- Greek Tragedy
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Scrambling under the bar in search of his upper left molar, dislodged and sprung with this latest punch, his nosebleed now mingling with the beer-slops, Arnaud has a vision: a bronze statue of Athena flies in above the audience, an enormous silver-breasted goddess with slat-framed wings, guided in her holy trajectory over the stage [End Page 143] by the remote-control brain of the new computer at the Comédie-Française.
This is what he’s been waiting for before departing. So much for all the paralytic nights at the drawing board, the months of false starts and hesitations. This new idea is so perfect he could even take the night train to Paris and present it to the board of directors over morning coffee. If only he could lay his hands on this tooth, whacked out by one of these muscular seasonal workers and hidden somewhere under Meynier the barman’s feet.
“Your kid has been waiting outside all night, Arnaud.”
With the keys to the Peugeot, no doubt. And she’s right. There is a train to catch in the Far Town. Nothing for it but to go toothless into creativity, what does it matter anyway now that this vegetarian daughter denies him meat? And so, to celebrate his decision to leave the bar at once, Arnaud is ordering another pastis while Meynier is protesting his obligatory protest and Arnaud has to assure him it’s the last drink he’ll serve him this season because he’s on his way to Paris with his new idea under his belt. And Athena only knows when he’ll be back in the village again, it might not even be before this very seasonal worker, who has blackened-and-blued him this evening, has harvested the fall grapes and even next spring’s asparagus.
Downing his drink with unconditioned haste, Arnaud moves at the door, bidding the assembled farmers a good night and a fruitful harvest, all the while lowering his trousers and proffering his backside.
“Keep my tooth until I return,” he calls to Meynier.
And there she is waiting for him outside the bar, as always, although it has gone three o’clock in the morning, surely those were church bells he just heard. In the darkness Arnaud attempts to conceal the open faucet of blood in the middle of his face, but he is convinced she will see it even in her mind’s eye, will know already the contortions of tonight’s broken nose, as she always does. But she says nothing, doesn’t scold him, is merely content to lead him to the family car under the ruins of the twelfth-century château along the quiet lanes. Not out of shame—not that, not she, never—but because she knows that any villager happening by at that hour will surely be the target of her father’s sour mouth.
Instead of accepting her outstretched hand, he moves to the far end of the cafe’s front porch, where Madame Meynier keeps her prize-winning fantail doves, grips the chain-mail grille to steady himself and swiftly urinates into the tall cage, scattering the awakened birds in terror. [End Page 144]
“Turn the other way, Amandine.”
Yes. Look up to Heaven, not down below at your father. Over there you’ll see Mars moving eastward against the faint stars of Pisces. Next month, September, if all goes well, it will turn back west, retrograde across the Earth and pass by us—if we’re still here—the nearer we come to winter. . . .
Amandine (thinks): . . . don’t want to imagine winter with its frozen walks to school over Paris boulevards or the dreary suburban train shuttling me eastward and westward between the judicial displacements of the divorce settlement . . .
. . . then ride over the back of the horse Pegasus, move farther west towards Cygnus and then sweep back east. And when the Earth crosses him a second time in the middle of our winter, he will look as if he’s standing still, brother Mars, if we still...