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Author Topic: Former Ottawa assembly members tell their story - an open letter  (Read 22670 times)
lenore
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« Reply #15 on: May 15, 2004, 08:57:28 am »

excerpt part 2

---
   There is a bible study tonight, but supper first.  Rose has a special treat
tonight, one they’ve never had before: a platter of six rainbow trout sits in the centre
of the table.  André gives thanks, sounding tired, discouraged perhaps.  André is often
discouraged, struggling to rejoice, struggling to cover the fact that she’s not rejoicing.  
   But Clara is anything, but not discouraged, not this afternoon.  She’s not so
tired as she has been.   There’s a lightness this evening, and  “What do ya get when
you kiss a guy?” still bounces it’s way through her system, and now, these trout, eyes
open on every plate, slowly consumed by all.  Clara eats hers eagerly, the skin too,
though Eileen scrunches her nose at this, Clara considers the skin to be the best part.
André picks at her food,  Rose chitters about work, her plans for the Mission and
Training Team - which is her entire life currently.  Janet, whose long red hair is
pulled into a tight bun on top of her head just now, is smiling blankly at everyone.
They’re all here, twelve stories up in the sister’s apartment.  The sisters of Banner
Road.
   “How was your day, André?” Eileen asks, pulling the last off her fish meat
from its skeleton.  
   “Oh, just.... fine.” André answers.
   “Yeah?” Eileen responds, like André has actually said something, “Well,
today I learned how to draw blood.  Try topping that.” she says, still chewing fish.
   Yeah, Eileen’s a lab tech now.  Clara considers this for a moment, how Eileen
got counsel and really considered getting the training in the first place, with Aids
being such a big thing these days.  When the brothers told her it would be all right,
Eileen seemed almost sad about it.
   Clara stares at her plate now, a naked skeleton with face intact.  She thinks of
her brother, of fishing with Ken and Dad, of kissing the mouth of a dead fish once on
a dare.  Clara takes her fork and knife and cuts the head from its skeleton.  No one has
noticed.  She shoves the tines of her fork into the back of the fish head and props it up
like a puppet.  Then, Clara opens her mouth.
   “What do ya get when you kiss a guy?  You get enough germs to catch
pneumonia.  Then he never phones ya. I’ll never fall in love a-gain... I’ll never fall in
love again.”  Clara’s face smiles and scans the faces around the table.  Four other
faces stare back at her, eyes wide, mouths open.  Like she’s done a strip tease or
something.  For a moment, there is nothing but silence.  Clara raises the fish head,
pressing her lips against fish lips, she kisses it.
   Now, there’s only one sound that Clara can hear.  Her own laughter.  She
alone is laughing.  It is the funniest thing she’s ever heard or seen or done.  The
funniest thing that could happen.  But the sisters don’t get it.  They don’t, and their
faces say so.  Even Janet, whose face is usually a blank smile, is now simply blank.
Clara places her fish head back down on its plate, where it should be.  Her face burns
hot, but still smiles.  It’s okay.  They didn’t get it, but it doesn’t matter.

   Clearing the table and washing dishes, Clara remembers laughter, like it’s a
concrete noun.  Beth is popping popcorn, maybe ten years old, Clara eight, Ken six.
Mom and Dad have gone to the bar.  Clara mixes Tang in a pitcher with cold water.
Orange Tang.  The crystals crack and scrape against the bottom of the Tupperware
pitcher as she mixes.  Beth empties her pot of hot kernels into the a bread pan that is
so big, it would have doubled as a bathtub in pioneer times.
   When Paul says “Popcorn fart” Clara’s cheeks are already stuffed like big
bumpy balloons with as much popcorn as she could force into them, and she’s just
taken a pretty good drink of orange Tang too.  What she spews out in laughter is
yellow, melted and projected evenly over the bread pan, across the room.  And even
though she’s ruined everyone else’s snack, Clara can’t stop laughing.  Even though
Beth will tell Mom, and Mom’s big cracked hand will come down hard across Clara’s
mouth and she’ll be punished for weeks, shame upon shame, Clara can’t stop
laughing.  “It’s funny, I can’t help it.” she snorts.
   
   “Clara?”  Eileen’s voice interrupts the smile on Clara’s face, the bubbles
going down the drain in the kitchen sink, the happy memory.
   “Make sure the garbage goes out as soon as you’re done there.  It’s hot in here.
Fish stinks.”  Eileen directs.
   “Yes, of course.” Clara rinses the sink and polishes the taps.  She won’t forget.
Though perhaps there should be some kind of ceremony at the garbage chute.  A
moment of silence or something for the five nameless skeletons and their heads,
descending with gravity into the dumpster fathoms below.  But Clara doesn’t say that.
She’s said enough this evening, sang enough.  And there’s the bible study yet tonight.
---
   “That’s the flesh, sister.  I can’t believe you did that....” Nancy’s voice beats
into Clara’s head from the phone at her ear. Someone told Nancy then, about the fish
kiss, the fish song, the fish head on the end of Clara’s fork. Probably yesterday, after
the bible study, not that it matters who told.  Clara knows what’s coming next.  Nancy
is only blocks away.  The sisters walk to the meetings usually, though the brothers
usually insist on driving them home in the dark.  Nancy could tell Clara to walk right
over just now and receive a consequence.
   The flesh. Nancy’s moved on to talk about the flesh, the desires of the flesh,
the seemingly innocent things we do in the flesh.  All sin.  Walking in the flesh is sin.
And Clara listens, choking back her own defense, that it was just a song, just a funny
ditty... that it meant nothing.  Clara swallows this defense, after all, there is no cause
to defend one’s self.  Self preservation is sin too, self justification, useless. Clara
needs to be dead to that flesh - the reason Christ died - to be alive to the spirit - the
fruits of the spirit manifest.     
   “And you,” Nancy’s voice falls in the cadence of a steel toed boot on concrete,
“You defiled your whole home with that carnal performance?” All flesh will fade, be
consumed,  Clara reminds herself, like grass.  
   There is nothing to say.  Just repentance.  There are tears again, that same runny nose and the sniveling.  If Clara could, would she take back yesterday, the walk
home, the Oprah show with Mrs. Landry, the song she enjoyed all day?  She should.
She must.  Clara blows her nose.  All she can hear now, are Nancy’s words.  All she
can see is Nancy’s head, shaking slowly back and forth, the furrowed forehead
changing direction again and again, eyes fixed on a very disobedient child: Clara.
Nearly twenty years old now, and bad.  Very, very, bad.


I recognize most the names and actions.
It is a very insightful story, which was based on reality.
It gets the point across.
Thank you for this posting.
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