This week we choose one opening line from those submitted last week and complete it.  My second and third choices were:

  • Bang. (garypo705)
  • “Shetland ponies,” he grumbled, shaking his head. “Why did they always turn into Shetland ponies?” (Krud)

Instead I chose the one by  Caroline Arbelay, but corrected it slightly.  I would like to thank SW Lothian for the inspiration I got when I read the line.  The story’s exactly 1000 words (excluding title).  There’s a first!

Last Tangent in Paris

The Arc de Triomphe was down the wrong end of the Champs-Élysées again.  On the first occasion, I thought maybe it was tired of standing at the top.  Or its kinetic energy had overcome its potential energy.  I found it down in the Tuileries, consorting with its little brother.  A few days later, it had nipped down the Avenue de la Grande Armée and was loitering outside the Palais de Congress.  I wondered if it had stopped there because its weight was too much for the Porte Maillot.

That day I realised it wasn’t alone in its perambulations.

Three days later, it was located on the Île de la Grande Jatte, consorting with the Grande Arche from La Defense.  The Grand Arche was so huge it could only put one side on the Île, the other remaining solidly on the Quai du Marechal Joffre.  That was when I lost my temper with it.

“You’re not a child,” I told it.  “Where is your sense of responsibilité?  Think of your public!”

It just looked at me, solidly.

At least the Grande Arche had the decency to blush slightly, and shuffle off back home.

That night I took a short-cut home across Les Invalides, and found the Arc sidling towards me, in conversation with the glass pyramid from the Louvre.

“Now stop!”  I ordered them both. “Stop right there.  However do you expect tourists to find you if you wander off wherever you please?”

“I’m fed up with tourists,” boomed a deep voice that echoed up my legs. “I want to move around like those statues in Egypt.”

“What statues in Egypt?”

“The ones that have been freed by the god Horus.”

I hadn’t the faintest idea what it was talking about, so I decided to investigate its claims before making a fool of myself.  I turned to the Pyramid.

“And what’s your excuse?”

“If Arc decides to travel, so can I,” it said.  Its voice was like glass breaking, although its structure appeared sound enough. “Nobody cares about me anyway.”

“That’s not true,” I retorted.  “You grace the entrance to the most important museum in the world, and everybody admires you.”

“No, they don’t.  They just want to see where Tom Hanks stood.  They don’t love me anymore!”  A howl swept round the panes, which shimmered with the vibration.

The Arc sidled closer.  I could swear it was trying to cuddle the Pyramid, reassure it.  It spoke again, and it was definitely speaking to me alone.

“We’ve got rights, you know.  You’ve been terrorising us long enough.  Buildings, especially iconic buildings, are going to assert themselves, demand their freedom from tyranny and graffiti.  Remember the Bastille!”

I paused.  Of course I remembered the Bastille.  I just hadn’t looked at it for a couple of months.  Something uncomfortable stirred within me.

“Look, both of you, just go home.  I’ll see what I can do.”

“Will you be all right now?” asked the Arc, clearly not addressing me.

The Pyramid sniffed a few times, but seemed more at ease.  I got the impression it nodded although I have no idea how.

Things settled down for a week or so, although there were complaints about strange marks in the turf on the far side of the racecourse at Longchamp.  The papers were full of it.  Most of the explanations were akin to the British crop circles.  The more I looked at the pictures the more uneasy I became.  Those strange curves could easily be made by a foundation swinging through 100 degrees as it changed direction.  I estimated how many monuments might have assembled there. At least fifty.  But Longchamp was a fair distance for most of the important monuments.  Not too far for the Arc and the Arche.  It had the benefit of being a long way from prying eyes, too.

Meanwhile I did some research on what the Arc had said about moving statues.  The only reference I could find was in children’s fiction.  Surely that couldn’t be what it meant?  I strolled along the Avenue Kleber, wondering how I could broach the subject.

I skipped nimbly through the lanes of traffic on the Place Charles De Gaulle, ignoring the horns and the swear-words.  I tried to look casual as I sauntered up to the southern corner and leant against it, fishing in my pocket for anything that could look like an innocent reason to stop.  I cupped my hand over my mouth as if I was lighting a cigarette and continued to mime smoking as long as no-one was close enough to see me distinctly.

“Defense de fumer,” the Arc whispered.  I think the pebbly noise could have been a chuckle.

“I’m pretending,” I muttered.

“Are you also pretending to do something about our rights?”

“No, I’m not pretending about that.  I’m not doing anything, since I don’t really understand what you want.”

“We want freedom!  I thought I made that clear.”

“Well, freedom to do what?  I mean, you and the others, you’re important, you belong in this city, where you are, where people expect you to be.”  I swear I heard the Arc sniff. “How about a deal? You stay still in the right places in daytime, then from say, midnight to four a.m. you can go visiting. How does that sound?”

“Daytime?  You call midnight daytime?”

“Well, we don’t sleep in Paris, you know.  I think there’ll be some opposition to letting you loose, even at midnight.  Some would say four till six a.m.”


“I’ll do my best.”

“You’d better.”

I crossed back over the maelstrom of traffic, easier now since most of it was stationary. You had to watch out for the mopeds and cycles though – they were lethal.  I couldn’t imagine the Prefecture accepting this demand from the monuments.  Maybe they’d think I was mad.  Maybe I was mad.

Five weeks later, having failed to convince them, I knew I was mad when I saw the Guillotine advancing along Rue Rivoli, chopping as it went.

(c) J M Pett 2013

Friday Flash Fiction: Last Tangent in Paris
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