Saimi, the Sleepless Snowflake

Laura looks out the farmhouse windows and sees Arttu playing with a log, talking to himself. She’s seen him do this before, when she almost got stung by a bumblebee on her birthday and he intervened. He’d been mumbling strange words, like “Queenie” and “Inka.” At that time, she’d chalked it up to sunstroke or an allergic reaction, but now she is puzzled as to what is going on in that seven-year old brain of his. An over-active fantasy life with imaginary friends? Before she can go outside to question him, he enters the building. His eyes pan the now-empty cavernous room, where moments before they had been celebrating Otto’s birthday with dozens of townsfolk.

“Oh, Arttu, another birthday a flop! First that darn Queen Bee ruined my birthday last June, now Kalevi Karhu is on the loose! Shouldn’t he be hibernating at this time of year?”

“Yes, but Kalevi’s just restless, I guess,” Arttu says. Like Saimi, he thinks about his frosty friend who’s watching them from above.

“He sure caused a huge ruckus, scaring thirty of Farmer Matias’s cows like that. Now half the village is out looking for him and the animals. How they expect to see anything in this darkness is beyond me.”

A grin covers Arttu’s fair face. “I’m not too worried,” he says. “I’m sure the locals have it under control.” By “locals,” he means Saimi. He knows that at any moment he can signal her and she and the other snowflakes will help.

“I wish I shared your optimism,” Laura says, patting his head as he helps her clean up. There’s still a lot of uneaten food, mostly lamb from Kotila Farm, to wrap up; pots to scour, chairs to fold up.

“I need to fetch some more water from the pump so we can get started on these dishes,” Laura tells Arttu. She slips off her high heels and reaches for Otto’s snow boots, many sizes too big. But who’s looking? “I’ll be back in a flash.”

Arttu nods and starts to sweep up around the hand-hooked rugs. He hears Laura’s feet dragging over the porch, and then a loud thud. This is followed by a piercing cry: “Help!” He glances out at the porch, where Laura is frozen in standing position, her eyes glued to Kalevi Karhu poking through the garbage bins. “Help. Me. Arttu. Help!” she yells again.

The boy drops the broom and rushes to Laura’s side. She cannot move and is clutching the water bucket for protection.

Kalevi is ten meters from the porch and too fixated on this surprise feast (lamb, his favorite!) to notice Laura or Arttu. The boy pushes Laura aside and addresses the town’s #1 menace.

“Mr. Karhu, I’d like a word with you.”

The brown bear pulls his nose, which is dripping with gravy, out of a plastic bag. “And what, pray tell me, have I done to deserve a visit from you, Arttu, King of the bloody Kingcups?”

Arttu’s tiny hands clench into fists. He’d like to smack Kalevi in that smelly snoot of his, but he doesn’t want to be next on the bear’s menu.

“You know full well what you’ve done, Kalevi. You broke your hibernation so you could terrorize Lappi Farms. Because of you, all Farmer’s Matias’s cows have fled and are scattered all over the village. The ones that didn’t drown, that is.”

“Ah, so everything goes according to plan,” Kalevi says, licking his chops. “Soon I’ll have my choice of grade A beef, served raw, just how I like it.”

That conniving beast! Arttu sticks out his tongue and shakes his fingers at Kalevi.

Laura wonders how long the boy will stand there talking to a bear who might attack at any moment. Arttu reassures her that Kalevi will soon leave. “Shouldn’t we throw rocks at him or force him to go away?” she asks.

“Leave it to me,” Arttu reassures her. He takes another step toward Kalevi Karhu. “You’re worse than Queenie! Not only disturbing parties, but scaring all the locals and destroying their livelihoods, too. How can Farmer Matias’s dairy farm survive without any cows to milk?”

“That’s not my problem,” Kalevi retorts, licking his paws full of grease. “If you’re as clever as the Kingcups claim, then YOU figure it out.”

Arttu’s face turns fiery red; he begins to fume. “Of all the insults!” He stomps off the porch and toward Kalevi on the yard.

“Be careful, Arttu!” Laura shrieks, dropping the bucket and leaning against the porch railing.

“You’ve no heart, Kalevi. Bears are supposed to have the biggest hearts of Mamma Nature’s creatures. What happened to yours?”

Kalevi stops in his tracks, puts down the garbage bin, and stares into Arttu’s widened eyes. The boy and Laura are sure he’s going to pounce; their hearts begin to pound. Then, the unexpected happens: Kalevi Karhu starts to cry. At first, tiny tears fall from his big face, then get larger and turn to icicles. Soon, his face is frozen, and his sobs fill the now crystal-clear skies. The snowfall has ended, but the air is freezing cold.

“What’s going on?” Laura wants to know. “He seems to be crying, but how is that possible?” She blinks her eyes multiple times.

“I think I hurt his feelings,” Arttu says. “Serves him right.”

On hearing Arttu’s further comment, Kalevi sobs even louder. His moans can be heard for miles around Alvajärvi. Many animals tremble in their paws, terrified as to where he’ll strike next.

“Why don’t you leave us, Kalevi,” Arttu tells the bear. “No one wants you here, can’t you see? You’re always the most unwanted guest.”

Kalevi clutches his heart and drops to the ground, flat on his back. Arttu gasps.

“Oh, no! I killed one of Mama Nature’s creations.” He starts to run to the bear’s side, when Laura stops him.

“Be careful, Arttu! He’s bluffing. He only wants you to come closer so he can pick at your bones, too.”