In the end, what we need to survive is maimed, burnt and broken, but refuses to be forgotten.
Pour faire une tresse - assemblez trois longues mèches de cheveux; une pour l’âme, une pour la raison et une pour l’action.
She’s sitting in her chair.
The rocking chair in the kitchen.
She slowly licks the palm of her left hand
then between the fingers
curving her tongue over the skin web
like Marc used to do.
She thinks of her brothers
of her son Raoul – gone away, safe to grow up in Montana
safe from the vicious traps her neighbours are setting.
The clock is ticking.
It chimes 7:30.
It’s not her fault Zoë Trefflé wasn’t able to keep the baby.
Not her fault the baby died.
Not her fault Zoë died.
She had done what she could,
warning Zoë against the drink,
warning her that Télèsphore bothering her all the time would hurt the baby,
and working around those sick cows was asking for trouble,
but Zoë wouldn’t listen.
And now she knew tonight,
tonight they would come
under cover of the new moon
led by the drunken courage and useless fury of Télèsphore Trefflé.
They would come and they would kill her.
She hears footsteps on the frozen ground.
She hears Antoine Trefflé calling her names. She hears Télèsphore cursing, stomping on the porch, crashing into the door. He comes in a rush, ready with the ropes, but stops clumsily when she simply rises and turns her back to him. The others crowd in, pushing him forward. They smell of ragotte, burped over pork and cabbage. She cannot bear to see them look at her as if she is an animal they must hunt and kill. Their fear has a smell that threatens to choke her, make her cry.
She turns when she hears Télèsphore’s laboured breathing and knows the lung infection has not cleared. With no one to help him, he will be dead before the year is out.
Antoine catches the ghost smile creeping. He slaps her across the face, screaming about her arrogance and the others laugh loudly, slapping each other on the back.
Télèsphore grabs the jug of ragotte from Antoine and spins Rubis around to face the men. She stumbles forward. A young boy near the door makes a little movement, but Télèsphore curses him to keep his place.
-I told you to keep yourself quiet! he bellows. -The Almighty Madame Rubis Morin, the cursed healer, does not need your help, little Baptiste. Here Healer, you want something? You want some help? Take some of this, he slurs, wrenching her chin down with his free hand and shoving the jug into her face. –This, this is my medicine. This, is holy water. Let’s see what good it does you.
Rubis jerks her head back and crosses her arms, saying nothing.
-I said drink goddamn you, he snarls, gripping her arm and splashing the alcohol.
Rubis splutters and coughs, the liquid burning her eyes and mouth.
Antoine steps forward. -Don’t waste it for Chrissake. If she don’t want it Télèsphore, I do!
He wrestles the jug from his brother’s grip and tips it eagerly to his own mouth.
-Come on, Télèsphore barks, -I didn’t come here for no party. We got things to do einh? he leers. -We came here to do something, so let’s do it.
He yanks the rope expertly around her wrists, hobbles her to her own ankles.
–Come on bitch, you’re coming with us, he snarls, pushing her toward the door.
The men shove themselves up against her as she passes, rubbing their hands on her body and laughing about a waste of good meat. Télèsphore ignores them, pulls her roughly behind him into the night.
They take her through the yard and up the road, more roughly than is necessary. They need to hear her cry or plead, whimper or shout, anything to show that they have finally broken her. Rubis says nothing. She keeps her eyes on the ground, refusing to give them the satisfaction of knowing, she is already broken.
They drink heavily from the flasks they had filled at Trefflé’s earlier. They shout obscenities to egg each other on and pull her along, jerking on the rope to make her stumble.
They gather stones along the way, large blue field stones.
They bring her to water.
Six-year old Baptiste Trefflé stays in the deepest shadows.
slow eyes of the most kissing blue
red hair flowing down to the middle of her back
field stones in a bag around her waist
chafing rope binds her wrists
thrown in from above
shoes and all
lungs filling with water
fire in her veins
huge silver balloons
filled with fire
within 12 heart beats
“J’entends le moulin
within 12 breaths
tique, tique, taque.
an open mouth
J’entends le moulin
a circle mute
her dress up above her face
Mon père a fait bâtir maison,
her hands open in front of her
l’a fait bâtir à trois pignons
tique, tique, tique, taque
folds over herself
and the power
they cursed as evil
like a star
and is gone
tique, tique, taque.”
J’entends le moulin, tique, tique taque.
J’entends le moulin, taque.
…Rubis begins to braid her hair…