The New Biscuits Move In
The welcoming committee was impatiently waiting outside—finally, the triplets were coming home! Piia was holding three tulips, Grandpa three fishhooks, and Jack three teddy bears. Loofah was keeping watch on the roof with three sausages in his belly. Suddenly, the trio heard honking. “They’re here!” Piia cried out.
Alas, it wasn’t Dad—it was Uncle Rasmus. He careened around the corner on his bike and braked so hard that mud sprayed over his head. “Hey there, houseflies! Sorry, it took me a while. I picked out the longest one they had so there’d be enough for everybody.” Out of the basket appeared a gigantic green toy snake. It filled up the entire yard.
“Good day miss, do you have any candy?” the snake asked in Uncle Rasmus’s voice and burrowed its head into Piia’s pocket. A candy disappeared into the snake’s mouth.
“Shame on you! Stealing a kid’s treats!” Grandma scolded.
“I’m not a kid—I’m a big sister now!” Piia declared. At that very moment, a car rolled into the driveway. Dad drove three very slow circles in front of them before coming to a stop.
Three bundles were sleeping soundly in the back seat. Dad handed one baby to Piia, one to Mom, and one to Uncle Rasmus. Jack squirmed as he held the teddy bears. “One, two, three—all accounted for! Heywhat’sup! Wowza, aren’t you red!”
“My bandits,” Dad nodded proudly. “Come inside and have a closer look.”
Before long, everyone was snacking on cake indoors. The whole apartment was filled with flowers, cards, and toys. Loofah was standing watch by the edge of the crib. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.
“Hey, you rascals! What are you up to?” It was Dad’s friend Mr. Mati. He slapped Dad on his back so that he doubled over and wheezed. After that, Mr. Mati gave Mom a long and gentle hug.
“Not bad—not bad at all!” he grunted, peeking in at the babies. “Fox-faced, just like their old pops.”
“You’re the one with the fox face!” said Piia. “My dad’s the handsomest man in the world. When I grow up, I’m going to marry him, and we’ll always go to the grocery store together.”
Dad smirked. “You got it, kid. Should we reveal their names?”
“Yeah, who are they?! I can’t wait any longer!” cried Jack.
Dad stood up and cleared his throat. “My sons . . .”
“Our sons,” Mom corrected him.
Dad nodded. “Our sons—Kaspar, Jesper, and Joonatan!”
“Just like in that old children’s book, When the Robbers Came to Cardamom Town!” Mirjam chirped.
“What cardamom?” Mati grunted.
“What robbers?” Jack asked, frowning.
The triplets burst out wailing. “What’re you hollering for?” Mati snapped. “All you do is sleep all day. Once you grow up—now that’s when it’ll get rough! Just work and toil and hardship to keep your girlfriend from pouting.”
“They’re hungry,” Piia said.
“Hungry, hungry!” Uncle Mati moaned. “I’m hungry all the time, too, but I sure don’t go around hollering about it!”
“That’s because you’re forty,” Mom said. “Kaspar is leaving to have a snack now. Keep an eye on the others while we’re away.”
“Piece of cake!” Uncle Mati boomed, rubbing his hands together. “Little kids—they’re all crazy about me! Especially the girls . . . and especially when they’re older.” He poked Jesper’s belly with a long fingernail. There was a loud squirt and a tell-tale smell spread through the room.
“Ugh! The one on the left is farting!” Uncle Mati squealed.
“No worries, we’ll teach you how to change diapers in just a minute here,” Dad smirked.
Mati turned pale and backed away.
“Watch out—bears!” Jack cried. But it was too late. Uncle Mati tripped and fell flat on his back, where he wriggled like a beetle.
“Ha-ha!” Mirjam laughed. “What are you doing rolling around with the teddy bears down there? Little kids sure are crazy about you!”
“I . . . I left the iron on,” Mati mumbled, hurrying off. The front door banged shut.
“Iron!” Dad chuckled. “Mati doesn’t even have an iron. Whenever he needs to crease his pants, he just goes to the store and buys a new pair with the creases already in them.” He picked up Jesper and went to change the baby’s diaper.
A Present from Downstairs
The babies did act like real bandits and fussed their hearts out all day long. They couldn’t care less that everyone else was exhausted. Someone always wanted to eat, be picked up, get a diaper change, or hear a lullaby, and then the cycle would start all over again. Only Loofah didn’t allow himself to be bothered and slept six times a day, just like before.
One beautiful morning, it was peaceful again in the Biscuit home. The babies were sleeping in their stroller outside. Dad walked into the kitchen holding a bottle of yoghurt and grabbed his car keys.
“I’m heading to the store,” he announced.
“Mm-hm,” Piia nodded. She was drawing fish with Loofah.
“I’m going to the store now,” Dad repeated, louder.
Piia turned around. “Yeah, you already said that.”
Dad fidgeted but didn’t budge.
Piia sighed. “You sure are an amazing man! Going to the store! All by yourself!”
Dad nodded contentedly and smiled. “Yep. I’ll just be going, then. To the grocery store. All by myself.” He strolled down the stairs. Piia heard the car unlock. Dad took a sip of yoghurt, set it on the roof of the car, and waved to Piia. Then, he got in and sped off with the yoghurt still on the roof.
Loofah shook his head and made three little circles next to his ear.
“He was up all night,” Piia defended Dad. “It’s a good thing he’s still eating and washing himself. All last night, he sat in the bathtub singing songs about a tired captain on a stormy sea. And the day before that . . .”
The garden gate creaked. Piia glanced outside. It was Charlie B., a young politician who lived downstairs. The lanky man peered back and forth and then crept up to the door, holding a plastic bag.
Piia curiously watched her neighbour, who was rarely seen outside. Charlie B. only crept out in the dark and never left a single footprint. He didn’t even get wet in the rain, just darting piu-piu between the droplets. He avoided everyone—only Jack had ever spotted him. “I tried to chat,” Jack sighed, “but that man doesn’t speak any human language. He hisses. Like a snake.”
This time, Charlie B. didn’t hiss, but spoke in Piia’s native Estonian. “Psst . . . Are you alone?” he called up from downstairs.
“That depends,” Piia replied. “Have you come to rob us? Robbers always ask if you’re alone.”
The man picked at his bag. “Poppycock. I’ve got something for you. Come down and I’ll show you.”
Piia eyed the man suspiciously. “You’re not one of those candy men, are you? Our teacher said you shouldn’t accept things from candy men.”
“A candy man?! I’m a politician!” Charlie B. huffed.
“Fine, then.” Piia went downstairs. Charlie B. was fidgeting by the door and staring at the triplets.
“For your parents,” he said, handing Piia the bag. “It’s a gift. The world should be filled with children!”
“Are you filling the world with them, too?” Piia asked, inspecting the bag. “Do you even have a girlfriend?”
Charlie B. didn’t reply.
“Well, do you?” Piia repeated. She looked up and was startled. He’d disappeared! All that remained was a damp stain on the ground that smelled like rotten eggs. Charlie B. was nowhere to be seen—not behind the house, in the bushes, in the stairwell, or even up a tree.
“A real politician he is,” Dad mumbled later when they opened the gift. The box contained sixty pacifiers and a book titled Tips for Getting Your Infant to Stop Screaming. Along with the present came a card with a single sentence:
“Gift delivered by CHARLIE B.!”
Dad shook his head. “What an oddball! I just read somewhere that he’s single and all he lives for is work. No wonder—a grown man who lives with his great-uncle! I bet that old man makes the bed for him, too.”
“I know several grown men just like that,” Mom said with a smirk.
A guy like that deserves a little help, Piia decided. After dinner, she took out her sketchbook and drew till bedtime, her tongue sticking out between her teeth. By the end, she’d made twenty signs. They read:
“CHARLIE B. IS 35 AND LIVES WITH HIS UNCLE. PLEASE HELP!”
Piia admired her handiwork. She’d put them up the very next day.
After brushing her teeth, Piia cracked open her brothers’ bedroom door to kiss them goodnight. She slipped into the dim room and froze in shock. Six glowing eyes were glaring at her from the darkness! They were nothing like normal human eyes and glinted bright green. Piia took a frightened step back, which made the eyes change color. They flashed like a stoplight: red, yellow, green; slow at first, then faster and faster. The red light shone especially bright. It came from Kaspar’s crib.
Piia backed up to the door and switched on the light. The bright lamp made her squint. She gulped and peeked back towards the cribs—her brothers were all lying there with their eyes closed peacefully. Piia flashed them one more wary glance and slipped out of the room. She could kiss them tomorrow in the daylight.[…]
Nighttime and Cookies
Piia woke up to the sound of crying. A strip of light glowed at the bottom of the door. She slid off her bed and peered into the living room.
Dad was standing by the window in his undies, rocking two babies. “Shhh . . .” he soothed, his hair rumpled and his tired eyes turned back in his head.
“Are they hungry again? Let me take one!” Piia whispered. Dad gratefully passed Kaspar off to her.
“Mom is feeding Joonatan and these two are as mad as hornets.” He lifted Jesper into the air: “Now why are you making such a racket? There’s a queue, can’t you see?!”
“Should we try a bottle?”
“I already did,” Dad sighed gloomily. “I’ve tried everything! I don’t know what these bandits want. I’m a real dud of a dad, I’ll tell you that.” He collapsed onto the couch, looking miserable.
Piia stroked Kaspar’s head and carried him to her bed. “Stop torturing Dad,” she whispered. “He’ll get sad if he’s all tired out. Just wait a little longer—it’ll be your turn right away.”
To her surprise, Kaspar did calm down. Piia’s own eyes blinked shut. She was at the beach and they were lying next to one another on the warm sand . . .
“When’s ‘right away’?!” a sudden voice demanded.
Piia snapped up and gaped at her brother.
“All you ever hear is ‘right away’ this and ‘right away’ that! When’s this ‘right away’ to happen, exactly?” Kaspar whined.
Piia’s mouth fell open.
“The others get to go before me all the time! And then poor little Kaspar’s always last! It’s not fair!”
“You can talk!” Piia gasped.
Kaspar stared at his sister in silence for a moment. Piia leaned in closer.
“Waaaaah!” her brother screamed into her face.
Piia flinched. “Don’t holler! You’ll wake everybody up.”
A sly, toothless grin crept across Kaspar’s face and his eyes flashed. “Everybody’s up already. My tummy’s rumbling, get me something to eat.”
“Wait just a little bit,” Piia pleaded. “Mom’s had a long day. She’ll be right here.”
Kaspar stared sulkily at the ceiling. “I’ve had a long day, too! You think it’s easy being with those two? It’s just ‘milk’ this and ‘milk’ that all day long.” He sniffed. “Shake a leg, will you, and get me a cookie from the kitchen!”
“You don’t eat cookies,” Piia started to protest, but Kaspar pointed towards the door. The girl sighed, trotted off, and leaned over the kitchen counter to pull the cookie jar closer. They were grandma’s recipe—crunchy and packed with nuts. Piia fished out a couple extra for herself.
When she got back, Mom was sprawled over her bed, feeding Kaspar. Piia froze, clutching the cookies.
“Shh, honey—he just calmed down. Did you get up for a midnight snack?” Mom’s nightshirt was wrinkled and she looked worn out. Kaspar’s tongue was poking out of his mouth. He burped and started to snore.
Piia snuggled up next to her mom and fed her the cookies. “Did you hear what just happened? Kaspar talked!”
“What do you mean, he talked?”
“When you were in the other room. He said we bore him and told me to bring him a cookie. And his eyes flash in the dark.”
Mom smiled and stroked her daughter’s cheek.
“For real, Mom,” Piia insisted. “He was mean.”
Mom pulled Piia in closer. It was warm and Piia’s eyelids slid shut. She didn’t even wake up when Dad came and tucked her in.[…]
Piia froze when she got to her front yard coming home from school on Friday. A police car was parked right in front of the door, a flashing light on its roof and the driver’s-side door ajar. Mom anxiously pushing the stroller back and forth in the yard.
“What happened?” Piia asked.
“Mirjam’s apartment was broken into,” Mom sighed. “I was napping while the babies were asleep outside. I only woke up once I heard the boys crying.”
Piia craned her neck to look up. Mirjam’s window was smashed and shards of glass littered the lawn. The drainpipe was dented and scratched. A detective came down the stairs with Mirjam and a police dog at their heels.
“How’d it go?” Mom asked.
“Everything’s still there,” Mirjam said. “Thank heaven the babies woke up. The thieves must have been keeping an eye on the house—Jack and Baron just went out for a walk.”
“How did they get in?” Piia asked.
“They climbed the drainpipe, those apes!” Mirjam howled. “It’s my own mistake, of course—I’d left the window open. They didn’t spot the latch from down in the yard, so they smashed the glass once they got up there. If the babies hadn’t started to cry . . .”
“You were lucky,” the detective nodded. “Who knows what would’ve happened otherwise. They’re nimble, that much is clear—it’s not easy to shimmy up a drainpipe like this. I just can’t figure out where they ran off to. The dog can’t pick up a scent. I’ll let you know if we find out anything.”
With that, he waved goodbye and drove off.
“It’s good that things went the way they did, overall,” Mom sighed. “Sure is awful, though! I haven’t heard of any break-ins around here in a long time.”
Mirjam had just plopped down onto the grass, her spirits low, when the garden gate creaked.
“My precious, what’s going on? I saw the police!” Jack cried, running up to them.
“There was a break-in,” Mirjam said glumly. “Those swine smashed our window.”
“Who cares, I’m just glad you’re alright! Is everyone else okay, too?”
Mirjam wordlessly tugged at the grass.
“What’re ‘swine’?” Jack whispered to Piia.
Jack knew that word. “Now, that’s not a nice thing to say,” he scolded Mirjam. “Let’s be zen! A numbskull is a person, too.”
“The police promised to call if they find anything. Maybe we should install a security system . . .” Mom said.
“I’m sure they will,” Jack nodded, hugging Mirjam.
“At least the laptop with all my school stuff is still there. . .” Mirjam sighed in relief. She and Jack walked upstairs.
“I’m glad the triplets woke up,” Mom said. “Who knows what would’ve happened otherwise.”
“They’d have stolen the shirts off our backs,” Piia said grimly. “And Mirjam’s laptop would definitely have been snatched.”
Suddenly, a bloodcurdling scream rang out. Piia and Mom looked up to see Jack’s messy-haired head poke out the window. He was green in the face.
“Those evil people! Those numbskulls! Swine! My whistle’s gone! Big trouble!”[…]
The Mysterious Crate
Days went by, but no news came. The police moved the case to a list of petty crimes and stopped working on it. Piia was the only one who didn’t give up, and she got Villem on the job too. They were brainstorming in Piia’s garden.
“Try to think like a fleabag who steals whistles,” Piia said. “Why do you take them?”
“’Cos they’re expensive? Maybe it belonged to some famous Canadian musician first?”
Piia shook her head. “It was Jack’s grandpa’s whistle, he played just for fun. I think they were looking for something else. Something much more expensive.”
“But then the babies started crying!”
Piia nodded. “Exactly. They were rushed.”
Villem stroked the scratched drainpipe. “It’s so smooth! The robbers were lucky they didn’t fall.”
“The police said they’re good climbers.” Piia flopped down onto the grass, staring up at Mirjam’s window.
Suddenly, they heard an agitated voice coming from the street. “Hurry, stop dilly-dallying!” Piia lifted her head.
“The coast is clear,” a second voice added.
Piia pressed a finger to her lips. The kids snuck through the back door into the cellar and pressed themselves against the wall.
“Lean it to the left, otherwise it won’t go through.” There was gasping, something was being dragged.
“Pull it straight or they’ll fall on their side. Aaaand heave!” A door creaked.
Piia and Villem peeked around the corner. It was Charlie B. and his great-uncle hauling a big wooden crate with holes in it.
“One, two, three, lift!” the old man groaned. The two men swayed as they climbed the stairs. A door slammed.
Villem slid his back down the wall. “What was that?”
Piia shook her head. “I have no idea. Hey, to the backyard!”
The kids ran around the house. The houses on Poplar Boulevard were old and had low first-story windows. Piia pulled up a yard chair and peeked over the windowsill.
“What if they see you?!” Villem hissed, but Piia just shrugged and beckoned for him to join her.
Villem climbed onto the chair and they peeked inside. The curtains were open a crack, giving them a narrow view of a bedroom. Black dumbbells lay in the corner.
“I don’t see anything,” Villem whispered.
“Look over there!”
Villem lifted his gaze to the ceiling. Metal hooks had been put in above the door, and hanging from the hooks by ropes were two wooden gymnastics rings.
“Do they exercise there?” Villem asked curiously.
Suddenly, the bedroom door swung open. The children ducked down, hearts pounding. Footsteps came closer and stopped. Then a strange growl sounded from inside. Several minutes went by before they dared to straighten up and look again.
It was too late—the window was covered by the thick, dark curtains.
Translated by Adam Cullen