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June 2, 2017 | Fiction

Grass Snake, Hailstorm

Lucie Bonvalet

Grass Snake, Hailstorm photo

I walk in the mud by the river. The mud is cold. The mud swallows one foot, then the other. It's hard to remove my foot, the mud won't let me.

March smells of hail, cow shit, apple blossoms. I love the mud. Everything too green, the sky angry. The sound of hail falling on the greenhouse. My mother and I we go to the greenhouse, watch the ice fall and bounce back on the glass roof. We say we hope the glass won't break. But we hope it would. It would be magnificent. We both like catastrophes.

Florence is coming, I'm nervous. Florence, my first friend. I love Florence because I love her hair. Florence.

Florence, come. Be my friend. I will wear the white shirt I only wear to sing in the choir. I will brush my hair desperately, but it will never look like yours. I will ask you if I can touch your hair, you will say yes. I will ask you if you love me, you will say yes and I will know it was all a mistake.

So I will ask again. Several times. You will always say yes. Until I know for sure that you don't know what I'm asking.

 

***

 

I walk in the mud by the river. I love the mud, Florence, hailstorms, the river, the river swollen, spilling out into the field.

Come, Florence. To the river. To the tree.

Florence wears a special corset, her spine is twisted. She has a corset, a scoliosis, beautiful hair, special books, cut in three parts. You can create imaginary animals by flipping the three parts of each page in different directions.

The upper part for the head.

The middle part for the belly.

The lower part for the legs and feet.

Come, Florence, follow me down the hill, in the mud, I am wearing a white shirt, but no sweater and the wind is cold, heavy with rain, I won't ask anymore if you love me. It brings bad luck.

The mud will protect me from you; the tree I know by the river will impress you. You will understand me once you climb inside the tree. There'll be the river too. Hidden stones in the mud the cows trip on when they drink.

Don't be scared of cows.

Don't be scared of snakes. Grass snakes, couleuvres. They are not venomous.

 

***

 

In the tree I see you're scared. Your body can't bend. The branches scare you almost as much as snakes.

You move slow.

I want to show you the river from above. Our house, shrunk at the top of the hill. I want to show you me. Part river, part mud, part tree. I reach out to you. I want to show you how to move inside branches. I reach for your shoulder, so slender, I push.

You fall.

The sound of falling bone on rock is a new sound for me.

You do not make a sound.

image: Lucie Bonvalet


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