Friday, 24 September 2010


The long queue for the Louvre began in a cloister. The shade it provided made the contrast of the hot sun beating down on the square and the glass pyramid even more intense.
The Englishman and the girl didn’t speak until they stepped from the comparative comfort of the shade into the hot sun. It would be twenty minutes at least before they would reach the head of the queue.
“It’s bloody hot,” the man said. “Your neck’s red from yesterday.”
“Believe me I know.”
“Then why wear a T-shirt? You need something with a collar and sleeves.”
“I didn’t want the hassle of changing when we go back to the hotel for our bags.”
“The train doesn’t leave for hours. You could have changed in the ladies.”
“Just forget it.”
“I worry about you.”
“Well, don’t.”

The heat seemed to bounce off the square making the pyramid shimmer as though preparing for lift-off. The queue had been stationary for a few minutes before she spoke again.
“Why are we spending our last morning sweating like pigs? It will be a scrum when we get inside?”
“You can’t do Paris without visiting the Louvre. You’re the art buff. We should have gone on Tuesday.”
“It’s closed Tuesday.”
“See you do know all about it.”
“Then please don’t say laddish things when we get inside.”
“Like what?”
“Venus de Milo – she looks ‘armless.”
He laughed. “You used to think that sort of thing funny.”
“I still could.”
He looked around. There was a German family in front of them. Behind an elderly American couple. The woman was using a map as a makeshift fan.
“Why can’t we go to the doll museum instead?” the girl said. “It’s not far.”
“Because what? Didn’t you have a doll? No, big boys don’t have dolls. What do they have? Action Man? A teddy bear? Didn’t you have a teddy bear?”
“Just leave it alone. You don’t even like dolls.”
“How do you know that? You don’t know everything about me. I’ve still got my Barbie somewhere.”
“Trish, just shut up about dolls. Please.”
“Don’t get your boxers in a twist.”
“It’s not funny. I don’t think it’s funny at all.”

The girl took a small bottle of Evian from her shoulder bag. She offered it first to the American woman who looked unsteady in the heat. “No, thank you, hon, we have our own,” the old lady said.
The Englishman shook his head and the girl took a long swig from the bottle of water.
“I took the tests,” she said, “and you promised you would.”
“It’s not that easy.”
“It is too. You must have been practising since you were twelve. I’ll come along and hold your hand and anything else?”
“It doesn’t help when you make jokes about it.”
“What are you so frightened about? Maybe the little buggers are a bit sluggish. I had a lazy eye once.”
The man retrieved a second bottle of water from the girl’s shoulder bag, took a drink, and replaced it.
“Why open the other bottle? Mine’s still half-full."
“Don’t know,” he shrugged.
“It’s just as well I’m not fussy what I put in my mouth.”
“There you go again.”
“For God’s sake, Nick, loosen up. It’s only a test.”
“Why aren’t you happy with me.”
“I am. I am.”
“Then let’s get married.”
“Smart young people like us with bags of knowledge about everything have accidents – and then they get married. It gives the Best Man something to nudge and wink about in his speech. We haven’t had an accident in over a year.”
He looked at his watch. There was still another five hours before they had to be at the Gare du Nord.
“I’ll get the test done. I will.”
“Look, Nick, you don’t have to. Really. I don’t mind. Either way it won’t make any difference to us. It would just be nice to know.”
“Yes, you're right, nice to know.”
“And make no difference. I swear, you do believe that?”

They had been standing hand-in-hand in front of the Mona Lisa for a few minutes when the girl felt his grip tighten.

note. This short story stands no comparison but it did take its inspiration from Ernest Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants.GC

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