Milk and Honey: Chapter Six

***Please keep in mind, as you read this, that this is a very rough draft of what will, one day, be a novel… I am currently revising/rewriting…***

I have decided to serialize the novel I finished in May.  Please visit: https://milkandhoney2009.wordpress.com/ for the preceding five chapters.  Enjoy!

The benevolence of the Leviathan made a deep impact on Luc.  Prior to that day in September, Luc had seen fish and the rest of the animal kingdom as being under the jurisdiction of mankind.  Father Baudrillard often spoke about this; it served him well in a community of hunters and fisherman.  When Baudrillard encouraged hunters in their quests, offering plates would overflow with money and the occasional pelt.

Luc was impressed by the mercy the Leviathan had shown to his uncle.  For years, the beast had been stalked mercilessly; the fishing community’s Holy Grail.  Everyone wanted to spill the Leviathan’s blood.  Everyone wanted to tug at his guts.  But the Leviathan had passed up his chance at revenge by spitting up Pierre and had sacrificed his own life by doing so.  Luc’s opinion of man’s relationship with animals forever changed.

Luc no longer hunted for sport.  When he and his fellow cub scouts were sent  into the sticks, armed with slingshots of various calibers, Luc always came back empty handed.  Instead of hunting squirrels, Luc would often hide in a dingle and with his incredible aim, would sabotage the efforts of his friends to kill squirrels and birds.  Luc’s smooth stones struck the young knuckles of his peers and many animals were saved.

It didn’t take long for the other cub scouts to figure out what was happening.  At campfires, Luc would rave like a man possessed about the necessity of kindness toward animals.  At first, the scouts found Luc’s newest form of eccentricity amusing.  They started to call him “Francis”.  Luc got stranger and stranger.  He claimed that he was able to talk to the birds and that he had been doing so since his infancy.  He baptized a number of infant squirrels in the river; nervous laughter rose with campfire smoke.

On a Friday in mid-October, some boys had cornered a cat.  The cat’s back was arched and her fur swelled as she hissed and spat at the young boys.  Joseph, the largest of the bunch, led the assault.  He claimed that his dad used traps for the strays such as this that threatened to overrun their house.  Joey had developed his own reputation for animal cruelty.  While some kids burned ants with magnifying glasses, Joey caught squirrels with fishing hooks and cheese.  Such unfortunate animals were subject to Joey’s cruel imagination.  Some squirrels drowned, others torn limb from limb.  He was rumored to have set a cat’s tail on fire near the school house and smiled malevolently when questioned about it.  Predictably, it was he who threw the first, and largest, stones at the cat, which gushed blood red blood in the dust.

Luc was on his way home when he heard the fiendish laughter of the cat’s tormenters.  At first, he assumed that the tight circle of school boys was formed around a fight.  Fighting was quite common in the village and hardly discouraged.  Sometimes the boys’ fathers would come watch and cheer on their sons.  Luc only fought a couple of times and rarely watched.  He almost ignored the group until he heard the distinct scream of the cat at the centre of a human circle.  Luc’s heart beat rapidly as he approached the crowd.

Blood dripped from the cat’s whiskers.  She had given up her attempts to defend herself and lay in a pool of her own blood.  None of the boys who surrounded her were perceptive enough to notice that the cat was pregnant with her first litter; it is unlikely that that would have made a difference.  Suddenly, a large stone smashed into the back of Joey’s head.  He was knocked out immediately and fell to the ground with an ominous thud.  Before the other boys had time to react, Luc was on top of Joey’s limp body delivering blow after blow, using his fists and rocks.  Joey’s blood flowed freely and mingled with that of the feline at the centre of the fast-dispersing circle of boys.

It took all of them to pull Luc off of Joey.  Luc snarled and spat and screamed curses at his victim.  One of the boys had fetched the scout leader, Victor, from the den.  When he arrived on the scene,  Victor slapped Luc with a force he usually reserved for grown men.  He pulled Luc up to his own eye level.  “What the fuck do you think you’re doing Louis?  Huh?  Are you trying to kill him or what?  Look at him for Christ’s sake!  What the fuck?”  He threw Luc to the ground and inspected the bloody mess who was crumpled next to the cat.  His heart sank.  He thought, for a moment, that Joey might be dead.  He shook the boy and was slightly reassured when Joey’s eyes tried to open.  The boy’s eyes looked straight ahead and were filled with confusion and terror.  Blood and dust were everywhere.

Joey survived; the cat did not.  Luc wept and had a small funeral in honour of the cat, who he posthumously named Mary.  Luc’s grief distracted him from the severe reprimands he received from his father, his mother, his Cub Scout leader, the priest and countless others.  A town meeting was held to determine Luc’s fate and despite Luc’s passionate defense, he was disgracefully banned from the club.

Ten of Luc’s closest friends protested his ejection from the club by burning their uniforms at the next camp fire.  Victor looked on in horror as smoke from the sacred threads of ten uniforms burned in his nostrils.  He commanded the boys to go home immediately and they walked through the night arm in arm, wearing only their ginch (for they had burned both the top half and the bottom half of their uniforms).

Luc was more patient and methodical in the way he chose to exact his revenge against the town and the Boy Scouts, particularly.  From a young age, Luc was adept in making others feel keenly the full force of his fury.  His beating of Joey aside, Luc was usually very subtle about his rage.  When angered, Luc countered with silence.  Usually buoyant and amiable, Luc, when angry, could turn off the switch.  With the exception of his ten closest friends, Luc did not speak to anyone in the village for close to three months.  Even Luc’s parents, who had sympathized with their son, only mildly punishing him in order to satisfy the demands of the community, were subject to Luc’s silent rage.

By November, Marcel’s patience was wearing thin.  Luc came to the breakfast table on a particularly cold morning, sat down and nodded to his father.  Before the incident, Luc was full of excited chatter in the mornings.  Between sips of strong swill, Luc told jokes, make up stories and make his siblings piss their pants with laughter.  Since his discharge from the boy scouts, however, Luc ate his breakfast in utter silence—only grunting requests for more food to be passed his way.

“Come on Luc, this has to stop.  How long are you going to keep this up, anyway?  You know, we let you off pretty easy. That Joey kid will never look like a normal human being thanks to you—if you were over eighteen, you’d probably be in prison.  We only grounded you for two fuckin’ weeks and now you act as though we don’t exist.  Yesterday, Father Baudrillard told me you don’t even say anything in the confessional.  Your marks have gone to shit, you barely speak to your friends anymore and they quit the fucking cub scouts to support you.  You’d better get the fuck over this or you’re gonna fuck up your life and go to Hell.  Speak, for Christ sake!”

Odette heard her husband’s words from the kitchen and joined the men in the dining room.  “Your father is right Luc.  You need to get past this.  It’s been two months now.  Forgive and forget.”  Odette’s words stirred something in Luc.  He looked up.  “Don’t speak to me as if I’m your child.  Don’t you see that you don’t have any sway over me?  I answer to God alone.  I don’t need you to tell me how to live.  I don’t need Victor to tell me how to live and I certainly don’t need the fuckin’ Catholic Church to tell me how to live!  Baudrillard’s a homo and those nuns who try to teach me are a bunch of dykes.  The Catholic Church is led by fags and lesbians…”

Marcel sprang to his feet and slapped his son’s face.  “Go to your fuckin’ room right now Luc.  Never talk to your mother like that again, or I will not hesitate to beat the living shit out of you.  And I swear t’ Christ that if you ever blaspheme like you just did, I will send you away—you are no fucking son of mine!”

Marcel looked at Luc through a veil of tears: he knew that the words he had just spoken were true.  From the moment Luc was born, Marcel knew that he didn’t belong to him.  Luc looked directly into his father’s eyes, as if for the first time, and saw Marcel’s tears.  He felt embarrassed for his father.  Luc rose from his chair and went to his bedroom, where he put a hole in the wall with his own fist; Marcel went to his wood shop and wept.

The argument between Luc and Marcel made an unspoken truth more tangible for Odette.  For years, the relationship between her husband and her son had been tenuous.  Even in diapers, Luc possessed an unnatural authority over his father.  Marcel was de-masculinized by his own son, and Luc knew it.  He took mercy on his father, however, and never took advantage of their power imbalance.  Marcel knew and it hurt him deeply. Odette felt responsible in some way.  She felt bad for her husband.  True, he had Jean; their relationship brought Marcel great joy.  Marcel was silent about Luc, however.  They would go fishing together, but Marcel often came home with a sadness in his eyes in spite of the tremendous haul they would always bring home.  Marcel saw the way Luc acted with his Uncle Pierre and his jealousy was painfully apparent.  When Marcel returned to the house, his eyes were red.  It broke Odette’s heart.

Luc’s silence went on unabated for a long time.  Christmas came.  When Odette asked Luc what he wanted, he shrugged.  Luc gave no gifts that year though he traditionally gave the most thoughtful gifts.  This year, he quietly said that it had slipped his mind.  He said a formal “thank you” when Marcel and Odette presented Luc with the family’s copy of The Imitation of Christ.  Luc had always treasured the book.  He could often be found reading it alone underneath the big Maple in their back yard.  He read meditatively, calm and focused, yet he barely cracked a smile as he unwrapped the paper from the book.  Christmas, this year, was unbearably silent in the Louis’ home.

Midnight, December 26.  Foot-prints walk across the frozen lake.  In the summer, it took about an hour to get to the clubhouse from the Louis’ home but when the surface of the lake was paved with ice, the length of the journey was significantly shorter: walking on water cut time in half.  The wind blew cold that night.  Luc tried his best to keep warm as he approached the Scout den.  He shivered deeply as he looked up at the sign, covered with snow.  His anger piqued.  He walked around to the south side of the clubhouse for shelter.  He spied a place where he could build a fire.  In his backpack, Luc carried some wrapping paper and bacon grease from home.  His fire building skills were remarkable, but he wanted to be sure.  Finally, he found his spot.

Luc lit a greased, paper wick.  The flame grew quickly, and soon consumed the tinder.  The fire spread and began to nibble at the foundations of the clubhouse; Luc giggled.  A breeze came from the south, and gave the flame even more strength.  The fire soon revealed the wooden bones of the structure.  The snow around the clubhouse melted.  By the time Luc started walking back home, his feet were soaking wet.

Luc felt the enormous weight of his anger over the past three months melt off his back.  He slowly lifted the latch of the front door so as to not wake his parents or siblings.  He slipped underneath his sheets, and giggled silently at the thought of the burning clubhouse.  He blew out his lamp and dreamed of flames, of Joey’s gnashing, broken teeth and the clubhouse.  He slept deeply and breathed deeply.  By morning, smoke from the blaze trickled through his open window.

The next day, Luc returned to the breakfast table in old form.  Odette was taken off guard as her son rambled with the intensity of one who hasn’t been home in months.  She was at once excited and worried.  She was suspicious as to what had brought on the profound change in her son.  Luc continued to speak insanely, as if possessed; he was late for school that day.

Marcel had arrived early to work.  His foreman asked if he had heard about the fire at the clubhouse the previous night and Marcel understood immediately.  He feigned ignorance: “Fuck no, did they catch the guy who did it?”  “How do you know someone did it?”  The question caught Marcel off guard.  “Well, its fuckin’ winter.  How many fires just begin in the dead of winter for no reason?  It must’ve been arson.”  He worked hard that day, frequently checking his watch.  He skipped his coffee breaks and his lunch, and went home ten minutes early so as to avoid talking with his co-workers.

“Honey, we’re gonna have to get the fuck out of here.”  “What the fuck are you talking about, Marcel?”  “Luc burned down the cub scout building last night, we’re moving to Alberta.”  Odette wasn’t surprised.  She saw how jubilant Luc was at the breakfast table that morning.  The fire made sense to her and it was only a matter of time before the other villagers connected the dots.  “Ok, but we’re bringing my mother with us.”

Odette packed her things and she made sure that her children did the same.  The move, though sudden, wasn’t against her will.  She felt out of place since the cat incident; even at Church.  Marcel started up the old school bus he had bought for real cheap.  The Louis family, along with Odette’s mother, took only the essentials and left the village at dusk.  Three days later, they crossed over the Alberta border.

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