Jean-Claude Beauvais, a story
Book 009 Home Sweet Home
Chapter 139. Classroom Assignments
(End of Chapter 138)
The television opening was a tight frame moving across the resort model. The camera backed away and switched to the announcer.
“We have more news from the Marseille archeological dig at the Beauvais Resort, today. Professeur d’Allemagne, from Marseille University, has recently unearthed some startling artifacts for which he called in experts for analysis. They confirmed Professeur d’Allemagne’s finding.”
The announcer turned to Severin, sitting at the table.
Severin stood up and said, “Yes. Guillaume. We found exciting artifacts…”
Severin described the belly balls, their usage, and the exceptional transportation needed 3 thousand years, ago, for transporting the wooden balls from China to Marseille and the stone balls back to China.
He went on in his professorial, de facto voice.
“A belly ball was found in the Danube, in Germany, and sits, today, in the Regensburg Museum. It was found, while excavating an ancient boat in the Danube riverbed.”
“I will ask for an analysis of the mineral content of the Regensburg belly ball. If it matches the Marseille belly balls mineral analysis, the Regensburg belly ball, first traveled from China to Marseille, stayed in Marseille while it fossilized, returned to China, and subsequently returned from China, through the Bosporus, to the Black Sea, and up the Danube into Germany to Regensburg.”
He continued explaining the opening of the tunnels and the production of bell balls underground in the mineral waters under the beach house.
When he was finished, one press person asked, “How did the wooden belly balls get from China?”
Before Severin could answer, the reporter quipped, with a laugh, “On camels?”
“No,” Severin said, calmly. “The ships traveled to the Erythraian Sea, that’s the Red Sea, through The Bitter Lakes. After crossing the Tumilat Canal, the Chinese merchants went North on the Nile into the Mediterranean Sea.”
(End of Chapter 138 - Beginning of Chapter 139)
As Severin continued, I looked around the room at the press, jotting Severin’s words. The mayor sat at the table entranced. Jay Bensen looked at his watch a few times. The television camera stared at Cyprien, recording a view of the production. Dashiell sat and waited patiently to go outside for Act 2. Liz and Monsieur Jacqueme, like the mayor, watched and listened to Cyprien’s presentation.
I sat back, closed my eyes, and listened, while the show proceeded.
Cyprien finished his dissertation and worked through the press questions.
I heard the chairs start moving; I opened my eyes.
Dashiell caught me.
“A pillow and blanket?”
He pulled me to my feet.
Jay Benson, Liz, and Monsieur Jacqueme followed me across the room, as I followed the departing media personnel through the kitchen and out the kitchen door to the boardwalk to the dig.
Dashiell stopped me. “Go rinse your face and wake up. I’ll wait for you.”
Dashiell urged Jay Benson, Liz, and Monsieur Jacqueme to follow the media into the kitchen.
“Go ahead,” he said, cheerily. “He’ll come out in a few minutes, after he freshens up.”
My dear Dashiell cared for me, when I didn’t know I needed help.
I rinsed my face, combed my hair, straightened my tie, and left the bathroom.
“You alright now?” he asked.
“I feel fine. I drifted off to sleep while Severin talked on and on about the belly balls.”
“Let’s go outside. The fresh air will help wake you up.”
“Yes. I need some fresh air.”
We went outside, where Jay Benson stood behind the media crowded at the railing, watching Severin point out the evident features of the baths and spa facility.
Monsieur Jacqueme was at the railing, taking in Severin’s summary of the dig and its events.
At first, I didn’t see Liz.
Dashiell nudged me toward the shaded seats under the canopy. “Sit in the shade and wake up. I’ll get you something to drink.”
“Jay,” he asked, “You want a glass of Coteaux Aix-en-Provence 1910?”
“Of course,” Jay smiled. “And à la mode Jean-Claude Beauvais, with a piece of ice.”
Dashiell left for the beach house.
I heard Liz’s voice.
Questioning, I looked at Jay.
“She’s in the pit with Severin. She’s his assistant du jour.”
I felt warm and fuzzy inside, when Jay said, “She’s his assistant du jour.”
I added, “She’s considering a career as an archæologist, digging in dirt and muck.”
“Don’t feel too bad. Jean-Claude. You’ve met my daughter. Right?”
“She talks constantly about being a police detective.”
I looked at him, “What provoked that?”
“I asked her why. She rambled on about why and when she finished, I had no clear idea why a police detective. I still have no idea. Now, she tells me, “That’s what I want to do.”
“When did you know you wanted to become an architect?”
His eyes zeroed in on me.
“Jean-Claude. I’ll tell you if you tell me, when you know you wanted to become a musician. You’re such an intriguing and mysterious person. I know your musical career had to have begun in an interesting way.”
“Sure,” I said, “but there is nothing intriguing or mysterious about me. I can tell you exactly when and where my first experience took place. I was 10 years old and in my Grandpapa’s hotel. I would play in the winter in the ballroom. My Aunt Odie never allowed me to touch the piano in the ballroom. I saw the man play the keyboard, and I wanted to press a key and hear and feel what happened.”
Dashiell came out of the beach house, carrying two paper cups with obvious pieces of ice, protruding from the top.
“Monsieur Laurent said, “The car company has one convertible Silver Cloud and wanted to know if you wanted it, instead of the one of the cars you bought?” I told him, to go ahead and get it.”
Monsieur Laurent is on his way here with the Silver Cloud convertible. Monsieur Tissot will go home in the Black Goddess when Monsieur Laurent arrives with the new convertible.”
“A new convertible and they’re exchanging the cars. Right?”
Dashiell said, “Right,” and sat down next to me.
I continued telling Jay when I decided I wanted to be a musician.
“One morning at breakfast, my grandpapa had to go to the office, and there was no one at the table, except me, as I finished my breakfast. I finished and looked over at Pat, the piano player. He motioned to me to come to the piano. I went to the piano, a baby grand, and was mesmerized looking inside at the golden mechanics. As he played, he told me, “If I put my ear on the piano, I could hear it better. I did that and I knew I wanted to make music. I sat on the piano bench beside him, that morning, while he played his morning breakfast set. Later, when everyone had left the Grand Dining Room, he let me press a key. I can still close my eyes and hear the sound. Sometimes, I can still feel the key against my finger.”
I looked at Jay and smiled.
“I know that sounds odd, but it’s true. I can still hear the sound and feel the key.”
After baring my musical soul’s nascence, I sighed.
“And now… Jay. Tell me about how you became an architect.”
“Sometime, when my sister, Thérèse, was in diapers, my family went to Paris, in the summer. I remember we sometimes walked in a park, probably the Jardin des Tuileries. In Paris, for the first time, I came across a new world, Art Nouveau, which gave me new meaning and beauty in common everyday items. Once impressed, I began see Art Nouveau everywhere, which led me to designing and eventually architecture.”
I raised my glass to Jay.
“Here’s to the health of my friend, Jay, the architect.”
“And here’s to the health of my friend, Jean-Claude, the musician.”
Dashiell asked, “Don’t artists deserve any good health?”
Jay smiled and raised his glass, “And here’s to my friend, Dashiell, the artist, without whom, we wouldn’t have this delicious wine and ice.”
“Thank you,” Dashiell said. A moment passed and he stood up, looked at Jay and me, and said, “This artist is thirsty, too.”
He left and walked toward the beach house, evidently in a good humor; before going through the kitchen door, he looked over his shoulder.
I saw he was grinning and wondered what he planned. He saw my looking at him and did a two heel-kick, tossing his arms in the air, Beauvais Brother’s style.
I smiled, enjoying our private moment behind the media, gathered in front of me.
I listened as Liz continued talking, but through the crowd of people, I couldn’t make out what she was saying.
I looked at Jay.
“I wonder what she’s talking about.”
“I have no idea. One of the reporters asked her something, she replied, and another reporter asked her another question. You know how that goes. Tell them something and they want to know more.”
“She could be learning to say enough, but not too much.”
Dashiell arrived with his glass and the bottle for refills.
He sat down next to me and asked, “What’s going on?”
Jay said, “Liz is talking to the media.”
As Jay spoke, from the opposite direction, I heard the mayor’s voice, espousing the City of Marsillia… "By her great deeds, the city of Massilia shines".
I added, “Cyprien is doing his job.”
A voice in the media asked a question.
Liz started speaking.
I looked at Dashiell.
“Can you hear what’s she saying?”
“No. Probably something like I like digging in the sand.”
I stood up and went to the edge of the media at the railing to hear Liz.”
“…came back from America right away.”
“I have no idea what happened to either of them.”
“Excuse me,” Cyprien said, standing in the middle of the media.
“Jean-Claude. Jean-Claude,” he said, raising his voice and looking around. “Where are you?”
I waved my arm overhead and said, “Over here. Monsieur le maire.”
“Jean-Claude. Would you tell the media how this happened?”
The television camera swung around and the lens focused on me.
“Tell how what happened?” I asked.
“How Liz became interested in archeology?”
“I do many things. Some of them, I do well, but I cannot read anyone’s mind. To know what’s in her mind, you have to talk to Liz about her interest in archeology. I can, however, tell you, from the first time she saw the dig, she’s been interested in it.”
I noticed a smile on Liz’s face. I returned the smile.
“She’s particularly happy, with a brush in her hand, brushing away sand. I know that, because I’ve seen it in her eyes.”
One of the media asked, “Your boys. Are they interested in archeology?”
“I asked them this morning if they would like to go to the luncheon and come here, this afternoon. They decided to stay home and unpack clothes.”
“Isn’t that odd for boys to want to unpack clothes?”
“Indeed. It is, but they had an ulterior motive. After unpacking, they would spend the afternoon in the Jacuzzi.”
The media laughed.
One tall man asked, “Is there room for me, in there, too?” The media personnel produced their normally raucous attempt of a subdued, respectful response.
“Professeur d’Allemagne can fill you in on the details of the dig and the belly balls. I only know about the scientific details he has told me. He’s the man with all the knowledge and answers.”
The camera did not move. They expected more from me.
I looked into the dig at d’Allemagne. “Has the professor shown you the belly balls?”
They started buzzing; the camera swung away from me and pointed at d’Allemagne in the dig.
d’Allemagne spoke to Liz, who stood up, and they both turned to the camera.
“We’ll get a pair of belly balls,” d’Allemagne said, “and you can take pictures.”
d’Allemagne and Liz walked from where they stood in the middle of the dig, around the unearthed ancient walls, to their little tool shed. They removed a folding card table from the shed and set it up on the ancient floor of the main bath. d’Allemagne and Liz walked to the urns, lined up by the cave’s entrance.
I returned to Dashiell and Jay Benson, sitting in the shade, and to my ice and wine, in a paper cup, also sitting in the shade.
Dashiell asked, “What are they doing?”
“d’Allemagne and Liz are showing the media a pair of belly balls.” I smiled and gave him a thumbs-up. “That will keep them busy for a little while.”
Jay said, “This is relaxing, sitting here, in the shade, with the sea breeze. You certainly found a fine place to site your resort.”
I quipped, “Totally accidental.”
Jay quickly looked over at Dashiell for a riposte. Jay knew Dashiell well enough; he could gauge my remark’s validity by Dashiell’s response.
Our pleasant past-time conversation ceased when a voice in the media called, “Could Mayor Daladier and Monsieur Beauvais stand by Professeur d’Allemagne and Liz, so we can take pictures?”
Cyprien and I joined Liz and d’Allemagne in the pit, standing behind a pair of belly balls, sitting on folding card table.
The photographers, cinematographers, and television camera operators were delighted.
I turned to Severin.
“May we put these somewhere, where the public can look at them and even touch them? They won’t hurt them. Will they?”
Severin was usually guarded when he responded to my questions and even more so, when he was before the media.
I added, “It’s not like we don’t have hundreds more of them, sitting in the cave.”
“To the contrary, we have thousands more,” he said, with a smile. “Yes. What did you have in mind?”
“Well. Right now. We could put them in the beach house and the media can inspect them. When they’re done, perhaps Monsieur le maire can take them to City Hall and put them on display, there, in the museum.”
Upon hearing, “Monsieur le maire can take them to City Hall,” Cyprien sprang into action.
“Indeed,” raising his arms in the air, he said loudly, “the City of Marseille, which, by her great deeds, the city of Massilia shines, would delight in spotlighting part of Marseille’s glorious past, by presenting this product, Marseille Belly Balls, in the City Hall Museum for public viewing.”
I applauded Cyprien’s oration. Part of the media understood and applauded, too. He turned to me and made a grand gesture while grinning, quite happy to receive accolades from the media and me.
Liz and Severin brought the two belly balls on the table up the steps to the boardwalk. Mayor Daladier spread his arms to hold back the pressing media, a few of whom groaned at nearing the passing magnificent piece of the city’s history.
One inside the beach house, the circus resumed anew. Jay Benson, Liz, Monsieur Jacqueme, Dashiell, and I sat on the couches in the corner of the room, as the mayor and Professeur d’Allemagne talked about the belly balls and the City Hall Museum, which was unknown to some of the media.
Photographers took turns snapping pictures of the belly balls on the long table, focusing and refocusing as they attempted to be creative taking differnet shots of the two stone balls. After the photographers, the television camera performed its required exercises, and finally the two cinematographers worked with adjusting the lighting. Their cameras began rolling and added the balls to the world’s motion picture library of odd things on a table.
By the time everyone finished, most of the media had left.
The television crew, one news reporter, and two photographers stayed to record the belly balls leaving the beach house.
Monsieur Laurent opened the trunk and stood to the side, as Professeur d’Allemagne and Liz laid the balls in the trunk of the car, inside a cardboard box, with an old blanket, between them, keeping the belly balls secure from accidental injury, while travelling.
The lone television journalist pointed a microphone at Monsieur Laurent and asked, “What kind of automobile is this?”
Monsieur Laurent patted the silver fender and said, “She’s a Silver Cloud.”
When we arrived at City Hall, with the belly balls, Monsieur Laurent opened the trunk. We got out of the car to stretch our legs. Cyprien was fluttering about the trunk, quite excited. A man, a City Hall employee, removed the box, taking it in the front door.
Cyprien said, “Put them in my office.”
Monsieur Jacqueme excused himself. “I have to go make dinner. My wife is in Aix this afternoon, visiting her sister, who’s getting married,” he laughed, and added, “again.”
Monsieur le maire came over to me, grinned, and said, “They’re worth their weight in gold, for the city’s tourist business.”
I smiled back and nodded.
“Cyprien. Are you coming back to Mon Grandpapa to surprise the boys?”
“Sure. Let me make sure they put the balls in my office and I’ll be right out.”
Liz, Dashiell, Monsieur Laurent, and I waited for the mayor in front of City Hall, in the new car.
Monsieur Laurent, in the driver’s seat, looked at the owner’s manual. Dashiell and I sat by the back seat windows, with Liz in the middle. Dashiell and I quickly found the power window controls. There were two other controls, but we didn’t see what they did. Dashiell figured out how to work the table, hinged to the back of Monsieur Laurent’s front seat.
The Silver Cloud had more gizmos and room in the back seat than the DS-19.
While we played in the new car, Cyprien arrived.
“This is quite an automobile. Lovely wood.”
Monsieur Laurent pointed to some controls on the dashboard and said, “And she has air conditioning, too.”
We arrived at pier, walked to Mon Grandpapa’s berth, and up the gangway. The ship’s bell rang, marking our arrival. Cyprien walked aft, to the Jacuzzi to surprise the boys.
I went in the opposite direction, to the lounge. Jacob arrived as soon as sat down, at my desk to look at the mail.
I asked, “Everything quiet, while I was away?”
“Well. We had some excitement in the Jacuzzi. Monsieur Jacqueme’s boys arrived, looking for their father. I told them, “He went to the beach house with Monsieur Beauvais.” Louis and Ollie heard the ship’s bell and came to see what was happening. To make a long story, short, they went home and came back in bathing attire, and spend an hour in the Jacuzzi, laughing and splashing with Louis and Ollie. That was the most excitement this ship’s had in a long time. Otherwise, this was a very quiet afternoon.”
I sat back at my desk, put my feet up on the bottom drawer, and looked at the mail, which turned out to be an exercise in tossing trash in the trashcan.
I pushed the drawer in and got up.
“Jacob. Take a walk aft and make sure everything is okay with Cyprien and the boys and on your way back, bring some wine and ice.”
Jacob left and I went to the piano and played something rolling about in my head. It kept changing and I changed with it.
Jacob arrived with the wine and ice, poured the wine over a nice piece of ice and brought it to the piano.
“How are they doing, back there?”
“The mayor was telling the boys about Marseille before the war.”
“Invite him to dinner, if you go that way again.”
I took my wine upstairs to my stateroom and took a shower. While I dressed for dinner, Dashiell came in and exclaimed, “I was wondering where you were.”
“I checked the mail, and took a shower. What are you up to?”
“I’m just getting cleaned up for dinner.”
“Jacob told me Cyprien was telling the boys about Marseille before the war.”
“I wonder if he’ll mention Vichy?”
“Whatever. That the people outside of Paris are not great fans of Parisian government is no secret. It’s not right or wrong; it’s just the way it is.”
I left and went downstairs to the Jacuzzi, to roust the boys from the water.
They were gone and so was the mayor.
I went upstairs to the boys’ stateroom door.
I opened the door and went inside. The boys were drying off from their post Jacuzzi shower.
“Did you scare the mayor and make him go home?”
Ollie laughed; Louis said, “He said he was going to the lounge.”
I sat on the bed. Louis brought towels and I began drying Ollie hair.
“I heard you, guys, had some visitors, this afternoon.”
“Yes,” Louis said, while he dressed for dinner. “Jean-Jacques, Jean-Louis, and Michel came to see their father, but he wasn’t here. Jacob said he went to the beach house with you. We talked for a while and they went home and came back with their bathing suits and we sat in the Jacuzzi and talked, until Jacob said it was time for them to go home.”
Ollie mentioned, from under the towel, “They talk funny, especially Michel.”
“That’s because,” I said, “they are English boys, learning to speak French.”
Louis added, “They are easier to understand than the Greek boy, who goes to my school.”
Ollie added, “I hope I never sound funny, like they do.”
“You will,” I said, “when you learn another language in school.”
“Why would I want to learn another language?”
“It’s good for your mind, and another language let’s you see the world from another viewpoint.”
“What’s a viewpoint?”
I looked at Louis. Our eyes met.
“A viewpoint, Ollie, is where you are when you see something. A place from where you see whatever you see.”
“I see stuff, okay, already. Why go to the trouble of changing?”
Louis admonished Ollie. “Stop asking stupid questions.”
“They’re not stupid questions. Louis.”
“The reason you want to see things differently, is because the more you see, the better you see.”
Louis turned in front of the cheval, checking himself. He twisted his torso back and forth, checking his back.
“Ollie,” I asked, raising the second towel from his head. “What’s Louis doing?”
Ollie’s head turned to Louis in front of the giant mirror.
“He’s checking how he looks.”
“In front of the cheval.”
“Because he doesn’t want you telling him about a string on his trousers.”
“No. I mean, why is he standing in front of the cheval?”
“So he can see his back.”
“The cheval lets him seem behind him; it gives him a different point of view, a different viewpoint. A second language works the same way; it gives you information with a different idea than one language.”
“You’re done. Tiger. Go brush it out.”
Ollie went in the bathroom to brush his hair.
I picked up the towels and tossed them in the bathroom hamper. I turned and walked over to Ollie, before the wall mirror, brushing his fluff.
“If I look at your head, I see you one way. If I look in the mirror and look at your head, I have changed what?”
He beamed and exclaimed, “Point of view!”
“Good for you. Tiger.”
I turned, “Come down to the lounge when you’re dressed.”
I walked into the bedroom, where Louis stood, looking across the harbor towards the Quai Rive Neuve side.
“Does that remind you of looking at Astoria, across the East River?”
“Yes. Could we go over there, sometime?”
“Certainly. We can go over there tonight, after dinner.”
“It reminds me of Astoria, because all the buildings are new. The mayor said, ““The only building standing, when the war ended, was town hall.””
“That’s what they say.”
“He said, “You let him take two belly balls to city hall, to put in the city hall museum. Is that right?””
“Yes,” I said, “I asked Professeur d’Allemagne if that would be okay. He’s in charge of the dig.”
“But you own it.”
“Yes, but I gave Professeur d’Allemagne control over the operation, because he is an Archeology expert. I know nothing of Archeology, except what it is, in a general way. I know about as much about Archeology as I know about building resorts.”
“How can you say that? You’re building a great resort.”
“I have to point out a little detail. Jay Benson is charge of the resort building, in the same way, Professeur d’Allemagne is in charge of the dig at the beach house. I hired them to do what I wanted done.”
I looked at him, smiled, and said, “Simple as that.”
Ollie repeated, quietly, in his fashion, “Simple as that.”
I threw him a look.
He started to say, “Sorry.”
“And don’t say “sorry.” You’re only sorry when I catch you. It’s simple not mannerly to repeat what other people say. One in a while, it may be cute, but like a lot of habits, after a while, it gets to be a pain.”
Ollie, standing next to me, looked up and asked, “A pain?”
I whacked his bottom and said, “A pain in the bottom. The boys found that hilarious.
While they laughed, I ushered them out of the stateroom, towards the stairs to the lower floor.
We walked into the lounge, where Dashiell, Liz, and Cyprien sat in the middle of the long table, discussing public interest in seeing and hearing about the belly balls, from the events today at the restaurant and at the dig.
I joined them, at the table, sitting next to Dashiell. Louis sat across from me and Ollie, next to me.
Cyprien mentioned, “Today is Friday, which means there’s not much real news for the evening television news report. Most of the newsmakers have left the city to spend the weekend in the mountains.”
Dashiell said, “The belly balls will be on the television news.” Then he added, “Won’t they?”
“Yes,” Cyprien said, with a little smile, “Because there’s no competition for the news times on television, the public will see lots of the belly balls. They’ll see more on the late night news, and even over the weekend. Belly balls will be in the weekend newspapers, and on the radio. The best part, for the Marseille, is the national press will carry some of the details of the belly balls story nationally, on television, in the newspapers, and on the radio. With a little luck, the international news agencies will pick up the story, which would mean the whole world hear about Marseille and the belly balls.”
As Cyprien spoke, I could see glee building to a climax as his eyes almost popped from his head when he referred to the international news agencies.
Cyprien had an easy congenial way with his language and mannerisms, when building enthusiasm. He was a natural politician; it was in his blood.
Of course, he was preaching to the choir; each of us, Dashiell, Liz, Louis, Ollie, and I, had our own reasons to watch the evening news to see what turned up from the afternoon press party.
Out of nowhere, it occurred to me, the game, tomorrow was a home game, and the tickets sat in my desk drawer at the house. Our OM kits were at the house, too.
“Cyprien,” I said. “The game tomorrow is a home game. Right?”
“Yes. Indeed.” Cyprien’s eyes sparkled. “The odds are 4 to 1 that we’ll kick Saint-Rémy, tomorrow.”
“Are you going to make a few francs on that?”
“No, but when our OM scores, I’ll be standing and cheering before the cameras. At election time, pictures like those swing extra votes my way. That’s called “money in the bank,” for a politician.”
“While I’m asking questions, are you staying for dinner? You place is already set at the dining room table.”
Cyprien’s face froze as he considered dinner.
“Before you tell me, let me ask Jacob what is planned for dinner.”
Jacob said, “I’ll be back with the evening menu.”
Ollie announced, “I have to pee,” pushed away from the table and went into the bathroom.
I looked over to Dashiell.
“I will have to work with Ollie and change his “I have to pee,” to “I have to use the restroom.”
Louis turned from looking out the window at Quai du port, to me, and said, “When he gets bored, he goes and plays in the bathroom sink.”
“In any case, he needs to say, “I have to use the bathroom,” or something like that… the facility… whatever; not “I have to pee.” That’s so crude.”
Jacob returned and announced, “The chef has prepared roast pork and fruits.”
“In that case,” Cyprien said, “I’ll stay for dinner.”
“Excellent,” I said.
Ollie apparently heard the door to the hallway open and close. He came out of the bathroom and heard me say, “Excellent,” he mimicked a soft, “Excellent.” As soon as he spoke, he knew he spoke too loudly. His eyes rolled to me as his pursed lips emitted a muffled “sorry.”
He sat down again, next to me. I put my arm around him, looked in his face, and said, “I love you dearly, Ollie, but you have to stop echoing what you hear. It’s fun, now, but you can get into trouble doing that.”
After I spoke to him, his head fell limp against my arm. I felt he thought I asked him for the grand sacrifice.
Liz turned to him, from across the table, and assertively said, “Cut it out. Ollie.”
Immediately Ollie’s little head popped up and he rearranged himself in his chair.
I looked at my watch. “It’s almost time for the news. Louis. Would you turn on the television receiver?”
MM, Météo Marseille, was working toward the weather forecast, which would be the same as yesterday, hot, sunny, with a chance of showers. After MM, came a clip from the evening movie, a comedy. The clip didn’t evoke a laugh from the watchers, from the youngest, Ollie, to the oldest, Cyprien. So much for television entertainment.
With a toot from trumpets, the evening news show arrived on our screen, beginning with the visual of the trident gently blowing across the screen in radiant black and white. The announcer spoke of the problems of the day, Algeria, the Basque, Tito, and the earthquake in Chile. Then came the interesting part.
“We have the high points of the lunchtime meeting between the mayor, Monsieur Cyprien-Marie-Jean Daladier, Professeur Severin d’Allemagne, and Monsieur Jean-Claude Beauvais, held in downtown Marseille, at the Mirada Restaurant, on the Quai du port.”
“Here is Professeur d’Allemagne, from Marseille University, describing for the media, his findings on the old south beach.”
The screen switched to d’Allemagne.
“As you know, when Monsieur Beauvais developers discovered a stash of coins on the old south beach, he called me to look at the find. I identified the items and told him, where the coins were found, could be an archeological site. He began our work on the site. What you see outside, is the result of his interest in antiquities. As my group unearthed the baths and spa, we found more curiosities, including what looked like a sealed entrance to something underground, which to now, has been sealed for at least two and a half thousand years.”
For the next twenty minutes, the television played the recorded images of d’Allemagne’s discourse at the Mirada restaurant.
When the camera looked at the attendees at the table, Liz, in a flowery blouse, looked quite spectacular, among the drab business suits.
Louis said, “You look nice on the television.”
Liz blushed. “Thank you.”
At a different point, Professeur d’Allemagne spoke of the belly ball found in Germany, years ago. The camera moved to Liz’s face. She looked entranced, gazing at Severin as he reeled off dates, places, facts, and figures.
The news program took a break and the television channel presented a timely, one-minute article on protecting children near water, in the summer.
After the break, the announcer resumed the news about the “Marseille Belly Balls.” I laughed when he said, “Belly Balls.” Those two words struck me as very funny.
“After the lunch at the Mirada Restaurant, in downtown Marseille, on the Quai du port, Monsieur Beauvais took the entourage to his resort’s building site on the old south beach.”
The television showed us arriving at the beach house, where the television cameras were already set up. I stopped out of the DS-19 convertible, smiled at Monsieur Jacqueme, who stepped from the front seat. Monsieur Tissot, in his livery uniform, closed the door and walked out of the picture. The camera recorded everyone walking into the beach house. Cyprien waved as he passed the camera and said something to the camera.
Inside, everything was back to business, with questions from the media and answers from Professeur d’Allemagne. When Severin mentioned the belly balls in Regensburg Museum, on the Danube in Germany, the screen showed a map with the Danube highlighted from the Black Sea to Regensburg.
A lady holding a wooden pointer, with the obligatory black rubber tip, followed the voice of the announcer, as he described the journey. Starting from the South China Sea, the merchants would travel through the Indian Ocean, to the Arabian Sea, and into the Red Sea. From there, they would cross through the Egyptian Tumilat Canal to the Nile River. From the Nile River, they would proceed to the Mediterranean Sea, to the Aegean Sea, across the Sea of Mamara, through Istanbul, into the Black Sea, and then up the Danube, into Germany.
While the map was on the television screen, someone asked the announcer, “About how long was the cruise, from Beijing, China, to Regensburg, Germany?”
He said, “Easily a twenty thousand kilometer journey.”
Another voice, Claude, the weatherman, joked, “That’d wear out a lot of oars.”
A muffled laugh in the television studio followed the remark.
Trying to stifle his own laugh, the announcer tried to sound serious.
He said, in his announcer voice, “Gez. Claude. They used sails.”
The screen switched to a photo of the belly ball in the Regensburg Museum.
“This belly ball, called the Regensburg Chinese Health Orb, was found when archeologists were digging in the silt of the Danube, in 1935. For years, it was a mystery, until one anthropologist from Siam noticed it, and identified it as a Chinese Health Orb, what Professeur d’Allemagne has labeled more interestingly, a belly ball.”
The weatherman added, “A Marseille Belly Ball sounds more interesting than a Regensburg Chinese Health Orb.”
The screen changed again, this time, showing d’Allemagne in the pit, pointing to the cave entrance.
“That is the cave entrance that has been sealed for over two thousand years. When we unsealed the cave entrance, we found the urns right inside the cave.”
“Further along in the tunneling, you can see more urns. Inside the main tunnel, other tunnels branch in different directions. Where the branches occur, you can hear water running. Before we go further into the underground site, some geologists from Aix, whom I know, will see this. I hope they will tell us, a, if the tunnels are safe, and b, anything else they, as geologists, might be able to share with us.”
Severin pointed to the tunnel entrance.
“To me, the tunnel appears to be a natural formation, but that is unofficial. The geologists can make that call.”
“Dashiell,” I said.
He turned away from the television screen and looked at me. “I’d like to be there when the geologists look at the cave.”
“Why? d’Allemagne will call you and tell you all about it. After that, he’ll tell the media; after that, we’ll watch it all over again, that night on television; in the morning, we read all about it again in the newspaper.”
“You’re right. Sometimes, I get caught up in the excitement of this.”
Liz turned to me, “That’s exactly how I feel; I get caught up in the excitement and want to continue exploring.”
Liz, Dashiell, and I nodded. We returned to watching the television screen.
A report asked, “Mademoiselle Liz. It’s mademoiselle. Right?”
Liz looked up from the pit and said, “Yes.”
“I have not seen you with Monsieur Beauvais, since Monsieur Beauvais came to Marseille, before today.”
“My parents split up. I went with my mother to the Basque. My mother disappeared and a one-eyed priest brought me home on a bus from the Basque, with chickens and a goat. He gave me a few francs and left me in front of city hall. Alone on the quai, I saw the mayor and ran after him, calling to him. He asked me who I was. I told him my name. He took me to his office and contacted Monsieur Beauvais, who was in America on vacation with his brother, Dashiell, and my brothers, Louis and Olivier. Monsieur Beauvais came back from America right away.”
“Where are your parents now?”
Liz answered, “I have no idea what happened to either of them.”
She paused and looked around.
“I understand my father is dead. His papers arrived here in Marseille, without him.”
She looked around again.
“And your mother?”
Liz looked up at the reporter, asking the question, and raised her hands.
“Who knows? She abandoned me.”
“One morning, she left me, in a one-eyed Spanish priest’s barn and never returned. The one-eyed priest brought me to Marseille with some chickens and a goat. I was scared… so scared. A farmer took the chickens and goat away in his truck in one direction. The one-eyed Spanish priest gave me a few francs, got back on the bus, and the bus left in the other direction. I was alone, on the quai, in front of city hall. That’s when I saw Monsieur le maire, who called Jean-Claude. After I spoke to Jean-Claude, Monsieur le maire took me to breakfast. After breakfast, Bishop Deville kept me safe until my family returned from America.”
The camera stayed on Liz, while we heard the reporter ask, “Did the one-eyed priest explain what was going on to you?”
“He only spoke a few times, in Spanish.”
“And you don’t understand Spanish?”
The reporter voice said, “That’s quite a story.”
Liz frowned up from the dig.
“Not a story; my life.”
The screen changed to the news announcer, who smiled and said, “I have an interesting little piece of information about the belly balls, that wasn’t included in the video.”
His sidekick, Claude, asked, “What’s that?”
“The belly balls arrived at city hall on a Silver Cloud.”
The weatherman said, “Traveling on a Silver Cloud sounds like a fairy tale.”
The announcer said, “Claude. That is very strange, but very true.”
“After the break, Claude Marseille’s weather forecast and after that, I will explain the arrival of the Marseille belly balls on a Silver Cloud.”
The screen went black and public service announcement began.
Dashiell turned the television receiver off.
Cyprien said, “Liz. You are a very brave young lady.”
Liz turned to the old man, with a wry smile, and said, “I was scared and didn’t know what I was doing. My instincts took over.”
She looked over at me, then back to Cyprien.
“I didn’t think about where we were or what we were doing. I was with mama on a trip. I asked her once, “Where are we going?” She said, “We’re looking for a new life.””
“I didn’t feel we were on a ponderous journey. It was more like a rustic holiday. That was, until mama didn’t come back to the barn.”
She looked at Louis and Ollie.
“That afternoon, I understood what alone meant.”
Her gaze became blank and returned to the floor.
“After sundown, the one-eyed priest came up the stairs with food in a bowl, and part of a bottle of ugly tasting wine. He spoke in Spanish, trying to tell me something. All I understood was Marseille. The next day, before the Sun came up, a goat, the one-eyed priest pulling a cart with a crate of chickens, and I walked to the road. We got on the bus. The bus ran forever. When the Sun came up, we opened some windows on the bus. It stunk less, with the breeze from outside. It was so weird. We arrived in Marseille. They left; again, I was alone.”
She turned to Cyprien.
“That’s when I saw you.”
She turned to me.
“He took me into his office and called you.”
“I was still scared. I remember you saying, “You’re not alone. We’re with you.”” That didn’t mean anything to me at the time. Now, it means everything to me. I had no idea how wonderful…”
I said, “That’s enough. Liz. Try to let it pass. Dashiell, Louis, Ollie, and I have been through the same experience. Let it pass. Look forward and let the past, the pain, slide into the river and out to sea.”
Dashiell said, “Jean-Claude. You certainly have a way with words.”
Cyprien said, “I agree. You should be a politician, if you ever get tired of being a resort manager.”
“I can’t manage a resort. I know nothing of resorts. I have to hire someone to do that. I can play music in the ballroom for dancing or listening, but that is the limit of my expertise.”
Cyprien said, “You forgot you are a parent, now.”
“I play music, when I am not parenting.”
Cyprien turned to Dashiell.
“What about you? Dashiell?”
“I draw. Otherwise, I eat and sleep.”
Macaulay opened the door; heads turned toward the sound.
“Dinner is ready.”
An afternoon in the fresh air gave us fine appetites.
I asked Monsieur Laurent, “Could you take us on a little sightseeing ride around the harbor after dinner?”
Louis talked about his neighbors, the Jacqueme boys, who visited earlier, in the afternoon.
Louis described showing them around the yacht.
“Michel,” he said, “is fifteen years old. He plays violin. I showed him our pianos. I played for him. He invited me to visit his yacht and hear him play his violin.”
Ollie said, “Louis lined them up beside the piano and made them listen to the side of the piano. They looked funny with their ears stuck on the piano.”
Louis said, “They liked the Jacuzzi.”
Ollie interrupted and said, “Jean-Louis liked the Royal Louis.”
I asked, “Which boy is Jean-Louis?”
Ollie said, “He’s the short one. He wanted take the Royal Louis out of the case and play with it.”
Jacob said by the door said, “I told them, Jean-Claude’s rule is, “The Royal Louis is to be seen and not touched.””
Jacob continued, “I received a dirty look, but preserved the Royal Louis, intact.”
Louis added, “Jean-Jacques wanted to go up to the top deck. Jacob went up there with us older boys. I don’t know, why but Jean-Jacques liked it up there.”
I asked again, “Which boy is Jean-Jacques?”
Louis said, “He’s the very skinny, tall one. Michel is tall, too, but not skinny. He’s regular.”
I looked at Louis.
“Jean-Jacques looks like he needs to eat. Michel looks okay for his tallness.”
When Louis stopped, Ollie started again.
“While the big boys were on the top deck, Jean-Louis and I talked with the Officer of the Watch on the bridge.
He asked me, “Do you know to drive the boat?”
I told him, “The Captain and officers drive the yacht.””
Ollie smiled and added, “I told him, “I am learning to navigate and I can read maps.””
Jean-Louis asked me, “What are maps?”
“The Officer of the Watch said, “Let me show him.””
“The Officer of the Watch showed him some of the maps. While we looked at the maps, Jacob and the older boys came down the stairs. The Jacqueme boys went home.”
Louis said, “They’re coming back to play in the Jacuzzi.”
Ollie continued, “They came back in bathing suits and without their robes.”
Dessert arrived and the boys became instantly focused on the sweet creation before them.
After dinner, Cyprien thanked me for dinner and walked home. Monsieur Laurent walked out onto the aft deck. Louis, Ollie, Liz, Dashiell, and I walked the promenade to settle dessert.
As we passed Dashiell’s studio, he excused himself, breaking away from our promenade party, and went in the side entrance to the lower hallway.
Louis, Liz, Ollie, and I continued our promenade along the starboard, past the dining room, and to the aft deck, where a relaxing Monsieur Laurent waited for us.
Monsieur Laurent sat up, in his chaise.
I stopped walking; Liz, Ollie, and Louis stopped, too.
I said, “Louis wants to see the other side of the port, at night. Monsieur Laurent is going to take Louis and me over there, so he can look around.”
Ollie asked, “Me, too?”
“May I go, too?”
Louis said, “Certainly.”
We walked to the car. Monsieur Laurent opened the doors and Louis, Ollie, and I got in the back seat. Liz sat in the front seat.
Ollie immediately discovered and stood up on the hump in the middle of the floor, his personal height enhancer.
I said, “Boys. If you take your shoes off, you can sit on the back of the seat. Don’t sit on that other thing up there. That’s the top. If you break the top, we’ll get very wet, if it rains.”
Louis leaned forward and told me, “I can see fine, sitting in the seat.”
Monsieur Laurent got in the car and started the motor.
Liz investigated the glove box and discovered her window control.
Monsieur Laurent put all the windows down.
“Ah,” Louis sighed, “Now, I can see better.”
Monsieur Laurent turned around.
“Ollie. Pull down that leather loop in the middle of the back seat.”
Confused, Ollie asked, “Pull the loop?”
I tried to help.
“Ollie. Slide over.”
I started to pull the loop.
“See. This is the loop. Pull on it.”
Ollie pulled the loop. He was so happy, he almost peed his britches. What could be better than a classy car with a built-in classy booster seat!
“No shoes on the seat.”
Delighted, Ollie squealed and perched on the armrest.
I wondered if Ollie thought an English craftsman put the armrest there, because of a special order from a Monsieur Ollie Beauvais, in Marseille.
My smile remained after my musing passed, until Liz found the handle that lowered the back the front seat, startling herself and me. The boys, especially Ollie, found the seatback hilarious.
After Ollie calmed down, I told him, “Thank Monsieur Laurent for telling you about that loop.”
Ollie scooted forward on the armrest, stood up and bent forward over the back of the front seat. Wrapping his tiny arms around Monsieur Laurent’s neck, he said, “Thank you. Monsieur Laurent.”
While his brother’s bottom was high in the air, always a welcome target for a swat, Louis, with a devilish grin, playfully swung at Ollie’s bottom, but stopped short of contact.
Monsieur Laurent smiled in the mirror at Ollie, who sat down on his private perch and returned a thumbs-up, back into the mirror.
Ollie’s new accommodation pleased Louis; Ollie planted himself on his perch, which meant he would not be going over to Louis’ side of the car. Ollie’s stepping on Louis’ feet and bumping into his knees were a constant sources of irritation.
The car glided into the traffic lane and rolled ever so slowly along Rue du port, home to a myriad of brasseries, restaurants, and bars, catering to the local as well as the international traffic.
At the end of the harbor, we crossed the harbor, and stopped at a traffic light, before riding up the other side of the harbor.
On the harbor side of the street, a folding signboard, sat beside
an idle ferry, announcing, “The Algiers Ferry will DEPART/
departure time was not on the chalkboard.
The light changed; we turned on to Quai Rive Neuve and moved slowly along a different slew of restaurants and bars. I looked over the harbor from the opposite side. There, in the middle of the harbor, was my sleek Mon Grandpapa, sporting her mooring lights and harbor flags, sitting giant-like, among the sailing masts.
On the opposite side of the harbor, the street floor restaurants and bars sat hidden behind the masts and boats, moored on long piers stretching into the water, attached at one end to the Quai du port.
All that was visible was the front of the upper floors of the buildings, mostly hotels. Between the hotels, City Hall stood, unique in its architecture from its modern neighbors.
Louis’ head swiveled, absorbing everything he saw.
Ollie, for the most part, looked at the boats. He did spot a few stores selling boating supplies.
Liz entertained us with the radio, which had speakers in the rear, lest we miss something.
We arrived at the end of the harbor, turned around, and slowly returned home, along the same route.
Monsieur Laurent stayed and closed the car.
Liz, Ollie, Louis, and I walked to the lounge aboard Mon Grandpapa. Ollie was tired. He slumped in a chaise as soon as we went inside, complaining he was cold.
I stopped before sitting down and pulled Ollie up from his chaise. He rose from the chaise with a yawn.
I pointed him towards the door.
“Time for sleepy tigers to take a shower and then go off to beddy-bye..”
I swatted his bottom, ushering him along
Louis said nothing. With his hand on the door handle, he stood by the door, waiting for Ollie.
As Louis opened the door for Ollie, I added, “I’ll be up in a few minutes.”
Liz stood, looking at the Royal Louis. “This is a super model.”
“We found it at a maritime museum, in New York.”
She turned around and said, “I bet it takes time and patience to make all the little parts in something like that,” as she walked across the room toward the long table.
“I would think so, but I don’t really know.”
An official government envelope sat on my desk. I picked it up and opened it.
Liz walked around the end of the table and sat with her back to starboard.
I looked up from reading André Malraux’s letter.
“Liz. André Malraux and his boys are coming to Marseille. I’m sure they’ll drop in to see us.”
“Who is André Malraux?”
“He’s the Minister for Cultural Affairs for President de Gaulle.”
“Will this be a tie and gown night or a casual afternoon affair?”
“Either way, he and his boys are good people.”
“And Madame Malraux?”
“André seems to trade them in for new ones, frequently.”
“Then the current Madame Malraux?”
“Is a piano player. I’ve never heard her play, but that’s what I’m told.”
“I think so.”
“By the way, while I’m thinking about it. Are you all set for school?”
“As far as I know.”
“Okay. I just wanted to check and make sure you’re all set.”
I stood up.
“I have to go upstairs. Hair drying and story time.”
Liz smiled, gently.
“Thank you for being here for us.”
I turned to her.
“Remember. Liz. The past is gone and your future is what you make it. Louis and Ollie, too, will embrace their future.”
She smiled and was about to say something.
I put my finger to my lips to silence her and said, “I have to go upstairs, or they may sink the ship.”
She smiled again. I left and hurried upstairs to the boy’s stateroom, where Louis was still in the shower and Ollie was drying himself beside the pile of his clothes. When he saw me sitting on the bed in the bedroom, the pile of clothes miraculously traveled into the clothes hamper.
He came out of the bathroom with two towels and set them on the bed. He moved to my knees, pushed my legs open and sat down between them with his back to me.
I tossed one towel over his head and began drying his hair. Ollie and I heard Louis, brushing his teeth. Ollie, beneath the towel, began singing the song from a toothpaste commercial.
When I changed to the second towel, Louis came out of the bathroom.
Ollie looked up and asked, “What happened to you?”
Louis looked at him. “What do you mean?”
“On you hip?”
“That’s where you kicked me.”
“I know you didn’t mean to. Little brother.”
I dropped the towel on Ollie’s semi-dry, almost-fluffy hair and continued drying, cutting off further conversation.
Louis selected his pajamas, put them on, and raised the comforter to slide into bed, when I asked him to get Ollie’s brush for me.
Louis set the brush beside me, slid into the bed, behind me, and watched me finish drying Ollie hair.
I brushed a few times to fluff his curls.
Ollie stood up and turned around. I handed him the two towels. “Put them in the hamper and do your teeth.”
Ollie, naked and dry, carried the towels into the bathroom. The hamper lid dropped.
Tooth brushing began.
“Well. Are you all set for school?”
Louis’ voice reflected his lack of enthusiasm.
“When I get the rest of my school clothes?”
“Still have another fitting?”
Louis’ enthusiasm returned.
“And Monday, I get my classroom assignments.”
(Continued in Chapter 140)
Index & Notes
Jan 26, 2012 8950