by Michael E. Lloyd
Table of Contents|
Book I: Windmills Everywhere
Chapter 5: Dazing Ape Harry
part 3 of 3
How much further? I didn’t know the back-streets got as “back” as this around here ...
Ah, he’s stopped at last. And he’s gone in through a door. Must be another little café or something.
Let’s just take a little peek through the first window, Donna ...
Oh, I don’t like the look of this place at all. A “seedy bar” if ever I saw one. And there’s no sign of him on the ground floor. Stairs leading up and down, though. Why would he want to come here?
But he must have his reasons. Maybe it’s something to do with the conspiracy? Yes, that must be it! He said he thought they might be making contact soon.
Right, I’m not staying here. I’m going straight back! Leave him to it!
There’s the Internet café again. Dammit, I can’t be bothered to go all the way back to the Gardens and that disgusting tree root. If Shaun’s going to play adventure games, so can I. Wonder if they serve real drinks here ...?
* * *
‘So there you are! I thought you never frequented Internet cafés!’
‘And I thought you were coming back to the Gardens! It’s gone seven o’clock! I came to find you at half-past five, but I just missed you. I saw you disappearing down towards the river ...’
‘Ah ... well ... I had to go on a little mission. For both of us.’
No apology, eh?
‘And what was all that about, then?’
‘Well ... I’d only been here ten minutes when I overheard a couple of guys talking — in French. Over there. I couldn’t be sure, but I thought they were maybe discussing the building swaps ...’
So I was right! But I didn’t see any guys walking ahead of him. But then again I wasn’t looking for them. Get a grip, Donna.
‘Oh, Shaun ...’
‘Yeah. That’s it. So ... so when they left I followed them to a cheap little bar. And I took a chance and went in and asked them about it. And guess what?’
‘I don’t know, Shaun! Just tell me!’
‘They were computer geeks. They’d been planning some new PC game software. Turned out I’d heard them talking about the building scenery they were going to need, and I’d got the wrong end of the stick completely. And that’s it.’
‘That’s it? But you were away for nearly two hours!’
‘Well, we all had a good laugh about it, and then a few drinks. Nice guys, actually. And no harm done.’
‘We haven’t got any further with the conspiracy, then?’
‘I’m afraid not.’
‘So what now?’
‘Well, I believe you’ve booked dinner at Le Procope. A small aperitif first at their tiny bar, perhaps? On me.’
Hold your tongue, Donna.
* * *
‘Now we really do go back into history, Shaun. La Fontaine used to eat here. Think about that! And Voltaire’s table is still in place! Franklin and Jefferson dined here. Rousseau, Diderot and Beaumarchais too. Marat, Danton and Robespierre built the revolution here. Napoléon Bonaparte left his hat here! Then it was Balzac and Hugo, George Sand and Verlaine, and Anatole France. And just about anyone else who mattered in their day. Amazing. What a privilege it is to eat here myself at last!’
‘Can’t argue with that, Donna. And I’m charmed by your enthusiasm!’
He’s either a very good liar or just very good.
‘Thank you, Shaunie. I’m glad you’re so interested! Most people aren’t.’
Story of my life.
‘Ah, here comes the main course!’
So that’s the end of that conversation.
Well I’m damned! There’s that young American couple from the restaurant last Friday evening. They’re here tonight, too — and they’re going to sit right next to us, and smile a lot again! What an amazing coincidence. Still, I guess it must happen quite often in Paris ...
Anyhow, back to my man ... Oh, he’s spotted them too!
‘Good evening. Beautiful restaurant, isn’t it?’
‘It certainly is, sir.’
‘You’re from the USA, aren’t you?’
‘Yes! How could you tell?’
‘We’re on our honeymoon, you know! It’s our first time in Europe. And we’re choosing a more expensive restaurant every night!’
How does he do it so easily? I just couldn’t.
‘So, where are you staying?’
‘At the Ritz! For another six days!’
‘Aha! Lovely place. Place Vendôme. So, maybe I’ll ... we’ll bump into you there too, later in the week.’
‘I hope so.’
‘Well, let me leave you in peace to enjoy your own dinner now.’
‘Thank you! We will!’
Hello-o?? I’m over he-re ...
‘Nice couple, Shaun.’
‘Yeah. And this steak’s perfect. How’s your coq au vin?’
‘I know what I said this morning about using the Métro today, but I’d like to get a taxi straight back now.’
‘Fine by me. Save our energy for ...’
* * *
‘I need a shower! But would you like to go first again tonight?’
Aahhhh. Back to his normal charming self.
‘Yes, please, Shaunie baby.’
‘All yours now.’
So, I wonder what book he bought today? Go on, Donna, have a quick peep in his jacket ...
Stranger and stranger, Albert.
Right, one more little job to do ...
Monday 11 May
Not much time for this again tonight!
Too many new frights today. But Shaun was always there. Usually. Eventually.
I wish I understood him better. I wish I understood men better.
But I’ve only known him for ... god, it’s still just ten days! Wow. Plenty of time, Donna.
Ah, here he comes.
* * *
‘I had an awful dream last night.’
‘Oh, I’m sorry. Pass the croissants, please.’
‘I dreamt that several paintings and sculptures in the Musée d’Orsay had been swapped around! Their placards didn’t match them any more. It was horrible.’
‘Oh dear. So let me guess ...’
‘Yep. I want to stroll down there first thing today, just as we said we might, and spend the morning checking it all out. The sky’s looking very dull, so we won’t be missing any special weather.’
‘That’s OK by me. But I do think they’re only messing with buildings, Donna.’
* * *
‘Well, we’ve been here nearly two hours and I haven’t spotted anything out of place yet.’
‘I think I’d have soon known about it if you had.’
‘Hmmm. But it has been wonderful to see all these great works of art again, hasn’t it?’
‘Oh look, Shaun! There’s Degas’ statuette, Cheval arrêté. Isn’t it beautiful!’
Orsay-Horsey or say Nausée ...
‘Sorry, what did you say?’
‘I said it was fantastic.’
‘Right. Now, I only have one more painting to check out, then I can relax. It’s Van Gogh’s Starry Night over the Rhone. I dreamt it had been swapped with the other famous Starry Night in the New York Metropolitan! Come on ...’
‘Phew. It’s still here! And there are so many people looking at it, Shaun ...’
‘... and another group coming up behind us ...’
I know this is the right painting. But I can’t get the other one out of my head.
Oh god. Pure isolation. In the midst of all these people! I’ve never felt so lonely or exposed. Oh no, something’s coming ...
‘Shaun, we have to leave. Right now!’
‘Plenty of open space out here, Donna.’
‘Yes. Oh, it felt so bad!’
‘What was it? Claustrophobia?’
‘No. It was ... hey, do you really want to know?’
‘Yes, I do.’
‘Well, it wasn’t Roquentin’s sense of disgust or vague fear — that was always brought on by seeing certain things around him, in that moment. I’ve been experiencing some of that myself over here, this week ...’
‘... and it wasn’t Meursault’s nonchalance or indifference about everything. I understand that well enough, too — it’s just how I feel now about all my so-called mothers and fathers ...’
‘... no, it was much more of an overwhelming dread or anxiety — about something unspeakably awful hiding round the corner, something I won’t be able to prevent or control when it appears!’
‘Donna, if you know you can’t do anything about it, I suggest you try and forget it. You die if you worry ...’
‘No, I just ...’
‘So, how about a drink and an early lunch, to beat the rush again?’
‘Shaun, I really think ... Well, I suppose that might ...’
‘The Café de Flore looked very nice yesterday.’
‘Oh, all right. I give in. Lead on, Robin. And shout when you spot a cash dispenser.’
‘Merci, monsieur. The meals were excellent. And this is for you.’
’Je vous en prie, mademoiselle. Et merci à vous.’
‘Right, Shaun. I’ve decided I’m gonna steer clear of public buildings for the rest of the day. Risk avoidance, right?’
‘And there’s something I’ve always wanted to do here ...’
‘I’d like to pay my respects to some more of my heroes and heroines. In the Père Lachaise Cemetery.’
‘I’ve never been there either.’
‘I’d understand if you’d rather not come, though ...’
‘Oh, I’ll string along. I can protect you from all the phantoms.’
‘You won’t need to do that — these are all very respectable! But it’s a big place, and there’s a lot I want to see, so let’s not waste time with the Métro, eh?’
‘Well, there’s a free taxi just coming along ...’
‘Then grab it, Shaun!’
* * *
‘It’s still rather dull and cool — but that’s just right for an afternoon’s wandering around. And it all looks rather hilly, too!’
‘Yeah. Bet I’ll last longer than you, though.’
‘Hah! Right, straight to the Information office first. I need to get a Plan and make a plan ...’
‘OK, Shaun, I’m ready. It’s half-past one. There are twenty-four tombs I really want to see, and they’re dotted all over the place. It’s gonna be a long job. So I’m very glad you came. Here’s your copy of the layout. We’ll start in Section 3. Let’s go!’
‘So, Jules Romains first. The world was your adventure, sir.
‘Now on to the next section .......
‘Here’s Colette’s tomb, Shaun. What a life! And Rossini’s is over there. Ah, it says here his body’s been transferred back to Italy. Look at those old red doors. Rather run-down, aren’t they?’
‘Yeah. Right, who’s next?’
‘Slow down! OK, it’s Musset — he should be quite close by ...’
‘Yep, found him.’
‘Great. Oh, his bust looks very elegant.’
‘So does yours.’
‘Shaun, behave! Now, at the end of this path ... yes, there’s the huge Monument to the Dead. Look at those poor unhappy souls — and that beautiful image of love and hope at the base of it all!’
‘Very poetic, Donna.’
‘So, we’ll climb up to the right now, and get modern for a moment ...’
‘Ah, here she is! Edith Piaf! Still no regrets, I’ll bet. OK, on to Section 7 .......
‘There’s Pissarro, Shaun. Lovely paintings — full of light! And now, back to the music again .......
‘Ah, found him at last. Jim Morrison!’
‘Another run-down Door.’
‘Oh please, Shaun, do show a bit of respect!’
‘I should think so. Jim used to go for long walks here, you know — admiring the city’s architecture. Just like me. Just before he died. And look at the inscription ...’
‘You need to lighten up yourself, Donna.’
‘Fair enough. So, more music, maestro, please. On to Section 11 — we’re looking for Bellini first ...’
‘Here he is.’
‘Thanks. Oh, actually, he isn’t. He’s gone home to Italy too, it seems. Bel canto, signore! Now, Chopin’s somewhere around here too .......
‘Voilà! But he’s not resting in peace with “George” after all, is he? OK, let’s move across to find David .......
‘Got him. What do you think of the Death of Marat, Shaun?’
‘It was terminal. Hey, we’re getting on quite well, aren’t we?’
You and me, or this afternoon’s job?
‘Yes. But I think it’s going to get a lot tougher. We start climbing now, up to Section 23 ...’
‘Isn’t this an amazing place, Shaun?’
‘It’s another world, Donna.’
‘So, here’s my next hero. Nobody paints human flesh as well as Ingres! Do you love his work too?’
‘I prefer congress.’
‘You’re sick, my friend!’
‘Physician, heal thyself.’
‘Hah! But now you do have to be serious. This is the moment I’ve really been waiting for. Please, Shaun.’
‘OK, I promise.’
‘Thank you. Right, follow me ...
‘And look, they even have a path named after them .......
‘Oh, here they are! At last! La Fontaine and Molière — and both tombs side by side, surrounded by glorious trees. How marvellous! Look, Shaun, I’d like to sit down on the wall over there and just have a long, quiet look at this beautiful scene, OK?’
‘Sure. I’ll leave you in peace for a few minutes.’
‘Finished your little homage?’
‘Yes. And I’m feeling very insignificant now.’
‘But you shouldn’t be, Donna. You’re a perfect human being, as wonderful as any of them.’
‘Oh, Shaun ...’
‘Now don’t start crying again. Come on, who’s next?’
‘OK, it’s Daudet. My windmill man. Along here on the right, I think .......
‘Yes, got him! Good. And in the next section we’ll find Beaumarchais. You know, I think he and Rossini ought be rather closer together ...’
‘But that would be a rather close shave.’
‘Ha-ha-ha! Oh, that has actually cheered me up a little bit, Shaun!’
‘Shaun by name and shorn by Figaro.’
‘Oh, stop it, or I’ll wet my knickers!’
‘At least you brought some spares this time ...’
‘Wow, that was a long walk. Right, we’re up at the far north-east end now. This’ll be the final lap, Shaun, and it’s downhill most of the way. Good thing too — my legs are getting very tired again.’
‘So, along to Section 89. We’re looking for Oscar Wilde .......
‘Well, that’s the weirdest looking tomb I’ve ever seen. Really ambiguous.’
‘It seems somehow quite appropriate, Donna.’
‘Yes. Wow. Right, next we’re going à la recherche de M. Proust, Odette.’
‘Phew, he did take a long time to find.’
‘Even more fitting.’
‘Very good, Shaun. Now, Apollinaire’s somewhere in the next section. Maybe we’re looking for beasts or booze or calligrammes .......
‘Ah, there it is! Just a rough obelisk. Amazing.
‘Right, Sarah Bernhardt’s just across this path, I think .......
‘Oh, her tomb’s so pretty, isn’t it!’
‘And now we’ll visit Monsieur Balzac, down by the roundabout .......
‘At last! That took some finding too, didn’t it? But it was worth it. And I’m equally honoured, sir!’
‘That’s the spirit, Donna. So, nearly finished?’
‘Yes. Just four more to see. The tomb of Delacroix shouldn’t be far away ... yes, there it is! Ah, Liberté!
‘That was another fine bust.’
‘Hmmm. And now we’ll look for Caillebotte, a little further down .......
‘Here he is. Oh, he was so important to the Impressionists, Shaun ... he was rich enough to support many of them in all sorts of ways, but he really was a great artist himself, as well. Good on you, mon héros!
‘Now just across this avenue, we should find Bizet .......’
‘He’s over here, Donna!’
‘Wow, that one’s impressive. And it’s suddenly made me think of my daring new red number.’
‘Yes, I’ve thought about that several times myself, this week — on and off.’
‘Enough, you rogue. OK, straight down to Section 66 for our final kicks .......
‘And here’s Seurat’s tomb. What a fitting place to finish! We’re not going to disturb his tranquil scene this time, are we, Shaun?’
‘Good. So, the sun’s come out again, but my legs are killing me. I suggest a taxi over to Bastille and a drink at the Café des Phares.’
‘That sounds perfect.’
* * *
‘Ah, I needed this!’
‘Me too, Donna. That was a very long afternoon without even a cup of tea!’
‘I know. Thank you for indulging me. I’m still not sure what I’ve done to deserve it, but I’m really grateful.’
‘I expect you can find your own little ways to pay me back ...’
He is a devil.
‘I’ll try. Hey, doesn’t the July Column look magnificent, with that glorious golden Spirit of Freedom at the top, looking just like Mercury!’
‘It’s stunning. And so upright.’
‘You fool! One of these days, I’ll .......’
‘Hey, what’s wrong?’
‘Eh? Oh, I don’t know. Anyway, I was going to tell you a bit about this wonderful café. It .......’
‘No, it’s OK, I just felt a bit woozy. And I’m not .......’
‘Yes? Sorry. Wow, I’m feeling really tired again. I think I need to go straight back to the hotel and have a little rest before dinner. Do you mind?’
‘Of course not.’
That’s my guy.
* * *
‘Like me to massage your feet?’
‘Nice idea, sir, but I think that might wake me up again! Not what I need right now.’
‘OK. You get your head down straight away, and I’ll go back out for another stroll. I might check out a few more façades, maybe do some other stuff, you know ...’
‘And if you feel hungry, do go out and get yourself some dinner, if you want to. Don’t wait for me — I might be quite late back ...’
‘OK. Whatever, Shaun. I’m just so tired right now.’
‘Shall I draw the curtains for you?’
‘Yes, please.’ ... ‘Ah, thanks, that’s better.’
‘Right, you have a good rest, and I’ll see you later. Here .......’
Nice little kiss!
‘Thanks, Shaunie. And good luck ...’
With what, actually?
Ah, this bed is so comfy .......
To be continued ...
Copyright © 2010 by Michael E. Lloyd