History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now/Canadian Post-WWII
Plays in English and French Canada are generally about down-to-earth people, the sentiments expressed by central characters often being simple if not crude. The dramas are often domestic, mostly about ordinary people, but often about violent characters, reminiscent of German Expressionism. The dialogue tends to be realistic or hypetrealistic, in the sense of producing unfiltered snap-shots of reality.
Representative of Canadian theatre in the English language since World War II, Sharon Pollock (1936-?) specializes in plays on historical events in the USA or Canada, such as "The Komagata Maru incident" (1976), "Blood relations" (1980), and "Whiskey Six cadenza" (1983). The play "Blood relations" concerns the case of the notorious Lizzie Borden (1860-1927), accused of murdering her father and mother. The main theme of "Whiskey Six cadenza" concerns criminal activities related to bootlegging in Western Canada of the early 20th century. Also of interest are the following playwrights and their works: David Fennario (1947-?) and "Balconville" (1979), David French (1939-2010) and "One crack out" (1983), David Freeman (1945-?) and "Creeps" (1970), Rahul Varma and "Counter offence" (1996), Judith Thompson and "Perfect Pie" (2000).
In French-speaking Canada, the plays of Eloi de Grandmont (1921-1970) have been well appreciated, particularly "Un fils à tuer" (A son worth killing, 1949) as those of and Marcel Dubé (1930-?), particularly "Un simple soldat" (A simple soldier, 1958) and "Florence" (1957, revised 1969). Other works and playwrights include "Les grands départs" (The great departures, 1957) by Jacques Languirand (1931-?), "Bousille et les justes" (Bousille and the just, 1959) by Gratien Gélinas (1909-1999), "Les belles-soeurs" (The sisters-in-law, 1968) by Michel Tremblay (1942-?), "Le temps d'une vie" (In a lifetime, 1974) by Roland Lepage (1928-?), and "Les sept jours de Simon Labrosse" (The seven days of Simon Labrosse, 1994) by Carole Fréchette (1949-?).
- 1 "The Komagata Maru incident"
- 2 "Blood relations"
- 3 "Whiskey Six cadenza"
- 4 "Balconville"
- 5 "One crack out"
- 6 "Creeps"
- 7 "Counter offence"
- 8 "Perfect pie"
- 9 "A son worth killing"
- 10 "A simple soldier"
- 11 "Florence"
- 12 "The great departures"
- 13 "Bousille and the just"
- 14 "The sisters-in-law"
- 15 "In a lifetime"
- 16 "The seven days of Simon Labrosse"
"The Komagata Maru incident"
"The Komagata Maru incident". Time: 1914. Place: Vancouver, Canada.
The Komagata Maru docks at Vancouver harbor with 376 people aboard from India, but government officials seek to prevent their entry as immigants, although being British subjects they are entitled to. William Hopkinson, head of intelligence at the department of immigration, is told: "We don't mind them dying for us; we just don't want them living with us." The government alleges it can do so because the India-Canada passage did not occur on a direct route. Moreover, the passengers are unlikely to possess the $200 entry fee into the country. However, local Sikhs have obtained the entry fee. Meanwhile, immigration officals prevent ship supplies for food and water. The court rules that the immigration department can indeed prevent their entry. After much effort, the ship's captain is persuaded to charge the passengers with mutiny. As a result, policemen and immigration officials attempt to board the ship with guns, but are repulsed by the passengers, defending themselves with clubs and by throwing pieces of coal. During the tumult, William impedes his friend, Georg, from firing, but is hit on the head by a piece of coal. During the extended conflict, the government provides supplies to get the ship back to sea but also continues to harass the pasengers, who finally give up. When war is declared, Georg says: "This can't help but work nicely to me," thinking to profit from the situation by acting as a German spy. After the ship leaves, two Indian informants to the government are murdered, as well as William, whose murderer is hanged.
"Blood relations". Time: 1890s. Place: Fall River, USA.
Harry has recently convinced his brother-in-law, Andrew, of transferring a mill-house to his second wife's name, Abigail, against the perceived interest of his daughters from a previous marriage, Lizzie and Emma, as Lizzie gets along badly with her step-mother. Wishing the 34-year-old Lizzie married and out of the way, Abbie scolds Emma for not telling Lizzie about Johnny's upcoming visit, a widower with three children. Instead, to her parents' disapproval, she is often seen in the company of Dr Patrick, a philanderer. To her parents, Lizzie defends her behavior in this way: "You have no idea how boring it is looking eligible, interested, and aluring when I feel none of the three. So I play games. And it's a blessed relief to talk to a married man.. When her father mentions Johnny is looking for a wife, she denies it: "He's looking for a housekeeper and it isn't going to be me." Harry revisits the Bordens for another business venture: transferring Andrew's farmland to his wife's name in exchange for money accrued from horse auctions and a buggy rental service. When Lizzie interrupts their talk, demanding to know what is going on, Andrew says nothing. On hearing that neighboring children has sneaked inside his property once again to look at Lizzie's pet pigeons, he chops off their heads, to Lizzie's grief. She refuses to talk about that incident to Emma. Instead, she tells her Harry will likely live on their farm. In addition, she surmises their father's will will put them after his death in a dependent position to Abbie and Harry. But Emma feels that attempting to interfere is useless and leaves her sister to go to a beach-house during the sweltering summer heat. She pleads her father not to go to the bank for the business deal, but he ignores her. Cornered in the worst way, Lizzie follows Abbie upstairs carrying a pile of clothes with a hatchet concealed inside. After coming back down, the servant discovers the hatchet and guesses what happened. Lizzie begs her to be silent. She plans to go to town. In this way, her father will discover the body while she is away and everyone believe a burglar murdered her, but Andrew arrives sooner than expected. With the servant sent upstairs, Lizzie tells him she could never tolerate him hating her. While he dozes, she picks up the hatchet a second time and kills him. She is accused of murder but acquitted, the burglar story believed as true.
"Whiskey Six cadenza"
"Whiskey Six cadenza". Time: 1910s. Place: Crowsnest Pass, Canada.
Johnny Farley returns home after several years east. His mother complains of his never writing. He had nothing to say. "You coulda wrote about that," she comments. Johnny is picked up by two employees of Mr Big, a hotel owner and rumrunner during Prohibition. Bill the Brit, a police officer, has been unable so far of finding any evidence of hard liquor sales at the hotel. He mentions of a deal known to have occurred concerning a liquor shipment to the United States. Unknown to him, Mr Big faked being robbed on a train, his wallet with evidence of his involvement in the deal being taken away by Johnny. He now offers him full-time "gainful employment", which Johnny accepts, the only other option being to work in the mines. Johnny's brother, Will, a miner, shows his girl-friend Dolly his unblackened hands, thanks to lye and bleach, while Mr Big shows Johnny his duties, including the need to drive a car, in particular a Whiskey Six, a fast six-cylinder automobile. Mrs Farley warns her son about Leah, Mr Big's adopted daughter, but one she also calls his whore. Will dies in a mining accident, a fact Dolly is unable to cope with, showing several times to Leah a photograph of her dead lover. To help her friend, Leah tears it up. Johnny confronts Leah with her relation to Mr Big, but she says nothing. When questioned, Mama George, Mr Big's wife, does not deny it. A fellow employee, Gompers, informs Johnny that Bill the Brit has installed machine guns on the front of motorcycles to track rumrunners down. Bill speaks to Mrs Farley, both trying to convince Johnny he should reveal bootlegging information, the officer all the more adamant that liquor killed his brother, but he refuses. In frustration, Bill hits Johnny's drunken father till he reveals the existence of a keg lying in an automobile outside the hotel, at which he and a constable move in. Mama George tries to convince Mr Big to let Leah go to Johnny, but he wants to hear nothing of that. Warned by Gompers, Johnny drives off with the Whiskey Six containing the incriminating keg and crashes through the line of motorcycles. Leah is about to follow him, but is prevented by Mr Big who shoots her in the back.
"Balconville". Time: 1970s. Place: Montreal, Canada.
Johnny walks along with Tom towards home in the same building, neither with any luck at the employment office. Tom admits to his mother, Muriel, that despite receiving a job offer, he did not pursue it since it entailed waking up at 5:00 AM for minimal wage. "Hey, the working man!" exclaims Johnny on seeing his next door neighbor, Claude, arrive from the factory. "Somebody has to work, eh?" he retorts. Johnny remarks that there was another fire in the neighborhood the previous night. To his question of where he is heading this summer, Claude anwers "Balconville". Johnny informs his wife, Irene, a waitress in a restaurant, that his unemployment benefit cheque, delayed for a period of three months, is in the mail. "They said that last week," she comments. "They'll say it again next week, too," he answers. They are both irritated by the blaring sound of a campaign truck promoting Gaetan Bolduc, the local candidate for the liberal party as a member of parliament. As Muriel repeatedly calls to Tom that his supper is ready and he fails to move, she spills the pot over his head. Muriel confides to Irene that her stomach hurts, but she is afraid to go to the hospital and find out what is wrong with her. She agrees to go when Irene offers to accompany her. One night, Claude and Johnny totter back home after a drinking bout, their arms around each shoulder, but the latter is surprised to find that none of his friends have come. When Claude offers to continue partying, he pushes him away. "Get on your own fuckin' side," he warns. Claude grumbles against the English. When all the beer is gone, he prepares to drive to town for more, but his car is broken down and he cannot repair it. Alone with Claude's teenage daughter, Diane, Tom reveals his intention of heading for the United States to find work. He asks her to join him, but on realizing that they know each other only superficially, he retracts the question. One Sunday afternoon, Claude and Johnny watch a baseball game on separate television sets from the same balcony, both cursing the losing home team. When Irene confronts her husband about his drinking bouts, he responds that her timing is bad. He asks Claude what he thinks of the game, but his friend, Thibault, a delivery boy, retorts that he does not speak English anymore. An irritated Johnny nails a Canadian flag over his window to show up both Frenchmen, but is nonplussed on seeing an even bigger Quebec flag hoisted up by Claude. When Gatean arrives to canvas for votes, he is not greeted in a friendly way by Muriel, Johnny, or Claude. Johnny takes Thibault's delivery basket and throws an egg at Claude then laughingly hands the basket over to Thibault, blaming him instead. Claude and Johnny shove each other, but their wives break up the fight. Unable to cross the border to the United States for lack of money, Tom returns home. The next day, Claude listlessly returns home from work, out of a job because the management chose to move to Taiwan because of the cheaper labor. Muriel informs Irene that the doctors have finally diagnosed she has ulcers that must be operated on. Irene encourages Johnny to offer his sympathy to Claude, but he is rebuffed. He thinks he should get back to what he did as a youth: play music. Fire breaks out down the street and the flames are spreading towards their building. Claude and Johnny first move out their television sets and beer. The men collide on the balcony and start to fight until their wives break it up again. Claude requests Johnny's help in carrying down the sofa, which he agrees to. To return the favor, Claude mounts the stairs alongside Johnny, but their roof collapses as the campaign voice blares out again.
"One crack out"
"One crack out". Time: 1970s. Place: Toronto, Canada.
Jack the Hat asks Charlie to bet $50 on his behalf on two horses races, but he, anxious about his impotence, goes instead to see a prostitute, Wanda, and forgets about it. The horses win, so that he owes Jack $3000, but can only raise up one third of the sum. With a friend, Sam, he is about to hustle a naive stranger out of thousands, but Bulldog, a gambler and collector, not only interferes with the plot but gives Jack the $3000, so that Charlie owes that money to him. He has two days to raise up that sum, or else fear the worst concerning hands, the pool-player's income, or legs. In a desperate attempt to get it, Charlie and Sam hustle a rich client of Wanda's, but are only able to get $900 before he discovers the trick. Wanda is so angry at having lost the client that she informs her pimp, Jack, about it, so that all the loan sharks in town refuse Charlie a loan. His girlfriend, Helen, having slept with Bulldog, pleads for one day's respite for his sake, but is unable to soften the collector. In his final attempt to obtain the money, Charlie proposes to Bulldog to play for the entire sum in a one crack out game. Bulldog accepts. He also accepts a $500 bet that Jack puts down on Charlie.
"Creeps". Time: 1970s. Place: Toronto, Canada.
Instead of working, Pete, Tom, and Sam are spending inordinate time in the washroom of a sheltered workshop for people with cerebral palsy. They receive government pensions and only token amounts for their work there. Jim, who receives living wages as an office worker, encourages them to get back to work, but they refuse. Sam resents Jim's more favorable position, calling him a "white nigger", a bootlicker for Mr Carson, the unpaid administrator in charge of the place. Jim seeks a position of power to improve public understanding of cerebral palsy. Another officer worker, Miss Saunders, yells for them to come out, to which Sam mimicks homosexual activity as a means of preventing her to enter. Sam reads aloud Tom's pornographic book, the former being reminded of how once he engaged in sexual activity with Thelma, also a person with cerebral palsy, at her house, who then changed her mind and fell out of bed, so that her religious parents discovered them partly naked and reacted hysterically. "You'd have thought they'd never seen a pecker before," recalls Sam. In view of a cockroach inside a urinal, Tom mentions to Michael, a man with cerebral palsy and a penchant for flushing toilets: "Why don't you use your ray gun and disintegrate it?" When Saunders enters, Michael turns from the urinal towards her with his penis in full view, saying: "I'm gonna disintegrate you," to which she screams and threatens them to call Carson. "Hey, be careful," retorts Sam, "He's got one, too." Jim defends the work done at the institution. When asked what program is planned for them, he mentions a trip to a glue factory, to which the others sneer. Disgusted at folding boxes, Tom decides to quit and asks Jim to go with him, encouraging him to find work as a journalist or writer. "You're not wanted out there, you're not welcome," Jim reminds Tom, to which he replies: "You're throwing away your talent for a lousy bit of security." When Carson angrily comes in to take them out of the washroom, Tom tells him he quits, but Jim refuses to follow him.
"Counter offence". Time: 1990s. Place: Canada.
Shapoor, an Iranian student wishing to remain in Canada as an immigrant, receives $100,000 worth of Persian rugs from his father and expects to sell them should he obtain a loan from his wife, Shazi, already a Canadian citizen. Given that she has two dependants, parents originating from India, she refuses to co-sign a loan with him. He assaults her and is sent to prison for it. To get Shapoor out of her life, Shazi's parents push her to withdraw her support of his immigration application and divorce him, which she reluctantly accepts. Moolchand seeks to help Shapoor by accusing the arresting officer, Sergeant Galliard, of racist belligerence. Moolchand succeeds in obtaining Shapoor's release on bond money, with the Persian carpets as security. Moolchand then pleads with Clarinda, in charge of a shelter for battered women, for help in preventing Shapoor from being deported, but she refuses. As a result of an inquiry, Galliard loses his position. Shapoor assaults his wife a second time and is imprisoned again. Shapoor tells Moolchand he wishes him to withdraw the charges against Galliard, at which time Moolchand strikes him. In spite of this, he then says he wishes to leave the country. He is eventually freed by Prougault, Galliard's former commanding officer, on a stricter restraining order, presumably to rid himself of him more permanently. When Shazi discovers she is pregnant by Shapoor, she decides to keep her husband. Hating Shapoor, Shafiqa, Shazi's mother, asks Prougault to prevent this. Moolchand has obtained more men of Indian origin on the police force, but is accused by Clarinda and Shapoor of lying in court. In addition, Shapoor complains that, against his wishes, Moolchand refused to drop the charges against Galliard. Instead, Shapoor wishes to apologize to Galliard. Prougault angrily confronts Shapoor. Galliard discovers Shapoor's body, possibly murdered by Prougault, though Galliard is the one accused and put on trial.
"Perfect pie". Time: 1970s-1990s. Place: Ontario, Canada.
After leaving a small town 35 years ago, Francesca returns to visit Patsie, a farmwoman. Francesca is enthusiastic about Patsie's baked pies, commenting: "every bite was perfect". In turn, Patsie is enthusiastic about her friend's career as an actress, whom she first knew as Marie, from a very poor family. Patsie regrets of their having lost track of each other for so long, following Francesca's sudden departure while she was in a coma. Had Patsie told what happened, Francesca might have had serious difficulties with the law. In their childhood, Patsie picked lice from Francesca's hair. School-children threw stones at Francesca as the "girl with the running sores and the scabby legs". She was also subject to epileptic seizures when her mother struck her head. As Patsie looks out the window, she sees a stalker and suffers a generalized epileptic seizure, which once occurred in a shopping mall when the same man approached her, specifying: "It's like he's moving me under the floor." In living in a dilapidated farm with children, Patsie seems content with little, to Francesca's eyes, but Patsie retorts: "It is you who never left, Marie" She adds: "I think you are scared because children always see you as you really are and your child would see right through the fancy Francesca to my sad and lonely sweet Marie." Each considers the other "missed out". Francesca is reminded of a scene during adolescence when she and a boy from another town were walking hand in hand. When the boy noticed the low opinion other adolescents had of her, he let go her hand, which so humiliated her that she dangerously approached the railway tracks while a train was passing by. There was a crash, both flying through the air and Patsie winding up in a coma. The two women take leave of each other in a friendly way.
"A son worth killing"
"A son worth killing". Time: Early Colonial. Place: Canada.
Jean is carried in by mother and father after wandering in the forest. On waking up, Jean repeats his intention of leaving, not knowing where. His father asks: "If everyone did as you do, where would the country be?", to which he responds: "You didn't reason in that way when leaving France." The mother tells her husband that her son resembles him, which he denies, calling his son a dreamer. Greatly frustrated, he cries out: "I would have lived a life of deprivation to see a son abandoning everything and to see his mother encouraging the most reprehensible of actions!" The father cajoles Helène to get him to love her, but when witnessing in secret the scene between Jean and Hélène going badly, orders her out. Jean is determined to go, takes out his traveling-bag, and leaves. The father, in despair, goes out and shoots him.
"A simple soldier"
"A simple soldier". Time: 1940s and 1950s. Place: Montreal, Canada.
Joseph has come back from the army to live with his family without having gone overseas. As he enters the house, his father's second wife, Bertha, greets him sourly, from whom he cannot expect even a meal on his return. To his brother, Armand, he is a "failed soldier". He feels being a simple soldier is all he was fit for and now his chance has gone. To make some money, his half-sister, Margaret, works for Little Mine, as her pimp. While a park orchestra plays "God save the king!" Joseph gathers with some cronies a bottle filled with water and stones to disrupt it. To amuse street-children, he throws cats in boiling water. To tavern-friends, he tells lies about his war-experiences. He is glad to see an old friend, Emile, who did well for himself on the black market during the war but now is fallen on bad times. Margaret is leaving home, as a "secretary", she says, actually a worker at a night club for Little Mine, then as a whore. To Bertha, marrying a second time was a big mistake. Edward, Joseph's father, has had enough: either he finds work or out he goes. When Joseph asks him to work by his side as a truck-driver, he reveals the company doctor told him his heart can no longer sustain the job stress, and so he was demoted to sticking addresses on parcels. Joseph becomes a used car salesman and Emile a tramway conductor, but Joseph insults his boss, Little Mine, and loses his job. They go away together to trudge across Canada, living from hand to mouth, working only when they feel like it, returning three years later with no more than $12. With his son away, Edward has been drinking. Armand says his heart is too weak for that. He responds: "That's not what will kill me, Armand." Joseph and Emile steal a car from Little Mine's lot and drive it into a tree. In a hospital with a broken leg, Joseph, together with Emile, must pay $1,000 to Little Mine or go to prison. Emile begs Edward to help, who reluctantly does, against Armand's advice, who, in turn, accepts to back up the loan. Back to work, Joseph loses his first paycheck to cards and alcohol instead of paying back his debt to his father, who repudiates him and suffers a stroke. Too late to see his father one more time before his death, Joseph goes off as a soldier to the Korean war. Emile, now personal traveling secretary to an important businessman, drops by to obtain news of the family. While Bertha several times calls Flora, Bertha's only child by Edward, to help her with the dishes, he advises her not to waste her best years with the family. Armand tells her Joseph is dead. She concludes: "He died as he wanted to, a simple soldier. Lucky for him."
"Florence". Time: 1950s. Place: Montreal, Canada.
Florence's fiancee, Maurice, both working for the same advertising agency, notices that her immediate superior, Eddy, an account executive, is interested in her personally. She denies it, but when a model, Madeleine, arrives to see Eddy and is greeted volubly and enthusiastically by him, she becomes jealous. Florence's fellow secretary, Suzanne, advises her to forget Maurice, but she has qualms about ending their relation since he so obviously loves her. Suzanne also advises her to forget Eddy and her parents and liberate herself completely from her fears by renting an apartment in the same building she herself is living in. At the end of the work-day, Suzanne pretends to have had an offer as a secretary in New York, but then reveals she was just joking. When Maurice arrives to accompany his fiancee out, she informs him she must work overtime for her boss. He is upset and pressures her in such a way that she can no longer hold off her real feelings, giving back his engagement ring. After their working day, Eddy drives her home. Her mother, Antoinette, notices their talking together longer than they should, but her husband, Gaston, downplays the importance of this. Their son, Pierre, announces he has refused to play the leading role in a school version of Racine's "Britannicus". Gaston has also refused to become part of his union at work. In the course of the evening, Florence appears listless and dispirited. When her father pressures her into revealing what is bothering her, she admits she wants more from life than what she has and especially does not want to end up as they did, not even owning the house they live in. To Antoinette's dismay, she leaves the house precipitously. He tells his wife he agrees with Florence's view: he has been too modest in his career path, being especially fearful of taking any type of risk. "At the age of twenty-seven: a stable situation, security," he reminisces, "then I didn't try to move." A confused Florence heads for Eddy's apartment. With no clear intention in mind, she nevertheless kisses him and submits to his sexual advances. The next day, Gaston is determined to overcome his fears by accepting the position in the union, as does Pierre regarding the school-play. To their relief, Florence returns but not joyfully. "I wasn't ready, dad," she cries out, rushing off again. At work, she is disappointed on learning that Eddy merely offers her to live together without marrying. She decides instead to apply for the position in New York.
"The great departures"
"The great departures". Time: 1950s. Place: Quebec, Canada.
After depleting the financial resources of his wife's father and sister along with her own, Hector, a writer yet to publish his first book, must move away with them to a more modest apartment. His wife, Margot, informs him that her sister, Eulalia, not having been consulted beforehand about their plans, is crying in the dark and refuses to go. When Eulalia stops crying, she suddenly appears at the door with a shotgun in her hand. Since she does not know how to use it, she hands it over to Margot at the moment it accidently goes off though without harming anyone. Still frustrated, she reminds Hector of his behavior while courting her sister. He occasionally kissed Eulalia on the neck, courting her as a sister-in-law, the main purpose being to convince her to take care of her ailing father and not marry on her own. The doorbell rings, but, the occupants are surprised on seeing not the movers but Eulalia's lover of twenty years ago, Albert. To the family's astonishment, Albert asks her to leave with him and she accepts. Instead of waiting for the movers, Hector and Margot's daughter, Sophie, leaves for the cinema. After some time, Margot is suddenly struck with the thought that perhaps Sophie has moved away on her own. While they wait for the movers with the groaning but speechless and paralyzed grandfather, a distraught Eulalia in disordered dress unexpectantly returns. The elopement was not as she expected. Albert proposed to take her to a hotel instead of marrying her beforehand and appeared very disappointed on learning she had lost all her money. She asks to be taken back in the fold and is accepted. Sophie also returns unexpectantly. She also had expected more from her man. "He promised me that one day he would take me very far," she says disconsolately. "And you went to the cinema. He has already honored his word," Hector remarks wrily. As husband and wife discuss the possibity of future changes that may never be realized, the grandfather, to their astonishment, looks at them angrily. He slowly rises from his chair with great effort, pushes both away violently, clutches a suitcase, and leaves the house.
"Bousille and the just"
"Bousille and the just". Time: 1950s. Place: Montreal, Canada.
Aimé is awaiting trial for accidently murdering his rival, Bruno, fighting for Colette's favors in a restaurant, after hitting him with his fist. His family anxiously gather in a hotel to meet the defense lawyer, Lacroix. The mother of the defendant takes Father Nolasque by the arm, and naively asks Lacroix: "Even if he's only a small cousin of mine, wouldn't you take him and show him to the judge, to prove we are good people?" The priest is the spiritual advisor of Bousille, a remote cousin, who says of himself: "I'm so bored when I don't help people out." Lacroix is glad to be able to interrogate Bousille and Colette, who consent to speak with him before the trial even though they are witnesses on the part of the Crown. As a waitress, Colette tells him Aimé sometime stole her tips. At a wedding, he once asked her to stop dancing with Bruno, which she ignored. He later read a love-letter of Bruno's taken from her handbag and slapped her for it. To make sure he will commit no mistake, Bousille has written down his statements. He is the only witness of what happened in the men's bathroom in the restaurant after Bruno first pushed Aimé and Aimé retaliated by hitting him. In the bathroom, Bruno entered seemingly to be reconciled, but Aimé hit him a second time, a fatal blow, as his rival fell and nastily struck his head. Lacroix is dismayed by this version of the conflict, not part of Bousille's original statement to the police, the omission being due to his nervousness at the inquiry. The lawyer knows his client is now unlikely to get completely clear away. Aimé's brother, Henry, together with his sister's husband, Phil, decides to take the matter in hand. Alone with Bousille, Henry offers to pay his hospital bills, provide him with a place to say at his house, obtain for him an enticing job, and buy him a scooter, if only he omits to mention the bathroom scene in court. Bousille is devastated, all the more so because of an incident regarding a man he once knew who had his hand sawed off after putting it on a Bible and subsequently lying in court. Aggravated by his hesitation, Henry puts his knee on Bousille's, at which Phil cries out to him the man will surely break his leg unless he modifies his testimony. Bousille surrenders, swearing on his missal that he will not mention the bathroom scene. Later, at the hotel, with the family anxiously awaiting news, Phil enters crying out in victory, but this happy bit of news is very much dampened on hearing that immediately after the trial Bousille hanged himself in a garret.
"The sisters-in-law". Time: 1965. Place: Montreal, Canada.
Germaine Lauzon has won a million stamps for household items and invites friends and family members to her house to help her press the stamps in booklets. After being roughly reprimanded, her daughter, Linda, agrees to cooperate. A friend, Marie-Ange, tells Germaine to her face that her winnings are unjust, at which she rages. Nevertheless, Marie-Ange agrees to help her. Six more women arrive, all friends or sisters jealous of her winnings and, as they lick and stick the stamps inside the booklets, sneak many of them inside their own handbags. When the conversation turns to contests and whether anybody else has ever won anything, several women, grimly looking sideways at Germaine, comment rhetorically: "Do I look like someone who has won anything?" Thérèse takes care of her demented mother-in-law. When the latter becomes agitated, she punches her on the head. After a neighbor complains on the noise created by their many arguments, threatening to call the police, Rose retorts: "Good, call them up, we lack men." Two more women show up, Rheauna et Angeline. All the women, especially her best friend, Rheauna, are scandalized on learning that Angeline is in the habit of entering a night-club where Pierrette, Germaine's repudiated sister, works as an entertainer. Two more women show up, Lise and Ginette, friends of Linda, unwilling this time to cooperate in the venture. Germaine curses her daughter again for not cooperating. Lise is pregnant, with no husband in sight. To help her out, Pierrette gives her the telephone number of an abortionist. Afraid to be repudiated, Lise agrees not to return to the night-club. At last, Germaine discovers her friends and relatives have been robbing her all evening and attempts to get her stamps back, but they resist, with the result that her booklets and stamps become torn and scattered all over the floor. She is left weeping over their poor and unusable remains.
"In a lifetime"
"In a lifetime". Time: 1900s-1950s.Place: Quebec, Canada.
Charles-Edward is happy on learning that his wife gave birth to a baby girl, Rosanna, but is devastated on learning she died in childbirth. At the age of six, Rosanna is playing with her older brother, George-Albert. She pretends her doll is sick. Playing the doctor's role, he examines the doll for signs of cholera. Knowing that the disease is catching, he next examines Rosanna's stomach and lower parts, but she backs away from him. He diagnoses that the source of the disease may be found in the brain and so cuts away at it. In horror, Rosanna takes the doll away from him. At the age of eighteen, Rosanna suggests to her friend, Willy, that, instead of working as a part-time laborer, he might consider working full-time for her father. But she is devastated on learning that he prefers going to work in the state of Maine in the United States. At the age of twenty-five, after his son, George-Albert, left to work in the city, Charles-Edward suggests to Rosanna that, instead of pining for the loss of Willy, she might marry another, for instance, Telesphore Tremblay, who appears to be a good worker. Though still regretting Willy, she accepts and has three children by him, living at her father's farm. At the age of thirty-five, Rosanna tells Telesphore that, in view of his success at school, their eldest son, Victorien, should continue studying up to college level. But Telesphore wonders how they will be able to pay for that. She argues that they should be able to, no matter how, as it is their duty to make sure that their children lead better lives than they do. At the age of forty-five, Rosanna receives the visit of George-Albert, bitter that their father left her everything in his will. "It didn't take you long to catch on to business," he grumbles. She counters that after receiving so little news of him over the years, house and land should belong to her. At the age of fifty-five, after selling house and land for a large sum due to its favorable location along a highway, she timidly asks Victorien, now established as an office worker in the city with wife and children of his own, whether it is possible for her to live with them in a small room. But this leads to nothing as the result of his wife's disapproval. At the age of sixty-five, living with her daughter in the form of a second-rate existence, she receives the visit of her brother, who still continues to harass her on the subject of their father's will, all the more so with her receiving such a large sum of money. In a heated argument with him, she dies of a heart attack.
"The seven days of Simon Labrosse"
Unable to find a job by conventional methods, Simon Labrosse considers self-employment. On his first try, Simon presents himself before a possible employer by seeking to be hired as a stunt-man of emotion. When the irritated employer asks him what that can possibly mean, Simon explains that he is expert in handling undesirable situations a client wishes to avoid, not knowing what to do or say, such as difficult confrontations with family members or friends. However, Simon does not convince him. At the end of the day and the following morning, he records on tape different thoughts to be sent to a woman working for unprivileged people in Africa. On the second day, Simon chooses to promote another line of work. He accosts a woman sitting in a café and proposes to make her feel special simply by looking at her and commenting favorably on her appearance. However, the more Simon pays attention to her, the less comfortable she becomes, so that his proposed position of acting as a personal spectator does not achieve the desired success. On the third day, Simon intervenes in a discussion between a couple sitting on a park bench. Although thankful to Simon for helping them find the correct words to their thoughts, the couple is disagreably surprised at being charged $12.95 for his service as a sentence finisher and refuses to pay. On the fourth day, Simon is interrupted at home by an employee in a finance department sent to take back his tape-recording device due to unpaid installments. His attempts at flattering her manner and methods of procedure for a further delay fail. Since hopes of earning money as a professional flatterer falls by the wayside, he is reduced to commenting to the woman in Africa aloud with no recording device. On the fifth day, Simon takes to the streets and proposes to pedestrians to take in hand worries related to world problems. A woman is interested to the point of considering laying down a dollar for helping her forget pollution, urban violence, poverty, diseases, economic globalization, political crises, and Africa, but her boyfriend interrupts to say that thinking about these is not sufficient: the man must directly intervene in the world, so that Simon is confronted with yet another failure. On the sixth day, Simon receives the unwelcome news that all his tapes have been sent back to him, the addressed person being unknown. He defies the postal employee to say he has invented this person but concludes that even his attempt at acting as a professional receiver of parcels fails. With pressure to vacate his apartment mounting as a consequence of unpaid amounts for over three months, Simon on the seventh day chooses to rest, but considers in the future the possibility of entering people's homes and replacing television viewing with live programming by his own person of any activity they wish to see.