by Fabien Cloutier
L’instant scène, 2014
Fabien Cloutier won a first Governor General’s Literary Award in 2015 with Pour réussir un poulet, a raw and cruel portrait of the exploitation of human misery. Marie-Claude Plourde’s translation brings across the gritty, rhythmic language of the original in working-class English that verges on broken.
CARL — Geez man
’zat a job or a lunch?
JUDITH GILBERT — Oh dear just enjoy it
CARL — Not sure I want any
MÉLISSA — You’re not ashamed a’ yourself?
Your lil’ sister can open ’em up on the first try
An’ you, you’ve been messin’ with that one for five minutes
CARL — Shut up
STEVEN — I like ’em plain
MÉLISSA — Pepper lime vodka for me
I tried so far
JUDITH GILBERT — Careful not to maim yerself with that
CARL — It’s disgusting
STEVEN — You gotta eat some to develop the taste
Like blue cheese
It starts to taste good
CARL — Blue cheese
First time I ate that
It felt like I was bitin’ straight into a boil on a dick
STEVEN — For fuck’s sake
JUDITH GILBERT — Well when there’s a boil on a dick
I ain’t bitin’ into it
STEVEN — Mom for fuck’s sake
I don’t wanna hear that
JUDITH GILBERT — S’ just a joke
I’m so happy to eat oysters
Free oysters to boot
It’s almost enough to make me forget bein’ pissed off ’bout my stolen plant
STEVEN — Stolen plant?
JUDITH GILBERT — Someone stole a hibiscus from my balcony
CARL — Huh?
STEVEN — An’ I bet your door wasn’t even locked, eh?
You gotta keep your doors locked Mom
In the world we live in today
You gotta keep your doors locked
CARL — It takes a real asshole to steal a plant
JUDITH GILBERT — An asshole or an Arab
MÉLISSA — There you go again
CARL — I ain’t so sure ’bout an Arab stealin’ a plant
That’s what they’ve got a reputation for
MÉLISSA — This shit ain’t funny one bit
CARL — They’re just jokes
STEVEN — But those people, they don’t get that jokes are jokes
JUDITH GILBERT — I called 911 for my plant
They tell us to do that when somethin’ happens
But they din’t do nothin’
I thought a policeman dressed as the police woulda come
At least it’d send a signal to ’em scumbags
Out stealin’ plants
Show ’em the police give a shit ’bout that
CARL — It wasn’t an emergency
JUDITH GILBERT — Damn right it was an emergency
If that scumbag is running out onna streets
With my hibiscus in ’is hands
S’ right now they oughta go after ’im
MÉLISSA — Let’s just eat ok?
CARL — That doesn’t look good
It can’t taste good
STEVEN — Come on
JUDITH GILBERT — Do you eat shrimp?
CARL — Yeah
JUDITH GILBERT — They’re damn ugly too
MÉLISSA — An’ you eat shrimp anyway
CARL — You’ll never see me eat an ugly snatch tho
STEVEN — That ain’t true
An’ you know it
CARL — There’s no way you’re telling that now you jerk
STEVEN — You kept sayin’ yourself that your ex’s snatch
Looked kinda like someone had punched a shepherd’s pie
Din’t stop you from having two kids with ’er
MÉLISSA — Hey you jackasses
You just don’t say snatch in front of your mother
Have some basic decency you two
JUDITH GILBERT — Stop starin’ at it
It’s not like it’s gonna jump into your mouth by itself
CARL — Man that shit tastes so bad
STEVEN — Come on
Swallow it down
MÉLISSA — Wow you’re laying it on thick
STEVEN — Wut?
CARL — D’you have to eat it raw?
JUDITH GILBERT — It’s better raw
CARL — I’ll fuckin’ know what to eat
Whenever I need to throw up
JUDITH GILBERT — But just outta curiosity
Who is it who gave you such a big fat gift?
CARL — The guy who owns the mall
STEVEN — Mario Vaillancourt
JUDITH GILBERT — Ain’t that the shoppin’ centre with the restaurant you work at?
MÉLISSA — Yeah
He comes to the restaurant sometimes
I see him when I wait his table
JUDITH GILBERT — An’ what did he give you that for?
STEVEN — Well
There are cheap ones
At the dock in Caraquet
They’re cheaper there
It’s like shrimp
They’re cheaper in Matane
CARL — He knows a fisherman who’s gettin’ oysters onna side
An’ he’s givin’ me that ’cause he’d like us
To be partners sort of
We’d buy a whole lot
An’ then sell that here an’ split profits
But I don’ trust ’im
STEVEN — It’s ’cause he’s not goin’ through a distributor
It’s a fisherman who’s sellin’ some for cheap for regular folks
I think it could work
JUDITH GILBERT — Cheap cheap how cheap?
STEVEN — Real cheap
CARL — Cheap but what if it tastes like ass?
I’m regular folk but I still can’t bring myself to swallow that
STEVEN — You looked willing earlier tho?
CARL — I thought it could be nice ’nuf
But since I’ve tasted the stuff
Who’s gonna buy it if it tastes awful?
JUDITH GILBERT — Hey now you’ll have to get it outta your head
That just because ya don’t like oysters
Nobody else does
MÉLISSA — Yeah
STEVEN — Wut you doin’ this Friday?
CARL — What’s this now?
STEVEN — Answer me
Wut you doin’ this Friday?
CARL — Fuck you
STEVEN — What is it you’re doin’ Friday night?
JUDITH GILBERT — Come on answer
CARL — I’m gonna see “Tribute to Queen”
MÉLISSA — Again?
STEVEN — An’ just how many times have you seen “Tribute to Queen”?
CARL — Fuck you
STEVEN — How many?
CARL — Fuck you
STEVEN — You told me you’ve seen “Tribute to Queen” twenty-seven times
So your fuckin’ lessons on taste
You c’n shove ’em up your ass!
CARL — It tastes like ass!
JUDITH GILBERT — A deal like that’d work with restaurants
Or maybe fish markets
MÉLISSA — Under the table to boot?
STEVEN — Yup
JUDITH GILBERT — I’d be you
I’d go to Caraquet
MÉLISSA — Yup
You gotta work for a livin’
CARL — Usin’ up gas
An’ missin’ “Tribute to Queen”
To go an’ end up bored to tears in Caraquet
Can’t wrap my head ’round that
STEVEN — We won’t be goin’ there as tourists
CARL — It takes a special license to drive a truck
STEVEN — I c’n find one
I drove a school bus onna side for three years
D’ya think I took the course for that?
CARL — Dude you change your mind on a fuckin’ whim
You din’t wanna see ’is face again
An’ now you’re ready to deal oysters with the guy
MÉLISSA — Ever buy knives at Dollorama?
CARL — Like everybody else
MÉLISSA — But they’re shitty the knives from Dollorama
You cut three ’r four carrots an’ they don’t cut anymore
JUDITH GILBERT — Yeah that’s right
STEVEN — Damn right
They’re fuckin’ shit
JUDITH GILBERT — It’s like the garlic from China
It makes you burp more than the garlic from here
MÉLISSA — Anyway
The Chinese dude makin’ the knives
He’s not thinkin’
“I’m not makin’ this
He makes ’em
He sells ’em
CARL — So?
STEVEN — You’re so damn slow
MÉLISSA — That’s all
If they’re willin’ to sell knives that don’t work well
Someone can go sell oysters
Even if they don’t like the taste
CARL — It’s just/
JUDITH GILBERT — What now?
CARL — It’s goin’ a lil’ fast I think
JUDITH GILBERT — It’s not too fast at all
It’s a sign
Damn you don’t believe in signs sometimes?
STEVEN — Yeah
MÉLISSA — Yeah
JUDITH GILBERT — Back in the day
Fellas with no diploma who ended up with government jobs
With pension funds an’ all
There was plenty of ’em
But that’s over now
Even the guy out puttin’ the cones inna streets
So that they c’n paint the lines onna side of the road
He has to have a diploma
MÉLISSA — Takin’ a cone outta the pickup
Dumpin’ it onna ground every three ’r four feet
A retard could do that
JUDITH GILBERT — An’ it’d be way cheaper ’irin’ that retard
You have them put the fuckin’ cones out
’stead of paying their cable
An’ private trailers to fuck their girlfriends in
But it doesn’t work like that
The government nowadays
If ya don’t have the right paper
They don’t give a shit about ya
So you two
Who din’t even finish secondary three
C’n we jus’ agree that
When somethin’ comes your way
You have to make the most of it
JUDITH GILBERT — You don’t like it
You think it tastes like shit
That’s fine we get it
You c’n eat all the crap you want
An’ die from a heart attack in a couple of years
That’s your right
But to make a quick buck off the best oysters inna world
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing
CARL — Would you let me bring my Queen cassette?
Translation by Marie-Claude Plourde