I am playing in my father’s musty office, a dug out really, beneath our house. He calls it “la cave,” which it is. There are a few old bottles of wine lined up against a side wall. In the far corner, there is a steamer trunk with some of my grandmother’s belongings: clothing – including a scandalous, black silk dress she had designed herself, with pink tulle for the underskirt; a glazed, black ceramic plate – her family tree artfully written on it; and old notebooks in which she had recorded her expenditures, visits with dignitaries, and the names of her husbands – including her wedding dates, divorces and their deaths.
My father sits at his old wooden desk in the center of the tiny room. The desk has a glass top, and under the glass, reside a few school photos of my sister and me, one of his mother when she was a belle, and none of my mother. The calendar on nailed to a wall stud behind the desk is on January. The naked girl with smooth skin is poised on her hands and knees, her beautiful brown eyes turned to her left, facing the camera. I love being in this private sanctuary of my father’s. My mother has never entered this place.I am on the concrete floor which my father poured one weekend after many nights and weekends of digging the space out. He had driven wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of dirt down to the creek for months to make this small room, he keeps locked with a padlock.
He opens the desk drawer on the right, where, in the front, rest a row of number two pencils, all lined in the same direction, pencil points to the left, virgin erasers on the left. He pulls the drawer further out, has to move his chair back a little to make room, and from the back, takes out a black pouch. He remains still, holding the pouch – gently, carefully, thoughtfully.
I look up from the floor where I have been tracing my finger over the outline of my handprint and the year, 1-9-6-6, which we had etched in November when the concrete was still wet. “Daddy, what’s that?” I ask. “What’s in there?”“C’est mon pistolet,” he replies and pulls a small pistol from the bag.