It was November. It was cold; below the seasonal average, the weather forecast said. The wind swept the dead leaves along in gusts. The sky was a cold, clear blue. Really not the weather to be put ... [+]
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Translated by Wendy Cross
The wind was blowing in gusts, buffeting the car, which swerved dangerously towards the precipice. Down below, the waves broke with deafening noise on the rocks. It was magnificent but terrifying. I tried to calm my wife who was driving too fast for my liking.
“Slow down or we’ll have an accident!”
Her only response was a shrug of the shoulders and the rather bitter remark: “You can't talk about being careful! If you had been more careful yourself, none of this would have ever happened. Do you even realize that you’ve shot my poor grandmother?”
Of course, I understood my wife was upset, but that was no reason to drive so fast. Especially as she was looking at me rather than the road, with a terrible expression in her eyes of anger mixed with sorrow. I tried to justify myself yet again.
“You know, I didn’t do it on purpose! It was an accident…”
“But you didn’t miss! One bullet was enough! And right through the middle!”
Women will never understand. Firstly, it wasn’t a bullet but a cartridge. I was cleaning my hunting rifle, and it went off all by itself. I hadn’t aimed it at her grandmother deliberately!
Another bend, the tires squealed. I clung on as best I could. My wife whimpered, her voice choked with sobs.
“Grandma… When I think of her, on the floor, at the foot of the chimney, in a pitiful little heap. Admit it, you never liked her!"
It was true that I found her rather disagreeable. She was cantankerous and always stuck her nose in things that were none of her business. The worst was when my wife insisted she come to live in our house; I always felt as if she was spying on me, listening to my every conversation, judging my every action. It was torture, unbearable. I reckon it was rather heroic of me to have put up with her over all those years. And to draw from that the conclusion that I got rid of her…
“You never wanted her to stay with us. You would have liked us to put her in an ‘appropriate place’, as you used to say so hypocritically, because you’re afraid of words…”
It was true that I didn’t think her constant presence was very healthy. Not for me and not for my wife either.
“But she was no trouble at all!”
That was not an opinion I shared. Even if it wasn’t my fault, I was very pleased the misfortune had occurred. Too bad if I was being treated like a monster. In any case, things were urgent now; we had to get rid of what remained of grandmother before we ran into problems.
“Please slow down a bit. You wouldn’t want your grandmother to have another accident...”
With that remark, I thought I was using humour to lighten the mood. Wrong! My wife’s tears intensified.
“Grandma… And to think she’s in the trunk! You didn’t even have the decency to put her on one of the seats!”
Furious, she accelerated and brushed against the safety rail separating us from the abyss. There was one hairpin bend after another, the night was inky black and, as if that wasn’t enough, large drops of rain were splashing onto the windscreen. A downpour, that was all we needed! At least it shouldn’t be long before we get to the turnoff leading to the little isolated creek.
I peered into the darkness… And suddenly… two policemen on motorbikes appeared by our side.
“Hell, the police! The way you’re driving, it’s no wonder!”
That was that, they signalled us to stop. My wife wiped her tears with the back of her hand and lowered her window to present her papers to the two policemen. Out of the corner of my eye I was anxiously watching the one who was walking around our car with the obvious intention of making us pay for him having to be on patrol in this rotten weather. Let’s at least find something to make it worthwhile, he must be saying to himself. And all they needed to do was find Grandma in the trunk! I prayed to God that my wife, who was trembling, stammering and going visibly pale, would pull herself together. I had my doubts.
One of the policemen seemed more obliging. He was ready to let us go and was about to get back on his bike, but the other one wasn't giving up so easily. He shone his torch inside the car, examining every corner. He looked disappointed. Then he ordered me to open the trunk. That was when my wife cracked.
When I heard her, my hair stood up on end. “Leave the trunk alone!” she screamed. “My grandmother is in there! It was my husband who shot her by accident! We are going to throw her into the creek. Do you understand? We can’t keep her like that, after all”.
That kind of spontaneous admission is enough to stupefy a simple policeman. Dumbstruck at first, he then began to scream himself, yelling for his colleague who rushed to my door, pulled me roughly out of my seat and pinned me to the hood of the car. I found myself handcuffed behind my back and being given a thorough regulation search. My wife was in the same position, on the other side of the hood. We looked rather suspect, like that…
Now that they had neutralized us, the cops became more pompous. “So you were just going for a little joy ride with a dead body in the trunk? I knew there was something a little off about you two!”
I was scared to death. How were they going to react when they discovered what remained of Grandma after she had received a load of buckshot at point blank range? They dragged me unceremoniously towards the back of the car, pulling me by my jacket collar, taking no notice of my protests.
“A dead body… No need to exaggerate, is there?”
I was struck by a desire to laugh at the idea that I had hit Grandmother, without even aiming, but this was not the moment. The policeman raised the tailgate and his air of triumph was immediately transformed into a horrible grimace.
“What on earth is that?”
He was brandishing the bag from our vacuum cleaner.
At last I was able to explain myself.
“That's Grandmother! I accidentally let off my hunting rifle pointed right at her urn. She’s been on our mantelpiece for three years! So my wife vacuumed up the ashes that were all over the floor, and we were going to throw them in the little creek… There’s no law against it, is there?”