Excerpt: “Saint Anselm’s hook” from Ramasseur by Richard deMeulles
(Your Scrivener Press, 2008)
...the boy had seen what hooks do, hadn’t he watched Billy Moses? a couple of weeks after Ash Wednesday; he met Billy Moses on Saturday morning, followed him up Polish Hill, past the grey stone library guarded by Michael and Gabriel, past the rusty brick hospital where they’d taken his mother, then out the highway until they reached the overhead cable that ran buckets of sandfill to shaft number two; they walked beneath the bucket-line until they reached Sandy Lake,
...Billy Moses had a rod but no ice auger; how were they supposed to catch anything?
You’ll see, said Billy Moses,
...Billy took bread from his pocket, broke it into pieces and scattered them over the frozen ice; gulls began to circle above the bait; from his vest pocket Billy Moses removed a hand-tied fly, attached it to the monofilament line,
Light test, he laughed,
...the hungry gulls swooped, landed on the crystalline ice, walked woodenly toward the bread, bobbing their heads as they screamed curses at each other, the insides of their mouths crimson with anger; when the last of bread was eaten they rose and fought in the air,
...then Billy Moses rolled a piece of bread into a ball, slipped it onto the hook and cast it into the air; the light line hung on the breeze like censer smoke; gulls dived at the bait but missed and the breaded hook fell to the ice; Billy Moses reeled it in before the birds could land,
...when he cast again, the boy tried to shout, No! but found he was as mute as the Ejit,
...he wanted to run over and snatch the rod away but was too frightened; then he saw a swooping gull take the airborne bait; it never knew the danger, cried at first in victory then screamed in agony when Billy Moses yanked the line to set the hook,
Watch, said Billy Moses; the caught gull rose and fell and twisted like a kite, it swooped down low and then ascended; Billy Moses played out line and then reeled back; in desperation and knowing that it’s fate was sealed, the white bird tried to fly as high as it could, a trick it’d known even before it was born; it took out all the line, screamed at the low clouds to open so that it might fly home but the sky did not separate and the victim was left stranded,
...the bird hung there until Billy Moses yanked him back to earth,
...then he came spiralling down, exhausted,
...the boy knew he was seeing something more terrible than he had ever seen,
Watch her fall, Billy Moses told the boy,
...the boy knew what he was watching, saw the paraclete hit the frozen beach, its wing twisted unnaturally behind it, not yet dead,
...the boy tired to turn away but Billy Moses commanded him, Watch!
....the paraclete tried to rise but toppled to the ice and lay looking at the lake, eyes wide and unquestioning, accepting not only the victory of death, but the torment and abandonment that went with it,
See! proclaimed Billy Moses, and all at once the boy understood that this whole play had been acted out for his sake; he felt shame and began to run; Billy Moses laughed at him; but the boy knew the laughter was not directed at his running but at his stupidity for having allowed himself to be tricked into watching; the innocent victim would still be alive if he hadn’t been here to see it killed…
Excerpt: “Ramasseur” from Ramasseur by Richard deMeulles
...the story starts on a spring day that began with a great noise and puff of distant smoke; the cook sent a boy down to the river by himself to do a job no one else would do,
...see that boy standing still now, on the shore of the river in the hot spring sun, he is looking at the surface, hard and flat as steel, he turns his back on the water and gazes at the hill above the river where a grove of trees stand: splintered shafts of sunlight stab through the boughs and impale the earth,
...the boy stares at the cool trees then walks again, he sweats beneath his black suit coat and dark cap, a brown burlap bag tied to his belt hangs to his knees; his eyes scan the grass and the muddy flats, every once in a while he stops, bends down and picks up something with great care, puts it into the bag and walks further; at one point he feels a sudden tiredness and walks away from the water and part way up the grassy slope, he leans back on his hands and stares at the indifferent sun that burns into his eyes; when he looks back at the earth everything seems to be covered with splotches of blood and when these fade he sees a soft white object in the supple grass; he reaches to it, touches it and, averting his eyes from its ugliness, puts it into the burlap sack...