Juste une fable n° 44


dreamscapes (betrayals) n° 19



Mary Shaw



what was the meaning of that snow? it covered me as i tiptoed out, round and about the elevator that carried me sometimes to the fifth floor, sometimes to the third, when i wanted to go to the fourth of that old building.

i was o.k. with spending some time, a bit more time, with my job, even though i had been swearing for years it was time to quit. and increasingly, with little sighs and sometimes massive puffs of air, my love, olivier, would agree.

       but nevertheless, i had committed to consider one more time an option of sorts, and it had to do with sending a young person or two on a mission

to gather something

like glory from the world.

and obviously these kids couldn't be sent out naked. olivier and i couldn't just take them in and then unsolicitously push them out the door. they would have to be raised by us, educated, and armed, given at the very least snow suits.

and here's where the trouble began. for we got a message saying that despite the fact there was advertising in our department and everything would be once again hunky-dory – full funding for education, for preparing our young for the future, was just around the corner, and we should go into operation mode first class – something very little that we asked for, very small, such as water- and ice-proof vests, to protect tender bodies from winter, was denied by a committee,

behind some crazy closed door.

and olivier was furious about that. he was smoking, let me tell you.

but being furious is not my way, not anymore. i've tried that a few times, such as when it was proposed that we extend our services through a screen and no longer raise our children or tell them what we know of the truth within earshot or eyeshot, but just present them with an image and maybe a copy of our voice, while we stay at home in our bedrooms, but then expect them to go out.

i got devastated, even cried when i heard about that. but then i realized the secret. if things were changing in that direction, it was because it was no longer assumed that the people we were teaching were in any way ours, or by any remote stretch children, nor that what they were looking to learn from us was something central to their very well-being, to the core of their nature and their lives. everything was now peripheral, extendable, reproducible, almost ad infinitum.

so what was the big deal?

the crisis? what i had thought i was doing before was now something done for. so all that was left before me was a vast expanse of snow. this was certainly the case, even if deep in the recesses of my mind and heart i might have bits and pieces of the past still crowding around me, a person or two i could still watch a movie with, and relate to almost in the way that i connect with olivier when we hold hands in a nearly empty theater, very close to the wall in the dark.

     and inside the building that was surrounded by this snow, there was also, for sure, a conference room, with a screen and an interesting movie, where i could go to teach or learn with a few of the youths i know, while we were waiting to see what next would be coming from the information room. the film we saw presently was amusing, though it was not at all to my taste. it was a blend between a documentary and an action movie, whose purpose seemed to remind us that certain types of things were still going on – going on, that is, if a young person still could muster up the gumption to

suit up for the outside world and jump into its glow.

        but i was only able to pay half attention to the movie, because i selfishly kept getting distracted by a question that had everything to do with my own fate. yes, my concern was more urgently, more pointedly connected to my own fate than to that of any of my loved ones, whether those equal-but-younger or those equal-but-older and wiser souls that had surrounded me in the various parts that were still populated of this building where i'd occupied myself now for many years.

       well, it came to pass, as it always does, that some of this fate of mine was revealing itself, even as i was worrying about it. and perhaps that is what determined the negative decision coming from the information room.


it was decreed, by the people who were supposed to make all decisions, that even though the building ought to be maintained with heating and caretakers and elevators and so forth, not so much as a vest would be given to anyone to venture outside. that pissed olivier off royally, and he was thinking and scratching his head so as to come up with a last or a next strategy to turn those dire conditions around.

        but i had to simply drop his hand and walk off. i'm sorry if he felt abandoned. but this kind of war, where every single battle that is won is lost, is something i have no taste for. i prefer a form of losing, which is grander, less heroic, but more tragic, and the end,

much closer to nature

with feelings that are sad but sweet. so i made my way alone to the elevator, where i determined i would ride up and down a while between the floors before making my own way out in the snow.

i met a few people we know. one in particular was really obnoxious. she was a woman, who kept taking everyone in the elevator past the floors they wanted to accede to and getting them stuck on the one where she used to reign. i think you know who i'm talking about.

i even spoke to a few of her former charges, and it turned out that they knew people personally, and were involved from afar in the production of the movie that blended the action with the documentary. so it seemed that things were still happening on that floor. but i didn't give a whit.

       what became increasingly my objective was just to get outside and

test at last the snow.

so finally a miracle happened, and those are

what you live for.

a gentleman in a blue shirt with kindly eyes to match, a ruddy face and a graying beard, was just returning from washington and heading for the aforementioned floor. and over his shoulder he was carrying one of those unwieldy, old-fashioned movie cameras. but he told me that in fact he had come mainly to film the snow outside our building, to figure out how deep it was and how long it was meant to last.

now that seemed like something that could engage the whole of me, especially since he graciously invited me to wait for a moment while he picked up a paper on the third floor, and then descended back to the ground floor, where i could count several minutes and then follow him out.

and i have to admit i felt something like cold trepidation, while i was watching him tramp around the glass foyer of the elevator and saw that once in a while in the slushy snow, his boots would truly sink. but knowing i had nothing to do anymore inside that building, that framework which had structured my life for so long, i took the plunge, you might say, and followed him through the door, then trudged away from the building, maybe as much as 10 meters rather than a few feet.

and there i was rewarded because the snow was heavy and soft, but not slushy at all, so i didn't sink in the least. i just sat there, cozily. and there was blue sky, the air was mild. i didn't need any vest.

      i wasn't even afraid about more snow coming, because it was so fine, so pretty, so incredibly delicate and light, that one couldn't be sure even whether the few flakes falling were announcing storms acoming, or rather were just being carried by a breeze, the gentlest possible wind, 

        bringing snow from elsewhere

that felt like dancing in the night.

Mary Shaw est professeure de littérature française des dix-neuvième et vingtième siècles à l'Université de Rutgers (New Jersey). Outre ses travaux universitaires, elle a publié deux livres pour enfants ainsi qu'un recueil de poésie intitulé Album Without Pictures (Halifax, N. S., Editions VVV, 2008).


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