SAINT JOAN, JESUS CHRIST, & VALADON
Maurice, whose memory seldom extended beyond the time something was taking place, never held grudges against other drunks, who for one reason or another, had assaulted him, often causing serious injuries. The only exception to this was a rare occasion when he believed that some basic principle of his philosophy about life had been violated. His enemies, who were numerous on the La Butte Pinson, would, no doubt, take exception to this. Actually, Maurice stayed way from vendettas, chronic hostility, as a waste of energy, something that would divert his attention from drinking. Maurice's capacity to retain information, especially when intoxicated, was not very good, and the blows he received to the head, certainly didn't sharpen his perception of what was going on. On many occasions he arrived at the flat on the Rue Cortot, dead drunk, literally stupefied, and fell out cold on his cot in the back room. The following morning he awakened, reasonably clearheaded, unable to remember a single detail from the night before--no matter how bad. Whatever happened, in Maurice's mind, went along with the inebriation, and fitted neatly into the scenario. He was satisfied with this, never viewing the various malfunctionings that alcoholism causes, as factors which denoted abnormalities, conditions requiring the attentions of the head-shrinkers or the police.
As far as Maurice's drinking buddies were concerned, it was live and let live, a way of life, a necessary reality; the past was over; it didn't exist anymore. Forgetting old misfortunes was part of the protocol of getting along, because a bloody vendetta interfered with the really serious business of becoming inebriated, of operating with new or future enemies, which was part of the social patterns of boozers on the hill. In Maurice's mind, he was forced to deal with his drunken friends or change his life style, and he wasn't prepared for that. His world was a small world inhabited by heavy drinkers who followed the same routines day after day. Being vindictive over an extended period of time was not in the cards, so it was convenient to forget animosities, to see the past as a blank, which, it was, no matter how you looked at it, anyway. This type of philosophy, a forgiving one, to say the least, was the only way he could go, and it enabled him to survive a chilling way of life that would have destroyed any other human being...
Now and then, with the assistance of a few friends, which included Depaquit, Quizet, Max Jacobs, Sergeant Gay, and Naly, who was over his anger at Maurice's callousness, we would search for my son on the hill, dragging him, if we were successful, back to his room at the Cafe Belle Gabrielle. Most of these friends did it willingly, with the exception of Depaquit, who saw Maurice as heavy baggage detrimental to his political aspirations. He had even cut down on his drinking to demonstrate that he was a man of character, a person fully equipped to handle the responsibilities of government. A week ago the two had tangled because Depaquit reneged on a drink he had promised, something unforgivable to Maurice. The fight took place in the drain gutter on the Rue Leval just outside the front door of the Cafe Belle Gabrielle. They pummeled each other unmercifully as a bunch of bums circled around them, cheering when one or the other got an advantage. The fierce struggle raged up and down the cobblestone street with Maurice clearly getting the worst of it. Finally, as it became apparent that he might be seriously injured, Sergeant Gay, who was watching from the second floor window of the Cafe Belle Gabrielle, rushed down to the battle and grabbed both Depaquit and Maurice by their collars, holding them at arm's length, while he lectured them on the importance of settling differences in a more law-abiding manner. The ex-policeman relished an experience like this where he could show his professionalism; and besides, he was concerned about Maurice being busted up to the point where he could no longer paint. He had been disturbed for some time by operators on the hill stealing Maurice's work, the breakdown of his tenant's health, and the increasing tempo of the boozing. Like most of those involved with my son, Sergeant Gay felt like he was trying to hold on to a slippery eel, that he was engaged in a losing proposition, and that the valuable prize was slipping out of his grasp despite his effort to retain it ....
Even with Maurice still staying in Sergeant Gay's building, presumably under his supervision, I was a nervous wreck, sick at heart, never free of fear, because he was on a collision course with serious injury, death, or permanent imprisonment. Utter, who had no sympathy for Maurice, said: "They should put him in a nuthouse or bury him! Either way," he went on, "it's good riddance!" I didn't pay too much attention to Utter's remark: he was jealous of my son; and he resented the attention I gave him. Secretly he was as greedy as Sergeant Gay and the other characters to make money in a situation waiting to be exploited....
People ridiculed me for my concern about Maurice because: "He was an alcoholic," they said. "He would drink whether I liked it or not, it was beyond control, and would remain that way!" I didn't disagree with this assessment of my son, nor did I protest when friends like Naly indicated that for me to sacrifice myself in a hopeless cause was insane, a mistake on my part that would be regrettable some day. "If you have a grain of sense," he advised, "you will get that bum out of your life as quickly as possible!" I remained silent after he spoke, but I had puzzled about taking the punishment of dealing with Maurice year after year, ruining other relationships, and severely impeding my own plans to succeed as a professional painter. For most people, I was a freak who had lost her common sense, a silly woman tied to a common drunk, a person who had lost the respect of her everyone around her. I never claimed love as the binder between us; that was laughable--simply on the basis that it never existed at all. From the day he was born he represented trouble, an endless series of dreadful events, events that worsened as he matured.... a thorn in my side.
Valadon, as Maurice called me, was the only stable factor in his crazy upside-down existence, a kind of refuge he counted on when all other options were blocked. Saint Joan, Jesus Christ, although I cannot claim to be on their exalted level, followed in the same category for him. Everything that happened, in Maurice's life, circled around this triad of stability. It constituted his religious, social, and artistic philosophy, his inspiration, his excuse for being what he was. It was a fragile world because he was always doing things which were forbidden by the social and religious beliefs that sustained him. It was the same kind of paradox that made his painting so remarkable: a result denying its source;.and it was the side of his life that tortured him the most. Maurice was the most depressed when he believed he had violated eternal law, not man-made law, and these terrible periods made me fear for his life.
Maurice was now notorious, not only for his alcoholism, his attacks on females, his vandalism, his perversity in displaying his genitals in public, but for the way in which he managed to get away with these criminal acts. The situation had deteriorated to the point where various civic and religious