La Mere Mauvaise


by Dini Armstrong


was first published by the webzine Yellow Mama, in their online issue
#79 April 15, 2020

The beautiful illustration was created by Darren Blanch

Et voilà. It ends where it began, my child, not long now. If you stretch your head forward as far as you can, it will come off more easily, that’s what they say. Oh, stop your blubbering. We’ve kneeled before, haven’t we? At least it will hurt only on that end this time, the other end will be in peace, finally. It seems right, separating the head from the body. I wonder if my head will taste the iron of my blood as it works its way up from the throat.

Did you know, I was born on January 21st, 1793, the day of the execution of Louis XVI. And here we are, my girl, you and I, both getting royally fucked by that great equalizer, the guillotine.

Don’t cry now, girl, hush hush. It’s over soon.

They’ve taken my scarf to expose the neck. It carried our boy on my back for three months, didn’t it? Just as it carried you, my lovely girl. I miss the weight of you, your breath on my neck, your little chubby hands playing with my hair. The papers wrote that he was mine. They wouldn’t believe he was yours - an unmarried twelve-year-old, producing such an angel with her own brother? Well, we made him an angel now, didn’t we, my lovely? Thanks to you and me, he will never turn into his father.  A beast of his own father's making, my husband, may he burn in hell. Do you remember how they writhed and twisted? I wished it had lasted longer.

The crowds have come in full number today. Seeing la mère mauvaise and her murderous daughter, the barbarous poisoners of Paris. I can smell them, roasting chestnuts. I am proud of us, my girl. When men fight back, they are celebrated. When women do the same, they are killed. Remember when we finally did it, and we sang the song all the way to the police station?

Ah! Ça ira! Ça ira! Ça ira!
Tous les violeurs à la lanterne!

I remember when I was eleven, playing with my mother’s bread dough. The smell of yeast and burnt sugar. The softness, the innocence, the way the sunshine just flooded in through the window, as if there was no darkness. That’s when I met him, your father. He joined in with me, despite his age (he was already twenty-five), the smell of gin. At first, he shaped a flower, then he giggled and formed the shape of a man’s bits. He told me to touch it and asked me if I wanted a go at the real thing. That’s when my mum walked in and we were married two weeks later. She was a great one at turning sin into virtue.

No, I don’t want my eyes blindfolded. No, don’t tie my hands. I will go freely with you, my liberator, mon ami, into the bliss of hellfire, purified, and cleansed — of all.

Author's note: This flashfiction piece is based on a newspaper article from Paris, 18th March 1818. They nicknamed this woman La Mère Mauvaise - Bad Mother.