All Bedlam Courses Past (part fifty-six)
All Bedlam Courses Past
An Object in Motion
Gilbert had written to marvel artlessly over the dull enigma of Guiteau. He is Americanized, does it seem? What we hear in France is that he is a communist, of the free-love faction. And do I have it right, Oneida?
Honoré, for having lived in a New York county by that name, knew nothing of Oneida. His time in the poorhouse insulted him; he disliked Gilbert a bit for grasping this so weakly, able to imagine—
That the years might spin away, and an enormity, a going-through-hell, be recalled in light of a visit made…a fleeting view, as scenery from a railcar. He had thrown the letter to the bottom of a drawer.
The apartment’s glassed balcony served Honoré’s writing hours; he basked, when the sun was strong, in the wonderful heat of this room. Mariette would dance her dolls under the velvet curtains, crawling into view at the close of their dialogue…a process of duration…and when her tousled head popped free, he pretended great astonishment.
He had noticed that morning, while reading the Vanguard, his cousin’s voice. The breakfast tray, too, sat neglected on its stand, disordering thought…where fatuous words for Jerome were needed, his mind found only sharp ones for Clotilde. Élucide’s interference of the hour would be the reason his daughter hadn’t rustled in…
He might have been feeling a mild, sad relief, that today he was not to be interrupted.
Then, shrieking, his child’s. Whispering. A multiplication of jackets and skirts in motion, low voices rising in questions. Another child, someone else’s. And a terrible moaning wail, yet with fondness in it, wonder, ecstasy perhaps. Clotilde. Who could these visitors be?
« Tais-toi, ma chérie, tais-toi! Ou est Honoré ? Nous ferions mieux de connaître le pire… »
It was Élucide who put her head through the curtains. Honoré had been stricken in his seat, by the voice of Mme Sartain. His cousin’s eyes showed her father’s flash of annoyance. “We thought it was best. We didn’t want you anxious for weeks over a plan that might have anything…”
Some of which she told. Names, Ryan-Neville’s, Rutherford’s, unknown ones, glanced off a numbness in his mind. He felt for his stick, closed fingers on the handle, preoccupied with a wish to deny such fragility…
Ebrach entered ushering, hands soon attached to Honoré’s shoulder and back. “Come out to the sofa.”
They had all come circling him (his wife repeating his name idiotically the while). He was presented with Bertrand. Both children were in tears, Mariette’s active wailing blanketed in a deafness her father had grown to it, her hand in Mme Sartain’s. Honoré spread his arms; the boy gave a dutiful embrace.
Ebrach and Élucide left his parlor, speaking to each other.
A lunch arrived from the kitchen.
He shared the sofa by that time, breathing uncomfortably, with Bertrand and Gilbert. He could not suffer these crying jags without a number of things signaling upset. His nose was stuffed, his stomach hurt, his back below the ribcage was shooting pains. His eyes watered now for no reason. He felt no appetite, and felt, in a pity for himself near sorrow, that he would not risk food, in any case. Some other eruptions might further embarrass and disappoint his son.
(2023, Stephanie Foster)