Minor characters

Mrs Belander

Mrs Belander is Francis’ landlady when he returns after the war. She is a kind woman for whom he used to run errands when he was a boy. She is Canadian, and French is her first language. She does not recognise Francis behind his scarf and bandage, and she asks him for a month’s rent in advance because of this.

Cormier uses her to demonstrate how even kind people are affected by a person’s changed appearance. She calls Francis poor boy but does not trust him enough to pay her later on. She makes soup for Francis, though, and is concerned that he has a cold, even though it is his injury which makes his nose run.

Mrs Belander asks whether Francis can speak French. He tells her that he cannot, but adds to the reader that he does understand it. This allows him later to eavesdrop on a conversation in French between Mrs Belander and her neighbour, during which they discuss Larry LaSalle’s return to the town. He learns where Larry is living.

Arthur Rivier

Arthur is a few years older than Francis. He joined the army early in the war and Francis remembers him coming home on leave, “in his khaki uniform with the corporal stripes”. He has not received a physical injury, but it soon becomes obvious that he has been psychologically damaged. He invites Francis for a drink at the St Jude’s Club, where other war veterans also drink. He tells Francis that he deserves a good drink. He seems to joke a lot, which is actually a cover – not visible like Francis’ disguise, but still effective – for his misery.

One night Francis meets him, drunk in an alley. He tells Francis that Nobody talks about the war... They talk about GI Bills and going to college and getting married and joining the cops or the firemen but they don’t talk about the war.

He then cries, I want to talk about it, my war... and your war too, Francis. Everybody’s war. The war nobody wants to talk about. He admits to having been so afraid at one point in the war that he messed [his] pants. He calls it the scared war. Arthur tells the truth about war in the same way that war poets such as Wilfred Owen did in poems like Dulce Et Decorum Est, in which the true horror of war is described, not the false idea of a glorious war which those who have never experienced it imagine.

Uncle Louis

Francis’ Uncle Louis is his father’s brother. He gives Francis a home after his father dies. Francis lives with him from the age of 14. Uncle Louis is a kind, gentle man who works at the Monument Comb Shop as a yardman. He is not at all talkative but Francis knows that he loves him. He gives Francis a 50-cent allowance every Friday night.

During the war, Francis hears rumours that the factory where Uncle Louis works is producing secret material in a special section. Uncle Louis simply says Shhhh and puts his finger to his lips. He enjoys seeing Francis feel so thrilled about a wartime secret in Frenchtown!

Mr Laurier

Albert Laurier owns Laurier’s Drug Store in Frenchtown. He gives Francis a part-time job there, running errands and sweeping floors, taking out rubbish and stocking the shelves. He is a suave and dapper man who always wears a white shirt and black bow-tie, and he is kind to Francis, knowing that he is an orphan.

He treats Francis to a chocolate frappe on Saturday afternoons. Since the drugstore sells newspapers, it becomes a gathering spot for the people of Frenchtown who bought the Monument Times or the Wickburg Telegram and discussed the progress of the war.... Mr Laurier is quite cynical, commenting that it is amazing that a young man can have just six weeks of basic training with guns and grenades and only a few months later finds himself fighting the Japs or the Germans.

It is Albert Laurier who comments that the Wreck Centre is still a bad luck place even after it has been refurbished. He also scoffed when it was suggested that Larry LaSalle had been recalled to duty when he suddenly disappeared after raping Nicole, indicating that Mr Laurier may not think that Larry is so perfect and has some suspicions about his eagerness to spend so much time with young people.

Joey LeBlanc

Joey LeBlanc is a childhood friend of Francis. He is rather mischievous and Francis says that he was often punished by the nuns for speaking out of turn. It is Joey who calls out jokingly to Nicole that she has a run in her stocking. Francis says that he did not have a best friend, but Joey who lived on the first floor of my three-decker, often went with me to the Plymouth [movie theatre] on Saturday afternoons.

Joey would keep up a steady commentary during the movie. Francis notes that he didn’t like to read, whereas Francis loved roaming the stacks of the Monument Public Library. Joey, like Mr Laurier, says that the Wreck Centre still has a feeling of doom about it. He calls out My hero from the war, to Larry LaSalle when he comes home on leave.

Francis says that he was clowning, of course, but saying what we all thought. We learn that Joey died on a beach on Iwo Jima in the South Pacific. Francis adds that Joey had been right all along about the Wreck Centre.

Sister Mathilde

Sister Mathilde is one of the teaching nuns at St Jude’s Parochial School. She was often on the receiving end of jokes and Marie LaCroix imitates her because she has digestion problems. She tried to disguise her burps behind her hand, and sometimes rushed out of the classroom, slamming the door behind her.

She is very close to Nicole Renard and Francis sees them strolling the convent grounds... one hot summer afternoon. Francis wins Sister Mathilde’s medal for composition when he is at school, which is an early indicator that he could have a career as a writer.

It is Sister Mathilde whom Francis seeks out after Larry is dead. He wants her to tell him where Nicole is now. She tells Francis that he has served his country well, and when he asks where Nicole lives, she replies that Nicole was a secretive girl, adding rather mysteriously that we all have secrets.

It is interesting that when she tells Francis that Nicole has not become a nun, she also says that life is not that simple, Francis. If anybody knows this to be true, it is surely Francis. It becomes clear that Nicole has not told Sister Mathilde about the rape, because the nun asks Francis whether they quarrelled like young people do.

She gives Francis Nicole’s address and tells him that she hopes his face will heal soon. Francis tells her that he is going to be treated by a specialist and wonders if it’s a special sin to lie to a nun.

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