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Auxiris Story: The Man Who Knew. . . part II (9) Story: The Man Who Knew. . . part II 12 Jul 01


THE MAN WHO KNEW IN ADVANCE, part II (From a French language collection of stories and legends from Picardie and northern France, © Presses de la Renaissance, 1975)

My friends, from then on, Albarède, who wasn't talkative even at the best of times, became even less so and, not having much appetite, merely pushed his food around on his plate at mealtimes so that what he lost in weight he gained in despondency. But he didn't feel the need to go out and buy six planks of 1 metre 85. He knew he wasn't likely to die that year, as much as he might have liked to!
His wife worried about him and asked him what was wrong. He put her off, saying that his bad temper was due to business difficulties. Only his son realised that his father was tortured by something else than the perpetual state of being short of money. Not wanting his father to become completely disgusted with life, he went to see him in the workshop more often and kneeling on the floor, watched Albarède as he planed or hammered with neither joy nor pleasure.
Albarède did his best to disguise his sadness while his son tried to show him that, as soon as he could, he'd learn to help his father in the workshop and as soon as he had his leaving certificate, everyone would soon see the wonders that a father and son working together could accomplish!
Suddnenly, in the small hours of the night, came those terrible warning creaks from the coffin planks.
As he no longer slept very well since he'd purchased the planks for his son, Albarède heard them right away. He got up and, tiptoeing over to the woodshed, his knees shaking and heart in his throat, he told himself that it must be someone else's planks creaking. He convinced himself that it couldn't be those intended for his son; no, Albert was in excellent health, a quality inherited from both his parents. Not only that, but he hadn't been rubbing the side of his head any longer for the better part of a month now. Oh, well, sighed Albarède to himself, it must have truly been my imagination. . . this time I've made a complete fool of myself.
He lit a candle and went closer to that anticipation of death represented by the coffin planks. He waited for them to creak and. . . oh, no! It was his son's coffin planks that creaked after all!
Eaten up with fear, Albarède went straight to his son's bedroom. Albert was sleeping peacefully, his face half buried in his pillow, breathing softly.
Thank God! His father, who knew, would do everything he could to save his son. From now on, he wouldn't leave him for an instant. He laid down on the floor next to Albert's bed and kept watch, as though the devil himself might come at any moment and cut the thread of Albert's life. He decided to try and outsmart death. If necessary, he'd hold his son in his arms day and night! He told himself that if his son was still alive after three nights of creaking, then nothing would happen.
In the morning, Albert woke up and saw his father lying on the ground asleep. He thought to himself that if his father was so upset and disturbed that he didn't even care about where he slept, he'd have to try and be even better behaved and more helpful than before.
When he heard the mattress groan, Albarède, who was only half asleep, sat up suddenly, but when he saw Albert smiling down at him, he was reassured.
Albert got up, came and went and then went outside, his father watching him all the while, looking at everything that might fall on him and kill him and everything he ate, for fear he'd be poisoned. He took Albert out of school: a nasty punch or kick could be fatal, after all.
Albert's mother was mystified by all this and Albarède wasn't about to explain it to her, for fear of losing his wife as well, even though he'd had no premonition about her impending death.
Unhappily enough, the following night, Albert's coffin planks creaked again, so much so that Albarède couldn't stop looking at them over and over again the next day and had to keep himself from putting them out of his sight so as not to see or hear them any more.
A sensitive child, Albert easily guessed that his father's source of anxiety had much to do with these pieces of wood that were hardly taller than himself. He said nothing, but whilst his father's back was turned for an instant, he took hold of them and started to move them, thinking to hide them from his father's sight.
Oh! Disaster! Now that the twelve 1 metre 85 planks intended for the Champausoult brothers were no longer held in place by Albert's planks, they fell heavily and crushed Albert's head with their sharp edges on the side that he'd been rubbing.

There you are; hope it was worth waiting for. While I'm off on holiday, I'll look and see if I can't find a few more stories in jumble sales and the like to translate for those of you who enjoy these stories, hopefully a few that are just a bit shorter! And here we go again with blah, blah blah, and patati and patata, blah, blah, blah, nyah, nyah, nyah and s


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