Friday, April 10, 2009

C'Est Pas Grave

When it happened, I can assure you madam, I didn't know what to do. The moment I sneezed the first snail I clapped my hands three times. I couldn't ever tell you why, it is one of those things you do by reflex. When the doctor strikes your knee with that little rubber mallet you kick. The same rule applies to sneezing snails, when you do it, your hands vigorously force themselves together three times. After I sneezed and clapped you might have wondered why I immediately started singing the chorus to an old calypso, "c'est pas grave, c'est pas grave, c'est la guerre!", in french. I would like to give you an answer, I haven't been able to develop one properly though. I think the singing and the snails and the clapping are all connected somehow though.  

The other waiters at the restaurant won't even look me in the eye anymore. The maitre 'd has threatened to fire me because of the incident with your soup. In fact that's why I'm writing you this letter. I figured maybe if I could explain to you why the snail was in my nose, and then your soup bowl, well maybe you could ask the maitre 'd to not fire me. 

It all started a couple of weeks ago, when the new shipment of meat came in. As you know madam our restaurant is renowned for its premium steak selections, as well as our fine French cuisine. The meat that came in that shipment was of a particularly magnificent variety, it is a shame that you did not order a filet or sirloin. In the months I've spent working at the restaurant I've become friends with our butcher, a most superstitious man named Giorgio Fellini. Giorgio, despite what you'd expect is not italian. He was however adopted by italians. In fact Giorgio is haitian by birth. I'm almost certain that Giorgio absorbed some french while he was in the womb. Giorgio is a consummate butcher, classically trained. He is particularly well known for his abilities with pate, foie gras, and sausages. While he is busily working in his butchery he hums old french calypsos under his breath. In the corner of the butchery is a small statue of a dark-skinned Virgin Mary with a candle at its feet.  

The calypsos are important because that is how I met the old woman. I met the old woman just after smoking a cigarette by the dumpsters with Giorgio. Even though I had a cold, I had spent my lunch break with Giorgio. In that brief time he had endeavored to teach me his favorite calypso. I don't remember the name of the calypso, but it had a chorus in french. "c'est pas grave, c'est pas grave, c'est la guerre!" Giorgio had impressed upon me the proper pronunciation and pacing of these words, and I had to admit the phrases soon became caught in my mind as I attempted to emulate the grand exotic manner with which he pronounced the delicate lyrics. As I was singing, behind the dumpsters, an old woman came up to me. With a look of terror on her face she walked up to me, grabbed my cigarette, threw it to the ground and stamped it out. Holding her finger to her lips she grabbed my wrist. Somehow, with unnerving ease, she turned my hand over and opened up my palm. Then she reached into the pocket of her raggedy blue winter coat and pulled out a small blue snail shell. In french she said, "Au moment même vous venez comprendre la vie, vous cesserez d'exister comme avant." What that means I'm not sure, I don't speak french. The old lady then clapped her hands three times and walked around the other side of the dumpster, when I looked around the corner there was no sign of her.

I threw the snail into the dumpster, and went back to work. Later when I reached into my pocket for my pen I found the snail shell, and immediately the lyrics to Giorgio's calypso came into my mind. For several days I would empty my pockets of the snail shell, only to find it and the mysterious lyrics had returned to me. 
The situation reached its climax when I sneezed the snail into your soup bowl. 

It has been several days since the incident, and in the meantime I have sneezed thousands of snails. I suppose it is only natural that I cannot turn my thoughts away from the old lady and the snails. All of my friends and family have become worried about me, not so much about the sneezing or the singing, but mostly for the lack of concern I seem to have. No matter how hard I try I can't seem to attach any meaning to any of this. So, the thought occurs to me that none of this matters. The dumpster doesn't matter. The maitre 'd firing me doesn't really matter. I mean, it would be nice to eat for a while longer while I figure out how to stop sneezing snails. The more I think about it though, the less I care, in fact I've even come to enjoy the snails, and the singing, and the clapping. "c'est pas grave, c'est pas grave, c'est la guerre!"

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