A day on the Rue du Faubourg
A Berber from Kabylia lays out chairs on the terrasse of La Mandoline. The black
man arranges papers and magazines at the front of his kiosk, climbs in through
the back door, and waits. At the Hôpital St Antoine, Monsieur Tunc awaits
Madame Nunquam, doing crosswords, never looking up. A North African,
strongly resembling Kadafi, piles vegetables and fruit neatly on the stand before
his small shop. The bar next door reads ‘Closed’.
High in the hospital Monsieur Tunc does crosswords, never looking up. His wife
embroiders quickly. No one speaks. Monsieur Tunc’s drip drips regularly and,
like him, is silent. The gipsy in the next bed sleeps, surrounded by his family, his
children large-eyed and impressed. Their mother tells them God is good. Kadafi’s
lookalike dozes at the entrance to his shop. The small bar remains closed.
On the hospital’s 5th floor the gypsy’s wife dozes in a chair beside his bed. Soon
his colleagues will arrive to discuss business and she will leave. This big brown
man leans on one elbow and stares into the night, reflecting on what the doctor
has told him. By his side a green machine injects something, slowly, into his
bloodstream. Kadafi serves his final customers wine, and cigarettes from under
the counter. Next door, the bar opens, puts out chairs and tables, turns up the
volume, dims the lights.
A black man with thick, thick spectacles sweeps the gutter with a green plastic
broom. In Bamako his wife and children await the money order he will send from
the post office on the Rue du Louvre, open all day Sunday for people such as him.
In his bourgeois home the French president studies the timetable for the last days
of his Presidential campaign.
The Kabyle sets La Mandoline coffee machine in motion and writes his luncheon
A light wind moving between clouds and earth ruffles the early leaves on the
plane trees. A blue neon Pompes Funèbres sign is reflected in a puddle which is
just the right length.
Born in Ireland, currently living in France, Mary Byrne has short fiction published, broadcast and forthcoming in Europe, North America & Australia, and included in anthologies such as Best New Irish Short Stories (Fabers, 2008), Queens Noir (Akashic, 2008), Best Paris Stories (Summertime, 2012). She is the winner of the Fiction International short fiction award 2011 and the Kore Press short fiction award 2012.