As you may know, I am not just a writer. I am an author. Someone who has written a book. And when I started this blog, I made a solemn vow(and are’nt they the best kind?) never to directly use any riveting prose from my book(the one that I wrote, which makes me an author) here.
But today, I’m breaking that vow. And all because of this mail : “We love your stuff. But, surely, it was’nt/isn’t all great food, wine , and people? As much as we enjoy you “sharing the dream” – it’s hard to imagine that it’s always the stuff of dreams. Don’t you have at least one French nightmare?” – Sean Collins.
Indeed I do, Sean. And here it is:
Not a Kodak Moment
You’ve seen, dear reader, or perhaps even have, the tee-shirt that proclaims : “Murphy was an optimist.” This was such a day. Bike repair earlier had eaten four precious travelling hours. The temperature was not friendly. And the dark, brooding sky, was not merely threatening rain, but definitely promising it. I was on a drab street. In an equally drab village. But, at this moment, I was savoring my possible future two days hence with my old pal Fred. (Bad dog! – Be here now!!) Because while I was’nt – my present underwent an unsavoury transformation. Of the wet kind. Way wet. And way fast.
Adventure – The Wet Kind
Ploughing through a cascade of liquid icicles, I scrambled for the closest drab house, and bolted to the covered porch. Temporary relief was tempered by the realization that the exotic stranger from the far away lands would need, at least, semi-divine intervention to make it through this night.
Something Huge This Way Comes
Strangely calm, and semi-hypnotized by the wet, percussive bullets that ricocheted off the road – I began to sense a presence. And, my senses were not simply “whistlin’ Dixie.” Because, as I turned to the door, there, filling it to overflowing – more buffed than a linebacker on steroids – was the biggest Polynesian I’d ever seen. His massive arms were crossed. He was scowling.
I then knew how a slaughterhouse lamb must feel when it realizes: “Hey….this ain’t the way to the more green pasture!” My intended icebreaker – a smiling “Bonjour”, did’nt dent the scowl. As I contemplated my next – hopefully life-saving “bon mot” – , the scowl morphed into a glowing tourist brochure smile. “Drier in here, bra.” (Polynesian for “Brother”) This was my introduction to Thomas from Tahiti.
After meeting Wife Martine and Daughter Jade – the aperitif goodies cascaded down. The questions, logically, were about Me. “Where was I coming from? “What was I doing? “How long had I been travelling? Then, as suddenly as it appeared – the storm disappeared. And We moved “au jardin.”
Trouble in Paradise
Thomas confirmed that Tahiti, largely due to tourism, was hideously expensive. Making basic survival difficult to impossible for most Tahitians. The three lifestyle options being: Work the fields. Work in the tourist industry. Get the hell out!
Thomas chose number three. Met Martine, already with Jade from a previous marriage, and viola! With a reasonable salary, the benefits of the French social system, and Martine’s part-time home sewing income, the family was, to quote Thomas : “Mo Beddah.” Daughter Jade was at that perfect age. Past “Why?” “Why?” “Why” and before : “I hate you! I’m never speaking to you again……but first…….drive me to the mall!.”
*The garden party continued until time and temperature invited us inside for dinner. Not – sorry to disappoint – a “Tahitian feast.” Standard French fare. But well done. And Much appreciated. The hospitality and wine continued to flow after dinner as the photo album appeared. And I was toured around Tahiti and other assorted family “Magic Moments.” Then, casually, out of curiosity, Thomas asked to see my passport.
The scowl returned. “This isn’t you!” He thundered. Excuse me? Is not “perfect passport picture” as impossible as “military intelligence?”
Intensifying the scowl, Thomas sprang imperially to his feet. “Appel le Flic!” (Call the police) He barked to Martine. She refused. Meekly. But positively. Thomas responded by clocking her with some scowl vibes, then stormed out. Martine gave me an apologetic “He’s-had-too-much-too-drink smile.” This I got. What I did’nt get was why he’d gone postal over a bad passport picture? Did He not grasp the cardinal rule of impersonating the exotic stranger from the far away lands? –“Photo must match impersonator?” Apparently not.
Because Thomas returned clutching a shotgun. The double barrelled kind. Happily, not pointed at me. At least, not yet. Martine and Jade, understandably, were close to losing it; as Thomas did his “Me Big Chief” number.
Part Two – Next Time