— Mary Lou Taylor
I couldn’t get enough of those translated French novels.
Particularly about Paris. I was thirteen, and France meant
romance. When I grew up, I planned to sit at one of those cafes
Hemingway frequented, sipping a vin blanc on the Left Bank.
I prepared, taking French. Years later we took a Four Capitals tour.
Paris at last! Saw Notre Dame, the Tuileries, came nowhere near
Saint-Germain-des-Pres and all those plush drinking places I hungered
for, those places with savoir-faire and history. The last time I saw
Paris, we stayed on the Left Bank, combed the bookinistes for picture
books, tried some Chateauneufdu-Pape courtesy of an Irishman we sat
next to, uncovered the first Impressionist work ever painted, by Monet,
in a private museum, and met friends on the Île de la Cité for dinner.
At last our plans took us to my lifetime destination. Admiring the Art Deco
interior of red seats, dark wood and mirrors, we chose to sit outside under
a huge striped umbrella. Our own table was small, fine for the two of us.
Our waiter, dressed in a black vest, stiff collar and bow tie, appeared.
I ordered a Kir Royale, and while we waited, I pictured Camus and Picasso
or Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre sharing our umbrella. Our drinks
arrived. Just as I took my first sip, savoring the creme de cassis, something
on the pavement beneath us moved. A brown figure darted across my foot.
Its long tail curved over my shoe top. It couldn’t be. It was. A rat.