the ladle (translation)

22 juillet 2009



I am never happy with my translations (I think each language has its own music, and it’s darn hard to transcribe one to the other : this isn’t a ppt slide presentation…). But here it is. Feedback is appreciated, as always. ;)


He picks the object up and trots outside. Climbs down the rocky stairs. He’s unsteady and cautiously holds the border on which small yellow flowers wander. When you’re two and a half years old, steps are still a dangerous adventure. The courtyard’s surrounded by trees and unkept herbs, he sits down on the gravel, crossing his legs. It’s shiny. There’s a long handle, and then it becomes widder. The child tilts his head, and looks at the way his face is reflected in a deformed and twisted way. It’s a ladle. A simple ladle made of metal, the kind that’s found on the cheap shelves. You have to bend low to see them in the supermarket’s alleys. It’s old, there are traces where one had to scrub hard to keep it clean. Time and abandon tarnished its initial brightness.

For him, it’s neither a cooking nor a weapon device. It’s a curious and amusing deforming mirror.


Not far from him, his mother, who spreads the laundry. She’s thin, with slight fingers. She busies herself in silence, her face smooth and nontelling. The line oscillates to the wind’s whim, and shakes the wet sheets. Some hair escaped from her bun. Long, light hair. She pulls a few pins from her pocket and adjust herself. The linen lines up and behaves, like the child. It’s an idealistic picture, this pale sun, the breeze, spotless laundry, a woman, and her child.


It’s like she sows them, her hairpins.  It’s often that her husband collects them. He does so without a thought. He likes it. They are to be found in his pockets, his car, in his files. Each smells like his wife, like his wife’s shampoo. He likes slidding his hand in his pocket, hoping to find a small item, a handkerchief, a pen, and have this exquisite surprise, like a breath of air and poetry in his day.

The first time he saw her, it was from afar. She was dressed in white with a blue apron, and she was picking up blackberries with a group of young girls from the neighbouring village. He saw her before he heard her sweet voice, and yet, still, he was intrigued. Attracted. After, he had to be formely introduced, some rules aren’t to be played with, and then get to know her. He had to make sure the person was as nice as the facade. That’s how his mother would have put it. Probably. He tries not think of it, of his mother. He wanted to get married and have children, he needed a companion who would be sweet and loving, and above all who would not be like his mother.


The child stays on the gravels. He looks at the light playing on the ladle and escaping from it to crash on the neighboring tree’s trunk. He shakes the ladle and the light dances and silently he laughts. He knows he must be quiet. And there he stays. Neither too far nor too close. He doesn’t read his mother’s moods well enough in order to know when « It » might burst. The storm. It’s so quick, quicker than clouds in the sky. There was only one that was real, one thunderstorm. He was too small, he doesn’t remember, but his body kept memory of it. The small storms, since, scare him but never hurt. A shadow on his mother’s face, she stays still, all weird, she doesn’t move. He doesn’t know why he’s scared. Why he’s stiff all of a sudden, and daren’t move until she breathes. Until she straightens her hair slowly and keeps on tending to the laundry.


He does not know. When it may happen. He ignores the words to call and name it. He needs to stay, neither too far nor too close. Enough to be under her gard, enough not to croud her.


His Mummy is beautiful. She hums softly when she cooks. She smells good like soap, washing powder and fresh mint she grows in the garden. It’s his fault surely. He must be guilty. If only someone could tell him of what, so he could fix it.


She wanted him, this child. When he was born, she loved him without thinking about it. This so fragile and warm thing. This new being, this part of her and him, of her husband and her. The hours spent over his craddle, admiring him, overwelmed with a great wonder. She tiptoed in his room at night to check that he was well alseep. Until he was three months old.


She’s not really sure. Are things ever simple and constant. How it started, which event preceeded the other. In her memory, everything’s dark and tired, thinking about is too painful. Going back, it’s so hard. Except in the morning, very early, when the house still sleeps. She looks at herself in the bathroom, she looks at herself forever with unknown harshness. She confronts the bad mother facing her, she judges her and curses her. And because, if we’re not condemned to be evil, we aren’t assured to be good either, she tightens her fists, hard. Very hard. Enough so that the nails hurt. Her husband doesn’t hear, her husband thinks she’s wonderful and perfect. He cannot dream of the volcanoes seething inside her. She goes back to bed.  Her husband wakes up, gets up. He looks at her face and kisses her mouth and her eyelashes.

Her husband loves her, but she, she does not deserve his love.


The first time, the first time he came between his father and his mother, he was six. When you’re six, you don’t sleep at night and you hear the adults’ screams. Harpies’ screeches,  followed by accommodating rumblings….

When you’re six, you’re a knight who saves princesses during the day, and you hide under your duvet to escape from the night’s ugliness. He never sees anything. He imagines. It’s worse and it’s terrible. The first time he came between his mother and his father, it was hard, getting out his bed, and then his room. Walk down the hallway in the dark, until the ray of light coming from the half closed livingroom door. From a mess. His father in a corner, half kneeling, his arms in front of his face. She. Her back. An object in her hand. A menacing brandished hand. He didn’t see what it was. There was no time, he was already running to stand in front of his father.


He didn’t know this could exist, between an father and a mother. He knew only of verbal abuse. As it is, he knew of nothing else, for him, that was normality.


He imagined so many terrible things, so many monsters. A crack finds its way into his heart, a rift that will never go. You can’t erase such a wound. It can only grow until it explodes, unless you nurse it and stop it’s progression. And so it stays, though one can hardly see it. Evidence stamped into his flesh and self.


The first time he came between his father and his mother, it was also the last.

The police will say that she was sober. That’s what his father will tell him with a rusty voice. Much later, the only time they’ll ever acknowledge this. His father will free him, and he’ll go on, looking for a woman, a wife, some one who won’t be like his mother, in order to live the exact opposite from his childhood.


But on this night, he’s too damaged, too broken, this child, who’s only six years of age. He will wake up hours later in pain and his hospital bed, his father so small on the armchair next to him. A father with a stricken and guilty face, a man with a new resolution in his eyes.

It’s crazy, the damages you can make with a ladle.

He will never see his mother again. He’s had at least that, this protection. His father protected him with his body first, and then with the law.


When he reached 3 months, the baby started screaming. At night. He’d wake up and wail until she’d hold him, there was only her, his father could take him all he wanted, it didn’t change anything, and then, he had to go to work, he needed sleep. She doesn’t know anymore if he started crying at night or if her milk started to dry up. There was this sadness that had colored everything in shades of grey. The nurses look for bread crumbs from breakfast to check if every-thing’s all right when they visit for tea, to discern a depression in a woman. There were no bread crumbs in her house. Only a screaming child who wouldn’t stop, and for whom no doctor had any diagnoses. Change milk. Change soap. Relax, a child needs an unstressed mother you know. The baby’s fine. It must be you.


He would calm down somewhat in the evening, when her husband came home and ate quietly while telling them about his day. Her husband, he hasn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary. His wife had lost weight rapidly. There were dark circles under her eyes. Having a newborn, it’s tiring. His wife is amazing. The child was confused between light and dark, and cried at night. But surely, during the day, you catch up while he naps, right? She gives him what he wants. She agrees, she smiles. He’s a happy man.


The child screams and the mother does not sleep. One day, she loses it. He’s nine months old. She can’t take it anymore. There’s a cushion there, right next to the cradle. The cradle in which she puts her child, everyday, and she stays next to him, twists her hands without scraping herself as she’d like. To keep the facade pretty. Smooth and serene.

There’s a cushion and the child is crying and she’s screaming too, until there’s only the sound of her voice left, a savage howl, a pain expressed at last. It’s her child’s silence that breaks her trance, and she doesn’t understand.


What. The cushion, the child.


She cries again, but out of fear. The child moans. She holds him tight next to her and runs away from the house. She goes and see that old doctor – he’s almost retired – whom the Butcher’s wife told her about. It’s  a bit far, it’s not practical. The car runs a little too fast, the turns shake the baby seat on which the child stays, sitting up-right, his eyes wide open. She was not expected but he sees her right away. He keeps her in for a whole hour. Beholds her in a neutral yet friendly gaze. He listens to her incoherent words and hears her unspoken words. The old doctor – he’s almost retired. Had he been younger, he would have probably called social services, but at his age, he’s seen so many mothers, this one needs help and that’s all. He keeps her a whole hour, examines her child, examines her too. He prescribes plants in drops for the child and for her little granules that taste like sugar. It won’t hurt you, there there, I’ll see you in three days. It’s  a bit far, it’s not practical. She’ll come back three days later, as planned, and then a week later. The consultations become slowly less frequent, two weeks, and then a month. She stays an hour every-time, and she talks. She leaves with a prescription for sugary plants. The old doctor does not count his time. He looks at her and listens, and her child hears what she needs to say, and he becomes quiet.


One year later, he’s not a talkative child and never takes much space. But all the while, his Mummy, she’s cured. The storms, the shadows on her face, it’s when she sees the harm she’s done. You never know the traces you leave behind you. Her child has forgiven her, he loves her, yet a part of him remains unreachable. She see him playing with such precaution, on his guard. He who won’t let himself be loved. How to fix it? How do you win you child’s love, and earn trust again?


This needs time. Acceptance, that it won’t come back at once, and that even later, her child might always be shy of her.

But most of all, she needs to dare.

She flies on him and grabs him high, and she turns, turns, turns and laugh oh so loud. Too loud, for she’s so afraid. Afraid enough to lose her step and fall slowly on the grass, her on the back and he on her, protected. He’s protected and in her arms, regardless of how heavy he is. She’s still shaking from an almost hysterical laugh, and at last she dares hold him very tight with all her ove. She holds nothing back, and she doesn’t break him. She dares ask for his forgiveness and repeats ’till she’s breathless IloveyouIloveyouIloveyou…


He stiffens immediately. Terrified. Paralyzed. Without so much as a gesture to save himself. He lets her take him and accepts in advance whatever might be coming from her, yet closing his eyes a little just in case.

When he opens them, the world is spinning around him, and the only thing still is his mother’s face, turned towards him while she makes him flight higher and higher. They fall all of a sudden, but she holds him tight and he doesn’t feel anything. Other than her smell and her warmth. He hears her love song that rocks him with a forgotten feeling.

He knows. His finger loosen and he lets go. His father will find his ladle when he’ll come back in the evening, abandoned on the doorsteps. He will tip toe in his house and watch his wife and boy cuddled asleep on the couch.


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