Afternoon in Biarritz
F. Scottt was looking at his shoulder, checking out his tan. Zelda was the first in the surf. Crazy Zelda anyway. Such a risk taker. She found the page of the ‘mystery’ novel hanging over the deck of a toy French battle ship, the 1928 Dunkerque Battle Cruiser out of Brest. It was a wooden model made to scale. Some captains of the French navy were at a meeting, got drunk on Cognac and stole it from the officer’s club, bring it to Biarritz to float in is some kind of an experiment that the men were betting on. Some sort of gambling. French sailors are big on gambling. They’d lost it in a rip current, and eventually it washed up in near Zelda who was wading in the next hidden cove. Both the top and the bottom of the paper were soaked. The center paragraph was dry and the water was just beginning to be sucked into the paper,which had a high rag content. Because of the composition of the paper and the wording they guessed the page to be from about 1892.
“The paragraph in the middle is still legible, Scott. It isn’t soaked yet.”
She pulled a wet hair from her mouth.
“What’s it say?”
You see the boy had a flair with a pen.? ?He read that new upstart,? ?what?’?s his name?? ?Maupassant???”
“The one that studied under Flaubert???”
“That?’?s the one?! ?He has stories in La Gaulois.?”
“I?’?ve read them,? ?they?’?re good.?”
“I like them? ?too,? ?and the man has a certain style,? ?but I am of the opinion he won?’?t last.?”
“I agree,? ?he?’?s only a tiny flash in the pan.? ?He?’?s not so bright.? ?No one will know him in twenty years.?”
“Yet Philippe adores him,? ?and his style encouraged him to write.? ?And so,? ?stimulated by the writings of Maupassant and her marvelous photograph he decided to win her with words.? ?She responded in kind.? ?They shared the same humor and the same sensitivity to life.? ?They felt they were two of a pair.? ?Their bond grew exponentially as hundreds of letters were exchanged.? ?Michelle bound packets of his letters in pink silk ribbons and hid them in her closet.? ?He put stacks of hers under his bunk in the Legionnaires?’? barracks.
“That’s it. That’s all.”
“What is that? A random page from a manuscript? Our version of M.S. Found in a Bottle?”
“Scott, you’re not Poe, but it certainly is a mystery.”
Zelda adjusted her straps and noticed red marks, she was beginning to burn.
“Where’d you get this great model boat? It’s over two meters long!”
“Out there in the surf.”
F.Scott was up to his knees in foam.
Carrying the boat between them they walked in to the shore line and up a few yards to the umbrella and table and sat down. Zelda positioned the boat in the sand next to the table and ordered two Gin Fizzes.
Zelda liked hers with a lime not lemon. F.Scott liked it just the way it was. He’d drink anything. He was an alcoholic explorer and a hell of a writer.
“Scott, this could be one peach of a story.”
I’ll write a story about this boat you found Honey and sell it to Collier’s. Maybe the Saturday Evening post.”
“Good idea Scott, it’s isn’t too interesting but we do need cash for a big party!”
“That’s right Babygirl, we’ll have the money and the party because I’m F.Scott and your Zelda and both of us have a reputation to keep up.”
“That’s right Scott, because we’re crazy creative drunkards, rioting rich drunkards.
“Scott, you’re the bees knees.”
“Zel, you’re the cat’s pajamas.”
Just then five men from the Gendarmerie nationale approached and arrested them on the spot for stealing the boat. They were taken off in a jail wagon straight out of the Count of Monte Cristo. It was drawn by a strong black horse who used to make the run to Chateaux D’If. When they sobered up the next morning, they bailed out, then celebrated by toasting Château Lafite Rothschild seventy-two with the Captain. Then they all got naked and jumped in the fountain outside the casino.
The captain twenty-three skidood them before they got caught.
“You gotta admit Babygirl, the New York cops twenty-three skidood us from fountains bigger and better than this one!”
After that the day went by uneventfully while they nursed their hangovers that afternoon and after dark was the party. But the party is a completely different story which we don’t have time to get into here. All I can say is that they danced the Charleston until two. Why not? It was the Jazz Age. After that they dressed for dinner with the Hemingways.
The sunset was yellow in a most beautifully elegant manner just dripping with sophistication and social graces and class, like a gigantic slice of lemon wedged in a Tequila and Tonic.
El Sol finally went down like a fiery disk leaving clouds and seagulls only silhouettes against the sky. There’s nothing like sunset in the Bay of Biscay.
©Steven Hunley 2011
© Copyright 2016 Steven Hunley. All rights reserved.