and handed Frank an approximately 30 centimetre-long fuse, twisted together from a number of other fuses. Frank threaded the contrivance through the keyhole in the pig’s belly, then began to wrap the entire pig in several layers of insulating tape. When this stage was completed, the pig would have looked perfectly at home in a modern art gallery – a multi-coloured sculpture of an embryo with a freakishly long navel, or something along those lines. “Off we go then…” exhaled Froderik feebly.
Mimi was getting old. Her hobbled gait suggested that she had entered the autumn season of her life. Whilst reminding himself of this soothing reality, Froderik lured the cat to his doorstep by shaking a plastic bowl of Whiskas Crunch. Frank was hiding a few metres from the entrance of the house, hoping not to arouse suspicion. Clutched firmly in his hands was the piggy-bank – or piggy-bomb – which had already been mounted onto a leather cat harness, the kind used by neurotic owners of housecats to enable their little loved-ones to enjoy something of the outdoors. Mimi appeared a couple of minutes later, limping slightly but as perky as ever. She allowed Froderik to give her a stroke and ate a couple of Whiskas Crunch out of his hand, before his grip tightened around her neck. “I’ve got her,” said Froderik, urgently. “But be careful.” Frank sprang into action with his cat harness. Mimi – a free-roaming country cat that had never experienced such a humiliation – put up an impressive fight but couldn’t prevent the explosive pig from being mounted onto her back.
The boys set off to the place of deployment with the cat securely stashed in a cardboard box. Deprived of dignity, Mimi tried her best to keep her balance as the pig swayed from side to side on her back.
The plan was to release Mimi from her confinement as soon as possible. This would be at an appropriate distance from Zoltan’s usual territory, preferably right in front of the gates leading up to Molter’s Farm. If all went to plan, Zoltan would pick up the scent of the cat and seize at the chance of a second breakfast. Then Mimi would confront her attacker and give him a bloody nose, after which they would both fail to exist in any meaningful sense because the lighted fuse would have reached the belly of the ceramic swine.
“And then?” pleaded an exhausted Froderik half an hour later. He was leaning against a tree and still in pain.
“Well, you held onto Mimi and I lit the fuse,” said Frank.
“Why didn’t you wait for Zoltan?” wheezed Froderik.
“Have you really forgotten?” replied Frank. “We didn’t need to wait. He shot right out of the gate and ran right toward us. We both grabbed Mimi because she was trying to escape.”
“Did she run away?” asked Froderik.
“No, but you did, with Zoltan behind you … Then he saw the cat and ran up to me like a madman … I was still pinning Mimi to the ground. I had to let her go. Zoltan had almost reached us and the fuse was burning. And so Mimi ran towards you, like the friends that you are. Zoltan was really close behind, trying to bite her tail. Mimi was doing slalom…. She stuck her claws into the ground and changed direction insanely fast … it was madness.
“And then?” whimpered Froderik.
“Then Mimi jumped on to you,” replied Frank. “… then Zoltan onto you… and then the bomb went off. I never expected such a detonation…”
“Frank!” shouted Froderik. “I’m bleeding out of my ears.”
“Stay calm, Frodi. Farmer Molter has already called the doctor. He reckons that you’ve ruptured your eardrum. It’s fixable, and the doctor is coming any minute.
“Shit,” said Froderik, sorely. “Does Molter know?”
“Not everything, but everybody around here heard the bang, that’s for sure.”
“And Zoltan?” asked Froderik.
“He crept back into his kennel, but I think he’s all right, unfortunately. Well, at least he can’t grass on us, and he certainly can’t hear us any more…” By now, Froderik was weeping loudly. His body was shaking, all he could hear was his own wailing, while tears flowed freely from his eyes.
Mimi was not enjoying Froderik’s rocking back and forth and was considering leaving his lap. This had been her chosen point of refuge a few minutes after the uncomfortable pig-bomb contraption had careened off her back with a violent bang. Despite his many injuries – including numerous ceramic splinters in his back – Froderik felt a little calmer. He could feel Mimi purring. In the tree, high above them both, the cat harness swung gently in the branches.