une paille

un biscuit

                        A school in Aix-en-Provence.

le biscuit (bee-skwee) noun, masculine
  1. cracker, wafer, cookie

[from bis = twice, and cuit = cooked]

Expressions and Terms:

le biscuit salé = cracker
le biscuit de savoie = sponge cake
le biscuit de chien = dog biscuit

Il ne faut pas s'embarquer sans biscuit. Don't embark without biscuits.

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

I stood glaring at the maman* at the head of the line, the one who did not mince words in pointing out my tardiness. When she stared back with a "there's always one" expression on her face (always one maman who forgets the end-of-year-picnic!), I boiled.
                                        *     *     *

While the maman and I exchange evil looks, the second-graders gigotent* beneath a shady platane* tree. As the children queue for the bus, they swing their backpacks from side to side in a non-effort to unleash some of that energy that has accrued during the night.

Seventeen minutes earlier, Jean-Marc had called me on the phone to tell me that, in fact, today was the sortie* for Jackie.

I held the phone in one hand and the towel, which covered me from neck to knees, with the other. A puddle of eau calcaire* collected on the floor as I listened to my husband's instructions:

"You can pack some crackers and cheese... Jackie's tennis shoes are just outside the front door..."

Did he actually think I would make it to school before the buses pulled out? Did he realize that he was asking me to pack a teacher's-nightmare lunch? First of all...

There are two things expressly interdit* on all sorties:
--Crackers, or "biscuits salés" as they are called in France, because they
   are full of salt which makes the kids thirsty.
--Cheese because everyone knows you don't pack fromage* after the almond
  trees have blossomed and not before the grapevines turn from green to red to
  orange. It's too hot out!

Instead of reasoning with Monsieur Crackers, I gather what wits of mine remain and inquire: "When does the bus leave?"

I am agitée, irritée and enervée*--three adjectives that I have been trying to pluck from my temperament since sharing a roof with a sometimes too laid-back Frenchman and two ebullient enfants.*

With dix-sept* minutes ahead of me I don't have the luxury to fume, stomp or glare (not that I would actually stomp). I switch my brain to track one and proceed to spin through the house collecting edibles and wearables for the end-of-year school outing. In the kitchen, I slap one tranche* of ham between two slices of dry bread, grab an apple and throw a few more unmeltables into a paper sack.

I make it to school just as the first bus is pulling away. I press forward, à pied,* anxiously scanning the bus windows in search of my daughter. I see rows of seats filled with kids in picnic outing attire: hats, a slather of sun cream across the cheeks and nose, and rucksacks sur le dos.* A few mamans-accompagnatrices* peer through the glass from the other side, concerned about the wandering, sack-toting maman. I run up to the next bus which is now first in line to leave.

"I'm looking for Jackie!" I say.

Return now, if you will, to scene one in which the mocking maman and moi* stand curbside, engaged in a glare-lock. The stare showdown ends when I disentangle my still-pulsing pupils from hers and shoot onto the bus, past the driver, and past eight rows of fluttering former first-graders. I make a beeline to Jackie's teacher, hand over the sack of imperishables and unleash an infantile urge to explain myself.

"It's all my husband's fault!" I say.

Jackie's teacher studies the beads of sweat collecting on my face. After a moment, a look of genuine warmth and compassion colors her own visage.

"It is always their fault," she says, with a smile.

Without another word, an understanding permeates the air. My eyes return from the bus's floorboard to the teacher as I acknowledge her forgiveness. While her sense of humor has relieved me, this enfant terrible* will suffer the remainder of the day for condemning her very own conjoint* and for going crackers curbside.

*References: la maman (f) = mom; gigoter = to wriggle, fidget; le platane (m) = plane tree; une sortie (f) = an outing; l'eau calcaire (f) = hard water; interdit = prohibited; le fromage (m) = cheese; agité(e) = agitated; irrité(e) = irritated; enervé(e) = angry; enfant (mf) = child; dix-sept = seventeen; la tranche (f) = slice; à pied = on foot; sur le dos = on the back; la maman-accompagnatrice (f) = accompanying mom; moi = me; l'enfant terrible (m) = a person exhibiting outrageous behavior; le conjoint (la conjointe) (mf) = the spouse

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