Jean-Claude Beauvais, a story
Book 004 Marseille Beginning
Chapter 63. Especially with those cute dimples
(From the End of Chapter 62)
“You don’t have to leave a tip here. We’re your neighbors. We don’t want to take advantage of you. You’re part of our neighborhood family.”
He slid the tip money across the table back to me.
“Teach the children their arts with this. That is such a fine thing, you’re doing.”
It instantly occurred to me, he knew who I was, and never treated me any different from anyone else in the neighborhood. What a wonderful man.
“Thank you. Sir,” I said.
“Ollie,” he said, “Ollie Fortin.”
“Thank you, Monsieur Ollie Fortin,” I said. “I’m Jean-Claude, Jean-Claude Beauvais.”
“You’re welcome, Jean-Claude,” he said.
He rose and said, “Good night, Monsieur Laurent.”
“Good night. You can call me Joe.”
“Good night, Monsieur Dashiell Beauvais.”
“Good night. You can call me Dashiell.”
(End of Chapter 62 - Beginning of Chapter 63)
We walked home, said goodnight to Monsieur Laurent, and went in the house.
We crawled into bed and slept like rocks.
I woke when the clock mechanism started its matins prayers.
Dashiell felt warm and comfortable against me, his breathing, soft and relaxed. I reveled in his scent as he slept.
He slowly woke up. He began to move. His arm and leg tightened, pulling me to him. I kissed his hand; he kissed the back of my neck.
We showered and dressed for church.
The clock sounded the half hour as we stepped on to the landing. I looked, as we passed the clock. It was eight-thirty. Messieurs Laurent and Tissot were at the table, passing the paper between them. When we sat down, Monsieur Tissot pushed a pile of the Sunday papers over to Dashiell and me.
“Not much news in there, today,” he said, sitting back and reaching for his coffee.
“Not much, yesterday, either,” I said.
“There’s an article about the blind linesmen in there,” Monsieur Laurent said with a laugh. “It turns out they were just as blind last week in Rennes.”
“Perhaps they could find more suitable employment in another field,” Dashiell said.
“Not likely,” he replied. “It doesn’t take too much in the way of smarts to figure out if someone is on one side of a line in front of you, or on the other side of the line.”
Monsieur Laurent left to retrieve the car. With a flash of red, the car arrived. I called to see if Louis, Oliver, and Elizabeth-Anne were going to church. Dashiell and I went out and hopped in the back seat. We stopped across the street. The trio got in the car, complete with ‘the look’ from Monsieur Laurent for Oliver’s benefit. We arrived at the cathedral a while later. I waved to the bishop as we passed, on our way to the choir balcony. Oliver waved, too. I noticed Oliver’s hair bouncing as he walked. I don’t know how he does that, but it’s intriguing to watch.
The service was the same as usual. Oliver sat on one side of me, Louis on the other. Elizabeth-Anne sat with Dashiell.
After the service, we went home, dropping the kids off at their house. Monsieur Laurent parked in the middle of the street, not permitting traffic in either direction. After some horn blowing and the children were safely inside, he returned to the car, and moved it into our driveway.
While we ate lunch, we decided this afternoon was a beach afternoon. I called the kids and asked if they wanted to go with us.
They would be over in a few minutes, as soon as they finished eating.
The phone rang a few minutes later.
It was Monsieur Desbois. He wanted to know if he and his wife could come with us.
“Of course,” I said. “The more, the merrier.”
Taking both cars and both Tissots, we went to the beach for the afternoon.
We stopped at the beach house, to look at the mail. The kids took Monsieur and Madame Desbois to the dig, behind the building and showed them the operation.
Returning, Monsieur Desbois mentioned, “Louis was excited when he saw that a wall was unearthed in the sand.”
I had to go see what was going on.
“Look at that, Dashiell,” I said. “They found a wall. I wonder what that means.”
“I don’t know. I’m an artist,” he said. “Call d’Allemagne. He’ll tell you about it.”
I went back into the building and called Professeur d'Allemagne.
“I see you and your moles have uncovered a wall, in the sand.”
“Three walls,” he said. “But we covered up two of them, because it was going to rain and we didn’t want the rain to spoil anything.”
He went on for a while telling me about saltwater cisterns, Roman baths, spas, and Roman plumbing.
I suggested that he and Monsieur Bensen coordinate a boardwalk for tourists, like me, to walk on. I would like to encourage tourist seeing what is happening, but want to avoid the possibility of disturbing anything of possible value.”
I asked, “You say there’s a good possibility of a Roman Bath or spa being nearby?”
“Indeed,” he said. “That would be the most likely reason for a salt water cistern to exist.”
I asked, “Where would that likely be?”
“We have no idea, yet,” he said. “We’ll eventually know, but at this time, all I can say is I have no idea where it is.”
“When we find the water raising device, we will know in what direction the bath or spa is… in relation to the cistern.”
This was going over my head.
I thanked him and we said goodbye.
I called Monsieur Benson. He agreed to work with the Professeur to build a boardwalk.
“You at the beach?” he asked.
“Yes. We’re here with some neighbors, to enjoy the sand and water and to take a look around. I checked the mail. Nothing interesting.”
“Don’t step on the fresh tar on the south side. It’s shiny and sticky.”
“Okay. Thanks for the warning.”
We said goodbye.
I turned, apologized for holding everyone up before we went to the beach. Finally, we were on the wide open sands, beside the azure blue Mediterranean.
As I approached the water, I thought about the Romans, a couple thousand years ago, walking in the same spot, enjoying the same beach, sand, water, and experience and before them perhaps the Greeks, and before them… perhaps the Egyptians.
I looked at the sand. My imagination was stirring. Dashiell and I walked, as we usually did.
The kids were in the water, as they usually were. Monsieur and Madame Desbois looked on, as parents do.
We turned and walked back to the Desbois family on the beach.
Dashiell and I are going to the resort. If you would like to go with us, you are most welcome.
We can hose-off the kids at the beach house, with fresh water. Then they can change in the beach house bathroom. It’s little, but it’s big enough for changing.
We all went back to the beach house. The kids hosed off, changed, and climbed into the cars. We drove to the resort site.
“Don’t step on the shiny tar, because it might stick to your shoes.”
The place looked quite different. The road went up to the construction site, so we could drive right up to the building, itself. I had no idea how big the resort was, until that day, when I got out of the car, and looked around. It was enormous… it seemed about two or three city blocks from one side to the other. From the front to the back was a little shorter. No idea what we were looking at, but it took up a lot of space on the ground… a lot of space.
There were railroad tracks in the middle of one area. The kids delighted jumping on and off the tracks.
Monsieur Tissot said, “This looks like a well planned city.”
“I hope the planning is good,’ I said. “These are all good people working on this. I am sure they know their stuff.”
After a good look, we returned to the cars. After stopping downtown for ice cream, we went home. The cars stopped, blocking traffic in both directions. The Desbois got out and went to their house, accompanied by Messieurs Laurent, Tissot and a cacophony of car horns. Horns blew as they climbed the steps to their house, searched for the key, opened the door, and went inside. The horns stopped as the men returned.
Monsieur Laurent informed me.
“I could copy their plate numbers and they would receive sizable fines for horn blowing at a diplomat plate.”
“They mean no harm,” Dashiell said.
“Double fine for hooting at double diplomat plates,” Monsieur Laurent added.
We pulled into the driveway, got out, and went in the house, collapsing into the settees in front of the fountain.
Dashiell mused, “It’s nice to be inside, away from the bustle of the world, in our own little castle, in front of our own little fountain.”
Dashiell stretched out and looked through the atrium at the occasional passing cloud.
The phone rang.
I picked up.
“Yes. They’re like family.”
“I’ll pay them.”
“Certainly. This won’t disturb their retirement. Will it?”
“Okay. I’ll tell them and they can call you to confirm it.”
“He’s sitting across from me, stretched out, looking through the atrium, and watching clouds… and maybe thinking about dinner.”
“I will tell him. And we send you, a “Bon Appétit,” too.”
I put the phone in its cradle and looked over at Dashiell, who was scratching his ankle.
“Did you get a bit, at the beach?”
“I don’t know, but it’s itchy.”
“Let’s give the Tissots and Monsieur Laurent the evening off. We and they have to have a talk and dinner is a place for a serious conversation.”
“Sure. That’s fine by me. I have two questions, though. One. Are you cooking dinner? And two. What are we talking about?”
“I’m not cooking. We can eat at the Hide Out. We’re talking about hiring the Tissots and Monsieur Laurent, to work for us, and not the Diplomat agency.”
“What started all this?”
“You heard me on the phone with Minister Malraux. He called because the Diplomat agency will not pay for the Tissots and Monsieur Malraux, any more. I told him I would pay, if they are willing to work for us.”
Dashiell said, “They seem happy enough.”
“They will call him and tell him what they want to do.”
“Well,” he said, “that would be a terrific ending to a nice afternoon.”
I went to find Madame Tissot, her husband, and Monsieur Laurent, and invite them to an informal dinner at the Hide Out.
We showered, dressed for dinner, and went downstairs to wait for Monsieur Laurent and the Tissots.
As soon as we sat down in the garden, the phone rang, again.
“Yes. Hello Jay. What can I do for you?”
“Well, I would think, as this point to keep it simple would be easiest.”
“Okay. That’s perfect. My primary concern is the safety of the project. They know what they’re doing, but I and others have no clue.”
“Perfect. Okay. Call you in a day or so. We may stop at the site anyway. Bye.”
I put the phone down.
“What was that all about, with Jay?” Dashiell asked.
“He wanted to know what I had in mind for the boardwalk at the dig.”
“Oh,” he said.
Monsieur Laurent came through the front door.
“Are we riding or walking?”
“I’m happy walking, unless someone is too tired to walk.”
“In that case, we’re walking.”
At dinner, I told the Tissots and Monsieur Laurent about Minister Malraux’s phone call, and my decision to hire them. As I spoke, it occurred to me, to be fair, I would hire them with a twenty percent bonus, like my workers at the site. I added that to the conversation as I spoke. They were quite agreeable. I insisted that they sleep on it and think about it, before making their decision.
After a few rounds of wine, we merrily returned home.
When we returned home, Dashiell went to the bathroom. While Dashiell was busy, I discussed the birthday party for my favorite brother with Madame Tissot.
We planned a small family party, a little cake with eighteen candles, some ice cream for dessert, and party hats.
By the time, Dashiell returned to the garden, Monsieur Tissot and I were finished planning for the birthday party and talking about the Ollie Fortin’s baby.
I read some items I was supposed to read for class and then went to Veronica to relax for the rest of the evening. I heard Dashiell’s stool groan, periodically, as he shifted his weight, before his latest opus.
A melody started to work in my mind, as my hands wandered on the keys. A form came to fruition. I worked it into two movements. It was something for Dashiell’s birthday, including an allegorical candle blowing out.
I turned on the desk lamp and transposed the piece to paper as quickly as I could. It wasn’t a major piece, but more… a special, novelty piece, “Dashiell’s Eighteenth.”
I finished it, played it from the manuscript to proof it, packed it in the portfolio, and put it on the dining room table. Monsieur Tissot would know what to do with it in the morning without my mentioning it.
I turned off the desk lamp, returned to Veronica, and started playing some nocturnes. I heard my favorite brother passing through the rubber plants. His sweet scent arrived. He sat beside me.
Morning came more abruptly than usual. The front door slammed, waking Dashiell and me.
Storm clouds darkened the inside of the house and the wind picked up for a good blow. One of the nice things about living in the city, was, when the storms came, the electricity didn’t go off… generally.
I laid in bed with Dashiell wrapped around me, waiting for the storm to come and go or the clock to hammer seven times. I don’t know what happened to the storm. I fell back to sleep. Seven o’clock did come, waking me.
I moved a little.
“Monday. Class at ten,” I said.
He muttered something about ‘something nice for Dashiell’s birthday’.
“Today is not your birthday,” I whispered.
At breakfast, Monsieur Laurent said, “The rain is gone. Looks like it’s going to be a nice day.”
To make conversation, I said, “Best kind of day to have.”
We passed the paper around and had our usual conversations.
At nine-thirty, we hopped in the car and went to class. We were home by eleven-forty-five. We cleaned up for lunch, and went to the garden to wait for the diner chime.
Fresh bread, soft cheese, and lamb.
We were passing the platters, when the phone rang.
I got up and answered it.
“Yes.” I listened as Professeur d’Allemagne explained the boardwalk to me.
“You and he decide. I have no interest except maintaining security for you, your people, the project, and tourists.”
“No. Can’t do that.”
“Sorry. How about Wednesday at seven…”
“Dinner at the quay? I’ll call Jay and see if that’s okay with him. If you don’t hear from me, we’ll have dinner Wednesday and work out all the details.”
“Excellent. I’ll see you then.”
I put the phone down and returned to the table.
Madame Tissot asked, “Wednesday… dinner?”
“We won’t be home for dinner, Wednesday.”
“I’ll write a note,” Madame Tissot said.
“What was that all about?” Dashiell asked.
“Well… Professeur d’Allemagne is concerned about the boardwalk and he wants to get together and talk about it.”
“I’ll call Jay this afternoon or we can go out and see him at the beach, if you like.”
“The beach sounds better. I’d like to get out and get some fresh air… see some stuff.”
I looked over to Monsieur Laurent and said, “We’re off to the beach this afternoon.”
He asked, “Alone or with?”
I asked, “Alone or with…?”
“I’ll find out.”
“What time are you going?” Madame Tissot asked.
She called Madame Desbois for me.
“Monsieur Jean-Claude and Monsieur Dashiell are going to the beach. They wanted to know if Louis, Oliver, Elizabeth-Anne, and you would like to join them.”
“Thank you. Madame Desbois. I’ll tell them.”
Madame Tissot set the phone down and announced, “Louis and Ollie will be over in a few minutes. Elizabeth-Anne got in trouble and is not going.”
After lunch, Dashiell and I prepared for the beach and waited in the car, under the porte-cochère in the shade.
Louis and Ollie walked around the gate and ran up the driveway, when they saw Monsieur Laurent the door open, for them.
Louis sat in the front. Ollie sat on his cushion between Dashiell and me.
Monsieur Laurent parked the car at the beach house and the five of us walked for an hour on the beach and climbed the dunes to the building site.
Building operations proceeded everywhere. Workers, performing unknown tasks, moved in all directions.
I was especially interested in the rail line. I walked to the tracks; everyone followed behind me.
There was a handcar, sitting at the end of the track.
“That’s a good sign, Dashiell,” I said.
“I’d like to take that thing for a spin,” he said.
“You have a license to drive one of those?”
“Sure. I’ll pass on the ride. Call me when you get to jail and I’ll visit you.”
The boys and I laughed.
We stayed a while more at the site. I marveled at the precision of the set up for the utilities… electricity, plumbing, telephone, air conditioning, and other unknown connections. Everything planned exactly. Everything labeled for its purpose, inspection report, and warnings.
I could plainly see the foundations to the four towers, surrounded by signs warning people to stay away.
“This is really a large project. Jean-Claude,” Monsieur Laurent said.
“I must be truthful. I didn’t think it was going to be this big.”
“This is not big; this is huge,” he said, shaking his head.
I saw the marker flags, stretched out in the distance. I wanted to find Jay Bensen and ask him what those markers were for… but on second thought, I was sure he was very busy and didn’t need questions from me to complicate his day.
We returned to the road, and walked back to the beach house.
I was certain that Grandpapa would have been happy seeing the resort sprouting from the seeds, which he saved for me, his ‘next season.’
We walked back to the beach house, stopped inside for some cool wine, headed home. We dropped the kids at their house and arrived at the fountain as the clock played the half-hour, five-thirty. Dashiell and I ran up the staircase cleaned up for dinner, scampered down the stairs, and parked in the garden in a settee, waiting for dinner. The sound of the water was restful after an afternoon at the beach. Dinner came and went, uneventful, aside from Madame Tissot telling me there were two packages on my desk.
“Did you call Minister Malraux?”
“Yes. We called this morning. We work for you, now.”
“Dashiell and I are happy, and we hope you’re all happy.”
She patted my shoulder. That said it all.
After dinner, Dashiell went to his studio and I went to my desk to investigate the packages. One was twenty-five prints of “Aspirations for Louis, C-D-E” and the other, all I could tell was it was from Miami. I opened the mystery package first. It was from Aunt Odie, a pair of Miami tourist beach sandals. She enclosed a note and told me to put them under the bed, on his birthday, and tell Dashiell to look under the bed for his slippers. She said it was an old joke between her and Dashiell and that he would get the joke, when he saw them.
I took them upstairs quietly to not arouse Dashiell’s suspicion, put them under the bed, and returned. I played the engraved “Aspirations for Louis, C-D-E” music, was satisfied, and put it on my desk, for Louis to see.
I played for a while.
I was tired. I grabbed the top few pieces of the new top twenty and played, improvising as I went, to ‘spice’ them, or ‘sweeten’ them, as I liked.
I heard nine o’clock, hammered out on the staircase landing, shortly, time to go to bed. I put the sheet music on top of the stack on the desk. I centered “Aspirations for Louis, C-D-E” on the music desk. Louis would certainly see it. I hoped he would like it. I felt good about it.
I settled on the bench and began a set of nocturnes, enjoying them as I performed them. Sometimes I would linger a little on a sweet, soft part, but I didn’t care. I wasn’t trying to make the same statement as Chopin. I was simply playing them, because Dashiell liked them.
Sometimes, I would argue with myself. I would play them, cleaned up from my interpretation. I would argue that it’s Chopin’s music which he likes, so it is Chopin’s music, I will play, Chopin’s way.
Of course, at other times, I would not argue, and play them with my ‘touch,’ delighting me.
Dashiell never seemed to hear a difference.
I could always compose a stack of nocturnes, anytime I wanted to, but I’ve never had the urge to do so.
‘La Mer’ ran through my mind. Perhaps someday, I will do a ‘La Mer’. Debussy wrote his about the north shore on the English Channel. Perhaps mine with be about the southern French shore on the Mediterranean.
Dashiell arrived behind me, wrapped his arms around me as I played, bent over, and kissed me on the top of my head. He was so tender and sweet.
“The light is on,” he asked, “Is there a problem?”
“No. I was just playing some pop tunes and put the music away… and put a copy of “Aspirations for Louis, C-D-E” on the music desk.”
“Is that what you played before?”
“It goes like this,” I said.
I played the whole thing.
“That is awesome,” he said. “Even I know that is a terrific piece of music.”
“It’s for Louis,” I said. “I hope he is inspired to work hard at his music studies.”
“Don’t overwork him,” Dashiell said. “You’ll burn him out.”
“Do you think I should put it away and show it to him a couple months from now or maybe next year?”
“No, do what you intended to do, but don’t tell him the part about trying to inspire him to work hard at music studies. That might be counter-productive.”
“Gez,” I said, “I never thought of it that way.”
“That’s why you have me,” he laughed, “to help with little ideas like that.”
I laughed. We stood up; I turned out the light; we climbed the stairs and went to bed.
The clock mechanism fired off seven clangs of the chime to mark the beginning of Dashiell’s Eighteenth, just like the early bars of my piano piece.
The matinal calling quickened his breathing and his heartbeat.
“Happy Birthday,” I whispered in his hand, covering my mouth.
His body moved gently, acknowledging he heard me.
We showered and dressed.
“I have a surprise for you, but you wouldn’t receive it until bedtime,” I said.
“I bet I know what it is,” he said.
“You may or may not,” I said. “I’m not telling.”
We went down the staircase to breakfast.
As we sat down, I looked over to Monsieur Laurent.
“One o’clock class.”
He looked up from the paper to me, replied, “Gotcha,” and returned his attention to the newspaper.
Madame Tissot was the first to say, “Happy Birthday” to Dashiell, at the breakfast table.
Messieurs Tissot and Laurent followed her, quickly.
A quiet breakfast turned festive when Monsieur Tissot asked Dashiell, “What do you intend to do for the rest of your life?”
“I had never really thought about it,” Dashiell said. “I guess I’ll try to make it from one day to the next and create some art as I go.”
“Do you have any goals, like Jean-Claude has? You know… building the resort… getting kids involved with the arts… stuff like that?”
“Well, I guess my goal is to keep my brother company. To be by his side, when times are good and when times are bad.”
“How could times be bad for you and Jean-Claude?”
“In July,” Dashiell said, with a long face, “we are going to Hamburg for a couple weeks vacation. We don’t speak a word of German. We know nothing of where we are going. I don’t even know how to pronounce the name of the river that goes through Hamburg, but we are on our way. We know nothing about where we are going to be staying. How’s that for a beginning of how times could be bad.”
I thought I had better help Dashiell and Monsieur Tissot understand each other.
“Monsieur Tissot,” I said, “As Dashiell’s brother, I want to share an explanation with you about my dear, beloved brother. He likes changes to be orderly. What I mean is, if plans are not set definitely, he has great difficulty adjusting. This is not something that he keeps hidden. He will tell you directly how it is with him and changes. You know how it is with your dear, sweet wife and changes.
I have assured him the world will not come to an end; that tomorrow will come, even in Hamburg; everything will be okay. Sometimes he even believes me. Right now, he is looking at a time, which, like I said, is difficult for him.”
Monsieur Tissot said, “The Germans are good people. Hamburg is an excellent city. You will be comfortable and happy, there. It’s like here, but it looks different.”
“He was there in ‘45,” Madame Tissot volunteered.
“It was bombed out very badly,” Monsieur Tissot added. “They rebuilt as soon as they could. I remember the beer was good, and the women were friendly.”
That evoked a smack with a dish towel on the top on his head, from Madame Tissot.
“You watch your mouth, Herr Tissot,” she said, laughing.
Dashiell started up again, “After Hamburg…”
I shortened his agony. I said, “After Hamburg, we’ll be home, here, where we belong.”
By the way,” I added, “while we are traipsing around, you, Tissots, and you, Monsieur Laurent, are welcome to come along with us. You’re welcome to have a nice vacation on me.”
Dashiell wanted to go to the art supply place for a couple items, so we left at nine-thirty. We were back at the house by ten-thirty. Dashiell went into his studio with his bag of art stuff and I went to Veronica to play for a while.
A few minutes later, the door rang.
Monsieur and Madame Tissot were at the baker’s picking up the birthday cake.
I answered the door.
Louis, all shiny with freshly wetted and combed hair, stood smiling at me.
“School is out for the summer. May I practice my piano lesson?”
I closed the door behind him.
I delighted watching him, as he walked across the garden, disappearing through the rubber plants.
I retrieved a book from the living room and sat in the garden with it, listening to hear what Louis’ reaction was going to be to the music on the music desk.
Nothing but his usual lesson came from Veronica. I was disappointed. Dashiell came out of his seclusion, heading for the kitchen.
“I didn’t expect to find you here, reading,” he said.
“I was just sitting here listening for Louis’ reaction, when he discovered the piece I wrote about him, on the music desk. I’m disappointed though. He didn’t react, at all, or he didn’t find it.”
“Perhaps, you are disappointed because you didn’t set up the situation, so he would have to see the sheet music. Remember, his interest approaching Veronica is in doing his lessons, his practice.”
“You might be right, Dashiell,” I said.
“Of course, I’m right. It’s my birthday and I’m eighteen. I’ll casually fix the situation and fill this with water. That’ll fix my empty water jar and your disappointment.”
“Very casually, please,” I asked.
“Of course,” he said, walking towards the piano behind the rubber plants. He turned his head, back toward me and said, “You owe me one for this.”
I asked, “One what?”
He disappeared behind the rubber plants.
I heard some mumbling, and then Dashiell came out, smiling like a chimpanzee, and disappeared into the kitchen to fill his water jar.
He returned with the jar to his studio.
Madame Tissot rang the chime for lunch.
I walked to the table. Monsieur Tissot came out of the kitchen and sat at the table. Dashiell left his studio and came to the dining room. Monsieur Laurent arrived at the table. Madame Tissot poured the wine.
The clock started its noontime Concerto for Hammers and chimes. I sat, still disappointed.
Dashiell looked at my face.
“Give him some time,” Dashiell said, across the table to me, “Napoleon didn’t discover America in five minutes.”
Everyone laughed, except me. I started to question the entire premise of encouraging young people to get involved with the arts…
Then it happened.
I heard it… the opening bars of “Aspirations for Louis, C-D-E.”
I cried, softly at first.
I was getting too emotional.
Madame Tissot, with great concern, jumped from her chair with her napkin in hand.
“Is there something wrong, Jean-Claude? Are you alright? Talk to me. Jean-Claude.”
I ran upstairs and buried my face in my pillow to the lovely sound of Louis, picking his way through the right hand of “Aspirations for Louis, C-D-E.”
Dashiell followed me upstairs, with Madame Tissot.
“He’s alright,” Dashiell said, calmly.
“He’ll explain this, in a little while. Just let him be. He’ll be okay. Go downstairs and eat your lunch, Madame Tissot. Believe me; he is perfectly okay; emotionally stunned, but otherwise okay.”
“I was afraid I poisoned him,” Madame Tissot said, “He’s such a good soul. I was worried.”
“He’s fine, Madame Tissot. He is fine.”
Dashiell sat on the bed beside me, rubbing my shoulder.
“Calm down. There. There. Jean-Claude. He’s learning to play piano. You wanted him to see it, so I helped a little. I walked in there, acting as if I was looking for a piece of music. I looked on the music desk, said, ‘This is not it.’ I just slid the sheet music over a little so the title showed next to the lesson page and left. I knew he had to see it then. What I didn’t know was that it was going to tear you up.”
He patted my shoulder, went to the toilet, and returned with a damp wash cloth to rinse away my tears..
“Thanks,” I said, “I didn’t know I would get all choked up over this.”
“You had better get downstairs and tell Madame Tissot what this is all about and eat. We are due in class in a half hour, which means you have ten minutes to eat, explain, and get in the car.”
Dashiell and I arrived at class and left, saying goodbye to our fellow students on the last day of that class. Wednesday, at ten, was the last class for the session. Our next school encounter would be in Hamburg. That would interest me. I convinced myself that Dashiell would like it, too, once he understood the sky was not falling.
We came home from class.
I spread out on a settee in the garden, like ‘Vitruvian Man,’ and relaxed, enjoying my liberation from the one o’clock class.
The door chime rang. Madame Tissot opened the door.
Louis and his piano instructor came in and went to Veronica. There was a little talk and then Louis began to play his exercises. Apparently he succeeded passing his examination. His instructor played F, G, A, and B in the left hand.
There was a little more talk, then, the tell-tale sounds of the instructor packing up to leave. The distinct sounds of motion stopped abruptly. More talk ensued. Then the opening bars of “Aspirations for Louis, C-D-E” came through the rubber plants. The instructor tried to play “Aspirations for Louis, C-D-E,” unsuccessfully, at sight. The piece was not that difficult to play, if you smoothed the timing. The timing made it difficult. The timing in the beginning of the piece was very ragged. Toward the end, it was much smoother. I went to save the instructor.
“Let me play it, so you get a feel for how it’s supposed to go. I know the timing is very difficult.”
The instructor, reddened by embarrassment, slid from the bench. I sat down and explained, “The first time Louis played C, D, and E, he had no concept of time. That was interesting to me, because I think of music as a timing ritual. The C, D, and E are timed the way Louis played them the first time. That is the hard part of the music.
I played the piece. The instructor and Louis liked the piece.
“As you noted, after the initial shock of the timing disruption, it all starts to fall in place, so that by the end of the piece, you hear the original timing malfunction with a new ear.”
“That was super,” the instructor said.
Louis didn’t say anything. He just looked a little wary about all this commotion over his learning C, D, and E.
I gave the instructor that copy of “Aspirations for Louis, C-D-E” sitting on the music desk.
“Thank you,” she said. She smiled. I never saw her smile before.
“Where did you get this?”
“I know the composer.”
“That must be wonderful, to know someone like that.”
I borrowed a line from Dashiell’s book of sayings.
“I guess so.”
She thanked me, again, and led herself out the front door.
Louis asked me, “Why is there such a big deal over my learning to play the piano? No one cares about Oliver playing the piano.”
“Your mama and papa care,” I said.
“You came here and took me up on my offer for lessons. I have great hope that you will learn to play to your satisfaction.”
“My satisfaction?” he asked, “What do you mean?”
“Exactly what I said,” I explained, “that you learn to play piano so you are satisfied with your playing. Some people are satisfied to tap out a one-note melody and stop lessons at that point. Some other people are satisfied only when they can perform perfectly the most difficult pieces.”
“What happens if I am never satisfied?” he asked.
“Then, you might have to be a professional musician, because you will always have to improve.”
“Or stop playing because the mountain is too high for you to climb.”
Louis didn’t know if I was serious or playful. After a few seconds, he forced a laugh to feel like he was ‘fitting in.’
“The mountain is not too high to climb. I am just getting ready to start the climb.”
He stopped, thought for a second and asked, “Would you play that for Oliver?”
“Certainly,” I said, “bring him over, or call me and I’ll go to your house and play it on his piano, whatever works out for him and you. Make sure to ask permission to bring him over or for me to come over.”
“Okay,” he said.
“I’ll make you a deal. You like birthday cake and ice cream, don’t you?”
“Of course. I’m a kid.”
“Then you ask if you, Oliver, and Elizabeth-Anne can come over about six-thirty for cake and ice cream. Today is Dashiell’s birthday and we’re having cake and ice cream for dessert. I would hate to have it go bad, because there weren’t enough people to eat it.”
“We don’t eat until seven, when my papa comes home from work.”
“Then when you are done with your dinner, come over and we’ll have birthday cake and ice cream. You can bring Elizabeth-Anne, Oliver, your mama, and papa if they want to attend. We have lots of cake, ice cream, and hats.”
Monsieur Tissot bought a dozen hats.
The entire Desbois family came to the party, about seven forty-five. We all had a nice time. Louis insisted that I play his tune, as he called it… “Aspirations for Louis, C-D-E.”
By nine-thirty, the house was silent. Dashiell and I sprawled before the fountain, talking about the party and the fun we had. Even Madame Tissot was happy.
We went upstairs to bed, while he was in the bathroom, I hopped into the bed, on my belly, arranged the comforter over me, following his version of Vitruvian Man, set atop his file cabinets in his studio. I set the long stem rose on my bottom. Immediately my bottom told me to be careful. The rose stem had thorns and they were sharp when they scratched my butt. I reached up under the comforter and opened a little hole for me to peek out at him.
I heard the toilet flush.
“Oh my, you are so sweet, Jean-Claude,” he said, almost in tears. The rose blossom slid across my bottom. Dashiell plucked the rose petals and dropped them over the bedding and me. We had a sweet scented sleep, a remarkably lovely gesture, never forgotten.
In the morning, we woke as usual.
As I sat down for breakfast, Monsieur Laurent cleared his throat.
I looked over to Monsieur Laurent.
“Class at ten,” I said.
“The red DS-19, is ready,” he said, with a little grin, accenting the ‘red’… asking, in essence, ‘how did the rose go, last night?”
“The rose was beautiful,” Dashiell said, “and the best ending to a perfect birthday day.”
“I forgot something, last night. Dashiell?”
“It’s under the bed.”
Dashiell went upstairs to investigate beneath the bed.
Madame Tissot asked, “What rose? What are you talking about?”
Monsieur Laurent looked up to her.
“Do you really want to know?”
“I wouldn’t ask,” she said, “if I didn’t want to know.”
Monsieur Laurent looked at me and asked, “May I show her?”
“Sure,” he said.
My ears were getting red. I could feel them starting to ignite.
Monsieur Laurent took Madame Tissot into Dashiell’s studio, where she never went. She was afraid of getting paint on her clothing.
I heard her say something… one or two words and then the two of them came out of the studio. She went directly into the kitchen and Monsieur Laurent sat in his chair, to resume reading the papers.
Dashiell returned from under-the-bed-inspection.
Monsieur Laurent grinned at Dashiell.
“I showed Madame Tissot the top of the filing cabinets in your studio.”
Dashiell asked him, “Did she like it?”
“Apparently,” he said.
“What did she say?”
Monsieur Laurent said, “She said, “Cute butt.””
“That’s what everyone says,” Dashiell said, with a smile.
Monsieur Laurent replied, “I guess that makes it a universal truth.”
Dashiell turned and looked at me. All I could do was hope my ears weren’t smoking or in flames. He blew a kiss across the table at me. I shot him a ‘look’.
“Your posterior is magnificent, Jean-Claude,” he said. “The entire world likes it. Not most people, but everyone says the same two words, when they see your bottom, ‘Cute butt.’”
Madame Tissot returned from the kitchen with fresh coffee, pouring as she went around the table. As she poured coffee into my cup, she cleared her throat and said, “Cute butt. Jean-Claude.”
I almost died.
“It’s just a bottom, Madame Tissot.”
“Jean-Claude. Most people have a plain derrière. On the other hand, your bottom is plainly cute, especially with those little dimples.”
(Continued in Chapter 64)
Nov 29, 2011