The Five Fingers of the Hand

by Aloysius Bertrand

“An honest family, where there has never been a bankruptcy, and where no one was ever hanged.”—The Family Lineage of Jean de Nivelle

The thumb is this fat Flemish innkepper, mocking and saucy, who smokes by his door, beneath the sign of the double March beer.

The index is his wife, a virago hard as dried cod, who starts the day by slapping her maid in jealousy and stroking the bottle that she loves.

The middle finger is their son, journeyman hewn by the axe, who would be soldier if he were not brewer, and horse if he were not man.

The ring finger is their daughter, nimble and pesky Zerbine, who sells lace to the ladies and doesn’t sell her smiles to the cavalrymen.

And the ear finger is the youngest of the family, crybaby always clutching his mother’s waist like a little child hanging from the fang of an ogress.

The five fingers of the hand are the most extraordinary slap in the face ever to resonate in the gardens of the noble city of Haarlem.

Translated from the French by Hélène Cardona

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