My Life as a Zucchini

Gilles Paris

Translated by Sandra Smith

 

Ever since I was really little, I’ve wanted to kill the heavens, because of Mommy, who often told me:

            “The heavens, my Zucchini, are vast, to remind us that we are nothing in this world.”     

“Life is like all the grey skies with their shitty clouds that piss unhappiness down on us… only worse.”

            “All men have their heads in the clouds. So let them stay there, like your brute of a father who left on a trip around the world with a chick.”

            Mama sometimes talks nonsense.

            I was too little when my Daddy went away, but I can’t see why he would have taken a neighbor’s chick to go around the world with. Chicks are stupid: they drink the beer I mix with their grain and afterwards they stagger[1] until they hit the wall before collapsing onto the ground.

            And it ain’t her fault if Mommy tells such stupid stories. It’s because of all the beer she drinks while watchin’ TV.

            And she grumbles at the heavens and hits me, even when I don’t do anything stupid.

            And I end up thinking that the heavens and getting hit go together.

If I kill the heavens, that will calm Mommy down and I could watch TV in peace without getting the worst beating of my life.

2

            Today’s Wednesday[2].

            The teacher says that “it’s Sunday for children”.

            But me, I’d rather go to school. Mommy watches TV and I want to go and play marbles with Grégory, but Grégory lives far away and he can’t sleep at my house any more ever since our mommies had a fight about the ball and the broken window. Mommy said on the phone that Grégory was a “worthless rascal” before hanging up on a “dirty whore” because of the lady shouting “that’s better than being an alcoholic”.           

            I say to Mommy “come and play marbles with me” and Mommy says to the TV “Watch out, he’s behind you, he’s gonna kill you” so I say it again and again and Mommy talks to the TV “what a jerk” and I don’t know if I’m the jerk or the man who just got bumped off even though Mommy warned him.

            I go up to my room and look out the window at the neighbor’s son who never needs anyone else to have fun. He climbs onto a pig as if it were a donkey and has fun all by himself. But me, well, I’m sad, so I go into my mother’s bedroom with the unmade bed and her clothes on the floor and I make her bed and I need a chair to put down her things on the mountain of dirty clothes in the clothes basket and after that I don’t know what to do

so I search around and in a drawer of her dresser, under a stack of unironed shirts, I find a gun.

            I’m super happy, I tell myself “I’ll go and play in the garden”. I go out, all innocent like, with the gun hidden in my pants.

            And anyway, Mommy isn’t looking at me, she says to the TV “that girl ain’t for you , my boy!”

            Once outside, I don’t even have to aim. It’s big, the heavens.

            I fire once and fall down on the ground.

            I get up and fire a second time and fall down again.    

            Mommy comes out of the house. She limps because of her bad leg and she screams “what the hell’s going on?” and she sees me holding the gun and yells at me “what did I do to the good Lord to have a Zucchini like this! You really are your father’s son! And give me that, you little moron.”

            And she tries to get the gun away from me.

            I say “but I’m doin’ this all for you, I don’t want you to yell at me anymore” and I won’t let go of the gun and Mommy falls backwards.

            She shouts “shit” grabbing her bad leg and I say “does it hurt?” and she kicks me with the other leg, the one that gambols[3], and she shouts “give me that right now, I won’t ask you twice” and I don’t give her the gun and she bites my hand but I won’t give in and it goes off and Mommy falls down backwards.

3

            I sit on the grass for a long time watching the clouds.

            I look for my father’s face so he can tell me what I should do.

            I didn’t kill the heavens.

            Just broke up the clouds that piss unhappiness down on us or maybe its Daddy sending me his tears to wash away the blood from Mommy’s bathrobe.

            At first, I think she’s sleeping or pretending to, to play a trick on me, even Mommy isn’t really the kind to joke around, especially since her accident.

            I shake her a little.

            She’s like one of those rag dolls all limp and her eyes are wide open. I think of the detective movies when lots of women get killed and afterwards they look like rag dolls all limp and I tell myself “that’s it, I killed Mommy.”

            In those movies, you never know what happens to the rag dolls, so I wait until it’s night and I’m super hungry and I go into the house to eat some bread with mayonnaise and after that I don’t dare go outside anymore.

            I think of the zombies who all get up and scare you with their axes and their eyes hanging out.

And I climb up to the attic where I’m sure Mommy won’t come to find me cause of her stiff leg.

            I eat some apples: I’m too scared to play soccer with ‘em.

            And I fall asleep.

            When I open my eyes, there’s a lot of noise in the house and I’m scared of the zombies and rag dolls all limp who are calling me by my first name.

            No one calls me Icarus except my teacher.

            To everyone else, I’m Zucchini.

            And then the door to the attic opens and a man I don’t know is there and he doesn’t look like a zombie, but sometimes those living dead are very evil, they disguise themselves as real people like in “The Invaders”[4] and I throw all the apples I can find at him and the man falls down.

            Afterwards I recognize the neighbor’s son who’s rushing around with loads of policemen.

            One of them says “watch out for the apples” slipping on them while the neighbor’s son leans over the man and screams “you killed my Daddy!” and another policeman says “no, your Daddy has just been knocked out” and his Daddy gets up and everybody comes toward me and I tell myself “this is the end of the movie”.

            I hide my face in my hands and wait to get the worst beating of my life and I feel someone stroking my head and I peek through my hands and his Daddy is sitting on his heels really close to me and he says “Did you see the man who did that, my boy?”

            All the policemen are looking at me, the neighbor’s son too.

            Everyone staring at me kind of scares me and I start shaking a little and I hear a loud voice that says “leave me alone with the boy, you can see he’s terrified”.

            Everyone goes away, except the policeman with the loud voice who sits down on the floor, pushing the apples away.

            His big white stomach spills out over his shirt.

            “How old are you, Icarus?”

            I count on my fingers the way my teacher taught me and say “I’m nine”.

            He takes a little notebook out of his pocket and writes something in it. Then his loud voice gets all quiet and he asks me what happened and I tell him about the zombies and limp rag dolls and “The Invaders” who disguise themselves as real people.

            The policeman lifts up his cap and scratches his head and tells me his name is Raymond and that I can call him that.

            “OK,” I reply, “but you have to call me Zucchini.”

            He says nothing, then really quietly (so quietly that I ask him to repeat the question) “and your Mommy, how did that happen?”

            “Oh, that, that was because of the heavens.”

            The policeman looks down at his shoes full of mud and says in a funny kind of voice “the heavens?”

So I talk about my Daddy who has his head in the clouds and his 404[5] that hit an old oak tree breaking Mommy’s leg and the man who sent money every month for food and clothes that fit me.

“And your Daddy, where is he?” asks Raymond.

“My Daddy left on a trip around the world with a chick.”

“Poor little boy,” says the policeman while stroking my head, and it makes me feel all weird all these people stroking my head and I pull away a little.

“And your Mommy, was she nice to you?” he man says, taking off his cap and his hair is all flat underneath and you can see the mark the cap left on his forehead.

“Uh, yes, she makes good mashed potatoes and sometimes we have a good time.”

“And when you don’t have a good time?”

I think about it and say “when I come up to the attic?”

“Yes, when you come up to the attic.”

“That, well it’s because I did something stupid and I don’t want to get the worst beating of my life and rub my cheek afterwards to take the marks her fingers left away, and with her leg all stiff, it’s safe.”

“And the last stupid thing you did, what was that?”

“Uh, my last stupid thing, I think it was yesterday when I played with the gun.”

“A gun isn’t a toy, my boy.”

“Well I didn’t want to play marbles all alone and Mommy was watching TV and Gregory don’t come to the house no more, so I had nothing else to do, I don’t even know how to talk to pigs like the neighbor’s son.”

“All right, all right, and where was the gun?” Raymond asks me, scratching his head, and I wonder if he maybe has lice or something like that.

“In Mommy’s room.”

“And your Mommy, did she often let you have the gun?”

“No, I didn’t even know she had one.”

(I didn’t dare say I’d looked around.”

Raymond chews on his pencil like it was a blade of grass.

“And what happened next?”

“Well, I went outside with the gun and I played with it.”

“It isn’t a toy.”

“You already said that, sir. If you’d been there we could have played marbles.”

“I said you could call me Raymond. All right, so this gun, did you fire it?”

“Yes, I wanted to kill the heavens.”

“Kill the heavens?”

“Well, yeah, the heavens, because of the clouds pissing unhappiness down on us and then Mommy drinks a lot of beer and she shouts all the time and slaps me across the face or gives me spankings with her finger marks that stay for a long time afterwards on my cheeks and butt.”

“Your Mommy beat you?”

“At the beginning, it was when I did something stupid, but sometimes, it was like her shouting, for no reason, and me, I’d go up to the attic and sleep with the apples.”

Raymond writes something down in his little notebook and sticks his tongue out a little and that makes me laugh.

“Why are you laughing, my boy?” Raymond says in his loud voice.

You stick your tongue out like that fat Marcel when he’s recopying what the teacher’s told him to write down.”

The policeman smiles and scratches his head again and I ask him if he has lice and he answers as if he’s deaf “and your Mommy, did you shoot her too?”

“I didn’t do it on purpose, she wanted to take the gun away from me, she was really mad, she said I was a moron like my Daddy, and the gun went off all by itself.”

I try to hold back the tears that I can feel in my throat but they come out of my eyes, and I can’t see anything anymore.

[1] Wobble around

[2] There is no school in France on Wednesdays for small children [TR]

[3] jumps with joy

[4] American science fiction series shown on French television in the 1970s and ‘80s. The “Invaders” are aliens who are colonizing Earth by pretending to be humans.

[5] A kind of Peugeot car made between the 1960s and the 1980s.