Marius by Michel CHAPOUTIER

Short tales

1878, Cherry picking

« The ladder was perched against the fruit tree. The young boy had sat his bottom down on the first rung. He was breathing hard, worn out by his frenetic running back and forth between the cherry trees and the hand cart piled high with wicker baskets. His heart was pounding. Taking off his short-sleeve shirt, the tenacious lad punched his abdomen that seemed to merge with his ribs because he was so skinny.

He gobbled down three cherries at a time and spat out the pits a good two metres away, exactly where he aimed, like an elite sniper, as the Americans used to say during the War of Independence. The sun beat down relentlessly on the back of his neck. The sky was of a blinding blue colour, almost white. The heat, at the end of June, had everyone wincing.

- What’s your name littl’un? Asked a labourer, his hands on his hips. The man was topless and his skin was deeply lined from the sun. He had wrapped his vest, which was full of sweat, around his head. He was missing half of his teeth; he was a handsome beast!

- My name is Marius, Marius Chapoutier »

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