When the Snow Fell
Joel is growing up. He is getting interested in girls. Just look at his New Year’s resolutions: 1 — to see a naked lady, 2 — to toughen himself up so that he can live to be a hundred, and 3 — to see the sea. They all look pretty impossible for a motherless boy in Northern Sweden. Especially as his sailor dad is keen to drown his sadness in drink, and all the local matrons are narrowly watching the pair of them. And then he saves old Simon from a frozen death in the woods, and Joel becomes a local hero.
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Stories have been told about Joel before now. About him growing up in a little town in the north of Sweden. It’s the 1950s. Such a long time ago. But it seems very recent even so.
He grows up in a house with walls that creak in the very cold winters. It’s on the bank of a river with clean, clear water flowing to the sea he has never seen. He lives with his dad, Samuel, a lumberjack who doesn’t say much. Samuel used to be a sailor, and still longs to get away from the gloomy forests and return to the sea, but he can never bring himself to move. They live together in that house, Joel Gustafson and his father. And both of them dream, in their different ways, about Joel’s mum, Jenny, who simply vanished one day. Packed a suitcase and went away. She is out there some where, but she’s gone, she’s left Joel and his dad to look after each other. Nobody knows where she is.
The spruce forests are silent.
One night Joel sees a dog running through the cold winter darkness. Something has woken him up. He sits on a window seat, looks out and suddenly sees the dog. It’s trotting on silent paws, heading for some unknown destination. Joel sees it for a couple of seconds, and then it’s gone.
Joel can’t forget that dog. Where was it heading? Where did it come from? Where is Joel heading? He forms a secret society to look for the dog. Or perhaps it’s to find out who he himself really is. A secret society in which he is the only member. But the dog never returns. Joel never finds any tracks in the snow. It dawns on him in the end that the dog is heading for a distant, nameless star.