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Bic Rouge – 2002 – <br /> <b>Deprecated</b>: Function wp_specialchars is <strong>deprecated</strong> since version 2.8.0! Use esc_html() instead. in <b>/home/ommphoto_ftp/owensark.com/wp-includes/functions.php</b> on line <b>5453</b><br /> Owen's Ark

Bic Rouge – 2002

The time is unclear
. It could be 3:00 pm, maybe 4:00 pm, perhaps 2:30 pm. Time trickles so slowly it appears to have stopped; like a rivulet of sweat perched on the tip of a whale’s nose, both suspend belief. And hot, so hot — a damp, wet, humid hot that fills one’s lungs with moisture, and leaves clothes clinging to skin. I should be sleeping like the others, napping while the sun is at its crux. But everything is too new for a nap, and isn’t that what the night is for, and instead I’m drawing, sketching sorghum (a wheat-grain) at the base of our compound. Or rather, Perré is sketching sorghum, and I’m watching, enthralled.


Perré is a day guardian. He arrives a little before 6:00 each morning and stays well after dusk to ensure belongings remain put; magazines on coffee table, water bottles by tap, solar panel on tin roof. I’ve discovered Perré a fellow illustrator, and Perré has just discovered my Tupperware container of drawing supplies.


“Lessorgo, lessorgo.” Perré gestures at the adjacent field.


“En Mafa?”


“Enmafa, sahlawey, sahlawey.” Slurred, jumbled vowels to the ears, peculiar intonations hard to distinguish. Perré pauses, his free hand rummaging through the Tupperware container. “Beekrouge…?”


Caught off guard. There are more pens than I know what to do with in the container; surely there must be a…




Sounds French. Small springs in the brain creak under weight, cobwebs are swept aside, spiders scuttle, and off in the distance, a bell rings faintly. Memories of junior high French class come wafting back. The scent of lavender mixed with a sweet synthetic perfume. Potpourri. In a glass jar, on the desk, next to a stack of jumbled papers, and cahiers. There’s a poster of a famous French-Canadian rock star hanging on the wall. Caught in mid-wail, gaunt mouth strained open, fluorescent pinks and yellows shout out her name: Celine Dion. Je me, Tu te. I’m reciting something, but there’s no “beek-rouge”.


“Beek-rouge?” It’s a question. Perré smiles. I’ve got no clue.


The others are awake now, and I wander to the open veranda where they are seated. Beek-rouge, beek-rouge? Surely they will know. “Oh, beek-rouge. Yes, that’s a Swahili adaptation of a French verb in the past tense pronounced by clicking the tip of your tongue against the inside of your left cheek. It means feather duster”. Or more likely, “Oh, beek-rouge; that’s French for felt-tip, didn’t you know?”


But the others don’t know. They are as puzzled as I.


“Beek-rouge, by golly, what’s that? Sounds funny – isn’t even in the dictionary.”


Beek-rouge? Beek-rouge?? What on earth could it … Bic. Rouge. Bic-rouge! The others watch bemused as I return to the rocks and sorghum and Perré, paused from frenzied sketching, waiting intently. I hand him the new addition to the Tupperware contingent.


“Bic Rouge.” It’s a statement.


“Beekrouge.” Perré smiles nodding his head in agreement as vibrant lines of color flow from the tip of a red ballpoint pen.


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