A Short Stop

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Imagine walking into something which doesn't seem right.

Submitted: September 17, 2016

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Submitted: September 17, 2016

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This is a story told to me by my grandfather shortly before he passed away.  It was about five years after the war, around the spring of 1950. He was holidaying in France with my grandmother and father. My father would have been 10 at the time. They were travelling in a rented camper, taking in the scenery and enjoying the early spring weather. Flowers were starting to bloom and slowly but surely the temperature was climbing to the early 20s. It was during the journey that my grandfather started to experience indigestion and wanted to stop and find a lavatory. The road they were on was quite and there were few buildings around. Those that were there still showed the scars of the German retreat. It was then that a small row of houses caught his eye. The road they were on ran along a ridge and sloped down to the right which is where the houses stood.

My grandfather immediately braked and brought the camper slowly to a halt. My grandmother was sleeping in the back as was my father. So, as not to wake them, he opened the door gently and made his way down the slope to the houses. There were around 8 houses in a row, all with neat and tidy front gardens. At the very end of the row there was a small cafeteria. It was there my grandfather headed. Stopping just outside the front door, he straightened himself up and went inside.  His French is not perfect but he said in soft voice, ‘Hello. Bonjour. Est-ce qu’il ya quelqu’un là-bas?.’  He heard a little shuffling and from beyond a curtain behind the counter there appeared an old lady. At a guess she would have been about 75 or 80. She had a slight stoop and wore a flowered coloured apron. ‘Bonjour messieur , ‘ she said in a small voice which was barely audible. ‘Que puis-je faire pour vous?’.  My grandfather could not quite understand her accent so he asked her ‘ Parlez vouz Anglais, madam?’

‘A little,’ she replied. ‘I can speak a little although I am afraid I am out of practice’.  ‘I think you speak perfect English,’ my grandfather said wanting to flatter her. ‘I am on holiday here with my family and during the journey I started to get stomach ache so I was wondering if I may be allowed to use your bathroom. Of course I will stay and buy a coffee and some of that lovely cake you have there on the counter’.

‘Mais bien sur,’ she replied. ‘But of course. The bathroom is upstairs. Come behind the counter, the stair is on the left. Once on top the bathroom is the second door on the right. I will start on the coffee.’

‘Merci, I appreciate it’.  He found the bathroom with no problems and was downstairs again within five minutes. ‘You have a lovely house here,’ he said while taking his seat.

‘Thank you. It is quite old as are all of the houses here but I really feel at home here’.

They talked on for a good fifteen minutes mainly about the war and how she was affected by it. She told him she stayed in the house for the duration, even when the Germans and British started fighting here. She refused to leave and said she never would. After a while my grandfather glanced at his watch and said ‘I’d better be going. You have been very kind and I have taken up too much of your time as it is. Besides, my wife and son are in our camper van at the top of the hill sleeping. I wouldn’t want them to wake up and find me gone’.

With that he bid goodbye and thanked her again for her hospitality. Walking outside he couldn’t help but notice how quiet it was. There was no one in sight and even the birds were silent. He climbed the incline up the hill towards the camper without looking back. As he got there my grandmother was already awake and sitting outside the camper on the ground. ‘Where have you been?,’ she asked rather angrily. ‘When I woke up and found you gone I started to panic. Where did you go?’

‘My stomach was playing up so I needed to find a bathroom pretty quickly. After a few minutes I stumbled across that row of houses down there. There is a cafeteria on the end so I went in and used their bathroom. I could hardly run straight out so I sat and had a coffee, some cake and a chat with the old lady who runs the place.’

My grandmother looked a little bemused. ‘I’m not sure where you mean,’ she said. ‘Once I woke up, I went outside to look for you and searched all sides. All I could see was that row of bombed out old houses down there. The same houses you said you went to. Look for yourself’.

My grandfather turned and looked down the slope to the houses and, according to my grandmother, went a deathly pale. The houses he walked passed and the cafeteria were all but bombed out shells. He had no idea what happened but he was 100% sure he had been there in that cafeteria, used the bathroom and spoke to the old lady.

They never really spoke about it after that although when they got home my grandfather started to do a little research on that area of France. Apparently there was heavy fighting there towards the end of 1944 and whole area was completely destroyed. My grandfather was sure of one thing. He did speak to that old lady and enjoyed the coffee and cake she served him.

 

 

 


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