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       Against God, p.1

           Patrick Senécal
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Against God

  Copyright © Patrick Senécal, 2012

  The use of any part of this publication, reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise stored in an electronic retrieval system without the prior consent (as applicable) of the individual author or the designer, is an infringement of the copyright law.

  The publication of Against God has been generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.

  Cover design: Julie McNeill

  Typography: Grey Wolf Typography

  Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

  Senécal, Patrick

  [Contre Dieu. English]

  Against God / Patrick Senécal; translated by Susan Ouriou.

  Translation of: Contre Dieu.

  Also issued in electronic format.

  ISBN 978-1-926802-78-7 ISBN EPUB 978-1-926802-79-4

  I. Ouriou, Susan II. Title. III. Title: Contre Dieu. English.

  PS8587. E544C6513 2012 C843'.54 C2012-900243-7

  Published by Quattro Books Inc.

  89 Pinewood Avenue

  Toronto, Ontario, M6C 2V2

  - We had a really good day.

  - Great. How’s your mom?

  - Happy and healthy. Frankly, she amazes me. She says to say hi.

  - Tell her hi back. Are you leaving soon?

  - We’ll have our coats on in a minute or two. It’s not snowing, we should be home within an hour. Have you had supper yet?

  - Just finished. I heated up some tourtière.

  - Always the gourmet! What about the store?

  - For such a sunny Sunday, we did well. Everyone was out buying skis, I’m not sure why. But I’m not complaining. (laughter) Looks like we’ll be spending three weeks in Florida next fall ’stead of just two.

  - Really?

  - See what a good idea it is for me to work on a Sunday every once in a while!

  - As if your staff can’t manage without you!

  - I’m indispensable, you know that.

  - (laughter) Uh-huh. Hey, the kids want to talk to you.

  - Put them on.

  - Hi, Daddy.

  - Hi, sweetheart. Were you good for Grandma?

  - Yup. She gave us lots of chocolates. And money for my piggy bank. Four loonies ’cause I’m 4.

  - Lucky you, eh?

  - I love you, Daddy. I can’t wait to see you.

  - I love you, too.

  - Here’s Alexis.

  - Hewo, Daddy . . .

  - Hey champ. Were you good for Grandma, too?

  - Yeth . . .

  - I hear she gave you candy.

  - Yeth . . . loth.

  - Did you save any for me?

  - Uh-uh. I eated it all.

  - You candy-monster! I love you, little man.

  - Wuv you, Daddy.

  - Can you put Mommy on?

  - Okay, we’re off. How ’bout a movie we can cuddle to tonight?

  - Good idea. Stop in at the movie store.

  - Okay. I can’t wait to see you.

  - Me too.

  and it all starts when you go to the front door only to be confronted with two cops who look at you as though they’re carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders, they ask you your name and your answer doesn’t make them feel any better, their faces just get even longer, so you wait, your left hand on the doorknob, your right holding onto the TV remote, and finally you ask what’s going on, they ask if you’re married to Judith Péloquin, and your voice is louder now, your voice is shaking now as you repeat your

  - Christ, what’s this all about?

  question, then one of the two finally dares look you in the eye, he explains, you listen, at first incredulous, then frightened, next in denial, of course, your old standby whenever you’re confronted with something you don’t want to accept, and you say that’s impossible, and you say that you spoke to them an hour ago, and you hammer at him in the tone of someone who will brook no opposition, but the officer states they were discovered about thirty minutes ago, you’re still in denial, you cry “no” several times, you even try to close the door on them but they stop you, they enter, gently they try to calm you, but you walk away, you pace the room, you yell that there’s been a mistake, you notice you are still holding the remote, the TV is still playing the sports DVD you were watching with such pleasure a short five minutes ago, and suddenly your legs won’t hold you anymore, suddenly you collapse, you fall, you drop to your knees, your sobs, your cries, your hands pull at your hair, and all you remember of the officers’ verbiage is the last part, that you must identify the bodies, you spring to your feet, yes, you absolutely have to see them, now, right now, and you climb into the cop car, you drive to the hospital, but when they show you Judith’s body, your frenzy dissolves, turns into bitter futile tendrils dispersing through the universe, and when you recognize Béatrice you start to cry again, but you don’t recognize the third body, it belongs to a boy of two or so but how to tell whether this is Alexis, the face too disfigured, too destroyed, but then you notice the birthmark on his left thigh and from that point on you founder into such hysteria, such confusion that they have to inject you with a tranquilizer that plunges you into a night’s long sleep, then you wake up in a strange bed in a hospital room, you turn your head and see Jean-Marc, Judith’s older brother, his tie undone, his features haggard, he notices that you’re awake, draws near, hugs you, you both cry for a moment, but you want to understand, to know more, you ask for explanations, so Jean-Marc tells you painfully, with frequent interruptions to blow his nose, to regain control of his trembling voice, but you grasp the main thrust, Judith’s car fell into a ravine off that damn winding road you’ve taken so often, in the hairpin curve that you know so well, the car rolled several times as it fell before hitting a stone wall below, was it Judith who missed the curve, or a car coming from the opposite direction that took the curve too wide and forced your wife to veer off the road, the cops don’t know, but they’re leaning toward the first hypothesis, there was after all a sheer layer of ice on the road and if another car was involved, most likely it would have stopped, but there’s no way of knowing, the police are investigating in any case, but you stop listening, your head turned to the window, your gaze bewildered, and you mumble that you don’t have it in you to look after the formalities, funerals, all of it, you’re simply incapable, and you burst into tears saying you’ll never be able to, it’s too much, too too much, and Jean-Marc takes your arm, Jean-Marc tells you he’ll look after everything, Jean-Marc always so generous, so helpful, and you observe him for a moment perplexed, you turn away, your gaze unfocused and distant, silence, green walls, a voice over the intercom, coughing in the hallways, and when finally you speak

  - I want the funerals held soon. Before the weekend. As soon as possible.

  you’re still looking out the window, Jean-Marc nods, enfolds you in his arms again and you let him, finally he leaves, you’re alone, you do nothing, absolutely nothing, an hour later you leave the hospital but are surprised to see some seven or eight people approaching, cameras, tape recorders at the ready, journalists eager for comments, holding out their mics to you like so many poisoned lollipops, and you’re taken aback, you lengthen your stride, say no comment, your voice calm, your eyes evasive, but they follow you to the taxi as you climb in and repeat the same words, the restraint in your voice is surprising but I’m sure that inside, you’re seething, calm was never a notable virtue of yours, but you hold yourself together, the taxi takes off, you don’t move, just massage your face ever so slowly, twenty minutes, stop, get out, you walk to the front door of your house but you stop short, but you observe it closely, but you scrutinize the house, dre
ad in your eyes, you rummage through your pockets, your keys are there, so you slide into your car and start it up, you drive toward the City, the clock on the dash reads ten forty, you reach the north bridge in under thirty minutes, you cross over, skyscrapers piercing the sky in the distance, the busy streets, pedestrians everywhere, finally you stop in a neighbourhood full of duplexes and triplexes, climb the stairs to a duplex, ring a doorbell, two long minutes, the door opens, Sylvain still half-asleep, his thick black curly hair all dishevelled, surprised to see you, he laughs as he says something big must be up for you to drop by on a Monday morning, but at last your zombie eyes straight out of one of the old horror movies you loved to watch as teens register with him, he asks you to wait a minute then, disappears, two minutes, a pretty young girl appears, twenty-five or so, shoots you a dirty look, walks past and down the sidewalk, then Sylvain returns, invites you to come inside, have a seat, but you can’t wait to be inside, you

  - They’re all dead, Sylvain.

  tell him now, on the doorstep, but clearly he doesn’t understand, his brow knit, his head turned slightly to the right, you sob then and, now, yes, he understands, the horror, the unthinkable, the impossible, he grabs you, pulls you inside, you let him, you’re shaking all over, you both stand in the living room and cry together, in each other’s arms, two ruins leaning on each other so as not to crumble, then come the questions, your confused and fragmented explanations, lacerated with sobs and cries, Sylvain calls the record store he works for and tells them he won’t be in that afternoon, he even tells the person protesting on the other end to go to hell, but you object, point out that he could be fired, but Sylvain doesn’t give a damn, Sylvain reminds you he never keeps a job for more than six months, he brings out a bottle of scotch, two drinks downed in a matter of seconds followed by two more, and in no time the apartment becomes the scene of your communion in rage, despair and incomprehension, and there’s a phrase you repeat

  - Where’d I go wrong?

  three or four times, unable to stop eyeing your friend’s modest one-bedroom apartment and its decor, a couple of nondescript laminated posters on the walls, an old TV and antique stereo, walls yellow with cigarette smoke, Sylvain finally notices your gaze, asks you what’s wrong, but your answer

  - It’s so different . . . So different . . .

  is obscure, Sylvain asks different from what, but suddenly you call Guy on your cell phone, tell him you won’t be in to the store today, he’ll have to place the orders himself, you don’t give a reason and you hang up, stare hard at your cell phone mumbling that you’ve only missed four weekdays of work since your store opened six years ago, Sylvain thinks you’re a fool to worry about stuff like that, and another quick round, and your friend decrees you’ll sleep there tonight, your friend swears he won’t leave you alone for a minute, your friend starts to cry again, but you refuse, it makes no sense, you don’t want to disrupt his life, his routine, but he waves you off with a

  - C’mon, what routine? Shit, make the most of it; for once my lack of organization is good for something!

  broad gesture, and you look hard at him in livid bafflement, struck by his words, then you spring to your feet, agitated, you have to go, Sylvain can’t believe his ears, he orders you to stay put, but no, you can’t, so Sylvain runs to his room, says he’ll get dressed and go with you, but you yell that you’ll call him tonight, it’s a promise, and you’re already outside, half-running to your car, you slide inside, glance back at Sylvain’s apartment as though seeing it for the first time, then drive off as quickly as possible, as though fleeing the arms of a depraved mistress, you cross over the north bridge, take the highway, back to your town, its quiet streets, but you drive fast, extremely fast, and there’s the cement wall on the curve getting closer and closer, but you don’t slow down, but you don’t turn, your expression hardens, you clutch the steering wheel, then suddenly you stomp on the brakes, a shrieking, yours and that of the tires, the car stops a few centimetres from the wall, but not you, you keep on shrieking and shrieking, and when the car pulls up in front of your house a few minutes later and you get out, the interior is still ringing with the echo of your cries, but the same people wait outside, their feet in the snow, four of them, cameras still, mics still, you avoid their gaze, no comment, don’t insist, nothing to say, still calm but your voice more impatient than this morning, yet they don’t give up, they insist, they follow you right to your door and just before you step inside, you see two neighbours down the street, watching the scene, curious, voyeurs, and finally you close the door, finally you drop into an armchair, finally you stop moving, the television still on, the screen blue, your gaze pans over the room, stops on each object for long minutes, a family picture on the wall, a landscape on the other wall, sports DVDs in the bookcase, the fireplace, two plants on each corner, the coffee table holding the knick-knacks Judith collected, Alexis’ toys strewn in a corner, the more you burn your eyes on the relics, the more your eyeballs sink back into their sockets, as though about to fall deep inside you, the phone rings several times during the course of the lengthy examination but you don’t answer, then hunger, seven o’clock, it’s dark outside, you walk to the kitchen, heat up yesterday’s leftover tourtière, eat it with ketchup, study the kitchen with the same intensity as you did the living room, mesmerized by each object, by the order, by the clean counters, then you start digging through the pantry, pull out the bread, the peanut butter, the cheese, you make two sandwiches and wash them down with some grape juice, the children’s grape juice, you’re no longer hungry but you swallow anyway, stuff your face, cram food inside, ice cream, cookies, cake, you burp, grimace in pain, clutch your belly with both hands but you don’t stop and you put nothing away and you don’t close the jars and you leave crumbs everywhere, then you feel nauseous, you raise your hand to your mouth but you don’t budge, you don’t walk to the bathroom, you open your mouth instead and it gushes, it spurts, it spatters onto the island, a long stream of vomit splashing everywhere, you wipe your mouth and return to the living room where you stay until late, inert, then you stand up, take the stairs to your room, remove your clothes and lie down after slipping on the nasal mask, the sleep apnea machine you’ve hooked yourself up to for the past two years, the one that was so hard to get used to but was purported to be so essential, the doctor said so

  - You’re thirty-three, you’re still young, but in a few years’ time you’ll be at a greater risk for a heart attack and sleep apnea increases that risk. My advice is that you get the machine. It’s a bother, but it’s good for you. It increases the odds of your having a better quality of life.

  two years ago, you close your eyes, the mask on your face sends a continuous flow of air but you don’t fall asleep, you even start to shake, you get up and go to the children’s room, you look at the twin beds, especially Alexis’ still with its safety rails, suddenly you rip them off, smash them against the wall, bash the toys, the pictures, the beds, everything shatters, splinters, shards pierce your arms and cheek, then you collapse in tears surrounded by the devastation you’ve wreaked, finally sleep, dreamless, until late the next morning, the front doorbell awakens you, you lie there as it rings three, four, five times, finally silence, you get up, go to the window, a car pulls away, Alexandre, a friend who lives nearby, you walk through the wreckage to the bathroom, examine the minuscule cut on your cheek, grab the bottle of antiseptic, open it, but you stop halfway, but you study the bottle, but you hesitate, your reflection in the mirror, then you bring the bottle to your lips, you take a mouthful of antiseptic, hold it there without swallowing, staring at your reflection, then you spit at the mirror, your reflection dripping now, as though you were melting, and you sit down on the toilet bowl, and you defecate, and you stand up, study your excrement, finally you leave, go down to the kitchen, the sight of the mess and the vomit makes you wrinkle your nose, you listen to the messages on the answering machine, Judith’s family one after another, shattered, in shock, especially her moth
er, hysterical, and the two messages from reporters wanting an interview and a message from Jean-Marc who has looked after everything, who wants to explain it all to you, who expects to hear back from you soon, and you listen carefully to this last message, then you rewind the tape to listen to it again and again, and each time your features harden a bit more, especially on hearing certain words, “details,” “look after,” “signatures,” and finally you slam down the receiver, your lips clenched so tight they hurt, you collect yourself and call Jean-Marc, he asks how you are then stops short, awkward, I’m sure he regrets his stupid question but it’s too late, in fact you ask him if he actually wants an answer to his “fucking moronic question,” he stammers an apology, you add that you too are sorry, but your voice is just as cold, then he explains that there are all kinds of things to be signed, he offers to come to you, but you would rather meet him at his office, he says he isn’t working today, he’s incapable of it, as though stating the obvious, almost a reproach, but you insist, you don’t want to go to his house, you don’t want him to come here, so grudgingly he agrees to meet you in his office, you hang up, time to make breakfast, but the kitchen is a shambles with traces of vomit, dirt and filth, so you escape to the living room with your plate, eat seated on the couch, stay put for a good hour, leave the plate and cup on the floor and go upstairs to your bedroom, a glance through your closet, but you end up wearing the same clothes as yesterday except for the underwear, main floor, coat, boots, old worn boots Judith hated to see, always pestering you to choose new ones, you’ve got a sports store after all, there’s nothing simpler than finding a new pair, she made fun of you and your boots, you leave the house, recognize the two reporters kicking their heels on the sidewalk, they race over, like hounds having caught their quarry’s scent, but before they have time to speak you

  - Sonofabitch, I kept calm, told you no, all for what! Be civilized, do the right thing, none of it matters. Shit! Nothing matters!

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