by Éric Plamondon
translated by Dimitri Nasrallah
Véhicule Press/Esplanade Books, 2018
Fortunately there’s fishing. There are his days of freedom, when he can leave in the early morning with fishing rods and lures in hand, off to the river. He cuts through the tall grass. He traipses to the old willow. The river at that spot gives way to a large pool at the bottom of a picturesque waterfall. Trout love to gather at this foot of the rapids, in the deep basin, especially the bigger specimen. When Gabriel goes fishing behind his grandmother’s house, he always begins his day at this spot. It’s rare that a new trout hasn’t settled there since his last visit.
Finding himself at the water’s edge with his fishing rod always stirs in him a sense of urgency. The desire to cast his line in the water as fast as possible practically puts him in a trance. Then comes the wait. The pleasure of fishing’s wait is one of those patient joys that only the most obsessed understand. Paralyzed in his spot, as close as possible to the water’s edge, watching the lure sink gently while hoping that trout will find it. Listen to the sound of the rapids as the birds whistle. He must rake the pool. He must recast his line, a trout could be lying low in each of the basin’s recesses. Then, just like lightning, a few brief tugs are sent coursing through your body. Brusquely you pull the rod toward you. Nothing. You know now that there’s something down there beneath the surface that’s tempted by your worm, but that’s nevertheless suspicious of some aspect of the offer. You’ll have to rouse it. You recast there, where the ripples first formed. Delicately, you turn the reel’s crank. You rewind the line and you recast. With short casts, you tease the prey that’s watching you. You check that the worm is still there. The smells of undergrowth and the waterfall’s spray envelope you. A mosquito circles your head.
All at once, the line tightens. The attack. Something is caught on the hook and can’t get loose. With a clack, the line unspools in a ziiiiiiii! Should he let it run a little further or strike now? Rivages has but one technique: once he catches a bite, he pulls hard toward the riverbank in the hopes that the fish will emerge from the water. He’s often succeeded in doing this, and that’s the case now. He pulls the rod with all his might, aiming behind him. The fish leaves the water. It draws a loose arc of a circle. It lands in a bundle of ferns. Rivages runs there, where it writhes in all its senses. Its dappled skin radiates in the daylight. It’s a trout. He seizes its beauty with both hands: a speckled trout, a foot long. The hook has come loose on its own. The day is off to a good start.
Brautigan is fifteen years old when McCarthy starts his witch-hunt. Everyone who appears to be a red from near or far has to be eliminated. He takes care of his little sister. They’re often left alone all day, if not all night. He’s the eldest in a family of four children, all from different fathers. Before he discovers writing, his biggest pleasure in life is trout fishing.
He starts writing because of the girls. He’s the timid type at the back of the class, not at all captain of the football team. Too big for his age, he tries to make himself small. People notice anyhow. His shoes are full of holes, his hair too fair. He prefers books to his peers. When he crosses paths with Suzy or Patricia, he writes a poem. He wants to dig up this tickle from deep within his breastplate. It’s the same tickle he wants to feel when he sees Vicky or Martha.
In his poems, he’s engaged to them all. He dreams of them all. That’s how it is. A poet, a pretty face, love, and how I play the zither for you, and how you are my sweet, and minstrels, and troubadours, dreaming always. This is how he began. He writes poems for girls.
Brautigan is the Americanization of the German word Bräutigam. It means fiancé.
One day, with Annie-Anne, we tried to make a mayonnaise. It takes all of two ingredients. You need an egg yolk and oil. It’s not exactly magic. You have to beat the egg yolk while adding the oil very carefully, very slowly, with as much delicacy as you can muster. You beat the egg as you add a stream of oil. You continue to stir it until the mix begins to thicken. If it thickens, the mayonnaise is set. It all comes together because of the dispersion of microscopic droplets.
Six times we tried. Six fucking eggs we broke for nothing. All we ended up with was pissy-looking yellow water, a slimy and revolting substance. It’s true that, when you’re dealing with mixing oil into the placenta of a chicken, things can get revolting pretty quickly.
The secret to success with your mayonnaise is a little spoonful of mustard added to the egg yolk before stirring in the oil.