Wednesday, February 3, 2016
by Fiction Editor U.R. Bowie
Just read a story by Tim Gautreaux, in his collection Same Place, Same Things. The story titled “The Courtship of Merlin LeBlanc” features three generations of Cajun gentlemen, aged 54, 75, and 93, and their interactions with a baby girl, Susie/Susan, who is to them, respectively, granddaughter, great granddaughter and great-great granddaughter.
Sounds like a silly, sentimental Hollywood film, featuring, say, Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger, but it’s not like that at all. The grandfather Merlin, whose attempts to bring up his own three children, all now deceased, were utterly without merit, is now faced with bringing up still another child. Having no toys for Susie, he gives her shotgun shells to play with. Meanwhile, his father Etienne and grandfather Octave berate him for his fecklessness, and for giving a baby shotgun shells.
Here’s how the story ends, immediately after Octave has nearly died of old age on the porch and Etienne has fallen off it:
Merlin got up and went down the two steps to help his father. Making a face, Etienne reached under his bottom and pulled out the shotgun shell. He banged it upright on the edge of the porch. Octave’s head wavered above the baby’s bright face as he swung a foot off the wheelchair stirrup and kicked the shell back down to the ground. Merlin hugged his father under the arms and hoisted him up, keeping his hold after they were standing, trying for balance. The two of them stood there in the sunshine, chastened but determined, amazed by the smiles on the porch, where Octave and Susan whispered and sang.