WINGED

 

The heart’s sculptress, giving wings to stone,
making light of weight and sorrow,
converting banal truth into celestial lie.
Innocent eye of this beholder,
chiselling faith from rock-hard disbelief –
if only for one lonely instant.
Wings of the dove,
a spirit homing for the heavens –
as the crow flies, so they say.
The pigeon’s silly flight, so volatile.

Astarte, all my own,
Queen of the tongue divine,
evangelist, delightful love:
Announce the fruits of this, my quill,
be soul as well as substance of these verse.
On thine fair wings I then shall flutter,
to flirt with everlasting gravity.

Were I the Wife of Lot, as well as wicked,
salt of the earth is what I’d like to be.
I’d pray to be a pillar, shapely like this porch,
then flee the tangled thicket of a foolish world,
swift as a dove.

Sierksma Monastery at Cadouin 17.8/2017

THE HARD WAY

Two buildings fiercely kissing,

teeth onto teeth – stone bedding stone.

A chilly smacker – what vehemence.

Past meeting past, time digging in.

Divergent stories shyly mating,

 yet also desperately.

Incongruous, barren fornication,

transforming tourist into Peeping Tom,

downcast his eyes, ashamed somewhat,

singing this song, his petite verse:

the granite’s sole and solitary offspring.

Sierksma, Monpazier 16.8.2017

AUGUST AUTUMN

 

 

 

AUGUST AUTUMN

What sadness, a sunflower in tears,

mid-summer crying in an autumn rain,

the sly chill stinging sombre soul

and spineless stem.

This world is fading.

Tomorrow then, perhaps,

that heaven new, once promised

– and why not –

another pristine earth.

 

For someone dying there is hope.

The living, as always, wait self-certain.

Sierksma 11.8.2017

RAPE RUIN

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;

Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;

Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.

For nothing now can ever come to any good.

 

D.H. Auden, Stop all the clocks…

Thus, in spring, a farmer walks his fields – later, in the summer, the traces of his paces have been blown over by the blessing of the corn which he has sown.

Joseph Roth, Radetzky Marsch

________________________

 

 

For literally ages and ages this path has been used by Cistercian monks. Oxen, donkeys or horses – animal power pulling the wooden carts first up the hill and then down again, towards the vast pond called Les Fourdines.

Observe the enormous stones, their flat side on top. Even now, walking this little road is difficult; it demands an efficient navigation of the servile feet. Driving a car here is dangerous to its health. This path is now primarily used by farmer’s vehicles whose giant tires are capable to manage the rough surface.

 

You also see that in those ages past the path was smaller. It has been broadened for the use of those modern sized engines. On the side of this stone path the surface is more flat, when I do not walk it but use my bike, that part of the road is where I ride.

Having walked the easy way down, you would enter a narrow, hollow and shaded road covered by trees, thus approaching the lake as one should – in awe, as if a woman, kind enough to let you enter her body.

 

 

Don’t you forget, Kind Reader of mine, that already so long ago water was considered the source of life and grace, springs deep down in hidden grottos. The Etruscans knew, they celebrated these wells, covering them with their gentle domes!

 

I call these waters My Great Lake, since long considering them part of my back yard. I open the little northern gate to my court, pass through and after passing two farms begin the climb, then to descend again towards my lady. Serenity is the word, heaven another. And why not balm. It is my place to be pensive and weigh the imponderables of existence.

 

For eighteen years now, this has been the spot to which I retire when the mind is in turmoil. A last vestige of tranquillity, a place that with some help of the imagination and one’s wilful suspension of disbelief returns the soul to the Middle Ages, a time in which it was at least reasonable to belief in that substance’s existence.

 

Like in the old days, each year on the first Monday of November, people from the village still gather in long-legged rubber boots. After the sluices have been opened in September, two separate locks that keep the rainwater inside the lake, over weeks and weeks the waters have already been emptied into the river down below. The fishermen enter the circle of deep water that remains, then start fishing the thousands of carps that have gathered there.

 

It is done in a fashion monastic as it were, little has changed. The men, till their middle in the water, fill small float after float with these enormous fish-bodies, then push these towards the edge of the water where they are emptied by others, who put them into case after case. These in their turn are hauled up onto the dike which shuts off the pond.

 

Here it is, finally, where Modern Times have changed things. Nowadays no carts, no horses and no monks are awaiting the catch to transport the fish to the monastery. In the old days, most of the fish were put up into special basins, lying at the opposite side of the dike and still filled with water, as only so many carts and so many monks and so many horses could transport so many fish in one day.

 

 

Nowadays these basins are never used again. Two or more lorries are waiting on the dike, on each a row of huge aquaria in which hundreds of living carp will be fed oxygen, kept alive to be transported and slaughtered elsewhere. In the past their destiny was Germany. In autumn, carp is one of the delicatessen on the dining tables of the restaurants with a Gut- Bürgerliche Küche. Once filled up, the lorries climb back on the hill to disappear towards the East, with them the fish.

 

All ponds in this region of the Brenne seem to function according to the same Five-Year Plan. After four years the pond is left to dry, grain is sown, the dikes are repaired with tar that is put into the holes that been have eaten into the dam. While dry, you can now see the various levels of the lake in the other years, varying with the amounts of rain filling it up again after each November.

 

This is my eighteenth French year, I live here for six months and I almost always wait for the fishing before I leave for The Low Lands again. It is either on All Souls or a day very close to it. So in summer time, quite a few times I have also witnessed this emptied and dry Great Lake of mine. Each fifth year, however, it surprises me again, like I have never seen anything like it before in my life. It is purely and simply a thing counter-natural.

 

Walking the floor of the dried-up lake is surreal; it gives one the same feeling as when suddenly observing, in the middle of the American desert, fossil rests of a fish that are carved in the surface of a rock. It is moonlike.

 

 

I felt like an explorer of extraterrestrial territory, looking for life. What I found was death, at least the semblance of it in the form of a shell of an eerie size, quietly lying in the new-born grass.

 

 

Like China porcelain of good quality, the earth was broken like an old woman’s face. Terre craquelé.

 

I was overwhelmed by a counter-punctual feeling. Only last year did I visit Lac Vassivière, situated at the edge of the Auvergne plateau. Not all too long ago this had been a canyon. After they built the barrage, it was flooded. Walking the footbridge to what is now a little island with a castle on top, I looked down on the water’s surface well aware that deep down there lay a village drowned.

 

So drowned I was now, on the bottom of the world, in those gorgeous air waves spread by an early summer’s wind. From the bottom of the world I looked up against what had turned into a mighty wall of high, shiny reeds. All of a beautiful sublime.

 

 

The lake, when full, is delicately sculpted into planes that are now a sixty meters wide, then again no more than thirty. Filled to its brim, it spreads out as far as the eye reaches. However, to my left was now to be found the last residue of water left of this vast lake, its surface normally covering some sixteen thousand square meters.

 

 

Then, only a few days ago, early on a Sunday morning, I decided to make my walk to the Great Lake again. Turning the familiar curve in the path, I almost fainted. Expecting the shaded tunnel leading onto the water, a white glare hit me. I instantly noted that on one side the trees and shrubs had been slaughtered.

 

 

 

The glare was caused by a plane of enormous white cobble stones. I walked on, to find the floor of the pond excavated like an enormous parking lot, again extravagant rocks overlaying the once argyle floor, draglines and other machines standing on the side, waiting for the Monday morning.

 

 

From what it looked like, this cemetery would become even larger. A few days later I came back and found that this is indeed the case. The dam, instead of being repaired with picturesque patches of tar, has suddenly been cemented away completely. An eye’s sore. My lake has been completely ruined, thus the beautiful world that holds it like a sapphire in its setting.

 

 

Sic transit gloria mundi.

 

Water is Woman. My lake, my maîtresse, raped. It felt like looking at Duchamp’s Étant donné…, an installation consisting of a sturdy door with a hole in it. Once the eye is properly in place, the Peeping Tom perceives the lush body of a woman raped, thighs wide open as well as dead.

 

 

It goes even deeper than this. They have found that our innate feeling of personal space, socially conditioned as it also is, performs strange tricks with our experience. The moment someone enters that space, one feels like threatened. Once inside a car, this personal space is unconsciously widening into a much larger circle, extending around the automobile’s body which now feels like it is our own. Media, the extensions of man…

 

I have always identified so much with these waters, that I myself am raped. This Great Lake, c’était moi! For the first time in my life, the fact that I am an Aquarius has acquired meaning.

 

Am I, then, a late-late-late Romanticist, deploring so-called progress as ruin, always à la recherché du temps perdu? Perhaps. However, even though I do indeed find the ways of the world more and more distasteful, I also know of the panta rheï. There may be talk of an ‘eternal return’; it sure takes odd curved round-abouts of devastating changes to get there…

 

The Keatsean notion of a chaste, never ending chase after girls eternally unravish’d as the poet described his women visible on the Elgin urn, it is a stranger to me. My kind of beauty is un-urned. Yet, true enough: Progress, the great forgetting.

 

Thus, change it shall be. But why call it so mistakenly progress? Change is indeed most often ruinous, though of course it depends on the eye of the beholder whether he applauds or deplores it.

 

How well I understand these people here, out in the campagne of La France Profonde, that agricultural working class once communist, now voting for disgusting Marine Le Pen. Once they opted for a new kind of communal life, against the social ruins of capitalism. That communist illusion gone, now faced with postmodern agricultural industrialism, these people look back and nostalgically desire the old communality of the days past, which they now unexpectedly consider Paradise Lost…

 

To speak in sober sadness, this is how I perceive all this. Since two years the buyers of the carps are not German any longer, but British. Those blasted lorries, loaded with fish, have to be on time for the ferry that leaves Calais at its appointed hour. These buyers cannot afford to be late. Thus the carp-sellers have been put under pressure. Either provide for easy loading and a turning place for our lorries, or we’ll find ourselves another fishing pond!

 

The farming of fish has been turned into a capitalist exploitation of the environment, thus into the ruin of my aesthetic pleasure. Not only have they raped My Great Lake, I am quite sure that the manner of fishing itself will change. Through some kind of machinery those carps will be hauled straight from the pond into the basins on the lorries. Fishermen? What’s that?

 

Progress as ruin. Secretly, I hope that Brexit will posthumously and financially kill the whole endeavour. It deserves its own ruin.

 

Sierksma 28.7/2017

REQUEST

Dear Reader,

 

There are some manuscripts awaiting an American or a British publishers. A novella – an investigative novella on the life and death of the erotomanic  draughtsman Hans Bellmer;  and a book on the personal meaning of the year 1974. Both are Sebaldian, that is with pictures.

Now your writer would like to know if you could help him find a literary agent linking him to a good publisher. You know someone? You know the way to find such a person? Help me! I have not the foggiest.

 

Sierksma

rjsiersk@xs4all.nl

THE SHOOTIST part 3

 

vicissitudes of suicide

Contents

1. a life-time occupation
2. suicide as euthanasia
3. anarchy of death
4. easter miracle
5. insidious inspection

6. fatal research
7. practicing the end
8. the arthritic shootist
proustian postscript

6. fatal research

Evil acts belong to the powerful and the virtuous, bad and inferior acts to those subjected.

Nietzsche, Nachlass der Achtzigerjahre
________________________________

I’ve never been one for the Heidegger way of life, a Sein zum Tode, continually living in the face of death while pondering it. Even in that black period, when I was still a suicidal being, I always considered my obsession purely mine, hoping that all others would enjoy their lives and wishing them well.

 

LAROCHE217 3JUNI 038

 

Perhaps Pessoa described it well: To await death, yet not to think about it. I have never been morbid, though I was often depressed. Depression, however, seems to be more the medical description of an affliction than a character trait. At most cynical is what I was, never sentimental. To be morbid is to be hysterical in a camouflaged manner.

Sentimentalism is a characteristic of those who consider their alleged emotions to be substances and also to be of substance, considered as heavy and important, instead of as the fleeting little waves of varied feeling which they are, of a flitting nature, coming and going, all but moments without a past. In normal life, meditating on death should be an old man’s occupation.

Now indeed my time has come, death is from now on an inseparable companion. Yet, contemplating its various issues, cool analysis is needed, an attitude of sine ira et studio. It is not so much death itself as its technicalities that have become intriguing. Niklas Luhmann rightly argued that man’s Ego cannot but consider itself as forever alive and always continuous, it can reflect on corporeal death, not think its own nothingness.

As I do not consider Descartes’ notion of two separate entities of body and soul sane philosophy, once death becomes important in your life, it is the destruction of the physical unity of the two that is at stake. Can it be coincidence that, some days ago, a heat wave not merely prevented me from walking, but also from working on this text of The Shootist, which is indeed a spiritual undertaking pertaining to the unity of both?
The fear of death is not the same as a will to live. Evelyn Waugh once remarked that such fear saps all energy, while a continuing will to live, even in the face of death, motivates to try and make the best of it. I do not fear death, I want to enjoy my books, my music and first of all the friends and the loved ones, as long as I can. With this same gusto I now start my research as to how properly end my life.

How does one go about shooting oneself? That is the question. When my day has come, I do not want to be forced to repeat what the protagonist in Japin’s novel Surrender says: Death came too late for its rendezvous. In my case there might also arise a situation in which I might add: Or too early.

The first thing I found on the web in terms of actually shooting oneself, was a long article that was obviously written by a researcher. Alas, it discussed the seriousness of wounds in the head resulting from a volley of buck-shot. The fact that the man had used polyethylene model heads was not helpful anyhow. Back on the internet.

The sheer amount on the web of amateur opinion as to guns and suicide is surprising and worrying. Any idiot can state what he thinks – or rather what he is not thinking, but merely imagining. Perhaps helpful is an article titled How to commit suicide the right way? Its writer tries to be sort of scientific about it:

The gun: Do not use a .22 calibre weapon. A small handgun can do four things: 1. kill you; 2. make you bleed out for 2+ agonizing hours before killing you; 3.put you in a coma forever; 4. not kill you. Get a .45 calibre weapon, or even better, a SHOTGUN!

Now, a shotgun I’ve already ruled out, no further arguments taken. However, do I know what .22 or .45 calibre means? I do not. Back to Wikipedia, where .22 calibre stands for 5.6mm and .45 calibre for 11.5mm bullets. Oops, my little Guardian Angel with its 7mm rounds may turn out to be a useless pop-gun after all…

Now as to the ‘How?’ Taken my own little personal myth, I have always considered it an ‘of course’ to shoot the revolver aiming at my right temple. Some research-like snooping around in the cinematographic world of suicide supports this preference. Again, one should not forget that, as with the sites on the internet, here one is also bombarded with laymen’s info. All this is very important, 25% of people survive self-inflected gun shots to the head, examples galore of survivors in the most abominable conditions.

Over the last seven days, I have seen two movies with perhaps a clue. I also remember seeing Colonel Redl quite some time ago, Szabó’s masterpiece which certainly confirmed my suicidal method of preference. Though officer Redl is forced to end his life with a service revolver and takes quite some pacing up and down the room before he has pumped up enough courage to shoot himself, he does indeed shoot himself through the temple.

By the way, Redl’s act does indeed deserve the German-Dutch description of Selbstmord or zelfmoord, murder that is, because the man was forced into his act by others. In this case suicide would be too gentle a word. Selbstmord is not only a Church-word, it is an expression utterly hierarchical and in essence also a military notion.

The DVD-cover of the very bad movie Sonatine, made by Takeshi Kitano, did promise some education. This is also the only explanation for the fact that I managed to see it through to its end.

 

LA ROCHE lente17 3 077

 

The man in the picture seems to have some fun in performing his deed, a rather different cup of tea from the one Redl was forced to drink. This alone should have warned me.

The silly thing about the movie is, that this image on the cover never appears inside the actual film. What you do see is the following scene in which, once again, the revolver is used to shoot through the head’s right temple, however this time with blood realistically splashing against the left car-window, level with the shot, and not like the silly spray peeing downward as seen on the disc’s cover. That blood must have been drawn on the photo with a brush. Also notice the enormous size of this gun, which for the owner of a 7mm Guardian revolver is rather alarming.

 

LA ROCHE lente17 3 079

 

Later I saw a more serious movie, again about military men, not a master piece like Colonel Redl, but still a pretty good flick: Zurlini’s Il deserto dei Tartari, with in it Colonel Max von Sydow.

 

LAROCHE17 xx 035

 

Although in this case, the cover itself is in black and white and does not promise any instruction in the art of suicide, the story’s gloom is filmed in Technicolor and turns indeed out to be informative. After the officer, once more a Colonel, is relieved of his duty in a fort which lies in nowhere land, at the edge of a vast desert, he is riding away on horseback, now on his own and without his company, for the first time in civilian clothes. You expect the worst and so it happens. I am all eyes to learn a thing or two. Once in the middle of nowhere, he gets off his horse and begins to search in one of the saddle bags.

 

LAROCHE17 xx 037

 

After some rummaging, he takes something out of it. It is indeed a gun, though you have to be alert to see it. And I am alert. Curiously enough, its size reminds me of my own little thing, which is somehow reassuring.

 

LAROCHE17 xx 038

 

Zurlini is alas too shy, or perhaps simply too delicate and too good a movie maker. You only see the officer walk into the desert, fading away.

 

LAROCHE17 xx 036

 

Then you merely hear the shot. One presumes that Von Sydow must have done the same thing as Colonel Redl, though perhaps in a more serene manner.

Now, out of the blue, on the World Wide Web it is written by someone that shooting through the temple is the worst way to do it. This hole, however, seems rather decisive.

 

SICTRANSIT

 

Yet this writer is sure: Put the god forsaken thing in your mouth POINTING TO THE SKY. Not kinda up, not angled up, STRAIGHT UP. At least, from the perspective of instruction, this hysterical outburst brings into play what for me is a new factor: the angle of the shot. I find one site advising a shot through the mouth ‘at an angle upward…’ How fuzzy can you get, how informative, wow!

All at once I find myself rather backward, as far as knowledge of ‘the brain’ is concerned. I do know a few things, having read rather seriously on brain research involving pet scans, left/right hemispheres and that sort of thing. Never, however, with an eye to shooting out my own brains, this in the One Best Way, that is the proper way according to Scientific Management.

This business of where and of how to direct the revolver’s canon has now become vital, knowing that my Guardian fires only 7mm bullets with a small amount of black powder to propel it. It needs indeed its proper angle, pointing at the skull at perhaps ninety degrees, this to acquire the right momentum for penetration and digging itself into my brain. Lethally that is.

Next I dig into more websites discussing the make-up of the human brain.

The brain stem seems of particular interest, one of the informants on the suicide sites is advising you to shoot the bullet straight through this organ. This time however, I am instructed that while doing this, instead of ‘shooting STRAIGHT UP, that is POINTING TO THE SKY’, the gun must be aimed through the mouth at an angle perpendicular to the back bone, that is more or less horizontally… As this damned brain stem is also pretty small compared with the other parts, this issue seems to turn into a suicide’s brain breaker. Choosing to aim like this, seems to demand a master’s shot…

Eventually, I am also left with uncertainties as to the thickness of the skull above the palate and as to how this bit of bone is positioned precisely. The horizontal shot into the brain stem involves the risk of my little Guardian bullet grazing that palate bone, thus failing to penetrate the brain.

 

7. practicing the end

I did not carry my revolver. They had told me that it would be easy and,

like an idiot, I had believed them.

Craig Johnson, Kindness Goes Unpunished
__________________________________

Time had come to take my piece apart. In terms of good old Karl – Marx, that is – I could now call my self the owner of a revolver. However the issue with things is not so much to own them, as to possess them, to be their master and also to have the things possess you. A bit like McLuhan’s phrase Media, the Extensions of Man to which I always add its counterpoint: Man, the Extension of Media. One might even invoke Zen, with its idea that a man and his arrow should be one, or for that matter a man and his bullet. For the would-be suicide this last bit of advice seems even more to the point than what the original Zen saying must have intended.

First, however, I had to perform the delicate autopsy of my little machine, take it apart and clean its various pieces. I bought a chic little screwdriver especially for this purpose. It fits nicely inside the violin case, together with an assortment of little fitting tips that can be inserted in the revolver’s various screws. Once I use the instrument, it turns out not to be merely my fancy, but a very necessary piece of equipment.

 

LA ROCHE lente17 3 023

 

Observe the two tiny pieces of metal on the brown little round tablet at the centre of this picture, lying next to the revolving part. They are the minuscule screws with which the canon as well as the revolving piece are first mounted, thereupon fastened onto the hand piece with its trigger system. Ruin these two bits while unscrewing or screwing – or worse, simply losing these steel flees would be disastrous. Without them there is no gun, merely its corpse, which is not the point of the whole exercise.

Somewhat later, after cleaning and oiling it, I did indeed lose the smallest of the two screws. The screwdriver slid away, and the always already invisible little bastard completely disappeared into thin air. Only after five very panicky minutes of seeking in vain amongst my clothing, on the carpet and on the chair, did I have enough brain left to turn the gun a little on its side. There, just to tease me, it had hidden itself in one of the bullet holes of the revolving piece.

Also observe the larger pin with its round knob, lying on the yellow cloth next to the canon. It is my only photo with that thing in it. You will never see it in its original position. Here it is, a Thing in Itself. The mystery of all this will become manifest later on. All I can show my reader here, is the little slot into which the pin would fit, so as to push through the holes in the revolver, to clean them or to eliminate the remaining shells:

 

xshootist 002

 

And I refer my reader to the picture earlier presented, of the gun used by Kitana on the cover of the Sonatine movie where it can indeed be seen in its proper position, that is parallel to the canon.  and sadly enough so. I shall have to come back to this knobbed pin later on in this chronicle,.

 

xxshootist 011

 

To clean the gun, I invented clever little chords to pull through the canon and through the holes in the revolving part. This is a necessary procedure, as black powder leaves stains on the steel which after a while begin to harden. I had no idea of what the last owner had done with the gun, perhaps he had been a colleague suicide.

In the nearby larger town, I had already visited a gun shop, to see if there was a little instrument to be bought for this job, a thing I had seen gunslingers use in Westerns. They were indeed for sale: 30 Euro, plus another 15 Euro for the little round tops that fitted it. At a price like that the bricoleur in me revolts and finds his own solution. I used a little piece of torn sheet with a thin cord attached to it, oiled it well and pulled it right through the canon. Later I tied up a thicker piece of cord with knots, just the right size for the holes, and hauled it through with some force. Cleaned of black soot and freshly oiled they were.

Next I re-assembled it, awaiting the arrival of my friend whom I could now show that, perhaps, she had been wrong and that my revolver could perform its task. Showing off is perhaps a better word… We were sitting in the room where I loaded the gun with one round. I wanted to show her how the little pinfire would slide into its revolver slit, safely pushing against the closed cock, and point out how this should bang onto it. Then I even cocked it.

Having done this, I wanted to take the round out again, however now of a sudden the revolver got stuck. There I was, with a loaded gun sitting opposite my lady, cock taken backward, a live round ready to fire and no way of moving the revolving part further on… Only in such situations do you discover whether you are just an idiot, or perhaps also someone more clearheaded and decisive. Without a moment’s thought, I pointed the infernal machine down to the carpet, took my fountain pen from the little reading table and blocked the cock from banging down. This photograph I staged at a later moment.

 

yyshootist 004

 

I stood up, walked through the door onto the courtyard and pointed the revolver towards the earth under the shrubs. The pen I carefully took out from its position, averted my face and closed my eyes – and fired what would have been the very first shot in my life time. The cock indeed banged down, nothing happened… So much for my Guardian Angel, is what I thought, and I felt sincerely silly. Helplessly looking over my shoulder, to seek moral support from my friend who still sat frozen in her chair, I cocked the revolver again and fired once more. With an enormous explosion it went of.

That first bullet was of course never found back, but this, my very first shell, was saved for my offspring.

 

LAROCHE17 xx 001

 

Also observe the gun, after I had opened the slide. Compared with the last photo presented in paragraph 5, you see a black spot on top of the little pinfire, which is now also buried deeper in its slit. One cannot miss the hazy shade of black powder over the once shiny steel.

 

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A photo made of the inside of that shell shows us what has happened there, something which up till this moment had remained a mechanical mystery.

 

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Firing the gun has forcefully brought down the pinfire and banged it on what appears to be a tiny little ‘table’ at the back of the cartridge which, up till that violent moment, had been peacefully covered in its shroud of black powder. Having fucked up the gun with my pen, the distance between cock and pin must have been reduced just this little too much, so much in fact, that the impact of that very first shot-without-a-shot misfired. The distance between cock and pinfire simply needs to be proper.

That night, I woke up with an enormous headache, it felt like the shot I had fired in the bushes had actually done its job and had indeed already hit my brain.

And now for something completely different! Shooting in real life, out in Nature that is, and not merely trying to kill a poor worm under the bushes in my domesticated courtyard.

Before doing so, I was sure to once more visit the World Wide Web and see whether anything could be found in the form of advice for firing the Guardian. There actually exists some footage showing someone doing it! From this, I gathered that the gun should be pointed down to the ground, at an angle of say 60 degrees, and that one should use some kind of board as the prop to fire at. After all, for this little anarchist there is no real enemy hidden at the other side of the river Ebro…

The man in that instruction film is also wearing goggles, of a type which I already have in my possession. To save the ears, I put a little box with noise stoppers in the violin case. I also bought myself a wooden panel at the do-gooder shop of Emmaüs, and put this in the paper bag given to me, together with a second plastic plate taken from the kitchen. I fully expected to let my lovely gun splinter both things into shreds.

 

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There is a problem, though. In Germany they say Übung macht den Meister, Practice makes Perfect. And indeed practice does normally make the master. Germans should know, their poet Celan described it so well: Der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland, Death, a Master from Germany. In the case of committing suicide, however, you may prepare yourself for the act, however practicing suicide itself seems to be a contradictio in praxi. This is why, in the case of committing suicide, the actual experiment will be hopefully also end of story. And it explains why there is no theory of suicide. As with the making of a work of art, it will always remain a unique act and as such a non-testable happening.

Having once taught epistemology and methodology of the sciences – granted, only to future architects, who did not have a clue as to science and considered each of their designs as both experiment and research – I have become weary of the abuse of the word experiment. Testing seems to be the proper notion in my case. Without the support of theoretical struts, I am merely trying things out. In short: trial and error. However, for the inexperienced man the problem with probable errors here is, that it is hard to detect whether there has indeed been any form of success.

There is one thing which I bring into all this from my background as a university teacher, also as a one-time researcher. Like Turturro, in Diane Keaton’s grand movie Unstrung Heroes, I celebrate documentation, something which my reader must have already grasped from the abundance of pictures added to this account. One may not be a true scientist, yet documentation in all manners possible is at the heart of any serious undertaking to establish something.

Why did I take that plastic little plate from the kitchen? Can’t be because I normally cut my meat on it. It is because I read somewhere that at the temple the cranium is 7mm thick. The little plastic panel is also 7mm thick. Very unscientific all this, because I do not have a clue as to the difference in resistance of plastic and skull. I feel a bit like a fool.

Having too much equipment to walk out all the way towards the Great Lake, as I normally do, I took the car with the revolver and so on stocked in its boot. By the way, for the first time in my life I felt like doing something illegal, even though the chance of being stopped on such a little non-road, by someone from the gendarmerie demanding the boot to be inspected, is zero. I even went out of my way to drive up the most unvisited little path in the whole neighbourhood, risking my tires on its sharp stones.

 

LAROCHE17 xx 019

 

Behind a broken down fence I spot what must be my shooting site. It suddenly becomes a glorious day, with obviously more than enough light not to be able to later blame all that would go wrong on the absence of the sun. Flowers surround me.

 

LAROCHE17 xx 028

 

The hands are somewhat unstable, yet I manage to unpack the gun, take out a set of bullets and insert them neatly in the revolver slots. I put the thing down again, take the little wooden gate aside and, though this is a godforsaken and desolate place, I do enter it surreptitiously. There I put the two plates in a position, just as I had seen it done by the man on YouTube: a little skewed, against a stick in the ground.

First I decide to shoot at the plastic pane. The result is disastrous, in more than one way. The bullet produced but the slightest dent in the rather hard plastic surface, not so much hurting it as bringing out its texture in a rather delicate manner:

 

LAROCHE17 xx 023

 

However, my very first real shot has also turned out to be a ricochet, not in the sense that the gun has backfired, but that the bullet sprang back from its target surface, grazing my left hand which started to bleed, albeit not seriously. Perhaps an omen?

 

LAROCHE17 xx 021

 

It was, by the way, the only bullet of that shooting session which I found back…

 

LAROCHE17 xx 034

 

Finally I understand the real purpose of those goggles, which I put on dutifully before I fired the shot. I had entertained the notion that one uses these things in case something goes wrong with the gun itself. Not so in this case. Then again, the true tester of guns does not recoil. I now decide to turn the revolver on the wooden plank. The result, once again, is disappointing, even though this time there is at least real proof of a bullet having hit it, however not penetrating the plank.

 

LAROCHE17 xx 029

 

Again, after merely entering the wood, the thing has sprung back. Not very promising, is what I thought, once again trying to find good reasons for this failure of penetration in the superior quality of the wood, however one more thing of course unknown to me. Besides the still impressive weight of the little gun in my hand, all this time I have been weighing imponderables in the scales of my mind. After having closed off the scene of my crime, in order to produce some more data for comparison, I take aim at the wood of the gate.

 

LAROCHE17 xx 025

 

Although this is certainly timber of a poorer quality, the shot proves even more of a disappointment, again a dent and no penetration through and through. In my mind’s eye I now see a bullet stuck in the cranium, causing all sorts of everlasting misery, except of course my instant death. Instead of finally making me feel safe about my future suicide, all this testing has unhinged me. Rather than the wood and the plastic, it is now I who feels shattered. I probably can not shoot a hole in a package of butter… Yet, I did manage to wound myself, shoot the very own hand that could also have pulled the trigger, even though it was my left hand. I may call myself a shootist – if not The Shootist.

You may remember my note on one of the pieces of the gun, the knobbed pin parallel to the canon of which I told you that it would not appear on any photo again. While standing next to my car, the very moment I take out the shells from the revolver I discover that this steel pin is missing. When I had been absorbed in the shooting it had been in its slot, now it is gone. I put the fence aside once more, and inspect the site for at least a quarter of an hour. High grass, a little muddy, no way, man! An amputated gun is what is now resting in its violin case.

 

shootistzzz 008

 

Only later did I consider the possibility that one should not actually shoot the gun with that pin still attached to it. Not only will it spring away, as it did in my case, but it will also destabilise the shot. It is merely a piece of equipment, to be used to remove shells after use and perhaps also to help cleaning the gun.

Back home, I took an early siesta, all the time thinking about my failure and about, perhaps, one more shoot-out to put the lid on this whole testing business. I figured that the planks and that plastic plate might have been too thick for the little bullets, and that conceivably something qua resistance and strength more similar to the cranium must be found. Why not take a shot at my aluminium tray! As it turned out, I could not restrain myself, jumped off my bed and did the thing.

By now I had grown a bit afraid of the little death-machine, so this time I opted for not wearing those unpleasant goggles, but instead to place the tray on the ground near the garden shed, hiding myself behind its door and shoot with only the arm plus the revolver peeping around it, this time from a distance of some fifty centimetres.

 

LAROCHE17 xx 040

 

Although once more a failure – a dent, no more – the effect was certainly more aesthetic than the earlier try-outs, as now a spray of black gunpowder can be seen, with on the reverse side even a tiny little opening against a background of old coffee stains.

 

LAROCHE17 xx 041

 

When an hour later my friend arrived, I could show her these results and enjoy her commiseration which, even if it does not aid in performing a successful suicide, does help. She said: Why not do one more shot, just to show me! This time closer to the surface of the aluminium and aimed precisely perpendicular. After all, you plan to shoot yourself from close up, which is not so much a matter of aiming, as of merely pulling the trigger…

This is what I did. Same position behind the shed’s door, now however from a distance of thirty centimetres.

 

LAROCHE17 xx 046

 

Lo and behold! A hole at last, and one of my own shooting, this time through and through. Observe the heavier spray of black powder, as compared with the first shot. On the reverse side is to be seen a clean hole with sharp edges, very much like a saint’s halo or a Platonic circle, a Philebic Form residing in its silvery heaven.

 

LAROCHE17 xx 047

 

The bullet, found in the earth beneath the tray, shows the traces of its penetration, perhaps finally a sign of some future success?

 

LAROCHE17 xx 052

 

The tray itself, defunct with its two holes, now serves as a memento mori. In full view from the chair, in which I drink my morning coffee as well as my insomniac night’s honey milk, the place where I read and where I play chess against unknown composers of difficult problems, it is now resting on the radiator.

 

LAROCHE17 xx 048

 

Whether it is merely a universal reminder of Everyman’s end, or more specifically an indicator of the feasibility of my own suicide, remains a matter in my mind’s balance.

 

8. the arthritic shootist

The bones prized above all by archaeology, are those gnarled with disease or splintered by an arrowhead; bones marked with a history from a time before history.

Coetzee, Age of Iron
_________________

Look at this old man, a would-be cowboy with his fake Borsalino hat and the leather gloves actually used for gardening. Isn’t he ridiculous!

 

LAROCHE217 3JUNI 057

 

All the more ridiculous is that funny little shooter, smaller even when placed in the gloved hands of such a big man.

 

shootist 014

 

A vague feeling is creeping up on me that, perhaps, there is not even a license needed for this little gun, nor a permit for the rounds acquired for it. It may indeed be so harmless, that the French law allows you the misunderstanding of committing suicide without adequate means. Has my heroic crossing into the land of guns and death been in vain then?

How farcical all this becomes, when you know that this silly man’s right hand which must perform its trick on that final day, is suffering from a serious, intense and painful arthritis. Early mornings, I almost drop my precious coffee bowl, the gift from a sweet loved one, a thing I’ve cherished for ages. When typing a message on the newly acquired Smart Phone, my crooked index finger fails every second letter. There are moments when I scream out loud, because the fingers cannot even handle a book properly or fails to navigate the scribbler’s pen.

Perhaps, like tennis players who nowadays use the double-handed backhand, I should practice the firing of that tiny revolver with two hands at the same time, this time holding the gun up side down as otherwise the suicidal manoeuvre would not work anyhow.

However, all things prepared, man is still never prepared for the vicissitudes of existence. Nobody is ever sure about his own manner of ending. One should never underestimate the disruptive force of haphazard actions, or so Beryl Bainbridge’s Dr. Potter in Master Georgie. I may just drop down, walking the street somewhere in Haarlem, to be transported to the nearest hospital where they will perform all kinds of unwanted things, operations which I have feared and tried to evade so intensely, my revolver lying idle somewhere in my study or at the bedside in my house. All would have been in vain.

Still, even when at that final moment I succeed in being alone with the gun, all the as yet unknown as well as uncertain variables may, combined with this unpleasant defect of an arthritis claw, very well leave me lying on my bed, still alive but certainly not well, the bullet gone astray for reasons conspicuously unknown. A body, not yet a corpse. Perhaps, my ailments won’t accept the death of their vessel, conspiring against its expiration.

Have I won anything in terms of comfort and security? If only on that brocante I had found a Lefaucheux revolver of, say, the 12mm type, with more powder force behind its heavier bullets, perhaps the imponderabilia of life and death would now weigh less on my mind. Has this cute little Guardian Angel of mine become merely one more memento mori, joining the other bits and pieces in my environment which perform that same function of remembrance? Is the physical condition not enough in itself?

The only solution for such an existential muddle, would be to find a loved one who is also loving me, someone who would be willing to give me my coup de grace. You see this happening in Blackthorn, the movie in which a resurrected Butch Cassidy kills his partner Sundance on his own request, once his friend’s suffering has become too much.
It is the true friend’s gesture, though a service necessarily demanding the lawless conditions of The West. In our society, the lex dura has indeed been so well established, that to ask that much of a friend is like condemning him or her to prosecution for manslaughter at a dead man’s request.

 

proustian postscript

I did not wait for him to go, but went to the bathroom to scrub the ink stains from my aching hands.

Peter Carey, My Life as a Fake
________________________

Everything has its complex causation. X is this moment’s consequence of the interference of a vast constellation of events-in-phases, in all of which a man has insight nor oversight. It could not be anything else but what it turns out to be. Fully caused as it may be, nothing of what we experience is ever fully predictable.

From this existential split results the inevitable, but nonetheless rather silly notion of a free will, and the even sillier phrase which runs through the mind of each worrier: ‘What if…’ No man escapes an always superficial ‘I’, resulting from the lingual grammar that is installed at birth and is subsequently instilled in us. It bombards us with the illusion, time and again, that one is the cause of all causes. Yet, that centre cannot hold. Man, a repetitive misapprehension.

My last-before-last shot, the second one right through the aluminium tray, was inevitable, even if it may have seemed to me to be an expression of my curiosity or an effect of the suggestion by a friend and subsequently the act of my will – or of all these motives combined. That very last shot will also be inevitable, it’s moment already determined by the vast constellation of all things we consider ‘life’. This, for someone interested in philosophy, also points to the vital difference between the concepts of determination and pre-determination.

Yet, I cannot determine that instant. This certainty about being uncertain, perhaps together with the revolver I now posses and not merely own, does allow me some tranquillity. To worry is as ridiculous as to negate what has been written above.

Like with true love, always lived as everlasting and yet fading, at a certain moment one knows about one’s own life: Time is up. Perchance in limine primo, on the edge of time, one becomes that two-faced schizo-god Janus, with on each side of his silly head a face, one pair of eyes looking backwards to all that has so fully been, the other pair gazing forward, or rather downward into the black abyss of nothingness. À la recherche du temps perdu, looking both at what has been, as well as at a death to come. What is death, after all, but another kind of lost time?

My particular preparation for it may have been a farce. From a more universal perspective, however, all acts of suicide reside in the territory of the burlesque. Expanding the words of Bentham, master of the Philosophy of Pain and Pleasure: One must always speak, as well as act in sober sadness, awaiting that necessary moment of true misery.

And then be silent.

La Roche, Spring/Summer 2017

Sierksma@moralcopyright 2017

THE SHOOTIST part 2

vicissitudes of suicide

Contents

1. a life-time occupation
2. suicide as euthanasia
3. anarchy of death
4. easter miracle
5. insidious inspection
6. fatal research
7. practicing the end
8. the arthritic shootist
postscript

4. easter miracle

Death in Spain is like a friend, a comrade. When he arrives, one does not make a lot of fuss.

H. M. Enzensberger, The Short Summer of Anarchy
_________________________________________

With my friend I am going to the brocante in Angles-sur-l’Anglin, this on the feast of the Resurrection when spring is around the corner and when, with the eating of eggs, one celebrates the coming of the new life. It is a fresh, yet a nice day. The site is a renowned beauty spot, an attraction even for those who do not come to buy anything. But, then, you always buy something, if only because you have come to a brocante.

As my friend has also come to this place as a professional – she buys curtains and bed spreads, to resell these on her web shop – she wants to arrive there as early as possible. After entering Angles, I first drop her at the entrance of the tree-shaded, sloping meadow and drive on to find a place to get rid of the car. This takes quite a while, but there is no hurry, on a brocante you always find the people you want to find.

After entering the fields, I turn immediately to the left. At first I have this strange feeling that I am dreaming, all the more strange because I never dream, not even at night. I have not the foggiest what it means when people say ‘this felt like a dream’. Perhaps this then is what it feels like.

In front of the third vendor’s table, two men are facing one another, one with in his hand a wooden box, the other man holding a little gun in the air while inspecting its functioning. As if I myself am the expert, even from this distance I immediately recognize the little thing as a revolver! He who inspects turns out to be the expert. I approach and stand close to him, as to miss nothing. He tells the seller, a chic gentleman whom you would not expect to be a vendor on a flee market, that he is rather pleased with this specimen.

As if I know that this might be my very personal Easter miracle, in my best French I intervene in the little exchange between these two and state that, if the second gentleman inspecting the gun would decide not to buy, the thing is sold. I have no idea as to its price. The second gentleman says he is merely admiring, that he already owns a gun like this one and thus will not buy. When he has finished and has already left, I ask the seller if it still works. Oh yes, Sir, it has been cleaned and it fires.

Will it serve for my suicide? I ask him. One is and one remains a Dutchman. Without blinking an eye, he tells me that he thinks so, Yes it might. Whether he also sells ammunition for the gun? No, that is alas not the case, but he thinks one may buy it elsewhere. I should of course have asked the other man, the expert now gone, a man who according to my seller is a collector.

And the price? 200 Euro… Wow! I did what I had never done before in my life, I make him an offer which I think he will not refuse: 150 Euro. Marché conclu. Going to a brocante, I did not bring so much money with me, on a flea market a price like this is normally ridiculous. I ask for his address, which happens to be in Angles, and tell him that I shall visit him right after the Easter weekend to pay for the gun and take it with me.

Once I have found my friend again, I decide on the spot to travel to the nearest village that has an ATM, fifteen kilometres coming and going. The moment I leave Angles for the second time, I am the immensely proud owner of a real revolver, albeit a small one. Driving back home, my friend immediately tells me that I have been fooled, that this is a pop-gun. Must be! This, sadly enough, confirms my own deepest suspicions. Driving home it feels as if, from the back of the car, Rembrandt’s sadly ironic eyes are observing me. However, even owning a revolver which very much looks like a revolver and which supposedly fires real bullets, if only toy bullets, would mean something to me.

 

LA ROCHE lente17 3 022

 

There is also damaging circumstantial evidence. At the same stand where the gun came from, this time from the seller’s wife who accompanied him to this brocante, I bought two musical recordings of blues singers I do not yet know. Once back home, the CD covers turn out to be empty. Then again the little revolver weighs a real ton, something which I find reassuring.

When I am on my own again in La Roche, the first thing I do is point the canon into nowhere and just pull the trigger. Strangely enough, I did not do this when I bought it, either trusting the seller as the honest gentleman in a Western which is playing in The Deep South, or simply not wanting to look too much like the boy I felt.

 

shootist 020

 

It works! That is, without ammunition it does click with what for this layman is an impressive little bang. Reviewing my own viewing history of Westerns, I now also cock it and let go.

 

shootist 019

 

It goes off without me even having touched the trigger, or so it felt, perhaps merely feathering it. Now indeed, I am very glad that there was no live round inside, yet…
For the moment I let it be, both puzzled as well as boyishly excited by my little machine of death. A little touch of irony need be in place, methinks. I discard the box in which the revolver was sold and put the gun in a nice, hand-painted wooden box which, some time ago, I bought at another car boot sale. It has a hand-painted picture of a violin on it. So if not a violin case as such, the suggestion is enough to transform me into a small-time hoodlum.

 

LAROCHE APRIL 17 038

 

How snugly the revolver fits inside. I cut a piece of cloth that suits it well, a kind of bed cover, and I oil the thing. A few days later, a little screw driver is added, especially bought for the purpose. One of these days, I shall have to find the courage to dismount and clean it thoroughly. No idea how this is done, but little screws are to be seen. I read my Lévi-Strauss, I am both a mythmaker and a bricoleur, never discouraged by such little problems.

 

LAROCHE APRIL 17 039

 

After these preliminaries, a strange kind of serenity descends upon me, then takes hold of me as if the acquisition of the gun has dissolved a disquiet that was deep down in me for so long. Perhaps, because I have now become the owner of a steel substitute for the Drion Pill that never was to be. Not in the medicine cupboard the box goes, from now on its resting place is in my elegant black chest in the living room.

5. insidious inspection

Soon we were pestered by the Guardia Civil. With our small revolvers,

we did not stand a chance.

H.M. Enzensberger, The Short Summer of Anarchy
_________________________________________

Now I simply must know! Is it indeed but a toy gun, or is it really my own little Machine of Evil? Does it work, does it actually shoot, and is there still ammunition available?
My friend suggested that, if not a mere toy, it is at most an objet d’art, martial art that is, to be placed in a show-case by some collector. Which is not what I am, she adds. Once I come to inspect it more thoroughly, I fear her guess may somehow be supported. To be or not to be is now the gun’s question. Anyway, a thing of beauty is a joy for ever, even if in my case this ‘for ever’ may not last all that long.

I should of course have asked all this from the expert at the brocante, however at the time I was too excited to become the owner of a gun and also very much involved in the process of bargaining. I am quite sure that what he would have told me, could not have made any difference: I would have bought it anyway.
Something I did not see at the sale was this little inscription on the revolving part:

 

shootist 022

 

Written in full it reads:

♯ THE GUARDIAN ♯ AMERICAN MODEL OF 1878 ♯

Showing this inscription to my friend, she throws up her hands with a gesture of ‘I told you so’. She thinks it looks very much like those toy models of cars, intricately manufactured from the best materials, a boy’s pleasure! I am not going to argue this without having at least some proof. After she has left, I decide to get onto the World Wide Web, in spite of everything the source of all knowledge and of all nonsense. Even if it is but a model, it still has an impressive weight and it does give this nice bang and it sure looks used indeed. Part of the inscription is even slightly worn.

One serious objection to all my enthusiasm is the fact that the cartridges have to be inserted in the holes in front of the revolving part. That is something I have never seen done in any Western movie… I do not see any openings on the back side of the revolver, the very place where the cock is supposed to strike the shell. What is more, I now observe that this cock does not strike at the back side of the revolving piece at all, but on its head. Now that is something which makes me seriously suspicious. How could a round be fired, even if I might be able to insert it up front?

During lunch which precedes further investigation, something happens on my court-yard which gives a little inside information with regard to the definition of life.

 

LAROCHE APRIL 17 024

 

From the roof of the préau on which I already heard a noise, the tail of a lizard drops on the cement strip in front of my house. After first having been confused into thinking that it is a very small snake, I now recognize it for what it is. One who has observed fights between lizards, knows that these little animals wage vicious battles, as if the further existence of the whole cosmos depends on it. They try to bite off the opponent’s tail, sometimes both fighters succeeding. A tailless lizard is open to ridicule, two of a kind are farcical.

 

LAROCHE APRIL 17 025

 

For minutes on end this minuscule piece of meat is wriggling, somewhere up there it’s former owner is still alive one presumes, not in sight and most probably not caring. It is a tail in its death struggle, although even this does not seem to be the right expression for such convulsions. Is a tail, which still moves without its body, itself still ‘alive’?

After its head is cut off, the body of a chicken may run around for quite a while. That body I would claim to be still alive, even though its head has already had it. But what about a lizard’s tail twitching, the living lizard nowhere to be seen? There is another vital difference, or so it seems. Whereas the lizard which has lost its tail will grow a new one, the chicken’s body has lost its head forever and will also die. No second head around.

Once browsing on the web, I do indeed find interesting things. On various sites my gun is for sale, even very old ones dating from the 19th century. Obviously then, unique all this isn’t. These revolvers were used to actually shoot at people. This one was for sure:

 

110

 

There have been versions for 7mm as well as for 9mm lead bullets. Mine turns out to be a 7mm version, I have measured its holes. My web-search also solved the riddle of the rounds’ insertion into the revolver. There happens to be a clip at the back of it, which I did not notice until I saw a photo of it, a sliding piece of steel that may be switched aside. Et voila, there you have your openings:

 

LAROCHE APRIL 17 029

 

My little gun, my Guardian Angel – it is for real. There are some proviso’s though, which the would-be suicide should acutely keep in mind. For one, it does not shoot very straight, something that was already complained about in the Wild West. However, aiming at my own head should not be all too much of a problem. The 7mm version, rather widely sold at the time, was considered dangerous enough as a defensive weapon for the civilian, because being wounded by a lead bullet in those days led to blood poisoning off which most people died within a few weeks. [By the way, what is the difference between damage done by a lead bullet and by one of steel?]

For the still intriguing problem of the cock banging down on the revolver instead of ramming into the bullet from behind, I now also found the solution. Casimir Lefaucheux, a French gunsmith who lived in the first half of the 19th century, invented a type of cartridge with a conical bullet which was fixed into it. A round was fired by hitting a small pin on top of it, instead of at its centre at the back. From this came its name: a pinfire, written as one word and not to be found in any dictionary. On the web there were even a few of such pinfire rounds for sale, although – so it seemed – in not all too good a shape.

 

Pinfire_Cartridges

 

Funny, how in doing some existential research into manners of one’s suicide, you also stumble over unexpected little linguistic insights. Ah, that glorious Serendipity of Death! The word cartouche, once also a mystery for me, must certainly originate from the time when these small containers of the black powder that propels the bullet were still made of cardboard, only later being made of copper or some other metal.

In the year 1858 the so-called Lefaucheux pistolet-revolver, named after the inventor of its pinfire cartridge who had already died a few years before this, even became the first metallic-cartridge revolver to be adopted by a national government. This would make an optimist of any would-be suicide, if it were not for the fact that this government opted for the new 12mm calibre version with which a bullet is propelled by a lot more black powder. On the other hand, not long ago it has become known that the gun with which the Dutch painter Van Gogh was deadly wounded, was indeed of my 7mm type. However, caution again! Here is no reason to be found for suicidal optimism, as the artist took weeks to finally pass on, after having been in grave pains.

Only later did they start to produce the gun which has become known as my Guardian, American Model of 1878, by that time an improved version. Most probably mine is of Belgian make. If I would start to look for bullets, plural that is, as merely one would not be enough because one needs practice, I expect to find them either in Belgium or in the United States.

Offered on a website, I did find one more specimen, a rather lonesome little round, obviously of no use to me. This bullet also looked sort of second hand, in any case well worn, which is not what seems to be needed for one’s own final shot.

 

bd6f9dc169013ba9df0829809b5baddd--antique-pistols

 

It took some time before I continued my research, the reason being that I did not really expect to find any present day produced live ammunition for my little Guardian. I had also dawdled a while, because – even if I would find ammo on a website – I did not expect it to actually reach me, as it would surely be confiscated by the douaniers at the border who had already done the same thing with innocent packages of medicine, a type of innocuous aspirin, sent to me from the Low Lands by my wife.

Once I had decided to continue my search, I began with the States and with Belgium. The first option I found was indeed an American firm, offering a do-it-yourself kit with which to make a full six bullets. I would at least need two of such kits, you don’t fire a round in the brains without some solid practice on would-be heads or on whatever, to gain some kind of certainty as to the deadly effects of the 7mm round. There also appeared on my screen a site where you could order black powder, and another one gave instructions as to how to make this gun powder yourself. Black powder is prescribed by the Lefaucheux system.

Subsequently, I found a site on which the workings of the revolver were discussed by someone who had actually used that very same kit for making the ammo. Hell of a job, he told his readers. However, as he was an amateur in both senses of the word, he added that he had sort of enjoyed the bricolage. Obviously, then, not for me this solution, that is if I could avoid it. Moreover too tricky for a suicide, so it seemed. Perhaps I might find someone who could make them for me; I almost ordered one of the kits.

Lo and behold! There it was: a website owned by a real French manufacturer of arms and ammunition, still in business. What was more, it advertised the type of cartridges I needed, selling whole boxes of 7mm pinfire cartridges to be had for 80 Euro. Pricy indeed, but who would like to end his dear life cheaply… First I could not believe my eyes, a lingual expression often abused or ill used, but in this case fully factual.

Here in ma douce France I do not have French electronic banking facilities at hand, I asked my friend to help me out. I had travelled from my Roche to her Mont and now inquired if she would allow me to try and use her business card, banking on its French stamp of Trust and Honour as well as on my own French address as the destiny for the order. Mind you, no customs involved! As I was in her house for the week, watching the World Championships Snooker on TV, I paid her back the amount in cash and sort of forgot about it, hooked on the snooker as I was.

When I came home from the little trip, I found a slip in the mailbox informing me that a package had been delivered earlier that week, but was now waiting for me at the post office. It had been too big to put through the slit. While preparing to leave for the village and fetch it, the mailwoman banged gently at my gate, waving a small but obviously bulky and heavy bubble-plastic envelope. She was trying a second time to deliver it.

Inside the envelope: a beautiful little messing box, un etui laiton weighing indeed far more than what it looked like. Twenty-five cartouches filled with the black powder advised by its designer, all of them equipped with a 7mm lead bullet, with at its backside the so-called pinfire in place. 25 cartouches à broche. Poudre Noire Système C. Lefaucheux.

 

LA ROCHE lente17 3 058

 

Dumbfounded by this present, I sat in my chair, stupéfait as the French have it, which seems to be the chosen word taken the fact that my stomach resistant aspirin which had once been confiscated, would be called out here a stupéfiant, the French word for drug.

On its side were indications of the size and the weight of the cartridges. Whether these suited my purpose, was still of course an issue in the balance, a matter for serious research. But now indeed such research could begin!

 

LA ROCHE lente17 3 057

 

Still in awe of its heaviness, I opened the little box – almost like a sacred object, like a little shrine and, why not, like a monstrance to look inside for its hallowed contents.

 

LA ROCHE lente17 3 060

 

Taking out one round, delicately touching it because, after all, these were live bullets, I put it on a little dish-stand to make a picture.

 

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Like a priest placing the consecrated wafer of the host on a believer’s tongue, I celebrated the moment of actually inserting my very first round inside its slot, now experiencing the miracle of the Lefaucheux design in all its brilliance.

At first I had not understood the principle at all, and even thought that these cartridges did not fit my type of gun. The little pinfire seemed to stick out too high, pushing against the cock, thus preventing the revolving part of the gun to roll through. By now, I had become so over-excited that I immediately opened my smart phone, acquired merely to communicate with my hospital in The Low Lands, to connect myself to the arms manufacturer. All risks taken!

The pinfire sticks out too high, at least on my revolver, is what I told an anonymous listener who obviously sounded surprised by my call. Could I file it down, I asked? From the tone of the answering voice, I deduced that the man thought I was a nut case, though he did ask me whether I had actually received the ammo from their firm. This I confirmed. Alright, why not file them down a bit… The distinct impression was that he wanted to get rid of me as soon as possible.

 

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A little later, after some cool and deep thought, I figured that this was in fact the whole idea of the Lefaucheux revolver, that little pin sticking out just a bit. Not only must the cock, while hitting it on the head, be able to bring the pin down with force, however carrying the gun around with the pin sticking out a bit, say like a real shootist, you can see whether it is actually loaded or not. Rather a safe feeling. The little pinfire is visibly resting against the side of the cock, and precisely at the moment of firing the cock goes up and the pinfire slips into its destined place, to receive that necessary bang right on its head. Brilliant!

For a true believer in the anarchism of his own death, for this Durruti of the Dutch Low Lands who is now living in the glorious French Brenne, pure elation it was. Perhaps a small step for mankind, however most certainly a giant leap for this one little man. The aim justifies the means, it is as simple as that. With my own système Lefaucheux I had beaten the French State, I had circumvented its douaniers, and I had swindled its gendarmerie, its prefects and their bloody permits out of a victim for those obligatory shooting lessons.

Now, after a pause of solemn silence and the intense enjoyment of my deadly property, I would commence the research of death. Moreover, with the moral support of a revolver in my back, once again I had found a kind of joie de vivre. Wise is the man, or so Fernando Pessoa, who arranges his existence in a monotonous way, because then each little coincidence acquires the privilege of a miracle.

Sierksma@moralcopyright2017