'Shabby, shabby, shabby, shabby!'
'Are you making those cartoon noises to attract my attention, Tory?'
'Doc, I'd never have believed that Paris could be...this...shabby!?'
'My grandfather was here in World War II, and it looks like nothing's changed since then. He said the bombed out German villages where they were were cleaner than Paris that had next to no war damage at all.'
'All my life I thought the French had the latest in elegant fashion...'
'Now the fashion is BoBo.'
As they sat at the table of their sidewalk café over café au lait and croissants, Doc Sanford thought to himself that on her first and no doubt last visit to the capital of France, his wife was going on and on like the cute pink bunny drummer toy that sells batteries on television advertisements. Perpetual motion Tory and the pink bunny both wore similar sunglasses.
'How can the Parasites live in such squalour?'
'Parisians, dearest. They're called Parisians...or have you been spending too much time with the Dantés?'
Doc believed that Phil and Fran, their older next door neighbours and best friends in their small Australian coastal town, had infected the relatively untraveled Tory with their world weary cynicism and sarcastic dry wit.
'Well, Phil's French Auntie said, "Paris is not really France. Paris doesn't know what it is, but it's not really France".'
Like a dog straining at the lead, she could take it no more and screamed,
'How can you all be so shabby?!'
Doc hid his face; the Frenchman who turned to look at them gave him a smile, shrug and sympathetic look.
'And all the Frenchmen look and act like Jerry Lewis?!'
The Canadian born Doc had never met anyone who repeatedly spoke in the interrobang, the simultaneous question and exclamation mark, until he met his wife. She also repeatedly said 'Yeah, no', but he later found the phrase was common amongst many Australian women, like the German word Jein. Doc prided himself on being easy going but he thought his wife was difficult because she didn't know where she was going. Tory was the 'ginger in his cooking' and had made his life a happy one since the death of his first wife. Say what you will, but she was never dull. Doc agreed with Phil's assessment; when he first met her he remarked,
'She's got you surrounded, Doc.'
Doc recalled a training course in his former career in the Australian Public Service where the icebreaker was 'Which Movie Star Does Your Spouse Most Resemble?' He truthfully replied that his wife looked like Catherine Zeta-Jones but thought and spoke like the post Treasure of the Sierra Madre Daffy Duck.
They were on the second half of their European holiday. After arrival and a few days in London they had spent two weeks in Wales meeting Tory's distant relatives, who like her, all seemed to have shrines for Tom Jones in their home. Doc refrained from drinking too much but was sociable; most of all he loved riding the small little steam trains that looked like large toys. They extended their time in Wales for one week, meaning that his dream holiday in Paris had been cut short.
Other than complaining about Paris, Tory behaved as if she were there to merely cross off the items on a Treasure Hunt checklist. Eiffel Tower, check. Mona Lisa at the Louvre, check. Notre Dame and Montmartre, check and double check. Seized by a local mob with pitchforks and torches and thrown into a mental institution, check pending.
Perhaps reading his mind in the telepathic manner that married couples eternally in love did, she remarked,
'I had a rough night.'
They both did.
They rented a Les Halles apartment, for she didn't want to stay in a Parisian hotel, thinking they all were the headquarters for Irma La Douce. Doc held his tongue and didn't say that by taking the wrong turn when they were apart yesterday, he came across the main marketplace of les prostituées de la rue who looked the same age as the extras in Billy Wilder's 1963 film would be today.
The previous night she had lost the key to their apartment. They found a kind Italian woman who ran a late night café who let them stay there as they waited for an expensive locksmith to let them in. Doc's French was good enough, but Tory complained that his Canadian accent sounded like he was mentally retarded; therefore the shifty looking locksmith took advantage of him by charging him double.
He tried to explain that her Australian foreign language expertise that manifested itself in SHOUTING and adding a vowel at the end of every word didn't quite work-o. She told him that he had no emotion. Doc responded that Canadians were relaxed and easy going. Tory informed him those traits were the mark of a loser.
Prior to going out that morning for le petit déjeuner, she felt something in the bottom of her handbag and discovered that the key had fallen through a hole in the lining.
* * *
Grumpelstiltskin's mood gradually changed at the Jardin du Luxembourg.
'What's a "Monaco bière"?'
'A super shandy made with grenadine.'
No doubt imagining that she was Princess Grace, she ordered one and gave it her seal of approval. Doc had a Diabolo menthe; Tory declared it tasted like mouthwash.
They made their way to the Quartier Latin where she delightedly raved about the excellent taste and price of their Prix Fixe lunch at an unassuming bar. The English speaking female owner sat with them and soothed Tory in an international chin wag. She was in Seventh Heaven when they visited the Jardin des Plantes viewing the attractive botanical garden and small zoo; she revelled in the greenery, lack of crowds and enjoyed viewing a quiet part of the Seine.
Doc finally realised that he was married to a small town girl.
'Oh Doc, I love Paris! Can we stay for another week? Why are you hitting yourself on your head, darling ‽ '
Author Notes: I am the author of three Extra Dimensional/Ultraterrestial military science fiction novels MERCENARY EXOTIQUE, OPERATION CHUPACABRA and WORK IN OTHER WORLDS FROM YOUR OWN HOME! as well as two travel books THE MAN FROM WAUKEGAN and TWO AUSTRALIANS IN SCOTLAND (all from Lulu.com). I live happily ever after with my wife in paradise (coastal Kiama, NSW Australia).