Short story – “Best Of Issue” award
week the courtyard across the street was used as a children’s playpen
between the hours of 11 AM and 2 PM. On those very hot and sunny Paris
days in early June the noise was almost as unbearable as the heat of the
old city, whose every surface seemed tinged with lampblack accumulated
over hundreds of years. Even the hot pavement of my street had stretch
marks and had, in some places, crumbled away to reveal stained and
decaying bricks. At least the kids had chestnut trees to protect them
from the soot and the sun; the clustered leaves formed thousands of
natural parasols protecting their porcelain, Marlene Dietrich skin.
It wasn’t that I minded much, not having that same protection. I was, after all, at treetop level on the top floor of a five-story walk-up near St Denis, (the best and worst part of the place was the circular staircase with its delicate wooden-capped banister that defined a cylinder of air from the skylight all the way down to the hard, black and white tiled entrance hall where a bank of brassy mailboxes greeted those descending) le quatrieme etage to be exact; a little French quirk to disguise the fact that you were farther from ground level than it sounded, possibly making it easier to rent the tiny studio apartment to unsuspecting foreigners, Americans like me, struggling to reconnect with their college French and escape, trade really, one slick advertising-driven culture for another. At least this one was in another language, and the novelty of it made it infinitely more appealing.
“French Twist,” WordWrights!, No. 20, Nov. – Dec. 2000, Argonne Hotel Press
Editor R. D. Baker