Issue 122, Spring 1992
On All Saints’ Day, 1940, Grandfather went to the cemetery with his daughter Marthe, whose firstborn son lies under a bed of white gravel, a tiny Flying Dutch man sailing into the uncharted mists of the beyond, marked with an alabaster cross bearing at its center two sparrow’s wings surmounted by a cherub’s head. Under the November sky, as they make their way arm in arm down a side path bordered by Lilliputian graves. Grandfather points out a man showing a certain resemblance to Léon Blum, bent grief stricken over a granite tombstone. A tall young man in glasses is trying to tear him away from the magnetic attraction of the flat stone. Whom, Grandfather asks his daughter, can the man be mourning? And Marthe, who knows everyone in Random, tells him about Aline, proprietress of the pottery shop next to the church, who died last summer: the softness of her voice, the tragedy of her stillborn children, her imposing stature and gold jaw. The grief stricken man is her husband, the charming young man, the tallest among the mourners, is their son, Joseph, born after they had given up hoping for a child, and the frowning little white haired lady, who hurries to join them, her head sunk between her shoulders, is the most extraordinary schoolteacher in the Lower Loire department.