The Arsonist


I was born a child, like everyone else. But this applied only to my bodily state, because in terms of my behaviour I was not a child. Was it perhaps that someone had forgotten to put childness into my package? Well ... I must remember to ask about this, when I return. Nonetheless, I was growing up in the regular way. 'She's precocious' - our paediatrician said to my father, his godfather whom I adored. He was my doctor too. Our relationship was based on unconditional trust. He was the only person whom I believed when he said that that little pinprick would not hurt. Because the way he did it, it really did not hurt. What he said was like the scripture to me. Given his profession and age he had seen quite a lot of children, so he was an unquestionable authority everywhere - but in our family. For the women among my ancestors were hit hard by his judgement. She's such a good kid, my grandma came to my defence, with a tone indicating that no more judgement would be welcome. My father and grandfather only said 'hm-m-m'. Presumably, they also would have liked to see me a little more cooler, a little tougher. Particularly my dad, who made no secret of having expected a boy. He tried to remedy that trick of fate, in the form of a girl for a child, by calling me Marty. Which resulted in a variety of awkward situations for me. My childhood was earmarked by white socks and white shoes. My mum loved and kept buying them one after another, between my ages of one and ten. They put snow-white socks on my feet in the morning and took off snow-white socks off my feet in the evening. Those having children know what a challenge washing white socks is. You can rinse, you can rub or use whiteners - if white socks are properly worn by a child they will look anything but white come evening. Well, my white socks remained white and washing them was light work for mother.

"Such a good girl, she is, how lucky you are with her, Kriszta" - my godmother said to mum. Her tone gave her away - she longed for the same experience as far as white socks were concerned. So my behaviour was in perfect conformity to the rules. Good behaviour, good marks at school. Always the same 'A', which those around me at home acknowledged in a matter-of-fact way. With a 'B' from time to time, just to keep them from nodding off. They took my Bs as a bolt from the blue, with faces aghast. What happened, they asked, but their voice was without real concern, they weren't even really keen to hear my answer, because experience had taught them they had nothing to be concerned about, because my end-of term grade would be an A in all of my subjects. So I was an annoyingly perfect student. One evening, I stood before my father, perhaps as a sixth-grader, with my report book in my hand. Under a tacit agreement between my parents, he was the one to sign my marks.

"What do I have to sign" - he asked, unscrewing the cap of his ink pen. He loved his ink pens, he would never use a biro.

"I got a warning note" - I said, sharing the fact with the family. My declaration was met by a stunned silence. My mother's blue eyes widened and became even more blue, if that is possible. They are really beautiful, nice and blue, I concluded, feeling really proud. My announcement aroused my father's interest. He took my report book and read the note.

"She lit things during class" said the laconic note in my report book. They were truly stunned. The school was four blocks' away, it had not burnt down - they would have heard about that. So it was a failed attempt, they concluded. Then what was it about, I read the question from the way they looked at me and then I heard the same, in my father's voice. So I started to explain the thing. It was a geography class, as boring, as ever. I could never find out, over the years, why the teacher had chosen that subject in the first place. I suspected she had wished to punish herself for something but it was actually us who took the punishment. But the dead boring geography class was preceded by a physics class. We learned about electricity, circuits, series and parallel circuits. Indeed, we assembled circuits. It was so exciting! Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to finish the parallel circuit. I could not get over this so I leaned back at the desk and while Miss Györgyi was talking about something in front of a map I was busy working on a nice and complex little circuit. I still remember trying very hard to decide whether to close it or not. I was sitting at the front desk, so it seemed to be a risky thing. But then, I would have liked very much to see whether it works at all. And then I remembered that the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so I closed that circuit.

"And, did it work?" - my father asked, excited.

"It did" - I answered proudly and enthusiastically, recalling as the mignon lights lit up. Contented, my father leaned back. My grandma nodded. Where's the arson, my grandfather, my all-time ally, asked with contempt in his tone. My mum tried very hard to stay serious.

"You're not going to compliment her, are you?" - she asked, in faked disbelief, then, without waiting for the answer, she announced "Dinner's ready."

And the family sat to the table contentedly. "At long last, our girl has also received a warning note" - their faces said.