12 April 2008

Story Fragment 1

Filed under: Fiction, Reflections — ktismatics @ 9:27 am

(I wrote this bit 4 years ago as a sort of birthday card for a friend of mine, at the time a fellow expatriate.)

I remember it like it was yesterday. Rick came into the little bar my friend Larousse used to run. Fit, well-dressed, irresistibly attractive to women, Larousse often found himself challenged by men who thought they had something to prove. Funny thing, though: Larousse was just about the least threatening guy you could ever hope to meet. All he wanted to do was pour pastis and wine for his friends, enjoy a good meal, maybe gamble a little, help the patrons work crossword puzzles. It wasn’t his fault, really; it was his fate.

Rick was an American: that much at least is known – one of the few who made their way to our stagnant backwater in the south of France. He wore the closely-cropped goatee and the beige slouch fedora that Americans of a certain age often sported in an effort to disguise their nationality and their thinning hair. Of course it didn’t work.

Rick strode jauntily into the bar. “Ça va?” he asked Larousse. The midday heat was unusually oppressive: when Rick took off his hat you could clearly see the dark sweat stains spreading unevenly across the inner rim. Or perhaps it was cold and rainy – I find that some of the details escape me now. It’s a good thing they didn’t call me to testify at the inquest.

Et toi?” Larousse replied. Smiling amiably, Rick said nothing. This sort of casual indirect response always baffled Rick, whose French was nothing short of execrable. He ordered his usual – water gazeuse, with plenty of ice – and took his customary seat at the table farthest from the bar.

Rick never engaged anyone in conversation. He would drink his fizzy water, savoring it like a fine Cointreau. Then he would begin loudly chewing the ice cubes. If Rick was aware of the disdain this barbaric act instilled among Larousse’s customers, he never gave any indication of it.

Rick was grinding away at the last cube in his glass when Monsieur Giono walked in. It was obvious that Giono was angry, drunk, and in despair. His wife was leaning on the bar next to me, sipping her kir, intently watching Larousse’s every move. Giono nearly toppled over as he stumbled between the other tables and slumped into a chair right next to Rick. I don’t think Rick had ever met Giono. Giono looked wildly at Rick; Rick nodded back at him, an uncomfortable grin distorting his intelligent and placid features. If only Rick had left that last chunk of ice lying in the bottom of his glass, the crisis might have passed. But Rick Sayers wasn’t that kind of man.

. . . Oh, you mean Rick Thayer. Well, he’s a hell of a guy too. Say, did I ever tell you about the time he shot that wad of silly string right into Johnny Depp’s face? Well, it was a Saturday night during Carnaval . . .


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