| Rose Attar Gum and
Vanessa Wilentz lay on her back as drops of watery fertilizer fell on her brow from the apartment of Roda Ellen van P----. It was late Saturday afternoon, she had not visited her uncle yesterday and she felt she was swimming in a pool of lead. She was very confident Friday morning; in fact when she was giving a report in Professor Chelmnickon's class and saw that he was drowsing off, she yelled "wake up" in such a loud and rather abrasive voice that Constantine Rudman (the mathematics graduate student who also took the class) almost turned white in shock. But her uncle was an intimidating man, and she decided that she could not visit him on the Sabbath and that it would be So Much Wiser to visit him Saturday evening.
A few weeks earlier Miss Van P---- had begun faking epileptic seizures in order to get her maid to pay attention to her. She was less than pleased with the results, and would eventually stop them, but she was performing one right now as Vanessa slowly found the will to get up and take the anonymous notes off the bedside table. It took twenty-five minutes by bus to get to the large, sumptuous and quite tasteful mansion that Ignatius Wilentz, M.P., P.C. called his home. When Vanessa got there, it was past seven, and the Havdalah service was already finished. She rang the doorbell and was answered by Mary Lightfeathers. Lightfeathers was a young Indian woman who had taken the opportunity of a scholarship fund in the name of the late Mrs. Ignatius Wilentz, whereby any Indian could be granted large sums of cash to convert to Judaism and receive an excellent private education. The program was quite successful; already three scholarship holders had been brutally murdered by anti-semites. Lightfeathers had changed her name after her conversion to Miriam Sarahson, and it was she who ushered Vanessa into the dark and almost empty house.
she entered a
small light clicked on the second story landing. Ignatius left
on in the house, so most of the mansion was in darkness, punctuated
only by the
hum of a computer program. It was the computer which regulated
Lightfeathers' education, by running an a special sequence of assorted
tapes. When Vanessa entered the house a tape was running on Tang
but it was now immediately confined to Lightfeathers' room in the
basement. A strange, undefinable smell filled the air; Ignatius
did not care for the smell of his niece and her parents. But
nephew he preferred more innocuous smells than paraquat. Vanessa
something like a rattle from the second floor and knew that
started burning the almonds. Presently, just after receiving a
call from a mad French woman claiming that all the country's blacks
guillotined, and just after he put down the preparations that were to
for Senator Veniot's funeral, Ignatius Wilentz appeared on the landing,
in front of a portrait of George Brandes. He was almost seventy,
he looked twenty years younger; with infinite grace and decorum
into his mouth a piece of Attar-of-rose chewing gum from
Wilentz was the
liberal MP for Ottawa Southeast. He had not always represented
riding; in the past he had represented such constituencies as
There were many gloomy conversations in the Liberal party elite about the situation in the west.
depressing the way the party is out there. We have only two MPs
"Who are they again?"
"Axworthy, Bockstael, and of course Wilentz. Only two."
"Hold on, something's wrong."
"What? Axworthy, Bockstael, and Wilentz of course. Only two."
"Hold it, you're not counting right. Bockstael, Axworthy, and oh, of course, Wilentz. You're right, only two."
was the case of
the exportable ridings, and in his more than thirty years of parliament
had kept a firm eye on them, once attempting to give the new riding of
Happy-Happy-Happy to Louis-Ferdinand Celine, because Celine needed the
cash. That fell through, and even non-Liberals managed to get a
the exportable ridings, though the most famous example, the case of
Reyanaldes, the Conservative MP for the
Wilentz had been a numbers of times minister without portfolio; he could have gone on to greater successes were it not for a few inconvenient facts. Politics bored him, he was Jewish, and too often he introduced private members bills that were like the following: "Today is the birthday of Frederick Nietzsche. Since Nietzsche was and is infinitely more intelligent than at least 99% of the people in the country, we should commemorate this day as a reminder to all of this country's worthless philistines." Similar proposals in favor of Kierkegaard, Spinoza and Maimonides met a similar fate, though a proposal that the present Duke of York's birthday should be celebrated by having all the Tory MPs cluck like chickens almost passed a very bored house. As for the rest of his time, Wilentz spent it reading.
her uncle her problem, he had her read the anonymous notes to him, and
another piece of rose attar chewing gum into his mouth. He was
next four years he
read voraciously, scored well on his exams, wrote a Yiddish pamphlet
to Smuggle Yourself into
this time, of
course, the Nazis had occupied
government finally, very reluctantly, and very resentfully, granted him
citizenship in early 1945. For the past ten years he had done
read. Two encounters with prostitutes convinced him that sex was
overrated, and in late 1941 his correspondence with his family
August 1942, Wilentz, who thoroughly studied the European press,
the Holocaust from rumours in the Swiss press, and spend the next two
trying to lobby
such an outburst, Ignatius could only be pleasantly surprised, though
nearly pleasantly surprised enough, to find that some of his family had
survived. Of the fifty-two relatives and their reasonably close
that Ignatius had gotten to know by his correspondence, only four
brother Franz, his sister Sarah, his future sister in law Rebekah
Kafka, and a
cousin of his father's named Avraham Tertzel. Surviving Shoah was
very simple (you escaped to the
Franz Wilentz, after
a large number of extremely close escapes, finally saved himself in
by boarding a train bound to
He survived the first two and a half years of the German occupation by the black market, though the ever constant German fines still wiped out half his fortune. He survived the next year using the rest of it to bribe and blackmail Irish consulate officials into giving him enough passports to make it to the sea, where he managed to spend the next two years with some Finns.
and Sarah all returned to
Franz Wilentz wanted
to go to
Vanessa Wilentz interrupted her reading to ask her uncle a question.
Did he know where Natasha Wilentz was? Peter was curious and he had asked about her.
"I have no idea where she is. My daughter is a grown woman, and I do not need to be constantly informed of her whereabouts. I have not heard anything from her since her marriage to that Pole."
After Ignatius Wilentz turned forty it had occurred to him that he had not fulfilled the command of the Torah to marry and have children. He therefore sought one of the less shallow unmarried female members of the local synagogue executive, and after four of the most surpassingly boring evenings in his life he proposed marriage to her. She accepted and ten months later a child was duly conceived. Ignatius was not terribly enthused about this; nothing less than a reincarnation of Nietzsche, Spinoza, or Maimonides would satisfy him. And since it was his firm belief that only idiots believed in reincarnation, he knew he was going to be disappointed. So the birth of his first and only child, Natasha Wilentz, did not move him one way or another.
But try as he might, Ignatius could not ignore the all-surpassing charm and grace of his daughter, a charm and grace that even Neo-Nazis could not resist. Early on, his wife commented how pleasant it was that Natasha never cried at night and keep waking them up. Since Ignatius only slept five and a half hours a day, not at all of them at night, he did not know what was so wonderful about that. But soon he noticed how the most corrupt and unsentimental bagmen in the party prostrated themselves like idiots before the baby girl, how his cooks and maids kept spontaneously giving the toddler sweets and cooking special dinners when they should have been cooking food for the rest of the household, how even sour-faced fifteen year old Peter Wilentz was captivated and made the purest gesture of love he could ever possibly perform, by giving the little girl a cake of soap to eat. One day the Deputy Minister of Finance came over and gave the four year old Natasha a rattle. "Does Natasha like the little rattle, does she like her nice little rattle? Does she, Does she?"
"Yes, actually I do. Thank you very much sir."
became a real problem when her father tried to have her educated.
Ignatius first put her in public school, then after two and a half
he put her in the most exclusive and authoritarian Catholic school he
find. No such luck; the entire faculty and all her class was
the six year old Natasha, so Ignatius made arrangements to have her
tutored. With firm resolution Ignatius gave her daughter a long
difficult reading list and enormous amounts of homework, while he set
look for teachers. His wife was so angered at the load on her
she announced that from this moment on she and her husband would sleep
separate rooms. Actually, they had been sleeping in separate
she had become pregnant; her in the main bedroom, and Ignatius in the
where he did his work. In the meantime the first of the scholars
straight from the
Natasha's mother had long since been dead, having died of an appropriately sentimental disease when Natasha was seven, and Ignatius had honored her memory by setting up the Mrs. Ignatius Wilentz Memorial Scholarship in her name. Aside from that, Ignatius showed so few signs of affection to anyone that many people thought he was heartless, cold and more than a bit mad. Jokes were not easily told about Ignatius Wilentz even when he was not there, such was the magnetism of his presence, but only Dr. Roget noticed that by her own careful and premeditated charm Natasha Wilentz ensured that no-one really tried either. And it was only Dr. Roget who noticed Ignatius' glare to the rabbi to cut back on the clichés during Natasha's wedding. And it was also only Dr. Roget who read the note from his father in law saying that Philippe did not deserve his daughter and that the marriage would end in divorce, but that she would never really leave him. Somehow that note meant more to him than the Spinoza Ignatius had given him as a wedding gift, and it was only Dr. Roget who noticed that behind Ignatius's objectivity and dispassionate view of his daughter was a love that transcended affection, desire and pleasure, but not justice.
Wilentz had the rest of his family to worry about. Franz and
worked since their marriage in one of
"Ah Hah!" said the ringleader. "He must be a Christian Arab!" and they beat him up anyway.
learned about this in one of Sarah's monthly letters, he immediately
some money. And he did the same when he found that she had been
raped by an Arab, and he would do so again as she was raped again and
various Arab parties. But when he read in a letter that one Purim
evening, which had taken place after Felix had to declare bankruptcy
his partner in the glass-blowing firm they owned, the glass of which
incidentally was slowly ruining Felix's health, had embezzled all the
Sarahson it is only because every single incident in this letter is
true, that I find it so completely hilarious." And indeed
Lightfeathers herself, as well as Peter, Roget and even
Dramsheet would later find the letters an utter delight. They
chortled with circumspect glee whenever they learned that whenever
a hard-earned ice-cream for one of her children, an Arab would appear
nowhere and vindictively throw it on the ground and stamp on it.
Chelmnickon once found this amusing in an odd, untypical, Polish sort
way. This thing sort of thing happened all the time; when
invited the Simrickys to
Nothing upset Sarah Simricky more than one Asyysr Benemk, an Arab citizen who raped her no less than seven times, and was responsible for three of her twelve children. It was not that Benemk actually found her attractive; indeed he was an extremely near-sighted homosexual, who kept mistaking her for her young lithesome son, and would have vomited all over her had he ever correctly guessed her sex. She had tried to have this insatiable pederast convicted, but when a fire broke out at one of the premier Jewish orphanage for boys, Benemk, for the most selfish and depraved of reasons, personally rescued the thirteen most beautiful boys. For this the Israeli government gave him a medal, and even gave him the opportunity to be drafted. This opportunity Benemk took in order to make it that much more difficult for Sarah to prosecute him. He was a lazy soldier, spending most of his time at the Syrian border chatting in the most subversive way with the guard across the boundary. Indeed, he was having a debauched and grotesque drinking party when the Yom Kippur War began, and thus inadvertently delayed a crucial Syrian advance twelve hours that could otherwise have split Israel in half. For this act of unintended bravery the viciously anti-semitic Benemk was promoted from a reserve sergeant to a full colonel in the space of eight months.
Vanessa Wilentz had now finished reading the seven letters her anonymous admirer had sent her. "O.K. What are they?"
"Oh, they're love letters, of course."
"Oh really. I could have guessed that, uncle. What are we going to do about them?"
"The letters are hardly illegal or threatening, so the police would probably not pay much attention to them. Working on my own however, I can arrange a suitably private investigation. You will place the letters down and I shall summon Ms. Sarahson to make copies and seal the originals in a place far from my sense of smell." (At this point Ignatius tactfully popped another piece of attar of rose chewing gum into his mouth.) "If any more letters arrive, ensure that Sarahson receives them. I shall form a committee of three people to investigate the letters and find the identity of their author. The three shall consist of my lawyer, Louis Dramsheet, Q.C., a psychologist at Carleton, Dr. Oliver Corpse, and a member of the police force working on his own private capacity. That will be all, thank you."
Ignatius pushed a convenient button that temporarily halted the computer education program and which summoned Lightfeathers up from her basement room. Ignatius directed her to take the letters and to show Vanessa out the door. He then went into his study and looked over the things that had to be done. There was the eulogy he had to write for Senator Veniot's funeral. There was the speech had to write against some fatuous cabinet minister that the press considered a potential prime minister. He looked for Oliver Corpse's telephone number and remarked how much weight he had gained when he had seen him earlier today. He then looked through a special black book containing the names of the Ottawa Police force. Flipping through it he found quickly found the name he was looking for: Inspector Joseph Tyrone. At this point Lightfeathers entered the room and awkwardly tried to discuss tomorrow's curriculum. And then, in a conscientious effort to make small talk she said:
"Isn't it horrible how those Catholic priests keep sodomizing all those young boys that go to Catholic schools and orphanages?"
did not bother to
look at her, and merely noted that "sodomizing" was a brand new word
for her. He was trying to find a letter that Veniot had given to
few days before he died. "No, not really. I have always
thought that anyone stupid enough to believe in vulgar Zoroastrian
deserves everything he gets."
from a long
line of seamen," claimed Madame Catherine Jeannette Roget
"Doesn't that sort of go without saying?" asked her confused nephew,
Giles Seinkewicz, before his mother whacked him on the head with the
she was using. But Madame Vovelle was quite serious about the
her family. Ever since Champlain, the Roget family had lived in
Henri, on the other hand, continued fishing in his not very distinguished Acadian village, and married a very beautiful young woman his age named Marie Abelard. Well, he was thought she was very beautiful, but Modern Age would have denounced this as cheap sentimentality. In a short period of time they produced two daughters and then, for a suspiciously long period of time, no others. The first daughter was named Avare, the second Catherine Jeannette. Catherine Jeannette's earliest memory was being told about the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary when she was only three and a half. She had to remember that event, because the second earliest memory wouldn't have made sense otherwise. She remembered toddling along with her mother and older sister to a fairground when Marie wanted to visit a Genuine Gipsy Fortune-Teller. She took them both into the little tent and there was a lady in Arabian costume, who wore a black wig in order to cover her luscious blonde hair, had stained her skin with shoe polish and who took a 1932 Tijuana Tarot Card set. She then started to recite words from the Baghadava Vita in the original Hindi; she didn't know what they meant (in fact they were about a tree one of the characters was describing), but it certainly sounded impressive. She lit incense, actually a mixture of cinnamon and flash powder, and spoke grotesque French in a ludicrously silly low voice. Marie Roget was amazed, and Avare was frightened. But even then Catherine Jeannette was suspicious and suspected that this ostentatious fraud knew too much about secret truths of this and other worlds. Looking closely at a welt on Marie's shoulder caused by a fight with her husband, the fortune teller solemnly noted that there were problems between her and her husband. She then gave one of her standard Francophone village platitudes: you are a devout member of the church of Rome, but in your heart of hearts you feel you have not done not nearly enough. She then smoothed the hair of the not terribly attractive Catherine and said "this daughter shall not be a temptress of men." And then she said what Avare and Catherine Jeannette never forgot from that day onwards: "Madame, one of your daughters, though a virgin, shall conceive a child through the help of the powers of heaven."
By the time she reached her first communion, Catherine had started the occasional bouts of mortification and fasting that she would follow for the rest of her life, this time in order to prove herself worthy of being the successor to the mother of God. She only stopped the first time when her parish priest told her that privileges from God could not be bought, not even with suffering and pain. Shortly after that the future Madame Vovelle remembered following her father out to the sea. He sat down on a rock, while she stood, as he gazed wistfully down into the ocean.
He spoke. "I wish that mermaids really existed. I wish I could see them."
"Perhaps you already have father. Perhaps mother is a mermaid and you are simply too stupid and selfish to recognize that." Madame Vovelle's parish priest had already taught her that being utterly tactless towards one parents was not a vice when confronted with the other six universal sins. Already Catherine Jeannette had the self-assurance and stature to openly castigate her parents. At the time Henri Roget could only curse the annoying priests in the village under his breath; only afterwards, when it was far too late, did he realize how right his daughter was.
For two months later, Henri Roget would Die. He would be declared officially dead by the authorities of the province of New Brunswick; all his bodily remains (which consisted of his left arm and his scalp) would be buried in the churchyard of St. Ursulla's Catholic church; his manner of dying would become a province wide event, of particular interest to marine biologists, while his wife would marry another man, and become pregnant within the year.
It happened this way. The whole town was on a ferry for a summer celebration, and Henri decided that he would introduce the community to the wonderful new sport of water-skiing. Two kilometers from the shore Roget whizzed by the ferry where his wife and daughters were, while an old crony of his drove the only speedboat in the riding. But as it happened just as Roget was about to speed by the ferry one more time, the boat bumped against something and boat, Roget and crony flew through the air to splash down right by the side of the ferry.
The two men were somewhat stunned, while Marie and the men on the ferry tried to reach them with life preservers. It was only then that it was revealed what the boat had bumped against. It was a shark, a very large shark, and it had a lot of large brother sharks who swarmed towards the ferry. (Surprisingly, there were no sister sharks.) A life preserver lifted Roget out of the water, but then the tension slacked, and the horrified rescuers found that they had only retrieved his left arm. The poor crony was swallowed in a thrice, while a shark was seen to bite off Roget's scalp. The beast was shot, picked up from the sea, as the other sharks ate its bottom half and then themselves in a shocking feeding frenzy.
his left arm were placed in a box, while biologists all over
The only problem with all this was that Henri was not actually dead.
chewed off his scalp, he immediately fell unconscious and sank to the
the sea, while the sharks obligingly devoured themselves. It was
that he was rescued by the shark's true prey, the true reason that they
wandered so near
Naturally everyone was quite embarrassed. Legally Roget had been dead; now that he was alive he was still Marie's husband, and in the eyes of the law, the proper father of Daniel Raymond's child. Some suggested that everything should be solved by prosecuting Marie for bigamy and Henri for desertion, but more sentimental minds prevailed. It was suggested that the second marriage be annulled and this had Marie's sympathy, but Raymond, who already had a low opinion of the church's views on divorce, had no intention of having his child retroactively bastardized before she (and it was a she) was even born. To have the first marriage annulled would raise similar problems, and be very tricky legally. So the town could only do one thing: raise a collection in order to bribe Liberal members of parliament to push through the divorce bill for Henri Roget as quickly as possible. Corneille contributed quite a lot to the settlement, while Marie agreed to give Henri custody of Avare and Catherine. Naturally, the fact that Henri must have been deranged, evidenced from his always talking about mermaids, convinced the House of Commons to get the bill passed so that Marie could be remarried to Daniel Raymond just as she was going into labor. Four hours afterwards Daniel Raymond saw his first and only child, Atala Amara Raymond.
The ironic fact of all this was that Atala Amara Raymond, later known as Atala "Alice" Amara Raymond, and later still as Alice Amelia Raymond, and later known to her eldest sister as Alice Amnesia Raymond, and finally as Mrs. Alice Concrete, M.P. for the Reform Party for the riding of Western Somme, was in fact no relation at all to Daniel Raymond. Although Henri Roget never left the sea and Marie never entered the ocean at the moment of her conception, it was an indisputable fact that Atala was Henri Roget's legitimately conceived daughter. This was how it happened; in the warm, dry phosphorescent shell Henri gradually recovered enough to speak about his wife, and tried to tell the mermaid about her. It took six months for Henri to be lucid enough to tell the mermaid where she could find his wife. She therefore prepared a special sort of message to give to Marie; she took special limestone sodas that bubbled from the ocean floor and she mixed them with special odors such as the salt of the sea, the poison of jellyfishes and the crucial ingredient of marigolds grown in sea-water. For the fat she ejaculated semen from Roget when he was sleeping and she mixed everything into a small cake no larger than the palm of a woman's hand. There she wrote on it with special octopus inks a message in French saying that eat this and you will know and love your husband forever. She then swam to the shore one winter's night and her fins turned into legs and out of duty and punishment she walked in agony on the guillotine ground. Naked, she slipped into what she correctly guessed was Marie's bathroom, and left the cake, seen by no-one in the village except by the ever-observant Catherine Jeannette. She then dashed back to the sea. Unfortunately for all parties concerned except for that of Alice Concrete, the Raymonds had chosen that day to run out of soap, so when Marie went to take a bath the next day she thought this was an extra cake of soap. And so she washed the marigold smelling mermaid soap all over her breasts, on her arms, at the back of her neck, behind her ears (as her old mother always said she should), around her feet, and between her legs. The message was washed off with the first bath and nine months later Atala Raymond was born.
Henri Roget took his
unintended divorce with outward good grace, though Avare could see his
suffering and wished for her mother to return. That could not
however, for shortly thereafter, Raymond publicly converted to
and seeing the lack of enthusiasm in his wife's eyes, rashly moved his
"Our mother died in agony and suffering. Good. Her death was caused by the Lord our God, all things that come from God are good and this therefore was a just punishment for her sins that she fully deserved."
A year later Raymond married a happy young woman in his clerk's office named Mabel Shields. They had no children, but Mabel loved her step-daughter very dearly and spoiled her horribly by giving her all the shampoo she could want. It was she was started calling Atala, Alice, and later mistaking "Amelia" for "Amara," and she did this so often that Alice Amelia Raymond forgot that she had any other name. Henri Roget would live another few years, spending his free time alone and drawing half-naked mermaids. Sometimes he would try to find everything he could learn about them, and would often speculate on their origins. Avare thought her father mad, or at least somewhat confused, while Catherine Jeannette believed the mermaid to be one of Satan's more cunning stratagems. Only on his deathbed, where he was alone because Avare had dashed off to try to get an ambulance, and Catherine Jeannette was running to the priest's, did he realize the Truth, that the mermaid was his own wife, imprisoned in purgatory, and that he did not deserve her love or his salvation. And he did not even have time to fully appreciate this thought because Catherine Jeannette had re-entered with the priest not quite right behind her, and she whispered into her father's ears "You may not know why the good die and the wicked prosper, but you should never doubt that you are being punished for your sins."
By staggering good luck, Henri Roget had just drunkenly filled out a life insurance policy for a rather large sum just before he died, so that there was enough money for Avare and Catherine Jeannette to attend the Catholic University of St. Francis-Xavier. They shared the same apartment and it was there that Catherine Jeannette would meet the man who would be the second most important man in her life, and who would in turn introduce her to her first, her greatest and her most sincerest love. The first was God, the second man was Dr. Albert Hermann, while the only man who ever enjoyed sexual relations with her, her husband Genet Vovelle, a mathematics teacher with large and completely unfulfilled sexual urges, was around twenty-seventh in the list of important men in her life.
She met Hermann while he was giving a five-hour lecture on The Imitation of Christ, where he was arguing that the book would still retain its moral grandeur and philosophical brilliance had it even not been written by Thomas A Kempis, but instead had been written by such diverse people as Maimonides, Karl Marx, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Vivian Leigh or Jack the Ripper. He immediately noticed Catherine Jeannette, because she was the only person awake at the end of it, and he invited her to have some sugarless coffee with her.
(and indeed is) ten years older than the future Madame Vovelle, and was
back in his native
Jeannette had shed few tears for her father (to wit: none) and she had
viewed herself as intellectually superior to her older sister. So
with considerable surprise that she one day asked Avare some question
some martyr to the faith under the new Communist regime in
Although she had not learned everything there was to know about the Captive Nations, envy and wounded pride made Catherine Jeannette quickly study everything she could. Soon enough she lost any inferiority to the workmanlike Seinkewicz who often dropped by the dormitory to give Avare special documents. Naturally, if she felt herself superior to Seinkewicz she could only compare herself to her sister in a better light, and she was therefore quite surprised when Seinkewicz offered the objective suggestion that Miss Avare Roget possessed considerable organizational skills and made a valued contribution to the chapter. One evening Catherine Jeannette attended one of Dr. Hermann's lectures on Catharism and she realized that she had unaccountably left behind several crucial books behind. She ordinarily left them near the base of the brand new television that Avare had just bought, and she would ordinarily put on her coat and then grab the books and go out the door. But tonight she remembered that when she put on the coat, the books were not there, though she had specifically remembered placing them there. She excused herself from the lecture, raced back to her dormitory, opened the door and found Avare and John naked on the living room floor having sex. Catherine did not look at them any longer than was necessary, and instead realized that Avare must have stuffed her books out of the way, and correctly guessed that they must have been placed on the top of Avare's clothes closet. In cool, methodical procession, she took the books from the clothes closet, exited the bedroom, put the books down by the side of the television and a meter away from the passionate couple, turned to open another closet door, took out a croquet mallet that her uncle Corneille had given the two of them as a gift, walked until she stood right over John, whacked him very hard on the back, returned the mallet to the closet, picked up her books, and left.
Two years after she graduated Avare Roget announced that she was going to marry John Seinkewicz, and ultimately did so. Two years later Catherine Jeannette announced to Dr. Hermann that she wanted to become a nun. To her surprise Hermann vetoed the idea with unusual vehemence. He believed that the Holy Spirit had much higher ambitions for her. Altruism and self-sacrifice were all very well, but there was a war to be fought, and it could not be fought entirely by nuns. But it would take time for Dr. Hermann to achieve the full backing of the church for his plans and in the meantime Catherine should marry and start a family.
She found the
perfect husband very soon: Genet Vovelle, a young man who had
mathematical talents and had considerable charm and wit as well.
Unfortunately his sexual desires were so strong and so unsubtle that
self-respecting girl would slap him, kick him, throw hot coffee in his
and in one case push him off the third floor of a fire escape.
prostitutes felt insulted at his demands and would refuse to sleep with
him. So it took Vovelle little convincing that he should propose
Catherine. Had he realized how little sex this would involve he
had second thoughts. For Catherine had told Hermann about the
that her mother had used. He in fact had already been aware of
this, a special
All that was needed was the sperm. Vovelle was a lustful man, but not a cruel one. Because Catherine was such an intimidating woman anyway, all his frustrations were diverted into masturbation, so a suitable supply was easy to obtain. After six months of marriage Vovelle was about to get an annulment on the grounds that the marriage had not been consummated when Catherine appeared with the first genuine smile that Vovelle had ever seen in their entire relationship and happily announced that she was pregnant. Vovelle could not believe it, and he believed it even less when every obstetrician and gynecologist in Atlantic Canada said that of course the baby girl (who was named Pandora) was Vovelle's daughter. For the first four years of the little girl's life she was constantly having blood and skin samples taken from her by doctors from most of the cities of North America which all showed unequivocally that Genet Vovelle, and only Genet Vovelle, was her father. Vovelle was stunned, amazed, confounded, and eventually came to the conclusion that his wife must have seduced him in his sleep, though Catherine strongly denied the notion. Her only response to his repeated questions was that it was a miracle.
And so they continued together for another four celibate years, when their daughter had to go to the hospital for five days because an outbreak of measles. It was when Vovelle lay down on the bed in order to relax after this very trying experience that for the first and only time of her life Catherine Vovelle became filled with sexual desire. She removed all of her clothes, and then to Vovelle's utter amazement and delight removed all of this. The next four days were spent in utter passion, but Vovelle's lustful nature got the better of him and he insisted on going on for a fifth day. By the time he stopped in final exhaustion, Madame Vovelle was completely bored to tears, and by the time she returned home with Pandora she was filled with the absolute conviction never to let her husband touch her again. The experience had, however, left her pregnant; when nine months later she gave birth to another girl she said "I will name her after the sea."
later, around five or six or seven years later, Genet Vovelle sort of
vanished. It was an odd sort of vanishing, it wasn't as if he
anywhere at all, and was simply under the floorboards cut up in several
pieces. It was not as if his children never heard from him
now and then his youngest and favorite daughter would receive a
exhorting her to work hard on her trigonometry. And every couple
there was a postcard with a genuine signature on it. And as
Jeannette Roget continued her life in various vestry meetings, Catholic
groups, sunday school picnics, Liberal party intrigues,
marriage started off with the happiest day in her life. Her
planned to mar it by sending her an anonymous letter written in
patented for that very purpose asking her why Avare was wearing white
wedding day. Luckily the letter got lost in the mail, ending up
letter box of a senior editor at Encounter, who had many passionate
moments with it along with the books of Russell Kirk. Seinkewicz
planned their honeymoon to take place on the Canadian Pacific train
John could only feel guilty and read Polish poetry to his wife in the shadows of Summer sunday afternoons.
For five years
they would search for different opinions from assorted gynecologists,
card-carrying members of the Social Credit Party, all of whom confirmed
total infertility. Finally, they saw one doctor who calculated
although Avare could have normal sex again with a few simple treatments
midly castigated by the
His father and his maternal uncle were immediately struck at how much love and devotion Madame Vovelle gave to her male nephew, especially when it was contrasted to the ostentatious croquet mallet that she would bring along with her visits. Avare, too, was a little disconcerted at her sister's affections, and had she known that Madame Vovelle was certainly capable of having far many more children than she had, she would have tried to kill her out of sheer envy. She would have failed miserably, because Father Antoine Sarraut, the seventy-nine year old blind priest who had temporarily replaced Hermann as Madame Vovelle's mentor, had successfully recommended to her a concerted study of martial arts and quantum physics. In fact, the real reason that Madame Vovelle gave so many gifts to her young nephew was that for a long time she believed that he was the fulfillment of the prophecy of the virgin birth. There had been times when Madame Vovelle thought that the utilization of mermaid soap had now made possible a world of virgin mothers, but her humility and her knowledge of basic genetics made her realize that it did not really count. So when she learned that her sister had produced a baby after five years of being told that it was impossible Madame Vovelle was willing to ignore the obvious fact that her sister was not a virgin and the almost as equally obvious fact that Giles Seinkewicz could only have been the son of his putative father, and would instead grant the virgin boy all the honors and glories that such a child deserved.
But in fact
she was wrong. It was neither her destiny or that of Avare's to
virgin birth. It was instead that of their sister:
"Blessed be the powers on high, for though a virgin, you have been chosen to conceive a child."
previous: How M. Savoir Comitted Suicide