May he play more golf. Photo of Jean-Marc, épaules intact

une épaule (ay-pol) noun, feminine
  1. shoulder

Audio File

Hear today's word pronounced: Download epaule.wav

large d'épaules = broad shouldered
se luxer une épaule = to dislocate a shoulder
hausser les épaules = to shrug one's shoulders
lire par-dessus l'épaule de quelqu'un = to read over one's shoulders
rouler des épaules = to swagger

Un fardeau semble léger sur les épaules d'autrui.
A burden seems light on someone else's shoulders.

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

The last week of summer break my husband slipped and dislocated his épaule.* Would you believe a banana peel figured into the equation? Or--into the bag--as the accident happened while emptying the garbage. His arms full, a bag in chaque main,* Jean-Marc was not about to put one bag down in order to lift the lid of the gigantic trash can, so he lifted it bag-in-hand. That's when the earth pulled out from under his feet as the upward bound, weighted bag gave way to a backward flip. The garbage can being located on an incline, all the stars were now effectively aligned to send my Frenchman vaulting backwards over air to meet the cement pavement in one swift and unbuffered crash.

Comedians know the trick that puts audiences in stitches; circus clowns know it too. Bonk someone over the head, trip up the other guy and just listen to the spectators roar. Of course there was nothing funny about Jean-Marc's slip (except in retrospect) and I certainly wasn't amused, but mourning the loss of one half of this parental unit.

I began calculating Days To Recovery and grumbling about how I might as well tape an out-of-order sign across his Gallic chest (just above the arm now held in place via a velcroed sling). That school would start in one week, with its endless allers-retours* was only half of the worry. Minus the use of one arm, our Parked Driver wouldn't be able to so much as saw a green bean in half let alone chauffeur the kids back and forth. I could see it now, the coming days would find me buttering his baguettes, tying his shoe laces and driving him to his appointments--instead of meeting an increasingly stressful deadline for a project I am working on. Jean-Marc was supposed to be keeping our family and its schedule glued together; that was the deal. Instead, HE was falling apart.

ER or "Urgences" in the town of Draguignan was under construction and overcrowded. When our family arrived, a roomful of accidentés* looked up, as if to judge to what degree of misfortune the New Arrival had met with and how this might hinder their Next-In-Line status. While I was busy guessing a two to three hour wait, Jean-Marc was already being whisked away by an ER nurse (apparently a dislocated shoulder constitutes a true emergency, its being necessary to reset the shoulder aussitôt*). Try explaining that to a roomful of the injured (presently growing sharp teeth, and eyeing Max, Jackie and me as if we were three wiggling biftecks* descending from on high).

Once the unappreciative glances withdrew and all eyes returned to the respective wounds, I studied the unfortunates. The drunk man to my left, whose heel had a bloody gash, began to sweet-talk the hypoglycemic woman with the sprained ankle. A boy of Max's age sat, leg propped over his mother's lap. "He jumped off a two meter high wall," she explained, shaking her head at her son. In between distributing bread and candy to the patients (I'd stuffed a bag full of 'en-cas'* before heading to ER) I began to yearn for news of Jean-Marc. How was he faring, after all? What was taking so long? I'd already mentally reworked our schedule. It no longer mattered that I had "one more kid" to care for instead of the Other Half of our parental unit--as long as the Kid was O.K. Was he okay?

When The Kid appeared, three hours later, the children ran up to him.
"That must hurt," Jackie sympathized, pointing to her father's slinged arm.
"Let me help," Max offered, gathering the paperwork from Jean-Marc's free hand.

Taking a clue from our right-minded children, I offered my husband a sincere, if veiled, mea culpa:

"Blasted oversized wastebaskets--look what they've done to you this time! Anyway, take it easy for a while, will you?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
une épaule (f) = shoulder; chaque main (f) = each hand; allers-retours = round trips; accidentés = injured (persons); aussitôt = immediately; un bifteck (m) = (beef) steak; un en-cas = an "in case" (snack)

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