Juste une fable n° 30
real estate. i was in a beach house with joseph and cathleen, and also with my daughter, who had a little cut or some such thing. i wanted to borrow a small piece of cloth, a bit of the inseam of a baby’s sleeve, to use as medical tape. so i asked joseph and he asked cathleen. but he never got back to me, so i decided to look all over this rented house, and what i finally came up with was a rag. i cut a tiny strip off to fix my child's finger. then we moved into the present.
the scene changed.
we’re in another family setting, very different. i’m supposed to be visiting someone and also taking with me part of my own kin. children, i suppose. but i’m no longer sure who these kids might be, nor whom we’re going to see, though i think it might be hannah and her daughter, justine. but the true question for this reunion is
who really wants or has to go?
sister tina proposes that some of us split off and ride around the city streets together. but there’s something of a hang-up here. father thinks that this is a solution, since my colleagues seth and bob get along so well. they’ve befriended my whole family when i was somewhere else. father keeps on saying how terrific seth is, and me, i’m saying yes, he’s very nice and he’s effective. but it’s bob i think who’s really special, and no one seems to notice him at all.
meanwhile, there’s a noisy powwow going on to decide how this reunion can finally take place. trying to cut through the layers of this mess, defuse all of the fuss and complications, i suddenly spit out, look you all don’t have to go to hannah’s house. right now it seems she’s
waiting just for me.
it’s i who have to go. and since i must, i’ll be glad to take the children with me. then someone very forcefully shoots this down (perhaps it is my mom) by saying: no, maggie, not you. as if all this couldn’t finally come to that.
in any case, complacent, i stay behind, and at one point go to fetch an extra blanket. i think it’s from my neighbors’ car, as i’m slowly moving back toward the beach house again, and suspecting everyone and thing will come together. i’m even taking out the garbage, straightening too, as if i could get rid of things that don’t belong, but then i realize that the stuff i’m carrying in my arms is not at all what i meant to take outside. instead it’s precious drinks: water (for the babies), diet ginger ales.
i take myself in hand, gather all my courage and faltering discipline, lug these heavy boxes back up the narrow stairs, the straight white wooden steps up to the sterile house, where a child that’s not mine is waiting. i’ve told his parents that he’s walking. it’s very clear, i saw him take a step or two with my own eyes. he’s crawling fast and climbing everywhere, but it isn’t sure that anyone believes me. as i’m preoccupied with this,
i’m still not up the stairs.
that’s when i see tina circling. she’s going to take me shopping, so she really cares. we go to a clean market, where we pick things up, quickly, for the whole party, big slabs of meat, baklava, and dark pink buckets of peppermint ice cream. that is what i best recall.
then, as this reel is ending, we head back to the car, which is way far off, shining in the vast empty lot. tina’s in a hurry, as is her daughter, jean. they’re tearing back to organize the party, but me, i’m just too comfortable, too well fixed-up to run. i’m seated on a weird inverted scooter, something like a pogo stick with a cushy seat. and it’s very pleasant bouncing, going up and down, feeling rhythmic pounding, contact with the pavement though i’m gliding on my seat. this thing hops much faster than i could ever walk. in fact, it feels a bit like flying.
i don’t want to get down, run, and lose my breath. so naturally, i lose my sister and my niece. i can’t find the car, go past the lot a bit, end up where there’s nothing, not even any streets. so i backtrack and i tell myself they’re looking for me too, when suddenly i think i hear their voices and even see the headlights of their s. u. v.
and somewhere in the middle of this deep dark scene, which feels like soothing water as i draw it from the well, there’s something like my mother’s body, rolling, heaving, not exactly like a beached whale, but rather quiet, dry, and softly palpitating. a throbbing, inarticulate, pink mass of wrinkled flesh, which used to block, contain all this resistance,
as well as all my power and our secrets.
now it is just lying, breathing there, with nothing left to say. and there’s a link that can’t be broken between her and me, but it’s been transferred to the realm of an unnameable
in which i feel i’m sinking too.
Mary Shaw est professeure de littérature française des dix-neuvième et vingtième siècles à l'Université de Rutgers (New Jersey). Outre ses travaux universitaires, elle a publié deux livres pour enfants ainsi qu'un recueil de poésie intitulé Album Without Pictures (Halifax, N. S., Editions VVV, 2008).