Clean and gut the anchovies and rub inside and out with salt. Fill each one generously with rock salt and branches of salicorne. Place in the barrel with the heads facing upward and cover with salt by layers.
Another affectation. When you opened the barrel they would be there, standing on their tails in the gleaming gray salt, staring in mute fishy appeal. Remove what is needed for the day’s cooking and pack the rest into place with more salt and salicorne. In the darkness of the cellar they look desperate, like drowning children in a well.
Snip off that thought quickly, like the head of a flower.
My mother writes in blue ink, the script neat and slanting. Beneath it she has added something in a more careless hand, but it is in bilini-enverlini, an exotic scrawl in red grease pencil like lipstick: toulini fonini nisllipni.
Out of pills.
She’d had them since the beginning of the war, using them first with care, once a month or less, then more recklessly as that strange summer advanced and she smelt oranges all the time.
She wrote raggedly:
Y. does his best to help. It gives both of us a little relief. He gets the pills from La R'ep, from a man Hourias knows there. Other comforts too, I guess. I know better than to ask. He isn’t made of stone, after all. Not like me. I try not to care. It’s pointless. He is discreet. I should be grateful. He looks after me in his way, but it’s useless. We are divided. He lives in the light. The thought of my suffering dismays him. I know this, and still I hate him for being what he is.
Then, later, after my father’s death:
Out of pills. The German says he can get some more, but he doesn’t come. It is a kind of madness. I would sell my children for a night’s sleep.
This last entry, unusually, has a date. That’s how I know. She was jealous with her pills, hiding the bottle away at the bottom of a drawer in her room. Sometimes she would take the bottle out and turn it over. It was brown glass, the label still showing a few barely legible words in German.
Out of pills.
That was the night of the dance, the night of the last orange.