The Magical Fruit
The Not-Quite-So-Great Gold Robbery
IT IS NIGHTTIME in Oslo, and it’s raining on the quiet, sleeping city. Or is it sleeping? One of the raindrops hits the enormous clock on the side of the Oslo City Hall tower and clings to the tip of the minute hand before letting go and falling twenty stories, striking the asphalt with a soft splat, and starting to
join the other raindrops running down the streetcar tracks. Now, if we were to follow this raindrop as it made its way to a manhole cover during this Oslo night, we would hear a faint sound through the silence. The faint sound would get a little louder when the drop of water fell through the hole in the manhole cover, plunging down into the Oslo sewer system, where the darkness is even thicker. And along with the raindrop we would start sailing in the filthy, reeking sewage water, through the pipes—some small and narrow, some so big you can stand up—that run this way and that, way below ground level in this rather insignificant, big, little city, which is the capital of Norway. And as this intestinal system of pipes carries us deeper into Oslo’s innards, the sound gets louder.
It is not a pleasant sound. Actually, it sounds like a dentist’s office.
Like the sound of a drill crushing its way through
tooth enamel, gums, and sensitive nerve endings. Sometimes the rumbling is low and sometimes screeching high, depending on what the drill’s diamond-hard, whirling bit is digging into.
But, whatever! At least it’s not the sound of an anaconda’s hissing, yard-long tongue, the creaking of half a ton of constrictor muscles tightening, or the deafening bang of jaws—the size of an inflatable swimming ring—slamming shut on their victim. I only mention that because of the rumor that a snake like that lives down here. And because a pair of yellow, glowing reptilian eyes are just visible in the sewer there in the darkness to the left. So if you are regretting having come already, now’s your chance to vamoose. Just quietly close the book and tiptoe out of the room or crawl under the covers. Forget that you ever heard of the Oslo sewer system, that dentist’s drill sound, or snakes that eat enormous water voles, average-sized kids, and occasionally
small adult humans—if they’re not too hairy and don’t have beards.
SO, GOOD-BYE AND have a good life. And close the door behind you.
THERE. NOW IT’S just us.
WE WILL CONTINUE down this filthy river toward the dark heart of the city. By now the noise has grown to a roar and we see a light, but we realize that this is neither paradise nor the dentist from hell, but something totally different.
There is a loud machine in front of us with a wheel on it. A steel arm juts up from the machine and disappears into a large hole that has been drilled in the top of the sewer pipe.
“We’re almost there, boys!” says the biggest of the three men standing around the machine, shining
flashlights up into the hole. They’re all dressed the same in black leather boots, rolled-up jeans with suspenders, and white T-shirts. The biggest one also had a bowler hat on his head. But he’s taken it off right now to wipe the sweat away, allowing us to see that all three of their heads are shaved, and each one has a letter tattooed on his forehead, above his thick unibrow.
A small cracking sound is heard, and suddenly the drill starts squealing like a spoiled brat.
“We’re in,” the man with a B tattooed on his forehead snarls, flipping a switch. The drilling noise slowly fades away. The drill bit comes into view, and it’s quite a sight: It glitters in the light from the flashlights like the biggest diamond in the world. And, well, that’s probably because it is the biggest diamond in the world, newly stolen from a diamond mine in South Africa.
The guy with a C tattooed on his forehead angles a ladder up into the hole above them and scampers up its rungs.