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THE BUNT/David Zane Mairowitz STANDING AT THE PLATE, fouling off pitch after pitch, Tm trying to give a place and a name to this lanceur. I remember vaguely that I failed him in the course I used to caU "Engtish for Intermediate Morons" before I realized that teaching English in France was no laughing matter. I can still hear him struggling with the s of the third-person singular, as if a crab louse had leaped from his scalp to his tongue and refused to be spit out. And here he is now, bearing down on me from the plaque du lanceur, revenge soaping itself up in his spitbaU, and me prevented from hitting one out of the park and teaching him a lesson in character by this lingering ache from my most recent prostatic massage . Once again I swing and hear the umpire shouting "fausse," whUe the ball skids back to the cercle d'attente desfrappeurs, where the next batter waits impatiently. I've struck out swinging twice already, calling upon myself not merely the collective scorn of my students but the silent, head-shaking sarcasm of my colleagues, standing on the sidelines of what they like to caU la troisième base here in Provence, most likely wondering why I've chosen such a splendid day on which to make such an enduring fool of myself. And it won't do any longer to brag at my students, as I have aU week, that I was playing sandlot shortstop (sorry, arrêt court!) long before De Gaulle founded the Fifth Republic—and probably before most of their parents were even conceived—because I haven't had serious wood on the ball all afternoon and am showing myself to be, in effect, a seemingly lame connoisseur. This morning, when I announced to my kiné—my physiotherapist— my intention to accept my students' invitation to play, her reaction was the famitiar "Ah bon?" which harbors the most pregnant question mark in the French language and may equally stand for: "Do as you like," "It's nothing to do with me" and "Pull the other one." With my legs in a leather brace above my head and my neck strained to its maximum inwhat Mezière physiotherapy calls "conscious spine-stretching," I could well understand her concern. Would my back hold out? Would the chronic tendinitis return to my arm with every swing of the bat? This was not the Good Fairy looking out for the survival of her wayward boy so much as the unhappy prospect, for her, of adding to my already excessive therapeutic sessions on her floor mat. I let this next pitch sUde under my knees. 160 · The Missouri Review "Prise/" It takes me several beats to register this word. It derives from the verb prendre, to take. Une prise is also an electrical plug, which "takes" the full force of the current. You can have a prise de conscience for your moral well-being or prise de sang to find out if you're carrying any microbes in your fleshy baggage. In 1789 there was la prise de la Bastille; cocaine can be snorted with benefit of this term, fish can be caught and your queen knocked off in a game of échecs. But Tm hard-pressed here to fathom its connotation with regard to what is quite clearly caU-strike three, and I turn my fuU force of skepticism on the arbitre, whom I remember from my intermediate class of last year. On her final oral exam she had broken down in my office, insisting that a sweatshop was a place that made sweatshirts, or what the French call "sweets," and, when I demanded further clarification and precision, she began to bawl, telling me I was trop dur comme prof, that I couldn't expect them to pronounce th's after a mouth's lifetime of living without them and that itwas all a matter of tone, that French and English were spoken in differing frequencies and were fundamentally incompatible for ears on both sides. I look ather now, behind her umpire's mask, as iffor the first time. She has one of those...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 160-169
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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