1. Nice Sunshine
Nobody really speaks French anymore in Louisiana, at least not the younger generation, but everybody fakes it. Me, I really do, but I keep that to myself and pull in the shrimp nets and eat my soup slow-like, with a polite spoon.
So the other day, I hear this song on the jukebox down at Ma Jolie Blonde by some group called Beausoleil. That was some good song, with a fiddler sawing away and an accordian player squeezing away and all the shrimpers swaying on their barstools to the beat.
So I say, I give $5 if the guy next to me know what "beausoleil" mean, and he don't know, and neither does the guy next to the guy next to the guy on down the line.
Marie, who runs the joint, she say "It means nice sunshine," and quickly palms my five off the bar. But her pretty eyes say, "Well, look at you!" and my eyes say back, "There's more surprises where that came from."
2. The Kissing Lesson
He was full of American swagger, and like so many swagger-boys, he was not much of a lover. The night we met in the Café d’Azure, a tucked-away bar in Montparnasse, it was 1927 and he was just back from the green hills of Africa and full of his own success both as a great white hunter and celebrated author.
I was supposed to know that he was “somebody,” and when I didn’t, he took me for an ignorant bawd and pulled me to him for a kiss. His mouth was slack, and the kiss was too wet, too fast.
“Here,” I said, “here mon cher, this is how it is done.”
Our second kiss lasted for minutes, and it was slow, starting out soft, growing more urgent by degrees, with heart and heat until our mouths were fucking each other and the whole café was lovesick with envy and all of Paris undressed and rushed into each others’ arms.
3. Quik-Mart Guy
His deep-set eyes stop scanning the store momentarily to acknowledge me, and the frown leaves his upper face, although the lower half reserves the right to go on frowning if I misstep.
I come into his Quik-Mart every few days on my way to work with the same need: a pack of Pall Malls and three bananas for 99 cents.
His family also owns a store west of here, in a hollowed-out neighborhood where steel bars keep customers outside after dark, forcing them to push their money through a chute in the wall. The customers are used to this; it’s how they buy their crack at a low cinderblock house down the street.
My pecan-brown convenience store clerk has the jumpy-jumps, like a man with PTSD.
Behind him, on the wall in his cashier’s cage, is a small Fujicolor photograph of a lush garden in Kandahar with violent red hibiscus and foliage so green it looks black by a stately house where his life was neither more nor less safe than it is right here.