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Authors: Anna Gavalda

Hunting and Gathering

BOOK: Hunting and Gathering
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Also by Anna Gavalda
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
First published in France by Le Dilettante as
Ensemble, C'est Tout
, 2004
Copyright © Le Dilettante, 2004
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
RIVERHEAD is a registered trademark belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
The RIVERHEAD logo is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Riverhead trade paperback edition: April 2007
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Gavalda, Anna, 1970-
[Ensemble, c'est tout. English]
Hunting and gathering / Anna Gavalda ; translated by Alison Anderson.—1st Riverhead trade
paperback ed.
p. cm.
eISBN : 978-1-594-48144-4
1. Marginality, Social—France—Paris—Fiction. 2. Paris (France)—Social life and customs—Fiction.
I. Anderson, Alison. II. Title.
PQ2667.A97472E5713 2007

For Muguette
Body unclaimed.
PAULETTE Lestafier wasn't as crazy as they said. Sure, she knew what day it was, since that was all she had left to do now. Count the days, wait for them, and forget. She knew for certain that today was Wednesday. And what's more, she was ready. She had put her coat on, found her basket, and gathered all of her discount coupons together. She could even hear Yvonne's car in the distance . . . But what can you do? The cat had been outside the door, hungry, and it was while she was leaning over to put his bowl back on the floor that she fell and banged her head against the bottom step.
Paulette Lestafier often fell, but that was her own secret. Didn't tell anyone, ever.
“Not anyone, you hear?” she'd threaten, silently. “Not even Yvonne, or the doctor, not to mention the boy . . .”
She would get up again slowly, wait for things to go back to normal, rub herself with some Synthol and hide those damn bruises.
Paulette's bruises never turned blue. They were yellow, green or violet, and they stayed on her body for a long time. Far too long. For several months, sometimes. It was hard to hide them. People asked her why she always dressed as if it were the middle of winter, why she always wore stockings and never took off her cardigan.
The boy was the one who pestered her most: “Hey, Grandma? What's going on? Take off all that stuff, in this weather, do you want to die of heat?”
No, Paulette Lestafier wasn't crazy at all. She knew those huge bruises that never went away would get her in trouble someday. She knew how useless old women like her ended up. Old women who let weeds take root in their vegetable gardens and who held on to furniture to keep from falling. Old women who couldn't thread needles or remember how to turn the volume up on the TV. And who would try every single button on the remote and finally just unplug the thing while they cried tears of rage. Tiny, bitter tears, head in hand, in front of a defunct television.
So? Is that it? No more sound in this house? No more voices, ever? Simply because you can't remember the color of the button? Even though he'd put colored stickers on there, your grandson, stuck them on, just for you! One for the channels, one for the sound and one for the power button. Come on, Paulette, just stop your crying and look at those stickers!
Stop shouting at me like that, all of you . . . They've been gone for ages, those stickers, they came unstuck almost right away. I've been looking for that button for months and I can't hear a thing, all I have is the picture, with a tiny whisper of sound.
So stop your shouting, or you'll make me deaf on top of it.
“PAULETTE, Paulette, are you there?”
Yvonne muttered crossly. She was cold and pulled her shawl tighter across her chest, then muttered some more. She didn't like the idea of being late for their weekly appointment at the supermarket. That was one thing she couldn't stand. She went back to her car with a sigh, switched off the ignition and picked up her hat.
Paulette must be out back in the garden. She was always out back in the garden, sitting on a bench next to the empty rabbit hutches. She'd sit there for hours, from morning to night—upright, motionless, patient, her hands on her lap and her eyes vacant.
Paulette would talk to herself, calling to the dead, praying to the living.
She talked to the flowers, to her heads of lettuce, to the birds and to her own shadow. Paulette was losing her mind and she no longer knew which day was which. Today was Wednesday, and Wednesday was shopping day. Yvonne had been coming to get her every week for over ten years; now she raised the latch on the gate and groaned, “Isn't it a crying shame . . .”
A shame to be getting so old and alone, and they'd be late at Intermarket, and now there wouldn't be any shopping carts left near the checkout.
Wait a minute. The garden was empty.
Even crotchety Yvonne was beginning to worry. She went to the back of the house and put her hands on either side of her eyes to peer through the windowpane, trying to get to the bottom of this silence.
“Sweet Jesus!” she exclaimed when she saw her friend's body sprawled on the kitchen tiles.
Yvonne was so overwhelmed that she made the sign of the cross any which way, mixing up the Son with the Holy Ghost. She let a few small curses fly too, and then she went to get a tool out of the shed. She broke the window with a hoe and with colossal effort managed to drag herself up onto the windowsill.
It wasn't easy for her to cross the room, kneel down, then lift her friend's head from the pink puddle where it lay bathed in a mixture of blood and milk.
“Hey! Paulette! You're not dead, are you?”
The cat was licking the floor, purring, supremely indifferent to the unfolding drama, or to what was appropriate, or to the fact that there was broken glass everywhere.
YVONNE didn't really like the idea, but the paramedics had asked her to go along in the ambulance in order to deal with administrative issues and formalities of admission to the emergency room.
“You know this lady?”
She was offended: “I most certainly do! We were in grade school together!”
“Get in, then.”
“What about my car?”
BOOK: Hunting and Gathering
8.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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