unfinished / unready / unpublished short fiction = Wor(d)s in Progress & Developing Characters by Jeff Glovsky
Compendium: finished & published from "Underwear Woman Digs The Sea"
I meet him in the Tuileries. Two wide eyes smiling up at me…
“Bonjour,” he winks and stares intently, juice of some sort staining grapely. “Hello!”
I, disillusioned, sit beside him. “Hi…But why do you speak English? You’re a French kid, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” he says, English again. Then back, “Et vous?” and forth again: “One sees you are an English, non?”
“Yes, English. Oui, I speak English.”
“Teach me?” He is smiling grapely. Giggling just a little, cute. “Mon Dieu!” he cries.
…His boat has sunk.
The little boat he’s prodding with a stick has tipped and’s going down. “Mais c’est d’la merde!” he shrieks, “n’est pas?“
“Calm down! Dude…Boy…How can I help you?”
“Non! No one,” he sighs, resigned.
“Listen,” he says, with a sweep of one arm. “Lend me a couple of euro, can’t you?”
I’m taken aback, a little bit. “A couple of euros? Whatever for?”
He smiles and takes a swig of juice. “I’m hungry,” he swallows. “American, non?”
* * *
“I’m writing a book about France,” I tell him.
…I don’t know, really. “You’re from where?” he continues.
“Me, from New York. And yourself?”
“From Paris. Listen!” he’s about to tell me, when a group of Italians starts feeding some pigeons. “Now they’ll never go away. But me, I talk about these Italians! Allez! Go! ‘Shoo’ away from here!”
“Are you finished…?” I ask of him after a moment.
He’s standing on top of his cane wicker chair. “I can’t eat more! Me, now I am thirsty. Say, buy me a coffee?
“I’d like to learn English,” he states, sitting down.
“And me, French. I’m pathetic.”
“But I understand you.”
“But you’re just a kid,” I remind him.
“You think I’m a kid, you speak bad and simply, I won’t know the difference?”
“I didn’t say that!”
“I am French! It’s my language!”
“How old are you anyway?”
“Me, I have seven. But listen,” he starts once again in that tone. “I ask you must help me…But look! Mais regard à cet énorme serveur, là!”
“Mate-moi! Énorme est-il, pas vrai?” The child is flapping both wrists up and down, like he’s caught a hot coal in a Christmas stocking. “C’mere,” he leans forward. “There’s something more. Can you hear me?” he whispers. “Him STINK aussi!”
I freeze, as our ‘enormous’ and ‘stinky’ waiter comes over. “Messieurs?” he intones. We order two pastis.
The boy’s wide, young eyes smile bright into mine. “But regard what a slob!” now he’s howling, still flapping…Clapping both his little hands. “You see the look of the sick on him?”
“Dude! You are rude, dude! A little rude French dude!”
“I am ‘rewwd’? What is it? I am like ze pu-pu?”
“What’s your problem?”
We snort and throw bread at each other.
The boy has sucked both pastis down…now snaps for another. “I’m DRUNK!” he shouts happily, clapping again.
“T’es fini?” he asks finally. “I’ve something to show you.”
…Hand in hand down the boulevard Beaumarchais;
(“Hurry up!” he’s excited. “We’re almost near there!”)
pas de deux with the devilish Parisian traffic…a stop on the rue St.-Antoine for some cake. Then, “Look out!” the boy shouts as a moped farts past me!
A post office: key the boy has does not fit…
“In Box 12,” shouts he, petulant. “Twelve, for Legrand!”
There’s some shuffling…small banging, behind a box wall. “There is no mail inside the Box 12 for Legrand,” a voice yawns. Then there’s laughter: “…an end to that conversation,” we overhear.
“There is no ‘conversation’, canard! Do your job!”
We leave the post office (“Putain! In your country! They kill people, yes?”). We come to a little storefront and go in.
“Allô, Petit,” smiles an elderly woman. She is reading Le Monde in a chair, smoking cigarettes. “Who’s your friend?”
“None of your business, my dear!”
“Mother,” he mumbles to me, introducing. “She bothers the piss out of me.”
“What’s your name, anyway?” as we climb up some stairs.
“I am Charles,” says he. “And you, what? Tim, non? Kevin?” I tell him my name. “As I thought! Typical. You are dumb, non? American?”
“…wouldn’t say that.”
It’s dark on the landing we stand on together. A key slides in, clicks about…Door opens wide.
We are inside a room bright and wide as an eye.
“Hello!” says the boy to each wall, then the floor…then each table and chair, little bed, dresser, window.
He saluts and ça vas everything in the room, nods and talks to it.
…Sits on the edge of the bed, starts to cry. “I can’t…,” he begins. Then, “Ok! I will finish!” He spins a small easel around from a corner. I see he’s been painting, and truly, that corner!
“You see,” he declares with a wave of both arms. “It is garbage!”
“But…real,” I say. “Like…you’ve got the perspective…like…You know?”
“The dark, she is wrong though! The shadow, she’s here!” He starts pounding the wall, near the corner, with clenched fists. “Mais putain de la merde!”
“Look!” composing himself finally. “There’s one other thing…”
From the dead of the vast, airy space he uncovers a sculpture, all scraggled, chipped granite and tears…”Voilà!” he exclaims. Swirls its sheet like a bullring…
“C’est moi! Do you like him?”
“When I had four, only!”
“That’s great! I…I can’t even see any difference,” I tell him.
“But the sky falls between me and me, the two ages!”
I stare at his wide block of stone little mess…Then at him.
It’s apparent there’s something deficient.
“…I like it?”
“C’est moi, non?”
“You’ve got the perspective!”
I watch him for five minutes then, stare out the window; completely transfixed…like he’s Coltrane, or Sonny or Pharoah in solo; he’s digging inside of himself, staring deeper…All swinging, and digging a bird little tune. “Say, what’s that you’re humming?”
“One concert I wrote. Are you hungry?”
“We just ate!”
“I must eat again!”
* * *
On the rue Chemin Vert, Charles bursts into tears. He has misplaced his little blue flask full of grape juice.
“I’m thirsty,” says he. “Have you got a few euro?”
We sit once again at a sidewalk café. Now it takes Charles a while to settle in…First, the light is not right (“Here’s too bright!” the boy says); then a breeze breathes uncomfortably down his left shoulder. “Bon. We change seats,” he declares, and stands up to do so.
“I like this seat,” I tell him. “I don’t want to change…”
“Mais quoi?” then he snaps. “Does it make a difference?”
He moves to a table around the corner.
“…sont pas satisfaits, messieurs?” a waiter bows snidely. “Alors,” he begins. “Tell me: First, le petit…”
“That is you,” Charles yells to me. “Small, I am not!”
We order two glasses of beer and a pastis. “Say, Charles…,” I call to him after some moments.
“Comfortable there, little dude?”
“I am writing!”
“Je vois…What about?”
“You will see it!”
We sit at our two separate tables in silence. “Hey, Charles…?”
“Lend me a cigarette, will you?”
“I don’t smoke, mec. Sorry.”
“You drink, though…”
“Not really. My birthday, she’s next month. Bon! There…It is finished. Voilà!”
He reads to me: “Grey snow falls / Hot! Your eyes Cold. Are cold / You are cold.
“I must weep!”
I peer round the corner to find Charles bleeding. “Dude! What have you done to yourself?”
“I am awful!”
The point of his pen is dark, covered in blood. “I am fine, mec! It is only a scratch. It is always.”
“You’ve done this before to yourself!?”
“GO AND GET US SOME BALM AND SOME BANDAGES, canard!”
The waiter does not forget to bow. “You are batshit,” I say to the kid. “Fucking crazy! What is with you?”
“You are seven years old!! You ‘can’t’? What, you ‘can’t’!? Fucking get it together!”
With a gesture of proud recognition, the boy sits back happily…crosses his legs…finishes off the second beer.
A woman waves, crossing the boulevard toward us. To say she is stunning, would just be a sentence. To see’s to believe, and to feel and need…of her infinite plateaus, bright, white skin like light…She floats up on our curb with two Hindenburg lips, and her Rubenesque, rapturous, feminine…trips, but then kisses the boy and breathes into his eyes, and I watch as his slim little penis grows stiff!
Charles sighs. “Ah, Chantal,” again…closes his eyes. And says, “This is my new friend. American. Bruce…?”
“Hi, I’m JEFF. Are you Charles’ sister?”
“His sister? My God, no! Me, I am his model.”
“Mais, oui!” Charles affirms. “She invents form, Chantal.” I watch as the two fold inside of each other. “Your father…?” he asks her.
“Is well today, thank you. But is it you’ve taken your medicines, Charles?”
“Oui, oui. But you needn’t disturb yourself, Sweet. I have finished my ‘Opulent Woman, or Lover’!”
“Yes, have you? You must let me see her! Oh, Charles!”
“Oui? Shall we go walking, my love?”
They are gone.
* * *
Light City…Heat, slow morning waking: languid stretch of boulevards, blood trickling, tingling soft and through them…Birds wink, street-smart river sneezes. Breezes: coffee being baked. Hot bread…incredible delights!
Old World War II survivors and their lineage, and their lineage…and the noses, aquiline and airward…Smell the cake of Revolution…
Elba blooms and breathes each morning, swirling through each Gallic wake!
I spy young Charles across the street. He’s strolling in the fresh-baked sun, new breathing in the day’s Potential…Hands behind his back, he’s taking careful, measured strides toward nowhere; head appreciating all: each movement, sound (each bird), each stirring breeze, each scent found new to him…He swoops to pick a dandelion, stoops to pat a dog’s rough coat…
I call to him. “Bonjour!” waves he. Strides briskly across the avenue toward me. “Why do you eat here?” he asks.
“I like the placidness of here…this boulevard, in early morning. Why is it you’re walking here?”
“New York, she is not ‘placid’, yes?”
“New York! Is why I’m over here…Away from that.”
“I see. Your book…She is progressing nicely?”
“It’s coming…Going. Oui, ça va.”
“But I cannot eat here!” he reminds himself. “I cannot drink this coffee, and the croissants are not possible! Bon. What I began to you last week…?”
Yes…Listen, he’d often begun in that tone. “Yeah?”
“I have a cousine to Chantal. Chantal, she is the beauty…”
“Yes! Remember…I remember, of course. The model…”
“Oui oui oui, c’est elle, la meme! Chantal, she has one cousin called Solange. Solange, a virgin…She is waiting for her happiness…With you, mec! She has seen you here!”
“See you pose here every morning…”
“‘Writing’, in your little book! I saw you in the Tuilleries last week, I knew I’d found you for her.”
“What, me? Or some ‘ideal’ she has? ‘American’ or ‘Writer’ (Posing??)…”
“But you are being vain! Comment?”
“I’m vain? Hardly! I just want to know…”
“How did she describe me to you!?”
…Poem of the smoothest Port, Chantal pours warmly into us. “Bonjour, les gars!” she kisses round. “Mais Charles! You are here?” she starts.
“Mais oui, my love! I kiss the Day…”
“These croissants are not possible!”
Chantal and Charles start to fight. She tells him he’s a “naughty child”…He calls her a “spoiled slut”! “You know, you must excuse us,” Chantal says. “He’s disagreeable.”
“Not me, ma petite fleur! It’s you, who drives me to my wit’s end!”
“Tell her she sounds poisonous!”
“I do not care! I’m full up!”
“Charles…“, Chantal implores me, sobbing.
“I know,” I mutter. “…cat ain’t right.”
“It’s you I make this favor for, my love! I must be working now! Instead, I’m standing, screaming here…Stress kills, you know? Putain d’la merde!”
He’s pounding on the table with both fists, keeps howling epithets. “Hopeless American! Empty cow!” A waiter steps out cautiously. “And you!” the boy screams. “What’s your function!? Go and get us something, won’t you? Coffee! Tea, perhaps! A ladder…Go and do your job and GET! Pu-TAIN! This world, I do not love him…
Chantal has slapped his face.
* * *
The Tuilleries glisten. I listen, the heartbeat…
“Good morning,” she says, in perfect English. Little girl of ten or so.
“Why hey there. Are you American?”
“Where are you from?” I ask.
She’s shy. “St. Louis. Where do you come from?”
“Me? I’m American too. New York. You’re here with family?”
“Uh-huh…Well, listen, Gotta go. Stay safe in the park here. Where are your parents?”
“My cousin. She’s having breakfast, I guess, with her weird French boyfriend.”
“Got it!” I laugh. “Be careful, anyway. Nice meeting you,” extend my hand. She smiles…sits on both of hers. “I’m Jeff,” I tell her. What’s your name?”
“Solange,” she giggles shyly.
©2003 by Jeff Glovsky
More Wor(d)s in Progress: & Developing Characters: Hind Forward (unready, 1999) Weird Grace Descends (unfinished, 2003) Ripe, Delicious (unfinished, 2004) 2012 Remix: Read (Delicious) from Underwear Woman Digs the Sea Compendium (finished & published) Slice / Life (annoyances, episodes) Jeff Glovsky INK: What's in a Name?