Mother, Son and fresh apple pie
The bacon fat on the chopping block was the same color as Jeanne’s arm. Sandra watched her mistress cut into thin strips, which were fried in the pan. The smoke mixed with the heat of the kitchen.
“But San, how old was Batu?”
Sandra pulled out her cigarette, her fingernails gnawed yellow.
‘Half. positive manners, all in this letter.’
Sandra looked at a patch of mold on the ceiling.
“If I don’t want my son to come back to live with me, a lawyer must object…”
Jeanne grunted, the flesh of her arm trembling.
‘As a single mother you have to swallow what the big bosses decide. Clean the apples for the pie. Did you put the menu board on the terrace?’
Sandra nodded and took the apple bucket away. The boom of the Route du Soleil rings in the background.
“I’m still his mother.” He sounded hoarse.
“To get it down your throat after what he did to that girl—” Jeanne’s double chin quivered.
The bell above the restaurant door rang. A German family wanted to have lunch on the terrace.
The worst of the heat was over, Sandra folded the umbrellas and wiped down the patio tables, water dripping down her t-shirt. Regular boys sat in a circle of plastic chairs, pints resting on their bellies.
Pépé was the auto mechanic of the village, a man with a coal shovel in hand. But these were often under Sandra’s head in the evening. Sandra let him go, thinking loneliness was worse than motor oil on her nipples.
“Are you going to have a wet t-shirt contest?” Pépé raised his index finger in front of his chest.
“Coucou: Tit Sandra!”
The men laughed, Sandra felt their eyes on her skin.
‘Or rather…’ Pépé lowered his finger on his knee, ‘is this closer.’
The walls of the church echoed their fat laughter. Jeanne swung on the terrace with a tray.
P’tit Pépé, such a big mouth! Luckily, all the girls are still swooning over you… your body odor.’
The men shouted, Sandra laughed too.
Pépé planted him on his lap.
“Be careful, mother, for who else will you have to protect against this beast of a son of yours?”
Sandra pushed her butt against her bosom, Pépé was hers tonight.
Sandra lived a little outside the village. His garden became wild, a rose was growing on the roof. Since Dimi passed, he let nature take its course. Dimi liked tight. A lawn was nature enough for him. Dimi kept the grass military. Every week he mows in a sweat, strips the edges, re-seeds the spots that make them. Their grass was greener than their neighbors. Batu’s lover’s blood contrasted darkly. The day after the trial, Sandra poured bleach on the lawn. The villagers were ashamed of this. Jeanne shrugged when Sandra complained.
Sandra knew Jeanne had other concerns. His restaurant got worse and worse. During the trial he was charged every day. Reporters and camera crews from all over the country descended on the village and rang the cash register. Unbelievable what this newspaper could drink.
After the verdict he became quieter than ever. Only visitors, those who could not know, stopped. It was only after a year that the regular men reappeared. Reluctantly, yes, but where else could they go? Sandra was delighted to see them again.
The season came to an end, the murmur of the Route du Soleil was almost inaudible. During the day there was only Loïc, in his usual place on the terrace.
‘Retired cops, that’s how I prefer them. No one left to command, but with a fat state pension and a dry throat.’
Sandra heard Jeanne tell the regular boys many times. Then Jeanne pointed her finger at Loïc, who appeared at the bar every day at ten. Loïc was more serious than the church bell.
“Sandra, another one.”
Loïc’s voice was sweet but authoritative. He placed the glass on his table and began to clean the apples for the tarte tatin.
“Batu will be released this week, ma’am?”
Sandra stuck the razor-sharp apple corer in a golden reinet.
Sandra scratched the scabs on her arms, psoriasis, the doctor called her a typical stress patient.
“Yes, Loic. This Friday.’
“I’ll be glad to finally see the boy again.”
Sandra walked silently pom pom into a new reinet, juice dripping on her shoes.
Half was what the villagers called human flotsam. He washed up to work in the factory and hooked on a woman. Dimi could be found in Jeanne’s bar every day. As a taker with a golden finger, he was soon adored by the regular men. They watched with pleasure how thin then Jeanne exchanged loving glances with the generous newcomer. Therefore, the shock was great when Sandra announced her engagement to Dimi. What were the friends supposed to do with this pig? All the boys knew where to find Sandra when the need was great, who wouldn’t stand in the alley on a lonely Saturday night? And if you could find Jeanne? The boys shrugged and drank in the budding happiness. They raised their glasses again when Sandra came to show their son Batu just nine months later. As a new father, Dimi also gave more, which is why all the boys turned a blind eye when Jeanne disappeared into the alley with their friends.
In those years, Loïc often stood on Sandra’s doorstep, worried neighbors called. Sandra screams and throws Dimi’s clothes out the window, Batu is hungry in his crib, Dimi is at Jeanne’s counter. Loïc walked around the house with Batu in his arms for hours, making sure the child had something to eat. When the boy grew up, Loïc sometimes took him to his rounds.
Batu told Loic everything. That he wanted to join the cops later, he slept with a butterfly knife under his pillow, was madly in love with the girl next door.
It was Loïc who arrested Batu. Dimi called and asked the gendarme to come alone. Loïc would never forget what he saw that day. The blood was all over the kitchen, a big puddle was in front of the oven. The girl next door found Loïc in the garden, on the lawn. His throat was cut, his eyes gouged out. Batu cradled him in his arms, the boy’s body red with blood.
Without handcuffs, Loïc put Batu in the police van. Inside he grabbed some clothes, the smell of the house confused Loïc. A mixture of coagulated blood and freshly baked apple pie, he tasted it on his tongue.
The media has turned Batu into a beast. The more they devoured, the quieter Batu became. The villagers saw his silence as an admission of guilt, long before the judge passed their verdict. As a cop, Loïc always trusted his gut feeling, and that exonerated Batu. But after his first black eye, Loïc was also silent. The following year he retired early.
The murder weapon was never found. Batu suspected that she had cut her throat with the butterfly knife found in her room. The pathologist testified at the trial that the girl succumbed to brain injuries inflicted on her eye socket with a very sharp object. Cylindrical, according to the pathologist.
Batu was ten years old. After the trial, the village emptied and Dimi drank himself. Sandra continued to work for Jeanne, mostly in the back of the kitchen, washing dishes and cleaning apples. There was nothing more to do.
While Loïc was not at the bar, he went through the murder case. Sandra and Dimi’s police interview was rushed, after all, they already had the perpetrators, one sentence in Dimi’s file did not release Loïc: ‘Our Batu wanted to go to Paris with that girl, Sandra just couldn’t. that belly.’
He kept Loïc awake at night.
Pépé was the first to recognize Batu, but only Loïc approached the young man and hugged him tightly. Batu became thinner, Loïc saw a big hole in his mouth.
‘Hey dirty fagot!’ Pépé’s voice filled the coffee.
‘Fuck you, Batu must know how, after all these years at the Anal Academy!’
The men roared, beer glasses broke, Jeanne calmed things down with a round of the house. Loïc watched as Sandra slowly came out of the kitchen and walked over to her son. He slowly hugged Batu, still in his arms. Batu looked over his mother’s shoulder at his old friend.
“The blood smelled like apple pie.”
Loic shook his head. He knew exactly what Batu meant.
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