“In Paris” by Jennifer Solheim
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, Jennifer Solheim shares a few snapshots of Paris.
You flatten your body across the bed. The early afternoon sunlight feathers over you. You grant it permission. It traces your skin, that skin that renders you distinct from the world yet feels all too pervious. The light bleaches the stains of the voices on the street. Vous êtes trop belle, trop belle, un baiser, un baiser, un baiser . . . Bleach them silent, sun.
You eat the most sumptuous dessert, a North Algerian cake called almond heart. A slight whisper of crust gives way to a besotted center, so soaked through the semolina that it’s like a pudding, a pudding the texture of fine springing pearls in thick cream, the layer of almond in the center giving flavor and scent, but not texture, and the thinnest line of sight. You picture this line that runs through the center of the cake as if it were drawn in pencil as the bite of cake breaks open in your mouth—honey-sweet doesn’t begin to describe it. It’s so sweet that your taste buds swell from the underside seams of your tongue to meet it. Then the sweetness turns your tongue inside out, and the texture of the cake on your inside-out tongue makes you feel all at once like you were in love and you were a child again.
He could have been yours. What would it have been like? You imagine your voices in your native languages, twining in and out of one another’s like naked limbs.
The water waves at you in the canal, a thick salute, oblivious to the beer can and white cardboard floating at the opposite quay.
Bouche-bée means speechless, but taken literally it means open mouthed. Bée is the nominalized form of béer, an antiquated verb meaning to open. It is an old-fashioned word, bouche-bée. You and your American accent can’t use this word in conversation. It would sound like you had found it in a book. But you like bouche-bée. The word speechless becomes a bumblebee on the lips. Bée-stung lips, wide, silent.
It seemed like everyone transferred from La Chappelle to Gare du Nord. There couldn’t possibly be one soul left on the train once it moved to the next station. You walked step by step, halting, pitching right or left when you were jostled. You maintained your steps, small and slow, as you made your way with the stream of people off the train, onto the platform, to the stairwell, down the stairs. You were made dizzy by the quick turns at the foot of the staircase to get yourself into the long corridors that led to the train station. But once in those corridors, your stride widened, and you made your way through this undreamed-of Paris passage.
You take up more space than you should, there on rue Oberkampf, the passersby all a head shorter than you. But then, the space is yours anyway. Isn’t it? You laugh. It feels good. Even though you are drunk, even though he makes you nervous, you invite him to a bar, still laughing, saying things like, “Small world, Jesus, small world,” but you know you are laughing about so much more than just that.
JENNIFER SOLHEIM is a French scholar and teacher, fiction writer, and literary translator whose works appeared or are forthcoming in Confrontation, Conclave: A Journal of Character, Fiction Writers Review, Inside Higher Ed, and Poets & Writers. Her website is www.jennifersolheim.com.
Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Sep 14, 2015
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