Friday, May 31, 2013

the groundskeeper - 3. a wise child

by nanette nanao

illustrations by danny delacroix

i considered myself a wise child, one who at least knew which side my bread was buttered on. and i felt, early on, that i had the measure of mademoiselle, my benefactress. i had no illusions as to my status - i was a pet, to be turned out of doors at a moment's notice, like a cat or dog or parrot.

in the early days of my ascension to the lofty position of pet, despite the comforts attending it (offset to some extent by occasional privations, to be sure) i often found myself wishing to be back in the kitchen under berthe's feet. i instinctively knew that berthe and charles, with their simple faith, would never think of casting me out on to the highway, whereas the capricious and absent minded mademoiselle might very well do just that.

it is difficult, if not impossible in one's later years to recall the passage of time as it filtered through the mind of a child - so it might have been months, or only a week or a few days, that i divined that mademoiselle did not need my company every minute of the day and that i was quite free to seek berthe's company in the kitchen, or charles's in the stable, almost any time i pleased. considering the matter as i pen these lines, it indeed seems more likely that it was a few days!

for a time then, all should have been well. it is easy enough now to look back and say that i was getting the best of two worlds, and that my four year old self should have been philosopher enough to realize it and be grateful for it. but gratitude is a poor conduit and a poorer barometer for dealing with our creaturely existence, and it was with the trepidations of an abandoned and hunted creature that i continued to greet each new day.

it pains me even now to say that i did not appreciate the kindness of charles and berthe, but what child is truly satisfied with the company of adults? naturally, it was with creatures closer to my own age and size that i sought companionship. as there were no other human children on the grounds of mademoiselle's residence, my first encounters with such were with the dog, balthazar, and the cat, marthe, who inhabited the kitchen, as well as some of the mice who at that time were all too able to avoid the elderly marthe's perfunctory attentions.

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