Monday, July 07, 2008

This one's for Luc Sante . . .

and his love of crime novels, mass market paperbacks, and the French language.

Seen in the window of a furniture store in Montreal, perched--too carefully to be truly casual--on a modern end table next to an unrumpled (and perhaps unrumplable) platform bed, adding a quiet suggestion of danger, even trashiness, to the starkly impersonal lines of the faux bedroom of the display: a tatty and tattered paperback of a Lawrence Block novel translated into French under the title Trompe la Morte.

The scene:
When he returns, late, she’s sitting up in bed, half-draped by the artfully disarranged bedclothes, the floor lamp spotlighting the paperback in her hand that he’d left on the table that morning, now fully redeployed in its new role as a weapon against him.

Waving it at him with the manicured thumb she’s using to mark her place, she asks, in French, “Why do you waste your time reading this trash?”

He opens his mouth to reply, in English, but instead he turns away from her and quickly fans through the crumpled notes in his wallet. Even after what can only be termed a successful night, he’s still more than $120 short. Tossing the useless wallet on the low dresser, where it skids across the black lacquer right to the edge before stopping, he quickly begins to shuck his clothes, then fetches the last cigarette from the pack in his shirt pocket before he lets the bundle drop, flares it into light. Then he stretches full-length on the bed, opposite her, his tired feet by her head, eyes up, staring intently as a finger of smoke ascends in a straight line toward the shadows of the ceiling.

“I hate it when you smoke in bed,” she says, again in French.

After a beat, he replies, “I know.” After another beat, he adds, “Mon cherie.”
{This is of course offered with all due and proper apologies to Mr. Block himself.}

1 comment:

  1. That's lovely, Levi. Thanks! I like the counter-stereotyping, too: a lesser hand would have the French person smoking in bed and savoring trash fiction--indeed, you can't imagine a battered paperback on a night stand in a lower-48 furniture store.