Superguinea Flies to India
Supermarsu lentää Intiaan, Gummerus, 2007
Illustrated by Pauliina Mäkelä
11-year-old Emilia is a rather ordinary girl who lives an ordinary life with her mother and her pet guinea pig. But every now and then Emilia’s life becomes really extraordinary. When someone needs help, the Great Guinea summons her. That’s when it’s time for Emilia to take a drink from her guinea pig’s water bottle and turn into the furry, strong, and righteous Superguinea, with super powers.
The Superguinea books paint a vivid and delightful portrait of a child’s world. A stream of ideas and absurd humor bubble up from everyday events and leave no one unamused. The humoristic books raise important issues. Among others, the books address bullying at school but they also teach how important it is to help your friends and to share the good things in life. The Superguinea books pay homage to ordinary people and to ordinary life.
Guinea-Halonen comes to my house!
Tuesday, October 3rd
It’s amazing how a crummy day can turn into your lucky day! We had a pop quiz in biology about evergreen forests in the Nordic countries. It didn’t go well. I don’t remember anything about the evergreen forests and I’m not interested in them. Maybe I’d be interested if I were an evergreen tree, like maybe a spruce – but I’m not. I’m just an ordinary 11-year-old girl living on the east side of Helsinki, Finland.
So, I was in a pretty rotten mood when I got home. Mom was clattering around in the kitchen, filling the dishwasher. Mom usually isn’t home when I get home from school because she works in a nursing home – she’s a nurse – and the work is really hard and the shifts are long. Nurses walk a lot, so she wears cushioned, orthopedic shoes at work. Her work shoes are old and smell like sweat. The good part about all the walking is that my mom is in really good shape.
She’s sort of athletic – she even goes jogging sometimes. It’s weird that my mom has red hair when my hair is quite blond. It comes to just above her shoulders and is naturally curly. Back when my dad still lived at home he used to always say that Mom has really beautiful hair. And it’s absolutely true.
I kicked off my shoes in a corner of the coat closet and threw my backpack into my room. It flew in a lovely arc onto my bed. Mom came out of the kitchen into the hallway and she had a funny smile on her face. She’s usually tired after work, but today she looked surprisingly perky. She pulled me into my room and pointed at something in the corner of the room. It was a metal cage, and in the cage sat a little guinea pig! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I asked for a guinea pig way last Christmas, but I gave up hope because Mom didn’t seem thrilled with the idea. And now here it was! Wow, what a lucky day!
The guinea pig was so pretty and sweet. Brown fur with thin white stripes, wonderful little buck teeth and eyes that looked like two super balls. The whole guinea pig actually looked like a furry ball. Mom said that I should think of a name for it, I couldn’t just call it guinea pig. I asked why not just call it guinea pig and she said what if it ever got lost, would I want to be out in the yard yelling guinea pig, guinea pig, where are you? All of the missing guinea pigs in the whole neighborhood would come running and none of them would know exactly which guinea pig I was looking for.
I went over to the cage and looked closely at the guinea pig. It looked back at me. It had a weird look on its face. Did it think I looked weird? I couldn’t think of a good name, and neither could Mom. Actually, she thought of one name, but I don’t think Pamela is a good name for a guinea pig. It sounds like a brand of dish soap. “Pamela leaves your dishes sparkling clean.” I noticed the guinea pig going to the left-hand corner of the cage. Was it going to pee? Mom had put some newspaper in the cage. There was a picture on one piece of newspaper. I looked closer. It was a picture of Tarja Halonen, the president of Finland, on an official visit somewhere, and the guinea pig was peeing right on top of her. Was it a sign? Did the guinea pig want to be called Tarja Halonen? It looked almost like the pig nodded at me. All right then, I’ll name it Tarja Halonen. Or maybe just Tarja would be better? No, too short.
This evening it finally came to me: Guinea-Halonen, with a hyphen. It sounds like a respectable name, but also playful. I went over to the cage and told the guinea pig that its name was going to be Guinea-Halonen. I put clean water in the water bottle and petted her fur.
Ouch! Guinea-Halonen bit my finger. Was she afraid of me, or did I accidentally rub her the wrong way? Maybe it was just the guinea pig way of saying good night. A couple of drops of blood came out of my finger. Mom put a bandage on it and said it was a good thing I’d had my tetanus shot.
The Great Guinea appears in my dreams
Wednesday, October 4th
Ai, yi and another yi. I just woke up from a nightmare, covered in sweat. The dream must have had something to do with the fact that Guinea-Halonen bit my finger yesterday. I fell asleep in the normal way, and then I had a dream. In the dream I was grabbed out of my bed and carried out the front door. Outside there was a huge guinea pig on wheels waiting for me. It wasn’t Guinea-Halonen, it had darker fur and was really big. It looked at me and said: Climb aboard.
I jumped on the guinea pig’s back and before I knew it we were on the highway, headed toward Lahti. When we got to Lahti, the guinea pig stopped and told me to go to the ski jump tower. I went and stood at the bottom, where the jumpers land. At the top of the tower was a gigantic white guinea pig wearing a crown, with Princess Diana’s face. I was incredibly scared. The Great Guinea shouted:
“Emilia Laitinen-Nieminen, you have been chosen.”
“Chosen for what?”
“To be Superguinea.”
“A guinea pig bit your finger. This is an ancient ritual, and it means that you are going to be Superguinea.”
“But I’m still in school. I can’t change my major. I’m too young.”
“The task of Superguinea is a great honor that is given to only one person every hundred years.”
“Because you have what it takes. If you take a drink from your guinea pig’s water bottle, you will turn into Superguinea and have super powers. Remember, one dose of super power lasts for only a limited time. And the more you drink from the water bottle, the longer the super powers last.”
“And remember, you can never, ever tell anyone about your super powers.”
“Not even Simo?”
“And remember to use your powers for good, or Guinea-Halonen will bite your ear off.”
At that point I woke up in a sweat. The strangest thing about it was that I was holding the Lahti morning paper in my hand. I thought hard – could the dream be real? Could I really have super powers? Nah, you shouldn’t take dreams too seriously. Only little kids believe in dreams. When a little kid has a dream that cotton candy is falling from the sky, she’ll stand outside the next day waiting for it to rain cotton candy. Once you’re my age you understand that a dream is a dream and only what happens when you’re awake is real. Period. I’m just going to forget the whole thing.
Simo’s coming over today. I should go give Guinea-Halonen some breakfast.
Later that evening
Simo just went home. Simo’s the same age as me – eleven years old. We live on the same street. Simo is super smart. Mom says that he’s like a young Jorma Ollila. That’s the guy who started 5 the Nokia phone company, the one with glasses that’s always on the news here. Simo is wonderful at math but he hates to exercise and he can’t understand why we’re always supposed to compete against each other. In PE class Simo can’t really participate in any of the sports because he’s kind of a peewee. He can’t even carry a baseball bat. Often times the teacher just has him walk downtown and back for exercise.
Simo is so puny that one time he was late to school because the wind picked him up and flung him down the street. He was standing at the bus stop waiting for the bus when a great big gust of wind swept him up into the air and flew him all the way to the edge of town. Luckily the police caught him just before he was about to slam into an IKEA store. The IKEA employees were sitting having their lunch when they saw Simo flying toward the window. A lot of meatballs went down the wrong pipe, I’ll bet. But the police grabbed hold of his legs at the last minute and he didn’t crash through the window. When they got to the police station they offered Simo a sweetroll and some juice and he even got to look at the jail cells. Ever since then Simo wears little leg weights that the police gave him so that the wind won’t carry him off again.
Simo has an over-developed sense of hearing. Not many people know about it. Since his eyesight is really bad, his hearing has developed into real super hearing. That’s what his doctors told him. Super hearing comes in very handy at school. For instance, Simo can hear what the teachers are saying upstairs in the staff lounge. The other kids in our class don’t know about Simo’s over-developed hearing, but I do, because Simo’s my best friend.
The boys in our class are jealous of Simo. The worst one is Greasy Antero, who teases Simo every time he gets the chance. I’m sure it’s because Simo’s so smart that he won the math contest. Greasy Antero lost even to the first graders.
Simo and I became friends when he rescued my mom’s Ford Sierra. I didn’t know Simo back then. One day our doorbell rang and I went to open the door and there was Simo.
“Hi, I’m Simo.”
“I know. We’re in the same class. I’m Emilia.”
“I know. I’m Simo. Oh yeah, I already said that. I just wanted to tell you that the emergency brake on your car is broken.”
“Oh, how so?”
“I just saw it rolling toward the ditch. Or actually, I heard it. Or actually, I was at home and I heard the emergency brake click off, and it was just about to roll into the ditch. I have an overdeveloped sense of hearing and I hear these things. But there’s no need to panic, it didn’t roll as far as the ditch.”
“Mom! There someone named Simo at the door, from my school, and he says that our car rolled into the ditch. Or almost did.”
Mom ran to the door in a panic.
“What? Where is our car rolling?”
“It’s not rolling anymore. I put my glasses under the back tire and it stopped before it got to the ditch.”
“Oh dear! Your glasses! You should have just let it roll.”
“The insurance will pay for the glasses. Don’t worry. I have super comprehensive insurance.”
“Mom, do I have super comprehensive insurance? That would be nice to have.”
“Come in, come in, silly boy. Emilia, give Simo some cocoa and a sweetroll. Oh, you dear child. You saved our car.”
That’s how we became friends. To me, Simo will always be the hero who saved our car.
Even later that evening
I can’t sleep. It must be excitement about my guinea pig. It’s so fun to watch her in her cage. It’s awfully late, but sleep just won’t come. So I’m writing some more.
What would it be like to live with my dad? Simo lives with his dad, just the two of them. His mother moved to the Canary Islands two years ago with some other man who supposedly has a lot of chest hair and a loud voice. That’s what Simo’s dad said – I’ve never seen Simo’s mom’s new boyfriend. Greasy Antero calls Simo “the gigolo’s son.” That doesn’t make any sense, though, because even if his mom’s new boyfriend is a gigolo that doesn’t mean that Simo’s a gigolo’s son. He’ll always be his father’s son. One day at school Greasy Antero kept yelling at Simo all day long, “What’s up, gigolo’s son?” Finally Simo had had it and he put two black bristles from the janitor’s broom in Greasy Antero’s chicken fricassee. Greasy Antero was downright startled at that.
“There are worms in my chicken fricassee!” he yelled, so loud that it blasted through the whole cafeteria.
Simo went to where Greasy Antero was sitting and said, “Look at that. They’re chest hairs from a gigolo. My apologies for my father.”
Everybody burst out laughing and Greasy Antero ran out of the cafeteria in a fury.
Greasy Antero’s stupid and he teases everybody, but especially Simo. Sometimes I have half a mind to beat him up, but I don’t want to dirty my hands. Greasy Antero has such a greasy face that I’m sure I’d get grease on my hands. His dad owns a margarine factory and Greasy Antero has always gotten everything he wanted. The teachers don’t even make him do anything because his dad makes such large contributions to the school. It’s not fair.
Lice on my head and money in my pocket
Thursday, October 19th
This is a drawing of lice. Lice are so small that I don’t know exactly what they look like, but my guess is that they look like this.
It all started yesterday morning when my head started to itch. I was scratching it at breakfast, in the shower, and at school. When I got to school, a lot of my classmates were scratching their heads, too. What in the world was going on? We found out when the principal made an announcement.
“Yeehaw, students! What’s wavin’? This is your principal. The thing is, even though we’re an official EU elementary school of culture, lice have been found at our school. I have with me on central radio our school nurse, Bertta Ranua. Good morning, Bertta.”
The principal must have wanted to be a radio announcer because his central radio announcements were always like this.
“Good morning, principal,” Bertta Ranua said.
“Bertta, we’ve got lice in the school, n’est pas?”
“Yes. If your scalp is itching really bad all the time, then you probably have lice.”
“What can be done about this problem? But first, let’s take a little break for some music.”
Whenever the principal plays some music it’s always some Peruvian folk music group. A pain in the ears.
“That was the Peruvian group Machu Picchu with the song The Stumbling Mountain Goat, a lovely number. Now, nurse, what can we do about this problem?”
“You can get lice shampoo and a lice comb from the pharmacist. Give yourself the treatment as many times as necessary until the lice are gone. And don’t lend anyone your hat. Lice spread quickly. And remember that lice have nothing to do with whether your family’s rich or poor. Anyone can get lice.”
“Many thanks, Nurse Ranua. This is your principal here on central radio signing off and wishing you all a really good day. Yeehaw!”
So I had lice. In fact, the whole class had them. The only one who wasn’t scratching his head was Greasy Antero.
“Haha! Everybody here is poor except for me,” he yelled, bursting with malicious glee.
“All the poor people have lice! Haha! Plebians!”
Sakari Laaksonen, the math teacher, reminded us that nowadays lice had nothing to do with being poor or dirty. Lice can get on anybody, no matter how rich they are or how often they wash their hair.
“Poor people, poor people!” Antero continued, ignoring Mr. Laaksonen. “Beggars!”
When school was out, I rode my bike home and as I was going through the tunnel that goes under the main road I saw Greasy Antero there, scratching his head. Aha, so that’s how it was! Then Antero saw me and turned his head away fast, embarrassed. What was that louse hiding?
When I got home I told my mom about the lice and she went out to the pharmacist right away and bought lice shampoo and a lice comb. I don’t understand why she had such a conniption about it. It’s just lice. They’re actually cute little creatures.
The doorbell rang. It was Simo. He came inside, took off his shoes and said excitedly, “Emilia, I found a man on the internet who wants to buy lice.”
“Why would anyone want to buy lice? They itch. They’re an all-around nuisance.”
“He wants to build a lice house in Austria and he needs an awful lot of lice to do it.”
“A house made of lice? I suppose it would be nice and airy, but what a horrible job to build it.”
“He’ll pay one euro for every single louse we send him. They should be sent in a plastic bag, along with your bank account number.”
“I must have a hundred already! We’ll be rich!”
“That’s right. Isn’t it fabulous?”
We started searching each other’s heads for lice. We looked just like the baboons at the zoo, scratching around in each other’s hair. We tried to catch them with our fingers, but it was impossible to get them without a lice comb. It was easy for Simo to find lots of lice in my hair because of his overdeveloped hearing. He listened closely for the rustle of the lice and grabbed them with tweezers. When we caught them we put them in a ziplock bag to send to Austria.
Finally Mom came home from the pharmacy with a lice comb. We told her excitedly about the Austrian lice house.
“We’ll get a euro for every louse, Mom. Some man in Austria is building a lice house and he’s paying for dead lice! Quick, give me the comb!”
“Don’t be silly,” Mom said, digging the comb out of her purse. “Let’s show those little vermin who’s the boss around here.”
“It’s true, Mom. Simo found it on the internet.”
“You shouldn’t believe everything you see on the internet,” she reminded us.
“But there is a man who’s paying for lice. Look for yourself.”
Simo showed us the Austrian man’s web page. Mom looked at it, not believing it for a minute.
“Uh-huh. Right. A lice house. I don’t believe it one bit, but go ahead and send your lice to him. It can hardly do any harm.”
“We have to send our bank account number with it so he can send us the money.”
That’s when Mom lost her sense of humor and said very sternly that we could not send him our bank account number.
“He can pay you some other way, like with a check,” she said. “If he’s a swindler, you won’t be out anything except a bag of lice.”
“But what if he doesn’t pay us?”
“Then he doesn’t pay you. You’re not sending a bank account number. And neither are you, Simo.”
When Mom’s in that mood there’s no point trying to argue with her. Why is she always so suspicious? Why doesn’t she trust people? That’s what happens when you get older. It must be because your body starts to fall apart and the suspicious lobe of your brain starts to grow or something. She is 43 years old, after all. We did as she said and collected all the lice in a bag and put it in the mail. And we didn’t send a bank account number. We’ll see what happens.
Lice money and orthopedic shoes!
Tuesday, October 24th
The school was all abuzz today. A lot of people saw the Austrian man’s advertisement on the web. Some of them had sent him their bank account numbers. Some of them were still scratching their heads. Greasy Antero laughed at all of us.
“Poor people trying to make money off their lice? It’ll never work!”
Antero’s scalp looked a little red to me. Why wouldn’t he admit that he had lice, too?
It would be nice to get a little extra money. I have such a small allowance. Mom thinks that I don’t need my own money yet. She doesn’t understand that an 11-year-old does too need money, for things like magazines and candy. Besides, you feel a little more secure with some money in your pocket.
Music class crawled by. We were learning to play a song called The Ice on Lake Eldanka on the recorder. The recorders were wheezing and out of tune and the teacher was pounding out the time with a map pointer at the front of the room. My head hurt and it felt like the hands on the clock had stopped. Suddenly there was static from central radio. It was the principal.
“Will the following students please come immediately to the principal’s office…”
Then he started reading a litany of names that was so long that I won’t bother to repeat them here. My name was among them. We cut music class short and trotted over to the principal’s office. The principal was sitting there with a middle-aged man.
“This is Mr. Herman Von Meyers,” the principal said, pointing at the man beside him. “He’s from Austria, and he’s building a lice house there. You all have sent him your lice and now he would like to pay you.”
The man looked at us and said, “Danke schön. Ich bin Herman. Thank you very much. My wife wants to thank you also. Our house is going to be so beautiful.”
We told him don’t mention it and then we got in a line and he gave each of us an envelope with a check inside. I got 145 euros and Simo got almost 200. When we got back to music class, Greasy Antero glared at us with a sour look and said. “There’s the poor people picking up their welfare checks.”
Nobody answered him. The truth is that it got his goat because he hadn’t thought to make any money off his lice. I’m planning a surprise for my mom. My dear old suspicious Mom.
The evening of the same day
I went to the shoe store after school and bought Mom a brand new pair of white orthopedic shoes. Nurses have to walk so much and the shoes she has now stink. I got her really nice ones. They cost 140 euros. I had five euros left, so I bought some candy with it.
I put the gift box with the new shoes in it on the kitchen table. When Mom got home from work she noticed it and came running into my bedroom.
“Emilia! I was sure you had forgotten. Wow, thanks. How lovely.”
Then I remembered that today is Mom’s birthday. Talk about luck! I would have been so embarrassed if I forgot. The shoes were just the right size and Mom wore them all evening.
Later I got a text message from Lasse Kaaltio.
Hi, Emilia. I bought a new phone with my lice money. Just checking to see if the texting works. Lasse K.
It was nice to get a text from Lasse. Just as a friend, I mean. Simo would probably say again that I have a crush on Lasse. But I don’t. Period. Sometimes Simo doesn’t have a clue.
Another guinea pig dream!
Believe it or not!
Friday, November 24th
I had another really weird dream. I’m sure you remember that I told you about my guinea pig dream, where the Great Guinea told me that I had Superguinea powers. Well last night I dreamed about the Great Guinea again. I was asleep, and the doorbell rang. I wondered why Mom didn’t wake up. Maybe she was too tired from work. I went to open the door and there was the guinea pig car waiting for me.
I wondered for a moment whether I should go on a trip in just my pajamas, but I hopped on and the guinea pig car headed to the ski jump slope in Lahti. I saw the Great Guinea from far off, with a crown on her head and a face like Princess Di.
“I’m disappointed in you, Emilia,” she said.
“You have Superguinea powers at your disposal but you have used them only once.”
“I have? When?”
“At school, when you threw the baseball bats away and they went into orbit around the moon.”
“Is that where they went? I didn’t realize. I thought I threw them in the bushes.”
“No. You hurled them into outer space.”
“Huh. Well I hope I didn’t accidentally hit the astronauts with them.”
“Just before you threw them, you took a sip from your guinea pig’s water bottle.”
“I was thirsty and I couldn’t find my water bottle at home.”
“That water bottle gave you Superguinea powers. But it was such a small sip that you didn’t completely change into Superguinea.”
“I did have a little fur on my arm, but it washed off when I took my bath.”
Then the Great Guinea suddenly jumped over to where I was.
“Hop on my back.”
Although my mom told me never to accept a ride from a stranger I thought that the rule probably didn’t apply to ten-meter-tall guinea pigs. It felt great to fly through the air on the Great Guinea’s back. A Finnair plane was flying next to us and I waved to the passengers, but they didn’t see me because they were all wearing masks over their eyes. They must have been trying to sleep.
One of the flight attendants looked out the window and she was so surprised that she dropped her tray on the floor. I saw from how her lips moved that she said, “What in the world? A flying guinea pig!”
Then suddenly the Great Guinea and I were outside Simo’s window. Simo was sitting on his bed crying. I was shocked.
“What’s wrong? Why is he crying?”
“Simo is unhappy.”
“Why? Why hasn’t he said anything to me about it? I’m his best friend.”
“People don’t always have the courage to talk openly about things. Simo is scared about the joke competition because he already gets teased at school.”
I had completely forgotten about the joke competition that the principal had announced. It really was coming up soon. It was almost December. A big joke competition, the Culture Minister and everything.
I wondered why Simo took it so seriously, but maybe it was a big deal to him. I wished I could stay and console him.
“All in due time,” the Great Guinea said, and before I knew it we were in the courtyard of an office building.
“Does this place bring anything to mind?” the Great Guinea asked.
“Not really. Except that it’s where Mom and I go to get our housing assistance.”
“Did anything special happen the last time you were here?”
“Not really, or wait… the old lady! They treated her really badly.”
“And now, back to Lahti!”
And in the blink of an eye we were back at the ski jump. The Great Guinea stood in her place at the top of the hill and shouted: “Emilia, with your powers you can help these people. You just have to use your imagination and intelligence. That’s why you were given super powers. But don’t use any violence. And remember! These super powers last for only a limited time. People need help.”
“Roger, dodger. I mean guinea. Roger, Guinea. I get it. I’m Superguinea.”
I got out of bed. The alarm clock said 3 AM. I went to look at Guinea-Halonen. She was staring hard at her water bottle. I took the bottle out of its holder and took a little sip. I was excited, waiting for something to happen. Would I get super powers? I grabbed the piano with one hand and tried to lift it. Imagine my surprise when the piano rose into the air! Luckily the noise didn’t wake up my mom. She would have just told me to go back to bed. I walked into the hallway and looked at myself in the mirror. I had big front teeth poking out of my mouth, my face was covered in fur, and my hands had turned into paws. My whole body was round and soft like a guinea pig and I had whiskers growing from my upper lip. There was a cape on my back with a big S on it. S, as in Superguinea. I had turned into Superguinea! I got so excited about my new identity and my super powers that there was no way I could go back to sleep. The sip I’d taken was so small, though, that the effect went away quickly. I looked in the mirror and saw ordinary Emilia again. I climbed back under the blankets. I could hardly wait to see what Superguinea could do!
Flying pills that work!
Saturday, November 25th
Now I believe that I have the ability to turn into Superguinea. I simply have to believe it. I really want to help Simo in the joke competition because Simo always helps me no matter what. I intend to make everything all right. I already have a plan to help Simo, but to do it I need a bit more help from the Great Guinea. I wrote her a letter this morning:
Dear Great Guinea,
I’m writing you this letter because I need your help. I’m fed up with Simo constantly being bullied. Simo is a fine boy even if he doesn’t like sports and listens to weird music. Simo always helps me and everybody else, too, and now its time to do something for him. After all, I am Superguinea! I can’t use violence, so I’ve thought of something really clever. I plan to get Simo the funniest joke in the world for the joke competition. That way he can win the competition. But I will need a little more super power, something to help me fly. Because I looked it up on the internet, and the funniest joke in the world is in India. Could you get me some wings? Or whatever would work.
P.S. I should also take care of the old lady’s problem. I have another, brilliant plan for that.
Then I put the letter in the post with the address “Great Guinea, Lahti Ski Jump, Lahti.”
That same evening
The Great Guinea sure acts fast. There was just a knock at the door. I opened it but there was no one there. But there was a bottle sitting in front of the door that said “flying pills.” I tasted one and all of a sudden I was stuck to the ceiling. I could see in the mirror that I had turned into Superguinea again.
Flying took a little practice at first – I kept running into the lamps. It’s terribly dusty up there. Especially the lamps. I should mention it to my mom. After flying around inside a little while I headed toward the balcony and up onto the roof. I was awfully scared, but I thought if I’m going to fly to India I first have to learn how to fly around here in Helsinki. I made a couple of circles over the apartments, but then I went home to get my scarf and hat. You can get cold very easily flying, even if you are Superguinea.
A helicopter hummed for a while right beside me. I looked at the pilot, but he just shook his head in disbelief. I went to Tampere, too. I saw the tower and the amusement park there. I wish it was summer! I flew over Turku and saw the Aura River and people hurrying around downtown. In Kuopio, I sat for a minute on top of Puijo Tower to rest my feet.
I’m glad the flying pills work. I’m going to use them to fly to India in December. I’ve arranged it with the principal to be out of school. Or not really arranged it, but let him know about it anyway. I called him and pretended to be my mom. I put a piece of cloth over the phone and made my voice a little squeaky like Mom’s. This is how the call went:
“This is Emilia’s mom.”
“Emilia won’t be in school from the 11th to the 13th.”
“She’s going to be very sick and under the weather.”
“Under the weather?”
“I see. What will she have?”
“Throat worms and celiac fever.”
“Yes, it is. But the doctor said that rest will help. And blueberry juice.”
“All right, then.”
I better take the atlas with me so I don’t get lost. I hope I find what I’m looking for in India. There’s a certain guru who knows how to tell the world’s funniest joke. If the guru tells it to me, then Simo won’t have to worry about the joke contest anymore. I have to remember to pack sunscreen, because I read somewhere that the sun shines really bright in India.
But tomorrow’s the guinea pig show! I’m going to take Guinea-Halonen to it.
Superguinea puts the officials in order
Wednesday, December 20th
After Mom left for work this morning, I went to Halonen’s cage and took a big drink from her water bottle. I stood in front of the bathroom mirror and watched my face turn hairy and my front teeth start to grow. I was already beginning to get used to turning into Superguinea. I hardly feel anything when my hands turn into paws and I can suddenly fly and power courses through my veins. It’s really fun to be Superguinea! Especially on such an important day. It was time to take the bull by the horns and straighten out the assistance office.
I flew to the nursing home and used my super vision to look into the room where the old lady lived. I landed on her window sill and saw her sitting on her bed doing a sudoku. I knocked on the window. The old lady turned and said “What in the world is that pile of fur? Are you a guinea pig? A flying guinea pig?”
“I’m Superguinea and I want to take you for a little trip into town. Will you come?”
“The nice thing about being retired is that you always have time. Will we be back before afternoon tea?”
“We will. I promise.”
“Well, let’s go then.”
It’s always fun to go downtown, whether you’re Superguinea or not. Last winter Mom and I went shopping downtown and got me a new winter coat. When I got the coat, I stuck my hands in the pockets and found a piece of paper with Chinese writing on it. Mom got all worked up about it and said that it must be a message from the Chinese seamstress who sewed the coat.
“Maybe it’s an urgent message. Maybe she needs help,” Mom said, grabbing me by the hand.
We ran to the university and Mom demanded to meet the professor of Chinese language. The professor was in the middle of a lecture, but Mom burst into the classroom and yelled:
“I found this paper in a coat pocket. Is this a Chinese factory worker’s call for help? Translate it! We have to help her.”
The professor looked at us for a long time and then grabbed the paper. She read it for a Moment and then laughed.
“This paper says that you should wash the coat at 40 degrees centigrade and that it can be tumbled dry.”
Mom got really quiet, and then she said.
“Thank you. Carry on.”
That’s just like my mom. If there’s an injustice in the world, she just has to make it right. Luckily, everything was fine.
The old lady at the nursing home trotted over to the window and climbed on my back. When we had flown about twenty meters, she yelled:
“How nice to be able to fly. The last time I flew was when I went to Turkey in 1987. This is very pleasant. What exactly are you, Superguinea?”
“I’m Superguinea. I help people.”
“Where did you study to be Superguinea?” she asked.
“Nowhere. I can’t tell you any more than that.”
“I understand. Where are we going?”
“Here,” I said, and pointed at the office with my paw. “Ugh. This isn’t my favorite place,” she complained.
“It will be soon,” I said, and opened the door. We stepped into the main lobby. The workers and customers gave a start when they saw me and the old lady.
“All the customers out!” I yelled. “Come back tomorrow! This is not a robbery but it is a private matter.”
The customers all ran out in shock. The old lady sat down on a bench to see what would happen next. I rose into the air and the workers stared at me with their mouths open. I flew super fast across the room and picked up all the coffee mugs with the workers’ names on them. The kind where you have your name on it so no one else will use it. I put all the mugs in a pile on the floor and stood in front of them. The workers were still staring with their mouths open and one of them was calling the police. I took a piece of super gum out of my mouth and stuck it over the keyhole of the main door. The old lady laughed.
“It’s no use calling the police,” I said. “Nobody’s getting in here.”
One of the workers yelled, “I’m going to complain to worker safety! My mug is reserved for me!”
Another one screamed, “Help! It’s a human ape!”
I just stood there stock still in front of the mugs and said:
“In the first place, I’m not an ape. I’m Superguinea. And in the second place, be quiet. I can hear how far away the police sirens are. The next moment the police were already trying to tear down the door, but they couldn’t get in.
“You’ll get your coffee mugs back if you promise to change your ways. Old people are treated very badly here.”
“We beg you, please give us back our coffee mugs,” the workers yelled in a chorus.
One of them lay on the floor crying and sobbed through her tears, “How can we drink coffee if we don’t have our mugs?”
And the one who had been so mean to the old lady said, “Superguinea, we humbly beseech you. Give us back our coffee mugs.”
I let my gaze circle the room from one face to the next. I stared hard at each one of them. Then I lifted my paw, pointed at the old lady, and said:
“This old lady is your queen customer from now on. You will show her respect and serve her the way a customer should be served. If she doesn’t have the correct forms with her, you will help her request them. Is that clear?”
The old lady clapped her hands until her false teeth fell out onto her lap.
“Yes, of course,” the workers murmured all together.
“If I hear otherwise, then these mugs will be shattered, one by one. And that goes not just for this old lady, but all the old ladies and old men in the world.”
“Yes, of course, your highness,” the workers said in chorus.
“This old lady is your highness, not me.”
Then the workers came over to the old lady and asked how they could help her. She took care of her business and was satisfied. There was a sound of shovels and the buzz of drills under the floor. The police were digging a tunnel into the office. They would drill their way through at any moment. It was time to go.
“Don’t forget what you promised! I’ll be watching you!” I shouted, lifting the old lady onto my back.
“We won’t forget,” the workers promised, and we left them staring at us as we rose into the air and flew off over the chimneys. I circled back to the old lady’s window at the nursing home and put her down on the window sill. She climbed through into her room and yelled in parting:
“Superguinea, you’re a good egg, just like your mom.”
Just like my mom? Did the old lady recognize me? That was impossible!
Translated by Lola Rogers