Sidewalk Seas & The Eiffel Tower by Matt Carlson

It was early evening and time to take Miss Busybody and her brother Federer out for their evening constitutional. Both of them happy and energetic. Led lights blinking on their collars. “Oh, look! How wonderful.” A passerby would exclaim. The lights of red and white, a beacon on sidewalk seas.

Autumn had arrived and time had gone back one hour. Fall back spring forward. Wet leaves attributed to two footed ants in bright green & yellow (clean up crews) who were running water off into the gutters. Never at the same hour of course and you never saw who was doing what. The ant queen was surely sleeping in her warren somewhere nearby.

One day you would perhaps see piles of leaves huddled next to the trees. The piles  would stay like for a long time (unless a nice wind came along), then you might observe nearby trash containers resembling starving dogs with rib cages full. Always hungry those dogs. Then maybe an employee nonchalantly pushing a chariot while engulfed in a telephone conversation – NOT seeing you if you passed them by, “Have I suddenly become THE INVISIBLE MAN?” thought Gelledge… Then water would appear, running down the gutters. Who did that?! You never knew… And there were days when a small green truck for washing the sidewalks would be there, with its huge tooth brushes and a whirling one. It could spew water in every direction. The man driving it saw you and would smile (he liked his job) “Ok, then I’m not invisible!” Exclaimed our hero. He could breath safely. He still existed.

Trash would stay sitting there for long periods too alongside household objects that people no longer wanted. Unclaimed. Big cardboard signs taped to their bodies like: NZECHLOP1255983. They were remnants of someones life – just sitting there. Naked, finished, kapput. Who had these things belonged to?  Where had they gone? Had it been their choice to leave? The city scavengers were never far off: the displaced, the poor, the immigrants with a kid or maybe a dog. Had they been swept under the rugs of the system?

Gelledge was bored of the neighborhood. Sick of walking the same old tired streets. The dogs were too. When they no longer wanted to walk, they slunk back, appealing eyes looking into his. They wanted to go to the park, of course…or maybe climb into a warm bed if it was cold enough. Living in the big city after the wide open spaces of Provence hadn’t been an easy adjustment for any of them. Of course, the walks were more fun with the many ‘pee-messages’ everywhere. Details of what was eaten, how long ago someone had passed by: biological imprints still easy to read after several hours. Friends were made on every street corner, an occasional foe. The foes were on leashes, attached to angry, usually bitter womenfolk. Thermometers to how shitty their lives were. It was rarely the dogs fault for their bad moods. If you were stuck to someone 24/7 who was unhappy, angry at the world and/or constantly afraid, you too would be affected.

“Why not take a drive somewhere?” Gelledge asked the dogs who looked up at him with anticipation. They climbed into the old station wagon and after trying to unsuccessfully decode the radio (a security measure by a previous owner) well, let’s just say that the radio would continue on in silence. “Oh, let’s go visit the Eiffel Tower!” Exclaimed Gelledge. He wasn’t sure of the directions, his smartphone again in the shop so there would be no GPS, but he figured he could find it. He knew the general route. And at this time of night they were few people on the roads.

In fifteen brief minutes, there they were! The orange glow of the splendid tower reaching up like an immense Lego toy in the night sky. A giant metallic penis of sorts, built for the World Expo of 1889, it had stayed & vanquished the debate of its construction and had become a glowing pillar for Paris. It seemed close enough to touch.

The base of it was huge with its four gigantic pillars and never ending tower: up, up up it went! There were a few buses parked along the streets & darkly lit parks surrounding it on two sides with the Seine River on another side. Getting out of the car, Miss Busybody and Federer looked up too and in their dog minds were astounded by the structure, the lights, by the many people too, some with dogs on leashes. Mostly tourists but with the vultures of commerce closing in fast.

Strange small colored lights shot into the air under the tower and floated downwards, spiraling in blue, purple and green. Fun to watch Gadgets for the tourists. A large number of African men walked around with them & miniaturized Eiffel Towers and other glowing objects, like key chaines and even plastic glowing hair ribbons (which looked quite funny on at least one man wearing one.) They didn’t pay any attention to Gelledge,  he was obviously a native walking his dogs. “Fooled them!” He thought.

They walked across the street to get some perspective of the huge structure. Then suddenly the tower began to twinkle with a thousand lights: white dots of illuminated butterflies in an October Parisian sky. It was warm; the people happy. People chatted, hugged, kissed, played. There was tenderness in the air. There was music too. Someone had brought his sound system, a guitar and a cup for money offerings. He was actually pretty good, singing in English and French & with a very nice tenor voice. There were easily about 50 to 60 people standing around nonchalantly listening to him. He was tall, nice looking & French. Gelledge would’ve liked to chat with him, but didn’t dare. He was on stage performing, even if it was on a sidewalk in a park at night. He would have to come back.

Next a walk under the tower itself & along with that the strong smell of ‘I WANT YOUR MONEY” in the air. Many people of all nationalities wandering about or standing in line. Millions of people came here every year. The tower attracted a multitude of languages & cultures from throughout the world.

A few people stopped to pet the two dogs and ask a few questions. Then an older man came along with a beagle and tried to communicate something. He kept making biting movements with his lips. Was it because Miss Busybody hadn’t taken to him or Chuck the dog? His French was limited. Miss Busybody barked protectively. Federer sniffed Chuck who was wearing a pretty cool grey and beige sweater, his well shaped head almost entirely black. He was cute as  a bug in a rug, (well cuter even) because let’s face it: bugs are not cute in rugs. They slowly edged away from the man, seemingly nice but totally not understandable with his gibberish.

It had been an eye opening experience to visit the Eiffel Tower this way. Driving at night was a great way to visit Paris. During the day time there were too many people, cars, trucks, the buses and taxis, the pedestrians… Getting away from the toxic atmosphere of the chateau too, had also been a good thing.

He would try to forget the nasty hate mail received from his ex’s lawyer the other day: a letter full of lies and inexactness wrapped up in legal jargon.

Once again, Gelledge would have to counter deceit, counter hatefulness, counter jealousy. “Don’t stare at the past,” he reminded himself. “You’re not going that way.”

walking into the future

walking into the future


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