Authors: Patrick Senécal
Copyright © Patrick Senécal, 2012
The use of any part of this publication, reproduced, transmitted in any form or
by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise stored in an
electronic retrieval system without the prior consent (as applicable) of the
individual author or the designer, is an infringement of the copyright
The publication of
has been generously supported by the
Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.
Cover design: Julie McNeill
Typography: Grey Wolf Typography
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
[Contre Dieu. English]
Against God / Patrick Senécal; translated by Susan Ouriou.
Translation of: Contre Dieu.
Also issued in electronic format.
ISBN 978-1-926802-78-7 ISBN EPUB 978-1-926802-79-4
I. Ouriou, Susan II. Title. III. Title: Contre Dieu. English.
PS8587. E544C6513 2012 C843'.54 C2012-900243-7
89 Pinewood Avenue
Toronto, Ontario, M6C 2V2
- We had a really good day.
- Great. How’s your mom?
- Happy and healthy. Frankly, she amazes me. She says to say hi.
- Tell her hi back. Are you leaving soon?
- We’ll have our coats on in a minute or two. It’s not snowing, we should be home
within an hour. Have you had supper yet?
- Just finished. I heated up some tourtière.
- Always the gourmet! What about the store?
- For such a sunny Sunday, we did well. Everyone was out buying skis, I’m not
sure why. But I’m not
complaining. (laughter) Looks like we’ll
be spending three weeks in Florida next fall ’stead of just two.
- See what a good idea it is for me to work on a Sunday every once in a
- As if your staff can’t manage without you!
- I’m indispensable, you know that.
- (laughter) Uh-huh. Hey, the kids want to talk to you.
- Put them on.
- Hi, Daddy.
- Hi, sweetheart. Were you good for Grandma?
- Yup. She gave us lots of chocolates. And money for my piggy bank. Four loonies
’cause I’m 4.
- Lucky you, eh?
- I love you, Daddy. I can’t wait to see you.
- I love you, too.
- Here’s Alexis.
- Hewo, Daddy . . .
- Hey champ. Were you good for Grandma, too?
- Yeth . . .
- I hear she gave you candy.
- Yeth . . . loth.
- Did you save any for me?
- Uh-uh. I eated it all.
- You candy-monster! I love you, little man.
- Wuv you, Daddy.
- Can you put Mommy on?
- Okay, we’re off. How ’bout a movie we can cuddle to tonight?
- Good idea. Stop in at the movie store.
- Okay. I can’t wait to see you.
- Me too.
and it all starts when you go to the front door only to be confronted with two
cops who look at you as though they’re carrying the weight of the world on their
shoulders, they ask you your name and your answer doesn’t make them feel any
better, their faces just get even longer, so you wait, your left hand on the
doorknob, your right holding onto the TV remote, and finally you ask what’s
going on, they ask if you’re married to Judith Péloquin, and your voice is
louder now, your voice is shaking now as you repeat your
- Christ, what’s this all about?
question, then one of the two finally dares look you in the eye, he explains,
you listen, at first incredulous, then
frightened, next in
denial, of course, your old standby whenever you’re confronted with something
you don’t want to accept, and you say that’s impossible, and you say that you
spoke to them an hour ago, and you hammer at him in the tone of someone who will
brook no opposition, but the officer states they were discovered about thirty
minutes ago, you’re still in denial, you cry “no” several times, you even try to
close the door on them but they stop you, they enter, gently they try to calm
you, but you walk away, you pace the room, you yell that there’s been a mistake,
you notice you are still holding the remote, the TV is still playing the sports
DVD you were watching with such pleasure a short five minutes ago, and suddenly
your legs won’t hold you anymore, suddenly you collapse, you fall, you drop to
your knees, your sobs, your cries, your hands pull at your hair, and all you
remember of the officers’ verbiage is the last part, that you must identify the
bodies, you spring to your feet, yes, you absolutely have to see them, now,
right now, and you climb into the cop car, you drive to the hospital, but when
they show you Judith’s body, your frenzy dissolves, turns into bitter futile
tendrils dispersing through the universe, and when you recognize Béatrice you
start to cry again, but you don’t recognize the third body, it belongs to a boy
of two or so but how to tell whether this is Alexis, the face too disfigured,
too destroyed, but then you notice the birthmark on his left thigh and from that
point on you founder into such hysteria, such confusion that they have to inject
you with a tranquilizer that
plunges you into a night’s long
sleep, then you wake up in a strange bed in a hospital room, you turn your head
and see Jean-Marc, Judith’s older brother, his tie undone, his features haggard,
he notices that you’re awake, draws near, hugs you, you both cry for a moment,
but you want to understand, to know more, you ask for explanations, so Jean-Marc
tells you painfully, with frequent interruptions to blow his nose, to regain
control of his trembling voice, but you grasp the main thrust, Judith’s car fell
into a ravine off that damn winding road you’ve taken so often, in the hairpin
curve that you know so well, the car rolled several times as it fell before
hitting a stone wall below, was it Judith who missed the curve, or a car coming
from the opposite direction that took the curve too wide and forced your wife to
veer off the road, the cops don’t know, but they’re leaning toward the first
hypothesis, there was after all a sheer layer of ice on the road and if another
car was involved, most likely it would have stopped, but there’s no way of
knowing, the police are investigating in any case, but you stop listening, your
head turned to the window, your gaze bewildered, and you mumble that you don’t
have it in you to look after the formalities, funerals, all of it, you’re simply
incapable, and you burst into tears saying you’ll never be able to, it’s too
much, too too much, and Jean-Marc takes your arm, Jean-Marc tells you he’ll look
after everything, Jean-Marc always so generous, so helpful, and you observe him
for a moment perplexed, you turn away, your gaze unfocused and distant, silence,
green walls, a voice over
the intercom, coughing in the
hallways, and when finally you speak
- I want the funerals held soon. Before the weekend. As soon as possible.
you’re still looking out the window, Jean-Marc nods, enfolds you in his arms
again and you let him, finally he leaves, you’re alone, you do nothing,
absolutely nothing, an hour later you leave the hospital but are surprised to
see some seven or eight people approaching, cameras, tape recorders at the
ready, journalists eager for comments, holding out their mics to you like so
many poisoned lollipops, and you’re taken aback, you lengthen your stride, say
no comment, your voice calm, your eyes evasive, but they follow you to the taxi
as you climb in and repeat the same words, the restraint in your voice is
surprising but I’m sure that inside, you’re seething, calm was never a notable
virtue of yours, but you hold yourself together, the taxi takes off, you don’t
move, just massage your face ever so slowly, twenty minutes, stop, get out, you
walk to the front door of your house but you stop short, but you observe it
closely, but you scrutinize the house, dread in your eyes, you rummage through
your pockets, your keys are there, so you slide into your car and start it up,
you drive toward the City, the clock on the dash reads ten forty, you reach the
north bridge in under thirty minutes, you cross over, skyscrapers piercing the
sky in the distance, the busy streets, pedestrians everywhere, finally you stop
in a neighbourhood full of duplexes and triplexes, climb
stairs to a duplex, ring a doorbell, two long minutes, the door opens, Sylvain
still half-asleep, his thick black curly hair all dishevelled, surprised to see
you, he laughs as he says something big must be up for you to drop by on a
Monday morning, but at last your zombie eyes straight out of one of the old
horror movies you loved to watch as teens register with him, he asks you to wait
a minute then, disappears, two minutes, a pretty young girl appears, twenty-five
or so, shoots you a dirty look, walks past and down the sidewalk, then Sylvain
returns, invites you to come inside, have a seat, but you can’t wait to be
- They’re all dead, Sylvain.
tell him now, on the doorstep, but clearly he doesn’t understand, his brow
knit, his head turned slightly to the right, you sob then and, now, yes, he
understands, the horror, the unthinkable, the impossible, he grabs you, pulls
you inside, you let him, you’re shaking all over, you both stand in the living
room and cry together, in each other’s arms, two ruins leaning on each other so
as not to crumble, then come the questions, your confused and fragmented
explanations, lacerated with sobs and cries, Sylvain calls the record store he
works for and tells them he won’t be in that afternoon, he even tells the person
protesting on the other end to go to hell, but you object, point out that he
could be fired, but Sylvain doesn’t give a damn, Sylvain reminds you he never
keeps a job for more than six months, he brings out a bottle of scotch, two
drinks downed in a matter of seconds followed by two more,
in no time the apartment becomes the scene of your communion in rage, despair
and incomprehension, and there’s a phrase you repeat
- Where’d I go wrong?
three or four times, unable to stop eyeing your friend’s modest one-bedroom
apartment and its decor, a couple of nondescript laminated posters on the walls,
an old TV and antique stereo, walls yellow with cigarette smoke, Sylvain finally
notices your gaze, asks you what’s wrong, but your answer
- It’s so different . . . So different . . .
is obscure, Sylvain asks different from what, but suddenly you call Guy on your
cell phone, tell him you won’t be in to the store today, he’ll have to place the
orders himself, you don’t give a reason and you hang up, stare hard at your cell
phone mumbling that you’ve only missed four weekdays of work since your store
opened six years ago, Sylvain thinks you’re a fool to worry about stuff like
that, and another quick round, and your friend decrees you’ll sleep there
tonight, your friend swears he won’t leave you alone for a minute, your friend
starts to cry again, but you refuse, it makes no sense, you don’t want to
disrupt his life, his routine, but he waves you off with a
- C’mon, what routine? Shit, make the most of it; for once my lack of
organization is good for something!
broad gesture, and you look hard at him in livid bafflement,
struck by his words, then you spring to your feet, agitated, you have to go,
Sylvain can’t believe his ears, he orders you to stay put, but no, you can’t, so
Sylvain runs to his room, says he’ll get dressed and go with you, but you yell
that you’ll call him tonight, it’s a promise, and you’re already outside,
half-running to your car, you slide inside, glance back at Sylvain’s apartment
as though seeing it for the first time, then drive off as quickly as possible,
as though fleeing the arms of a depraved mistress, you cross over the north
bridge, take the highway, back to your town, its quiet streets, but you drive
fast, extremely fast, and there’s the cement wall on the curve getting closer
and closer, but you don’t slow down, but you don’t turn, your expression
hardens, you clutch the steering wheel, then suddenly you stomp on the brakes, a
shrieking, yours and that of the tires, the car stops a few centimetres from the
wall, but not you, you keep on shrieking and shrieking, and when the car pulls
up in front of your house a few minutes later and you get out, the interior is
still ringing with the echo of your cries, but the same people wait outside,
their feet in the snow, four of them, cameras still, mics still, you avoid their
gaze, no comment, don’t insist, nothing to say, still calm but your voice more
impatient than this morning, yet they don’t give up, they insist, they follow
you right to your door and just before you step inside, you see two neighbours
down the street, watching the scene, curious, voyeurs, and finally you close the
you drop into an armchair, finally you stop
moving, the television still on, the screen blue, your gaze pans over the room,
stops on each object for long minutes, a family picture on the wall, a landscape
on the other wall, sports DVDs in the bookcase, the fireplace, two plants on
each corner, the coffee table holding the knick-knacks Judith collected, Alexis’
toys strewn in a corner, the more you burn your eyes on the relics, the more
your eyeballs sink back into their sockets, as though about to fall deep inside
you, the phone rings several times during the course of the lengthy examination
but you don’t answer, then hunger, seven o’clock, it’s dark outside, you walk to
the kitchen, heat up yesterday’s leftover tourtière, eat it with ketchup, study
the kitchen with the same intensity as you did the living room, mesmerized by
each object, by the order, by the clean counters, then you start digging through
the pantry, pull out the bread, the peanut butter, the cheese, you make two
sandwiches and wash them down with some grape juice, the children’s grape juice,
you’re no longer hungry but you swallow anyway, stuff your face, cram food
inside, ice cream, cookies, cake, you burp, grimace in pain, clutch your belly
with both hands but you don’t stop and you put nothing away and you don’t close
the jars and you leave crumbs everywhere, then you feel nauseous, you raise your
hand to your mouth but you don’t budge, you don’t walk to the bathroom, you open
your mouth instead and it gushes, it spurts, it spatters onto the island, a long
stream of vomit splashing everywhere, you wipe your mouth and return to the
where you stay until late, inert, then you stand
up, take the stairs to your room, remove your clothes and lie down after
slipping on the nasal mask, the sleep apnea machine you’ve hooked yourself up to
for the past two years, the one that was so hard to get used to but was
purported to be so essential, the doctor said so
- You’re thirty-three, you’re still young, but in a few years’ time you’ll be at
a greater risk for a heart attack and sleep apnea increases that risk. My advice
is that you get the machine. It’s a bother, but it’s good for you. It increases
the odds of your having a better quality of life.