Jean-Claude Beauvais, a story
Book 009 Home Sweet Home
Chapter 135. The players liked that improvement
(End of Chapter 134)
“Go bring a handful of slides down here. You can show them to Liz. She may like to see what we were doing, while we were on vacation.”
Ollie, excited to show off, said, “Okay,” and disappeared running through the plants.
“Don’t run on those stairs,” I yelled.
“I won’t…” echoed from the rubber plants.
Liz smiled, when she heard Ollie’s voice.
I opened the next envelope, feeling better. The more time, we spent together, the more hope I had for their healing.
I tossed a piece of mail in the trashcan and reached for the next.
While I worked on the mail, Ollie arrived with the View Master box and a bag of slides. I watched him sit down next to Liz. She watched him insert two batteries in the viewer. He tested the light, to make sure it worked properly. He popped in a disk, looked, and handed it to Liz.
Liz took the View-Master viewer, but didn’t look inside.
Ollie said, “Look in the peep-holes and push the button on the side.”
Liz, still baffled, looked at Ollie.
“Like this. Liz,” he said, putting the machine to his eyes, and first, tapping his forefinger on the light button, and then pressing the button. Light escaped from the machine.
Ollie sighed. “We were there.”
He offered the machine to Liz.
“Go ahead. Liz.” I said, looking up from the mail. “You’ll be surprised.”
Liz was ‘all thumbs’, but with Ollie’s help, she put the machine to her eyes and pressed the light.
“Oh My!” she exclaimed. “It’s like I’m really there.”
(End of Chapter 134 - Beginning of
Liz looked at the slides while Ollie orated a running guide of what she saw. Listening to them fascinated me, especially Ollie’s interpretations of what Liz viewed.
Louis finished his lesson. Liz looked when he stood up.
He looked at her, smiled, and said, “Amazing. Isn’t it?”
Liz said, “I can’t believe I’m seeing this.”
Louis grinned, “I sometimes think I’m in a dream.”
“You really went to all these places?”
“We went to all those places and more. Liz.”
Louis went into the living room.
I finished the first box of mail and considered starting the second box, when the clock sounded twice, nine-thirty.
I announced, “Time to go to bed.”
Ollie sighed; Liz sighed, too.
I said, “We’ve had a long day. We’ll all sleep well, tonight. Tomorrow will be a busy day, too.”
Liz handed the View-Master machine to Ollie, who promptly removed the batteries and closed the compartment. He replaced the machine and batteries in the box.
“Ollie,” I said, holding a rubber band out to him. “Put this rubber band around the slides you’ve shown Liz, so the next time you and she look at slides, you and she will look at the ones she hasn’t seen.
Ollie wrapped the rubbed band around the disks and put the slides back into the Coney Island bag.
I opened an empty file cabinet drawer. “Put that stuff in here, so you have it handy, when you want to look some more.”
Ollie and Liz put the stuff in the drawer.
“Liz. Always take the batteries out, when you’re done using the viewer, so the batteries don’t corrode the machine’s parts.”
“I’ll let Ollie do that.” She patted his shoulder. “He’s good at things, like batteries.”
Ollie beamed, hearing he was good at something.
I set the box of mail on the floor, and we went to retrieve Louis.
Louis had gone into the garden, sprawled out in a settee, and stargazed, Vitruvian Man style, before the fountain.
He knew, when he heard us agitating, bedtime was approaching. As we neared him, his eyes didn’t move; his face held a gentle smile.
Liz asked, “You alright? Louis?”
Ollie said, “He’s doing Vitruvian Man.”
Liz looked at Ollie and asked, “Who’s that?”
Dashiell’s stool creaked and attracted Liz’s attention. Dashiell came out and joined us at the fountain.
Ollie answered Liz’s question. “Vitruvian Man is a guy who stands in a round circle.”
Dashiell added, “We saw a copy of the original, when we were in Italy.”
Liz looked at me, bewildered. “What does he do?”
“What does who do?”
I said, “Dashiell can explain Vitruvian Man much better than I can.”
Dashiell said, “I’ll show you Vitruvian Man, tomorrow morning, right after breakfast. Just remind me at breakfast. When you see Vitruvian Man, and hear how he was important, then you’ll never forget him.”
Louis asked, “Will you show him to me, too. I want to hear what this is all about?”
“Can I see, too?” Ollie asked, unsure he wanted to know.
“Sure. Tomorrow morning, at breakfast, I will present Vitruvian Man.”
I said, “Sorry to interrupt your relaxation, Louis,” as I pulled Louis up from the settee, “But it’s time for bed.”
He rose with a long dramatic sigh, which amused Dashiell to say, “You get those dramatics from Ollie?”
Louis ignored Dashiell.
We climbed the stairs to the landing. Liz started up the staircase to her side of the upper floor, and the rest of us went up the guys’ side.
We passed the boys’ bedless room. Ollie, in front of us, stopped walking. Dashiell, Louis, and I piled up, stopping behind him, just short of a traffic accident.
“What’s the matter? Ollie?”
“Where am I going to sleep?”
“Where do you like to sleep?”
“In your bed with you. I’m safe there.”
“Tonight, you can sleep in my bed.”
“Now. Go shower, brush your teeth, and come in here with a few towels; I’ll dry your hair.”
I sat on the side of the bed, Dashiell changed into his pajamas and slid into bed behind me. Louis went into the bathroom with Ollie.
Ollie shed his clothes on the floor.
Before he got in the shower, I yelled, “Ollie. Put your clothes in the hamper.”
His little body turned and he picked up his clothes. After depositing them, he opened the shower door and stepped inside with Louis.
Occasional laughs drifted into the bedroom.
Dashiell, from under the comforter, said, “You do fuss over them.”
“Until Ollie can take a shower, without my fussing with him, I will fuss at him. Sooner or later, he’ll realize that it’s less of a pain to do it right, than to try and get away with something.”
Dashiell said, “I’ll mention it to him. That may help, if I point it out to him, when you’re not around.”
I thought about Louis constantly telling him to use soap and told Dashiell, “Louis tells him to use soap. If Louis doesn’t tell him to use soap, Ollie goes in the shower, gets wet, and comes out. When Louis tells him to use soap, he always tells him to rinse the soap off with fresh water. That’s probably one of Ollie’s bad habits from home.”
Louis came out of the shower, grabbed a towel, and started drying himself.
Ollie came out of the shower.
Louis, his head still under his bath towel, said, “Turn the water off.”
Ollie shook his head, slid the shower door to the other side, and turned the water off.
Ollie said, “There,” finalizing his shower endeavors.
Louis left the bathroom, naked, and walked past my room, towards his room.
Ollie took a bath towel, dried his shoulders and butt, and draped the towel over his head and shoulders. He brushed his teeth, crossed the bathroom to take two more bath towels, one under each arm, and walked into the bedroom to me, perched on the side of the bed. He dropped the two unfolded towels on the bed, beside me, pulled my legs open, and sat on the floor with his back to me, between my legs.
“Will I sleep in your bed, all the time?”
“Douche, Douche, Douche”, came to mind when I smelled his heavy bubble gum scented breath.
“No. Tomorrow, you’ll have a new bed.”
I dried his hair with one towel.
Louis returned in his pajamas, dropped Ollie’s brush on the bed, next to me, and slid under the comforter, with Dashiell. There was no conversation, just a little readjustment, then, silence.
I set the first towel, aside, and picked up the second towel.
Ollie asked, “A big bed or a little bed?”
“A big bed.”
I fluffed his hair with the second towel.
I heard the shower running in Liz’s bathroom.
Ollie said, “That’s Liz, taking a shower.”
I finished and set the towel on the side of the bed.
Ollie turned to me and asked, “How big?”
I looked at him and asked, “How big? What are you talking about?”
“My new bed. How big will it be?”
“How big do you think it should be?”
“I don’t know. Maybe like your bed.”
“Okay. The same size as my bed. Okay?”
I brushed Ollie’s hair, until it was light, fluffy and without tangles.
“Now put the towels away and put your pajamas on.”
Ollie picked up the towels and went off to deposit them in the bathroom hamper. He emerged, dry and fluffy.
“Here. Take your brush back to your bedroom.”
He took the brush and disappeared bouncing on his toes through the rubber plants.
I heard his discussing, which pajamas to wear, with himself, in his bedroom.
He arrived in pajamas of primary colored lollipops and brown teddy bears. He backed up to me, I hitched his ‘trap door’ and he sat on the side of the bed and waited for me.
I changed into my pajamas and slid into bed with Ollie sliding after me.
Dashiell, Louis, I, and Ollie laid in the bed, ready for sleep, except something had been forgotten.
“Ollie. Turn the light out.”
Ollie sat up, turned the light out, and pulled the comforter over him.
I felt Dashiell arm over my shoulder. I turned and kissed the palm of his hand.
Louis arm came over my arm and draped in front of me. He kissed the back of my neck.
I felt Louis’ hand against my face, deftly trying to feel my face.
I pressed my lips to his hand and kissed him.
I heard his sigh.
I kissed Ollie’s mop.
He turned over and kissed my forehead.
“Good Night. Jean-Claude.”
His ‘good night’ started a full round of good nights from everyone to everyone else. By the time, the last good night was said, we, all, laughed at ourselves.
I heard water running in Liz’s shower.
Monsieur Laurent and Madame Tissot talked downstairs.
I whispered, “Good Monday Morning to you, all.”
I moved a little and felt Dashiell’s hipbone against my back, which meant Louis was no longer between Dashiell and me.
Apparently, when Louis left, Dashiell wrapped himself around Ollie and me.
I moved again.
Dashiell moaned, “No.”
“You have to explain Vitruvian Man, at breakfast.”
“You said you would show and tell, this morning.”
“You said so last night.”
“Jean-Claude. I just want to sleep for a few more minutes.”
“That’s what I thought. No way!”
I rocked a few times, to stir Dashiell. “You have to explain Vitruvian Man at the breakfast table.”
By this time, Ollie is giggling.
I turned on my back, forcing Dashiell to move.
I kicked the comforter off the foot of the bed and sat up.
“Ollie. Go get cleaned up and dressed, I’ll meet you at the dining room table. I have get Dashiell up and through the shower.”
My Tiger stood up, turned, and said, “Dashiell. Please be nice to Jean-Claude.”
Dashiell sighed painfully, and said, “I will. I will.”
He sat up, rubbing his eyes, and waved as Ollie’s lollipops and teddy bears pajamas disappeared, bouncing, through the rubber plants.
I pulled Dashiell up and we started the day.
In the shower, Dashiell turned me around and asked, “Does he really think I’m not nice to you?”
“He said that because he was afraid you’d be mad at me for waking you up.”
“Of course, I’m mad at you for waking me up.”
He kissed my nose.
“I never want to get up. There never was a good morning… only good afternoons.”
“Get serious. You have to do a Vitruvian Man presentation in a few minutes.”
“I can do that, in bed.”
“You know, what you do best in bed.”
He accidently backed into the shower spray and sprayed water in my face.
“That’s okay. I’m done, anyway.”
I turned and reached to pull the shower door open.
Dashiell swatted my butt and laughed.
I stepped out of the shower.
“What are you laughing about?”
“You butt jiggles likes Ollie’s.”
“All butts are the same; they jiggle.”
Dashiell laughed again.
“Some are funnier than others.”
I closed the shower door, grabbed a towel, and began drying myself. A second towel finished the job. I finished brushing my teeth and went into the bedroom the dress for the day. I looked in the cheval, turned, and looked at my butt.
I determined my butt was not the least bit amusing. “A handy cushion” came to mind.
I heard the shower water stop. Dashiell closed the shower door. I had to stay until he started washing his teeth. Sometimes, after his shower, he would slide back into bed, but never, after he got a mouthful of toothpaste.
I looked in the cheval for threads and straightened my clothes.
“I’ll be at the breakfast table.”
I added, “I looked; there’s nothing funny about my bottom.”
“My dear brother. As the artist in the family, let me remind you that comedy, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.”
We, both, laughed as I walked out of the bedroom and downstairs.
Dashiell began singing as I approached the staircase.
Passing the dormant clock, on the landing, I heard Dashiell include some kind of percussion with his morning musical.
“Good Morning. Everyone,” I said, as I approached the table; a chorus of good mornings replied. Madame Tissot turned my cup and filled it with coffee.
“The coffee’s aroma this morning is especially nice. Gives me a warm, homey feeling.”
“Thank you. Jean-Claude,” she responded, as she went to refill the cups, around the table.
As soon as I settled in my chair, Ollie put his hand on my wrist.
I turned to him and asked, “Yes?”
“Will Dashiell be down to tell me about Vitruvial Man?”
I smiled and corrected him. “Vitruvian Man. Ollie.”
“Will Dashiell be down to tell me about Vitruvian Man?”
“You hear him singing. Don’t you?”
“And Dashiell loves breakfast. Doesn’t he?”
“When he comes down for breakfast, he said he’ll tell you all about Vitruvian Man. Didn’t he?”
I opened the top section of the newspaper, the Sports section. I refolded it and pushed it towards Dashiell’s side of the table. I opened the next section, the Front section.
On the lower half of the page, “School Opening Dates” sat in bold print. I read the article. Both Ollie’s school, Ècole élémentaire on Rue de la Grande Paternité, and Louis’ school, Collège Marie Voularet on Boulevard de la Présentation, opened on Monday, in two weeks.
I looked down the table to Madame Tissot.
“Do you know where Aunt Gizzie’s clipboard is?”
“I think it’s in the bottom drawer of the middle file cabinet by your desk.”
Ollie asked, “Why is he singing?”
“Because he’s happy.”
“Why is he happy?”
“You will have to ask Dashiell.”
Dashiell’s aria stopped abruptly.
Louis said, “I think he’s coming downstairs.”
I heard Dashiell’s leather soles tapping down the marble staircase.
I looked up as he went into his studio.
I continued reading about Charles de Gaulle and an upcoming vote on the new constitution. Occasionally, I’d drop the paper to see what was going on.
Dashiell arrived at the table with a few pieces of charcoal and a charcoal board, a little smaller than a newspaper sheet. He dropped the charcoal pieces on his plate and set the drawing board on the floor.
Madame Tissot poured his coffee.
“Thank you. Madame Tissot. And a good morning to you.”
“And a good morning to you, too. Dashiell.”
He looked around the table with his gentle smile and said a universal good morning adding a name, with a nod, afterwards, Ollie, Liz, Monsieur Laurent, Monsieur Tissot, and Louis.
“About Vitruvian Man,” he said. “I will draw and then explain. But first, I need a little nutrition.”
He added sugar to his coffee.
“Louis,” he said. “I have to keep my vitamins and minerals supplied. Please. May I have a sweet role?”
Louis reached for the tongs to pass Dashiell as sweet roll. He lifted a lemon-centered pastry.
Dashiell said, “No. Not a lemon one. Jean-Claude likes those. Give me one of those red ones. I like the red ones and the orange ones.”
Monsieur Tissot added, “The queen likes the ones with prunes.”
Messieurs Tissot and Laurent laughed. Madame Tissot bestowed both of them with a swat of her towel, further encouraging them to laughter.
Louis, Liz, and Ollie sat, spellbound, waiting for Dashiell’s explanation of Vitruvian Man.
I heard Dashiell cut his sweet roll into pieces. Out of the side of my eye, I saw Ollie’s frame swing, counterbalancing his swinging legs.
I kept the paper up, and tried to concentrate on reading about Charles de Gaulle and his shenanigans in Paris. Dashiell took a sip of coffee. Curiosity got to me; I put the paper down to look around. Monsieur Laurent had his pencil in the ready position. Monsieur Tissot sat and kibitzed with Monsieur Laurent and his current puzzle.
Madame Tissot left the table and went into the kitchen, mumbling to herself. Monsieur Tissot looked up as she departed and shook his head.
I asked him, “What’s the matter?”
He turned to me, grinned, and said, “We’ll have to consult the oracles at Delphi to know her problem.”
Sometimes, his humor was a little hurtful.
I looked across the table at Dashiell.
He knew what I was going to ask.
“After another bite and another sip, I’ll draw it and explain it.”
“If I knew you were going to make a grand exposition, I would have written some music to accompany your presentation.”
“We are still not past the last time you wrote music to my drawing.”
“You are so right.”
In went another piece of sweet roll. He swallowed and washed his throat with a sip of Madame Tissot finest.
I upped the anticipation. “Messieurs Tissot and Laurent. Dashiell is about to make a presentation about Vitruvian Man.”
While I spoke, Madame Tissot returned from the kitchen, to the table, and sat down.
Monsieur Tissot asked, “Should we keep Madame out of the dining room?” Messieurs Laurent, Tissot, and Dashiell laughed. She gave them a look and a swat.
Louis, Liz, and Ollie sat at attention. The moment had arrived.
Dashiell sat back and asked, “Who wants to learn about Vitruvian Man?”
Everyone, except Dashiell and me, put a hand up. Art History 101.
Dashiell started. “First. I’ll draw Vitruvian Man. Then, I will explain its importance.”
I expected a simple explanation. Dashiell presented a lucid exposition of Vitruvius, da Vinci, proportions, the octagon, squares, circles, symmetry, and other relationships.
Everyone got it, except me.
When Dashiell finished, I stood and applauded and so did everyone else.
Madame Tissot circled the table, pouring more coffee from the carafe.
The second half of breakfast began, when the phone rang.
Madame Tissot picked up the phone.
“For you Jean-Claude. Jay Bensen.”
“Yes. About One.”
“Okay. See you then.”
I handed the phone back to Madame Tissot.
“I wish all my calls were that easy.”
Madame Tissot returned the phone to the cabinet.
Light flashed across the garden; a car arrived under the porte-cochère. Madame Tissot started walking toward the front door. The bell clanged, when she pasted the fountain.
She opened the door. A man in a green shirt stood in the doorway, with a briefcase. She and he spoke, he came in, and she closed the door. They walked to the fountain and she pointed to the staircase. He nodded, spoke to her again, and started up the stairs. She turned and walked into the dining room.
“The clock man,” she said.
I said, “I missed hearing the clock at seven.”
As soon as I spoke, I knew what I would hear, next.
“I didn’t miss it.”
I looked across the table. He just smiled at me and blew me a kiss.
I smiled back.
Something bothered me… There was something, I tried to remember. Ah…
“You have to pick up your tinker toys, at night, before you go to bed. You can’t leave them on the floor, or someone might hurt themselves, if they happen to walk on them.”
His lower lip popped out.
“I’ll make you a deal. Okay?”
He looked into my eyes.
“You want to leave them on the floor?”
His demeanor brightened.
“If you want to leave them on the floor, play with them in your old music room.”
“I don’t like it in there.”
“Then play with them in your bedroom.”
“I want to play with them, when you’re around. I like to play with them, when you play the piano.”
“You can hear the piano, upstairs, in your bedroom. Can’t you?”
His lower lip was out again. “Yes. But you’re not there.”
Liz intervened. “He wants to play with them, near you.”
“Is that so? Tiger?”
He flashed his droopy eyes at me, slowly nodding.
“Okay,” I said. “When you go to bed, slide them under the piano.”
Ollie bubbled. “Veronica will keep them safe, at night.”
The clock sounded.
Madame Tissot applauded the clock’s resurrection. “I missed hearing it.”
Dashiell looked up from his sweet roll and said, in English, “Ah. Ha. The Phoenix stirs.”
In French, I added, “Life returns to normal.”
“Boys. After breakfast, Louis do your lesson and Ollie, do your numbers.”
Louis nodded. Ollie said, “Okay.”
“Liz. The Tissots will take you for clothes and accessories.”
“Remember. Buy the good stuff. Don’t buy the cheap stuff.”
Madame Tissot said, “I have the list. I wrote “No Cheap Stuff” on it.”
I added, “Lunch at the Hide Out.”
As I rose, Madame Tissot rose. The boys pushed away from the table and went to their morning lessons. I went to my music room. Madame Tissot removed dishes from the table. Liz, Dashiell, and Messieurs Tissot and Laurent stayed anchored to their chairs at the table.
The clock struck the hour, then the quarter hour.
I opened the bottom drawer of the middle file cabinet. I picked up Aunt Gizzie’s clipboard.
On the top sheet was a note to call Jay Bensen before we left for America and “Send Piz to Aunt Gizzie.”
I tore the top sheet from the pad and tossed it in the waste paper basket, between the file cabinets and the desk. On top of my desk, sat the other box of unopened mail.
I wrote on the pad.
“Send Pix to Aunt Gizzie.”
“Enroll boys in school.
“School clothes for boys.”
“School clothes for Liz.”
I heard Madame Tissot roust Monsieur Tissot from his chair. “Bring the car around for Liz and me. We’re going shopping.”
The clock struck the half-hour.
I couldn’t hear anything he said. When the clock stopped chiming, the front door opened and closed.
When I walked out to the fountain, Dashiell approached from the dining room, with his Vitruvian Man in hand. I looked up at the clock. Nine-thirty.
“I enjoyed your presentation.”
“I hope the kids found something useful in it.”
“They looked involved, while you spoke.”
“Ask Louis what he thinks of Vitruvian Man. Let him tell you about it. You’ll see what he found interesting. Better yet, ask him this afternoon, when we’re at the beach, or when you and he are alone, tomorrow. You’ll hear what he will remember.”
“What are you doing, this morning?”
I showed him the clipboard.
He took it, read the notes, and, said, “You have two days of work waiting for you.”
“And a one-thirty meeting this afternoon with Bensen and d’Allemagne at the beach.”
Dashiell said, “And you forgot something, too…’
Madame Tissot and Liz passed us, heading for the front door.
“Madame Tissot,” I called.
She and Liz stopped and turned. Madame Tissot replied, “Yes?”
“If your shopping becomes a day of shopping, make sure you stop and have lunch. I have to go to the beach, this afternoon to meet with Bensen and d’Allemagne at one thirty. I may take the boys and Dashiell with me. I’m telling you, so, if you come home and there is no one here, you’ll know where we are. Dinner, this evening at the Hide Out. Any questions?”
Madame Tissot said, “No.”
Liz said, “No.”
They turned and left through the front door.
I asked Dashiell, “Before… What were we talking about?”
“You showed me your list on Gizzie’s clipboard and I said you missed something.”
“No. I didn’t.”
“Yes. You did.”
“You have to enroll Liz in her school, too.”
“Gez. You’re right. I didn’t write that down.”
I wrote “Enroll Liz in school” on the clipboard.
He laughed, slapped my back, and said, “That’s what big brothers are for.”
“What are you up to, this morning?”
“I want to go through the stuff I brought from Mon Grandpapa. I want to organize it into two sections. One section for stuff I want to save and another section of stuff I’ll sell.”
“You’re not going to sell “Blue on Blue.” Are you?”
“No. I’ll keep “Blue on Blue.”
“You could hang it here in the house, if you like.”
The clock struck the hour.
“Ten o’clock already. I think I’ll open mail, until the boys are done.”
“You want some help?”
Dashiell and I walked into the music room. Ollie wasn’t at the table with his numbers. The numbers box sat on the bookshelf.
Before we saw him, we heard him, under Veronica, playing with his Tinker Toys.
“Are you doing your numbers?”
“I just wanted to rearrange them, under Veronica.”
“Oh. That’s okay for this time, but next time, there will be a penalty.”
“What’s a penalty?”
“It’s something you won’t like.”
“Does that mean I’m in trouble?”
“You’re not in trouble. Not now… but next time, you go to do your numbers and play with your Tinker Toys… Yes. You’ll be in trouble, then.”
“Do you understand?”
“Do you understand?”
“Okay. Come out from under the piano and go clean up.” Ollie had a grim look on his face.
I added, “When Louis is done, we’re going out.”
“Where are we going?”
Ollie squealed, popped out from under Veronica, and disappeared on his way to clean up.
I set the wastepaper basket at the end of the table and dumped the mail, in the middle of the table. Dashiell and I sat and opened mail, tossing the trashy stuff in the basket. Rapidly, we made the pile smaller.
When Louis arrived, Dashiell and I stopped our mail project.
“Louis,” I said. “Now is the time for you to do something special.”
“Time to enroll in school.”
“Before we go to lunch, we’ll go over to your school, so you and Ollie can enroll in school. All the papers are on my desk. Liz and I will go tomorrow.”
With a touch of resignation, Louis asked, “When does school start?”
“In two weeks.”
“Two more weeks of Liberté.”
“Don’t feel sorry for yourself. You should be happy France insists you learn to be a smart citizen.”
He didn’t say anything; he understood my point.
“Go clean up. We’ll leave, when you and Ollie are ready.”
He accepted his fate and left through the rubber plants.
Dashiell looked up from the mail and said, “I thought…”
I put my forefinger to my lips.
Ollie squealed something about school, at Louis, as they passed on the staircase. I didn’t hear Louis. He probably mumbled something about school.
I asked Dashiell, “I wonder why Louis dislikes school so much.”
“I don’t know. I didn’t like school or dislike it. I went to school when I was told to go to school and I went home when I was told to go home. I did what I was supposed to do. Now, I don’t know if I ever thought about liking it or not; I just did it.”
While Dashiell spoke, I pulled the unopened mail off the table into the empty box, for later opening. I set the box on the adjacent chair.
When Ollie arrived, effervesced by the thought of going to school, Dashiell and I stood up and the three of us went to the fountain and waited for Louis to descend the staircase.
While we waited, the clock’s authoritative counting of seconds soothed an unknowable knot inside me.
Louis clamored down the marble stairs, upsetting the comforting regularity of the clock’s heartbeat.
Monsieur Laurent rose from the dining room table, closing his puzzle magazine and sliding his pencil into his shirt pocket.
Ollie, Dashiell, and I rose, as Louis descended from the landing.
Monsieur Laurent opened the front door, and we went to our usual positions in the car.
Monsieur Laurent asked, “Where are we going?”
“Let me look and see what the address is.”
“Louis asked, “For Ollie?”
“Yes,” I said.
Louis said, “Rue de la Grande Paternité. Two blocks ahead, and take a right. Ollie’s school, Ècole élémentaire, is on the right hand side.
Ècole élémentaire, a round school, sat inside a gated school fence. Louis stayed in the car, with Monsieur Laurent.
Dashiell, Ollie, and I ventured carefully into the double doors with safety glass in the windows, to which were taped “Wet Paint” signs. Inside, a corridor circled to the right, apparently straddled by classrooms on both sides. A few steps inside the doors, sat a chair, with a colorful crayon sign, “Enroll in Office,” with a big arrow.
I asked Ollie, “Which way?”
When Ollie pointed in the direction of the arrow, I felt whoever made that sign knew the workings of little minds.
“Go ahead,” I said.
Ollie led Dashiell and me to the door, opened the door, and held it for us.
Inside the office, Ollie led us, via another sign, to an open door, where four people worked over papers. Our arrival raised heads at the table of paper stacks; progress there stopped, when one person stood up and greeted us.
“Hello,” the youngish woman said to Ollie. “I’m Delphine Martin. May I help you?”
Ollie said, “I am here to go to school.”
“How old are you?”
“I am six years old.”
“And your name is?”
“I am Oliver.”
“Okay. Oliver,” she said, walking to an empty table.
“If you bring your father to this table, he can fill in the papers for you.”
Ollie took my hand and pulled me to the table, where Madame Martin set a pen, bottle of ink, and blotter and a pair of papers for me to fill in.
Ollie stood beside me, as I sat down.
Ollie looked up at her, flashed his dimples at her with a couple blinks of the eyelashes, and said, “Thank you. Madame Martin.”
She smiled at him.
“You are quite charming.”
Ollie performed a repeat performance.
“I’ll be over at the other table if you have any questions.”
The papers were straightforward. For the most part, a matter of copying from my papers to the schools papers.
When I was done, I took the papers to Madame Martin at the other table, where she and her staff worked, and I presented the papers to her. Dashiell stayed at the table and watched.
She looked at them, said, “Excuse me,” to her staff, rose, and said, “Let’s go to the other table. Monsieur Beauvais.”
She sat down across from Dashiell and me, with Ollie standing by my side, his arm wrapped around my elbow.
She looked at Dashiell. “And you are?”
Dashiell said, “I’m his brother, Dashiell.”
She nodded. “Nice to meet you.”
She looked at me. “Monsieur Beauvais?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Have Oliver had his school shots and his doctor’s physical?”
“No. Madame Martin.”
“Before he can be accepted into the school, he has to visit your doctor.”
“Do I simply take him to the doctor?”
“I have a form the doctor fills out. You can bring it in, after the doctor signs it.”
“When we receive the doctor’s form, you will meet Oliver’s teacher, Mademoiselle Micheline Turpin. She an excellent teacher. I am sure Oliver and she will share a productive year, together.”
I added, “I hope so, too.”
She stood up and retrieved some papers from the stacks on a shelf, behind her.
Offering the papers to me, she said, “Here are the doctor’s paper, the paper about the school, and a sheet with the holidays, times, and schedules. We’re open from Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday Morning, Thursday, and Friday.
She looked at Ollie, smiled, and asked, “Any questions?”
His face turned from little cherub, to serious business, when he asked, “When do I start?”
She said, “In two weeks.”
Ollie said, “Thank you.”
She turned to me and said, “We send the school menu home, on the last week of the previous month.”
I smiled, thanked her, and wondered, as I stood up, why I would want to see the school’s menu.
Dashiell, Ollie, and I shook hands with Madame Martin and headed for the door.
Madame Martin returned to the table. She and her staff resumed their paper work.
Once in the car, Monsieur Laurent turned around the block and went to Louis’ school, a block and a half from the house, in front of a huge sign that read, “Collège Marie Voularet.”
Dashiell and I rose to go inside with Louis. Ollie tagged along.
“Louis,” I said, “Dashiell and I walked past this place, many times, at night, and never knew it was a school.”
Louis didn’t say anything. He led us to the office entrance. Once inside, we stood in a short hallway, with a portable chalkboard. “ENROLL” with a giant arrow pointing to an open doorway.
Our little party of four walked into a large room with a two tables, and a person seated behind each table. One person motioned us to approach.
Louis sat in the single chair. Dashiell and I stood beside him. Ollie hung on to my hand and watched, silently.
“It will be busy, around mealtime, but it’s quiet, now.”
“I’m Rachel,” she said. “You are enrolling.” Her voice stopped, waiting for one of us to fill in the proper name.
I looked at Louis. “Tell her, your name.”
She wrote Louis’ name on the top of the enrollment paper. Rachel was embroidered on her white blouse in dark blue letters with a red border around it.
“9615 Rue Théodore Pépin.”
“+33 4 91 92 81 13, and 14, 15, and 16.”
“Have you attended here, prior to this semester?”
“Your ID number?”
“Just a second. I’ll get your papers.”
She left, went to into a separate room and shortly returned with a folder, with 44532 on the tab.
She sat down and opened the folder.
“There’s a problem,” she said, looking up at Louis. “What was your ID, last year?”
“That number is not your number.”
“Yes. It is.”
She closed the folder. Looked up at me, standing next to Louis, and said, “The name on that number is a different name.”
I smiled and said, “Different name; same boy.”
She said, “That can’t be. A student’s number never changes.”
“Madame Rachel,” I said. “Let’s me say it again. “Different name; same boy.”
She looked at me, bewildered and asked, “How could that be?”
“He changed his name. Let me show you the court order.”
I pulled the papers from my case and set them before her.
“Excuse me,” she said, “I’ll be back, shortly.”
“Please leave the papers on the desk. They are painful to replace.”
She returned with two other men, in cheap suits. The bald man picked up the papers and looked at them, handed them to the other man, with a pencil moustache, who also looked at the papers. They mumbled, set the papers down, and left.
Madame Rachel resumed working on Louis’ paperwork. When she finished, she passed the forms across the table for Louis and me to sign. I signed as his guardian.
She gave me a few papers, a September School Menu, a Rules and Times, a Questions and Answers about Collège Marie Voularet, and a Welcome message from you principal, Marius Blandin.
“Here is the medical form. Your doctor will fill it out. Please return it in the next two weeks.”
She looked at Louis. “Welcome to Collège Marie Voularet.”
Louis glared at her. I didn’t notice, until she looked strangely at Louis. I looked at Louis and saw his sour face.
“Thank Madame Rachel. Louis.”
“Thank you. Madame Rachel.”
She looked at his disagreeable expression and mustered a smile.
I asked, “Madame Rachel. When does school begin?”
She smiled and said, “School starts on Monday, in two weeks.”
I said, “Thank you. Madame Rachel.”
We left and went home.
On the way home, Louis said, “Our doctor is on the next street over.”
Louis directed Monsieur Laurent to the green door, beside which was a plaque, Jean-Louis Guillaume - Nicolette Guillaume - Médecine Générale.
“Let’s go in and if we’re lucky, we’ll get the papers taken care of, before lunch.”
Louis, happier than he was at school, opened the door. Dashiell, Ollie, and I walked inside. Louis closed the door behind us, walked to the desk, and tapped the little bell.
A woman came out of an open door, behind the desk and asked, “May I help you?”
Louis said, “I need my school paper signed. And my brother’s, too.”
She smiled at Louis and asked, “You are?”
“Louis Beauvais and my brother is Oliver Beauvais.”
She looked at me and spelled, “B-E-A-U-V-A-I-S?”
She turned and opened the top drawer of a gray metal file cabinet. She looked through the files.
“I have no Beauvais. Are you registered to Doctor Guillaume?”
“Louis said, “Yes. My parents are gone in the war. Monsieur Beauvais has adopted my brother, sister, and me.”
“Your name used to be?”
“Yes. I found the files.”
She looked at me. “All three names are changed.”
“Do you have papers for them?”
“Yes. I opened my case and withdrew the state papers for Ollie and Louis and handed them to the woman. She said, “Thank you. This will only take a few moments.”
She pointed to the couch and chairs. “Please sit down, while I fix the papers.”
She looked up and asked me, “Are you registered with Doctor Guillaume?”
My brother, Dashiell, and I are registered with a doctor in Paris. How do we register with your office? I don’t want to go to Paris, if I get a bee sting.”
She opened a desk drawer and withdrew two papers.
“Here’s one for you and one for your brother. Doctor Guillaume’s name, identification, and address are already filled in. You add your information and take it to your social security office. That’s all there is to it.”
She looked at her watch, then at Louis. “Are you ready?”
She and he went into the other room and closed the door.
Ollie, sitting next to me, started to quiver.
“It won’t hurt.”
“I remember her, when I was sick.”
“You remember her?”
“Yes. She came to see me, when I was sick.”
“Then you got better?”
“She cured your illness.”
“I guess so.”
“Stand up. Let me straighten your clothes.”
Ollie stood up and I tried to flatten his gasping pockets. “You will have to get some clothes for school. You’re too big for these trousers.”
“I’m growing up.”
“Indeed. You are. Ollie.”
Dashiell asked, “How tall are you?”
“I don’t know.”
Dashiell replied, “Do you know how to tell?”
“This afternoon, when we go to the beach, I’ll show you.”
Ollie squealed and the door opened. Louis came out.
The woman looked at Ollie. “Your turn.”
Ollie’s eyes grew into large blue orbs.
She held her hand out to Ollie.
Ollie walked to her and turned around.
She looked at me and added, “If you would like to come in, too, he may feel less anxious.”
“You want me to go with you?”
Ollie quickly nodded.
Ollie and I went into the inner office.
She went over him from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet.
Aside from Ollie’s toe walking, which, she said, usually goes away in the next year or so, he was in excellent health.
“If his toe walking doesn’t fade, corrective footwear is available to help him. He won’t like the corrective footwear, but he would acclimate after a couple months and no longer need any corrective footwear.”
“Keep an eye on his tailbone.”
“Yes. Let me show you.”
“Ollie,” she said, “Come here.”
Ollie, with his socks in his hand, walked across the office.
“Put your socks on the desk. Drop your pants and turn around.”
“Ollie dropped his trousers, but they were too tight to fall down.
“Push them down, and turn around, so we can see your tail.”
“Just turn around.”
She pulled his underwear down a little and there was a little lump.
She pointed to the lump. That’s where his tailbone has not receded enough. What that means is, when he has to sit for a long time, sometimes, he gets a pain, from his tailbone pressing against chairs.
“That doesn’t have anything to do with swinging legs under dining room chairs. Does it?”
“No. That’s usually boredom.”
“That’s what I thought.”
She pulled Ollie britches up and buttoned them.
“Put your socks and shoes on.”
She signed Ollie’s paper and handed it to me.
I handed her a few bills and we left, and went to Ollie Fortin’s for lunch. I asked Monsieur Laurent to open the trunk. I set my case, with the boys’ papers, inside the trunk and he closed the lid.
The Tissots and Liz arrived. The back seat was full of bags with Madame Tissot beside the window.
While everyone worked on their desserts, Madame Tissot went to the car and found one of Liz’s bathing suits. She returned to the table and gave the yellow bathing suit and yellow bathing cap, with red and green flowers, to Liz. Monsieur Laurent took the five of us to the beach house. Madame Tissot took Monsieur Tissot home.
After unpacking the car, Monsieur Tissot complained to Madame Tissot about a back pain. She took her husband to the furniture store to buy a bed, identical to the beds already in the house.
She went home and waited by the fountain for the delivery men to ring the front door bell.
Monsieur Tissot announced, “My back has a pain. It’s like an ache. I need get it taken care of. I’ll be back before dinner.”
What I found out later was he didn’t tell her he went to the pier, spent a couple hours in the Jacuzzi, and came home.
On some days, the ride is a bother; today the ride was exhilarating. I wanted to hear what d’Allemagne had found.
The car stopped in front of the beach house, which I noticed had received a coat of sand colored paint. We flowed from the car into the air conditioning.
Monsieur Laurent, armed with his book du jour, sat in a spot at the end of one of the couches, slipped off his shoes, and relaxed. I sat at the table and went through the mail.
Ollie announced, “I want to see the dig.” Dashiell and Liz followed him. Louis said, “Have fun,” as Ollie and Liz went outside. Louis looked in the refrigerator. “There’s a case of soda and seven bottles of wine.” The refrigerator door closed.
I heard him open the lid to the ice machine and close it. He walked into the main room. I looked up from the mail, at him with his gasping pockets.
He looked at me; he was going to say something.
“Yes?” I asked, encouraging him.
He shook his head and said, “Nothing.”
“Plan on going for clothes, tomorrow.”
Instantly, his face showed pain.
“Turn around,” I said.
I pulled on the pocket on the seat of his trousers.
If you had a dollar, you couldn’t put it in your back pocket.
He laughed. “They are a little snug.”
“Yes… a little snug.”
Dashiell came in the kitchen door.
“Hello,” he called.
I replied, “We’re in here.”
“d’Allemagne and his students found more stuff.”
Louis and I looked at Dashiell.
I asked, “What did they find?”
I yelled, “Great.”
I stood up and headed towards the kitchen door.
Outside, I saw Ollie and Liz hanging over the railing, looking into the dig. Ollie pointed at something and explained, in his scientific, uniquely juvenile way, some facet of the project to Liz.
Dashiell, standing beside me, pointed to the line of urns. “Those are the new ones.”
“They look the same to me as the other ones.”
“Severin said, “There are stones, in each one of them.”
“Yes. That’s what he said.”
“What kind of stones?”
“Round stones,” Dashiell said. “Here he comes. You can ask him about them.”
“Severin. How are you doing?”
Professeur d’Allemagne turned around and looked up at the boardwalk, over the dig.
When he saw me, he laughed. “Oh. I’m just digging around. How are you?”
“Fine. Thanks. What have you found?”
“Please. Come down here and look at these stones. I don’t know if they were imported or exported. But the Chinese traders made a profit on moving them around.”
I went down the stairs into the dig.
Liz yelled, “May I come down, too?”
Severin yelled up, “Sure. All of you may come down. Look, but don’t touch anything.”
Ollie ran to the sole open urn, looked inside, and back to Professeur d’Allemagne. “What are they?”
Louis, standing behind Ollie, in a moment of amusement, said, “Dinosaur eggs.”
Severin lost his breath in a gutsy, very unrefined laugh.
“Louis,” he said, catching his breath, “You are quite a comedian.”
Louis bowed to Severin for his compliment.
Liz looked in the top of the open urn but said nothing.
“Come. Jean-Claude. Maybe you can look at these and tell me what they are. I have no idea and none of my students have a clue.”
I looked into the urn at five balls, about the size of cantaloupes, sitting in the dust, in the bottom of the urn.
I went through what I thought were. “Bowling balls. Bocce Balls.
I looked up at Severin. “They’re Chinese?”
“Cuju balls? Cannon balls?”
Ollie asked, “What’s a cuju ball?”
“Cuju is an ancient Chinese game, like football.”
Louis asked, “They kicked those stones with their feet?”
“Later, they replaced the stones with feather or straw stuffed bags.”
Louis added, “I bet the players liked that improvement.”
(Continued in Book 9 Chapter 136)
Dec 13, 2011