Marble [8] Fourth of January

By Marie Lebert, 21 December 2017.
Translated from French by Jane Golding.
Drawings by Denis Renard.

“Marble” is a short, timeless, galactic novel for all ages.
[Summary] [French version]

Twenty-eighth of December / Twenty-ninth of December / Thirtieth of December / Thirty-first of December / First of January / Second of January / Third of January / Fourth of January / Fifth of January

On the fourth of January, the first light of dawn was appearing on the horizon of planet Earth. In one leap, Bub moved from a sitting position to a standing position. He ran nearly all the way down to reach La Taverne, his usual café.

A few moments later, the warmth of his daily morning coffee was flooding into his bloodstream. This time, even the sky looked as if it also had a drop of frothy milk in it, with big white clouds sliding towards an unknown destination.

After walking up the Rue des Bains and turning right, Bul waited for the supermarket to open. Then he rushed in like a whirlwind to buy up the last five packets of peanuts left on the shelves.

Outside the supermarket, he carefully laced a packet in each pocket. He perched the fifth on the palm of his hand, opened it with his teeth and ate the peanuts one by one as he walked inland to check some information in the city hall of Hermanville-sur-Mer, to no avail. No time to go to the library, unfortunately, he was on a mission.

Then he counted and recounted his remaining coins. He really didn’t have enough to buy a pair of gloves. Sad and shivering, he walked back to the coast. The idea of wandering round outside all day didn’t appeal to him at all, because of the cold.

When he walked near the Maison de la Presse, the local bookstore in Lion-sur-Mer, he had an amazing moment of insight. An uncontrollable force made him cross the street and look in the window of the store.

And there, in the window, what did he see? The marble, Coffee’s marble, reposing on a snow white cloth between two books for children, in the warm, while he had been freezing outside for two days and three nights. Perhaps it was a mirage, the illusion of an oasis surrounded by palm trees appearing in the distance in a burning desert, like the story an Earthling had once told him. Or else it was a marble that bore a remarkable resemblance to the missing one.

Bub pushed the door while the bookseller was putting the daily newspapers on the shelves.

“May I see your marble?” Asked Bub too quickly, missing some words, in a strained voice.

The bookseller didn’t understand very well.

Bub said again, articulating more clearly,

“May I see your marble, the one which is in your window?”

“Yes, of course, it’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

The marble fell into Bub’s open palm. It was definitely Coffee’s marble; now, he was sure of it. For one thing, it looked slightly foreign, as if it had come from somewhere else; for another, it radiated intelligence, another unmistakable sign.

“When did you find it?” He asked the proprietor.

“Someone who found it on the beach of Hermanville-sur-Mer brought it three days ago, on the thirty-first of December, I think. I put it in the window for its owner to see it.”

“Would it upset you to give me back the marble?” Said Bub. “It’s me who lost it.”

“Ah! You lost it on the beach?”

“No, well yes, something like that.”

“Fine with me.”

“Thank you very much, you’ve really got me out of a spot.”

The bookseller laughed.

“It’s only a marble!”

Bub put the marble away carefully in the left pocket of his jeans, underneath the packet of peanuts. He mustn’t lose it again.

He had plenty of time for the books now. So he looked at all the rows of books on the shelves, delicately flicking through some of them. Oh, a dictionary of proverbs and expressions! He took some time to leaf through it, to learn some proverbs and expressions for his conversations with colleagues on Coral and for his scientific articles.

Three hours later, the bookseller’s voice made him jump.

“I have to close now. I’m going off to lunch. Come back this afternoon, if you like.”

“I don’t know,” said Bub. “I have to go and look at the sea now. No doubt it will be the last chance for a long time.”

Bub left without slamming the door, since the bookseller shut the door behind him.

After a moment’s thought, he decided to spend his remaining time on Earth on the sea wall of Lion-sur-Mer. With the aid of his round wristwatch, he sent Coffee a brief tweet saying that he had found the marble and had completed his mission.

After so many hours following Bub’s every step on the intergalactic computer, Coffee felt his stomach unknotting. He took his eyes off the screen at last and flopped back into his ergonomic armchair with the shape of a coffee bean.

Mouse was informed and immediately made arrangements for the return journey.

During the few moments he had left, Bub gazed at the sea. Shivering, he didn’t miss a second of the dance of the waves as they pounded against the sea wall, throwing up sprays of white foam.

Bub’s teeth were chattering as he waited for a signal from Mouse. He couldn’t wait to be back in the permanent warmth on Coral. It was bitterly cold and the wind was blowing in gusts. In fact, it was not so much that it was cold, but it was a damp cold that went right through your bones.

Ah, there was the signal. The fuchsia pink scroll shape drawn in the sky looked exactly like the shape of a peanut. No doubt Mouse wanted to be forgiven for her joke at the beginning. The journey lasted for a fraction of a second.

As usual after his intergalactic journeys, Bub fell back down next to Boubou, in their big round bed. Boubou threw herself into his arms, laughing and crying at the same time, before hiccupping with laughter when she saw his new outfit.

In a last burst of energy, after taking Coffee’s marble out of his pocket, Bub took off his Earthly European French Normandy outfit. He tossed the faded jeans, the big checked shirt and the blue and white striped knitted sailor’s hat in a heap on the floor.

Coffee swept in noisily, for the first time in living memory. Bub held out the marble to him, saying,

“I won’t invite you for a coffee now. I’ve had it up to here with coffees with a drop of milk. Tell the others that we’ll be at the bubble office tomorrow evening for the New Year drinks.”

Bub and Boubou stayed in bed for twenty-four hours in a row. By mutual agreement, exceptionally, they decided not to watch a video about Earthly seas.

Next chapter: Fifth of January

Copyright © 2017 Marie Lebert (text) & Jane Golding (translation)