Robert E. Jordan
Member Rara Avis
Mother took me North by train,
a long green train
rolling on by thatched cottages
on through Montreal, Three Rivers
under the gaze of Laurentian Highlands,
on past black fly plains
into the great bold City of Quebec.
In nineteen forty-four,
we disembarked in plumes
of sulfurous coal smoky steam,
to find the working house
that mother had arranged.
Because it was morning
we took a walking tour,
strolled the green Plains of Abraham,
death place for brave Montcalm and Wolfe,
over Dufferin Terrace, past Champlain's statue,
we walked the narrow streets,
they reminded me of home.
Towards evening we arrived at the house
my Mother had arranged.
At the foot of Chateau de Frontenac,
Canadian Pacific's castle of bacchanalian feasts
and ever so discreet trysts between opulent tourists
and native friendly hosts and hostesses.
We could not go in there;
it was too fancy for the likes of us.
The man of the house allowed us in,
I walked into the brightly-lit front room,
wood trim painted a shiny white,
walls a shade of egg.
The floor lamps burning brightly,
showing six very pretty ladies,
sitting, smiling, speaking softly
of amorous adventurous matters
that escaped my understanding
so completely in the well-lit room.
They were draped in fancy dresses
of pastel pinks and blues,
their jewelry reflecting the light
from lovely swan like necks
and dainty wrists and fingers.
The room was so shiny bright
that it astounded me.
Mother greeted the other ladies
with friendly smiles and hugs,
they were sisters in the trade.
Mother was very smart and beautiful,
just like the other pretty ladies,
she spoke French with such ease
and oh so very well.
I thought they were nice ladies,
no, I knew they were nice ladies,
but I did not know what they said,
I was worried about that,
so I held tight to Mothers hand.
The man took us to our room,
he was very friendly man,
took great pains to welcome me,
he spoke good English
and tried hard to make me feel at home.
He said I looked a goodly boy,
I was the kind of boy that he could help,
he would take me under wing,
I would do well in Quebec City,
he would teach me his dearest secrets,
I was handsome, tall, straight for eight,
he would groom me for a leader's role,
I must learn the language fast.
Mother unpacked our things,
dressed in her fancy clothes,
put on her strings of pearls,
clipped slave bracelets to her wrists,
slipped on her cut glass rings,
did the powder, rouge and lip stick thing,
she prepared herself for the night.
Kissing me on the lips,
Mother passed out through the door,
she left me by myself again,
I hoped she would have some fun,
enjoy the cool summer night.
Mother got back early morning,
careful not to wake me.
It went that way for about a week,
I still could not speak French;
I missed my friends at home,
grandfather would miss me,
I knew that I missed him.
During breakfast one morning,
Mother asked if I liked Quebec,
could I live here and grow
to become the great man
she knew that I could be.
I lied "of course I can".
Leaving my French toast,
buttered with powdered sugar
sitting on the green counter top;
I slipped silently off my stool,
went outside the cafe to the street,
sat on the curb and started to cry,
something that was rare for me.
Mother came out to me,
asked me what was wrong;
I told her I was homesick
for the English language.
Mother sat beside and said,
"well then we'll just go home".
She loved me a lot and I knew
it broke her heart to leave,
she wanted so to stay,
but I was thinking of myself,
cowardly and scared,
it was and is my shame
even to this brightly shining day.
Next morning early we packed our bags
silently slipping from the house,
we walked down the hill to catch a cab.
The man followed us
running down the street,
Mother talked to him in French,
he was very mad at me,
said I was a foolish boy.
“Didn't I want to stay in his house,
where I could someday take his place
and grow up to be the King
of beautiful old Quebec City?”
Mother gave the man some money;
I was afraid of him now,
and glad we were going home.
Now in later years I think
I was a little fool,
I would have been indeed
the King of Quebec City.
[This message has been edited by Robert E. Jordan (03-14-2008 10:44 PM).]