The Death of Marlon Brando: A Novel

The Death of Marlon Brando: A Novel


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In turns touching and disturbing, this powerfully suggestive story describes a young boy coming of age on his father’s farm while being stalked by the new, mentally handicapped employee. Set against a backdrop of abandonment, betrayal, and confusion, the novel explores the human psyche and the contemporary theme of child abuse with subtlety and masterful writing.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781550963137
Publisher: Exile Editions
Publication date: 04/01/2013
Pages: 144
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Pierre Gobeil is the author of L’Hiver à Cape Cod and Tout l’été dans une cabane à bateau. He is the winner of the Le Grand Prix de la Ville de Montréal. He lives in Chicoutimi, Quebec. Steven Urquhart is a translator and an associate professor of French at the University of Lethbridge–Alberta. He lives in Lethbridge, Alberta.

Read an Excerpt


The Death of Marlon Brando

He said: "The mare is gonna have its colt" ... and me, I asked: "When?" He said that he didn't really know.

He said: "In a week, maybe ... or a li'l bit before. It's hard to say like this, but the mare is pretty pregnant. It might be soon."

He said: "Do ya know where li'l colts come from? No, ya dunno ..." and then he added: "Before we get to see them, I mean."

I turned my head and then let myself fall into the hay. That's just him! Ask a question and then answer it, right after. Colts, they come from mothers and fathers. A mare can have a little one each year, generally in the springtime, in March or April. Sometimes later, but most often in the spring. They come from fathers and mothers. It takes time, you have to wait ... and even then, what does it matter, anyway? In my Petit Larousse Illustré dictionary, they show four words for "mare," whereas for "colt," they only give one ... and this, without any other kind of explanation.

I didn't want to start up a conversation and so I didn't answer. I was up, and let myself fall again into the hay. And if there's something that I like doing, that's it, letting myself fall into the void: like that, diving or falling backwards. From the main beam, you can jump into the pile that's twenty feet below. For me, it's high up. There's a risk of getting hurt and it's a game.

He said: "Ya can't know, can ya ..." and I didn't say anything back as sometimes I happen to not answer right away. I could have said: "We learned that at school" or "I've read a thousand books" or even "I've been living on a farm for so long that ..." but I didn't say anything. I just let him work away because if he's at our place, it's to work. And I've noticed that the more things go on in this way, the more he wastes time.

Sometimes, just like that, I could say things and I keep quiet.

I could have also said: "We saw a film." I could've said: "There are ten thousand movies about it ..." but I didn't.

Where was I? Sometimes, for reasons beyond me, I leave things up in the air and say nothing. And, I realize this more and more often now that I'm working on a composition structured like a war movie. It's as if, and truly as if, in order to really fight, I was at a loss for words.

Him, he was rubbing down the canisters and the wash buckets that had been used in the morning to do the milking. He was muttering, rehashing what has always seemed to me to be the same thing, and so I didn't listen to him. Sometimes, too, for no reason at all, I'd take off running in order to take refuge in the house or elsewhere. To flee for glee and because it's a game; because it's crazy what you can find in terms of hiding spaces and dark corners on a farm. You can even lie flat out in the bed of a Ford pickup and you're sure not to be seen. Him, too, he hides there sometimes and I've noticed that he's the only big person that I know who takes pleasure in acting like a child. Like borrowing your clothes, like chewing on candies, like laughing while trying to hide it, all of which are children's habits. And yet, I don't say this out loud. I'm writing a composition, as fine as the film that I like. I put forward facts, but they always seem to get covered up by beasts that I invent and that are as fabulous as an Ornithorhynchus anatinus. I'm unable to speak, you could say. Not any more, in any case. In my composition, I try to explain just like in Apocalypse Now what I've been able to observe up until now, but it's not working. I just go round in circles. As for Him, he's watching me. And I don't know how long it's going to last.

Just now, he was washing out the milker and making sure to not leave any dirt in the nipples because moss and the like can grow there. We'd asked him to watch out for this and he'd listened carefully, as he's docile in front of people. He was touching the machine with care as if it were a precious object. As for me, I was perched on the main beam and kept watching him work away at it in front of the door in the sun. He was rubbing hard, that's for sure, because my father had requested that he do so. And, in front of others, in front of my father, my mother and everyone in the house, he's obedient and tries to blend in.

Furthermore, I've noticed that with the others, he doesn't talk. He behaves; he makes grammar mistakes. You could say that he's ashamed, and because of this, he doesn't want to speak much with them, unless it's to say oui or carrect in order to say okay or yes sir. Just like the model employee that he wants to be, but he's not fooling anyone. And this causes him to make mistakes and stutter.

For example, he says couchette, bacul and caltron. To say courir (to run), he says runner, as if it were a verb. He uses all kinds of French words and pretends that he's super-duper, but he isn't, really. In the beginning, the others would laugh when he said carrect. Not now. I'll admit here that I'm the only one who appears to be surprised by this. However, I don't speak. And so, correct or carrect, what does it matter?

Again. What power does a child have when he says that someone's too good? I think that he has none at all. At best, the child can trigger laughter and compliments about his wit for his age. At best, he can raise suspicions, but that people are quick to dismiss. What's for sure is that the others around me don't care to know any more than they need to. It would be too complicated, I think, or too much work. No time ... It would be long and complicated and so they don't bother.

Furthermore, there's a ready-made answer for these types of things. It's an invented answer so that what I call "silencing" reigns above all else. And this has happened since the beginning. I just know it. They're going to say: "You spend all your time watching things ..." and they then add, before saying: "I gotta get going" which is a key phrase: "Have ya replaced your pillow with a dictionary?" ... and it won't go any further then. At our place, everyone pretends it's funny when I ask questions.

I'd have liked to name it, but it didn't work out. I've already tried to tell the whole story in my school composition; at home, too, that's just the way it is. But I don't have the words and so there's nothing doing.

The thing to do, just like today, is to let myself fall into the hay while he works away. Like this, diving or falling backwards. From the main beam, you jump into the pile twenty feet below. It's dangerous. For me, it's high up. There's a risk of getting hurt and it's a game.

If I don't speak, I've just explained the reason why. It seems to me that speaking doesn't serve any purpose. What's more, I think that speaking is the faculty of those who have nothing to say. "Silencing" comes from the verb "to silence," and to this day, I have described the beast watching the wanderer and yet, nothing has happened.

The other one was rubbing, swearing, singing tunes that he didn't finish. I was sitting on the beam and I was watching him do it. I like staying still. I like watching others work at times. In this way, I think that you can figure out what's going on in their heads. He was about to act up. He was about to do it; it was a sure thing, and he said:

"Hey, thingamajig ..."

I waited. He said:

"Got any li'l girls in yer class?" ... then he answered his own question: "Yeah there's some. I knew it."

I can guess where this is going. And as far as knowing whether someone is going to act up or not, I'm an expert. A clue? He always laughs a little bit just before. As if he were preparing the sentence in his head. He said: "Got any li'l girls in yer class?" I said: "Why?" ... and he repeated his question once again.

I said: "What class are you talking about? Last year's or next year's?" I change classes once a year. Between the two, there's a long composition: it's my vacation assignment. "I don't know yet if there'll be any girls in September ... but yeah. I think so."

He said: "Ya like that, huh?" ... and he was laughing and hiding behind his hand.

I said: "What?" He didn't answer. He was laughing, covering up his mouth with his hand and making a racket while dragging his feet on the ground and moving his arms, too. In order to keep himself company no doubt; because he was used to laughing by himself and because I wasn't laughing.

I jumped into the hay and I brushed myself off. There were thorns stuck in my sweater and I pulled them out, one by one. After, I walked to the garden to see if the carrots and the apples had grown any since yesterday. To get some air and calm down, too, because being with him makes me get all flustered. I don't know why. And faced with this heartbeat that I don't have words for, I end up asking myself a question: Will I feel something similar later? Or more simply: Do risks exist for big people, too? I don't know. Today, I don't think so. I'm structuring my summer vacation assignment like a war film. I walk towards the garden, which is behind our house and which, because of its geographical location no doubt, is reassuring or worrisome. It depends.

A U.S. sergeant is going up the river in order to kill the colonel that Marlon Brando is playing. I make him the monster of my story.

And in my composition, I write:

The Ornithorhynchus is going up the river. But not in a canoe. It's a monster that sweats, that smells badly and that hides. The monster's odour bothers me. The beast makes itself look like a piece of wood. And the Abandoner and the Shadows don't exist yet.

I sat like a good little boy and was trying with the tip of my fingers to pull out the carrots that were ready to be eaten when he arrived behind my back. I'm not sure which, the surprise or the push, made me fall forward and crush several of them. I forgot about all that. Like a spring extending itself, my body slid out onto the vegetables. And right away, I thought of a fish. It was as if I'd run right into the glass walls of my bowl. He was there, now.

Hypocritically, he'd shown up from behind my back and had slid his hand under my heels and my thighs. It didn't hurt, but I was surprised at first. He said:

"The li'l girls are gonna do that at school." I didn't say anything back. I wanted to say "no" and that they would never let themselves do things like that ... but my tongue stayed stuck on my front palate and I sputtered something that didn't mean anything. I tried to say that it was stupid, that nothing like that ever happened at our school ... I couldn't find the words; or rather yes, but these words didn't want to come out. And after a few attempts, which all failed, I kept quiet. Knowing very well that when the words don't come out, there's nothing you can do about it.

It was Saturday before noon and it was beautiful outside. The temperature was like that in lands far from the sea, a little dry, quite hot ... still the month of August. He crouched down and started looking for carrots that were ready to be eaten.

He's the only big person that I know who does things that kids would think of doing. Suddenly, he starts looking for bigger and bigger buds, like you were doing a little while ago. And if it were not him, if it were not this innocent person who speaks poorly, who makes noises when eating and who spits on the ground, you could say to yourself while watching him that what you were doing just before was the most fabulous thing imaginable. For him, you're a genius. The others say that he's different; me, I've concluded that he follows children because he finds them weak and that he's able to reason with them, as he's lacking this faculty himself. There's never been any doctor's note on this. They find him funny. Me, I think he's a beast. And I think that being a beast isn't exactly funny. He's a real beast who says dirty things; with whiskers, claws and false teeth. In some ways, he's stayed a child still, too. And, it's easy to see that he doesn't like to just play with them and that he doesn't like to just speak with them, as if, and exactly as if, the adults were in another world, separate from his. He thinks that he's part of the animals' and children's world, that's for sure. His words, his relationship with words, that's where he trips up and loses his place ... And, all things considered, it's got to be a bit like a baby learning to walk. Like a one-year-old. The difference being that him, if he falls, he falls on others. And you, you're the one that he's going to wipe his bloodied mouth all over.

When I went to see the apples on the old apple trees, I knew that he'd come. I saw him from beneath the tree branches walking between the vegetable furrows, making as if he was interested in the carrots that were big enough to eat, acting as only he knows how to act sometimes. As for me, I knew that he'd come towards the apple trees and sure enough, he came. He's a pest, like a termite or louse that doesn't let you go. He likes following you and staying close to you. He doesn't go to the city and everyone is always surprised to see that he has his own opinions, despite everything.

"Do ya study the catechism?" ... is what he asked me.

Had to hear the sound of the letters. T ... T ... T ... Phew! It seemed like a lot. The word catechism, too. For sure, my teacher at school from last year didn't pronounce it like that. In a word that according to her had four syllables, he made it only two by emphasizing in a big way the first "t." You could say that he takes certain liberties with words. His first syllable is exactly like the word "cat" in English. He asked me whether we studied the catechism and I said yes. I said that we had bible study at school and, as usual, I'm sure that I told him something that he already knew. He's like that. He always asks the same questions and doesn't want to let you get on your way. Because he's got a goal, that's for sure. And holding you back is one of his goals, I think. So, I said:

"Yes, we study the catechism at school and it's even one of the first subjects of the day. It's part of almost every morning of any given week. We have our morality lesson for half an hour just before recess, which is before more practical subjects. Math, for example. However, one morning a week, we've got history and then another, geography."

He said: "Ya heard of the story of Adam an' Eve an' the apple tree. Have ya? ..."

"Have ya ... Have ya, huh, huh ...?" Phew, again ... With each answer, he took the liberty of taking a bite of an apple and making a little screeching noise. The overflowing juice of the apple seemed to him to be like an affirmative answer and so he kept on going. Even if he doesn't wipe his mouth and has a body that seems to sway when he puts on his boots, you can be sure that he knows how to make connections. Under the apple trees, he rehashes the story of Adam and Eve. Well done. As I was telling him about how subtle he was, he said:

"It ain't true, this story. It's not true that Eve bit into an apple. All that's a lyin'."

He knows how to make connections, that's for sure. In his head, there is a whole series of old stories that he's learned, I don't know from where, and that he brings up from time to time when he's alone with me. Most often, it's the same stories and I think that he knows them by heart. I could've sworn that he was going to say: "It ain't true what they tell ya at school" ... and then he said:

"It ain't true what they're tellin' ya at school." After, he added: "It's all a lyin'. They're takin' ya for dummies. Me, I hardly even went to school in Ontario, an' I know more than you all. Eve didn't bite into an apple. Eve bit here, there." He laughed and covered his mouth with his hand. He looked around in order to see if anybody was coming. After, he spat on the ground and then put his foot on it.

What's he going to come up with next? Before, he contented himself with words and now he's going at it full force. Maybe he's simply making fun of me? Maybe it's because I'm young that he's overdoing it? I left and went into the house where I knew that he could follow me, but where I also knew that he'd have to change topics.

For some time now, I've noticed that he isn't quite the same when there are people around. He says very little or nothing at all; he does favours and never, unless it's absolutely necessary, deals with me directly. It's weird. It's like a game. I've noticed that he acts as if I don't exist in front of the others. He, who when we're alone, is always ready to ask questions and tell stories – I've often told him that he'd go to prison and I really believe it – but with others, he's someone else. Almost good or indifferent. If he needs somebody to pass him the salt when he's at the table, he'll always ask someone else.

In the kitchen, my mother said: "Your father's gone. You look like you're bored. Tomorrow, you can go into town with him. In the meantime, come help me fill the little cakes. You can eat some."


Excerpted from "The Death of Marlon Brando"
by .
Copyright © 2013 Exile Editions.
Excerpted by permission of Exile Editions Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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