image avec texte

Si le blog n'aime guère les anglicismes superflus, il adore la langue anglaise.

Surtout quand le texte qu'on publie est signé Donatien Moisdon, notre écriturialiste bilingue.

Cela consolera peut-être les inconditionnels de l'Angleterre traumatisés par le zéro pointé que leurs représentants viennent d'obtenir au dernier concours de l'Eurovision. Ouh, la honte!

Alors si vous aimez la langue de Shakespeare, bonne lecture de Animal 2060...

D'autant que ce texte a été primé il y a quelques années déjà lors un concours de nouvelles proposé par Radio-Kent et lu deux fois sur BBC Radio 4.

Happy reading!

Et peut-être que si vous insistez, Donatien nous enverra pour écrituriales la version française.

Qui sait? Who knows?

En tous cas c'est à dévorer sans modération...

Alain

20210226_150842

ANIMALS 2060

Not surprisingly the children were the first to notice it.  They  were  playing  in  Westcliff  Gardens  when suddenly  they  saw  (I  saw  it  too)  a  supple,  brown shape leap from a branch into a ditch filled with dry leaves. There was a rustling sound and the children who, until then, had been chasing each other up and down the slope, stopped, terrified.

After  a  while  some  of  the  younger  ones  started towards the ditch but the others called them back: “Stop! Stop! It’s an animal!”

At  the  very  mention  of  the word animal,  they  ran away  from  the  ditch.  Seconds  later  the  park  was deserted, all the children, big or small, had cleared off, presumably rushing home to tell their mothers.

Once again, the garden became delightfully quiet. I like to  go  there  on  warm  afternoons.  I  had  not realized  that  it  was  a  school  holiday,  one  of  those October   mid-term  breaks.  I   try   to   avoid   them usually, selfish old man that I am, enjoying lounging there by myself. I am retired, of course, and one of my few remaining pleasures in life is to go to a park with a book, reading a little and day-dreaming a lot

Logo sans nom"A preposterous thought"

When the kids had left I decided tohave a look for myself  at  the  “animal”.  With  a  bit  of  luck,  the children’s  stories  would  not  be  believed,and  most parentswould dismiss the report out of hand. Yet it would only take one fussy mother calling the Police,and they would have to investigate. It is said that the only places in the world that still have animals are Canada  and  Siberia.  Some  people  insist  that  there are a few in the Italian mountains but there hasn’t been a sighting in a long time. As for the middle of  Southend-on-Sea!    The    very    thought    was preposterous.

The last time I saw an animal -a squirrel I believe -was in 2030, five years after the National Executive Central  Committee  (NECC  for  short)  had placed  a ban on all mammals as “parasites”, “food-wasters” and, by way of consequence, “enemies of the People”.

At that time, I, like millions of others, had to hand my  pets  over:  a  faithful  old  black  dog  and  two hyperactive  cats.  I  still  have  in  my  heart,  like  a gigantic  thorn,  the  look  of  silent  reproach  my  dog had   given   me   as   it   was   led   briskly   to   the extermination tunnel. I should have had the courage to strangle one of the soldiers. Many had tried... and failed.

“You like your mutt so much? Go with him!” NECC officials  would  shout.  The  soldiers  roaring  with laughter might push an old man, a young woman or even a child into the tunnel with the animals. People hiding pets were officially branded as “traitors to the ideals of the Central Committee” and “enemies of the State”.  They  and  their  pets  were  whisked  away  in black marias, never to be seen again.

The unmistakable footprints of a cat.

Human beings adapt to all sorts of situations. With the  help  of  the  propaganda  machine  the  younger generation quickly learned to hate animals with all their might. Older folks, like myself, have learned to keep   their   mouths   shut.   Those   who   voiced objections invariably lost their jobs, were beatenup, had  their  houses  or  flats  “searched”and,  if  they persisted,  were  sent  to  labor  camps,  psychiatric hospitals or re-education centers.

A diet of vegetable protein became the norm and it was surprising to see how quickly we all got used to living without animals. The word animal remained, of  course,  even  if  books  on  the  subject  had  been burned and encyclopediasre-written, but it came to mean monster. Children  are  now  threatened  with animals when  they  are  naughty,  although  they would  be  quite  incapable  of  telling  the  difference betweena horse and a guinea-pig.

I  got  up  and  went  to  the  ditch where the “animal”had  disappeared,and  right  there,  on  the  path leading   to   that   ditch,   were   the   unmistakable footprints of a cat.

I froze in the contemplation of this reminder of the past. I used to get annoyed when, years ago, my cats would come home on a wet afternoon and leave their marks  on  a  variety  of  unsuitable  places,  from bedspreads to coffee-tables... I would give anything now to go back to those days.

My reverie was interrupted by a shout: “Get out of the  way  old  man,  we  have  reason  to  believe  that there is an animal around these parts!

”Totalitarian   States   can   change   us   into   such marvelous liars!  I  turned  round  with  the  most amused and innocent smile on my face: “An animal! Surely Officer you’re not serious!”

He shrugged his shoulders: “I don’t believe it either but, as they say, better safe than sorry.Some kids have  reported  an  animal  jumping  from  a  tree.  It leaves us no choice : we’ve got to check.”

A  black  electric  bus arrived  at  great  speed  and stopped by the park with a whimper of tiresclinging to the road. A dozen or so policemen jumped out of the back door, sub-machine guns at the ready. The officer gave me a wink and cocked his head towards his men: “Besides, it’sgood training, enn’it ?”

He  had  barely  finished  talking  when  something moved in the dry leaves. He pushed me aside none too  gently  and  poured  a  stream  of  bullets  into  the ditch: enough to kill at least a hundred animals.“

I’ve got it!”he yelled as he jumped in. He came out, holding by the tail a small tabby cat whose mangled body  was  barely held  together  in places.  A  profuse amount  of  blood,  for  sucha  small  thing,  stained  a patch  of  gravel. Afew drops  splashed  onto  the officer’s  shiny  boots.  The  policeman  was  beside himself  with  joy: “Son  of  a  gun,  I  never  thought  I would have a chance to see one, let alone kill one!” He  started  to  laugh  uncontrollably  and  mutter things about promotion.

The Southend monster

A journalist appeared from nowhere. What a scoop if the Censure Board passed his story! The Police were now  trying  to  disperse  the  crowd  who  had  been attracted by the commotion.

“Wouldn’t  stay  around  here  Pop”,  said  the officer “just in case there’s  another  one!”A  loudspeaker urged people to go home and lock their doors. I had to leave, like everyone else.

Westcliff Gardens was sealed off. Eminent scientists, called in from London, said that if the animal had a mate  it  must have  left  the  area  by  now.  The  whole population of Southend-on-Sea was urged to remain vigilant. Responsible parents were advised to refrain from  sending  their  children  to  the  park  for  several weeks, or until the other creature had been found. As for the Central Committee, they made a solemn promise: if the “Southend Monster” had a mate and if   that   mate   was   ever   caught,   it   would   be ceremonially roasted alive “as  a  symbol  of  all  that was still backward and reactionary in our society.”

Within  a  few  days,  Iwas  able  to  go  back  to  my favorite benchin the autumnsunshine. No children, this time, even though the holiday wasn’t quite over yet.

It   was   another   lovely   afternoon.   I   was   leafing through a goodbook, well and truly approved by the National  Censure  Board,but  felt  also  immensely tired.  Propping  myself  against  the  warm  cement  of the park bench I closed my eyes. The book fell to the grass,I didn’t bother picking it up.

On the point of dozing off I sensed something warm and  soft  against  my  ankle.  I  looked  down  and  my heart  started  to  beat  so  fast  that,  for  a  moment,  I thought I was going to have a cardiac arrest. I took a few deep breaths and managed to steady myself. A small  tabby  cat  was  brushing  against  my  leg, purring  softly...  it  looked  like  a  female.  I  took  her gently on my lap.She placed her front paws on my chest  and  started  running  the  sides  of  her  head against the buttons of my jacket. Had I been found at that moment, they would surely have sent me to the  same  sacrificial  pyre  the animalhad  been promised.

Totalitarian  States  bank  on  the  fact  that  ordinary people just want to go on living, no matter how... and the  State  always  wins.  Could  I  take  the  cat  home? She and I might survive for a few days but, sooner or later, we would both be faced with the prospect of a  horrible  death.  How  I  despised  myself  and  how ashamed I felt of being human!

That  evening  my  grandson  asked  me  why  my  eyes were red, as if Ihadbeen crying, and why my hands were covered in bandages. I looked at the little eight-year   old.   Children   accept   the   most   profound statements with the same equanimity and innocence as they absorb the most trivial remarks or the most preposterous  hate-filledpropaganda. That’s  why  I never lie to them.

123646821_oI kept thinking of the lovely furry corpse hidden under the leaves, butas casually as possible, I managed to say: “I was in great danger. I saved my own life and... and I spared someone else a great deal of pain.”

The  little  man  took  my  hand  and  stared  at  the bandages: “Did it hurt?"

 

Donatien Moisdon