Writers were blindly matched for a collaborative writing project with another writer. The resulting stories/poems appear below.
Interested writers chose which genre they wanted to write (fiction or poetry). Writers were randomly matched as a starter or maybe a finisher on the theme of APRIL SHOWERS. All teams consisted of two people who each had three weeks for their portion of the story/poem. Final stories/poems were read at the April 16th unveiling.
RESULTS OF 2015 WRITERS SMATCHUP WITH THE THEME OF "MOTHER"
"April Showers" Lyrid Meteor Showers Appear Annually Approximately April 16-26
Starter – Sharon Gilligan
Maggie didn't know where she was. Like most nights when she couldn't sleep, she had rolled out of bed and climbed into her Mazda Miata to drive until her eyes burned so much they had to close. But tonight her eyes were fine, watching the road in front of her and, because her reflexes were shaky from sleep-deprivation, monitoring her speed.
Hours ago she left the freeway at a random off ramp (she couldn't remember which one) and was now on a narrow two lane road. If there were homes or buildings beyond the road's shoulders, they were invisible in the black night.
She knew she should stop to get her bearings and head home. But home to what? No one was waiting for her there. No one would wonder where she was. Even the dog had chosen to go with Dell. Mickey, a white, part-poodle whined and moped so much after Dell moved out Maggie decided she belonged with her former partner.
But Dell's absence wasn't the cause of Maggie's insomnia. Separating was the right thing. What kept her up was the question 'what next?'. And more frighteningly, did Maggie want there to be a 'next'? She was not yet fifty, but she wondered if there was anything left to see. She had known love and career success. She had traveled and met interesting people from all over. It was too late to experience childbirth and motherhood. She felt incapable of being delighted or surprised.
Finally her aching shoulders and cramped fingers told her it was time to quit. She pulled onto a widened patch of shoulder and turned off the engine. As she flexed her hands and rolled her head around to loosen neck muscles, she closed her eyes and tried to retrace the turns she made after leaving the freeway. Even if she chose to check out, it would not be on this desolate road. It would not be tonight. She plopped her head on the back of the seat. She peered into the blackness looking for answers she knew were inside her, if they existed at all. When five or six bright globes with faint tails raced across the sky sinking toward earth beyond the horizon, Maggie blinked thinking her addled brain was playing tricks. Moments later a second shower of color cascaded down, then a third.
Finisher – Doug Fortier
To follow each shooting star, Maggie unbuckled and stepped into the warm night air. Her delight with the phenomenon increased with each new sighting, and in three deep breaths, she felt akin to a mote in the universe. A line from Longfellow came to mind: “For age is opportunity no less than youth itself, though in another dress, And as the evening twilight fades away, the sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.”
She stretched out on the Miata’s hood and pressed her back to the windshield. Fueled by the meteor shower, her exhilaration and excitement reminded her of a time as a freshman in college. An astronomy class outside her business curriculum left her in a state of wonder that faded but wasn’t forgotten. Maggie reveled in the memories of a carefree time when she warmed herself in the sun outside the student union, needing only to attend class and do homework.
The sky became alive above her with random streaks of ancient stellar fragments finding their end. She thrilled to the show, each arc adding to a vision of speeding along among them.
She eased herself from the hood when the fireworks appeared to be nearly over. Her balance faltered. Maggie steadied herself with a step forward, an analogy for moving from the uninspired life behind her to finding her passion in the future.
In the car for the return trip, she compared how much she’d learned, how her life experiences had given her a perspective much different than a freshman away from home. She looked within herself for the spark generated by that Astronomy class and felt it smoldering, waiting for rekindling. It brought a smile that surprised her. The awe generated by April meteor showers carried Maggie home to sleep peacefully, eager to explore the oldest of sciences anew.
Starter – Lea Callan
I knew I should go to the store and pick up some groceries for dinner, but looking out the living room window once again, I saw that it was still raining and the swaying branches of the big redwood tree in the front yard told me that the wind was blowing. Thinking of wrestling my umbrella in and out of the car on a rainy windy day was disconcerting, to say the least. But I really felt like getting out of the house. Maybe the rain would let up.
Of course, we needed the rain. April showers bring May flowers. And there was talk of a possible draught. What was that song? Hm-m-m. "And when you see clouds above the hills, you soon will see crowds of daffodils." I gazed at the far off hills. There were certainly clouds above the hills.
Closer to home, I saw the rain splashing into a puddle that had formed in the yard. Unbidden, it brought back memories of being three or four years old and wanting desperately to run out and play in the rain, splash in the puddles. Of course, my mother wouldn't hear of it. She laughed when I said, "When I'm big, I'll go out in the rain every day." I smiled at the memory and that is when the thought first blossomed. What would it be like now that I was big to just go out and play in the rain? Wet and cold? What would the neighbors think if they saw me? What would it feel like to have rain in my hair, in my face?
A happy feeling of exhilaration gripped me and I marched to the hall closet and pulled out my raincoat, laughed as I put it on thinking of the mad caper I was about to embark on. I stepped toward the front door, stopped, hesitated for a moment, then with a feeling of joyous abandonment, shucked the raincoat, tossed it to the floor and reached for the doorknob.
Finisher – Fauna Perkins
The rain hit my face like tiny hammers and my dress soaked through and hung like a mop. For a moment I questioned my decision, then I took a deep breath and stepped out into the downpour. A switch seemed to flip and I felt every part of my body responding. The cold faded and I imagined steam rising from my body as it warmed. The puddle in the driveway expanded and sloshed with mud. I took a deep breath and jumped into it kicking water in every direction.
The redwood tree formed a small park like island planted with smaller trees and greenery and I ran around it, arms outstretched as if to embrace the downpour. All I could think of was Gene Kelley dancing down the street warbling “I'm Singing in the Rain.” with joy and abandonment and I did a little dance and hopped and skipped trying to imitate his light hearted celebration of life. I jettisoned restraint and felt filled with music. The puddle came back into view and I ran toward it just as I heard the siren, simultaneously I saw my neighbor looking out her window, a look of incredulity as if my behavior reflected depravity and I were lewd and immoral.
Behind the ambulance my husband arrived, grim faced and worried. He approached as if fearing I might attack like a crazed animal who escaped from the zoo. I noticed the self-satisfied look on the neighbor's face and stuck out my tongue, like a three year old.
After the medical team took my vitals they started seeing some humor in the situation, and agreed not to take me in for psychiatric evaluation. Phil guided me to the shower, following behind to wipe up the muddy footprints. When I looked civilized again we sat down handed me a hot Irish Coffee. The warmth welcome while the rain continued beating on the windows. “I don't suppose you got to the store?” Phil asked, a smile curling the corners of his mouth.
I shook my head. “Do you want to walk?” I asked him.
With an impish grin he said, “Let's skip?”
Starter – Norma Watkins
We’d been walking for two hours when the rain began. Water plastered hair against my face and trickled between my collar and neck. “April is the cruelest month,” I said. I couldn’t remember anymore.
“Late for rain,” I said.
“That’s T.S. Eliot.” Ben marched ahead with a stick he’d picked up, like some kind of mountain man, which he was not. He did know his poets. I suspected he wanted into my undies, which were thoroughly damp by now, along with the rest of me.
There are people you might choose to survive with if everything went to hell and Ben was not one of those people. We’d gone mushrooming, his idea, his car. He claimed to know an old logging road and a place where the chanterelles grew in fairy rings under the live oaks, fleshy, yellow, vase-shaped, edible and choice.
His car was useless, a dung-colored pile of rust. I watched the ground moving through holes in the floorboard, while the ground moved. An hour out, the car coughed and quit. Ben twisted the key, flung the thing into and out of gear, and floored the accelerator until it expired entirely.
“We could retrace our steps,” I said.
“All these old logging roads lead somewhere, trust me.”
“That’s just it.”
He threw words over his shoulder. “Breeding Lilacs out of the dead land. Mixing Memory and desire.”
“What are you going on about?”
“Those are the next lines—from Part One of The Waste Land.”
I did not wish to hear the word desire from this man. “We’ve been walking two hours,” I said. “If we turn around now, we can get to the Comptche-Ukiah Road before dark.”
He didn’t answer. Misguided idiot. I could go back by myself. I could spend the night in his car. I turned to look, but the road behind us was lost in fog. My head filled with images of the mountain lion tracking us. Silent as golden syrup, she paced alongside, hidden by brush, patient as death.
Ben said, “Tiger, tiger, burning bright/In the forests of the night.”
I almost jumped out of my skin. “Why are you talking about tigers?” I ran to catch up with him. Mountain lions were known for going after the smaller, weaker prey, the ones who lagged behind.
“The woods around here are full of them,” Ben said. “I am well-trained in woodland lore. I can build us a shelter for the night out of limbs and leafy branches.”
Just what I wanted: to spend the night in a small, wet space with Ben. “Let’s go back and sleep in the car. It’ll be a lot drier.”
He stopped. “Why don’t you like me?”
“Keep moving. Of course I like you. I’m here, aren’t I?”
“You know how animals can smell fear? I can smell dislike.”
“You’re the one who invited me.”
“Shampoo masked the scent of dislike until you started sweating.”
“Liar. It’s too cold to sweat. Either walk faster or turn around.”
“Did you hear about that woman?” Ben said. “The one who got lost on a logging road after a party? Three days later she stumbled out onto 101 near Ukiah, practically dead.”
Finisher – Donald Shephard
The road climbed over a ridge into redwoods where dusk fell quickly. I hoped to find a logger’s hut, a hermit’s cabin, a derelict farmhouse, anything but we found no such shelter. I could see the old growth stumps with their triangular notches to hold the spring boards of the fellers. Across a boggy area, I spotted water bubbling from the earth near a burned-out stump. The old-timers had used it as a goose pen. We climbed up to it through huckleberry bushes. Trillium formed a semicircle around the spring from which sulfur wafted into my nose when I scooped a handful to sip.
Ben collected branches to cover the entrance, and the floor had remained dry, but that was the limit of our comforts. He attempted lighting a fire with redwood bark which told me everything about his survival skills. I pulled my arms inside my coat sleeves to conserve heat. The rain ceased and the moon quick-silvered shadows.
I peeked through the makeshift door and watched below in the meadow a mountain lion scraping leaves into a pile and urinating on them. He marked his territory, tail erect as he sprayed stumps long devoid of life. He approached a female who flattened herself in the grass.
That’s when her screams began. I hid behind Ben. They continued on and off for hours and echoed in my head for years. Sometime in the night, I pulled Ben on top of me to dull the sound, but it penetrated everything. The raw animal cry scared me to my bones. It excited Ben.
Now as I sit here with you, my precious son, Penn and admire the oaks where your dad collected candy cap mushrooms for my fish sauce, I compare him with your biological father. I remember that awful night and the tough years that followed when I saw nothing but grief, poverty and loneliness in our future.
That night in the goose pen with the female mountain lion screaming was the night I conceived you. You are the ‘lilacs out of the dead land.’
Penn scratched his receding hairline. “So are you telling me that the man I called dad all my life is not my biological father?”
“Exactly so, I cannot pretend you were conceived happily, but you must admit we raised you with love.”
“Hmm. It’s difficult to grasp. It’s hard to care for someone I never met.” Penn blew a long exhale. “Tell me again how you met dad.”
“Oh well. That’s a happier story entirely. He appeared through the trees behind the house, his beard shaped like a perpetual grin as if all the world amused him.”
“It did,” said Penn.
"Your dad asked for a drink of water. When I gave it to him, we chatted as if we’d known each other for years. We were always comfortable together. He noticed the broken backdoor window. The next Saturday he replaced the glass and that’s when I wanted to hear him say the word desire—to mix memories with him. I trusted him. A year later we married and he adopted you."
“He was quite a bit younger than you, wasn’t he?”
“Yes, friends called me a cougar at the time.”
“Is that the same tree I played in at the cabin? When did you buy that land?”
“Yes the same hollow tree. Long after I told your dad about Ben, when we could finally afford two sticks to rub together to start a fire, we trekked all the old logging roads until we found the goose pen by the spring. Then he bought the land and built the cabin.”
“Why tell me about this Ben now? What triggered it?”
“The other day I received a letter from County Mental Health. I want you to drive me to Ukiah. Ben lives there in a home for the indigent off Highway 101. He is under conservatorship, and practically dead. This is your last chance to see him. Death is patient and inevitable.”
Starter – Jan Edwards
On the morning of her 60th birthday, as Rachel Owens was walking back from the compost pile, her eye caught a glint of light. From the mud beneath the redwoods something was winking at her. Rachel set down her pail, took two steps towards it and then stopped.
“It’s just a bottle cap, or foil from some candy bar,” she told herself. Then she remembered that couple over in gold country, the ones who found a fortune in coins buried under their trees. Some old miner hid them there over a hundred years ago, until rain came and exposed the lid of an old can. “But there’s no gold buried around here,” she thought, “or is there?”
She knew that the coast had once been a haven for smugglers and pirates. And that these woods were still a perfect place to hide booty. Last night’s storm was hard enough to wash away the needles and soil — hard enough to uncover a treasure. “Finding a stash like that would solve everything,” Rachel whispered. Yet she stayed put, and squinted at the sparkles from a distance.
She could have easily ended the mystery. But until she knew what was sparkling, all things were still possible. Like that cat the scientists put in a box, her hopes were both dead and alive. She was rich and poor at the same time. It was why she threw away hard-earned cash on lottery tickets. Each week, before they pulled the numbers, she was possibly a winner. She could lie in bed plotting how she would spend all the money: a couple mil for herself naturally, but most of it on friends and family. She wanted to save wild animals and feed starving children and vowed to use the money wisely and for good. But she never won. “Never. Not one damn cent.”
Then a cloud moved in and the glint she had been watching blinked off. Rachel had to get over to the tree before she lost track of the spot. “It’s going to turn out to be nothing,” she mumbled. “Don’t get your hopes up or you’ll just get bummed.” But when she looked down, to her shock, something strange was poking out of the mud.
Finisher – Susan Fisher
A golden eye. It was huge and blinking. “I must be hallucinating. Or it’s a flashback.” She peered at it, walked around it, looked at it from every angle. It tracked her movement. “Creepy.” She felt excitement mixed with fear.
Despite a bad knee, Rachel lowered herself to the dank ground and stretched out so that one of her own brown eyes was mere inches away from the magnificent golden one that bulged above the earth. Her right hand crawled closer and touched the mud surrounding the orb’s perimeter.
“Who’s there?” She laughed nervously. “Only one way to find out.” With her fingers, she gently scraped away a couple of inches of dirt and redwood needles adjacent to the eyeball . A rim of bright cobalt-colored hide emerged.
“Blue skin. I’m either dreaming or dementia has sprung into full bloom the day I turn sixty.” The eye wildly blinked at her, urging release from its entrapment in the earth. It looked and felt as real as her own hand. Rachel sat up, feeling confused. She weighed the possibility of riches from her find versus unleashing a monster that could destroy and wreak havoc versus mental delusion.
After carefully marking the spot, she stood and brushed away dirt and debris from her sweater and jeans. The great eye continued to stare at her. She waved to her unsettling discovery and promised to return soon, then picked up the compost pail and headed home to get her camera. A digital photo would confirm whether her find was real or lunacy. She sighed—either way, she was probably fucked.
Starter – Patty Joslyn
We have all been witness to April showers
how it is the dark clouds swell
and roll around the roof of the mouth,
the throat of the sky.
The opening a wet blanket
thrown to a thirsty earth.
I have read about a man's heart
asleep under this violet cover
mourning his own loss.
When he rises from his muddy knees
he stops for a minute to witness
tiny shoots and spears poking their way out of the raw loosened dirt.
There will be fireweed and milkweed.
Tiger lilies the color of ripe exotic fruit.
Bells will ring from across the yard and he will remember that everything,
everything has a song and season.
Finisher – Henri Bensussen
As April awakens to May, and June days
linger so long they forget about night
his dreams, witnessed by borage and the bees clustered
in its nectared firmament, will be of spring rain, and all that was promised.
Kiwis will flavor the air with lime-green juice
thistle and tansy thrive in violent shadows
of a ripped earth, standing tall with the loyal grasses
rooted deep in raw sight.
He will lie among them, his mouth hungering
for Love-Lies-Bleeding. The Moon will sing
to the Mockingbird
and Mourning Doves make a nest
in his uneasy, so-easily-shattered heart.
"The Prayer of Jabez"
Starter - Cathy Hollenback
The last bell rang at Cascade High School. Naomi waited in the bathroom stall until the coast was clear. As she pushed open the heavy glass door of the school building, the buses were leaving. She missed hers.
She sighed. “Why do things always have to be so hard?” she said under her breath. Naomi then started the mile long walk home. As she took each step the cruel words spoken by Nancy and Becky to their friends in the hallway as she had passed rang in her head.
“Do you see the kind of clothes that Naomi wears?” Nancy said.
“I wouldn’t be got dead wearing things like that,” replied Becky.
“Yes, and I heard that her parents are nothing but addicts and they live on welfare,” Nancy added.
Becky continued, “Did you know she lives at the end of Summit Road in an old run-down mobile home? Not to mention the yard that is littered with broken cars and trash.”
Naomi stopped alongside of the dirt road and sat down in the soft cool grass. She opened her backpack and took out a bottle of water; it tasted good and was refreshing. She wiped the beads of sweat from her forehead and tears from her cheeks with the sleeve of her sweatshirt.
As she replaced the bottle, a small book fell to the ground. Naomi picked it up and remembered that the librarian had given it to her and said she may find it interesting.
Naomi then continued her walk with the book in her hands; the title was The Prayer of Jabez. She thought to herself this is my last name. Is this why it was given to me?
She walked and read; there were many similarities between the man by the name of Jabez and her own life. The bible had mentioned that a person’s name carried a lot of weight and even destiny. The word Jabez meant pain and suffering. Jabez was looked down upon and also teased just like Naomi.
But the story went on to say that Jabez was more honorable than his family. “So am I,” Naomi said aloud. Jabez wanted a better life, and he believed in spite of his given name he should have one, so he took a leap and prayed a huge prayer asking that “God would bless him indeed,” as he looked up at the heavens. Naomi stopped. The verse that caught her eye was the reply, which simply stated, and “God granted his request.”
Naomi re-read the verses and right there decided to also pray in a large way as she looked up to the sky which was now gray and cloudy; a slight breeze was blowing and it cooled her hot, damp face and hair. She simply said, “I do not know if this story is true, or if there really is a God, but I am asking that You would bless me, indeed, just like Jabez. Amen.”
She was almost home when the rain started; this was the first rain of April. How did that saying go? Spring showers bring May flowers… or something like that.
As she stood on the porch, listening to the raindrops on the tin roof, she smiled to herself and thought I will wait for God’s answer.
Finisher - Nona Smith
Standing under the porch’s meager awning and pondering what form God’s answer might take, Naomi saw the rain change. Within seconds, the soft showers shifted into high gear and became pelting torrents. Heavy drops discharged from the heavens, gathered into rivulets and formed rushing gullies. The downpour left her mother’s old, oil-leaking car standing in the center of a rainbow-colored puddle the size of a small lake. What had been a dirt pathway leading to the steps of her front door was now a ribbon of slick muck. Naomi stood still, staring at the deluge, transfixed by nature’s power.
Was this the sign she’d hoped for? And if so, what did it mean?
She jumped at the sharp tapping sound behind her, and whirled around to see her mother’s face, pinched and angry, at the window.
“Don’t you even know enough to come in out of the rain?” she hissed.
Naomi lingered a moment longer, reluctant to give up the fresh, rain-scented air in exchange for the odors she knew would assail her once she entered the trailer: stale tobacco, weed, fried onions. She sighed. Moving slowly and still in awe of the waterworks display she’d just witnessed, she went inside.
Afternoon faded into night, and Naomi steered as clear of her mother as possible, hoping to avoid her alcohol-driven temper. After dinner, she escaped into her bedroom, pleading homework. Closing the door behind her, she sat on her narrow bed and pulled the little book from her backpack. Ask for a blessing, the words encouraged her. She crawled under the covers, turned out the light, tucked the blankets around her and asked.
When daylight appeared at her window, Naomi woke and stared at the stained ceiling, listening for rain. Instead, she heard the chirping and twittering of birds. Where they the answer to her prayer? She repeated Jabez’s request again before she got out of bed: Bless me.
Dressing quickly and making as little noise as possible, she hoped to leave for school before her mother woke. She re-filled her water bottle from the kitchen sink, stuffed it into her backpack along with a handful of stale ginger snaps and hurried out the door, closing it softly behind her.
Outside, she sensed it immediately. Something had shifted since yesterday afternoon. The sky was blue and cloudless, the air garden-fresh. The world felt new, re-born. Was this the blessing she was seeking? The day was pretty spectacular, but she’d been hoping for something that would shut the gossipy mouths of Becky and Nancy. Not just sunshine and clean air.
As she walked past her mother’s junker, something shiny glistened like a wink and caught her eye. She moved closer to the oily puddle and peered down at it. Tipping her head to the left and then to the right, she circled the water to get a different view. When it dawned on her what she was seeing, her eyes widened and she pressed her fingertips to her lips.
Plainly visible, spelled out in oil-inky cursive writing, was the sign she’d asked for. It read Sorry, girlfriend, as I found out myself, the world is not a blessing-granting factory. Now go forth and seize your life. Best regards, Jabez.
"The Umbrellas of April - Les Parapluies d’Avril"
Starter - Nancy Leila Wallace-Nelson
I was baptized Marta Elaine Olenson in Brookmills, Minnesota, on May 29, 1942, and my obsession with Paris began two years later when Uncle Bjorn was killed liberating Paris. I helped my grandmother make scrapbooks of pictures, articles and maps that kept Bjorn alive for her, and personalized Paris for me. In second grade I won first-place for a story in which I raised money to buy the Eiffel Tower, bring it to D.C. and bedeck it with red, white and blue lights and US flags as a tribute to all who fought to liberate Paris from the Nazis. The story embarrasses me now, but at the time it was a place to put my sorrow and the community’s. That year of the story, I began studying French with my older cousin, and borrowed her books whenever I could, so that by the time I took formal French classes, I had a good vocabulary, and a passion to make French my own. I graduated salutatorian because of my six years of French, but, sadly, I was not headed for the Sorbonne as the French Madame who instructed us had encouraged me to dream. Under that graduation robe was the football star’s son. One month after graduation I became Mrs. Duane Douglas Johanssen, and within seven years the mother to four more Johanssens. I spoke French to the first two babies, but banker Duane and his hovering mother belittled my efforts; and by the third child I was too weary to use English words, let alone French. After the horrors of babyhood, I returned to my French books, and collected stories of Paris as it recovered from the war. For twenty-five years of dutiful marriage, I fed my dream of living in Paris, and I got a tiny bite of that dream, and for once my own way, when I convinced Duane to make a silver anniversary trip to Paris. He complained the whole week that Paris was expensive, snobby and grimy, and I still loved every single second. I unsettled Duane when I wanted to stay out late walking and breathing in the smells and sounds of Paris. I comforted myself after such a short visit with the plan that I would return to Paris the next year with a girlfriend, but Duane took on the broken heart, and required my stay-home care.
When he died seven years later on February 13, 1996, I booked an April 8th flight to Paris, and ignored the shock of relatives and in-laws. Spring in Paris with its fabled showers was a fantasy I’d suppressed too long. I ordered a new umbrella with delicate peach and pink appliquéd lace, and packed delicious new clothes. My first afternoon in Paris, I grabbed the umbrella and my map, and set off for the Louvre, but I was so absorbed in the energy of the busy Métro that I missed my stop. Swept out into the plaza with all the passengers speaking excited and melodious French made me happily dizzy, and a bit overwhelmed. I laid my plastic bag on a wet bench and sat to collect my thoughts and decide how to find the museum. I was just opening my umbrella, when a stately, well-dressed woman swept toward me with matching umbrella. “I see you have good taste, “she said with a vivacious smile. “D’où venez-vous, Madame? I’m pure “Parisienne” and can help you find your way.”
Finisher – Holly Tannen
Mon Dieu - A Parisienne was talking to me. The taxi driver and the hôtelier had pretended not to understand my French. At the patisserie I got so discombobulated I couldn’t remember the names of the breads and rolls. I had to get my pastries by pointing at them.
“Je viens des Etats-Unis,” I said. “Minnesota. Le mi-ouest.” I gestured towards the plastic bag. “Would you like something to eat?”
“Tant que ce n'est pas de McDonald,” she said. “As long as it’s not from McDonald’s. Je m’appèlle Hélène Rosenzweig. Please allow me to correct your pronunciation.”
My cousin had warned me that Parisians resent hearing their language spoken badly. Don’t take umbrage when they correct your French - it means they consider you worth talking to.
“Bien sur, Madame,” I said. “Of course. Je déteste le McDonalds. Would you like a pain au chocolat?”
“Merci beaucoup. Je les adore.”
She sat down beside me and I offered her a tray of freshly-baked pastries. She picked one up and took a small bite, as I admired her perfectly-manicured red fingernails.
“Madame, je suis perdue. I’m lost.”
“I may be able to help you,” she said. “But reassure me you are not planning to visit all those idiotic tourist sites, le Tour Eiffel, le Louvre...”
“Mais non, Madame. My uncle was killed liberating Paris. Possibly you can help me find his grave.”
“Les américains n’ont pas libéré Paris. Paris was liberated by the French army, the French people, the France that fights, the real France, the eternal France! The US Infantry didn’t arrive till the day before the Germans surrendered.”
“My Uncle Bjorn was in the Fourth Division. He was killed by a German sniper.”
“My grandparents fought in the Resistance,” she said. “They were sent to the camps. Don’t tell me the Americans liberated Buchenwald - the inmates did. My grandfather built a short-wave transmitter and hid it in the laundry room. He sent a message to General Patton: We request help. The SS wants to destroy us.”
“The Third Army was there in days,” I said.
“You know your history,” said Mme. Rosenzweig. “Grand-maman painted the sign they hung on the barracks: German political prisoners welcome their American friends. It was the last thing she did before she died. My father was five. The Americans gave him food and clothes, and sent him to an orphanage.” She took another pastry. “Do you know where your uncle is buried?”
“I think in the Cimitière de Montparnasse.”
“Viens,” she said. “Come. We’ll search for him together.”
Two peach and pink lace-appliquéd umbrellas bobbed in the April rain as we hurried towards the Métro.