© 2015 by Bill Marsano
photos by Scott Clemens
This is, I imagine, telling tales out of school, but tell I must. It’s a good tale, which is the best of all possible reasons, and its star, my friend K., is too shy to write it herself, although I have pestered her to do so for many years. So, as the British say, there you are. And here it is.
It was back in the day, if you will, when the very young K. made her first visit to Paris. It was all that she’d expected, all that she’d hoped; all that she’d dreamt; she was goggle-eyed and over the moon and eager to tell her old friend, who happened to live in Paris and whom she would soon dine with in her apartment. And indeed she did all that: they threw themselves on each others’ neck as friends long-separated will; they gossiped madly; yada-yada. Never mind the details: nothing of note happens in this tale until after dinner.
It was near midnight when K. said goodnight to her friend and headed off to catch the romantically named Last Metro. But now it was raining. The rain was sudden and soaking; it came down in sheets. It rained chats et chiens [this is France, after all, mes amis], and before she knew it she was sopping wet and her eyeglasses spattered and fogged. Plunging onward, she got lost and couldn’t find her Metro station. She got lost again and couldn’t find her way back to her friend’s apartment. And in those pre-cellphone days she couldn’t call, either. So she wandered about, getting nowhere at all and nothing but wetter, when, mirabile dictu, a car pulled to the curb a few yards in front of her. A cab, merci bon dieu! Soon as it stopped, the back door opened and a tall man got out. He sprinted to the door of his apartment building and was seen no more. K. sprinted too — straight for the heaven-sent vehicle and, dismissing everything she’d heard about the consummate rudeness of Parisian taxi-drivers, managed to grab the door handle just in time.
Getting in, she blurted out the name of her hotel. The driver nodded and pulled out in the deserted street. This was a Whew! moment. K. was relieved, mightily relieved — she had indeed missed the last Metro — until she took a moment to wipe her eyeglasses. Then she noticed something strange: there was no meter in the cab. Strange, too, was the fact that she saw that there were are two men in the front seat, and that neither of them in the least resembled a cab driver.
K’s mind raced as she wondered: What have I got myself into? Who are these strange men? Where are they taking me? Is this a cab at all? What will happen next? What will I do? She could have gone on with such questions but was cut short when the car came to an anticlimactic halt in front of her hotel. Hardly pausing for a second whew, K. leant forward, rummaged in her purse, and haltingly asked the fare.
The driver turned in her direction and said ‘There is no charge, mademoiselle. The man we let off just before you got in is one of the most important politicians in France. We are his security detail.’ While her jaw was dropping he added ‘Enjoy your visit to Paris.’
This is a lovely story. It is the sort of thing that should happen to every traveler, if only once. And perhaps its appearance here will move K. to drop the shyness and get herself to the keyboard. She has a marvelous story about a vacation misadventure in which her niece or grandniece displayed virtuoso skill in using the pluperfect, despite being only six years old.