Where Are the Plans?

by Jean-Marc Agrati

I climb the stairs. I've got the shopping in my hands and my humppack bangs against my lower back. There are only five floors, but day after day they weigh heavy.

A granny leaves her door ajar. I catch a whiff of grease and a radio crackling. She hears me and she pops out.

"Oh, it's you…"

I don't answer, I catch my breath. I don't like her obscene, direct way of attacking me.

"You look tired…"


"You work hard!"


That's it, I'm past her landing. I turn my back to her and I go up to the next floor.


"Goodbye, Madame."

It's nicer up above. There's a pretty young student as bubbly as could be. Perfect lines and complexion. And a look, damn... It bores into my head when it hits my eye.

But I don't see her here. The landing is deserted. I open and enter my apartment. I put my bag down, the shopping, and I take off my coat and tie. I flop down on the couch, my back is killing me.

It's the moment they choose. They come out of the shadows and they come to me.


"A good day?"

They are my angels.

"Not too much traffic?"

They're not too amusing. Dark suits and faces that have seen everything. A little like Reservoir Dogs. They're more like cops of darkness.

"Did it go all right?"

I don't answer. They're used to my silence. They sit down or they stroll around the living room. The chief is at the window; he parts the curtains. He appreciates the blackness of trees.

"Where are the plans?"

A whisper, almost nothing. You'd think he's talking to the tree.


I say nothing. I don't know where the plans are. An angel takes out a Sudoku book and lines up his numbers. Another opens the newspaper. A final one giggles.

"It's unbelievable all the stuff you can get off them…"

He's talking about balls. He says that when you scratch them, it's a downright factory of dead skin and it's food for mites. The other angels smile. The one with the Sudoku nods slightly in my direction.

"And what's he going to eat tonight?"

Laughs all around.

Then absolute silence. The jingling of keys in the lock. The silhouette of my wife appears in the hallway and my angels disappear straightaway. They go back to the shadows behind the furniture and the curtains.

(Translated by Michael Shreve)

Jean-Marc Agrati is a French writer of poetry and short fiction with several books to his name.

Michael Shreve has published dozens of translations from French. His translations of Marcel Schwob's "Morphiel the Demiurge" and Remy de Gourmont's "Hell" have appeared previously in The Cafe Irreal.