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wine cellar

by David Ball via Wikipedia

Virid is the spring that snakes through our garden   dappled with sun-shade (snake-skin)    surrounded by choked-up laurels and strange purple flowers that waver in the water like reflected nightmares

“Let me show you La Fontaine,” I take his hand and lead him up the garden path, deeper, ducking our heads for the wisteria     There is an inscription on a garden stone, four letters only         L A U R    I was four years old when I carved it with a shard of broken green grass (I mean ‘glass’)    so many smashed bottles litter our garden

There is a cellar below our house, a catacomb of barrels for bodies or full-bodied Bordeaux    Even as a child I remember hunting in those barrels slipping a hand in to grab at the necks    More than once I toppled into the barrel and was not seen for days until somebody, Mon oncle, perhaps, came down to search in the particular barrel where I slept upside-down and clad in cobwebs

“Are you a child or a bat?” he would ask drunkenly, dusting me off, always the same joke always the same caresses and the sloppy kiss planted on my forehead

He holds the vintage by its neck, a chokehold    has not yet dusted it off    His pants are too loose, halfway down his bony buttocks    his sweater is moth-eaten   He looks poorer, much poorer than he is    But then, so do I: in four days I have not bothered to change out of my nightdress, it is slipping off my shoulder, I am naked beneath it is stained with wine    I cannot change, forgive me

Blame the heat, the Vauclusian heat: it makes me crave the night like a midsummer dreamer and retire at dawn to the sound of larks for a few hours of tossing, turning    At midday I awake, sun-dazzled, sun-bleached and unwashed I let my lovers in at the garden gate    overgrown with grapevines

Sometimes they pluck the sour green grapes crush them between their teeth; I cannot stomach grapes, I have vomited too many times because of them    Yet I enjoy crushing them with my bare feet    My feet which can bear the heat of any sun-stricken pavement which have walked over broken green glass and never bled

Skinks shimmer across our path    Vert et Or    such is our heraldry such is our heritage     Green: for the virid spring, for the vineyards, and for our veins, which show their vine-like tracery under skin thinner and whiter than a skink’s belly    Gold: for the hair, of course    all women in my family have golden hair, all women in my family are named  L A U R—

“We are Vauclusians,” my uncle has told me, “Our heritage is the closed valley, the golden hillsides, the green vineyards below Mont Ventoux;    the gold-walled châteaux grown over with vine leaves; the fiefs the papacy    Our men are knights, given to debauchery    our women spurn poets and marry sadists     The gold of their hair is incomparable    their names are aureate    They die of green plague and choked-up laurels; you will not live to see forty, my dear…”

“Voilà!” I lift my stained skirt and step barefoot into the foaming green waters that spew from the grotesque mouth of a stone Gorgon     He washes off the bottle in the Gorgon’s clear vomit and uncorks it with his teeth, then helps me climb the ledge above the fountain    We take turns swigging    “What year is this from?” he asks me     “1327,” I tell him    He is stupid; he believes me

I tell him that his pants are stupid    I draw up the sleeve of his sweater and dig my nails into his skin, leaving behind little crescents    He gnashes his teeth and snatches away my garment, throwing it into the spring where it floats like a white water lily     He has me on the ledge: it is hard and every thrust is a strike from the sun another glory bestowed on my laureate body    Afterward, I vomit into the spring;     green spittle and golden hair

Laura Elizabeth Woollett is a student and writer from Melbourne, Australia. She is inspired by mythology and eras other than her own, and has a penchant for French literature.