Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Desires of Desiree Fauchon (Part 2)

      The little cottage that Roget had put a down payment on (this was actually a considerable investment, which required both a bank loan- cashing in on the firm’s good reputation, as well as his own)- and reasonably slender mortgage. Now that he was a homeowner, he looked forward to all the work involved in the fixing up.
     In the first weeks, however, he found himself at times flustered- as perhaps, old Man Fauchon might have warned him- wishing that Desiree had a little more interest in getting her jeans and her hands dirty. There was so much to do! The wiring, he could get done with a little help from the local electrician, the plumbing as fine, that was not it. The trouble was the attic as he found it was full of a jillion gewgaws and purposeless knicknacks- valuable only to the trained eye of an antiques salesman, which he was not. But nonetheless, he felt a need to organize all of it, appraise what might be worthy, and cash in somehow on these former relics of somebody else's life he never knew.
   It was located in Villers-Sur-Le-Mer, just down the road from Trouville-Sur-Le-Mer, where Garconteax (along with Crouvet, of course) had set up their new municipal project. As a part of Roget’s “promotion” he was to be put in charge almost completely- of engineering the new city plan. And there would be ample help, of course, from that other, younger partner, as well as a personal assistant, Marriane. And he would have first pick- according to the city council of Trouville- of the contractors and construction firms he would employ. It was not merely a matter for a low bidder, although that was a consideration. The project was to involve only those contractors who had shown adequate respect for the national Solar Energy and Design plan. And while they weren’t all that hard to locate, still, they were few when compared to the old school of brick and mortar men, who saw fit to “stick it with the union” and were, as such, slow to give in to the new paradigms and ideologies behind Green Design. A paradigm, of course, that Roget himself represented boldly in the flesh. “Meet the new boss- not quite the same as the old boss-” he hummed the Who song to himself as he happily rummaged through the attic, behind coffee grinders, bedsteads and decayed mattress springs, bundles of tied newspapers- some of which went back as far as the Invasion- (Not of Rollo the Hairy, of course, but of the Yanks and Brits)- and pickling jars, odd old pieces of china, bricabrac, someone’s pair of skis, a photographic enlarger, and several more layers of articles that sat behind the decayed mattress just beyond his current vision.
    Desiree crawled up into the attic now, herself. She actually did want to spend time with Roget, although of course, the dust now settling through the air had turned it a fine shade of sepia.
     “And what are you finding, Roget?”
    “I won’t get fooled again, no no! Won't get fooled again!”
     “Whatever you wish, Roget, just hand it to me, I will take it down and park it out on the back terrace.”
    “I have plans for that back terrace, Desiree. One day it shall have a zen rock garden, but for now, we will outfit it with a patio set with mosaic dining table and a sun umbrella!”
     “Yes, yes, Roget. Whatever it takes. You think you will also do the bar-be-cue?”
    “Oh, for that, I shall have install a great brick grilling space, with an oven that burns real wood and can bake our own bread! And pizza!”
    “Bien, cela certainement ne semble pas très vert à moi, alec futé!” Desiree chuckled.
“Arrêtez-le, idiot ! Vous devez penser comme un rustique. Avez-vous déjà oublié votre pays au delà ?” Now it was Roget’s turn to chuckle. But arguing over lifestyle was not going to get either of them anywhere.
     Roget’s smartphone rang. It was – but who else? Trixeme.
    “Hey, Trix! What’s shaking, you pommes-frite?”
     “Roget, I would like to come up to the seaside to see you. I have the week off next week. Everything is fine with my work, I trust your is going well also?”
    “Most certainly, Trix. I have now got an entire community to shepherd over, from cart to horse, from car to tram. And footpaths. And parks. And subdivisions, water rights, land grants, olive trees, apple orchards… Just what more would you like to know?”
    “It all sounds good, mon ami! Well. Since I have the week off, I hoped perhaps you and I might make a little pleasure jaunt. How about, just across to Faire Olde England for the weekend coming after? We could take the train to Dover and check out Brighton. I hear the girls there are- ‘like the moon’, eh?”
    “Come on, Trix, you know I am almost married.”
   “L’ mot d’operatif ce’st ‘almost’, c’est ne pas? Come on, old chap, let your hair down! Let’s do the bachelor roll! Get your feet wet, one last fling, before the lock and stock of holy matrimony steals your golden egg and goose your pantry!”
    “And how do you suggest I explain this to my beloved? That I am just going over the waves for a bit of fresh air- I can just hear her, “What’s wrong with our air? Is this ocean not fresh enough?”
    At that, Desiree pricked up her ears. “So, you are talking about me?”
    “Only in a manner of speaking, my love. It’s Trix. He is coming up to visit in a few more days.”
    “Well, there goes my plans of a weekend alone with you…”
    “But I will not be here. We will be traveling to Dover just for an overnight. You will see. I will give you your space!”
    “But I do not want space. I want to- how you say, ‘coccoon.” Desiree was now pouting. The frown spread across her face like a gibbous moon.
   Turning back to the phone, Roget was brief. “OK, Trix, you come up. You bring your bag and you sleep on the couch, OK, for two nights, then we travel to Dover, then we spend only two days and nights and we are back home by the Sunday afternoon, OK? There is big works happening on Tuesday. Garconteaux himself is coming up to check on how I am running the show. I cannot not be there for it!”
     “You got it, Rog. I will mind my best manners when I am in the presence of the Princess.”
    “She’s not just the Princess, Trix, she’s the Queen herself.”
At that, Desiree gave a smug, pleased smile, and could not resist her own riposte as a parting shot.
     “And if you get my man into any trouble, you sick old oaf, I will slice up your tail with my carving knife!”
     They could hear Trix give a short cry of exasperation as they signed off.
     The next day found Roget back at his desk. Marianne left him a large sheaf of the collected estimates for the various aspects of his new project. He was beginning to call it “the Doom Machine”, since for him, each and every aspect and detail seemed rife with potential pitfalls. Such things always had “cost override” written all over them. And for another thing, as it happened, not all of the residents of  Trouville-Sur-Le-Mer had wanted to see it happen. Some of them had been downright vocally hostile. They asked if Crouvet and Garconteaux had even begun to consider the aspects of possible sea level rise related to global warming, in their consideration of placement of certain facilities, like, the new elementary school, the five apartment complexes, the concert hall, and the football pitch.
     Just the memory alone of his first afternoon speaking with the town council- who after all the above complaints, had already made their decision to endorse the big idea, was enough to obscure whatever peace of mind he would get out of bringing the project to completion. And he had but barely begun!
     While Roget was at the office, Claudine had called, and Desiree let her ramble, as though there had not been any disruption of mood at end of their last conversation. Desiree did not enjoy, however, the idea of one single weekend out of the company of Roget, so she invited Claudine to visit, while Roget ran off to Britain to play.
     So they had their camps, once more, arranged for the set-piece de la guerre, which would commence with a bow shot. Who would fire first, however, was not yet in the strategies.
     Roget’s next unwelcome surprise was that Garconteaux himself had decided to come up to check in on things – he gave only the fortnight’s notice, and now he’d be arriving the very next morning. They would go over every little detail after its devil, and when the day was done, perhaps after a large luncheon, Garconteaux would drop in and check on the little cottage himself. So now, as well, Marianne was making plans for a little B & B where the boss could take his night’s rest. Roget could foresee spending the hours by the fir, Garconteaux with a hand tucked into his vest, leaning back, polluting the house with his foul cigar smoke as he reminisced upon the early years of the firm. Another migraine in the making. Well, at least he could count on Desiree to whip something up that would provide both conversation and satiate the old goat in some manner that would send him to bed feeling full of pride for the new young Turk, who would soon be making his name in a big way on the North Coast.
     Like all things planned by mice or men, however, Roget’s vision of a great evening on his account and expense was perhaps doomed by its great expectation. Yes, the next morning had gone well, at least, as Garconteaux inspected the very same papers with Roget, they had not had any arguments about the priorities of the project. But when Roget tried to interject any sense of ambiguity regarding the feelings of the few townsmen who had raised the sea level objections, Garconteaux became a grey cloud, shadowing his brow, and sternly admonished him.
     “We know that some people do not recognize progress. Look, if they really are so worried, then why do they not build themselves a seawall, a dike, or something which might at least prevent this sea creep- themselves? I suppose what they would really like would be for us to write that cost into the project too. But the council did not state this themselves, ever, remember? We are concerned with the development that they preferred and the elements we already presented. If there are problems, then they ought to have discussed and voted on this before. But has anyone raised the objection with us, ourselves? Non! I have received no letters of objection, and none have been forwarded. All this seems to me is city politics, and it isn’t like our firm to be sanctimonious, but we have already created the basic design. If we move any of these elements around, geographically, then all that would once again need the council’s approval. And we need this project to go on, simply because we like to rest on our honors- If we can get this one up and running, designed and constructed within budget, and when  the people see all the green elements for energy distribution- they might think again. And that might inspire their sea wall. I don’t want you to have to get your feet wet dragging the oldsters over the coals.”
     It was certainly a convincing argument, (maybe), but Roget went on to the afternoon lunch at the Olivia Restaurant with a predetermined case of gastritis. Garconteaux, gastritis… the two seemed to go well together, eh?
     In the evening when they had finished the second cost analysis together, they drove singly to the cottage in Villers. Roget went in first, Garconteaux pulled his Porsche up behind and parked rather haphazardly next to the stone wall which defined Roget’s new home territory. Desiree, who indeed had expected them, had spent an afternoon constructing a pot-a-feu which – her father’s objections overruled- actually left Garconteax licking his chops and asking for a second bowl. And after the second bowl, a fine glass of wine, and one of brandy, and his- Roget kept a straight face, but would run to the backyard to cough when he had enough of it  -everpresent cigar. Garoconteaux made a few comments regarding their furnishings, which, for the most part, being better adapted to a small apartment in the city, rather conflicted with the ancient stone and timbers.
    “You should try to get some of that old ancient regime stuff in here, Roget. Something to keep with this rusticity. It will be good for you, all this sea air, and the summer sunshine, when you have it- will keep both of you content. I congratulate your wife on the excellent meal!”
    Desiree blushed, but beyond his innacuracy of their not-yet-legal arrangement, deferred to his sentiment. He was a nice old walrus, after all. Desiree couldn’t see what Roget did- the persnickity, perfectionist, all-full-of-himself grand old city planner, but then again, she’d let Roget do the worrying. It was all her own worry, what the upcoming weekend might bring.

     When Trixeme pulled up in his ultra-light Pugeot five speed, all was still mist and shroud on the coast side where the cottage sat, plainly and resolute, smoke curling from the ancient fireplace into the low hanging greyness. Trixeme stood at the side of his car, jingling the keys, just observing. There were gulls a few doors down fighting in the sky over a fish. When one dropped it in flight, another would grab it, and in  this freefall flight the fish exchanged its master three or four different times. He chuckled to himself. Such was the world.
    He knocked on the door. Roget emerged, a little dusty from another afternoon of rummaging in the attic. Trixeme stepped into their lving room, where half of today’s  research cluttered the better part of the floor. Desiree was going back and forth from the patio with different items.
    “So! Tomorrow we will go to Merry Olde England, old chap. And how will Mrs. Thesaurus get through without her darling companion?”
     Desiree looked up, wrinkling her brow, and grinned. “Just fine, Tricycle. I have a friend coming to visit.”
    “That would be the one and only Claudine. I am sure you have not met her yet,” added Roget. He was never much fond of the times people called him Thesaurus. What was he, some heirophantic dinosaur? He made a rumbling sound, and clawed with dinosaur fingers at the air.
    “I am afraid I should not have had the pleasure, yet, that is true. Perhaps one day you might introduce me, eh, Desiree?”
    “Might is the operational factor. Now are you taking my husband away from me tonight, or what”
   Roget turned and assured her, no, he had arranged that Trixeme would spend the night on the sofa, and in the morning they’d be departing for the Eurotunnel Shuttle at Calais.
    The evening was rather well balanced, in any event. Trixeme had hauled out all the Marc Bolan records he could from their collection, and insisted on playing each three times, as well as drank at least a bottle and half (all himself) of their finest reds. Yet in the morning, it took nothing for him to bounce up, bright eyed and bushy tailed, and start prodding Roget from his slumber, and into packing his flight case.

    The trip seemed to take but little time at all, really just over half an hour, and when they emerged in Foulkestone, Trixeme headed out on the A297 south  along the coast. “It will take us a little longer than it would by going inland, but then, we can see our home country from the roadway quite a bit”
    Through Sussex to Brighton.  Through Hastings, where William the Bastard had landed, and changed the flow of history. Through Bexhill, Eastbourne, and Seaford.
     To Brighton, the stomping ground of Mods and Rockers, the ancient seaside home to fun and frolic, pain and hangovers for holiday British officebounds.
     Trixeme wheeled in the Pugeot to a car park and they lit out down the street to find a motel room. The first two they visited were taken, but the third was accomodating. They stashed their gear and headed to the nearest pub.
     Inside, they didn’t turn a head as they sat at the bar and ordered. Trixeme couldn’t resist but ordered a lemon shandy. Roget snorted, laughed, and couldn’t keep his mouth shut.
  “ Old T. Rex, he’s the Anglaisman through and through. I should buy him some bully beef and an old brown shoe!”
    “Now just a minute, Rog. I’m the one who brought you here, not so you could mock me, but that you should get your turn to pull a bird or two while the old hen runs the roost for you…”
     “I’ll have none of that talk about her. She is a sweet girl. And all mine. Why should I try to get myself in trouble- I have it, Trix. You should be so lucky!”
    “Well if you aren’t going to try something then let me. You play wing dude for me.”
    “Wing man.”
    “Whatever, dude! Hey check them out.”
     Trixeme indicated a pair of young women sautnering into the pub. They placed pocketbooks on a table and came to the bar, just a few stools over from Rog and Trix.
    “You really must see the Royal Pavilion,” Tixeme slid over a stool, as the girls were being served. Two large spiced ciders in ale mugs, and one, a blonde, turned to Trixeme and just as soon, back to her friend.
     “I say, I think that’s the fairest drink- You know where I am from I get all the cider I can ask for.”
     “Is that so?” asked the brunette.
     “Why certainly! My father ran the biggest orchard in Calvados!” (Trix gave a leering wink to Roget, who, expected to play along, was actually more amused than in any mood to help Trix out of this pickle.)
     One thing led to another, and soon Trix found himself invited back to the table with the two women. He gave a nod to Roget to come over and join them.
     “Allow me to introduce myself, I am Trixeme Dubonnet.”
     “Of the famous Dubonnets?”
      “Why but oui!” His affected English accent hadn’t lasted long. Nursing his shandy, he inicated Roget.              “And my friend here is the famous Roget Mobiele, renowned architect and urban planner. He is now designing a ciy right across the way over there!” (he indicated the shore of France out over the horizon on the other side of the Channel).
   The girls gave a somewhat interested look at them.
   "But don’t get ideas, mon chers-ami. He’s taken.”
    Roget indicated the ring on his finger. So much for the playing the bachelor, anyway so far as Trix’s stated plan went. But now he could tell Trix was winging it. He made an excuse, headed for the bathroom, and decided just to head to the hotel to read for a while. If Trix was going to get any luck, he looked like he had a chance well, Roget didn’t feel like sitting there looking any sillier. Besides, with his head in the book on treehouses, he wouldn’t need to make excuses for himself in front of two strange women.
    After an hour or so he called Desiree.
   “I know. I am here. He is out at the bar where I left him. Talking with two girls. No, of course not. Yes. Yes. Yes. But we are like one! Even if you are one thousand miles away, Desiree, you are but a thought away! Of course. That was why I called you. Yes. Yes. But I love you more.”
     When he hung up the phone he was surprised to hear the door open. Trixeme stood there, hair askance, looking for all the world as though he had just been hit by a bus. But of course, he had not.
    “Some wing dude.”
    “Wing man”
    “Same thing.”
   “Well, what happened?”
    “Oh, but it was horrible! I do not wish to talk more about it. Hey, let me have a cup of that ugly coffee over there. I think maybe we should just go home in the morning”.
     “What, and waste the money it took us to get here? I have a better idea. Let’s rent bikes and go for a ride, tomorrow. Let’s ride up the coast a ways until we decide we want to stop for lunch, then turn around.”
    “Perhaps that might help me clear my mind. Right now I think I just want le café and some time alone.”
    “My sentiments, exactly, Pour me a cup too while you are at it.”

     Across the Channel back in Villers, Claudine had arrived and was harranguing Desiree.
     “You, like I told you, you will have to do something more. Look, already he is flying away to play with the other boys, is he not? Well, you must do something. Who do you know from ages past, that you can invite up here and show him he is not alone?
    “Why ever in the world should I want to do that?”
     “Why? To keep your man, of course!”
    “Well, there is someone…”
     Michel de Lamartine. Fencer, three time national tennis champion, instructor to the nouveau riche. Was at one time Desiree’s beau, but she broke it off when they were both fifteen. And now, look at him. He was someone maybe who’d enjoy this challenge, if it was guaranteed that Roget himself would not. Desiree felt as if it had been someone else who had looked through her black book, found his number, and dialed him up, inviting him (if he were free) to come to Villers. Of course. By the morning train.

     When the lazy cloud of morning had slipped into the ether and the bright English sun cast its warming notes down upon the land, Roget and Trixeme wandered the quay until the found a little bike shop. Renting each a sturdy mule, they started down the highway headed back eastwards.

 To Be Continued...

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