“Moi, Je Suis la Porte” was first published on 30 May 2017 at Sundog Lit. My gratitude to Editor Laura Citino. To jump to the story, click here.
This story, in many ways, is an homage to my hometown of Madison, New Jersey. The “pretty how town” sequence of images describes Madison’s town hall, a.k.a. the Marcellus Hartley Dodge Jr. Memorial building. Madison is one of those towns where some families have been there for generations, and they look back upon it with rosy lenses. Other families have been there for just a short while, but also enjoy it. And then there are the silent others who perhaps don’t consider it to be an idyllic town, who perhaps have a different story to tell.
There really was an artist named R. Harmer Smith, member of the Salmagundi Art Club and well known print-maker, and there really was a wind just like the one described on a long-ago summer day, but otherwise it’s all made up. It was my favorite grade school teacher at St. Vincent Martyr elementary school, Madame Pearl Philippe, who taught me French words and phrases as a precocious child. I think of her still, and I still sing those little songs to feel unlonely. I can remember, too, singing “Dites-moi” with her, and even today some songs from South Pacific makes me well up.
Each day in Madame’s class began with students sitting neatly in rows and her call-and-response: Bonjour class. “Bonjour, Madame.” “Comment allez-vous aujourd’hui?” “Je suis bien, Madame, et vous?” “Je suis bien. Merci.” And then the lesson.
So, this story blends some personal legends from my past: Mr. Smith, Hartley Dodge, and Madame Philippe in a small moment (“one that decays very little”) in Madison. In my collection of stories (unpublished but collected) that’s tentatively titled “Lives of the Saints,” Bea is a very special childhood martyr.
The title, roughly translated as “I, I am the gate” is a biblical allusion to John 10:9. Bea being at this critical stage in her induction to womanhood through the actions of her mother might lead to multiple readings of the King James Bible text: “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” So, is she a gate to goodness, to innocence? or some tawdry future? Yes, and yes, as you choose.
Thank you for visiting my blog. I am glad for your company.
I hope that you enjoy “Moi, Je Suis la Porte.”