Karl called around this morning. He told me, that when he dropped off Jean-Luc's shopping last week, he'd persuaded him to write down directions to the house where Marie was staying. So we decided to go and find the place this morning to talk to her. On the way over Karl explained how, when he returned to the farm, he attempted to lead Hilda out into the yard. But, even though Karl assured him it would only for ten minutes, Jean-luc became hysterical; swearing and accusing him of trying to find out the winning numbers of the next lottery. Apparently the "magic cow" had won him 100 Euros last week.
The directions were useless. We back-tracked along the country roads a few times, stopping at several properties. Eventually we came to a hand-painted sign advertising fresh eggs for sale: the only clue Jean-Luc had given us. We both noticed the misspelling of the word "fresh" (œufs fraise à vendre) which gave the impression they were trying to sell "strawberry eggs". Jean-Luc had mentioned this, calling them ignorant peasants. We drove down the long dusty track until we came to an old farmhouse and two outbuildings, their roofs patched with corrugated iron. A few rusted trucks and dismantled cars stood outside where chickens roamed freely, searching through the long grass. A black dog lay slumped in the sun and growled listlessly after Karl's van skidded to a halt.
Two men looked up from under the bonnet of an ancient Citreon Dyane. They were dressed in blue overalls and I was immediately struck by their similarity; matching pencil moustaches, long greasy black hair tied back, and identical baseball caps worn in reverse. They both stared at us for a while before one spat, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. The other man did exactly the same: Marie's brothers.
Karl strode towards the nearest and held out his hand. "Bonjour, monsieur." Before he could reach him, the door of the farmhouse creaked open and a short fat woman waddled out. She stopped a few feet outside her door; grey hair tied in a bun, orange and brown swirls of her trouser suit (a symbol of the seventies) stretched over her middle, her eyes squinting in the sunlight. At the mention of Marie's name she nodded and beckoned us indoors. The twins continued to stare.
The kitchen was large, cluttered with mismatched cabinets, heavy oak sideboards and two big wooden dressers. Chickens strolled around the stone floor regardless while numerous cats slumped in every available space. I noticed Karl's eye roving over the furniture when we were interrupted by a rasping cough from the threadbare armchair in the corner. An old man, wearing grey underpants and a string vest was clutching a cigar in his claw-like hand. Behind him, alongside an ancient stove, Marie was stirring the contents of a large pan. She turned and gasped as she saw us.
Karl explained how Jean-Luc wasn't managing and needed her to be with him. Marie said nothing, but flung the wooden spoon onto the cluttered table, took off her apron and marched out through the door, without saying a word to her parents. The twins watched as Marie got into Karl's van and we dove off.
For once, I was relieved to hear the familiar tones of Muddy Waters as we made our way back down the track. During the journey Marie remained tight-lipped while Karl hummed tunelessly to the every song on the album.
Jean-Luc's face lit up at the sight of his wife while Bruno bounded over to Marie, leaping into her open arms. Hilda, meanwhile, stood her ground with glazed eyes fixed on the numbers around the dial of the kitchen clock.
Karl and I closed the kitchen door behind and left.
We called back to his place and had a couple of beers outside near the lake. Gary seemed happy, bossing the other geese and ducks around: King of the Pond!
PS: Wednesday 3rd September.
Woke up this morning to another dream about Pierre; the second one in the last two weeks. It makes me wonder if I should start plotting the follow-up to Amatore's Restaurant. Although I had planned to work on my historical novel (once I get all this marketing out of the way). More of this in my next blog post.