Edmond Caldwell’s Return to the Chateau, the second
chapter of his novel Human Wishes/Enemy Combatant.
Out in the green and gold swatches of the Pays de France or back in Paris it might have been possible to escape this condition of lamination, but here on the island of hill-hotels it was inescapable, this condition of lamination in which the park was implicated as much as the invidious hotels. He turned to make his way from the prospect back to the gravel path in the hope of finding perhaps something to combat or at least counter this advancing condition of total annihilation, of annihilation by lamination, the village of Roissy was supposed to be on the other side of the hill and perhaps it would offer something to combat or at least counter this condition, either antidote or talisman. But as he turned he stumbled, and when he regained his balance he stumbled again, twisting first one ankle and then the other. It appeared there were holes in the grass of the lawn, there were burrows of some kind in the soil beneath the grass, and now as he staggered carefully back to the gravel path he saw so many of these holes that he wondered how he had escaped twisting his ankles in them on his way out to the prospect. The holes beneath the grass were clearly not for sport or a game such as golf, he could never tell whether golf was a sport or a game, nor were they drains such as those concealed beneath the laminated carpets of the small rooms back in the Chateau Roissy, they were evidently burrows of some kind, a theory which received immediate and even decisive confirmation by the emergence of a rabbit some meters ahead, the rabbit whisked away across the lawn but its ears and the white flash of its tail had been unmistakable, as had the overall hopping gait produced by the motions of its large haunches and feet. Nor was this an isolated incident, for now he saw himself surrounded by rabbits just as he knew himself to be surrounded by ankle-twisting burrows. In fact there were so many rabbits nibbling or whisking about in the range of his vision that as soon as he thought he had counted them all he saw a new rabbit and lost his count, unless it was a previous rabbit which had shifted to a new location as he had been counting a new rabbit in a different location, it was too hard to tell, he concluded that there was an uncountable number of rabbits, certainly more rabbits than people because except for him and the rabbits the park was completely empty, they were all back in their rooms nursing their ankle sprains with complimentary ice from the hotel ice machines. And meanwhile the rabbits were burrowing away, hollowing out the hill underneath the loops of the roadways with the loops of their rabbit warren, the loops of the rabbit warren under the loops of the roadway under the crisscross contrails of the Air France jets. The rabbits reproduced in a geometric progression, their population did not advance by addition but by explosion, a metastasizing of the rabbit-kind into a rabbit horde, wave upon wave of rabbits spilling out over the tarmac of the roadways and the Charles de Gaulle airport runways, and thence to the fertile farmlands of the Pays de France. His only hope of escaping the Zone Hôtelière island was by shuttle-bus, whereas the rabbit horde had simply to charge across the tarmac to make their escape, and even if they did not wish to make their escape in this manner they would be pushed to it by the exploding rabbit population behind them. There were seasons when the automobiles and the shuttle-buses on the roadways skidded and slid on the bodies of all the rabbits they ran over, so much rabbit blood on the tarmac that the automobiles and the shuttle-buses were in danger of hydroplaning, or in this case hemoplaning, multiple-car pile-ups were a real danger in the season of the rabbit horde, and worse was the appearance of the rabbits in droves on the runways of the Charles de Gaulle airport, at times an unbroken carpet of rabbits receding to the smudge of the horizon, like all of those birds surrounding the house in the final scene of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, except in this case rabbits. And even a far fewer number of rabbits could be a danger to the landing gear of the Air France flights such as the one he hoped to depart on tomorrow should he succeed in escaping the Zone Hôtelière, mowing down a few of these rabbits could completely gum up the works of an aircraft’s landing gear, so that even if it managed to make it off the runway of the Charles de Gaulle airport in Roissy, France, it was still in grave danger of sliding off the short runways of Logan Airport and plunging into Boston Harbor, the aircraft would sink with everyone aboard trying to shriek their last words into their cell phones while clawing to be the first out of the emergency exits. Therefore it was necessary at regular intervals to exterminate the rabbits, to visit upon the rabbits a mass extermination of some kind, in which the environs of the Charles de Gaulle airport and especially the grounds of the Zone Hôtelière had to be put under a temporary quarantine and divided into quadrants so that the mass extermination could proceed in an orderly fashion, a phalanx of exterminators in Charles de Gaulle Airport vests with the distinctive Frutiger sans serif typeface on the badges had to line up at one end of the quadrant and plug explosives into the burrows to blow the rabbits up and release weasels into the burrows to hunt them down and pump poison gas from hoses to choke the remaining rabbits and water from still other hoses to drown them in their burrows, and those who were flushed out at the other end were met by guns and dogs, at the other end of the quadrant an orgy of gunfire and ravening fangs awaited all the terrified rabbits who had managed to survive the flames, the gas, the water, and the weasels. It was a dreadful prospect, and he wished he could side with the rabbits, in the ordinary course of things his sympathies were all with the rabbits, but his fear of flying or more precisely of crashing was so great that in this instance he had to side with the victors, against his own better nature he identified with the exterminators, in fact he even felt a little of the victor’s exultation at the extermination of the threat posed by the rabbit horde, which he knew and even exulted meant the extermination of the rabbits themselves, like blood in his mouth he could taste it, it even checked for a moment the feeling of the creeping lamination of his gorge brought on by the overall lamination of the Zone Hôtelière. He understood now why the French ate rabbit.
Echoes of Thomas Bernhard (‘annihilation by lamination’, the repeated return to lamination and the various -ations) and of Robbe-Grillet (the various transformations of things observed, but to me, done far more carelessly and enjoyably than Robbe-Grillet).