Friday, May 30, 2008

A story based on Monica's dream

''The story which I am to tell you, will be recited 200 years after my death. I will have returned to soil, as should be, and so will my children and great grand-children have done. Only Ada will still be around. I planted her in 2010, on my 52 birthday''

It was an early summer afternoon, and the sun was strong and sharp, through which one could see leaf of dusts as little snowflakes and white tiny flowers carrying through the widow from the garden. All was full of life. All of the nature uttered sounds, working hard. The green, this green was inimitable. I had to close my eyes. The light was too bright. A bee flowed and sat close to the wardrobe. I observed her delicate wings and their fast moves. She continued to walk as she knew the way. I realised that she went into the space between the wardrobe and wall where I saw to my surprise a kind of shelf. I decided to shift the wardrobe a little bit in order to find out that shelf. Bee flown nervously. I took out my hand and found in her a riddled notebook, with the sketch of Montmartre on brown cover. I saw that there are more similar notebooks, all in the same state, with the Paris cover. I leafed through the notebook hastily seeing yellow pages filled with petty handwriting being written with ink that become to fade away.
I heard some sound of breaking porcelain, oh god that must be Anna, so nervous, as usual. We do not have too much time. We need to prepare the entire house and the garden before new landlords will move in. I got a headache from yesterday for with Tosiek and Anna we celebrated the selling of the house. And Janusz our youngest brother congratulated us via the skype: it is indeed a good deal – he said.
Yes, indeed a good deal, best we could have. The house was old, needed general renovation and they paid surprisingly good money. They have already showed us the plan for new hotel and new garden. They were so excited – and here in the middle we will build a swimming pool. Even Gorlice need a three star hotel. Honestly, I do not care about this plan; I think it is crazy to invest here, in a middle of nowhere and I think they going to bankrupt very soon.
They were like from the moon, I mean from Warsaw, and they did not negotiate the price. The neighbours were jealous. And as for me – I signed with relief. It was pointless to pay all taxes and costs for a house like this, huge, old and so expensive, and nobody lived there, nobody wanted to move. Only Anna disagreed. She was sentimental and cried yesterday. Well, there was something in her arguments – it is a house built by our parents. And our mother was so determine not to sell it, she always repeated – ''it is all you have''. But Anna was a retired teacher and could not have enough money to maintain the house and to pay our parts. It was then better for all, better for all……
Besides, for me this house always brought some burdens, and unnecessities. All the holidays I had to come here from Katowice a distance of 300 kilometres, and recently even every second week when she had started to have problems with legs. She was so stubborn not to move to the city. stubborn, both. They had saved all their money for that house, all their lives! I did not have even pocket money! And recently the garden has became dark and moist, for mother forbid to chop all these old, not bearing fruits, these silly crooked apples trees that overshadowed the house. It was something I could not really believed. How many times we asked to cut these god damned trees?
No time, no time, hangover, we drunk a little bit too much, and then I dreamt about Anna's tears. I do not feel pity at all. You should be more pragmatic. Less burdens, more happiness. That the way it is. My poor sister could not understand the simplest message. No time….Calm down, calm. How many times I had to repeat all that thoughts? How many times I had to go through this labyrinth? Everything has been decided. I should feel now calm. I need to feel calm. And I cannot not. All the time the same burden, when it will stop to heavy my head?
I saw I bowed this strange notebook. There was something in it, a breath of the past, forgotten smell or shape that I could not resist that pushed me to open it once more and pushed me to read my father's diligent writing:

''All my life was full of work and duties. And pain. As a youth, I suffered and could not stand any injustice. But still I believe in good part of the world. I always believed that there is a kind of message in all that moves of nature, like in a game of chess.''

''I meet her in a spa; she was as young as I was. My lungs had already begun to heal; I could spend more hours in the garden with the wild apple trees. She said to me once that she knew she is going to die''

''Love means life and once more I could feel it in my soul. Sometimes I could feel I have two hearts. It was light and good. I could not sleep. Next day I returned home''

''M accepted me; although she knew everything, she knew all at first glance, just looked at my eyes in the platform at the Railway station''

''I found a beautiful quote in Westeren's famous book, something about Ada, and the tree. It was first quote in my diary. I was dreaming about a story of revolutionists from Peru that has been rectified 200 years after his death. I think that our life is even more beautiful because true one and even more magical, for based on facts. Sorrow disappeared for a while when I planted a new apple tree in my garden – Ada''

''I think this ordinary feeling that with passing time you have forgot to name as love, that we had with M, is like our garden. The older the more beautiful.''

Anna went to the room, and smiled:
– Why you laugh? Did you find something funny?
I hid the notebook quickly and could not answer. I watched her wrinkles and tired but still full of light eyes.
– What do have there? Did you find something?
– Well.. Nothing special. Just some stupid bills of mother – she smiled even brighter. Her wrinkles for a moment disappeared.
– ach her bills. Funny woman. You remember? She used to write all her expenses. Well... OK, please hurry, we have only two hours
– I know I know. We will manage Anna.
She went back with reluctance. I threw the notebook away. I didn't want to read it any more. My father as a writer, poet, or whatever. I started to laugh. Miserable. He was coal miner! Or I should cry and cry out loud. Shame of all these lies. Shame of their imagination! It must not be truth. And even if it is, we should not know anything about it; another romance of our father. Another disgrace. Such a contradiction - for all we remember his calm face while he was sitting on the bench in the garden waiting for the twilight; he seemed to be noble, all his moves were full of charm even the way he held his waning cigarette between his fingers; his steadiness and awaiting, and silence that I could not stand. Once I asked him what did he think? He did not react. I left him alone. Now I know… we all supposed something. I decided to burn all the notebooks. It has to be like this. Anna could cry and Tosiek could feel an unnecessary burden. It was my duty to cut the past. I was the oldest. I tore only one page and place it in my pocket. Later, after we gave the keys to new landlords, in Tosiek's car, on the way back to Katowice, I have read on the faded, yellow page:

''What year, what month, what day? I can not longer hear the birds surrounding young Ada; her leaves vanish from my sight''

Monday, May 19, 2008

By the rivers of Babylon (by John)

Blurb & Babel
In bucketloads

Endless streams
Reams and reams
Weighty tomes with
Glossy pics
Little children
Czechs or Greeks

Machine translation
Much more babble
No more FISH
More gook to be gobbled
In staff canteens.

Fonctionnairres gabble as they gobble
in third languages
About third worlds and second marriages
Jargon phrases strung in line
Continuous sentences
Cohesion policies
Contiguous concepts,

Not Mighty Nimrud
Nor Nebudchadnezzar in all his glory
Built such a Babylon
No, Leonardo, Erasmus or Phare-oh
Faced such communication breakdown
Neither Breughel's art Nor Bosch's nightmare could
Foresee such horrors;-

Words grow legs.
Letters breed -


Has, ever in the concours of human endeavour,
So little been owed by so few to so many
Social Partners and Scientific experts
Their words going down in history
Down, down,
History grumbles and groans
drowns under vocab
Gurgles below the grammar
Spits and spots
Sprinkles and splashes
Pools and puddles
Showers, and streams
Rivers and raging torrents
Tides, waves and whirlpools
Eddies and ebbs and flows
An old world destroyed in the deluge

No Gilgamesh or Noah ever gooked gobble like these
Stepping into brave new world, Europabylon
Towers, higher than Babel
Not Nebuchdnezzars boastful bricks
Or hanging gardens
But shiny glass
Towering mounds of words
Endless sentences, with no beginning
subject buried 'neath depths
of Structural regional Subsidiarity,
Globalised Relocations
Restructurings and Adjustment funds

Institutions, member States, regional Authorities
Initiatives and frameworks of cumulated and coordinated analyses
Countless commissioners crafting communications for coming councils.
Competing to capitalise on practices and fostering multi actors approaches to change and restructuring via the restructuring forum

Full forests of fine firs and costly cedars
Consumed to enshrine forever the
Wisdom of Babylon's seers
Hymns to Marduk
Songs of Uruk
Cohesive but incoherent
Still prognosticating on the changing weather
Climactic change
Fulsome, unwholesome,
Endogenous, Indigenous, exogenous. Nitrogenous.

John Rubery

Writing excersices by Monica

1. Continue the story that starts in this way:
"The first time was amazing. The second time pretty good. The third time she was indifferent and by the fourth time she was bored. She could no more. And then the circle started all over again."


2. Complete the story that starts in the following way:
"The story which I am about to tell you, will be recited 200 years after my death. I will have returned to soil, as should be, and so will my grand-children and great grand-children have done. Only Ada will still be around (hopefully - if the vegetation on earth has not changed drastically). I planted her in 2010, on my 52 birthday.

AND finishes like this:

"What year, what month, what day? I can no longer hear the birds surrounding young Ada; her leaves vanish from my sight."

So, if you choose number 1, all you need to do is FINISH the story. If you choose number 2, write the chore of the story, as the beginning and the end are already given!

Vonnegut for Tuesday

Hello all, the reading for this Tuesday is a Vonnegut short story, you can find it here:

We'll meet at Monica's at 8. Thanks to the crazy weather we can build a snowman in her garden. It will be fun! Looking forward to see you and read your stories,



I thought about childhood as a period to survive. I thought that life will start when I grow up and I will be surrounded by friendly adults who will discuss food prices in calm, comforting voice, while drinking cold lemonade on a shaded terrace. I decided that once I will grow up I will never again speak to any child and that if a child will come to me on the street to ask what the time is, I will turn my back on her, and start whistling.
When I was six I was forced to go to school. Until that time I was all right with life and life was all right with me. Even my mother was all right with me at those early years, if I remember well. I never had a father. Normal little girls had fathers, sitting in the armchair of the living room and watching football.
At school I was forced to sit in one place for forty minutes, quietly, motionless. I felt an intolerable tension, as if my body was preparing to explode. I saw myself blowing up, covering the faces of my classmates with a million little particles of Emily. That is my name: Emily. I always felt disconnected from my name. It might have been accidentally exchanged in the newborn department, I thought. There was nothing Emilyish in me. Emily is a blond girl, pale skinned and blue eyed, playing with dolls and wearing a white skirt with yellow flowers. I had dark hair, dark skin and dark eyes, like a goblin. Goblins can be called Gorlak or Singra, possibly Ashanti, but not Emily. I suspected a fatal mistake had happened somehow in the newborn department. What if I was really the child of a happy and loud family with countless brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles? What if my mother had been to the hospital because of a serious flu, and by accident she was sent home with a baby? She might have been too polite to uncover the misunderstanding, as she never liked to reject authorities, such as greengrocers or a nurse. That's what I was in her life: a fatal error.
In the mornings when I stared out of the school bus window, a goblin was looking back at me from outside, with big, dark goblin eyes.
" Hello goblin". I said every morning.
"Hello goblin". The goblin said every morning.
During the breaks at school I was exposed to the endless ignorance of my classmates. They would stand in the courtyard, girls in white skirts in a circle, chatting and laughing. Once in a while I collected all my courage, and approached them. Words can’t kill, but silence can. They stopped speaking, demonstrating how unwanted my company was. That was their game, the only game they played with me: the shut up game. I was standing there, puzzled. I wanted to say something but didn’t find anything to say. So I was just staring at them. That was the only game I could offer to play with them: the staring game. Who can bear it longer without Blinking (?) ? I always won. So they blinked and I went back to the classroom, and sat there until the end of the break.
One afternoon, after an unbearably quiet day, I went home and switched on the television, to fill my head with noises. I chose a football game: television can scare the hell out of you if you are alone at home and it’s getting dark outside, but there is nothing less scary than a football game. Suddenly I found my father sitting in the armchair, watching the game. He had white hair and long white beard; he was a mixture of Santa Claus, Gandalf and God. I leaned my back against his calves, and watched the television with him. I didn’t say a word; I didn’t want to break the harmony of the moment.
"Why do you sit on the floor?" – My mother asked me when she arrived home. – "And why do you watch football? Normal little girls play with dolls, and never watch football".
I didn’t like to play with my dolls, because my dolls were blind and deaf. I could do or say anything to them, but they remained silent. I combed their hair and I dressed them, but they didn’t say a word and I didn’t feel satisfaction. I cut their hair short as if they were soldiers, and gave them orders to kill the enemy, but they didn’t move or say a word, and I didn’t feel satisfaction. I bit their nose, wrung their arms, pushed them under the water, but they didn’t say a word. I hid their abused bodies in the laundry, but my mother found them. I knew that I deserved to be punished, but my mother didn’t say a word, just placed them back on the shelf of my room. My dolls were staring at me accusingly, noseless, with arms untwisted, and I didn’t dare to fall asleep.
On the weekends I tried to play with my mother, but she was always busy with working, cooking, cleaning.
" Do you want me to help, mum?" I asked her.
"Go to play, Emily". She said.
"I don’t know how to play". I said.
" Every little girl knows how to play". She said.
I didn’t know though. No one ever taught me. I was sitting in my room, staring at my dolls. They stared back at me. That was what we were playing: the staring game. Who can do it longer without blinking? They always won.
My happiest day at school was when the new girl came. She was standing alone in the courtyard during the long break, and I collected all my courage to approach her. I didn’t know what to say to her, but I felt comforted already not being alone.
She smiled at me and said that her name was Joan but I can call her Joe. I laughed, and said to her that my name is Emily but she can call me Richard. She didn’t find my joke funny, but she tolerated my company all break long, and I felt full with gratitude. By the end of the day I asked her if she wants to be my best friend. She said she will think about it. I told her that I never had a best friend before, and she could come over after school one day to play with my dolls.
I was so excited to have a best friend that I got high fever on that evening and my mother didn’t let me to go to school, despite my tears and craving. I was forced to stay at home for one week. Next Monday I found my best friend in the circle of the white skirts and yellow flowers. I didn’t dare to approach her there; I had to wait for a moment when she was alone.
Finally she left the circle and entered the school building. I followed her, and found her in the bathroom, washing a spot out of her white skirt. I didn’t know what to say to her.
" Why are you staring at me? " She asked.
"I’m not staring at you. That’s all I found to say.
" Yes, you are staring at me".
" I'm not".
I wanted to ask her if she wants some magic chewing gum, I wanted to ask her if she wants to come over after school to play with my dolls, but my tongue was paralyzed.
"Stop staring at me!" – She snapped at me.
I didn’t know what to say, but I didn’t dare to look at her anymore. So I stared at the yellow flowers on her white skirt.
"Leave me alone, please". She sighed. "I’m new and I need to find friends".
She left me alone in the bathroom. I went back to the classroom and was sitting there until the geography class had started. The teacher was speaking about the mountains, the mines in the mountains, and the minerals in the mines, and I couldn’t concentrate on what she was saying. I wished she had been talking about the goblins and elves living in the mines of the mountains, but she didn’t say a word about them, as if they didn’t exist at all. I felt again the overwhelming compulsion to run round and round the classroom, to scream, to explode. Goblins know how to turn invisible. I climbed silently under my desk, and started to crawl out.
I just have to reach the door and then I can start running. No one would miss me if I leave, and I wouldn’t miss anyone, so if this world is a logical world they will let me leave.
"Ms Mansfield, Emily is under my table! "A girl yelled. I wasn’t invisible anymore, the magic had gone.
-"Emily", - the teacher asked," would you share with us what exactly are you doing under the table?"
I didn’t know what to reply. I was staring at the feet of the screaming girl.
"She thinks she is a bear, she wants to crawl back to the circus". Someone whispered, and the girls were giggling. I pictured myself in the circus, crawling around with bears, jumping through flaming rings, and I had to laugh.
"You are making jokes here? You find it funny, Emily?" The teacher asked. " What will your mother say about this?"
"Why can’t you be a normal little girl like your classmates?" – My mother asked me that evening, after consulting with Ms Mansfield.
" I’m not a little girl". – I said.
If they were little girls, then I couldn’t be one.
"What are you then, if not a little girl?" – My mother asked me. "A little boy?"
A goblin is neither a he, nor a she. A goblin is an ‘it’. Emilit.
" I can be invisible". I said. " I can disappear anytime I want. Do you want me to show you?"
I held my breath and disappeared. Then I exhaled and appeared again.
" I don’t like little girls". I said to my mother. "If I will ever be a mother and I give birth to a little girl, I will leave her in the supermarket. Or exchange her for a male dog".
"Emily, Emily, Emily!". – My mother said.
The following day I was standing on the courtyard of the school, and suddenly I found myself in the centre of the circle. This was the moment I had always dreamed of, and when finally it happened, my blood ran cold.
"We will play with you". They said.
I shook my head.
" I don’t want to play with you". – I said.
"You will play with us". they said. "We will play the school game. You are the teacher, and we are the students".
They gave me a piece of chalk, posted me in front of the wall, and cordoned me with their white skirts. They were waiting for the bear to perform, they wanted circus. I stared dumbly at the yellow-flowered firing squad.
I thought that the moment would never end, and that I would grow old there in the centre of the circle, but suddenly the silence exploded: they burst into screams of laughter. I stood paralyzed where I was placed, in front of the wall, in the fire of laughter.
I started screaming when my mother told me that she had asked Ms Mansfield to speak with the other little girls and tell them to play with me.
"Stop screaming". my mother said. I didn’t stop screaming. My mother went to her bedroom, locked the door and turned up the radio. I was hitting the door and screaming, until I got exhausted.
"How could she do that?" I asked my dolls. My dolls were speechless.
"How could she do that?" I asked my father. My father was speechless.
Thereafter the little girls started to play with me, and I realized how comforting my solitude was before. They took me to their homes after school, they combed my hair and dressed me, but I didn’t say a word and they weren’t satisfied. They cut my hair short and gave me orders, they bit my nose and untwisted my arms, they pushed me under the water but I remained silent and they weren’t satisfied. I was hiding in the laundry, but they found me again and placed me back on the shelf. I was staring at them, speechless, arms untwisted.
Then I grew up.
It took some time, but I survived my childhood. I was looking desperately for so long for those adults , speaking in calm and comforting voices, drinking cold lemonade on a shaded terrace. And when I found them, I saw that they were all wearing white skirts with yellow flowers.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Time to measure

“The timeless in you is aware of life's timelessness; and knows that yesterday is but today's memory and tomorrow is today's dream.” - Kahlil Gibran

Everybody feels sorry for me because I have no parents. The other children in my class make sure to choose me first to their team when we play football – even though I never hit the ball. When we queue for the swings, they all tell me to go ahead. The other children get punished for not doing their homework, but I just receive a tired sigh from Mrs Eglington. It doesn’t matter. I know more than them anyway.

I live with Ranja; she is divorced but still very attractive. I like her. She tells me stories about little princes, lost kingdoms and dragons in the evening. I think she once had a child, a boy like me, but he is gone now. I think he left because he was allergic to the antique furniture in Ranja’s house.

-Areth, let’s build sandcastles together, let’s build up a whole empire that we can rule over until the end of times!
-Until the end?
-Come on, our empire will be the most powerful one you’ve ever seen! Our sandcastle will be the best one ever built!
-What is best?
-Together we can make it big. Let’s make it one whole metre in diameter!
-Yeah, like huge. We can continue working on it tomorrow, and make it even better!
-How is tomorrow?

I like to draw. When I am not in school, or helping Ranja with the household chores, I draw meetings between tiny figures. They are smaller than the children at school, but more intelligent. They live in the valley of Aegon, where trees are simply trees and not short or tall; where not all flowers have a name; and where today is now but so is tomorrow. Once, Ranja found me staring at one of my drawings. It had small stains of water on it, as if the ceiling in my room had been leaking.
-What have you drawn, little Areth? She asked with that sweet but oblivious voice of hers.
-It’s my family. My home. Suddenly ashamed of showing her my tears, I turned away, grabbing the drawing with me. I crumpled it into a small globe, pressing it together as much as I could, and threw it out of the window. Maybe the neighbour’s cat would find it and eat it.

My best friends in school are Ellinor and Imran. They tell everyone they are cousins, but I don’t believe they are related – though one day I think they will be. Our plays are more intelligent than the other children’s, because we play with our minds. We stand in a circle, holding each other’s hands with our eyes closed. Without speaking, I tell them to catch me if they can. Ellinor is always the first one to seize me. She presses my hand firmly, waiting for Imran to also receive the message.

One day when we’re playing our telepathic game, Ellinor does not answer my call. Her hand remains slack like a puppet without its master, and I feel my lungs sinking into my chest. The air is almost out, but I continue holding my breath. The sky is spinning above my head and I see the inhabitants of Aegon gathering around my little blue body. A thin woman with a pencil behind her ear is bent over me, making chirping sounds with her throat.
-My little naughty Areth, my little, tiny precious one…

When I open my eyes again, I find my sighing teacher kneeling next to me. She is wearing a brown hat which looks like a squirrel, and I hide my nose within my palm, so as not to have it mistaken for a nut.
-Little boys need to breath, she tells me mechanically. Otherwise they will die. I know that Ellinor and Imran are gone, and that they will not come back. “You were always the third, you were always the third, you were always the third wheel…” Their singing penetrates my brain, and I start squirming with pain. I want them to stop, but they only sing louder. I see them running hand in hand; with the same blond hair being brushed by the wind. I know now that they will become one family.
-How is third? I ask Mrs Eglington.

Another day, Ranja took me to the zoo to see the lions, the tigers and the ostriches. In one of her magazines, I had seen a lion feasting on a deer that had broken its leg, so I knew what they looked like. Tigers were similar, so I accepted them; but ostriches were untraceable. Ranja told me ostriches have wings, and they stick their head into the ground when they get scared. I saw in front of me a bird being chased by a lion, and suddenly stopping to cover its head in the mud. To me, ostriches did not sound like very intelligent animals.

Ranja is normally good at holding my hand and keeping track of me, but I think she was missing her little boy so much that day that she forgot to look after me. After seeing the tigers, I got bored and drifted away from my caretaker. She was busy helping a less educated girl feed little bunnies with grass. I thought about feeding the bunnies to either the lions or the tigers, and wondered whether this sight would make the ostriches hide their heads in the ground.

They must have been looking for me ever since the sunlight disappeared – I had heard Ranja’s normally calm voice turn high pitch and shaky. There were unknown men’s voices, too. But I was telling a new group of friends about the valley of Aegon, “where you work when you can, and sleep when you can’t”, and they embraced me in their circle of safety. No one asked when or how or why; they simply just listened. Or else they ate – if they were hungry. Or else they picked little dots from each other’s heads. It made me think of a TV programme entitled “The Next Evolution”, which Mrs Edlington had showed the whole class once. At that moment, I knew Aegon was within reach; that the time to measure would end soon, and that I then would get to experience its smell of sand, water and trees; all mixed together in a heavenly bliss.

Monica Westerén, 12.5.2008

Monday, May 5, 2008

Alert: Next session!!

All my lovely creative ones, the next writing session will be tomorrow, the 6 May at my house again!

I was thinking we could start at 7:30 if people could make it - that way we'd still get to enjoy the sun and my lovely green garden! Bring some food if you like, I think I will prepare a salad like last time.

So, what do you say?! I hope many of you will come tomorrow, and that you will also bring loads of words with you... See you under the Brussels evening sun... :)

Ça va?

The internal postman

In average six out of ten civil servants greet him. Two out of ten look at him. Does it mean that he is roughly invisible? Let’s make a test. Let’s move him closer to the civil servant’s table, and let him stare at the face of the civil servant at close quarters with eyes wide open.

No. He is not invisible. The civil servant nervously glances at him and asks: ça va?

Ça va.

His life can be described with these two words: ça va.

Read the story


"I miss your grandmother" he says.
I look at his old face. His sand-coloured skin has become as thin as a parchment and I can spot the veins beneath it.
"Every time I wake up I still think that she would be here", he continues. "It's difficult when I understand that she is not just gone to make some tea".
"You've been married a very long time", I answer, not knowing what to say. This time he mentioned "your grandmother", which meant that he recognized me as being of his kin. He's been staring at me for a very long time. I can tell his brain is trying to remind him of someone he might have known before. He recognises my cousins because they look like their parents. Unfortunately for him my father and I are very different.
"We've been married sixty years" he replies. He looks at me with interrogative eyes and adds: "How old are you by the way?"
"I am twenty five", I answer.
He thinks very deeply before he proudly declares: "We were married more than twice the time that you've been living".
"It is a long time". I never know what to say to him. Usually I just talk about the same things all over again. He never remembers it anyway. I talk about the weather, I talk about my parents, I have to say who my father is and have to remind him that my father is his son. I came to see him once a week since he entered the hospital and he has no idea of who I am. He wouldn't notice if I stopped visiting. Sometimes I feel as if I was wasting my time, and yet I feel like a horrible person for not seeing him more often.
"How are you feeling today, Grandpa?"
"Old. My knee still hurts and I still can't walk".
"It is normal, you broke your knee a month ago", I answer.
"A month already? Yes, I suppose that at my age bruises don't heal as easily as before".
He thinks deeply again.
"When my knee will be better, I will be going home".
I know he won't, and actually, he knows it as well. He now needs constant medical assistance and my aunts have booked him a room in a senior institution. We all loved the family house, though. I have spent many summer holidays there as a child, playing with him, when he could still walk and laugh and remember my name. My grandfather was a very tall man when he was standing up. I was told that he used to be a handsome, career-driven person, yet very kind and excessively fond of his wife and children. He worked until his brain started to dislike the effects of age, then his memory began to unravel. He remained kind and very fond of everyone who was around him, though.
"Do you want to go for a walk?" I ask, which means that I am offering to push his wheelchair to the garden, and maybe to the park if he is feeling like it.
"No, I am fine", he says. "I don't know this garden".
Time is flying and nothing is being said. I know that in no time I will have to go and leave him to his loneliness. I have talked about every topic I could think of. Weather, family, daily routine stuff; all of it was covered. I eventually have to go.
My father calls me when I leave the hospital. "How is he?" he asks.
I say: "He is good."

Looking for the real thing

I normally don’t go anywhere near the Eiffel tower, or any of the other touristy places, but that day I felt like emptying my mind of fine herbs, innovative sauces and the smell of rabbit slowly cooking in a sweet Alsatian wine. The chive straws I use to decorate the mousse de canard were still blinding my sight, and my clothes smelled of fried olive oil. I needed to get out of the restaurant so badly; I hadn’t even dared telling my assistants. I just left.

Le poids rouge was situated in Montmartre; in one of the side streets that tourists rarely find, as the other streets around are more lively and colourful. The flowers never bloom as much on Rue Albert Rouge. The windows are darker, and the air feels slightly stickier. I walked to metro Abesses, and travelled across the Seine to Pasteur, just next to Montparnasse train station. I thought of my brother whom I had last seen there two months ago before he went back to London to his wife and two kids. He had needed I break; I think the week in Paris served him well. He seemed a bit more happy to be alive when we kissed goodbye on the platform. I think he’ll stay by Aida’s side in the end. She is a complicated woman, and having two small copies of her certainly does not simplify matters. But he’s a man of principles at the end of the day – once he has chosen his woman, he’ll stick to her.

By the time the metro reached Concorde, I had seen five women sit down across from me. Four of them had left so far. The fifth one was elderly, with grey hair tucked in under a blue plum shaped hat. Her wrinkled hands firmly gripped a fluffy white handbag, which reminded me of a lapdog my mother used to have when we were kids. The fifth woman did not leave me. I left her. I walked towards the sliding doors (that pinch you very hard if you do not pay attention) and in the corner of my eye I saw her caressing her handbag.

The change to line six was quick, and I arrived at Bir Hakeim 49 minutes after I had left the restaurant. I felt relieved. The afternoon was sunny, and the air was full of foreign languages expressing the beauty of an 81-story high iron construction. I went straight for the hotdog stand and ordered a French one with mustard but no ketchup. I enjoyed my lunch on a bench next to the stand, watching two stray dogs fighting over a left behind sausage (Paris is full of them). The terrier was about to win over the sausage dog, which seemed like a contradiction of terms. Poor dachshund, I thought.

My lunch was interrupted by a tourist looking for “Rue A. Rouge” next to metro Anvers, and my heart did a somersault. I studied him closely, trying to determine whether he was the type to look for an unknown fine dining restaurant in Montmartre. He had blond dreadlocks, an unzipped leather jacket and somewhat baggy pants. He was carrying a backpack the same size as his upper body. His eyes were curiously looking for any sign of recognition.
-Do you happen to know it, mademoiselle? He was red in the face, and his light t-shirt was slightly wet and glued to his chest.
-I come from there, I said. He looked at me; puzzled, waiting for me to continue with my sentence.
-I came from there, I corrected myself. He seemed even more confused, and put down his backpack on the ground. Including the sleeping bag, it reached all the way up to his waist. His eyes asked if he could join me on the bench, and I nodded silently. He seemed like a sweet guy, and my stomach filled me with hope. Maybe he prefers red beans over green ones as well? Maybe he too eats and eats and eats, but never quite manages to still his hunger? Maybe he too has just one piece missing from his puzzle…?
I never got to know. He left me to buy a hot dog, asking me if I could keep an eye on his backpack. I felt slightly irritated, but told him the French one is the best one. He returned with a normal hot dog with ketchup and mustard. I watched him take the first bite, and then he went into fits. He made gasping sounds and put out his tongue like an overheated dog. I passed him my water bottle and he thanked me with his green eyes. Funny, first I had thought they were blue; but now that the sun went behind a cloud, they looked light green.
-Too hot? I asked, and he nodded. His hands looked beautiful around my Evian water bottle. They were large and tanned, with clean short nails.

He was from Canada, travelling across Europe on his own. He had done Scandinavia, Germany, Holland and Belgium. Now he wanted to do Paris as well.
-I want to discover the real Paris, he explained. I don’t want to do the touristy things. On his 4th bite of the hot dog, he told me it felt like the mustard was coming out of his nose.
-It’s normal, I comforted him. It’s absolutely normal. He changed the topic. I wondered if he liked me. I turned a bit more towards him on the bench, and started twisting my hair around my right index finger.
-So… You were telling me that you came from Rue A. Rouge? Is it close to the Moulin Rouge?
-Yes and no… But I’m not really from there. I just work there. I sensed that he didn’t like being corrected, and he punished me by not asking any follow-up questions. I moved my right hand down my side in a sensual way, but he simply looked down in his guide book.
-Because there is this restaurant on that street… Le poids rouge. He pronounced it in perfect French, except that he put too much emphasis on the “poids”, which made it sound like he was referring to a shabby corner bar rather than a fine dining restaurant.
-I own it, I told him, and my chest felt enlarged. Oh. Oh! It had finally made it to the guide books! This was a special day.
-Wow! So, are you the pea? He asked with a twinkle in his eye. That’s awesome! In that case, I shall grant you the honour of my company tonight! They say in the guide book that there is nothing touristy about Le poids rouge, and that it is a good start to discover the real Paris… The way he pronounced the name of my restaurant was getting on my nerves.
-Le poids rouge, I corrected him; putting more emphasis on the ou-sound in rouge. Le poide rouge is a fine dining restaurant in one of the side least discovered side streets behind Sacre Coeur. Do you like mussels?
-I don’t know, he answered, and lifted his shoulders. Never had them!
-I just bought 2 kilos worth of mussels. Do you want to eat at my house tonight instead of the restaurant? I couldn’t believe my ears. I had just offered a complete stranger over for dinner! I didn’t even know his name. My heart was pounding, and I felt suddenly warm inside. He looked up at me, wiped some sweat off his nose and smiled.
-That’s a rather generous offer, mademoiselle… His sentence sailed up towards the blue sky, mixing with Japanese awestruck sighs about the tallest building in France.
-Amandine. I saved his words from flying away to unknown dimensions. Nice to meet you.
-Great, Amandine. I’m Gabriel. I don’t think I can say no to dinner at a professional chef’s house in Paris… It can’t get more real than that! He stood up from the bench, and started searching for something in his backpack.
-This is something small for you. He handed over a key chain in the shape of a red and white beaver. Under it was written “Roots”.
I had a date! A real Canadian date!

* * *

It was kind of weird. She was not bad, though not my definition of beauty by any stretch of imagination. She had long brown hair and her body was a bit too flat for my liking. I like them with curves, and preferably with a somewhat wider arse. I’m completely not into flat arses, but still. She was all right. I had come to Paris to escape from my ex back in Ottawa. I didn’t really want to think about her right anymore, because there was nothing else to think about. She had just left, and that was it. In a way, I think I’m better off without her.

I thought about buying flowers for Amandine, but couldn’t find a flower shop on the way to her house, so settled for chocolates instead. Carte d’Or. It sounded fancy enough; like a “golden opportunity” for something. I arrived at her house at twenty past 8 – just within the range of being fashionably late. I had made sure not to use any after shave after showering – I had read somewhere that women are more attracted to a man’s natural smell. So, here I was; au naturel, outside this real French girl’s house. I peaked into her mailbox and put my right ear towards the front door. I heard a kitchen machine working inside. I knocked five times, but she didn’t hear me. I wondered what she was wearing, and weather her arse would turn out to be as flat as I remembered. I rang the doorbell and the noise inside stopped. The front door flung open, and there she was; the most stunning girl in the neighbourhood. I felt warm inside, and put my left hand into the pocket of my brown corduroy trousers. They were of the loser type, and you can never be quite sure. I felt warm inside, as her small breasts welcomed me inside.

The house smelled of white wine and roasted nuts.
-I prepared an aperitif for us, she said; and offered him a martini glass with an olive stuck to the side. I tried to hide the fact that I don’t like olives by drinking very slowly. That way I was postponing the empty-glass-moment when the owner starts fiddling around nervously with it. I knew that it would look strange at that point not to eat the olive, so I avoided the situation all together. Amandine put a bowl of honey-brown pine-nuts in front of me, and told me “chin-chin”.
-This is the new trendy apero in Paris, she said. I didn’t know if she referred to the nuts or the drink, but I smiled politely. Her breasts looked enormous tonight compared to this afternoon, and I felt that she really wasn’t such a bad girl. She had slim, long legs and a long neck, which kind of made up for the lack of curves.

She served me “moules à la gruyere” and real "crab claws, served on a bed of citronella leaves and asparagus mousse”. It was really nice, and I enjoyed her company. When she laughed, she reminded me of a chimpanzee I had seen last night on TV. She was cute though, I realised. Her nose and ears were small, and her waist was slim. While she was telling me about the hidden areas in the world capital of romance, I got my nerves up and reached over to her neck and touched her.
-I think I’m finding the real Paris… I told her. She laughed nervously, but you could tell she was enjoying the attention. I lifted up her hand and kissed it lightly. She giggled.
-You’re a gentleman! Her English was surprisingly good, and she could keep up a conversation without too much difficulty. I wanted to kiss this real Parisian, but she was too involved in explaining about how she had prepared the raspberry flavoured crème brulée. I don’t eat desserts normally, but this was kind of good. And anyway, I didn’t want to upset her. I thought of the olive still left on the side of my Martini glass. Luckily her back was too it, so she could not possibly have seen it from her side of the table. I’m doing well, I thought to myself. I’m doing really well here in Paris.

* * *

After two bottles of Pinot Blanc, she told him that it was getting late. He played stupid, and told her how much he has enjoyed this first taste of beautiful Paris. She insisted politely that she had to work tomorrow, and forced him thus with gentle but firm female savoir-faire to get up from his comfortable seat in her sofa-bed. He knew it could be turned into a bed, because his parents had a similar looking one back in Mississauga.
-Will I see you again? He asked; searching for her eyes. I want to buy you dinner as thanks for tonight. It was awesome. I leave to London on Tuesday, so how about tomorrow?
She took longer than usual to answer, and the air was thick with crab fumes and lost dreams.
-That would be nice, Amandine said with a smile that was just about genuine. She knew this wasn’t the real thing, and that tomorrow she would have to return to her maigret de canard and sauce made with either strawberries or oranges – whichever was in season. They said bye and he walked into the early summer night, knowing that the humidity of the early summer night would instantly make his nose sweat. The Eiffel tower was ivory coloured in the sunset; prepared to be embraced by yet another long and lonely night.

Monica Westerén, 05.05.2008

Reading for Tuesday: Chekov

The reading for Tuesday is a Chekov story: The Chorus girl

You can find it online here:




Welcome my nerds! I'm inviting you to post the stories you have already written! Here we can read each other's stories before and after our secret sessions, discuss them and comment on them. Enjoy, and looking forward to see you on Tuesday!