Monday, August 25, 2014

The Red, Part I

I know people don't generally like to hear about others' dreams, but I'm not sorry for what I'm about to share with you.

I've always been a vivid dreamer. And my dreams have, often, had a way of portraying exactly what is happening in my life and brain. So, as a disclaimer, I am reading The Monument's Men, probably explaining most of this. And, for the sake of the topic, I've left names out, as I'm sure my friends don't want to know that I have dreams about them being, you know, Nazi's.

Instead of giving you straight up facts about the dream, I decided to flesh it out into a story, as it was very detailed.

The Red, Part I.

I use a beautiful yellow and blue polka dot umbrella. And in December, it acts as my shield against the sleet that seemed to be moving sideways through the cobblestone streets of Paris. I pass the same shops with my violet scarf wrapping my mouth until I reach the end of the alley, avoid the hole I so notorious get my heels caught in, and with blue, shaky hands, unlock the door.

As soon as the door shuts, the sounds of the city are drowned. The honking and click-clack of people on their way to work had instantly disappeared, and with it, my nerves. Every day I walk into my store and take a deep breath, as if to say, "here you go, what today?"

After two years of the German occupation in Paris, every day seemed to be getting worse. Southern France was losing control, and the Germans were marching that way as well.

I had been told so many times, "Chéri, you are American. You have nothing to worry about." American my ass, guns don't care about ethnicity. We're all in trouble. Not to mention I have the terrible habit of curse words and speaking out of line. Damn, Americans.

I got here 17 years ago, at the age of 6. My father was a penniless painter, earning no work in Milwaukee, where I was born. "My work is ahead of its time, like Van Gogh," he would repeat. "Only, I plan on sticking around."

He was such a vivid speaker. He would use descriptive words I would sometimes question the validity of, but they sounded so beautiful coming from his lips that I just accepted them. We played with our imagination often, as, without money, we were confined to our one bedroom apartment that had the view of a lovely brick wall. He would dance and giggle and take me to see the sights, all the while having a flask tucked away in his back pocket.

It was just the two of us, my mother passing before I can even remember. And through the ups and downs of the economy, his work never did get picked up.

And after 10 years of struggling in his dream city of Paris, his alcoholism got the best of him and he walked in front of a train. It was completely by accident, as witnesses heard him asking about the "god damned" toilet.

I hear the bell clank, and look over my shoulder to see Henriette shuffling through the entrance. I called her Henry, though she preferred her full name. She's been my assistant for the last few years and has grown to be a little sister to me.

We silently began preparing the shop. I took over this place when Adele passed away, doing my best to upkeep her high-end reputation. Everything was handmade by a group of gabbing ladies in an apartment a few blocks east. And, even though they were the most unpleasant, they sure had a way with fabric.

It was a Wednesday, so the day was its average slow. I spent the morning twisting and folding scarves to look like a bouquet of flowers in the front window. Henry and I didn't speak like we used to in the shop. You couldn't be too careful these days.

I am counting money behind the counter, when the bell chimes against the glass pane. Before I can even stand above the counter, I hear them. The stomping of thick boots.

As I slowly rise, I see two Nazi soldiers standing in front of me, one having the boyish smirk of entitled confidence, and the other staring at his feet.

"Ms. Fischer, right?" the first soldier spat at me. I decided in my mind to call him Baudet, donkey in French, as he was an obvious ass.

"Yes," I say trying to convey strength, but only sounding meek."

"We've come with wonderful news," he says looking like a snake. Meanwhile, his partner in crime is fumbling with his own fingers and unable to actually smile.

I take this as a bad sign.

"Your little shop here has gotten some great marks around the city. And, fortunately for you, there is a special someone who has requested only your garments."

I blankly stare.

"Why, Mrs. Braun has taken a liking to your style and will be frequenting this shop."

Adolf Hitler's wife likes my style. I wanted to faint. Not from joy, but from absolute hysteria. I used my ability to never feel emotion to keep my cool.

"Wonderful," I, somehow, manage. "I look forward to it."

The baudet takes a look around and says, "We were sent to make sure everything here is how it needs to be for her arrival."

And what that meant to him was to spend the next hour tearing apart my store. Unfolding stacks of blouses. Knocking over jewelry stands. Standing over me yelling to scrub my own trouser locker from top to bottom. And finally, and heartbreakingly, tossing my bouquet of scarves into the air and watching them unravel into a rain of color.

Before he left, he added, "make sure this place is tidy by tomorrow," with a disgusting smile across is face.

I helplessly stared at my store. I would be here all night fixing this mess. I look at Henry and say, "that ass."

Henry takes a sharp inhale and with wide eyes, looks past me.

I turn to see Nazi soldier number two still standing in my door way. Instantly, fear is causing my heart to pound so loudly, I'm sure he can hear it. My ears feel hot and my hands go numb. This is it, I think. My mouth has done it now.

"He is an ass," the man says, and then breaks out in a smile.

To be continued...