December 10, 1952 [Forbidden Games]

We have a number of loved ones out back, tucked away under a rock, wedged between the stretching roots of the big pine, straight along the edge of the shed: dog, cat, and bird--and maybe a fish or two, and I think a small jar of lightning bugs, motionless one morning on the nightstand, little yellow mortal coils noiselessly shuffled off--the pet cemetery unmarked and sometimes forgotten--but out there all the same.

But Michel and Paulette in René Clément's Forbidden Games know that graves must be marked--and more: that the markers fade, and the names are forgotten--but it doesn't matter: Her parents and her dog have been gunned down by the Germans, and the old owl at the abandoned mill blinks slowly--each little turn of its head a metronome ticking off the last little heartbeats of every chick and mole they bury, breaking hard French ground, their prayers like slurred little songs.

Could we ask for a better funeral for all of them, Mama and Papa, and the brother trampled by the horse-cart, and their own hearts, broken and tossed like crosses into the mill's corners, while Paulette hears someone call "Michel!" and she runs into a crowd that looks like nothing else but Kane's crated Xanadu, a maze of useless figures, the little girl weaving like a sled down a wooded hill, her cries swallowed up by plaintive song and the tears of all those abandoned children.

I'm going out tomorrow, as cold as it is, and look for our Patty's grave, the little black dog with a white star on her chest who once managed to pull my son on a sled--as small as she was, but full of joy at the chance to run in light snow with her adopted brother at her back, laughing.


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