Monday, January 18, 2010

"And What About the Girl Up Against the Barrel?"

Some will find this depressing; some, simply maudlin:
The patients were stuck on hard chairs round the walls of the waiting room and smelled of garlic and sour clothes. Except for a pale girl reading a copy of Marie-Claire they were all ugly and old and stamped on. Yet the nun in the métro, Dugommier was sure, would have said that God loved all those cartwheel ears and gobby eyes, all those unthinking noses and unseeing mouths, and perhaps that was the only answer to their lack of success in the Gadarene rush. A few thousand more bus rides from the Louvre to the Porte des Lilas, a few thousand more walks along the dank corridors of Châtelet, a few hundred more revolting caresses, a whisk of holy water from the hyssop and out they would be tipped into the grave, their laughters at Fernandel forgotten, and another corpse pitched in to rot on top of theirs if their relatives didn't stump up another five years' cemetery rent in time.

Such might soon be his own fate if the doctor didn't manage to cure his breathlessness. Flung into a coffin in the bed in which he had died, nailed down behind the screens with all the other patients listening, and then off to Paradise, via the Porte de Pantin. And would there be Paradise? "What about the girl up against the barrel at Noeux-les-Mines?" God might ask. "Please, God, I also loved Mallarmé," he would reply trying to make himself heard aboive the hundred and eighty-three Spaniards, Russians, Swedes, Finns and Brazilians thrown up from their fornications in the same minute of hearing.

--Bruce Marshall, The Accounting 221-2 (1958)
"Mallarmé" is, I suppose, the poet Stéphane Mallarmé, and the issue of just what he has to do with it might invite a more explicit answer. Still, on the whole I rather liked this bit.

1 comment:

Taxmom said...

I didn't realize that Marie Claire had been around since the 30's - that's when the story is set isn't it?