So, when my husband was offered a job in B., we jumped at that unexpected opportunity to pack all our stuff (I had not read chapter 66 yet), and take a French leave. Bye bye Paris, hello the countryside !
We arrived there mid-July, and time to unpack, do up the house a little, enjoy some walks in the marshes,sip some shots of Pineau, and Autumn was already spreading all over the country.
A total change of scenery, and of way of life,as well...
My ' gentle as lambs ' neighbours turned out to be die-hard fans of hunting. Canaille, our English Springer Spaniel, who had spent Summer lazing in the sun, away from prying eyes , suddenly became the centre of their attentions.
They kept asking questions about his breed, his age,his temper and his stamina.
Sure there was something fishy going on ...
And so, what was to happen happened !
One morning they knocked at my door, dressed in all camouflage, and offered to take Canaille for a hunting party.
Jeez, a hunting party ! How could they call that a hunting party ??
I felt shivers all along my spine, but managed to pull myself together, and answered politely that my four-legged comapnion was not trained for the job. The only preys he had ever hunted were squeaky toys and cookies, and the sofa was his favourite hunting ground !
As they were insisting, I added that even calves running in the meadows gave my poor dog nightmares, and that the only time he had seen a deer, he had nearly had a heart attack !
They exchanged glances as though reading in each other's minds :
" Those Parisian dogs ! Good-for-nothing ! Just lapdogs !! ".
I didn't mind, and of course, Canaille, either ! He went back to his comfy basket, curled up and uttered a deep sigh of relief as if saying :
" Phew, I had a narrow escape, didn't I ? ".
All day long I could hear barkings and shouts in the distance, and each gunshot made my heart fall into my stomach ! Sure, the nerve-racking hunting season would chip away my mental health !!!
Anyway, in the late afternoon the village got quiet again and so did I.
Not for long, unfortunately !!
After dinner, I was browsing through a magazine about animal rights, when I heard a knock on the shutters and a muffled voice calling my name ( somebody who knew me , so no thrill like in chapter 57).
When I opened the door, one of my neighbours was standing on the threshold. She handed a large paper bag to me and whispered :
" My husband's been hunting, here's for you, but don't tell anyone ", and off she went.
I locked the door and opened the bag ...
OMG !! A pheasant !! Still warm but dead ! Too late to give it mouth to mouth (or mouth to beak ?) resuscitation ! What could I do ?
I left the lifeless victim in the kitchen and went to bed.
As the saying goes, ' sleep on it '.
I had an awfully rough night haunted by Hitchcocklike birds, and unfortunately, at breakfast time ' The Eye was in the tomb,looking at Cain !', I mean the poor pheasant was still lying on the countertop, staring at me as if saying " How dare you ? ".
As I had been told not to tell anyone about that present, I couldn't ask for help.
Whenever I had bought poultry and game fowl in Paris, I had never attended the strip tease !
What's more, in those days, the area was not Internet-covered and then Mr Google was not my right hand man yet.
So, you can imagine my dismay !!
Well, I thought first thing was to get rid of that accusing and resentful look !
A sharp knife should do.
Poor me !! Hardly had I laid the victim on the carving board and put the tip of my knife on its neck when it began shaking its head right to left as if saying :
" Please don't ! Stop ! ".
Things were going really wrong. I was not wired to be an executioner, and before turning the kitchen into a slaughter house, it was high time to find a way out.
Perhaps once plucked , the rebellious bird would feel naked and ' lose its head '.
Unfortunately plucking a pheasant has nothing to do with plucking one's eyebrows !
Don't get me wrong, I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but yet I didn't use tweezers !!
Anyway, half an hour later my bird was still dressed to the nines ! The few feathers I had plucked out were just peanuts.Not enough to make an Indian feather hat and have a scalp dance around my prisoner (not sure it would have scared it !).
What a mess ! I would never be able to find a way out by myself !
I made up my mind and phoned a nearby restaurant manager I knew quite well.
I explained the whole matter and asked her for help.
After the lunch service,she came to my place to put an end to that unbearable eyeball to eyeball encounter :
Perky Busy Bee versus Gloomy Feathery Bird
She showed me how to 'behead' a pheasant (jeez,no wonder Mr Guillotin was born in Saintes in Charentes !) and she gave me the infallible tip to go through the plucking process.
Before leaving she even jotted down her own recipe to cook my heartful gift.
The day after to thank her for her precious help, I invited her to taste it.
All was well that ended well, except that .....the wild boar hunting season would soon be in full swing !!!
And Canaille still didn't care !!!