Local educator pens ‘Telling Sonny’

  • Telling Sonny by Elizabeth Gauffreau.

Published: 4/5/2019 4:55:15 PM

Elizabeth Gauffreau teaches critical inquiry courses at Granite State College in Concord, where she is the Director of Liberal Arts Programs. Much of her fiction is inspired by her family history, and lately, she has developed an interest in writing about her family’s genealogy. She lives in Nottingham.

In Telling Sonny, 46-year-old Faby Gauthier keeps an abandoned family photograph album in her bottom bureau drawer. Also abandoned is a composition book of vaudeville show reviews, which she wrote when she was 19 and Slim White, America’s self-proclaimed Favorite Hoofer (given name, Loui Kittell), decided to take her along when he played the Small Time before thinking better of it four months later and sending her back home to Vermont on the train.

Two weeks before the son she had with Louis is to be married, Faby learns that Louis has been killed in a single-car accident, an apparent suicide. Her first thought is that here is one more broken promise: Louis accepted Sonny’s invitation to the wedding readily, even enthusiastically, giving every assurance that he would be there, and now he wouldn’t be coming. An even greater indignity than the broken promise is that Louis’s family did not bother to notify Faby of his death until a week after the funeral took place. She doesn’t know how she can bring herself to tell Sonny he mattered so little in his father’s life he wasn’t even asked to his funeral...

Here is an excerpt from Telling Sonny:

It had been a car accident, an inexorable hurtling of metal and glass against tree, Louis dead on impact. Faby could hear the collision as Dorothy was speaking, the grinding shriek of metal on metal, the pulsating explosion of glass, the instant before impact a never-ending moment of awareness, before his head smashed through the windshield and all his bones shattered.

The sound of Louis’s final leave-taking didn’t subside after Faby hung up the telephone, the grinding shriek of it so piercing it made her eyes hurt, the pulsating explosion of it so thunderous it made her chest hurt. How was she going to describe that sound to Sonny, two weeks before he was to be married?

“He was killed in a car accident. On a clear day, on dry pavement. How could he have been so careless?” After a moment, she murmured, “Thoughtless to the end,” before lapsing into silence.

As the minutes went by, Faby remained silent, grateful for her sister’s presence, hoping she would stay, both of them watching the curtains rise and fall at the open windows unbidden until the sound of Louis’s accident left her head at last. There may have been street noises eddying in and out of the room with the unseasonably warm breeze – the sound of car doors slamming, shop bells tinkling, children calling after their mothers – but Faby didn’t hear them.

As late afternoon passed into early evening, the breeze turned chill, and Josephine got up and closed the windows. Before leaving to prepare supper for her husband, she brought Faby aspirin and a glass of water, but that still didn’t dispel the sound of the collision, which now had intensified to include the sound of the tree breaking apart, a splitting, tearing, rending that no tree should have to endure.

And what was she to tell Sonny about his father’s death? What did Sonny know of his father, after all? Sonny knew what his father looked like, certainly, tall and blond, with an affable, lantern-jawed face. He even knew the basic facts of his father’s life: high school athlete, veteran of the First World War, minor vaudeville player, master salesman. As far as Sonny was concerned, his father was a man of infinite charm, a man with that enviable quality, savoir faire. What was she to tell Sonny now?




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