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Ludovic Chapter 2

by Alena Fée 2 years ago in fantasy
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(Exactly a year before Ludovic escapes)

Norman killed his days amongst the dusty toasters and silent receivers in the old studio workshop which did not earn him any income. Having retired for health reasons from the Navy the master lived on his small disability pension. Many minor but terrible ailments prevented him from enjoying his free time. In an effort to distract himself from his heavy cough, a continuous symptom of his dyspnea, he had decided to re-open the studio which once belonged to his father.

Life seemed to Norman like one long rainy day. His memory did not stop or fade but he didn’t ponder a single event. It was like a black and white TV. Now over fifty-odd years old, he could not remember when he was young. His thoughts remained empty and he had been dreaming of well…nothing for a long time. Norman grew up in a religious family and finished his education at an uninspiring and ordinary school then went on to serve in the navy. He never fell in love and the lack of any reciprocal emotion caused him to feel that he would eventually burst. Even while serving he spent most of his time in the boiler room hardly ever seeing the world outside. Sometimes he looked surprised at his photo hidden in his tattered desk with peeling paint. He looked so young then, with a mustache and a sailor t-shirt showing from his pea jacket. It was strange to see himself without wrinkles, with a smiling face and curly forelock.

Sometimes, a cat belonging to the strange Madame living in one of the adjacent houses came to his studio. A while ago he had refused to take her broom she had asked him to repair. It had some incomprehensible motor design and Norman did not know where he could obtain a replacement. She was not pleased slamming the door and leaving quickly; leaving a tarty smell of perfume that Norman remembered had given him a headache. A day later she had brought an antediluvian phone to fix, but the master didn’t take this relic either, and before leaving she had threatened to turn him into a toad.

One day, while sitting on the edge of a stool picking away at an old gramophone player, Norman did not notice the client approach. The old woman, knocking her bony fist on the table, croaked:

“My clock doesn’t work. Can you repair it or do you just fix vacuum cleaners here young man?”

“What a surprise! A clock with….one…two no four cuckoos, I've never seen one like this before, but I can try” said Norman excitedly.

He could not understand how this little Mademoiselle had managed to drag it to the studio workshop without him hearing her.

The old woman left some collateral and Norman asked for her address, she quickly scribbled it on the receipt then abruptly disappeared. Norman for the first time in years looked rejuvenated. He lovingly stroked the polished wooden counter, ran his fingers along with the gilded arrows, and with renewed enthusiasm went to work.

As each day passed he was surprised the client did not return. He slowly repaired and restored the damage. Then alarmingly, one by one the cuckoos jumped out suddenly…..”cuck..oooo", they shouted in turn, startling Ludovic who was now crouching near the threshold of the counter.

After a couple of weeks, Norman decided he could not wait any longer and set about to return the clock to the owner. He had tried to decipher the receipts illegible handwriting: was it the Rue de l'Arbre-Sec or the Rue d'Argenteuil. Having closed the workshop he fastened the old antique securely in the car and with no clear idea why decided to steer toward the Rue d'Argenteuil.

He rang the doorbell and knocked, paused then tried again pounding harder, but no one answered. Norman was just about ready to leave, when finally and just in case, he pulled the handle, and the door creakily, opened…very slightly. He saw the hostess dozing in a chair with a book covering her face.

“She is such a grouse!” whispered the master.

“Come in young man”, the old woman said suddenly. Norman was startled and this started him to cough. While he uttered whistling, wheezing sounds she added some bourbon to the coffee she bought him, and taking him by the shoulder sat him down on the sofa.

“I will bring a macaroon. You will like it…” she said as she shuffled and disappeared somewhere into the depths of a dark corridor behind heavy curtains, leaving him alone.

He cleared his throat and looked around with interest. It seemed the whole house had not been aired for many years. Along one wall, was a carved dark brown cupboard portraying sadness with hanging twisted wooden shelves full of timeless and dusty books.

On the floor, and anachronistic to the picture of plaintive melancholy lay a brand new brightly colored rug (still with its label). The old woman had left the book open upside down resting near the lamp. Out of curiosity he opened it with one finger and found a medallion, made of a strange red metal with a flower piercing the clouds.

He raised the medallion to the light from the table lamp and examined the inscription, and suddenly he felt a strong push. Something clicked and blinded him. In an instant, everything changed, and puzzled he look around exclaiming:

“What the hell?! Where am I?”

He was sitting on a bench in a beautiful spring flowering garden. Kids playing in the distilled light ran across the lawn. Standing, Norman felt an extraordinary lightness. It seemed to him that his back had straightened upright, he felt taller and the pain in his knees disappeared. A woman dressed in a Japanese kimono, under the cover of an umbrella at the opposite side of the street grinned to him.

Seeing himself in the reflection of the pond he was shocked. Norman walked and looked around a little nervous. Is this a dream? No - it was really him! As if he had descended from the portrait hidden in his desk - with a mustache and a full head of hair!

Norman walked through the streets of an unknown city and enjoyed the smiles of girls who looked at him. His heart was ready to jump out of his chest with joy. He felt thirty years old again. Not believing in miracles, every few minutes he stopped and checked his reflection in the shop windows, then looking around with a happy smile, watching how passersby reacted to him.


About the author

Alena Fée

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