Protect or stand up for someone who will not otherwise stand up for themself.
I stroll along the lakes looking for someone who needs protection. I stare at the water, but no-one’s drowning. I listen, but no-one’s crying for help. I sniff the air, but it’s not the smell of fear, it’s the smell of sea and city.
It’s been a bad day in the protection business. I did a couple of jobs for a tiny client or two, but it didn’t cost me much and the pay was, well, lousy. My clients got protection, but they didn’t ask for it and probably didn’t even notice. At least the tiniest.
The streets are filled with bikes and cars, but there are no accidents. No-one’s honking and no-one’s shouting, it’s all civil and orderly. A man crosses the street a bit too late, the light has already changed, and a bicyclist almost crashes into him. But no words, no rude gestures, no aggression flaring, no-one who needs to be protected from anyone. This is Copenhagen, after all, it’s not how it’s done here.
Earlier today, my two older children came home and found their younger brother being fed in the sofa. They both wanted to hold him. The oldest sat there for a few minutes, went oh and ah, and then went upstairs to play with his Lego. The middle child, on the other hand, didn’t just say oh and ah. He attacked the baby. He hugged him and wouldn’t let go. He put his fingers in the baby’s nose, eyes, ears, on top of the head, everywhere. He took hold of the baby’s legs and tried to shake them, as if it was a little toy. He was both very sweet and gentle, and very rough and almost violent, and I never understood what to expect when. A gentle pat on the head would turn to a mock fight in an instant, and then back again, just as I raised my voice.
A dozen swans stand on their heads in the shallow water, looking for food. The wind is cold against my shaved head. I miss my beard. They say there’s a lot of protection in a good beard.
After a while, I stopped him. No, I said, enough. The baby needs some rest. My middle child complained. No, I said again, go play. He did. And then he came back. I gently steered him towards his toys, but he came back, again and again. Too fond of the baby not to play with him, too small to know how much one of these small creatures can take.
I protect tiny creatures. That’s my daytime job. By night I work at my computer pushing down small keys over and over (I believe that the proper job description is “super hero”), but by day I am in the protection business. (Business is busiest in the morning and between 3 and 8, but it really is a full-time job.) So I got up, held the baby in my arms and told my middle child that the baby really needs a rest. Now go play.
You need a stern voice to be believable in the protection business.
I walk from the lakes to our local pharmacy. My bike is there. I need to pick it up. (Don’t ask me why, it’s a long story.) My wife suggested we could leave it overnight, no-one will steal that old bike anyway. No, I said. I wouldn’t feel safe. I want it to be outside our house, where I can protect it.
The pharmacy is closed. There are no other bikes there, just a man who looks at it, looks at the wheel, the lock…? I walk over to him. Excuse me, I say in a small, very polite voice. Excuse me, that’s my bike.
Oh, it’s your bike? It’s not locked! See?
He points at the back wheel and sure enough, it is not locked. I put my key back into my pocket.
I couldn’t help but noticing, the man continues, and you know, there are many bikes thieves around here, they steal like magpies. I thought I’d just stay here for a while and look after it, you know, until the owner came back. And so you did. Back to your bike.
Yes, I said.
It’s a good thing I protected it for you, isn’t it?
My youngest child fell asleep in the pram. My oldest child played Lego and listened to Harry Potter for two more hours. And my middle child? He looked at the sleeping baby, gave it his own security blanket, went over to me and sat in my lap. He put his head on my chest, and I hugged him.
I’m in protection business, you see. And when a tiny person, or his slightly less tiny brother, needs protection, that is what I do. Even though it’s not good for business.
I walk back along the lakes with my bike next to me. The back wheel’s even more bent than I remember it. The swans are white against the dark water as they swim peacefully back and forth. No-one is drowning and no-one is being abducted by aliens or run over by a car, and I am glad.
Because that’s not good business.