Châtellaillon-plage, France - June 2009
(Swans - April 5, 2010) In truth the umbrellas were a light yellowish shade, big sturdy square parasols made of a coarse cream-colored calico which fluttered above the bistro's terrace like the sails of a petite Armada waiting for the next breeze to weigh anchor. But a week later, the picture taken that day of their white geometry cutting out the sky afar did not feel quite right and one night, in between two yawnings, Computer and I, we turned the awnings the bluish purple I cherish. So now the rerun: the umbrellas were mauve, a perfect match to the blueness above. I felt dizzy, body and mind numbed by the heat and dazzling light, ensconced in a soft chair and rocked by the close come'n go melody of the waves, lullaby the sea. Someone faraway must have turned a radio on because all of a sudden, out of the mauve, came a faint though steady drift of notes, music with a sway, caliente.
De la Sierra Morena, (1)
Cielito lindo, vienen bajando,
Un par de ojitos negros,
Cielito lindo, de contrabando.
Words I knew too well, they snatched me off the contemplation of the mending in the parasol's fabric, the seam shaped like an arrow's head.
From the Sierra Morena mountains, (1)
Pretty sky, coming down,
a pair of little black eyes,
Pretty sky, smuggler's ones.
That's when I noticed the pair of little black eyes fixed on me, shiny beads on the sparrow's head.
- Ahem... Er... Hello!
I freeze. This is it. Caught red-handed, rummaging through a client's belongings. Next step, I'm fired. So ashamed, I cannot make myself to turn over and face him.
- Hello? I'm the occupant of the room. Maybe I can help you find whatever you're after... You're the housekeeper, right?
I put the little bundle of sheets I was going through back on the desk and start turning around, eyes down, blushing, uneasy... He picks my name on the tag pinned to my uniform.
- Hi, Kiki! I'm Moineau. Jay Moineau.
What, the giant eagle about to down on me goes by the name of Moineau?! This is the French word for sparrow! The awkward funniness of it all suddenly releases my tongue which starts off, half giggles half sobs, a pathetic apologetic blurb.
- I...I am sorry...Mister Moineau...Didn't mean to...want to...well...I was curious to see...you know...they told me at the reception you're a writer. I just... I know... I shouldn't have...but...I...I...Sorry...
- Hey, hey, come on, it's okay. No problem. You read it?
- Just the beginning...Well, I tried...But there are words I don't know. Lots of them, actually...
- Where're you from, Kiki?
- France. I don't speak English very well. I'm so sorry...I...
- Shhh... I can teach you those words if you want me too. You'd care for a coffee later when you're done with keeping the house? What time do you finish?
- At 4. But...I...You...Coffee...Really?
- Yeah, let's have a Coffee Really at 4, sounds good. Looking forward to it. See you, nosy K.!
First word he taught me, the "nosy" one. Needed no further explanation. I intuited. I went to the "Coffee Really" with a bit of awe. Mister Moineau was the most stunning man I had ever seen. Feet six, skin dark, eyes of obsidian, hair black and shiny and long long long, down to his waist. Hot mix between a Native and a Mex. Born in Coeur d'Alène, WA, always humming old Mexican tunes with lots of "corazones" in them, I met Jay Sparrow and just like that...
An arrow in the air (1) Pretty sky, Cupid shot And since it was a game, Pretty sky, I got hurt.
...according to the song went the story of Moineau and I...
Cielito lindo went away as it came; a trick played by the wind, just a sleight of hand and shushed and gone was my Mariachi band. Perhaps it played only in my head after all, brought back by the pair of little black shiny peas still fixed on me. I was about to shoo my tiny beholder away when the someone not so faraway anymore turned the radio louder, catapulting Mister Ogler Sparrow and the quietness of the place high, high, high, ay, ay, ay, up in the air. A heavy riff of guitar blared forth, Black or White's. Not the ideal soundtrack I had dreamed of, this Michael, son of a Jack. Just at the same time, the waitress showed up with my long awaited ice cream, screaming at some kid to turn down the radio, Louis, baisse un peu, ça va pas, non?! and letting softly out, not sure whether at me or herself: Le pauvre homme, hein, quand même, drôle de façon de mourir... And then before I could answer anything, disappeared she had, dissolved in the mauve umbrellas' shade. I had no idea whom she was talking about and forgot instantly about the "poor man" and his bizarre death, both unknown to me, when I saw Mister Impertinent Sparrow limping on his badly crooked leg toward my icy sweet. Stop! I yelled. Some heads turned. The bird smiled at me. Yes, he did, I swear. Come on, just a peck and Moineau will be back again, he said. Birdshit! I snapped. Non, non, no B.S., look at me. Again at the little winged pirate's sparkling eyes I peered. And again as far as two Californian decades ago I saw, all the way back to Carlsbad, the morning walks on the seawall, the cold Pacific Ocean and the hot "Jacusea" of Manor Motel.
At Coffee Really #1 I was a bit stiff, shy. All day I had expected the supervisor to come and give me the sack for improper behavior. But Jay Tweety Moineau had not let Sylvester out of the bag. We met discreetly outside the motel, -- I was a bit concerned the boss would spot me going out with a client and not appreciate, went to a nearby downtown café and the hours flew by, unnoticed, so soft. We talked about literature, his writing projects and the novel he was completing, the one I had spied on earlier, in his room. I was thrilled, in love.
At Coffee Really #2 the need no more was there for coffee to serve as a pretext. We changed subject, going from literature to a lighter rapture, from text to sex. On and after that day, the same scene was played and replayed: we'd meet late at night in the motel's Jacuzzi "to coffee really" under the palm trees, a little bit like Odette and Swann, in their days, would encounter "to make cattleya" in soft beds and Proust's Search of Lost Time.
At Coffee Really #3 my English had already put up strength, surely thanks to Moineau's skilful thrusts of his mother tongue into my mouth. An X-rated sort of EFL teaching: dutifully I learnt irregular verbs, swell, swelled, swollen, spectacular curves, lay, laid, laid, all vernacular swerves of the star-spangled f*** word, as well as on and under and over and round and behind, all prepositions befitting positions and movements. After the day's exercises were finished, he would hum softly in my ear the old Mexican songs his mother had taught him.
If your little brown mouth (1)
were made of sugar, were made of sugar
I would spend my time,
Pretty sky, sucking at it, sucking at it...
At Coffee Really #4 #5 #6 #7...things went on the sugar way.
At Coffee Really umpteenth and for the first time, he showed up late but apologized tenderly saying time had gone without him taking notice, so stuck in front of the TV he had been, watching today's rerun of OJ's trial. O what? And that's how and when our story of O became the story of O.J.! Moineau was fascinated by the case and the show. He said he had found THE subject of his next book and spent hours in front of the TV, scribbling pages of notes. In the end I don't know if Simpson killed Nicole and Ron but he sure did kill our romance. Moineau grew distant. I grew bored. Then he ran out of money, asked me to come back with him to Seattle. I refused. California sounded more fun, more sun. We parted at odds, sadly. He did not answer my letters. It was only many years later that I did hear about him again. Back in Washington he had been working graveyard shift at a Seattle downtown 7/11, a solitary job that allowed him to do his writing. But one night of burglary he got viciously and repeatedly stabbed in the back, almost died. It took him months to recover from his wounds. He stopped writing, took on drinking. I tried to make contact again then but he did not return my calls. A friend trying to comfort me said that maybe he wanted to spare me the pain to see what life had turned him into: a disabled drunkard, a failed writer. A Moineau with a limp.
Shivers down my spine. Stupid looker bird had grown tired of my guava ice cream and gone begging a piece of crêpe au Nutella two tables away. Sudden sadness in the air made me go back to the hotel, leaving my winged little wretch behind. Passing through the lobby I overheard the receptionist talk about some guy's "suspicious death," the rest of her phrase lost in a blur. Why, that "poor man" again? Must have been someone! Up in my room, I turned the TV on and there he was again, Michael Moonwalking Jackson! What was going on? Hadn't Jackson died as a singer somewhere during the '90s? Was I getting unwittingly trapped in a BTTF sequence? A "poor man" encountering his suspicious death, Michael Jackson's unexpected TV rebirth, boy, what a weird shitty pitch. Please, leave me alone. I punched the remote. TV and shutters off. Napping time. Just as I was deliciously sinking into a soft oblivious slumber, my cell phone rang. The little screen shone the caller's name: "Stéphane K." I answered grumpily.
- Oh no...shit!
- Nice to hear you too!
- Sorry, I was asleep. What's up?
- Michael Jackson.
- What?! What the heck with Michael Jackson in the end? Is it some kind of a game you're all playing with me?
- I don't know what you're talking about. Wake up! I have something for you. Commissioned biography. Not much time. Need to hire two other writers to help me. You're in?
- I am.
That's how, at the same time, I got a job and the clue concerning my "poor man's" identity. I must have been the only one not knowing Michael J. had walked away, backwards, to a land of moons and stars. Time to catch up, it was! Next morning before I left Châtellaillon-plage to get back home and at work, I went to the bistro with crumbs I had saved for my little handicapped bird. But I found him engaged in an intense chirpy chat with an old lady, ogling indecently at her croissant au beurre. Artful little thing! Well, I have to go, I whispered for him in the wind's ear, and do my writings about Michael's writhings. (2) I don't know yet if I will focus on his little-wounded-singing-bird side or the Cruella one. Don't you think that sometimes he did look a bit like her? Both skin and bones, same crow-black and long hair, bleached face, pointed features, dimpled chin and penciled eyebrows. Same restless quest of young ones and that pricey coat of innocence to drape oneself snug in... And there's the black umbrella also. Not a shade I enjoy much but I'll have to stick to it this time. I'll just pinch reality's cheeks once or twice to make the blood rush up and get some healthy color, what do you think? But I'm talking talking and running late, ciao now, Sparrow! On the road home the thought hit me that my two Moineau meetings had finally, funnily, turned the same way, ending both with my flinging down the gauntlet. One infamous, one sequined, two (g)love stories, gone with the (re)wind: Beat it, just beat it...
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About the Author
1. CIELITO LINDO is a traditional song of Mexico, written by Quirino Mendoza y Cortés in 1882. (ed. no back link because the author makes four references to the same note)