Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Remembering Heroes

[Media prompt] Alexandre Bissonnette has been identified by court officials in Quebec City as a suspect in the fatal shooting of six at Centre Culturel Islamique de Qubec. The suspect in the deadly attack on a Quebec City mosque was known in the city's activist circles as a right-wing troll who frequently took anti-foreigner and anti-feminist positions and stood up for U.S. President Donald Trump.
Remembering Heroes

“Do I have to?”

Xavier has grown in the last year without anybody seeming to notice. Only yesterday he and his younger sister shared a pencil mark on the kitchen door jamb; now he is over six feet and lanky, clothes hanging on him like a runway clotheshorse. He struts more than walks, hands buried deep in his pockets, humming tunes he hears through earplugs. It’s as though he’s more interested in melodies than lyrics. More interested in Maelie next door than algebra.

“Yes, you do,” his mother says, turning to stare at him from the mirror in the hall, where she has been touching up her lip gloss . “Men gave their lives to make this country what it is today.” Turning away, her scowl fading, she flattens the dress down over her stomach, tilting her head to gaze critically at the reflection in the mirror. “David,” she says. “Are you sure this dress is all right?”

Her husband is in the bedroom, knotting his tie for the sixth time. “It’s fine,” he says, his voice muffled, tugging at a collar that pinches his neck. When he comes out in his black suit, his only suit, the one he was married in, he says, “Now you kids know why I fell in love with your mother.”

Alice groans, averting her eyes as David pulls Olivia in for a kiss. “Oh, please,” she says. “That’s at least another ten sessions with a shrink when I’m thirty.”

“If you can find a man half as good as your father, you’ll be thankful,” her mother says. "Besides, I doubt any shrink can fix you now. The damage is irreversible.”

“Very funny,” Alice says. “I’ll demand reparations, like the Muslims did.”

David says, “I’m glad at least one of you understands what today is about.”

“I didn’t say I wouldn’t go,” says Xavier, “if that’s what you mean.”

Alice bites her tongue; the solemnity of the day outweighs the urge to needle her brother. The echo of his ‘do I have to?’ hangs in the room.

“He was a hero,” says David, tugging at his empty sleeve. “And if one or two had had his courage twenty or thirty years earlier, I’d still have two arms. And your uncle would still be alive. Along with many others better than me.”

“Please, no fighting, on this of all days,” says Olivia, the peacemaker, closing her eyes for a moment to remember her eldest brother, killed in the war. “We are going to the parade to pay our respects. And then we’re going to put our flowers at the Bissonnette Memorial. And we are going to act in a way that honours heroes who gave up their lives for us.”

Xavier hangs his head. In less than two years he will join the Quebec Border Guards on the Wall. With Toronto falling to the Rust Belt Caliphate less than six months ago, he knows the Dearborn Somalis have Quebec in sight. He will be tested. “I’m sorry,” he says.

Later, kneeling in the shadow of the Alexandre Bissonnette memorial statue, an old man with his fist raised, Xavier threads his arm through his mother’s. “I miss Uncle Vincent,” he says.

“We all do,” says his mother, a tear running down her cheek. 

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