Quo Vadis?

Life in Gensdouce was running its usual course. I'd been here for some six months now, and outwardly everything was fine. I had a nice flat, a good job in the pub and not a care in the world. If all went well, I would start giving English classes at the espace loisirs after the summer break. Maybe, that would be the breakthrough I needed to start a career. Yet, somewhere deep down I felt unsettled. True, news from home wasn't good. The rejection by the Welsh of a national assembly, despite massive support for a similar measure in Scotland was a major blow to the principle of self-determination; and worse was to come, when a bomb blast killed the Tory Northern Ireland, spokesman Airey Neave. With Margaret Thatcher poised to become the next Prime-Minister, prospects for peace weren't looking good.

But what was the reason for my unrest? Life was treating me well. Indeed, Gensdouce was living up to its name. The people were kind and friendly. I had one or two really good friends and got on with most of the people in the village. My raucous attempts at learning French had caught the imagination of the population and everyone was rooting for me, helping in whatever way they could. True, whenever I had to cross the footbridge into the newer part of Gensdouce, I felt like an intruder. This was where the new arrivals lived; people who came from the city and brought their own lifestyle and culture with them. They made but occasional forays across the footbridge, preferring to stay among their own. In general, they looked upon the inhabitants of the village as curious but quaint much in the same way an adult would look upon a not yet grown up, but trying to act grown up. They lived here, because life was far pleasanter than in the city, but they never settled. How could they? They would take the 6.14 train every morning and not return until after dark. And every weekend they would congregate in each other's dining rooms and exchange stories about an unexpected brush with locals, all the while insisting as to how much their little piece of paradise in the country increased their quality of life. On the whole, they were more tolerated than liked by the villagers, and there was little contact between the two. But if the newcomers were tolerated, those who crossed sides, were treated with disdain. This included the Demille family.

Javert Demille was the son of a local butcher. He had been the first in the village to get a scholarship to the university in Besançon. But after just six months he was back in the village. Rumours abounded, but no one ever found out why, and Demille was certainly not volunteering any information. He made no bones of his antipathy towards village life, never failing to remind everyone that he was going to make it to the top, come what may. Fortunately for him, May did come, although her name actually turned out to be Madeleine. She was rich, pretentious, not very beautiful and at 29 very available. Javert didn't exactly sweep her off her feet, but she wasn't going to risk waiting any longer. In her eyes it was now or never and she jumped. The day after the marriage Javert bought up a large strip of unused land on the other side of the railway.

"Setting himself up on the other side. Doesn't want to mix with us commoners."
"Won't last long. Not with that nervous wife of his. Guess she'll cry herself back to the city in no time."

These were just some of the comments that flew around the village when the news broke. But the Demilles never settled down next to the railway. Some four weeks after the purchase news came of the major new development which gave rise to the 'newcomers estate' as it soon came to be called. Javert's land shot up in value and he sold out to the highest bidder. There was an investigation, of course, but he got round that by agreeing to build a luxury retirement residence, promising to care for the auditor's handicapped mother in a specially built ground-floor apartment. From there, he never looked back and within a few years was elected mayor of the town with a small majority, secured by those who had arrived on the estate just months previously. From the old village he received just one vote, that of his now widowed mother. No specially-built apartment for her; she remained in the flat above her husband's shop long after his death. Nevertheless, she remained proud of her son's achievements until her dying day.

So, with everything going for me, why had I suddenly taken to long, reclusive walks after dark with no other company than myself? Why did I keep wondering what life was about and where my life was going? Why were my feet I constantly finding their way to the philosophy section of the library? What was it about life that I was missing out on? And where could I find it? Maybe, I would have to speak to Thérèse and Guillaume. I'd recently caught a few snatches of conversation they'd been having about the Bible. And I knew they had started to go to a new church in a neighbouring town. Not that it was religion I was looking for. But there had to be something.

10 comments:

i feel as if i am eves dropping.. this is so well written..

24 October 2007 at 17:06  

Oh, you reminded me of Maggie!! Bad news!!
It's not easy being L'etranger in any country. Nice write.

24 October 2007 at 17:45  

thanks paul! how i enjoy reading 3WW - and everyone's contribution!!

fun story. merci!

-charles

24 October 2007 at 17:52  

I very much understand the feeling of being reclusive when everything is going my way--nicely done

24 October 2007 at 18:37  

Just curious, are you going to participate in the November Novel Writing? you would be a natural.

25 October 2007 at 01:04  

Incredibly fine writing! Will this be in hardback or paperback? Great read!

25 October 2007 at 03:36  

I think we've all had that unsettled feeling, like everything is going well, buttt... you captured that.

25 October 2007 at 03:55  

Lots of great lines. My favorites:

"They would take the 6.14 train every morning and not return until after dark."

"She was rich, pretentious, not very beautiful and at 29 very available."

"Not that it was religion I was looking for. But there had to be something."

Love the description newcomers and their little community. Great ending, too.

25 October 2007 at 19:39  

...like it...written so well..

25 October 2007 at 23:06  

Very well written. I felt like an intruder in that closed community.

26 October 2007 at 05:13  

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