Happy early Valentine's Day! On Thursday, if you and your beloved are so inclined, you should check out Northshire Book's website at www.northshire.com. They'll post the winner of their Valentine's Day writing contest on Thursday. Yay romance! Yay independent bookstores!
This week, we feature "The Ballad of Ti-Jean" by Dudley Laufman. Dudley has published An Orchard & a Garden (William Bauhan Press, 1974), Mouth Music (Wind In The Timothy Press, 2001), The Stoneman (Canterbury Shaker Village Inc., 2005), and Walking Sticks (Beech River Books, 2007), as well as numerous pamphlets, chapbooks and broadsides. His work has appeared in Animus, Hanging Loose, Pudding Magazine, Skyline, Rivendell, Longhouse Card Series, Bull Thistle, Centripetal, Echoes, Yankee, Wormwood Review, Spitball, South Boston Literary Gazette, Fiddler Magazine, Silt Reader and Lillabulero. He is a recipient of the New Hampshire Governor’s Award in the Arts Lifetime Achievement in Folk Heritage. He lives with Jacqueline on the edge of the woods in Canterbury, New Hampshire. They earn their money playing fiddles for country dances.
The Ballad of Ti-Jean
You say you didn’t know Ti-Jean from down dere in Suncook, dat was where he from him. Oui, oui. Don’t know how you missed him dere. Big feller, a complete presence. Good Frenchman him wit five names, Ti-Jean, Big John, Little John, Francois, Guy. Lived in that red brick house, oui, on the main street, the party house. Bonefant’s was the dancing house, ‘count of Bony the fiddler, an’ Dube’s was the singing house, Langlois for the story and cards. Everyone work in the mill all week. Friday night they party it up right through until Saturday night. Go to St. Jerome’s Sunday morning an’ some would go right on wit party.
Ti-Jean’s buddy was George Paquette. Paquette’s Shoe Store, Le Pied. Blind as a bat him in one eye an’ couldn’t see out of the other. Pulling his pud alla time, said Ti-Jean. Had a seeing-eye dog name Eeyor. Kep’ a glass eye inna socket. At those wild an’ crazy parties he’d plop it in Jean’s Budweiser, who would pocket it like an agate, an’ it was George Le Squint the night.
Wan time dey go onna a peace march down to Boston dere, sacre, Le Pied, Le Eeyor, et Le Big John. Oui, that’s them, you don’ believe me? They on the TV, Ti-Jean on crutches, broke his leg sometime before dat, fell down probably. Earthquake says George. Oui, Eeyor leading the two cripples inna peace march, Boston, mon dieu.
They get outta there, head for Dova, party with UNH cronies. George gets it into his head wants to drive. Swap seats them, Le Jean guides him through Callahan Tunnel at rush hour can you believe it?
Party in Dova wasn’t much. They left early, Big John driving. Man comes along, smacks into them. George takes out his green glass eye, hides it, tumbles out the door, crawls around in the gutter, Mon eil, mon eil. The other man faints, they have to take him to hospital. Insurance pays for another eye. Oui, at those Suncook soirees George plops one, inserts the other.
Ti-Jean took up with Miriam. They live awhile in that trailer on the Northwood- Epsom town line. Northwood there that’s long an’ narrow like a bull’s budelia, it slopes all the way to Durham. Then they moved to Peterboro. George says that must have upset the balance of Northwood considerably, caused it to slide into the sea.
On Jean’s fiftieth they roasted him. George says, Should have used you Big John, put that fire out Chernobyle. George’s brother Little Marcel says Non, non, too much blubber. Nasty bonhommes.
Another time, New Years bash, sixty Frenchmen fill the kitchen spilling into den and hallways. George is on the throne upstairs. Someone in the kitchen asks Miriam, You and Ti-Jean going to have kids? Through all the laughing George yells from upstairs, No way.
Too bad you didn’t know him dere. He was a presence I’m telling you.