Cover Image
Charles Kaufmann
How I Became A Man

Dance of Peace

Ta. Ta-ta-ta-ta ti da. Ta-ta-ta-ta.

     Why did I put off building this fence for so long? Suzette was right: a fence between neighbors will send resale value skyrocketing. Too bad I've got only one good hand.

     Ta. Ta-ta-ta-ta. Ta-ti-ta-ti-ta-ti-ta-ti.

     Still, with the help of a mouth, two knees and an electric drill, I've managed to turn the construction process into a semi-graceful ballet:

     1. Place screw between lips.

     2. Hold board in place with knees.

     3. Drill hole.

     4. Return drill to balance-position between thighs.

     5. Remove screw from lips.

     6. Insert screw in hole.

     7. Take up drill from crotch.

     8. Power-screw le bâtard.

     Bump ti bump ti diddly diddly diddly doo.

     No doubt Suzette can hear me humming "The Savages' Dance of Peace," from that magnificent 1735 opera ballet by Jean-Philippe Rameau, Les Indes galantes, in which manly concord prevails over ungentlemanly disharmony. For several years Suzette has been bugging me to build this fence. For years I've shrugged it off. She knew I'd give in. That's why one evening not long ago she announced out of the blue that she would like to take tango lessons -tango lessons, of all things. She's a clever, flighty woman. Her intelligence is one of the attributes I'll miss. Her flightiness I can do without.

     I'm not usually a hot-tempered man. I wouldn't normally find pleasure in fence building, or in face breaking. As a professional violist -a member of L'Orchestre du Ballet des Fleurs, among other prestigious ensembles -I should be in Montreal at this very moment, rehearsing the very opera I've been humming, not at home in Quebec City building a fence.

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     However, there are times when a man wants to feel like a man, when he's ready to risk bodily injury, when he simply wants to beat the muscularis mucosae out of another man's intestines. L'Orchestre has been kind enough to grant me a leave of absence until I've regained my senses and recovered my physical wellbeing. Perhaps I'll never return to my career as joueur d'alto. There are so many other things a man can do with his life. Mais c'est le tango que l'on regrette.

 

Savage New World

As a husband and father, I believed in democracy. My role was to enable each family member to find him or herself. In that role I was a genius, a master of subtle manipulation. Consider my cleverly worded response to Suzette:

     "Tango lessons? You don't like to dance, that I know of. Last I knew, you wanted to study Nepalese with an immigrant sherpa in Charlesbourg. Why tango?"

     "I've been feeling hemmed-in," she replied.

     "Exactly. This is the reason I've been putting off making that fence -to keep you from feeling trapped."

     "That fence is going to improve the property value."

     "We're not moving anywhere. I see no need for a fence."

     "The only reason you think I don't like to dance is that you don't like to dance; and the reason I didn't start Nepalese lessons with Raju was because you were never home to look after Francis. By the way, Francis wants to give up the flute."

     "Give up flute lessons? He's going to be a great musician -a natural for an eleven-year-old."

     "He wants to score des buts."

     Maudite marde. No son of mine is going to be a hockey player. Only crazy Canadians play hockey."

     So it was agreed: I'd spend more time at home so Suzette could get out more; Francis would sign-up for a Beauport peewee hockey team named Les Jeunes Bêtes de Québec. This was not easy for me. In order to make more time for my family, I turned down a two-week engagement with Vancouver Opera of the Aerial Spirits. They were scheduled to perform a newly discovered version of Henry Purcell's The Indian Queen, that delightful 17th century semi-opera where the gentle Old World subdues and ravages the savage New. Did Suzette recognize the sacrifice on my part? Did she?

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Maids and Men

Francis's hockey practice and Suzette's tango lessons occurred on the same evenings. We would enjoy a peaceful dinner, solemn as they became, and then head our separate ways. Preparing the evening meal had become my responsibility; I was determined to encourage a healthy pre-exertion diet, even if Suzette and Francis were never excited by my vegetarianism.

     "Cauliflower again," muttered Francis one evening.

     "What did you say?" I replied, scarcely hiding my hurt.

     "I hate chou-fleur."

     "Cauliflower is the perfect nutritive vegetable, mon cher fils."

     I was rather proud of the attractive way I had arranged three colorful ceramic bowls -Argentine, by the way -at each place. In each bowl was one perfectly white head of cauliflower in tahini garlic miso sauce.

     "It's the spirit of the food that's most important. I've read that a substance in cauliflower counteracts aggressive thoughts and behavior," I continued.

     "Hardly what will inspire your son to learn how to give a good body check." Suzette was always direct and honest in expressing herself.

     "Body checking damages the spine in children. It should be banned."

     "It's not so bad, mon cher daddy. You should try it sometime." Francis was developing a subtle understanding of the use of sarcasm.

     Body checking was the last thing I'd thought I'd be trying. I was the amiable, gentle father, the facilitator of personal happiness. And, so, while Suzette and Francis finished eating, I'd go out and warm up l'char, making especially sure that Suzette's was cozy and warm by the time she drove away. Often, I'd have to sweep a little snow off the driveway, whistling one of my favorite duets from Purcell's Baroque Shakespearean masterwork, The Fairy Queen: the Maids and the Men are making of Hay, We h've left the dull Fools, and are stolen away.

     Our neighborhood was a quiet one. The houses modest. Next door was a man about my age who lived with his mother. We seldom talked; we kept to ourselves. When I did yard work, such as sweeping snow from the drive, I'd sometimes see the mother's face peering from the neighbor's window like an overly protective and very ancient hen. Such an unhappy fate: a healthy single man living with his widowed mother. I had a habit of tossing a friendly wave in the direction of the face in the window, and this gesture of mine usually caused the face to withdraw and the drab, gray curtain to be repositioned.

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     When Suzette entered her nicely pre-warmed car, I'd kiss her on the cheek. "Have a pleasant tango lesson," I'd say, and off she'd drive to Le Studio Passion du Tango Chez Diego for her well earned evenings of freedom. Francis and I would proceed to the arena.

     Francis was turning out to be a strange and different sort of boy. My hopes were dashed that by age eleven he'd be hungry for knowledge about the art of double tonguing on the transverse flute and thirsty for debate over the advantages of finger vs. chest vibrato. My gifts to him of two classic primary source method books -Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte transversiere zu spielen by J. J. Quanz and Tulou's Méthode de Flûte Progressive et Raisonnée -were left untouched. Instead, my pauvre Francis assiduously read about the lives of French Canadian hockey stars like Maurice "The Rocket" Richard, "Super Mario" Lemieux and Jean "Le Gros Bill" Beliveau. At practices, his attitude was devout to the point of fanaticism concerning drills on power skating, puck support and slap shot speed.

     I'd patiently sit in the stands with the other parents, catching up on my professional reading -things like Brossier's masterful 18th century work, L'art de toucher la viole d'amour. I found solace in the knowledge that while the Young Beasts of Quebec were mashing each other into the boards, I was enhancing my understanding of the instrument Bach and Berlioz knew as the viola of love.

     Yes, viola of love. Did Suzette appreciate the fact she was married to someone who understood the ins and outs of viole d'amour performance, an expert in "l'art de toucher --?"

 

Hand to Hand

When Suzette returned from her first evening of tango lessons at Diego's Studio of Passion, she seemed agitated. It was late. I was already in bed. She undressed, spent a few moments in the bathroom, and when she joined me under the covers, she said, "Oh, you're so chaud." I took this to mean that, because I had been in bed for a while, the blankets were nice and warm, or that perhaps I'd contemplated the bottom of one too many glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza while waiting up for her. But no, she was referring to a different sort of heat. She proceeded to make love to me frantically, desperately. Her passion took me by surprise. Her body was a fluid, fleshy bandoneón, from which my fingers seemed to draw sad, reedy melodies. If this was the result of tango lessons, I was all for them. Yet, as much as I would have liked to have been the inspiration for Suzette's hauntingly beautiful music, its source was distant, unfamiliar -beyond my skill.

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     We hadn't spoken during our lovemaking, and afterwards, I asked artfully, "How was the first class?"

     She didn't say anything off the bat. She lay still, the sheets steamy from our exertion, then raised both hands in the air, palm-to-palm. "Mano-a-mano," she said.

     "Pardon?"

     "Mano-a-mano," she repeated and made a slinking motion with her hands. "This is how it feels to dance the tango, two bodies coming together like a tongue of fire." Again she moved her palms, and, indeed, her joined hands danced like a flame.

     "After one lesson," I asked, "you can dance like that?"

     Suzette looked at me, but in fact, she was looking through me, beyond me, somewhere I wouldn't be able to follow, her face intense and vacant as if she were under a spell. "Dancing the tango is the joining of energy of two human spirits," she added.

     I recalled how the advertisement from Passion du Tango Chez Diego had boasted that la pista -the dance floor -would lead into new worlds, irresistible and intoxicating. One should never take one's luck for granted, and mine was that la pista continued to extend its influence into our bedroom for several weeks.

     Then the opposite occurred. Suzette would return from tango lessons, get into bed, mumble something like bonne nuit, or bien mordida, and fall asleep. I was beginning to feel like an old piece of jewelry she had rediscovered and then returned to the back of her box of trinkets.

     One night Suzette came home from tango class, quietly crawled into bed next to me, settled in, and turned her back. I turned my back in response.

     "Gregoire," she said after a few moments.

     "Mmm?"

     "I've decided to go to Argentina."

     I didn't budge. "Forever?"

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     "No. For winter break. I can fly to Buenos Aires and be back before Francis returns to school."

     I remained silent for a moment, then said, "I imagine it's warm in Buenos Aires this time of year."

     "Like summer," she replied.

     I was either going to lose my wife, or not. It takes a great amount of patience to be a good husband. I believed in Democracy. I believed that all members of my family should be encouraged to find happiness, even if that happiness led to my exclusion. "If that's what you want."

     "Gregoire, if I could just experience a real milonga, just once."

     "Who'll be your partner?" This question bordering on the unallowable.

     "You don't need a partner to go to a milonga."

     You can love this about a person, that quirky enthusiasm to live an exciting, boundless life. Who was I to restrict a flighty human soul in the pale bondage of marriage to a Franko violist?

     The next day I found the telephone number for Diego's Studio of Passion. I registered for a week of morning tango lessons scheduled to begin February 9th. Did I have it in me to master the tough appeal of a compadrito? When Suzette returned, I'd have a surprise for her.

 

Dyspepsia

The players of the Young Beasts could hardly contain their excitement -the team had been invited to compete in the Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament, which would take place during the ten days Suzette was in Argentina. The morning games would coincide with my tango lessons. Otherwise, I'd be at Pepsi Coliseum. I was not the sort of guy to yell insults from the stands. I found it hard to comprehend the violent temperament of my fellow hockey fathers. Winning the tournament did not seem to me to be the point; learning to hold one's head high in defeat was a worthier goal.

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     As I watched these games, I began to understand the commonality of everything done with passion. There was dramatic flair in hockey, violence in music and conquest in tango. Each required a perfect sense of rhythm and timing. This revelation reassured me that my family's three separate interests were, in fact, one and the same. By encouraging my wife and son to pursue their passions, by following my own, our family life would be kept from stagnation. Just look to the old mother hen next door and her pitiful, aging, homebody bachelor son for an example of how to dead-end your aspirations.

 

The Miracle of Life

I believe that things would have been fine if it hadn't been for Bébé Sévérité. Every year, as part of a program to teach sexual responsibility at the onset of puberty, grade 6 students in Francis's school were required to bring home realistic looking infants to care for as if they were their own children. Francis was not pleased with the fact that the Baby Severity program corresponded with le Tournoi international de hockey pee-wee de Québec. He grumbled that he wouldn't have time for the kid, that this alone showed he would be a terrible father, and wasn't it proof enough he wasn't going to mess around? His attitude gave birth to my plan that I would take care of Baby Severity in his place. I didn't think we'd be cheating. Through observing me with the child, Francis would gain new respect for what sort of sacrifice a father must be willing to make.

     Baby Severity was an especially needy, colicky infant, whose plastic blue-tinted face was caught in an eternal scowl of pain. I was impressed, however, with how prone the computerized enfant was to endearment. If I didn't hold her the required length of time, she would emit a disturbed-sounding gurgle, which would grow in volume the longer I left her unloved. Yes, this sweet child quieted down perfectly in my arms. I felt like the real father of a real baby girl. This was the perfect demonstration that raising a child was a tremendous responsibility -nothing to be entered into casually. At the same time, the experience was pregnant with lagniappe, to borrow a word from our unfortunate Gulf Coast cousins.

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     "See, Francis?" I said, as we drove to Colisée Pepsi de Québec, and he looked away from me through the passenger-side window. "This is what it's like to be a father. Isn't the ancient miracle of life a wondrous thing?" Immediately upon saying these words, I felt like a fraud; a kid experiencing life with a hockey stick in his grip finds such sentimental banalities from his father embarrassing, if not repugnant.

 

Sexual Responsibility

Bringing up Severity did indeed require sacrifice, and did indeed offer rewards. Try taking tango lessons with a colicky baby in your arms. Though I was disappointed to learn that tango master Diego would be temporarily out of town, I was pleased when his good-hearted substitute, Monsieur O'Higgins, agreed that it would be far easier for everyone if I simply used Baby Severity as partner.

     Severity became placid as we took up the abrazo position, as I felt her willing entregarme, as we perfected a fine repertory of saltitos, pasadas, golpecitos and zarandeos. All of these moves were accomplished with great care, avoiding the registration of rough handling by her internal computerized memory. Monsieur was extremely patient, even when I needed to change ma petite's diapers. I was astounded by how accurately the manufacturer had reproduced that familiar diaper smell. When one of the woman tango students, observing my careful attention to Severity, hissed at me, "Perverti!" I was dumbfounded.

     Wasn't I the perfect father and husband? Wasn't my willingness to care for Baby Severity a symbolic act proving that I could be relied upon to shoulder any family burden? If I had to carry Severity in my womb, give painful C-section birth as a way of acknowledging Suzette's real sacrifice, I would have done so. To allow my wife one short fling with an arrabalero on an Argentine street was the least I could do to show my appreciation.

     Moreover, as far as it concerned Francis, the Baby Severity program was a success: After watching Severity and me, he declared himself against fatherhood altogether. Imagine my pride in the recognition that I had successfully contributed to the strong moral upbringing of a sexually responsible youth.

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Wail of a Goldfish

This pride was self-delusion: I was a patient husband, and a good, tolerant father, but I was no normal, self-respecting male. My complaisance had been slowly undermining my virilité. I was un poisson rouge passif observing life from the inside of a fishbowl. How ironic, that my mama's boy neighbor would crack the aquarium's glass and lure me out into the freedom of the wide, wild ocean.

     He was a shabby-looking, ineffectual character. I had always reassured myself that, however difficult my life was, at least I was not still living with my mother at age 43. There was something de très fucké about an adult male who did yard work in a Mickey Mouse T-shirt. How was I to know that the cartoon image on the chest -Mickey Mouse posing as wrestler giving the 'battering ram' to the Little Whirlwind -was the logo of the Quebec Amateur Wrestling Foundation?

 

Fatal Consequences

February 19th: Incredibly, the Young Beasts had advanced to the finals of le Tournoi international de hockey pee-wee de Québec. Suzette would fly into Montréal-Trudeau from Buenos Aires and then into Jean Lesage. The timing was perfect: She would arrive just after les Jeunes Bîtes had played the championship game. They would face a determined peewee team from Westerham, England, named, appropriately, Wolfe's Manifesto. The match-up was trumpeted by the press as a symbolic reenactment of the historic 1759 Battle of Quebec, which resulted in the humiliating defeat forcing New France to submit forever to Anglo rule. Even I was beginning to get caught up in the excitement.

     A fine, light snow was falling as Francis, Baby Severity and I prepared to drive out of the driveway. "Wait a moment, kids," I said, as Francis cast a universal look of juvenile disgust in my direction. La neige poudreuse had accumulated several inches, and I thought it would be a good idea to quickly sweep the drive before we left. I grabbed the broom from the garage, and swept along the length of our short drive. Our house is built up next to the left side of the drive, so I would usually sweep to the right, which borders the neighbor's property. Suzette and Francis will both swear that I have done this many times. This afternoon, as usual, I noticed the parting of the drapery of the living room window across the way, and the spectral face of my neighbor's mother peering out at me. I smiled and waved my usual, cheery Bonsoir!

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     Francis played ferociously that evening. Despite my warnings about the dangers of body-checking to the young spinal column, against my advice that gracious defeat was more valuable than haughty victory, my son set about destroying his opponents, as if by so bloodying the ice, he could personally reverse the defeat of Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham and at long last regain la souveraineté du Québec.

     If only my boy had shown as much enthusiasm for historically informed flute playing as he had zeal for armed conflict. During the game, I occupied myself by crocheting a pink cap for Baby Severity. What more caring example of responsible parenthood, of my peaceful nature, could I display? As my formerly gentle Francis waited out a dubious double minor penalty for retaliatory fisticuffs, he turned, singled me out from the over 12,000 spectators in Pepsi Coliseum, and flashed a look as smooth and cold as the trail of resurfaced ice left behind by a Zamboni. There was no mistake in my mind that he was slowly and carefully mouthing the words, "Papa, you are an embarrassment. Can't you wait in the car?"

     Imagine how shattered we were in Quebec when Wolfe's Manifesto once again brought us to our knees: But, if by a vain obstinacy and misguided valour, they presume to appear in arms, they must expect the most fatal consequences, their habitations destroyed, their sacred temples exposed to an exasperated soldiery, their harvest utterly ruined, etc., etc., etc.

 

The Joys of Fatherhood

Suzette was dressed like a tanguera when we met her at the airport -her swallowtail lace dress with ostrich fringe, her black high heels, were an invitation to dance. Despite having Baby Severity strapped to my chest in a baby sling, I drew Suzette into my arms and maneuvered a quick, masterly sentada. My lead caught her by surprise, and not until after the snickers from the crowd of travelers in the baggage area faded did she recover.

     "Gregoire?" she said, still breathless. "Where did you learn this?"

     "Chez Diego. I took an intensive class while you were away. Diego wasn't available, bu --"

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     "Well, Gregoire --, very nice; I mean, wonderful --, so thoughtful --"

     "I want to share your excitement for tango."

     "You don't like dancing."

     "Suzi, I want to please you."

     Suzette looked at Baby Severity wrapped against my breast. Her face turned pale blue. "Que cé que tu fais avec c'te Christ de bébé?"

     Since when did Suzette express herself with such grossièreté?

     "Papa's rediscovering les joies de la paternité." Francis's sarcasm seemed particularly dry and to the point. Suzette backed away and looked at me as if I were some sort of buffoon. Is it possible that, in my efforts to be a nurturing father and patient husband, I'd been misunderstood?

     This was what tipped the balance, the realization that I had fait le Bozo. What a mistake to think that personal happiness could be found in half-witted personal sacrifice: my wife was having an affair with a globe trotting tango instructor named Diego; my son was a juvenile delinquent ice hockey punk. What was left to look forward to in life but the nursing home, where bored, incompetent nurses would ignore the needs of a senile old man, where I would die forgotten and neglected like an old war hero whose stories put everyone to sleep?

     Or things could change; a man could become a man.

 

Humility, Poverty, Chastity

As we arrived home from the airport just past sunset, I noticed that our neighbor was in his driveway preparing to start a souffleuse -a snow blower. The night was cold and dark the way February nights in Quebec can be. One finds little hope in late winter here at the far end of the St. Lawrence Seaway -what we call La Mer, even though the open Atlantic is 2334.5 kilometers away. In ancient times, the Huron retreated into their sweat lodges during this time of the year, emerging only when the entertaining opportunity arose to mutilate the body of a pious Jesuit priest eager to test his sacred commitment to humility, poverty and chastity. In our time, this bloody sacrificial ritual of flesh has become known as the Quebec International Peewee Ice Hockey Tournament. How tolerant of pain can a Saint be before giving in to the urge to fight back? If allowed hindsight on the matter, wouldn't even Jesus have second thoughts?

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     What is peace? I tell you what peace is: dominance through violence. You think Christianity was spread through passivity? Dominate or be dominated. Let gentils hommes who do not fight back enjoy the fate of the domesticated hen. There comes a time when you have to prove you're no pheasant-breasted bundle of herbs.

 

My Naughty Child

By the time we had pulled fully into the drive, my neighbor had pushed his idling souffleuse to the edge of our property. He paused momentarily to adjust his gloves. There was a fog of exhaled breath gathering around his head. He looked like an Argentine bull that had just realized his sole purpose in life was beefsteak in a gaucho's freezer.

     I got out of the car, and tossed a formulaic neighborly wave, which indicated my usual lack of interest in the man. He didn't return the greeting, but put the souffleuse into gear and began blowing clouds of powdery snow onto my driveway.

     "Hey," I called. "What are you doing?"

     The man did not pause, and I believed he failed to hear me. I walked over, waving to get his attention. Ignoring me, he continued to blow snow in my direction until he saw that I had purposefully placed myself in the path of his artificial blizzard. He let the motor idle, and above its low rumble, I placed my question again: "Why are you blowing snow in this direction?"

     "I am returning what belongs to you," he said, his face reddening.

     "Ah, you must mean those few flocons de neige minuscules I swept over here before driving out this morning," I replied dismissively.

     "You will keep your own little snowflakes to your own little property," he muttered, his shy face lowered as if speaking into the surface of snow. I almost felt sorry for the pitiful, timid man. There was no time for pity, however. Following his addressing me in what was not so much a carefully chosen example of an attributive noun -idiot neighbor -as it was a sign of barely contained rage, he grabbed my parka and attempted to wrestle me violently into the powdery snow.

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     This sudden aggressive act from my chicken-livered neighbor caused Baby Severity to fly into the air and land in front of the idling souffleuse. Severity's fate was no longer of primary importance; in the next few seconds, either my neighbor was going to murder me, or I was going to decimate him. This was a matter of self-defense.

     The force of his grasp caused my parka and shirt to be lifted over my head the way you see it done during hockey games on TV: fisticuffs Canadian Hockey League style. I grabbed his parka, and did the same, revealing the Mickey Mouse and Little Whirlwind 'unmentionable' my neighbor was so fond of. For a moment we were frozen in a strange sort of tango, circling slowly in the snow, the flesh of our bare stomachs reddening in the cold, snowy air.

     A group of neighbors -old men, mostly -had collected to watch us. Francis, shouldering his hockey stick, remained standing casually next to the car. Suzette was yelling something, I think it was, "Gregoire! Stop. What are you doing?" I'd never before hit any person, and so the exhilaration I felt when I landed an uppercut into his chin came as a pleasant surprise. My neighbor was stunned; he staggered back and stared dumbly up at me, a bubble of dark red blood forming at the opening of his right nostril. The sudden advantage I felt caused me to look upon him as an inept Roman gladiator about to die.

     "Had enough, you big pansy? Eh? Toi grand' fif?" I heard myself taunt him with the arrogant confidence of a victor: "Go home; your Mama's calling." Indeed, his mother was peering out from behind the parted curtains of their living room window.

     Upon hearing my insults, my neighbor snorted blood, lowered his head, and charged my stomach with such force that I was sent into a breathless backward sprawl. We rolled around in the snow, stiff-arming each other, hands clenched at each other's throats.

     I don't recall the nausea, the awful choking sensation, the sharp pain in my left hand; instead: my complete joyeux abandonment to the animal pleasure of trying to bite my neighbor's ear off. I was straddling his back, grasping his hair in my fist, and I believe I would have succeeded in butchering him if, at this moment, his défense arrière -his Mama Whirlwind -hadn't arrived. Having seized Baby Severity from the jaws of the idling snow blower, and having realized my enfant terrible -my naughty child -would make a handy battle ax, my neighbor's elderly mother positioned herself behind me, landed two or three rather harmless blows upon my shoulders, and fell over backwards, dead in the snow.

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Fear of Flying

Suzette and I lay in bed. She was not speaking to me. My throbbing left hand was bandaged and elevated by two pillows. How did I know you could brake à bras on a man's jaw? It would take some time before I'd be fingering a viola again.

     "Suzette --?"

     I thought about how life is based on chance. What if Suzette had never taken tango lessons? What if Francis hadn't quit the flute? What if I hadn't been so willing to assume responsibility for Baby Severity? What if the neighbors gathered around the fight had broken it up? Suzette had asked them this. She had been furious with me, with our neighbor, with all of the neighbors. "We wanted to see who was going to win," the old guys told her. They had placed bets.

     "Suzette --?"

     "What is it."

     "Are you still mad at me?"

     "Non."

     "Are you sure?"

     "Non. I mean oui."

     "Look. Let's go tango dancing tomorrow night."

     "You can't tango with a broken hand."

     "I could try."

     "Pgh! J'ai mon voyage du tango."

     "Finished with tango? What would make you give up tango?"

     "Parachutisme en formation."

     "Formation skydiving?"

     "Oui. Une danse bien dangereuse." She turned her back to me, and was soon snoring in that delicate way that served as an indication of her lack of compassion for my fear of flying, and of her satisfaction that she had found a hobby I wouldn't dare follow her into.

 

Home, Sweet Home

That was my Suzette -my flighty Suzette. She was indeed correct about how this fence will raise the value of the property. After some discussion, Gilbert agreed to let me build one between his house, my new abode, and Suzette's, my former. Gilbert and I have put chez-nous up for sale, and plan to move to Montreal, where we'll open a gym. He'll teach martial arts; I'll offer tango lessons.

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     My new cher chum was so grief-stricken after the death of his mother, he needed someone to comfort him. What I needed was a place to move when Suzette's extended affair with the proprietor of a local skydiving academy -she'd been quick to realize her mistake in that tango-dancing gigolo -made my continued marriage to her impossible, despite my sincere and honorable efforts. The divorce settlement did not award my old house to my former wife and her lover. Certainly, I could have insisted that she move. But why make life difficult for my ex-wife and son, when Gilbert was so lonely in the empty house next door, and it was a simple matter of changing residence? Having proved my manhood, I've quickly rediscovered my nurturing side. My natural role, indeed, is to help others find genuine happiness, and my reward is the saintly satisfaction I gain from observing the verifiable results of selfless, loving acts. One can't, after all, fake a male orgasm.

     I remain proud of my accomplishments as a father: Francis has become a remarkably self-assured young man. With his proven common sense and aptitude for clear-headed reasoning my tough kid is going to get along just fine. He's dedicated himself after all to the serious study of piano after hearing a performance of the first movement of Beethoven's violent Hammerklavier Sonata, Opus 106, recorded on an replica 1818 John Broadwood & Sons grand pianoforte -an inadequate instrument the obstinate Beethoven pounded into pulpwood. Beethoven, too, was a savage beast, and Francis seems inspired: "This guy's completely pathological," he informs me as if I didn't already know. It's incredible to witness from afar how both Beethoven and le jeu de l'hockey result in similar musical, muscular slugfests when my son is playing.

 

Baby Severity looks fabulous in her doll-pattern Royal Canadian Air Force dress uniform -blue wedge cap, gold aiguillette, standard issue black leather high heels; the infant was simply too battered to be used again, so I kept her and donated a generous sum to the school. Gilbert came up with the idea that perhaps a stint in the military would do her some good. We'll rename her Corporal Baby Serenity, and give her to the Toyz for Needy Kidz program of Salvation Army Canada.

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     Gilbert thinks moving to Montreal is the best way to get on with life. He notices that I've been studying Belidor's masterly 1731 method, Le bombardier fran├žais, ou Nouvelle méthode de jeter les bombes avec précision. He's convinced Montreal will help me get over my urge to put Belidor's explosive techniques into practice whenever I see my former wife's newest lover sweeping snow from my former drive.

     And he's right. Gilbert has plans to organize a team for the Montreal Gay Hockey League called La Libération de Québec. If it weren't for my broken wrist, I'd play. The wrist will heal, though, and I can't wait to experience the sacred pleasure of power skating, the beatific satisfaction of purifying the goalie's unchaste térritoire réservée with punishing slapshots, the unsacramental exhilaration of desecrating the holiest of holy alters by mercilessly ripping my feeble opponents apart limb by limb.

     Until then, I'll settle for team manager and number one fan: during games I'll yell inspiring insults, things like, Arrachez-l'eux la tête à cé câlisses d'enfants d'chienne pis faites-l'eux manger leurs crisses de p'tites queues.

     Funny it took me 43 years to discover my true nature.

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