Fait le ménage
Will there be time before
you go for us to go out and get a drink?
We’re drinking right now, right?
Marcus sipped something red.
You really asking, baby?
Don’t smile at me like that, she said
You don’t fool me with that.
Alright. Maybe there’ll be time.
But you know what family can be like, eh?
How’m I going to sneak off
from them when they know they won’t
be seeing me likely for a year.
You don’t think the war will be over
Marcus lit another cigarette.
The pack was feeling lighter and lighter.
I want another one of those, Claudette pointed
then put it to her mouth.
You don’t know which ones these are.
Ooh. Then I really do want one.
He shrugged. Okay, but I don’t share these with the non-smokers
like my own brother over there.
He gestured with his thumb past the phonograph
to the couch, to a place where Lou
was trying to talk to Emmie who lay very still on the couch
her eyes now closed.
I’m serious, yes.
I wonder, can this war go on another full year.
You haven’t met Charlie he said.
Have you? she shot back.
Nope. Not yet.
Americans, I know them. They have this stubborn
optimism but it isn’t about surviving.
It’s not what conquered peoples know where every birth
is the act of war.
She tasted the tainted tobacco.
My father was the oldest of fifteen children.
So was my mother, Marcus nodded.
She gave him a funny look.
Okay, thirteen. Honest.
My dad, he got off easy
because his parents made it to the city.
His father worked the rails as a high class porter.
You been on a Pullman car?
His father wore suits and kept his hair close cropped.
When he was in town,
now and then, here and there he saw maw-maw
read the paper and taught the kids elocution
and how to set the table.
I never met him. Dad said he was a dandy.
Taught his sons how to speak like white folks do
you no doubt noticed.
I had to learn English, Claudette said.
And my father he only had two children and he wanted us
to get out when we were eighteen.
Fortunately he came to the city so it didn’t mean
fait le ménage. We had maman for that.
Charlie has his god and we’ve got ours.
His god doesn’t seem too interested in what our God
is selling. I think Charlie’s got gods like we’ve
got ‘em. People say ‘God and Country’
but all I see is Gods and countries.
We’re both in a foreign country, aren’t we?
Claudette said and Marcus laughed.
-Jeremy Nathan Marks