Moge and Bols
Dan the Dog
Saint-Hilaire and Cuvier
The White Twins
P'TIT FRERE'S DAY
P'tit Frère's fist isn't ready to receive my handshake, and so it's a clasp rather that a grasp. He waits for breakfast on a bollard outside Le Pub. A memory of what he ought to do shadows him, like an altar boy who mixes up the water and the wine in a bad dream. His nod to my bonjour is accompanied by an attempt to get up as I say, 'don't move'.
When the gates of his paradis artificiel open Guy Marchant is the archangel, sunlight haloing him as he lets out last night's nicotine cloud. 'Freshen my garden with your tears, O Lord', says Guy Marchant, sprinkling brandy on the coffee. P'tit Frère assumes his bar stool, and sips the rusty-looking brew without lifting the bowl.
The Deity speaks. 'As the cloud on the mountains dissipates to descend on the vines that, in fruitful collaboration, turn water into wine, the weight on my son's mind demystifies under the influence of what my pard, Guy Marchant, taps into him throughout the day from his barrel of Banyuls, a sacré port with body, which restores the blood to make life seem less the burden that breaks your back and throws you to the ground.'
P'tit Frère negotiates the larger plan with:
Outlook. Is it to be a day of starlings? The sky at peace with the silently swooping formations, so he can take his plastic bottle out on Place Castellane. Or of seagulls? The heavens shrieking.
Athleticism. Each step back is followed by one forward. If they coincide, you fall over.
Devotion to attention. In the square each shot of boule that hits the little red marble clinks distinctly enough to chalk up on the scoreboard in his head.
His possessions. A brother twice his size, who steadies him from time to time; L'Homologue, his friend from a previous life who visits him, when funds permit, in a banger that gets them to the jetty for afternoons communing with the sea; a plastic bag carrying a comb to keep his hair out of his glass, a rosary bead to pick his teeth, and loose cigarettes.
His age. All his life he has been thirty-three.
Smells tell the passing of other people's time: croissants, french fries, infusions of tea. If someone catches his eye, he looks like a dogfish that was hooked. The bell of slot machines consecrates school's out.
Evening comes with the benediction of smoke, laughter and coughing. The television is turned up for a match. He watches the people, not the screen, blessing the congregation of hope, failure, success and pain, reflected from another world. But their beer slops agitate him to wipe the zinc with his sleeve. Even on a cold evening there is moisture on P'tit Frère's brow. Choral song gives way to vomiting.
'Some people are buried in rubbish. Others become their own', says the Deity.
Until the ungodly hour when Guy Marchant pulls down the shutters, P'tit Frère can only be moved from his perch by an earthshaking idea, like a rattlesnake in the dregs. His fitful dance before slumping to the floor has the heads of strangers shrinking in disbelief. Guy reinstates him with a little finger. Not time yet to send him out into the night.
P'tit Frère is letting himself out under the blinds of Le Pub, plastic bag first. 'Ohé.' Words for him are waste from the past. I hear the lies of Church Latin. Omnia mea mecum porto. All that's mine I carry with me. Then he crosses the road with a sure-ish step to his basement.
'He walked into me', said the driver.
The plastic bag split, tipping his world into a pile that was removed next morning. The newspaper tells me his name was Marcel Blanc.