The father’s signature, by Simon Brousseau, finalist for the 2022 Story Prize | Creation Prize

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The fifth-year English teacher, a yellow-and-gray man who was rumored to do his hair with egg whites, enjoyed the little authority his job gave him. Egg John, as we nicknamed him, required, to my great misfortune – I obtained only poor results in this course – the signature of a parent on each of his weekly tests. To avoid well-deserved reprimands, but also because the possibility of fooling the adults to whom I had to report appealed to me, I wanted to check one evening if I had the temper of a counterfeiter.

Behind the closed door of my bedroom in the basement, I opened the English notebook. My father’s signature, which crowned my copies of the previous weeks, all smeared with John’s impatient comments, was intimidating. She reminded me of the distance that separated me from the adult world. And then I still didn’t know how to sign my own name other than in block letters. So his? I had often watched my father sign checks at the table after dinner. A document from the Caisse, a subscription to the Columbia record company, an insurance contract. I knew signing was money related so it was a serious thing.

the S and the B of his initials, drawn hastily, were followed by indecipherable sinuosities. Life, I saw, throbbed in the movement of those lines, and I felt my father’s reprobation through them. His footsteps, which echoed on the ceiling where the kitchen was and where he was probably finishing washing the dishes with my mother, reminded me of his presence. Of course, I wanted to avoid disappointing my parents with my bad grades. However, it was first my budding ego that pushed me to transgress the ban. I was ten years old, I thought I was smarter than everyone else, and I thought I understood that to get by in this life, you had to know how to lie.

I multiplied the attempts at forging on lined sheets which now covered the floor. Despite the fear of getting caught – I had pretended to be doing my homework in my room for over an hour and my parents might be worried to see me so studious for the first time in my life – I was making progress. My hand shook less, marrying more and more faithfully the subtle assurance that accompanies the writing of a name traced a thousand times. Sure to deceive the vigilance of the teacher, who only ever took a quick look at our papers, I finally signed the test, then I hid the incriminating drafts in my backpack, with the intention of dispose of it the next day in a bin on the way to school.


On November 12, 2020, my father was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that causes progressive paralysis, after a lumbar puncture performed to determine the cause of the numbness in his right foot. from the end of the limbs to the respiratory muscles. That day, he was told he could expect to live another five years. As he had always taken care of his health, we secretly hoped to be entitled to seven.

The months that followed, full of worries and bitter disappointments, were lived with the feeling that the ground was giving way under our feet, because the prognosis we had been offered turned out to be too optimistic. In July, my father was still walking, but with difficulty. In September, he decided to use a wheelchair to get around, and in November, my mother employed a hoist to take him from the living room to the dining room, to help him to the bathroom or even put in bed. The last weeks have passed in this forced immobility, and it is thus, captive spirit of a body out of use, that he has come little by little to the decision to put an end to his life.


The year when I discovered my talent for counterfeiting is also the year when the idea of ​​suicide occurred to me. It was the vertigo of this revelation that uprooted me from childhood. I could, if I wanted hard enough, end my life. No rule, no adult, even my parents, can ever prevent me from dying. I didn’t want to take action, but this eventuality, so brutal and so simple, exerted a force of attraction on my mind that was inexhaustible.

At school, the principal told us during a tour of the classes that he was hiring a social worker who could help us if we had dark thoughts . I was troubled at the time by the growing gap between my thoughts and the image people had of me. From an outside perspective, I was a cute boy, smiling, full of energy, but under my mushroom haircut, I was darkening. Kurt Cobain had committed suicide two years earlier and I experienced, thanks to his songs, the ability of music to embody the new negativity that inhabited me.

I remember the ridiculousness of my only discussion with the worker, which took place during school hours. It was the idea of ​​escaping from the usual activities that had, moreover, hastened my decision to ask for a meeting. A soft voice emanating from the intercom had called me, I had risen from my desk and walked towards the door without looking back, proud of this problem which distinguished me from my comrades condemned to calculate fractions for the next hour.

The social worker, a named Linda, had curly brown hair that fell over the shoulder pads of her emerald suit. I remember because she looked like the actress from Bibi and Genevieve, which had made me dream so much when I was younger and from which I already felt so distant. I was her alien visitor, full of naïve questions about life and death, and I hoped her Earthling answers would help me see more clearly into this world I landed in, my still-smoldering flying saucer of its entry into the atmosphere.


My mouth remained open for a moment, then I tried to name the discomfort that motivated my visit. Yet it was simple. I was tired of being treated like a child, I wanted to live my life, come home when I wanted to, go to the cinema at the Galeries de la Capitale with my friends without having to ask permission. I wanted to be free and I had a lingering sense of being condemned to a captive existence. As the lady encouraged me to continue with an attentive air by taking notes, I continued to monologue for a few minutes, intoxicated by the eloquence that I discovered in myself, then the bell rang and Linda accompanied me back to to my class, where we picked up our notebooks before going to the cafeteria for lunch.

I remember my pride following this tete-a-tete, my jubilation as I savored the effect my remarks had had. I was also partially aware of playing a part, playing around with dangerous ideas just to see where it would take me. I had no idea that Linda, back in her office, had jumped on the phone to notify my father of his son’s morbid thoughts.


He had come to wait for me in the playground at the end of the day and, seeing him leaning against the fence, I knew that I had been betrayed. I dreaded his anger, but on the contrary there was a worried tenderness in his eyes that shut me up. Once in the car, since he was silent and I couldn’t think of anything more to say, I turned up the volume on the radio. In my father’s stubborn silence, I guessed that my attraction to death could pass for ingratitude. How can a child who has been given all his time, all his affection, think of suicide, when the life he has been offered is so simple, so pleasant? At a red light, he turned to me, told me he loved me, then asked me if it was true that I wanted to die. The shame I felt at his sadness was too much for my young heart, so I cried silently, and my father, also in tears, hugged me despite our seat belts. We stayed sobbing for a while, in this unbearable position, until the horn of the car behind us indicated that the light was green. We had to move forward.


When I was older, when I had to find a way to sign my name, I appropriated my father’s signature without measuring the scope of this gesture, as I have the same initials as him. I never confessed my forgery to him, but I think he knew. Once, when he saw me sign an application form for admission to Laval University, he noticed the resemblance of our signatures, and even if there was no longer any reason to hide my childhood shenanigans from him, I played the innocent and he had the elegance not to insist. Maybe he liked the idea of ​​seeing his name through mine.


Fourteen months after the diagnosis, on the morning of Friday January 14, 2022, my younger brother accompanied my parents to the Hôpital de l’Enfant-Jésus so that our father could begin the process of obtaining medical assistance in dying. His illness was at such an advanced stage that he could no longer scratch his head or even turn the pages of a book. His voice was weakening. He had become, as he said, laughing despite sobs in his throat, a mummy. Shortly after the date, my brother called me and tears came to my eyes before he even started his story. The doctor had been benevolent, he took care to specify, and my father, after answering a few questions aimed at determining whether his suffering was indeed unbearable, had somehow managed to sign the document which made official, before the law, his desire to die. This is the last time he wrote his name.

Now that he is dead, now that I held his hand, next to my mother and my brother, when he received the fatal injection on a cold January afternoon, I feel neither guilt nor remorse, but the terrible joy of having rescued something from oblivion. And when I sign my name, I do so knowing what made this gesture possible, the desire for independence of a son who did not understand how much he would need his father for a long time, nor how much he would miss when he was gone.

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The father’s signature, by Simon Brousseau, finalist for the 2022 Story Prize | Creation Prize

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