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Compréhension écrite n°1 - Niveau II


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I went to him and gave him a hug. He felt light against me, insubstantial. His ribs protruded like the black keys of a piano. I could pick him up, I thought, and had a sudden irrational urge to do so. I stepped back hastily, flustered. Aware of his eyes on me.
“Welcome home, Jamie,” I said.“It.’s good to see you.”
“You too, sweet sister-in-law. How are you liking it here in Henry’s version of paradise ?” I was spared from lying by the old man. “You.’d think a son would see fit to greet his father.” He bellowed from the porch.
“Ah, the dear, sweet voice of our pappy,” said Jamie. “I’d forgotten how much I missed hearing it.”
Henry picked up one of Jamie’s suitcases and we headed toward the house.“I think he’s lonely here,” Henry said.“He misses Mama, and Greenville.”
“Oh, is that the excuse he’s using these days ?”
“No. He doesn’t make excuses, you know that,” Henry said.“He’s missed you too, Jamie.” […]
“If you say so, brother.” Jamie said, throwing an arm around Henry’s shoulder. “I’m not gonna argue with you today. But I have to say, it’s mighty good of you to have taken him in and put up with him all these months.”
Henry shrugged. “He’s our father,” he said.
I felt a ripple of envy, which I saw echoed on Jamie’s face. How simple things were for Henry ! How I wished sometimes that I could join him in his stark, right-angled world, where everything was either right or wrong and there was no doubt which was which. What unimaginable luxury, never to wrestle with whether or why, never to lie awake nights wondering what if.

At supper that night, Jamie regaled us with stories about his travels overseas. […] Henry was the only one of us who seemed impatient with Jamie’s stories. I could tell by the crease between his eyebrows, which got deeper and deeper as the evening wore on. Finally he blurted out, “And that’s what you’ve been doing all these months, instead of coming home ?”
“I needed some time,” said Jamie.
“To play in the snow and eat fancy foreign bread.”
“We all heal in our own ways, brother.”
Henry made a gesture that took in Jamie’s appearance. “Well, if this is what you call healing, I’d hate to see what hurting is.” Jamie sighed and passed a hand across his face. The veins on the back of his hand stood out like blue cords.
“Are you hurt, Uncle Jamie ?” asked Isabelle worriedly.
“Everybody was hurt some in the war, little Bella. But I’ll be all right. […]” I would heal him, I thought. I would cook food to strengthen him, play music to soothe him, tell stories to make him smile. Not the weary smile he wore tonight, but the radiant, reckless grin he’d given me on the dance floor of the Peabody Hotel so many years before. The war had dimmed him, but I would bring him back to himself.

Hillary Jordan, Mudbound, 2008

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