effrayer (eh fray yay)
: to scare, to frighten
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
The Night Shift
When wine sales took Jean-Marc out of town for a few nights this week, Jackie came to bunk with me. Monday night we lie there, one of us sniffing, the other, legs reeling. We were a tortured duo, with, between us, a stuffed nose and RLS, or "le syndrome des jambes sans repos".
"Let's try and fall asleep fast!" I suggested to my daughter. And, luckily, we did.
When next I woke the room was very quiet and I noticed my daughter was breathing easy. What, then, had awakened me? I recalled a vague thudding -- a kind of sky-wide soufflement. I could just hear the tail end of it. I listened in... only, the more I strained, the further it fell, off leaving but an echo in my mind.
What had it been? Had it indeed been? I got up to go to the bathroom and think about things. I remembered my dream: I had been admiring the hollyhocks, especially this year's prize: a black beauty! I could see her now, twirling... twirling in the wind! Was it le vent, after all, that had roused me, catching with it the tail end of my dream - was that the sound: a swirling, then?
Because "swirling" brought to mind more than saucer-shaped hollyhocks... I hurried back to bed and disappeared under la couette.
"Qu'est-ce que c'était?" Jackie mumbled. So she, too, had heard it? Then it wasn't a dream!
"It was nothing!", I snapped. Then, softer, "Go back to sleep, Chou." I wished Jean-Marc were here to say the same to me.
Very quietly, I turned to spy out the window, not sure of wanting to discover the source of this drôle de bruit. It didn't seem human. It wasn't a car of thieves creeping up the lone driveway, here in the middle of vine-land. And I had not just heard the propellers (that swirling soufflement!) of a mere helicopter - though the noise did sound propellers-like... it was a thudding sound. Yes! A great thudding!
My eyes quickly scanned the countryside. A luminous, quiet field where even the insects and the crapauds were asleep beneath the moon's beam.
I cowered there, beneath the covers, too afraid to even pray. What if, after all, it was God who had come to visit? What use would prayer be... in the direct presence of divinity?!
As if by response the sound picked up, whirring lightly in the distance. Was it coming back? I turned toward my daughter, my back now to the window. I listened for its approach. "It" or -- that sound -- was a haunting entity in itself! No creature in film, no ghost in a novel could compete with the frayeurs "It" was causing me!
Le bruit began to move across the sky like a strobe light. Would it find me? It sounded like a great, motorized street-washer vehicle, gliding by - taking with it the unwanted, the rejected, the broken. I imagined some sort of heavy craft. Not a watercraft... and that left only one possibility!
Just as I began to consider flying saucers (and hadn't those been saucer-flowers in my dream?) the noise enlivened just outside my window and I braced myself for Its approach.
I suddenly remembered the military that I had seen last week! While out watering the reddening pommes d'amour, I spied a tank rolling down the country road. I could just make it out, amid the green leafy vine rows! I saw men dressed in camouflage, helmets on their heads and guns in their arms. Machine guns? What for?! I had seen them in town earlier this week, but dismissed any threat as "military training".
Could there, now, be a connection between the roving tanks and this strange and eerie sound? The sky-thuttering was getting closer and closer....
In one last hopeful quest, I looked out the window to the great leafy mulberry. Surely it was the wind - it was the great Mistral that was messing with me! Only, not one leaf on the tree was moving! And the field below was entirely still.
My heart beat softly, too afraid that any loud thumping might give it away. Listening to the approach of something otherworldly, I understood my human insignificance. Had my husband been there with his great arms around me, even then we would be nothing against the thuttering sky and its vaste sea... There was nothing to do but to feel the terror wash over me.
When the risk of paralyzing fear became greater than whatever was lurking out there, I jumped up, threw open the windows and searched for "the unknown".
And there, in the vine field below, I saw it. A revolving light! The huge branches of the oak tree camouflaged most of the craft, but there it was, unmistakable! Not a watercraft, not a spacecraft, it was, there before my eyes, an oh-so-familiar tractor craft.
I shook my head in sincere appreciation (and relief!). Bravo! Bravo! I clapped softly, giddily. Little did he know, the nocturnal grapes farmer, that he had just created the most brilliant horror show. With that, I closed the windows and the proverbial curtains went down.
Post note: What I feared was a "close encounter" had been no more than the whirling, thudding sound of a sulfateur - a tractor-extension the blows out a blueish coppery mist over the vine rows, treating them against disease. Though the sound is a familiar one to me, I did not recognize it at 1:52 a.m.! I guess, like a familiar face out of place, a sound "out of time" has the same effect: we forget our connection to it.
On a further note, it just goes to show that a farmer's work is never done! And, given the canicular, or "dog days" weather, it sure makes sense to work in the cool of night.
Have you ever scared yourself stiff? What were the circumstances? Tell us about your fears and effrayeurs here in the comments box. Other uses for the comments box: ask questions, respond to other bits of info within today's letter or beyond it (the news, etc).You might also announce a local French meet-up... Thank you for making this community corner an educational, a helpful, and an interesting one. Click here to read or to participate.
le syndrome des jambes sans repos = restless leg syndrome (RLS)
un soufflement = a blowing
le vent = wind
la couette = quilt or down comforter
Qu'est-ce que c'était? = What was it?
chou (chouchou) = sweetie
un drôle de bruit = an odd noise
le crapaud = toad
la frayeur = fright
la pomme d'amour = "love apple" (synonym for "tomato")
"Les Anges". Angels. I love this photo of Mom (right) and one of our wine 'importatrice's, Phyllis! Have time for another French word or story or photo? Why not check out the French Word-A-Day archives, here.
The classic Bescherelle, the complete guide to French verb conjugation. Read the five-star reviews, and order, here.
A French standby. Strong, durable, all Emile Henry cookware can be taken directly from the freezer to the hot oven, can go under a broiler and in the microwave; freezer and dishwasher safe. The natural clay is unsurpassed for conducting and retaining heat. Color choices: blue or red. Order here.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety