Road to Elsewhere, Excerpt #1: I Was a Wee Man in Paris

Your life has to begin somewhere. Mine did when I stepped off an airplane at Paris-Orly, extravagantly alone, and took a bus into the heart of Elsewhere.

It was morning in Paris. Also, the dawn of my adult life. And as a post-collegiate unemployed nincompoop, I was free.

Free to fly to Paris on a one-way ticket.

Free to study French for no apparent reason at the Alliance Française, 101 Boulevard Raspail.

Free to be walking north next to that leafy boulevard, with empty pockets, a vacant mind, and no prospects for filling either.

Boulevardier-ing toward me, forty meters down the sidewalk, was a well-preserved

Parisian artifact: Homburg, charcoal great-coat with black velvet lapels, silver-handled walking stick, polished black oxfords, impeccable grey mustache, promontory nose. He was fishing around in his coat pockets, perhaps in search of a flintlock pistol to plonk an invasive American.

Mais non.

He produced a golden ten-franc piece from his pocket, pinching it between the thumb and forefinger of his black-gloved right hand. But this particular coin wouldn’t make it to the caisse. His grip slipped and the coin fell, hitting the sidewalk with a cheering impact, like the chiming of a small bronze bell.

I watched the coin sprout free-will, and possibly even legs, and hurry along a graceful, curving path before it dove into the freshly swabbed Parisian gutter. My street companion stopped and looked about him in bewilderment; he had failed to follow the coin’s rolling arc.

What was an approaching nincompoop to do?

I feigned ignorance of the dropped coin and walked forward, more slowly, now. The gentleman scoured the sidewalk from wall to gutter, then summoned up that most French of gestures — the shrug — and forged ahead, ten francs lighter. We had no interaction at our nearest approach; perhaps he was hoping that Haughty Youth hadn’t noticed Vulnerable Age.

When Rich Oncle Moneybags turned onto Rue Stanislas, I reversed direction and dove into the gutter. My guilty fingers closed around the ten-franc coin. I was still flush with momma’s-boy morality at this point in my life, plus grandpa’s money. But this was too much to resist in Paris, where a Stella Artois cost 4f, and a baguette sandwich 3f. Suddenly I had lunch money, with 3f to spare for my dining companion, the International Herald Tribune.

And what’s a soul worth, anyway? Like the blues guitarist in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, I wasn’t using mine, at the moment.

Hey, readers of this ‘stack! Part of what will make this work is my quest for more readers, more engagement, more Moore. So if you’re enjoying this, please share it with a few friends.

And you can now “like” the Road 2 Elsewhere’s Facebook page — joy! — which may seem pointless, but will help me with Mark Zuckerberg’s demon algorithms. Many thanks for hanging out with me on the road to elsewhere.

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Road 2 Elsewhere by Peter Moore

Road 2 Elsewhere by Peter Moore

Road 2 Where, Exactly? Hope you’ll join me for this picnic.