5.1 Grief

May, 1902

Fast carriage splintered wheel on cobbles; Margarethe screaming in the haze. Robert’s effort: a cry, expelled some demon. Timotheus looked away, out to breathe the hospital turrets and crenels. White tiles stinking of carbolic acid gust through open door. She fainted, a sad sack on tiles.

She refused to leave the boy. Wailed in husband’s arms, smacked him. He had to look out, down to footpath chimney sweeps. That night he dreamed of the awards:  a hall with millions of bodies. Each push forward pushed back. Margarethe kicked the sheets. She clutched him tight, with nails. She destroyed the kitchen.

“Vaccinated for smallpox and anthrax.”

All those needles, blistering fear. “No,” she called as violent tide, going under.  Beyond limestone he waits with carriage. Unfinished children’s hospital: girders on soil, spade, a window plate on risen gravel. Towards Mount Royal’s trees a hawk makes a fuss, for warblers. Lovers and doggers cavort.

He had to go back to Burt. Trauma scratched his skin always. Margarethe didn’t talk. Benjamin and Deanna, who minded young Julius, sat in the parlour. It wasn’t tuberculosis or cholera. It was unknown. The mother in the same brown seat: melting, except when trembling carpet. So little Robert for them to speak of, sometimes she locked herself away.

The mother thrashed against the doors of the carriage banging horse along St. Lawrence River. That road, to Verdun, in countryside: a hive of brown bricked windows eager to impress. Nurse explained he’d leave her to recreation, nutrition, toiling soil. The accursed flat was empty and sick. Heckling Jews he sent into tears.

Deanna wasted spuds and mutton on him. Her stay, her parlour form: to comfort and block the spinning, swirling descent. He wanted to out-live, in some moment. She knew, and opened her way to his; threw her head back as he squeezed her firm breasts; sunk his head in hers; this grief rash on feeble brown carpet and old stove potatoes muted by sex.

Benjamin never knew, ignorant among the crowd at 374 Lagaucetiere Street. Trebitsch didn’t feel two months. Three storeys rising from well stared ground, Hebrew sign above the door: his life’s stage, a chasm with Bond, the Archbishop, Burt, Scrimger, Troop. “The top two for recuperation.”

The boxes of Griffintown gave up weary, into shelter of God, who is one.

 

Image Attribution: Verdun Protestant Insane Asylum, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World!, Genealogy: Beyond the BMD.

Ignacz The Watch Thief is serialised five days a week. To donate go to patreon.com/andyluke and access four advance chapters, commentaries or bonus art.

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