the little death

In his best faux-French, Jason said, ‘Le petite mort.’

He let that fearsome roar linger in the silence, scanning the faces of the baying mob, now struck dumb by his brilliance. Future generations would put a plaque on this spot.

The hulking mass of Teddy Grainger remained motionless and towering, his slab like arms folded impassively across his stomach. One of his weasel like hangers on edged around his elbow.

The weasel leaned forward to whisper. ‘Uh, what was that?’

Jason smiled at the crowd and raised his voice a little. ‘Le petite mort – the little death.’ He hardened his face, and his voice, and to Grainger, said, ‘I figure, if you were a cat, you’d have used up your nine lives about forty-six thousand lives ago.’

Oh yes, Mr Bully. Feel the burn.

Another of Grainger’s weasels edged in to view to join the conversation.

‘Sorry, what?’

Jason sighed theatrically. This was the moment the crowd would remember forevermore.

‘The little death, le petite mort. It’s that moment of post-orgasm high, when your brain can’t quite function, when you are, to all intensive purposes, dead for just a moment.’

The crowd murmured in confusion. The weasels were in close consultation, whispering urgently.

The first weasel said to Jason, ‘Sorry. Are you calling him a wanker?’

Jason folded his arms to match the pose of Grainger. Plaques, and a day named in his honour – this is where it happened: a bully bested, but with words and witty repartee.

The first weasel faced the crowd.

‘Sorry folks, show’s over. We gave it a crack, tried something different.’ He shot Jason a look of disdain. ‘We thought a display of clever word play instead of the usual fisticuffs would make a nice change, but…’

The crowd drifted away as the weasels nudged Grainger into life.

He smiled. ‘Is it over? Did I win?’

‘There were no winners,’ one of the weasels said. ‘Come on, fifteen minutes till your next bout. One of the six-year olds in the Beeswax club called you a poohead.’

Grainger grinned at Jason and stuck his thumb. ‘Later dude, good job.’

Jason stood there alone and confused. Did people really prefer blood and teeth to witty zingers?

But not alone, because here was his beloved, here was Alison!

She slumped in front of him, her voice weak. ‘I had tickets for the spelling bee final. I was going to ask you.’

Jason reached but she shook his hand away. She had always had a reedy, high pitched voice, but now she was positively dolphin blended with bat. ‘Le petite mort? LE petite mort?’

She stomped away before he could reply. Jason trudged home and up to his room. What had happened, why had she not swooned at his word play? Why was she not here, the two of them at death’s door together?

A terrible thought struck Jason. He reached for his handy bedside book of French grammar with his left hand and rifled the pages. He found what he was looking for, then slumped to the pillows in his second little death in as many minutes. This one was almost terminal.

It was LA petite mort, not LE.

There was no chance that he and Alison would ever be the definite article.