Category Archives: short stories in Paris

A Day In Provence (French Chronicles) by Matt Carlson

Jie Jie Sola-Binna sat at her desk, in her illegally built wooden house in the countryside outside the village of Cou-Poux (neck poop) where she lived. She had had it built by her son Tony and his friends, from the left over monies of her dead husband Jackie. It was a modest house, but well put together mostly, though the tin roof made it insufferable during the summer months. She wrung her big old hands together while staring at her computer screen, the arthritis taking a toll on her hands the more she aged. She was close to 70 years old now and had on occasion thoughts of death. She knew that that day was coming and she wondered about her existence, had she lived a life worth living? Hell, no! Of course not. The fact that she hadn’t already killed herself or one of her two children when they were young had always amazed her. Now, of course, she was glad that she hadn’t, she loved her grand kids who lived next store, or at least the youngest one who still lived there. It gave her something to do, something to ease the pain of her own painful thoughts. Life had seemed like that: just a series of painful memories or realities in progress. She alone knew that she suffered from BPD (borderline personality disorder) but she had pretty much control of that today – or so she thought. Nothing was perfect or forever.

To her,  her whole life seemed like something that should never have been. I mean, her own Mother hadn’t even wanted her, so she grew up living with her grandmother, and a private Catholic school, always feeling a sense of being abandoned, of not being worthy of love. So she never really learned how to love, or to show it. No one had shown her! What could you expect? You can’t wring blood out of a stone, she thought. Later on, she pushed away the feelings that she had for other girls. It was considered wrong to love other girls like herself, and yet the other girls liked her for her masculine side and look. She was a bit comforting, until you got to know her. She’d always kept her hair short, never wore make up and just wasn’t like any of them. She wasn’t feminine at all. But took up the role, the only one this world had offered up to her: a woman. Then she got married to a man she didn’t love, had his children, worked as his secretary and then when he died, she was relieved. He played the guitare alright, was a good provider, drank himself to sleep every night over a bottle of wine, had an erection whenever it was necessary and then ka-poot! He died. And in any case, he hardly ever spoke, for God’s sake, so conversation sucked big time. He spent most of his energy working with his hands or on graphic projects; he’d been a graphic artist. Still today people didn’t know exactly what that meant. To Jie Jie, they had carved out a decent life together, but a modest one. She still wondered about her missed out life as a lesbian. and at least now, if there weren’t any conversations, it wasn’t due to the fact that you had nothing to share with your significant other.
Jie Jie wasn’t a happy woman, she never would be and had decided that she could live on, knowing that. She loved her kids now, her grandkids too, tolerated her daughter-in-law Dee-Nuh, and still managed to maintain a friend or two, or three. Her sons, Tony and Bertrand were good kids, though they too had their demons. The oldest was very technical and good with electronics, trying these days to make some extra money in landscaping , cutting trees and such. He was a bit slow in the matter of understanding relationships and so on, but so was Jie Jie, so was Bertrand. They together had no love, but they had blood. For the three of them, it was the same, they had never leanred about love, so didn’t know how to show it, to express it. All too stressful that. It was easier to talk about mundane things, or things outside of oneself, like culture, or  work, the house. Anything too personal was avoided. Love would remain an intellectual concept far from their realities.
The youngest was the gay of the family, artistic (well they both were) and was attempting to work as a hypnotic-therapist. Well, at least he had been. He wasn’t able to do anything anymore. She thought of Bertrand’s ex boy friend and how much she hated him. That whole relationship had been a mistake, she thought. But in reality, it was mostly because the ex in question totally had had her number and would have nothing to do with her. She hadn’t been able to manipulate him the way she had the boyfriend before. And now her poor Bertrand was still a mess (three years practically) after the break up. She remembered that day when HE (the ex boy friend) had come over to her house, without calling and run off with Fee-Fee and Fantabulous, the two Yorkshires that she’d been baby sitting together with Bertand for five months (Bertrand was recovering from his back “ ak-si-dent” she would say). True, her and Bertrand had kept them initially temporarily (the boyfriend was working in England) but then, when her Bertand had had that back “ ak-si-dent”  (again due to the ex!) well, she just didn’t want her little precious boy to suffer anymore. The dogs had to stay! That she had lied to the Gendamerie about everything didn’t faze her. That she had said he had broken into her house, while they were bother there didn’t faze her either, that she had said he had attacked her either…didn’t faze her. It was all about the result, not what you did to get what you wanted….And of course he hadn’t hit her physically, it was the emotional cost that he had put upon her that she would make him pay for! And in reality, it wasn’t about her son, it was about her ego and the abandoned feelings that he had brought back – the ex had revived all that by breaking up with her son and then the gall of running off with Fee-Fee and Fantabulous! Those dogs, yes, she had really loved them! 
She would make him pay, “Elledgmother-fucker-cock-sucker-in-hell-bastard-theive-hateful-hateful-hateful-black-hearted-son-of-a-bitch,” her rampage began and ended before she realized she was still at her desk, with her painful hands irating alone there…
“Oh, I think I’ll make some tea,” she sighed.  The BPD had roared its ugly head yet again; the sleeper has awakened.

Intentions by Matt Carlson

At an angle from the gallery window in my alcove at Le Château de la Reine Blanche, looking upwards I can see a terrace with its stone walls, overhanging plants swaying in the breeze, one of two towers, the closed apartment windows of neighbors. The weather is grey, humid ; still undecided. A bit like my heart. Should I stay or should I go?

Yesterday, I was certain of my departure: Being an alien in an alien world where language and culture are constantly at odds with one another, I want to run home where life might be less complicated, surrounded WITH loved ones. I want to share life with them.  I know that that idea of running home is not what it used to be. Mom is dead. Dad is dead. Aunt Muriel, Uncle George  & Aunt Jackie too. All dead. All the grandparents that I loved too. If I want to visit with any of them it will be at a cemetery.

Everyone has procreated too and those kids are young adults now with lives, jobs and yep you guessed it: kids of their own! These kids know me mostly through Facebook, though I visited briefly this summer and got to meet a few of them in person – which was terrific. Looking forward to meeting/seeing the rest of them…

And then there are those that are maybe mad at me for leaving. Maybe too for something else – who knows as they haven’t made any statements yet (or perhaps I’m just imagining all that…)  In any case, the dynamics of the family have changed since I left the states over 26 years ago. Internet was just kicking in…

So, I want to focus on my INTENTIONS; an essential to me. Intentions are the hows and whys we do things. So my intention or desire is  to spend more time with my family and HOW to do that! Being that I’ve lived thousands of miles away for several years adds brain clutter to the equation. That and social security/health care….

And now that I’ve seen the ugly heads of some that I never imagined possible before, I’m weary of that possibility. One brother has already showed signs of ‘non- reception’ . Maybe that’s changed…I hope so!

Stay tuned to following FUN chapters on Fresno Times and Paris Times!




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