I was putting the edits for this chapter into the computer today, and thought I’d share it. If you read it, you’ll see why: there are many seasonal references embedded in this part of the narrative, along with a Kerouacian reference, which betrays my infatuation with his writing when I began writing this story.
The image here will be the image for the cover of the book. It was drawn by the amazingly talented Freyja Zazu. Have a look at her blog here.
This part of the novel is spoken by Marcel Louis, Luc’s (the novel’s main character) father. It starts off the morning after the birth of Marcel’s youngest son…
Part Two: Chapter Two
I awoke early the next morning to take my first good look at the boy. I was too exhausted, and shocked by the seemingly endless amount birth fluid from night before to behold the lad’s face when we got home. That morning, I saw Luc for the first time.
Luc slept on his belly, a practice he continued well into his teens. The first thing I noticed about him that was that he had a lot more hair than his brother and sister: dark, black hair, all wild and messy.
I was worried, at first, by the sight of Luc asleep on his belly. I was afraid he might smother himself, so I picked him up and turned him around. Nothing. No. Thing. Could have prepared me for the sight I then did see.
The boy, a day old mind you, already wore a mustache, every bit as thick and as dark as the hair on top his small head. I almost dropped the bastard. I blinked several times, hoping to erase the mustache with my eyelids and tears, but it remained.
“Oh my God.”
I hoped it might be coagulated deer’s blood, and tried to scrape it off with my thumbnail to no friggin’ avail.
“Marie, wake up and take a look at this.”
Marie was slow to rise that morning; she’d had a rough night, of course. But upon seeing the little lad in my arms, she smiled and reached out to hold him. When I turned him around to face his mother, she gasped and then, impossibly, she laughed.
“The little fucker’s got a mustache, Marcel”.
“Yes. Yes he does.”
Allow me to emphasize my disbelief, Nick. I myself have never been able to grow a mustache, much less a beard, or goatee, or anything else of the sort. I must admit that I’d often look at the men who sported the things, in our village with a silent and intense jealousy. I wondered if the boy was indeed mine. I had my doubts.
That morning, I questioned Marie’s faithfulness for the first time. I took a quick inventory of our village’s mustachioed men.
“Okay—Father Baudrillard—no, he’s out—I hope. Jacques? No, no, I think he likes men, I’m sure of it, in fact. Hmmm. NORMAND!?! The fucker!”
I studied the boy’s face for the slightest resemblance of my best friend aside from, of course, that miserable fuckin’ ‘stache.
This wasn’t the first time I’d been suspicious. Normand and Marie had always shared things that were completely foreign to me. He, an amateur writer, and she an avid reader. He had shared much of his library with my Marie. She borrowed books two at a time. Every night, she read through my snoring: it happens still. I often awake in the middle of the night to find her lamp still burning–her eyes awake, frantically eating up black words.
“Go back to sleep, dear, I’m just about finished this chapter.” She says.
Whenever Normand and I took our wives to the pub for dinner, our double date quickly turned into literary debate with Gene and I on the sidelines exchanging uncomfortable glances. I was convinced Normand had knocked up my wife.
I managed to conceal my rage for a few minutes, at least, pretending to laugh at the hairy symbol of my wife’s infidelity. Again, I tried to scrape it off; again, it didn’t budge.
I held Luc in my arms. I tried to tame my suspicions, but the mustache ruined everything. I nuzzled the boy’s face, closing my eyes and the beastly thing stung my own hairless flesh.
I tried to destroy the mustache a couple days later. My mother was on her way to visit her newest grandson and, I feared her reaction to the lad’s extra appendage. I covered his lip with shaving soap and tried to guide the straight blade down his lip, but he flailed.
“Come here for a minute, Marie!”
She walked into the bathroom howling with laughter at the sight of it.
“Marie, I need you to hold his head still!”
She didn’t like the hair above Luc’s lip either–the moustache embarrassed her when she showed him off to her friends and they tried not to notice. She cradled the boy’s head in her hands, but failed to keep him still enough.
Again, the boy squirmed and I almost cut off his fuckin’ lips.
“For fuck sakes Marie, I told you to hold him still!”
“I’m doing my best, Marcel, what the fuck is wrong with you?”
I placed the cold blade against Luc’s baby flesh again. After finishing the left side, Luc began to wail; I lost it.
“Fuck! Marie, give him your tit and we’ll finish the job when he stops crying! This is fuckin’ bullshit!”
The boy cried even harder.
“Don’t talk to me like that in my own fuckin’ house, Marcel. What the fuck’s your problem? You’ve treated me like shit ever since Luc was born. I went through seven months of hell to give you another boy, one that your paycheck can’t afford, by the way.”
Fuck, I hated when she said that.
“I told you I didn’t want another kid, but you insisted so I did, and now you treat me like this? Fuck you!”
She too, began to cry.
“And now your fucking mother’s coming—this is just fucking great!”
“I don’t want him, Marie; I wanted you to have my fuckin’ baby.”
I hadn’t planned on revealing my suspicion so soon. The mustache…. Or, half a mustache, rather, was evidence, not proof, of my wife’s affair.
“Are you… did you just? Oh, fuck you. We are fucking… I’m gone.”
She grabbed Luc and ran to her mother’s house in tears. I stood alone, and in a burst of rage, sadness and confusion, I planted the razor in the bathroom wall before searching the pantry for some whiskey.
After a couple of shots of the Whiskey, I tried to distract myself. I went to the shop and started sanding the oak table I’d built before hunting season began. I had just hit my stride when the door to the shop flew open; it was my mother.
“OK, where’s the baby?”
I had rehearsed my answer prior to her arrival.
“Marie took him over to her mom’s house. Do you want a drink?”
She shook her head defiantly.
“Marcel, if I wanted a drink I would have gone to the pub. I came to see my grandson.”
“Okay, I’ll walk over there with you” I said.
We walked; she talked. She was completely and totally unrelenting in her gossip that day, incorrectly assuming that I gave even half a fuck about what she was saying. I nodded, and said “yeah”, or, “oh”, every once in a while, but mostly I thought about Marie. I felt awful about everything I had said to her that morning.
You see, Nick, Marie has been the love of my life since elementary school. I can now say with confidence that she’s never strayed. But I couldn’t then. I’ll be honest. She’s never done so much as think about it, I’m sure. But, at the time, all I could think about was that accursed, fucking mustache! I told myself to forget about it, but…Fuck! A mustache?
We were soon a knockin’ on my mother in-law’s door. I walked in ahead, after being coldly greeted by Marie’s mother: I was sure she knew everything, but she was kind enough to keep quiet about it in front of mom though. She talked with ma about how cute their grandson was. I noticed that she failed to mention the mustache.
“She’ll see for herself soon enough,” I thought to myself.
We walked into the living room: Marie was nursing. I noticed that the flesh of her breast was crimson, irritated by the hairs of her suckling child’s half mustache. Marie too pretended that everything was okay.
“Oh, look Luc; someone has come to visit you.” She cooed in her baby voice. She cut the boy off early, and handed him to my mom: he started crying instantly.
Ma had always been critical of our kids. Jean was too thin, and Louise too fat for her liking. She didn’t have to look very hard to find fault in Luc.
“What the hell is this?”
She looked in disgust at the hairy-lip, gleaming with watery breast milk.
Marie answered before I could.
“Yeah, that’s Luc’s, uhhh, mustache”.
By then, Marie was used to answering the inevitable question. It did not satisfy my mother though.
“It is most certainly not a mustache; it is half a mustache!”
I took it upon myself to step in and take the pressure off Marie.
“Yeah ma, I shaved the other half off this afternoon”.
“You shaved your infant son?” she asked, turning her glare from Luc to me.
“Well, he has a fucking mustache!”
“Why does he have a mustache? He’s only three days old and he was two months premature!”
“Marcel has a theory about that. Care to share Marcel?” Marie said.
She too now glared at me: I sweat profusely, and fumbled for an answer to her question.
“Ummm, I ahh… Well, Marie ate a lot of sausage during the pregnancy?”
My mother sighed.
“You’ve gone insane, Marcel.”
After ma had her fill of the lad, she got up, proclaiming for all to hear: “I am starving! What’s for supper tonight Marie?”
I looked at my wife, instantly realizing she would not be coming home with my mom and I that evening: “Well, ma, we have some sausage we could fry up.”
“You’re not coming with us, Marie?”
“Actually, Luc and I are going to stay here tonight with my mom. You two can eat whatever you’d like, but make sure that Jean and Louise get some greens. There is some broccoli in the ice-box.” She didn’t even look at me.
“Ok, well, let’s get going ma. The other kids will be home soon. Thanks for the tea, Mom!”
“Don’t call me Mom, Marcel.”
Luckily, ma didn’t hear her say that as she was already half way down the drive; otherwise, the tale of Marie and I’s troubles woulda been around the village before we got home, sure as shit. I closed the door behind me, sighing in resignation as I ran to catch up to ma.
I was restless, that night. Already accustomed to sleeping with both Marie and the lad, our family bed felt much too big for me alone. I lay in the dark, reassessing every word I’d said to Marie earlier that day.
I felt awful, but justified. At first, Marie’s reaction made me feel pretty guilty, but by the time I laid weary head down on her fragrant, abandoned pillow I was suspicious; if she was indeed innocent, why was she hiding from me?
I decided, that night, to divorce Marie.
I would start a new life in Alberta. For the past several months, I had been corresponding with my friend Philip, who had recently moved to the prairies. He had started up a farm and had mentioned a few times that he could use my strong back to bail hay. I’d always loved the musical quality of the province’s name. Alberta.
I whispered the name over and over like a prairie mantra. “Alberta. Alberta. Alberta.”
I was still sleepless at 3:00 AM. My thoughts had, by then, moved far past Marie. I was convinced she’d made a cuckold of me; I didn’t want to face my coworkers ever again, knowing that.
I grappled with the details of my immanent move, wondering how I would manage in an English speaking province. Don’t they hate us Frenchmen over there? Probably. My thoughts were interrupted when, upon rolling over, I was blinded by a heavenly light.
I heard the slam of a steel door. I was scared, I realizing that I hadn’t locked the front door, in case Marie came back. I heard the front door of our house open with a bang and a muscular, white t-shirt soon came a-jumping into my room; I almost shit the bed, swear t’ Christ.
The light completely transformed the bedroom. I knew the room very well. Marie had always been very particular about the arrangement of the assorted pieces of furniture I’d made for us; every picture and every mirror was in a preordained place. I didn’t dare to move any of our furniture. The room had, for over ten years, remained fixed and unchanged. But everything had transformed; everything was alien to me in that holy light, and the large shadows covered the walls like tar.
I was terrified, but felt at peace too. This probably sounds insane, I know.
Music followed light through the cracked glass and, like the music, refracted. I had never heard anything like that music before. I don’t know if I’d even consider it to be “music”, but I will call it that anyways for lack of a better English word.
The music spoke of wonderful, drunken, things:
Cobs of corn painted oceanic blue! Southern Comfort panty hose! Embryos carrying daggers!
I tried desperately to stay afloat in the waters of these deep and terrifying visions until the man in white, who I somehow had forgotten about, once again captured my sleep-deprived-eyes.
The angel didn’t introduce himself. Instead, he paced frantically ‘round the room like a panther in a cage: back and forth and forth and back, wringing his hands like I do when the wind gets cold.
I could tell that he struggled to find his words which eventually exploded into the cold air.
“Now Marcel, you must, you must bend your mind a little bit here–you must, you must bend your mind now, in order to wrap it tightly around every word I’m about to tell you. Yass, yass, see, I know about the little drama you’ve been going through. I know that you’re pissed about the longings of yer sweet lil’ Marie. You’re nervous that the sweet little piece of flesh she carries around between her legs has been poked and prodded by your good pal Normand. And I know how it feels, man! I know how it feels to think about her gigglin’ the way she does juss’ before she gets off! I know you’ve probably thought to yourself, several times—‘that sombitch, Normand, has heard that laugh I know so well, and now you don’t know who you should off first, him or her. I know you’ve been thinking to yourself the best ways that you could get rid o’ the whole problem—to try to make it look like an accident, y’ know? Hmm? Hmm.” His head nodded vibrantly and bobbed frantically to a far-away beat behind the light.
He didn’t relent.
“But you see, now Marcel, Marie is true blue– she would never even think of letting hands, no matter how fine, touch her in those sweet spots that bleed milk. She’s given you a son now, a son who has been prophesied by a good pal of mine, who did fuck my wife on a number of my occasions… we won’t even get into that… see, lil’ Luc’s gonna make everyone’s head flip and go ‘awwweee’- you know what I’m talking about? See, ummm, Jean, he was a great guy, but he always told me he wasn’t the end. He always told me about this mad child who would come one day to liberate us all! This son of yours is a gift, Marcel! You need to trot on over to where your wife sleeps and tell her, in every possible position you can think of, that you’re sorry. She, Marie, blessed mother of eternity! She carried he who he lept in her belly! Now, follow me and put some of that sweet-smelling stuff you always throw on your face and, quick, jump into black chariot– we’ll be there in jus’ a few seconds, le’s go, le’s go, le’s go!”
I felt like I was gonna fuckin’ throw up, Nick. My arms shook under the weight of the angel’s strange tongue. He walked into light; he walked into music. I ran to catch up. Soon, I jumped into the passenger side of the angel’s black Hudson.
The frantic figure proceeded to bang the beat of this ‘music’ into his Hudson’s steering wheel as we pulled out of my dusty driveway: I feared he would wake my children. Headlight cut through the night’s impenetrable darkness, and the darkness, overcome. Strange music populated my mind with more mad mental peculiarities: black-whiskered goats on bikes! Japanese hills all ablaze with serene, cool-water center! Oblivion, death and rebirth feasted at the bunny’s table that night, and I couldn’t have given two fucks about it! We arrived at my mother in law’s house. I swam through his planet of sound; I walked out his light, staggering to her door as if drunken. I knocked softly.
Marie opened the door. Tears of joy and forgiveness flooded her eyes. We made love in the pale-moon-light, that night. I think we woke her mother and our son with passionate, giggly love joy. Darkness, on that night, was overcome by our love supreme.