“We notice the priest is sweating more than usual, perhaps he has an upset stomach this evening, or maybe it’s nerves. We don’t dare ask; a holy man’s intestinal health is between him and God, but at least the meeting hasn’t dragged on forever, and now we can go home and keep an eye on our things, oh yes, we’re going to keep our eyes peeled from now on.”
Next, I realized that I know this village. This village with “Leaven the baker, who’s always saying he’d make an excellent father if only a woman would give him a chance”, “old Giorgio Cantarini…no one takes him seriously, not since the day…Lisa Campbell swore he used to peek under her skirt while she swept up hair-clippings” whose war widower’s pension affords him a steady diet of beans with tomato sauce. And there’s Sybille, whose hair is “in a constant state of humanitarian crisis, and could certainly use a good combing to put its internal affairs in order” and the doctor who is “wheezing from his asthma”.
More than that, I am currently inhabiting this village.
On one hand, I’m in the meeting in the church basement, with “all those brains whirring a mile a minute, including ours, but what should we do, what should we do, if we’re going to do something it will mean interrupting the meeting, but that’s never been done before, at least not as far back as we can remember”.
On the other hand, I’m on the subway with Leaven and Giorgio, Lisa and Sybille, on the subway with the doctor and the mayor and the orphaned children. The world is uncomfortably small and the crisis is uncomfortably large. And there are individuals with authority making decisions while the rest of us circle, muttering about what’s to be done.
The language is succinct and the plot is extravagant: Jean-Michel Fortier invited me to the meeting but he also pulled the chair out from under me.