From Book 3: A Night on the rue Mazarine

            Artaud was galvanized after his return to Paris. He wrote to and met with Breton frequently, but something about him was different. Now he had Cécile Schramme, who had waited for him. Everyone noticed the remarkable effect that this young Belgian girl seemed to have on the thirty-nine year-old man. He became energetic, humorous again. He and Cécile ran around Paris like two kids, sometimes accompanied by Anita and even Sonia, taking taxis to and fro, dining at the Dôme or the Viking (complete with desserts), and walk-running along the Seine while Artaud embroidered spoken adventures as only he could. He was light-hearted again, cheerful, which surprised those who did not really know him, who only saw his anti-social antics and outbursts. He ignored me and to respect his wishes I stayed out of his way.

Yet there was no way to avoid him when he and his lady-love went to some Saturday night dinners at the apartment of Youki and Desnos There guests were free to climb his library ladders and explore the shelves of books and in general do anything except kill each other. The apartment was strange and meandering, its glass library coated with dust and the ceiling of the apartment black with soot from the fireplace and from cigarettes. In his black-and-white tiled dining room Desnos would put out a spread of whatever food and drink he had just as he had at the rue Blomet, but here the meat was more tender and the wine, more mellow. Some nights there was more food than others, but I brought wine and a dessert and so did Franz if my family accompanied me, and Youki truly had a talent for stretching ingredients. I helped her in the kitchen.

After dinner Artaud climbed up and down these ladders and, dragging along Cécile and a protesting Sonia who clung to the wood and threatened to throw up, swung wide while holding onto a rung and a shelf and yelling something about a “Plague hag.”

“What do you mean, you hope it isn’t you?” demanded Desnos of me. “How could it be you? He means that Allendy fucker.” Louis and Desnos thereafter called themselves “Plague hags” to plague me. The sight of Yvonne joyfully scrambling on those ladders with “Uncle” Artaud and Sonia and Cécile did my heart good. A friend of both Artaud and Desnos that I didn’t know, Theodore Fraenkel, played record after record on Desnos’s phonograph and moved his handsome face, quite like Louis Aragon’s, through a series of contortions as he pretended he sang the lyrics. This was especially comical when the singer was a woman and one time Yvonne, having imbibed a kiddie-cocktail, laughed so hard at Fraenkel’s cabaret act she did vomit a little, and poetically on poor Sonia.

“I told you—!” yelped a mortified Catherine to her daughter but Simone Kahn and Michel Collinet daubed Sonia with a cloth.

“She’s fine, you plague nag!” said Desnos to me, bypassing Catherine and loud enough for Artaud to hear and also to the delight of Paul Éluard.

Cécile, dangling high above the floor between ladder and shelf with Artaud to spot her, beamed down at her paramour between her almost-white locks of hair. “I am only going to say it once: Trapeze Cenci.”

“Oh, shut up,” Artaud laughed, and when she let go he caught her so her feet gently came to the floor.

Youki applauded. “Trapeze Cenci with Bengal puppets and fireworks! And then each audience member is issued a pistol with which to kill himself!” Catherine clamped her hands over Yvonne’s ears while Artaud and Youki grinned at each other.

“My wife practically climbed up on stage to tie Beatrice to that wheel,” said Desnos. “She wanted to live in that play.”

“I wanted Lady Abdy to die in that play!” declared Artaud.

“What has Be-a-priss done since? Anything?” asked Desnos sympathetically.

Inspired by “Trapeze Cenci” Nusch begged me to lift her to sit on my shoulders and then bade me to stand on a ladder. I climbed up three rungs while sitting on me she waved her hands beneath the blackened ceiling. To my horror she then tried to stand up while proclaiming she could do a back flip from my shoulders to the floor. I seized her knee with one hand while hanging on with the other, and Desnos danced beneath us with his arms stretched out. Catherine’s pleas made Nusch sit down again. The only slightly-less-rotund Wandering Wart/Poison Dart, now renamed Zouzou by Desnos, followed Artaud’s progress around on a bookshelf shelf. The cat looked like a fat spider clinging to a web. Simone climbed a ladder too and, eye-level with me, kicked out her legs while yelling something about Painlevé’s starfish. “You are sinking into symbolism,” I warned her loudly, teasingly, as she clung to the ladder and swung too, her small, perky mouth forming the words, Idjit’s midget digits fidget. She made me laugh and I could barely finish my insult. “You literary mind!” Artaud turned then and smiled up at me.

After I got down and deposited Nusch safely on the floor, Louis took me aside. “Are you and he actually speaking now?” he half-teased me, but I did not wish to push it.

“I’m going to up throw!” yelled Simone, now eyeing Sonia. She flipped up her skirt. She had pulled Desnos’s boxer underwear over her own dainties and they hung like bloomers. Yvonne collapsed in hysterics and Catherine put a hand to her head. Simone proclaimed, “It’s dress-up day!” Now we were all in danger of spewing.

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