An Excerpt from The Father: A Rough Draft (A Novel)
translated from the French by Katia Sainson
That afternoon was unbelievably hot! Mamma was dozing in the sitting room. I had laid down for my nap. The flies were everywhere. Those tireless flies on my skin. You pull the covers up and you're boiling; you throw them off and there they are. You end up watching them, following them. Fascinating. Here's what Milou said last night in the street: "You get into a bathtub. You jerk off a little. You take a fly, you pull its wings off and you put it on the very tip. It really gets you off. It's great." What a moron! And those flies! I roll around in the sheets with my legs uncovered. They are biting. It's boiling hot. Images. Images. Sweat and a dream. A heaviness that is suddenly very clammy. I am dreaming of whom, of what? I have a hard-on. Those flies. The sheets. Images, specific, elusive. The flies. The images that keep coming back, vague, crazy, clammy. The thick, vibrant flesh dazed by a deep desire, molten in the heat, restless; the flies. Up there, on the terrace, the chicken coop, the sun, the chicken coop. The flesh, thick and clammy and calling out. The imagination rushes, spreads out, settles down, expands. Puddle of dust and warm water. The flesh. Flies. On the terrace the chicken coop. Mama who was sleeping in the next room. I get up. I walk by the mirror. My body. An apricot and those flies. The heat, great and good, finally good. I climb up to the terrace. Quietly. I already know what I am going to do up there. Dazed by the heat, she was sleeping. I was hard. I took her in my right hand, with my left I kept her beak closed. Already all the birds were squawking. The rabbits started moving around. That slightly warm odor of urine and droppings. I went under the arbour. Just don't let mamma hear!
I had wedged the chicken against an old dirty velvet pillow. She was flailing about. I was afraid that she would scratch me with a swipe of her claws. I stroked her wings a bit. I made her round like a ball. Slowly, her panic-stricken anus, like a reflector, a hand that opens and then closes. Red, pink, ochre. Her panicky movements like an iris diaphragm. I was penetrating. Warm! Shit. Fascinated. At the same time scared and ashamed.
I went at it slowly and hard. The tip of my thing was stiff and straight inside there. A stitch of pleasure. Warm and like flesh turned inside out.
The chicken had quieted down. I took simple pleasure from this, like masturbation but warmer. The chicken in my hands, an immobile ball. I shook her! Dead. Perhaps suffocated. I was worried. Not panicky. Anxious. Sin. Stupidity. I wipe myself off with a piece of newspaper. When mamma finds this! Unless, I go throw her away outside, in the empty lot...
She had a trickle of blood. I put her back in the chicken coop, confused, damned stupid, sad! Nearby there were eggs, very big ones. Having got this far! Very self-assured, and yet very clever, I think. I took one. I covered it in blood and put it up against the chicken's rear end. I looked again, I went downstairs. In the bedroom, the odor of shit followed me, that color of crushed grass. My heart was pounding. I started praying. Just barely. I was ashamed. Disgusted with myself, like after jerking off. It was stupid. I laid down. Again the heat and the flies.
Later, mamma went up to the terrace with a pan of barely.
"Jeannot! Jeannot!" I didn't move. She came downstairs. In her hands the chicken and the bloody egg.
"Look," she said, "she must have laid too big an egg."
And suddenly, she screamed: "How is that possible, it's a duck egg!" I looked. Dumbfounded. My mother was getting more and more agitated. Yes, there were ducks nearby, but they were kept separated. How could she... And then another scream: "Oh! Saint Anthony, how is it possible? This is my little English rooster!" She ran back towards the terrace, in a complete panic. I watched her with my big gloomy eyes. Up there, there was a great commotion from the birds, and my mother, filled with terror.
"What is happening? What is happening? This is unbelievable! The Devil must be in this house!"
And she was frantically searching, diving her arms down among the chickens, as if looking for a solution. Me, I played dumb with my big melancholic eyes. The sad eyes, with a lump in my throat, trembling because of a delicious and horrible presence: Evil, the beautiful Demon with the twisted flames. Did mamma ever suspect?
And me all my life with that little English rooster that I had mistaken for a chicken!
That explains a lot of things.
Jean Sénac was a teacher, soldier, and writer. He was the author of numerous collections of poems, including Citoyens de beautÚ and Jubilation, and one novel, Ébauche du père: pour en finir avec l'enfance. Following the Algerian revolution, he worked in the Ministry of Education in Algeria and for Radio-Algiers with a daily program, PoÚsie sur tous les fronts. He was the founder of the magazines Soleil, Terrasses, and cofounder of Galery 54. He was murdered, possibly because of his political beliefs, in August 1973 in Algiers. More information (in French): French Wikipedia: Jean Sénac.
David Bergman and Katia Sainson are preparing an edition of Jean Sénac's Selected Poems. They teach at Towson University.
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