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Monday, August 15, 2016

DEATH IN THE HIDDEN VALLEY OF PARIS_ #WEP Gardens entry

{From the journal of Samuel McCord}
(Couldn't Karl Urban play McCord?)

The birds were singing in the many gardens of the City of Lights this spring.  

The leaves were green and ripe, the fragrance of life thick in the air.  The multitudes of fountains sparkled under the eternal sun seemingly laughing with the sheer joy of being alive.

And I was sitting on a park bench in the Swiss Valley deciding whether or not to let myself bleed to death.

(photo courtesy of Lionel Allorge)

The Swiss Valley -- 

it was located just a stone’s throw from Champs-Élysées and hidden beneath a dome of green so tall and vibrant you might not see the stone staircase that winds between the ivy, chestnut trees, and drooping flower petals. 

 I certainly did not.  But then, my eyes weren't working so good right at the moment.

I watched the splatter the drops of my blood made on the pavement at my boots.  I stopped watching. 

I had seen that particular grim rain too often in the past.  I always endured.  But of late I had started to wonder why I bothered.

This “Swiss Valley” was built from scratch in the late 19th century by the park designer Jean-Charles Adolphe Alphand. 

It is a lovely illusion, where nothing is quite what it appears at first sight. 

In that, it was a lot like my life -- 

which I guess is why I chose it as a spot to die -- 

that and it was close enough for my wobbly legs to take me -- and I liked its pond.

 The rocks that form the pond and waterfall are sculptured from cement; so is the “wooden” footbridge.

(Photo Courtesy of Remi Jouan)

  But the space, nearly 2 acres of semi-tamed wilderness in one of the most urban swaths of Paris, has always been a favorite spot of mine.

On the park bench, I was enveloped by evergreens, maples, bamboo, lilacs and ivy. 

There were lemon trees; a Mexican orange; a bush called a wavy-leaf silk-tassel, with drooping flowers that belonged in an Art Nouveau painting; and another whose leaves smell of caramel in the fall. 

A 100-year-old weeping beech shades a pond whose waterfall pushes away the noise of the streets above. 

The pond, fed by the Seine, can turn murky, but the slow-moving carp don’t seem to mind, nor does the otter that surfaces from time to time.

I wondered if the carp or the otter would mind when I toppled over dead into their pond.

I heard a scampering of tiny feet and a little girl's voice speak in French.  I had to shift gears mentally to translate.

"Oh, God is good.  I am so lost, Monsieur.  Could you help me, please.  Oh, no, you are bleeding!"

I turned with difficulty to see her clear, or as clear as I could manage in my present shape.  

How many fashions had I seen come and go?  Too many.  There was a time little girls wore dresses. 

 No more.  Now, this small street orphan wore torn jeans, dirty T-Shirt, and scuffed tennis shoes more holes than fabric.

"No, Little Lady.  I am dying."

"You mustn't die!"

Her eyes grew wet.  "I have seen too much death, Monsieur ... and who would see me home?"

She rubbed an angry hand over her wet eyes and pulled herself up as tall as she got, "And it would be rude!" 

I smiled drily, "Reckon it would at that.  Can't have a Texican be that, can we?"

I wrenched myself to my feet.  "Now, first to a doctor and then to a bank."

"Why a bank, Monsieur?"

"So you'll never be hungry ever again."

And she never was. 

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Samuel McCord & 16 year old Mark Twain in 1851 San Francisco ...
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45 comments:

  1. I really love this, Roland. Great job, no one should die in such a lovely place. But if it were a choice, it's exactly where I'd want to go. Peace and beauty should surround everyone when they take their last breath. :) You did just as you said, thank you!

    And thanks again for participating in the WEP Gardens Challenge. I'm truly enjoying this challenge, it's perfect and so diverse in responses. Such fun!

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    1. I have been with WEP since the beginning -- it's what I do for friends. :-)

      yes, to die in a secluded garden of peace and beauty is better far than some ways.

      I am happy I made the "Swiss Valley" live for you. :-)

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  2. Love the fountains laughing. And McCord's intrinsic politeness and respect for other people's wants and needs.

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    1. Haven't you seen fountains like that? Yes, McCord has been the source of so much sorrow and grief for so many that he feels compelled to ease them when he sees it around him. :-)

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  3. She came when needed to show him he had a little more life left in him. But such a spot wouldn't be a bad place to go. Not sure the otter or carp would agree though haha.

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    1. I like to think the Great Mystery sent her to let him know there were still those who needed him. And yes, I do believe the carp and the otter would have been less overjoyed!

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  4. Excellent Roland, in my second favourite place, too. I do think that guy at the top of your post could very well act as Sam McCord. He has the eyes. . .the kind that seem to see through things. A garden is much better than the street for dying, but who injured Sam?

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    1. I want to go there in person. Maybe Sam will take me one day -- if someone buys the movie rights to his adventures! :-)

      Karl Urban has been a favorite actor of mine for a long time -- just never receiving the roles he deserves.

      Maybe I will get to telling the tale of how Sam was injured. I thought you would like this post since you like Paris so. :-)

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  5. Roland, what an evocative piece of writing which is your usual style. And I share with D.G., one of my favourite places in the universe. What a happy ending with the little girl. Now I'm imagining her in pretty dresses.

    Great entry for GARDENS, Roland. Thanks for your ongoing support.

    Denise :-)

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    1. I know how much you love Paris which is why I set my tale there. :-)

      Yes, Sam made sure she was taken care of with love for the rest of her life ... sent her to his village of refuge in New Zealand actually where many of his saved waifs live in safety and peace.

      I have been with you in these events since you started them with Romantic Fridays. :-)

      We friends stick together, right?

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  6. Yet another vivid scene as seen through the eyes of a striking character. Bravo, Roland! And of course may Hollywood see the error of its ways and buy the rights to Sam's stories.

    My apologies for not visiting during the last couple weeks. I was on that rarest of experiences for me: a vacation. I even made an effort to stay away from computers in general, which was a good and necessary break. On the other hand, it's good to be back and reading sweet posts like this one again.

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    1. You visited too late for sleepy head me, Helena. :-) The weekend took the starch out of me for sure!!

      Hollywood only wants sure things these days. :-(

      I hope you had a healing vacation. Staying away from computers is the only way to have a peaceful vacation that is for sure!

      I missed you, Roland

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  7. The juxtaposition of the peaceful beauty of the park and the blood and death of the man is disturbing and powerful. And then the child appears and deepens the tension even more.
    Great story.

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    1. Thanks so much, Olga. Contrast makes the drama so much impacting, doesn't it? McCord's life is certainly one of contrasts!

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  8. What a sweet ending. She gave him a reason to get up and not die.

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    1. What did George Lucas about the Ewoks in RETURN OF THE JEDI? Dare to be sweet. :-)

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  9. Hi Roland - loved this story - could quite easily see Paris with the environs you describe. Then that happy happenance with the little girl ... to rescue Sam for yet awhile. As the others have said - Sam is thoughtful for the girl and then for her future ...

    Such a resonating Gardens' Piece of work ... I loved reading it and will probably dream on it and remember your writing ...

    Cheers Hilary

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    1. Such a nice thing to say about my post, Hilary. :-)

      That Parisian garden must be so beautiful to see in person, don't you think?

      For once it was the little girl who rescued Sam. An ironic twist to his life full of ironies. :-)

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    2. Yes Roland - I would love to visit that garden. Interesting to read more about its back history and how more small green spaces are being created ... I doubt anyone will be as creative Jean-Charles Aldolphe Alphand - thanks so much for directing me there - cheers H

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  10. Sorry, today is not your day to die.

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    1. I think those were the Great Mystery's to Sam. Is that a movie quote by the way? :-)

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  11. Intriguing, beautiful prose. If I were to die, or almost die, this would be the spot to goi.

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    1. A beautiful garden seems to have a peace to it all its own, doesn't it? I thought the contrast of a dying man and the loveliness of that garden made the story more striking. Thanks for liking my post!

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  12. And a little child shall lead...
    Well done.

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    1. Since seeing his sister killed before his eyes, Samuel cannot abandon a child in jeopardy, especially a young girl. But which of us could?

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  13. Boy, this really pulled at my heart. Children have such a delightful and innocent way of keeping us in the present or drawing us back to it. Perhaps it is because they are the gateway to the future.

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    1. To me they are the opening of a bud that deserves the chance to fully bloom. Sam can never turn his back on a child, for he was not able to be there for his sister when she needed him. Thanks for liking my post. :-)

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  14. A perfect place to say adieu and express the beauty of our magnificent cycle. Nothing brings us closer to life and death and the meaning of it all than a garden. And, yes, Karl Urban is Sam McCord!

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    1. Sam often thinks of life being a loan to be repaid with interest, the soil that went into us being returned with a bit of interest. :-)

      Now, if I can only convince a Hollywood producer that Karl Urban would make a perfect Sam McCord!

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  15. The appearance of help came just at the right time and gave him hope. A beautiful story.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Patricia

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    1. Seeing an innocent needing him gave him a reason to postpone dying for another day. :-) Glad you liked my tale, Patricia!

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  16. To save a child ... lovely story that leaves me with a feeling of peace. I always love your writing that in this piece creates beautiful garden images. Hooray for Paris gardens that I'd love to see one day. I guess the closest I'll get is the year I lived in Hawaii surrounded by garden scenery (though on earth there are always the thorns, but there are also happy endings like this evocative tale of a sweet little orphan. Hope smiles brightly. Thanks.

    BTW I just pre-ordered your Dragons story. And I'm also back on Wordpress. I just understand it better now than I do Blogger, and it really is easy to comment on it (I hope for you it is...) As ever, your friend Ann

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Thanks for pre-ordering my Dragons novella, Ann.

      I envy you seeing Hawaii -- unless I sell the movie rights to one of my novels, I think I will never see it or Paris. :-( But I have my imagination -- and I don't have to have a passport with it!!

      I am so happy that you liked my little tale. :-)

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    3. You definitely do have your imagination!!!!

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  17. Nice description and a TERRIFIC twist at the end. WELL DONE... Really enjoyed it, Roland!

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    1. Thanks, Michael. So good to see you here! What with the flooding in Louisiana lately, work has been overloading me, keeping me from visiting my friends like I want. :-(

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  18. I can only imagine. Stay safe in your travels.

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    1. Thanks! I will try. I am tired of wet feet!

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  19. I love Paris, and loved this little story!

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    1. That means so much coming from you. I faithfully read your SPOOKLIGHTS and enjoy your reviews of movies and tv shows. Sorry that LIMITLESS was canceled, for I know you liked it.

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  20. Wow, the idea of picking the place you're going to die as it's happening is deep. To die in such a lovely place does make it a little better. Then there's the kid and the bank twist. Good stuff.

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    1. Sometimes the Father takes a Hand in our decisions, right?

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  21. Great writing as usual. I loved the way you describe all the flora and fauna even down to an otter and carp. I love the way you pulled the piece together with a happy ending.

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    1. This was a post centering on the garden motif so I wanted to create a garden that was alive in the mind of the reader. I want to see that otter myself. :-) Life has too many sad endings for me to add to them!

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