Chronicling the Days – Alexandre Marceau

Welcome to QWF series ‘Chronicling the Days’, specifically for this strange uneasy time of coronavirus and pandemic, of social distancing and self isolation, of lockdown and quarantine.

In April 2020, we invited writers in Quebec to submit a story – of a single day at this time, because while we’re all living through this time, we know that we’re not all living through it in the same way. To stay connected – to know how we’re getting on. Every story valid.

Submissions have now closed for the series but we’ll be continuing to publish the pieces throughout May. Keep an eye for them here, or join us on the QWF FB Community page, and let the authors know if their words resonated.

This piece is by Alexandre Marceau, writing in April 2020.

Creative Commons: St Lawrence

Those Who Sing the Blues

There’s a long corridor of water that separates the last sheets of ice between home and the Island across. Birds are lined up on the other side where the ice begins again, all singing the blues, all standing in the wind. There are two decrepit houses on the Island. A kayak ride over in the summer reveals the sullied foundations from past floods. But now, those birds don’t seem too concerned with any of it. They are closer than 6-feet apart, hopping over each other, gliding in the cold mirrored current.

I’ve been sitting here for hours, reading Death in the Afternoon.

The light coming through the ceiling-high windows keeps shifting. The sun, like a slow merry-go-round, is ending its trajectory across the sky and the clouds intermittingly float by, them too, unaware of social distancing. A cumulonimbus cloud slowly foregathers in the East.

I kept glancing over the page to look at the birds perched on the ice. Were they mocking me?

I mark my page with a pen and toss the book on the table in exchange for my harmonica.

Can I have this dance?

But the birds are on the other side.

It is 19h.

Capriciously, I head out to skateboard around the neighbourhood, catching the last sweep of dusk. The streetlights, not yet accustomed to the early spring light, have been on for roughly an hour. How odd, the machinations of the body; impulsive gusts of wind. I went right back to her old house, the one I frequented nine years ago.

I used to bring her dinner and we’d kiss. I didn’t have to leave it on the porch and step back to the end of the driveway. She’d come out and faintly whisper, “My dad is drunk.” And I always knew that in two hours, when he lay on the couch, the room fetid and his face etiolated, she would pick up his twelve empty Sleeman bottles and put them in the garage. He’d collect his consignment at the end of the week.

The wind began to howl. The clouds were like bulls in a parade – running. Her father’s car was in the driveway and I wondered if he was drinking himself wrought tonight. When her mom finally found a way out to the Townships, she was diagnosed with cancer and two years later her dream house went up in flames. I remember listening to her croon. The strife seemed congenital, the room oddly congenial.

I lit a cigarette and heard the faint doleful whispers of the birds in the trees. I moved towards home and noticed more lonely cars in driveways, wondering how the pandemic affected its owners. But whether or not they were like me, stuck on the couch, the current still moved. The economic God may be in peril, but I am lucky to have a house. The bulls have taken the birds on a whim and I can hear them singing the blues, loud and clear, as the rain begins to fall.

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