monolithic by jmforceton

21 Feb

“Merci” said Alfred, touching his brow with his index finger. He walked past the doorman on his way out and heard the shriek of rubber over rough pavement as he glanced up to see and feel, more than hear, the percussive impact as the small taxi hit the Mini. There were concerned grimaces as others in front of the Hôtel de Crillon glanced in the direction of the sound but little reaction otherwise from the fashionably dressed and preoccupied hotel patrons and staff.

The resulting chaotic traffic snarl was about 300 yards away on the west side of the 20 acre plaza. It was in the direction of his destination. He quickened his step a bit, keeping to the curb, ignoring for the moment that at 78, he was not in a position to provide assistance. As he continued around the plaza he followed the activity at the accident, still planning to stop at a favorite sidewalk café around the corner for a cup of coffee and anxious to read the copy of yesterday’s Boston Herald he’d found at the hotel.

Now about a hundred yards from the crash he slowed his pace. He was thinking, “That is a very impressive young man, probably American.” He felt proud as he focused on the well built young man who had jumped out of the back of the cab yelling directions at everyone but going directly to the woman who appeared to be injured in the front seat of the Mini. Shaking his head imperceptibly he thought, “That’s me 50 years ago.”

His eyes shifted across the scene. He’d also been paying more than necessary attention to the two young women who had come from the gardens, fought their way across the heavy traffic in the plaza and through the tourists surrounding the 75 foot tall column in the plaza’s center. One was a very attractive blond maybe 6’2”, “Just about my height,” he thought.  Looking back one last time he saw that they were helping with the children who had appeared from the back seat of the Mini.

He continued walking, now satisfied that no one had been seriously hurt and that the situation was in competent hands. Ahead he saw his café, a few tables still vacant. Picking up his pace again, Alfred turned the corner onto the wider granite sidewalk of the Champs-Elysees. Behind him, from the traffic, another shrill horn and loud shout, a pithy phrase, likely from a cabby driving past the wreck. “Extremely rude but outstanding originality.” He thought as he tilted his head down to mask the hint of a smirk.

Alfred, sipping his coffee, had read most of the paper and was on page 3 of the sports section when the American from the accident and the tall young blond lady with her friend sat down at the only empty table, three feet behind him. Even with his pesky unresolved hearing issues he couldn’t help eavesdropping. Truth is he was always curious and frequently eavesdropped.

Listening and catching most of what was said as he pretended to read, he decided Jimmy, Amy and Jill were almost certainly Americans. They had only poor French, based on Jimmy’s valiant effort at ordering, and after hearing only two or three sentences Alfred told himself, “I must make Jimmy and Amy a couple.”

Smiling Alfred turned to Jimmy, “Excuse me, I saw what happened to you in the Place de la Concorde. I speak French, is there anything I can do to help?”

It was then that he noticed the beginning of a tear in Amy’s eye, she said “Your name is Alfred.”

From her backpack she took his most recent novel, “Obelisque”. “Will you sign it?”

He knew she must have recently read the ending. He had done the same when it first crystallized in his mind. As he signed, he thought, “And now it seems my friend, this Obélisque de Louxor in the center of the Place de la Concorde, wants the story to continue.”


12 Responses to “monolithic by jmforceton”

  1. jmforceton February 21, 2010 at 10:01 pm #

    Two points need to be made.
    1 – I did not get the memo re Margaret and left her in Alfred’s room at the hotel.
    2- Being a 60 something young man who still plays singles tennis and wind surfs I thought I was being generous pegging Alfred at 78

  2. jadamthwaite February 21, 2010 at 10:07 pm #

    I like his writerly way of looking at the world – it was nice to find out that he was a writer at the end and then go back and spot the hints!

  3. ingridfnl February 21, 2010 at 10:34 pm #

    🙂 There was no Margaret memo… It seems we all just wanted to create a relationship of some sort between them.

    I thought of Alfred as older too…

    I agree with JAdamthwaite regarding his writerly way of viewing the world. 🙂 It completely changed my view of the types of things he noticed. I liked his sense of romance.

    • jmforceton February 21, 2010 at 10:50 pm #

      Thanks Ingrid. Jimmy and Amy were married 4 years later in “Committed”, last week’s story.
      I once was in a work group with 5 women. The six of usl walked into our Monday 8:00 am meeting with our manager and all 5 women wore black blouses. I was in a blue buttondown.

  4. juleshg February 21, 2010 at 11:46 pm #

    Even at 78 I did not get a sense of Alfred being old when I read this story.

    I love the line about how he frequently would eavesrop. I must admit that I am guilty of that myself; and like Alfred I find that a newspaper is an excellent prop when trying to listen in on the conversations of those around you.

    • jmforceton February 22, 2010 at 4:15 am #

      Oops, Julie you’re right, told his age and didn’t show it. Had the image in my mind instead.

  5. juleshg February 24, 2010 at 2:23 am #

    I meant it in a positive way — he is 78 but he is still young at heart and living life to the fullest despite some limitations. Too many people associate old age with a cane and a cardigan. I was glad that Alfred did not ‘act’ 78.

  6. Parenthesized February 25, 2010 at 4:47 am #

    I like the Alfred you created. He seems like a very interesting man.

  7. phoenix.writing March 7, 2010 at 4:04 pm #

    Randomly, one of my favourite bits:

    “Behind him, from the traffic, another shrill horn and loud shout, a pithy phrase, likely from a cabby driving past the wreck. “Extremely rude but outstanding originality.” He thought as he tilted his head down to mask the hint of a smirk.”

    I can imagine the phrase working its way into his next novel or something. 😀

    I like the way he says, “I must make Jimmy and Amy a couple”. Though the phrasing could be attributed to translation–it struck me as not the way most native English speakers would say it–the way I took it in my head was very “authorly”, as though they were characters whom he decided he would turn into a couple. I love the fact that they do wind up together in real life (so to speak).

    • jmforceton March 7, 2010 at 4:14 pm #

      Thanks for the comments. It wasn’t until after the first draft that he decided to be an author and then I had to rewrite to accommodate him. He also makes a cameo appearance in “Number Talk”, week 8.


  1. “answered questions”, paris, may, 2004 by jmforceton « the character project - March 14, 2010

    […] – week 9  “Pregnant? Thoughts” , week 8  “Number Talk” , week 7  “Monolithic” , week 6 […]

  2. obélisque, page 424 by jmforceton | the character project - May 20, 2010

    […] to more closely related episodes   Monolithic &  Number […]

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