Jean Coutrot’s Birthday Party 1939 by Kerry Rawlinson

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I see you, Madame Coutrot, carefully arranging canapés and petit-fours. Highly sought-after, they were obtained with your husband Jean’s exclusive Polytechnic food-stamps. There’s no gateau (he considers it extravagant), but he’s baked modest cupcakes himself (chocolate, his favourite). Your hand trembles as you insert one small candle. Your body betrays you constantly – the pristine icing smears, but you persevere. Everything this evening must be perfect.

Coutrot’s unpopular with the lumpenproletariat. They mock his missing leg, tittering; not giving a shit that he lost it defending their liberty, rotting in foul, muddy dugouts at Croanne. This bothers you – but Jean’s detached. His fine hair’s slicked back from a high, intellectual forehead. His voice is precisely modulated, if slightly nasal. And he’s ambitious! His X-Crise Treatises on economic planification have favourably reached the Minister’s desk. You insist you’re grateful he selected you as his wife – but when you lie in the lovelessness of your single bed, I have my doubts. Indeed, was it only the Gault family business, after all, that Jean married? It certainly didn’t hold him back.

Fastidious in every respect, he’s assessed humanity as being intrinsically flawed, therefore superfluous. You try to temper his superciliousness; his habits. For instance: the surreptitious sniffing of his fingertips. (This stems from childhood, when he discovered feces on them once, and the indelible stench lodged itself in his nostrils. Unable to forget, he tests for it incessantly under pretense of smoothing his moustache.)

You’ve also been schooled in the fact that Jean cannot stomach chaos. That’s why these festivities have to be flawless. He forbade you to invite ethnicities – Jews, Romanies, etc. – and especially his vulgar Secretary, Mlle. Dingue. (You’re utterly oblivious to Jean’s fantasies about Mlle’s enormous ass and mountainous breasts. He daydreams about shoving that jiggling flesh into the Concierge’s closet; punching that loud, burgundy-stained mouth; pumping that comatose pulp from behind… This gives him a discomfiting trique which he, on occasion, relieves with you, as cold and efficient as a fish.)

Those co-workers who’ve passed muster and been invited cannot decline Jean’s RSVP. Careers are tenuous, after all, and he is the Vice President of COSTƚ. It wouldn’t do to refuse. Coutrot’s decreed that campaigners like he, of faultless calibre, should collaborate to guarantee Man’s superior aspects. Man is master of his secular destiny – unless of course, he’s inferior. Jean’s disdain permeates the atmosphere right this moment as he prepares the party punch, eking schnapps into a glass bowl. (You don’t notice he’s smiling, secretively added laxative, thereby ensuring all over-indulgers shall atone.)

Alas, Annette, here’s the knot, unravelling. You and I, we trust our spouses too much. Coutrot, doomed by the upcoming Chavin report, shall soon descend into a deep depression. The disgrace will cause him to drop himself from an open dormer. “Defenestration,” they’ll proclaim.

But you? You’ll live on and on, ineffectually denying the stink of fascist bigotry which will forever follow his name, much like the stench on the hairs of a moustache.


ƚCOST: Centre National d’Organisation Scientifique du Travail

Kerry Rawlinson

Decades ago, autodidact & bloody-minded optimist Kerry Rawlinson gravitated from sunny Zambian skies to solid Canadian soil, nurturing family and a career in Architectural Design. Fast-forward: she follows Literature & Art’s Muses around the Okanagan, barefoot, her patient husband providing SPF60 & comedy breaks. Recent achievements: [ | Edinburgh International Flash Fiction Award ] ; [ | FishPoetryPrize ] . Newer acceptances: [ | Sunlight Press ] , [ | Spelk ] , Centifictionist , [ | Reflex Fiction ] , [ | X-R-A-Y Lit ] , [ | EllipsisZine ] , [ | Lunate ] , [ | Clover & White ] ; amongst others.

Cover Image by PublicDomainPictures 


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