a la Dream Petite Franciose

by Steve Geluso

I'm a tour guide, or something. Leading a group of students through a French museum. It is a very busy day. Our group is mixing shoulder to shoulder with the crowd. Everyone is milling about. Different tour guides shout and speak into microphones and personal wireless headphone PAs giving details about nearby paintings. This part of the museum is very crowded. We're not in the Louvre. There's not room to move easily. There's no fine rope keeping us from touching art on the wall. I interject and try to give my two cents with my own broken French about the pieces I know to students who can hear my voice.

Now it's lunch time. Our group pours out of the museum into a corner forming the beginning of a narrow alley. Most of the alley is sun filled. Daylight pours between the roof lines illuminating the hustle and bustle of the vendors below.

Our corner of the alley isn't yet touched by the sun. It's not dark. It's shaded. The museum is taller than the shorter green clay tiled roofs lining the rest of the alley. It's like we stepped out of the museum on to a loading dock and the cold corner wakes up into the warm life of the alley.

I've arranged for food trucks to come in to the corner of the alley for our students and our guides. I'm clapping my hands gathering everyone's attention to tell them the plan for our lunch break and the rest of our day.

"OK everyone. Gather around. Hey. Listen up. Purveyor! Pay attention!"

We have some time for lunch before we take off and continue our tour of the town. The food truck owners feast their eyes on the crowd of easy customers. The market down the rest of the alley doesn't specialize in food. Most of our group will eat here.

"Take your time to find some food from one of these trucks Explore the alley market. We will meet in one hour after we've all had a chance to eat and shop. I've personally arranged to have all of these trucks meet us here so I know you're going to have some good food!"

A vendor looks at me and calls out drawing attention to her truck "Hey! Which truck is your favorite?"

We look at each other and I give a wide smile. "Ahhh, I can say I've been to almoste every one of these."

Students in the group start listening to hear which one is the best.

"And definitely my favorite has got to be..."

I start trailing off as take a step in one direction toward a truck, then turn toward another. I duck down and lose myself in the sight of the crowd as I wave a quick goodbye to the yelling truck owner. She laughs and starts calling people over to her truck amid the clamor of all the vendors.

I take the chance to step away from the crowd and head down the sunny alley. I see some members of our group skip eating for now and do the same.

The alley has more locals in it than inside the museum. There's vendors in their booths selling flowers, fruits, fragrances, fachassha. All sorts of goods.

There's not room for cars to drive through this alley. Buildings stand a short two stories high with awnings extending out. All the awnings are alike, with a thick base board beam supporting copper green tiles, adobe style.

I jump up grabbing the beam to pull myself up so I can sit on the awning with my knees danging a little above the eye-line of the crowd. The tiles crunch a bit when I sit down. I'm careful to keep most my weight over the supporting beam. Shopkeepers eye me with a mustard look dijouner clearly disapproving of my being there, but without the arc de triumph to really do anything about me.

From up on the awning I can see the crowd mix below. It's a good day for the market under the sun. I see one of our group's leaders across the way haggling with a shopkeep. He says the most American thing he can say. The shopkeep retorts with the most French thing they say every day:

"Which one is the cheapest?"

"I can not speak to price, I can only speak to qualitie."

I laugh, happy to have been able to witness the exchange. I call out to the group leader while we're all having a good time.

"Hey, you should get a job here!"

"I would, but what would I do?"

I look around at the market. Just then I notice two heads (apart another) distinctively above the crowd. One turns ever so slightly toward me and smiles with a nasty toothy grin.

"I don't know, maybe you could do whatever those guys do!"

The group leader looks around but can't really make them out. He can't see the tall standing faces well from where he's standing.

The face nearest to me is a large face. It's on top of a very tall man. He doesn't seem to be on stilts yet he is very much on top of the crowd. He's dressed in what looks like a white baker's smock apron, complete with round fabricked buttons. His face has white paint, more pale than thick, like a faded mime. All together he stands tall and still like a post.

The tall many stands without drawing any attention to himself at all. People, even the locals, mill about streaming on with their business, flowing right around him.

The face rests just on top of the thick throng of the crowd. Then I see the face's game.


A short shocking shout. Startling. The man with the face does this just above some random passerby scaring the wittes out of them. They take their startle, laugh, and give the tall man some change.

The way the faces stand in the crowd they are just impossible to see. They attract no attention. From my perspective on the awning it's a hilarious sight. They stand like statues in the crowd with their faces looking forward waiting for people to forget that they are there. When they are still in the crowd, when no one suspects, they snap their face down so it's right above on top of someone in the crowd so when they look up their faces fills their entire vision.


It's honestly terrifying. Definitely a fright worth some change, and yet not the sort of scare you can choose to buy.

I kick and dangle my legs in glee.

"Sorry Bobbie! You're not tall enough for that gig!"

He has no idea what I'm talking about.

Down the alley there's a small park with lush green grass, ivy walls, and an iron wrought dome jungle gym. Three girls in light summer dresses float in the park laughing to themselves.

"Are you ready for the bomb tomorrow? We're going to blow this whole place up."

"Tomorrow is the day. I can't wait!" They laugh.

There's something culty about the way the girls carry themselves while they walk around the tiny park, lightly touching various things in their reach.

"Tomorrow the babies will speak to their daddies."

Two of the girls walk down the alley of the market. The third just disappears.

I'm caught in their flow. I lift myself down from the awning hanging from the beam. My left toe reaches an inch above the ground. I drop lightly and step out the bounce of the tiny fall with my other foot sticking the landing.

I follow them in a trance. I'm not sure I'm even inside myself when I follow.

We're inside a building now. The building feels like it looks like Parliament with intricate repeating Gothic patterns on the walls outside. We walk down a hallway, much wider than the alley or museum, alongside a maid.

The maid says, "I've chosen two babies which I think will work for tomorrow quite well," to the girls.

"I'm very excited for tomorrow. The day has finally come," says one girl, smiling with the second.

There's two nice beds arranged. A baby placed on each. Each baby looks one year old, dressed wrapped up in fine shiny fabric. The fabrics is a deep, rich, royal, purple and green. There's fabric gold crossed crowns around their heads. Each baby is swaddled up thoroughly with no arms or feet outside the comfort of the swaddling.

Now I'm in a room alone with the babies. They're laying on a couch but not set down quite yet together, unsettling. I move to pick one up and arrange them so they won't fall off the couch. I pick up the baby and cradle it close to my chest as I rearrange him.

"Will we be able to speak to our daddies tomorrow?" the baby says.

The babies don't look like they're old enough to speak.

It's voice sounds years above it's age. Like a sure-minded six year old shifted out of wholeness. The voice is dry but thick and rattling and wispy. The words in the middle of the sentence drop in tone to sound spoken by an eighty year-old. Then the words rise back to sounding like the honest question of a six-year old. The voice warbles and echoes in itself and nothing about it is right.

I respond strangely with what feels like an aborted possession. With my own will I speak trying to match the tone I just heard.

"Yes, you'll be able to speak to your daddies tomorrow." I don't understand the meaning of the words I'm saying.

The next day arrives. I'm in a square. It's in an open part of town unsurrounded by walls like the museum, and alley and manor house before. My tour group is nowhere to be seen. They seem to have taken care of taking care of themselves now.

A dance troupe appears dressed in dazzling red sequins, smiling from ear to ear. They dance absolutely staccato, full of life, making snappy, controlled, jagged movements. Two men dance with the group smiling, shaking their shoulders.

The performance is the bomb. The babies seem all grown up attaché. The town continues on with it's idyllic life as I fade away.