Prose Header

Donna’s Men

by Michael E. Lloyd

Table of Contents
Book I: Windmills Everywhere

Chapter 5: Dazing Ape Harry

part 2 of 3

‘Shopping always tires me out! Gotta get these new shoes off!’ ... ‘Ah, that’s better!’

‘Men! You were only in that store for half an hour, but you still managed to spend a fortune!’

‘That’s what fortunes are for, Donna.’

Huh! I didn’t have one to start with. I’m even more unfortunate now.

‘Yeah. It’s nice to be able to help people out. Anyway, it’s my turn to go first in the bathroom!’

‘Can’t argue with that!’

God, I need this shower! As hot as I can make it. But start it just nice and warm, girl ... that’s it ... in we go! ... now turn it up and up and up and ... aaaaaahhhhhhhhh .......

He’d better not have fallen asleep again! We had a really early lunch, and I’m feeling quite hungry again after all that walking ...

Oh, this is just glorious!

OK, that’s enough, Donna. Don’t overdo it.

Oh, what wonderful towels!!

Dammit! I didn’t bring any of my lovely new clothes through! Gonna have to pull all that grubby touring stuff back on again!

Hang on — there’s a long white hotel bathrobe on the back of the door. Perfect!!

Oh my god. He’s in my bed.

I need to play this carefully.

‘Huh! Don’t you want any dinner, man?’

‘Come to bed, Donna.’

‘But ...’

‘Come to bed, Donna.’

* * *

‘How’s your appetite now, Shaunie baby?’

‘Which one?’

‘The dinner one.’

‘Making itself felt.’

‘Just like the other one is!’

‘Look, do you want to eat or not, woman?’

‘Yes, I want to eat. But somewhere nearby and not too pricey, OK? My rules this evening.’

‘You’re calling all the shots, Donna!’

* * *

‘You know, I think that dress is just as beautiful as the other one. And the shoes were made for it.’

A real man, at last.

‘Oh, Shaun ...’

‘Hey, please don’t cry. You’ll make your soup too salty.’

‘Oh, you are an utter idiot! I’m so, so happy!’

‘That crêpe was just perfect.’

‘Yes, mine too. So, it’s not really worth looking for another hotel for you now, is it?’



‘So, want to go straight back?’

‘Lead and I shall follow, ma belle dame.’

* * *

Sunday late eve

Only got a moment before he comes out of the bathroom. How do they manage to do it so fast?

What a day! Nothing more to say. There’s a time to talk and a time to act.


* * *

‘It was nice to have a more relaxed breakfast this time.’


‘And I’m very glad you didn’t keep your socks on.’


Hah! He obviously hasn’t even got to that page yet!

‘Just a little Sartre joke, Shaun. Don’t worry — I’ve probably read a lot more of him than you have.’


Too right.

‘OK, let’s get ready and hit the streets again.’

‘Sure. And I think we should go down to the Left Bank today, and see if we can discover the exchange I sensed when we were up the Arc de Triomphe.’

‘OK — but I must admit I’m feeling a bit nervous about that.’

‘Well, let’s not do it first, then — don’t want to spoil the day too soon. Where would you like to begin?’

‘At the Montparnasse Cemetery, please. A little pilgrimage before we start on the architecture. And no taxis today.’

‘Cost saving?’

‘No — I want some more real Parisian atmosphere.’

* * *

‘OK, we change here onto Line 4 and go down to Raspail.’

‘Yes, ma’am.’

‘You know, this morning I can really smell the garlic in all the stations, Shaun. The very same garlic that Sartre and Camus exhaled here sixty years ago!’

‘How romantic!’

Did he mean that?

‘Well, I think so!’

* * *

‘Aahhhh. The tomb of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Together again forever, mais sans trait d’union.’

‘Still very romantic.’

‘Well, perhaps somebody put me in the mood.’

‘Yeah. Sartre?’

‘Idiot! But seriously, I’d just love to be able to meet him and talk to him about ... well, everything!’

‘I think I’d choose someone slightly different.’

‘Oh yeah? Whom, exactly?’

‘Haven’t thought about it.’

‘Grrrrr! So, fancy a coffee, Shaun? I know a little dome from home ...’

‘Ah, Le Dôme. What a place! Glorious old wooden décor everywhere! And it has such a history, Shaun!’


‘Really. Lenin, Miller, Hemingway ... and Sartre and Beauvoir, of course ... and Gauguin, Picasso, Man Ray, and Ernst ... and so many others. They all treated this place like home, and traded their gossip and their ideas and their grand dreams. What I would have given ...’

‘I’d be happy to settle for a few more days like this with you.’

‘Oh, you sweetie! Come here .......’

‘Aahhhh. Very nice, thank you.’

‘Right, back to work, lover! First stop, another cash machine for my maximum daily dose ...’

‘St Sulpice is looking fine, isn’t it?’

‘Well, what we can see of it. Renovations everywhere this year!’

‘Too true. OK, let’s press on. I want to pick up the Rue de Rennes ...’

‘There! Café de Flore! I think it looks so elegant on the outside, Shaun — wearing its little black number, with all that plate glass and those lovely flower arrangements. And the Art Deco interior’s brilliant, of course, but red’s really not my thing ... except in dresses.’

‘You’re not proposing another pit stop already, are you?’

‘Not quite. I have a different plan for that ... and it does involve an early lunch. But I am thinking hard about the Flore’s own history for a moment. This café was Sartre and Beauvoir territory too, you know.’

‘Sounds like they all were.’

‘Actually, that’s truer than you think, Shaun. Hold your breath for a few minutes. We’re going to take a peep at St Germain church first ... it’s just along the boulevard. Follow me and keep looking straight ahead.’

‘Roger ...’

‘There! All present and correct, I think. Another big relief.’

‘It certainly is, Ollie.’

‘I can’t believe you just said that — again.’

‘And I believe you just mentioned lunch. So what’s your grand plan?’

‘Well ... if you’d just like to turn right around ... voilà! Les Deux Magots!’

‘The two maggots.’

‘No, idiot — the two figures! Chinese merchants, actually. You can see them when you go inside — up near the ceiling, watching over everybody ...’

‘Er, I did actually know that, Donna.’

Did he? Really?

‘Huh! Not very fair, Shaun. But I’ll forgive you — again. And there are still a couple of tables free outside. Let’s sit down, quick!’

* * *

‘Enjoying the sunshine?’

‘Oh yes. And the meal.’

‘Me too. So, this was the other big rendezvous.’

‘What for?’

‘For all the writers and artists and ... hey, I bet you knew that already too!’

He’s just smiling. Wicked man!

‘OK, you won’t catch me out again, Mr Pesaner. So, tell me what you know about it ...’

‘Not a lot, actually. You really are the expert, Donna. But I do know all those big names you talked about before used to come here as well. They must have spent their entire lives commuting between four or five fashionable cafés.’

‘When they weren’t busy creating exquisite works of literature and art, you mean?’

‘That’s it.’

‘I can see I have a lot of work to do on you, my man. And it wasn’t just the writers I’ve already mentioned. Camus was always here too, of course, and Wilde and Gide and St Exupéry, and lots of ...’

‘Got it, Donna.’

‘Hmmm. OK, I’m going inside on my own for a few minutes, to breathe in some of the atmosphere again.’

‘At least you won’t be breathing in Gauloises or Gitanes these days.’

‘No, I won’t. Actually, that’s a real shame, isn’t it?’

‘Whatever you say.’

‘That took a long time.’


‘You know, I could just feel Camus in there with me.’

‘In the loo? Well, I hope he enjoyed it.’

‘Give me strength! But don’t you just adore The Outsider too, Shaun?’

‘Of course. And ... hey, what’s that drumming?’

‘Don’t know. It’s behind you, I think ... Oh, it’s a bunch of Hare Krishna devotees coming along the pavement. They’re singing quietly, too. That’s going to change the atmosphere again. I wonder if they’re planning to stop here ...’

‘Looks as if your wish is going to be granted, Donna.’

‘I didn’t say I wanted that. But I’ll be philosophical and think about the Beatles instead!’

‘Now you’re making me smile again ...’


* * *

‘So, there’s the Odéon, Shaun. Théâtre de l’Europe. Pretty impressive, eh?’

‘Yep. And still in one piece, it seems.’

‘I think so. Apart from another awful coloured banner! Hey, haven’t we been lucky so far?’

‘Actually, I’d say the people of Paris have. But I’ve still got that sense of something amiss over by the university.’

‘I hadn’t forgotten. And I’m still putting it off!’

‘Well, let’s keep moving. Where next?’

‘Up to another café. But we won’t stop at this one — yet!’

Voilà! Doesn’t it look fine? Le Procope! Fondé en 1686. Claims to be the oldest restaurant in Paris. In the world, actually! This place has seen it all, Shaun. I’m really tempted to come back here for dinner tonight, if we’re still around.’

‘Excellent idea. So you’ll postpone the cultural commentary until then, yes?’

‘OK, Mr Philistine.’

‘Now who’s being unfair ...?’

‘Right — you asked for it! Soon as I’ve booked a table here, we’re going straight to the Institut de France!’

‘Wow. All that glorious decoration! And the gilded clock and dome. Fantastic!’

‘So, still looking good to you, Donna?’


‘Great. And I do know all about the stuff they do here, my lady. No need for the lecture.’

‘Fair enough. It’s your loss if you don’t really ...’

‘Hah! Don’t believe me if you don’t want to.’

Such lovely eyes! Robert Redford eyes!

‘OK, up to Place St Michel now.’

‘Well, I can’t imagine anything they could swap with the Liberation Monument.’

‘No, it is rather ... unique.’

‘Yep. So, along Boul Mich’ now, Shaun?’

‘Sure. But I’d like to stop off at a big bookshop.’

‘Well, there’s a Gibert Jeune branch right here. And another one across the road. They don’t come much bigger than that.’

‘Fine. Meet you back here in half an hour, then?’

‘All right. I can find plenty to browse. See you soon ...’

So, let’s find the Molière section. Never tire of looking at all the different editions ...

Here we are. Ah, there’s a new Collected Works! Hmmm ... maybe, one day, when I can afford it. And here are all the individual plays. Wonder if I should buy a copy of one I don’t ...

‘Aaaarrgh! Shaun!!’

’S’il vous plaît, mademoiselle!’

’Oh, pardonnez-moi!’

Gotta find Shaun. Where to start? Think, woman, think! ... Well, the last book he bought was in English. So maybe ... Go for it, girl! But which floor?

Ah, there he is, in the far corner! Good guess, Donna. And he’s just paying for another book ...

‘Shaun, come quickly!’

‘What is it?’

‘They’ve messed around with the titles of two of Molière’s plays!’


‘Come on ...’

‘There! Look! In English this one ought to be Don Juan, or the Banquet of Stone. And that one ought to be Tartuffe, or the Impostor. But they’ve swapped the subtitles, Shaun! And now this one’s Don Juan, or the Impostor! And the ...’

‘No, Donna, it’s not.’


‘Sshhhh, or they’ll throw us out. Now, I can’t see anything wrong, Donna. Even in the actual French! You’re just imagining it. They must be getting to you ...’

This isn’t right. None of this is right.

Oh Mother!

‘Hold me, Shaun.’

‘There. Easy does it .......’

‘Thank you.’

‘Better now?’

‘A bit.’

‘Wanna check the books again?’


‘Sshhhh! OK, let’s go, right now. We’ll find somewhere to sit down outside.’

* * *

‘Ready to move off again?’

‘I think so. Nice and steady though — I’m still feeling quite shaky.’

‘OK. I’ll do the piloting for a while. Still following my nose from yesterday’s vibrations. So, up the boulevard first.’ ... ‘Now we’ll turn left into the Rue des Ecoles.’ ... ‘Here’s the Sorbonne entrance — and it looks all right to me.’

‘Yes, it does. Very refined.’

‘Good. If you’re happy, I’m happy. Trouble is, I can still sense something nearby. So, let’s go up to the Panthéon next.’

‘OK. But you don’t really think they’d dare to meddle with that wonderful building, do you? There are so many great writers interred there — Voltaire, Rousseau, Dumas, Hugo, Zola, Malraux ...’

‘We turn left here, Donna, and it’ll be straight ahead. You stay behind me, and I’ll check it out first, OK? And then ... oh dear ...’

‘Let me see! Let me see!’ ... ‘Oh my god! They’ve swapped it with the Mansion House in London!! Oh, they’re really cunning, Shaun! Those façades are so similar! Help us, somebody please help us!’

‘Come on, Donna, we need to move away again.’

‘OK — just find us a bar, Shaun!’

‘All right, I’m on it ...’

* * *

‘Do you want another one?’

‘Yes, please. Actually, no, I don’t. Gotta keep my head today.’

‘Good idea. A lot of people have lost theirs in this city.’

‘Shaun! This is no time for fun and games!’

‘Of course not. Though I am wondering if dear old Boris is now hard at work behind the façade of the Panthéon.’

‘Stop it!’

‘Sorry. But I reckon you’ve done enough inspections for today, right?’

‘Yes, I think so. Although talking about mayors, I did want to check out the Mairie and the Faculté de Droit, but ...’

‘I’m sure they’re just fine, Donna. These people probably wouldn’t make three changes in the very same square.’

‘Oh, what are we going to do about it all, Shaun?’

‘I’m not sure. I’d still rather keep a low profile. But something tells me they might be planning to show their hand quite soon ...’

‘You do have a very good feel for what’s going on, don’t you?’

‘Yes. I don’t know how or why, but yes, I do. And right now I feel you need a complete break from it. How about a gentle stroll over to the Luxembourg Gardens?’

‘That’s a lovely idea, Shaun. It deserves a kiss!’ ... ‘Mmmm.’ ... ‘OK, I’m ready to roll.’

‘Don’t forget to pay the bill ...’

‘Oh, thanks for reminding me!’

‘So, we’ll carry on down Rue Soufflot ... and look, Donna, the Eiffel Tower’s still all right, way over to the west.’


‘And here’s a big Internet café, on the corner of Rue le Goff. Always good to know where they are.’

‘Never use them myself.’

‘Right. So, across Boul Mich’ in a minute, and then in we go. I’ve always loved these gardens.’

‘Me too.’

‘This is a nice little walk, Shaun. Very relaxing. And the Palace is still looking wonderful, isn’t it?’

‘Yep. But we’re off-duty, remember?’

‘I know. And I am feeling rather tired again.’

‘OK. Look, it’s nearly five o’clock. I’d quite like to pop back to that Internet café and catch up on a few things. Why don’t you sit down on the grass over there and have a good rest? You can even pretend ...’

‘... that I’m in a Manet painting. Very funny. But if that’s what you want to do, fine. Don’t be too long, though.’

‘I won’t.’

Nice idea, actually. Pretend I’m in a painting this time, and not just watching one develop and then spoiling it. But I’ll be keeping all my clothes on. Pretend I’m in Monet’s attempt instead!

Shut your eyes, Donna. No-one’s watching you. Try to relax. Shaun will be back soon.

No, I really don’t like not being able to see what’s going on around me. This isn’t going to work.

Oh my god. That tree root just reminded me of Roquentin! And he had that awful “crab’s thoughts” experience in this very garden, too!

Aaaarrgh, that feeling’s drowning me again. It’s everywhere! I’m nowhere. This is nowhere land! I can’t stay here. I’ve gotta find Shaun again, fast!

‘Back up to Boul Mich’ then!’ ... ‘Run, Donna, run!’ ... ‘Cross the street here.’ ... ‘Along to Rue Soufflot.’ ... ‘Turn right, it’s not far now .......’

Oh, he’s just leaving the café! But he’s not coming back this way ... he’s crossed the street and he’s heading north, down towards St Germain. What’s going on?


He can’t hear me over the rush-hour traffic. What shall I do? I need to know what he’s playing at. Dammit, I’m going to follow him. A little Roquentin adventure of my own!

Now he’s turned right. Where is he going? Down towards Maubert, I guess ...

Proceed to part 3 ...

Copyright © 2010 by Michael E. Lloyd

Table of Contents

Home Page