I don't know why I want "straight" to always be the rule when, in fact, I often admire what is off-center. Read on, in today's story column.

règle (regl) noun, feminine
    : rule, ruler; rule (of conduct, grammar); (règles = menstruation)

Audio File: listen to today's word and hear Jean-Marc read a passage (that is: (a list of rules) from today's story  Download WAV or MP3

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

Somewhere in Provence, on a little crooked farm, beyond a few crooked walls... and a crooked Christmas tree... four off-kiltered kin sit 'round a table.

"We need to STRAIGHTEN UP around here!" one of the crooked ones says.

She pounds her fist on a crooked surface. The table is nicked, scratched, and sullied from enough errant knives and fourchettes that the surface looks, on second glance, like a wall of faded hieroglyphics. The only thing not carved into the wood are the amorous initials of the man and woman who call this place home.

"Home!" the woman points out. "...is a cozy respite from a crooked "outside". In here, there is order—or should be!" she announces, pulling an errant sock out of her bathrobe's pocket. "And just whose is this? And where does it belong?"

Three other members at the tilted table look into their bowls, trying to conceal crooked smiles, but the speaker can see their reflections on the steamy surface of their soup.

Out comes The Book. The title, written in long hand, reads:

"The Little Book of Simple Rules"

With a crooked, self-satisfied smile of her own, the woman straightens up in her chair and reads the subtitle (which is, simply, a reflection of the words above it):

"Le Petit Livre des Règles Fastoches"

"Can I read?!" the kids at the table ask and their excitement has the speaker thinking up a new rule or two (see rule numbers "Six" and "Seven," below...).

The older child begins to read the rules which are written down simply, if a bit crookedly—like chicken scratch (or like the scratches beneath their soup bowls, on the surface of the table). They state, in no uncertain terms, that WE SHALL:

Take off our shoes at the front door.

(Enlever nos chaussures à la porte d'entrée.)

Put on our slippers.

(Mettre nos pantoufles.)

Change the empty toilet paper roll.

(Changer le rouleau de papier toilette quand il est vide.)

Not lean back in our chair.

(Ne pas se balancer sur notre chaise.)

Not throw clothes on the floor.

(Ne pas jeter les habits par terre.)

Take turns.

(Chacun son tour.)

Not interrupt (the speaker).

(Ne pas couper la parole.)

Return borrowed objects.

(Rendre les objets empruntés.)

Not drink more than three cups of coffee per day.

(Ne pas boire plus de trois cafés par jour.)

With this last rule, the reader interrupts himself.
"Mom... how many cups of coffee have you had today?"
"No one follows these rules!" the woman complains, and the caffeine puts that much more "edge" into her response. With that, she sniffs, narrows her eyes and pulls from her other bathrobe pocket a cardboard cylinder. "Nobody ever changes the roll of toilet paper!" she laments.

The woman gets up from the table, walks across a room of crooked tiles, and pitches the empty roll of papier toilette into the fire. The cardboard goes up in flames, sending out a wave of warmth: a cozy respite from rigidity. She looks back at her family, listens as they laugh and share the events of the day. The "Book of Simple Rules" has been tossed aside, a safe distance from the soup splotches that now color the table with life lived.

"However crooked, we all seem to line up here each night, the woman decides, "around a square table. Maybe it's time to "join 'em," quit trying to control everything—except for the knife: this, in time to carve our amorous initials, encircled within a crooked heart, into the table's wobbling wooden surface.

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French Vocabulary: la fourchette (f) = fork

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la règle d'or = the golden rule
les règles de route = rules of the road
les règles du jeu = rules of the game
mettre quelque chose en règle = to put something in order
se mettre en règle avec Dieu = to make things right with God
la règle de la maison = the rule of the house (establishment)
en règle générale... = as a general rule...
avoir ses règles = to have one's period (menstruation)

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