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The Speciesist

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
Fake knowledge; it’s the very worst. -- (1,000 words). Image by the author.

Submitted: May 13, 2019

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Submitted: May 13, 2019

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Nathalie trudges through the mean streets of the Goutte d'Or, one of the poorest, most crime-ridden areas of inner Paris. The rain comes down. She has her umbrella. She kicks a can. Her shoes scrunch on the broken glass. She avoids puddles.

Perhaps it’s just a shower.

These were once the classy dwellings of the elite: the Droplet of Gold. Now transformed to boarded windows, spray-daubed walls, cracked pavements.

Burnt-out cars greet the wary passer-by.

She was meant to be at the anti-plastics demo this Wednesday afternoon. Linking arms with her school-friends, marching behind banners to the Champ de Mars, chanting plastic slogans in the drizzle.

Instead she is headed to the Catholic Church of Saint Bernard de la Chapelle. A church which ministers to the down-and-outs of the Goutte d'Or. A church where her grandfather is the Catholic priest.

As she walks the rue Polonceau she is tagged by three CCTV cameras and two overflying drones.

---

Nathalie is fourteen and a person of colour. Her grandfather is from French Guiana, a married Evangelical priest who joined the Catholics for liberation theology. The Evangelicals celebrated the rising rich, those making it big. Father Léopold Damas had always understood his religion as a mission to the poor.

Nathalie’s father is from le Maroc, a doctor of medicine. Her mother, Caucasian,  is also a doctor. Neither is Catholic.

The new France.

She enters the church with its faint, so-evocative scent of incense. Nathalie breathes it in, savours the ambience. Sunbeams cut through shadows, coloured dust motes hang in the still air.

Her grandfather is sat in a pew near the front, facing the altar.

Is he praying, meditating?

Nathalie walks quietly up the aisle, carefully scuffing her shoes so as not to startle him. The priest turns around and smiles in surprise. So many smiles are mere politesse. It’s nice to get a genuine one.

He takes her to a sitting room off the narthex. It’s where he talks to parishioners with problems too complex for the confessional. It’s quite cosy - deliberately so. There are drinks: tea, coffee - and biscuits.

“I’m so sick of it!” says Nathalie.

Léopold reclines in his armchair, looks at her affectionately, and waits.

“Today it's ‘March against Plastics’, says Nathalie, "Last week it was the struggle against better weather. Next Wednesday we demand liberation for pets.”

The priest raises an eyebrow.

“Pets are forbidden? I must have missed that. What about your cat?”

“I told them that I didn’t think our cat was oppressed. If anything, he oppresses us. Endlessly whining for food. When he’s not leaving bodies under the sofa.”

“What did they say to that?”

“I was a speciesist. Pets are people too. Nobody spoke to me for two days. Except to denounce me.”

“It died down after that?”

“Only because they found it hard to pronounce. Look Grandad, I’m serious. Why is all this happening now?”

“Nathalie, this was all going on long before you were born.”

“But it’s so stupid!" she says, "Why are they so idiotic, and so hurtful to anyone who disagrees with them?”

“It's their view of human nature. It's interesting, really. People are programmable. Everyone can be made nice. Be made to agree with them. If not, it's your fault."

He steeples his hands.

“It’s a thought, isn’t it," he says, "If people were genuinely all like that, wouldn’t our society work like clockwork?”

Nathalie snorts in disgust.

Her grandfather reminds himself that the young have never liked enforced conformity.

"When I was in Guiana," recalls the priest, "I socialised with the Cayenne elite. That's the capital, you know. They were very pleasant. Educated, urbane, civilised people. Very agreeable."

Léopold fingers his dog collar.

"Then I became a Catholic priest. I left the villas for the slums and mines and forest camps. Comfort exchanged for crime, exploitation, the injured and diseased. People in hovels. These people, my new people, were not so agreeable, not so complacent."

Nathalie remembers her walk. Vagrants slumped in doorways. Those menacing young men hanging around the corners, loitering on their scooters. The wind-strewn garbage swirling in the crazed-glass shelters.

"Those at the bottom of the heap are always being messed around. Naturally they respond in some confused fashion. They're not educated, after all."

The priest steeples his hands.

"So people protest and their betters hit them with labels. Soon they're hitting them more solidly. Baffled by bullshit they're herded back to their boxes.

"Did you feel being speciesist truly captured your relationship with kitty?”

Nathalie’s answer will never be known. The door is violently thrown open. Armed CRS troopers burst into their cosy nook. Their leader lowers his weapon, taking in the oddly-domestic scene.

“What have we here, then, hey? Another paedo priest? What were you doing with this little girl, Father?”

Fr. Léopold looks up at the new entrants with a calm which becomes him.

“This is my granddaughter. What can I do for you gentlemen?”

With no warning, the leader smashes him in the face with his assault rifle. Léopold is thrown from his seat, ends up sprawled on the floor, bleeding from his cheek.

Nathalie freezes in her chair, hands over her face, making not a sound.

The leader stands over the priest, lying inert on the staining mat.

“I know all about you, bigot. We've had our eyes on you. I’ve seen the transcripts.”

He motions to his subordinates.

“Get him out.”

Turns to the girl, pulls her up by the arm.

“It’s off to the manifestation for you, citizen. Can’t be soft on plastics, can we?”

Fr. Léopold sags in the doorway, held up by two black-clad officers The leader stares at the priest for one further second, then hits him again with the butt of his weapon.

“You disgust me, you reactionary, perverted bastard. How dare you corrupt young minds!”


© Copyright 2019 AdamCarlton. All rights reserved.

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