PARIS TIMES: A Tale of PURE fiction…
(N° 21 “GOOD NEWS”)
by Matt Carlson
The downstairs cricket-sounding-squeaking’ of Patches’ wheelchair rose and permeated through the air. From the upstairs closed bedroom door, the sound wafted upwards like a sour vapour-odor from a tired Chinese restaurant kitchen. When ‘Tony’ the lift mechanism was wheeled around to pick Patches up and set her down on the toilet, one might think that you were reliving Orson Wells War of The Worlds. “Squeak, squeak, squeak,” it went. Add to that picture the illusion of two giant Gary Larson grasshoppers’ downstairs & their high pitch speaking to each other & you get the ambiance of what morning life was like at Le Chateau de la Reine Blanche.
Gelledge sat upstairs in his newly acquired alcove, Patches’ once upon a time office which she could no longer use. She had had installed years earlier an electronic chair attached to the wall leading up the stairwell to take her upstairs and that worked for a while, but nowadays it was way too complicated. Today Gelledge was using the open space upstairs as his temporary boudoir, complete with a folded mattress, a guitar, a piano and cartons holding books and personal documents. His arrival in Paris seemed to be filled with a rather cold welcoming. Perhaps, he thought, if he’d still been in his 20’s or 30’s more doors would’ve opened. But being in his fifties, well one didn’t get the same reception. Ah, youth & beauty, gone so quickly! And musician friend Brandon had left for 2 and a half months leaving Gelledge alone to deal with Patches and her lunatic personality over the summer. It had been a hot & muggy summer of solitude.
In August people went on vacation in France – the Parisian streets practically empty, only tourists invaded the historical monuments and streets of the capitol. If you were trying to organize your life at this moment in France, you would of course be sorely disappointed. And Gelledge was.
His brain, heart and soul were feeling battered. His body tired thanks to becoming a vegetarian. Vegetable protein was not cutting it. He didn’t know enough motivating recipes to replace missing proteins. His body began to tire. He’d had to take a month of tennis tournaments off to build muscle back up by eating chicken and fish – after that he had felt better…
Adding to his frustration before moving to Paris had been the on line “cat fishing fraud” (supposedly from Nigeria), the disastrous break up with O. and his BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), being locked out of his own house in the south of France and his email and bank accounts, the 5 months of the dogs being kept away from him (at the psychopathic ex-mother-in-law’s – where O. was living), the cat theft of poor “Truc” (again the mother-in-law), the frankly hateful attitude of O. and his family. All that had been a trying experience. And it wasn’t completely over yet either. There were dues to be paid by O. and his Mother! Gelledge would make sure that justice prevailed. He had given too much over those ten years to see his investment just be taken away like that.
“Hello?” A groggy voice replied. The tenth phone call was finally answered in California.
“Miguel, is that you?”
“Hey bro! How you doin’?” They were both glad to be speaking to each other.
“Do you get my letter?” Gelledge asked.
“Yea, I did. You’re funny. That was great dude. So, you’re thinking of moving back? That is sooo cool. You know we’re all jazzed with you coming back!” There were smiles on both ends of the telephone.
“That nice to hear, little bro’. Of course nothing is confirmed yet, but 85% of it is. I’m close to deciding, but still have some things to work out before doing that.”
“Well, hurry up and get your butt over here – Janie and the kids are super excited!”
The conversation went on for over an hour and a conference call set up the next two days to talk about details. Gelledge was still not decided. A big part of him wanted to be with family and catch up on lost time! He didn’t want life to go by and wake up finding that it was too late. The idea of living in Fresno itself could be a deal breaker though. It was a ‘Bible thumping right wing homophobic hot as hell in the summer city’ with a terrible urban sprawl problem. Religion was rampant and there were major drug problems.
Chatting with his older brother Kirk on social media, he got a nice response to the idea of a possible return, though the old Anglo – protestant – morality did slip out just a bit: “What are you going to do about a job and your meds?” It was a good question and the exclamation points did multiply with the second message – once it was pointed out they were lacking in the earlier message. Kirk had blossomed into someone else since finding his new wife Rebecca Anne. She was full of life and love – she brought him back home to himself. They seemed to complete each other somehow.
The second oldest brother Mirky-Mirk had a completely different response upon receiving an email of the good news. It went: ‘Wow….er…I hope that works out for you. Well, if you’re going to stay at Miguel’s – they’ve had a lot of stuff to deal with. I really love them a lot and don’t want to see them suffer. You need to really consider what affect that could have on their lives. So make it a short visit.’ End of email.
“Wtf?” Voiced Gelledge out loud to no one. “That was not a welcome. That was….hmmmm…”
He’d have to think about that something else altogether. He had left his home town initially 35 years ago. A lot of water had passed under the bridge.
Still, it was a bummer and had forced Gelledge to think twice about the decision some more. Apparently everyone’s arms were not going to open wide and close with a hug. There was something else there. He thought back about his visit to Fresno over the spring. He had not returned home for fifteen years and Mirky-Mirk hadn’t come over to see him. They were finally invited (with Miguel, Janie and the kids) for dinner a week later, which had been very strange. Normally, if you haven’t seen your brother for fifteen years (since their Mom had passed away) wouldn’t you be excited to see your brother? Wouldn’t you run over to where your loved one was and give a big hug? Well, that didn’t happen. There was a hug, but it was a week late & there was a halfness to it. Something unsaid. A holding back. Mirky-Mirk had drastically changed. He was older with thinning hair, overweight and in his eyes: guardedness. His voice too had changed.
The conversation was eased into, as the evening wore on during that dinner. Not exactly like buttermilk on pig’s skin, or maybe like buttermilk but curdled with lumps. They had had a lot to say to each other, yet there had been no heart to heart. Parts of other conversations were shared with bits and pieces left out; Stories too, that had to be told and some memories. But Mirky-Mirk was waiting for reprisal, though none came. His brother was there to see him and that was that.
Those emails once back in Paris – there had been several – with the good news hadn’t been pleasant. And because words had to be answered with words, sharp ones came out that hurt, like small boxing jabs. It was enough to damage a newly walking on egg shells relationship. A budding flower beheaded before its time. Then the emails stopped. Mirky-Mirk was angry at being told off. He had been told: “No” and “You’re stepping out of line”. That had pissed him off. Then he had been asked, “Where’s your joy?” That one was way too big, because there wasn’t any. And that made him mad too.
The heavy sitting anger already there mixed with self pity and loathing began their daily snack of his insides. All was projected outwards like stars spewing from an exploding internal universe. His mind sat there locked in its cage. Metal bars keeping him from himself, his happiness. Where had those bars come from?
Mirky-Mirk saw his brother as some kind of threat – though it wasn’t really clear why. The “Frenchie” was coming home. Everyone loved him so much! But what about him?! He had stayed – he hadn’t run away to Europe away from the family! He had taken care of Mom until she died; he had taken care of Dad & had been there for both funerals! Even Kirk had been too far away to be really helpful. He had been the only steady one, had done everything they’d asked of him and got nothing in return. His business had fallen apart, his wife and the distance between them…
Suddenly, he thought of his life. He hated it. The only good thing he saw was his daughter’s success and happiness. Everything else had been a bust.
Well, he still had Jesus though He wasn’t giving any answers today.