L’accordeoniste

Fan Fiction about Sean, non 18+

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sharpshooter1
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L’accordeoniste

Post by sharpshooter1 » Wed Jul 27, 2011 7:23 pm

Two part long short story! Inspired by French songs and music c WW1 and WW2. They speak so eloquently of loss, broken hearts and ruined lives. They make me cry. The song L’accordeoniste’ tells of a young street girl waiting and watching endlessly for the return of her beloved soldier from the war. It suggested the profession of the stranger who comes into Jean’s life. I leave it up to you to imagine who these two star crossed lovers are. Warning: two lonely young men who fall in love.

For all romantics and especially my dear CM.

L’accordeoniste

To begin ...

Il pleut sur la route – Tino Rossi [It is raining on the way]
Paris January 1908

The raw, freezing rain soaked him as he knelt in the street weeping, the hand he held so tightly did not squeeze him back, would never again respond. An old man pulled him to his feet.

‘Come, mon brave, he is gone, he didn’t stand a chance … the carriage wheel…’ helpless the old man indicated the blood seeping from the crushed chest joining the rain and leaving on its own journey across the cobbles.

‘Luc, Luc’ he whispered almost unable to speak or stand and he clutched the stranger’s shoulder as someone came from a still lit café and put a small glass in his trembling hand, he drank the brandy in one swallow. People jostled to look at the body; they spoke of the injustice, the carriage had not stopped. Then having looked and spoken their fill they shrugged and drifted off muttering sadly ‘C’est la vie.

Later he banged on a door, when it opened he sobbed out the news, it was received in grim silence and the door was closed in his face. He spent the rest of night mute, sitting on the edge of the bed, listening to the rain, unable to cry or to draw a deep breath, his soul and body frozen in grief. In the morning Luc’s brothers came, they threw him out of the room, his clothes and his bag followed him down the stairs.

‘Filthy perverts, both of you, at least he is dead and can bring no more shame on our family,’ they shouted and spat down the stairs after him.
He wiped the spit from his cheek gathered up his few clothes and left. As the door to their little room slammed shut, he looked up remembering love, passion, warmth, laughter, a place to be honest and true to each other. A tiny sliver of safety in a harsh world.

His mother held him, her poor, sweet son; she stroked his hair and rocked him gently to sleep. She tried to imagine how anyone could be so cruel, how was she to explain to Jean that his lover had already been buried in a pauper’s grave. She had gone to his family and begged them to tell her where he was buried but they would not tell her which cemetery. She sighed and spoke to the Blessed Virgin Mary as one mother to another.

‘My little one, my Jean, deserves love, look after him and please take care of poor Luc up in heaven now.’ She dried her eyes, and searched for an old address, paper and a pen. Swallowing her pride, she wrote a short letter reminding an unpleasant old man that he still had a wonderful grandson. Who knows maybe, just maybe he would send for Jean, offer him a job, a chance to escape the searing memories of his lost love.


Je ne sais pas – Jacques Brel [I don’t know]
May 1908

‘Did you send for him as I told you to?
A brittle, fragile hand scrabbled at his arm, worn out eyes looked up at him from under a cliff of white, coarse, spiky eyebrows. He sighed as he faced the dying man.
‘I’ve told you yesterday and the day before, I sent a message to the address you gave me more than ten days ago’ he paused and shrugged ‘I do not know if his mother or he received it or if they even still live there’ he trailed off, picking up his hat and gathering his coat around him.
‘I will come tomorrow; I’ll ask Madame Morel to bring you some soup and warm milk’.

He left the room, pleased to descend the gritty stairs and shake off the smell of old age, filthy sheets and approaching death. He smiled to himself, no one kept a grudge longer than old man Durand but now he was dying all he wanted to do was to make sure the few francs and little bar he owned went to his own blood line and not sideways to his nephew. Bitter, spiteful old fool, he should have acknowledged and sent for that poor boy years ago. Now the grim old man hung on, determined to postpone death until his unseen, long rejected grandson returned to take up the mantle of ‘Durand et fils, Bar et Tabac’.

He pushed against the cold, spring wind from the harbour heading downhill to his warm fire and a good lunch. He noticed a slim young man with a pronounced limp climbing the hill. Wind whipped his fair hair and over his shoulder was a heavy bag. Dr Laurent stared at his face, smiled and murmured a quick ‘Bonjour’

‘Well well’ he thought ‘No mistaking that big nose or those green eyes, it looks as if Durand’s grandson has come home.’ He chuckled as he imagined the gossip and excitement. His own dear wife would probably be the first one to race over with soup or some other excuse to get a look at the young man old man Durand always referred to as ‘my son’s bastard by that whore.’

The ‘whore’ a rather kind, soft and pretty girl of easy virtue from a nearby village had left with the baby nearly twenty five years ago and found easier pickings in Paris. Durand’s only son took his revenge by never marrying and quite happily dying of TB to escape his father.

Dr Laurent opened the door hanging up his coat and hat in the hall and calling to the kitchen
‘Ninette guess who has come home? Old man Durand’s grandson, Jean Bertrand.’

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~‘

Sans Amour’ – Josephine Baker [Without love]June 1908

Three days after the funeral Jean Bertrand who proudly bore his mother’s name took down and burned the faded sign ‘Durand et fils Bar Tabac.’ The new sign read ‘Bar et Tabac la Java’ and in smaller letters underneath ‘prop: Jean Bertrand.’ He had the shutters fixed and the walls lime washed. The women fought each other to line up and help him clean out the bar and two rooms upstairs.

As Dr Laurent had noticed with glee, Jean Bertrand had inherited his grandfather’s features yet Jean, with his open face and shy smile was a handsome man. Jean, a cigarette permanently lodged in the corner of his mouth, was polite, but wary and silent on questions about his life in Paris and his mother’s whereabouts. To the questions about his limp he replied tersely ‘Polio.’ He had a slight edge of mystery about him. The men of the village noted this ‘Un bon mec*’ they told each other. They watched him in the bar, hands gripping their glasses muttering jealously about the way their women threw themselves at him.

The women old and young fussed and pursued him, for in living memory there had never been a good looking man in the village and they didn’t want to waste this one. Nudges, glimpses of leg or breast, pouting lips, tossed hair, seductive glances, but nothing seemed to catch his attention. After a few months one old crone looked up at him, held his eyes in a long loving look, nodded her head then whispered to him
‘Not the marrying kind, are you?’
He lent down to her, his gentle crooked smile lighting his face, he kissed her cheek and quietly replied
‘For you grandmere I could change’
She patted his cheek, smiled back and tottered off. A few words here and there, a period of mourning among the women deprived of the use of that taut muscled body, but for now at least there were no more awkward offers to be gently turned down.

The women still cooked special dishes just for him and had a rota to do his laundry but he was now their son, their brother, their pet, their copain and they laughed, joked and confided in him. The men shrugged, life was too harsh to waste time on such a minor issue, his beer was good and he bought his wine locally. He was quiet, ran his bar properly, didn’t bother anyone and now they felt their women were safe with him they ignored the whole issue.

Weeks passed and turned into months, which dissolved into years. He was accepted. Most villages had an idiot or someone with webbed feet or six fingers, they had ‘un tapette’** yet he was still considered ‘un bon mec’. On Sundays, after mass Pere Geoffroy enjoyed the generous measure of a good brandy offered with a smile and no charge. Thus, was the church persuaded to accept this gentle sinner into the village; life continued as it always had done.

If some nights he wept for his dead lover and his loneliness no one ever knew.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

‘Chez moi’ – Ray Ventura [My home]
October 1910

An autumn storm battered the harbour, in the little bar the shutters rattled and lanterns swayed in the drafts. It was warm inside and the violent wind a good excuse to stay a little longer for another drink.
‘Hey careful shut that door’ shouted one of the men as the door was forced open and the wind and rain swept in. The stranger managed to close it, watched with grim suspicion by the patrons. He was soaked, his hair plastered to his head, he carried a large case and a sopping wet, heavy cloth bag. He dropped the bag and slowly lowered the case. He looked around the bar then searched his pockets, pulling out some coins and putting them on the bar said
‘Double brandy … please’
Jean passed him a good measure of brandy, checked the coins and then eyed the stranger up and down.
‘Still raining then’ he commented. The stranger a good looking, confident man, tall, with a sharp, astute look to him replied,
‘Er yes it is as you see, didn’t expect to hear a Parisian accent out here’ laughed the stranger pausing for just a second to touch Jean’s fingers as he took the glass, his grey eyes watching Jean and a soft intimate smile on his lips. He then turned and winked at the other patrons who stared unashamedly, fascinated by this strange creature, swept onto their shores by the wind and rain. Jean turned suddenly and went away down the tiny bar wiping the counter, then reached to refill a glass.
The stranger continued to watch Jean, conversation started again but some of the patrons exchanged knowing looks and smiles. A little disturbed Dr Laurent moved over to the stranger
‘Not from these parts?’
‘No, got caught out by the storm I was heading for Calais, Victor Martineau’ he said offering his hand. Dr Laurent shook it, introduced himself then continued his gentle interrogation.
‘Your accent – where are you from?
‘St Brieuc on the Brittainy coast’
‘You are a long way from home …’
‘I am a musician. I go wherever someone will pay me to make music, it is as simple as that’ He shrugged.
‘You are looking for work?’
‘I have a job waiting for me in a hotel in Calais I am an accordeoniste.’ He looked across at Jean and called ‘Another brandy please, single I think this time and maybe a coffee if you have?’

Dr Laurent watched fascinated, for as Jean took the glass their fingers again touched briefly and a slight blush washed softly over Jean’s cheek bones, he kept his eyes down, turned and filled the glass, his hand trembled as he placed it on the bar.
‘Thank you. Anywhere around here I can stay for the night?’
Dr Laurent and the patrons looked over at Jean, Jean attacked the bar with his cloth, head down and then he muttered scowling
‘Got a spare room you can use for tonight, I’ll get you a hot coffee’
The older, slightly deaf patrons nudged the younger ones
‘Well, what did he say?’
‘Shush wait a minute’
Victor smiling, offered his hand; Jean smiled back and shook his hand.
A collective sigh from the patrons, a final glass each then they collected their berets, caps and scarves shuffling out calling bon nuit. Dr Laurent lingered then moved next to Victor and gripped his arm painfully
‘He is a good man and a part of this village, hurt him, you hurt us all and we will take it very badly – you understand?’
‘I do and I won’t, I too have honour’

Jean locked up while Victor gathered the glasses, they didn’t speak but each was painfully aware of the other, suddenly life had given them a glimpse of unimagined possibilities. Could an ordinary day blossom and offer the chance of warmth, temptation, love, even if for just one night? That this was unexpectedly within their grasp was overwhelming.

Silent, shy Jean nodded at Victor’s bags then pulled back the curtain pointing up the stairs, Victor, now serious took his bags and passing Jean climbed the stairs trying to think of a way to say aloud the words tumbling in his mind ‘I want you, from the first look I wanted you; at this moment I feel I could stay for ever’

Instead he tripped over the top step and fell awkwardly, dropping his heavy case, Jean bent down to help him, hands touched, heads bent towards each other, Sad, lonely, hungry lips found each other. Cases were left as they stumbled into Jean’s bedroom. With a wondrous tendresse they held and explored each other,
‘Stay’ whispered Jean
‘Yes’ replied Victor.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

‘La valse au village’ - Jean Sablon [The dance in the village]
November 1913


Down on the quay the fishermen celebrated the ‘Herring festival’ the whole village went, a feast of barbecued herring and full glasses of nouveau Beaujolais were enjoyed, then as the dusk fell people made their way back up the village street.

Jean and Victor had hung lanterns that glowed in the sulky, cold November gloom. Inside the bar, tables had been moved and a small dance floor welcomed the patrons and their families. Victor sat on a chair in the corner and started playing, fingers flying drawing music out of the accordion as he watched the dancers. Shyness vanished and the little floor filled up, mischievously Victor switched to La Java the fast waltz played in the less than respectable bal-musette dance halls. Stocky fishermen, bent farmers in heavy rough clothes clutched their ample wives and jigged solemnly, the young men eyed the girls and shuffled forward, nodded, then they too clasped their partners and joined the dance.
Jean, smiling, happy Jean watching his lover, his face softened and made young and hopeful again by love. Victor no longer the swaggering musician but a man who had found things he had never believed in, love and a home, looked across and smiled back..
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

J’Attendrai – Tino Rossi or Jean Sablon Incredibly beautiful love song c 1939

September 1914

They wouldn’t take Jean because of his limp but they took Victor. Jean stopped smiling and so did the older regulars, young men disappeared and left vast empty echoing places in hearts and homes. Old men struggled to man the fishing boats dragging the heavy nets with trembling arms, their mouths set in stone against the impending losses. Others, ploughing and planting next year's harvest without their strong sons, their eyes blinking not sweat but the tears that crept down their faces and slid sadly off the ends of their nicotine stained moustaches. They wept in silence in the fields and on the sea. A few young women started to leave to work in munitions factories or in the local towns.

The music and the laughter of the herring festival belonged to a different world, a world that ended forever that day in August when the guns spoke. Young wives without midday meals and suppers to prepare, wept silently for their men as they tended their children, fed their chickens, toiled in their vegetable gardens and slept alone and untouched in their beds. Parents watched their young sons, helping with chores, playing soldiers in the woods, fishing on the quay, a grinding, tearing pain in their hearts knowing if the war continued the coin of these young lives might soon be spent.

Dr Laurent had lost his precious Ninette to pneumonia that January and spent most of his time feeling old and useless sitting in the bar. He and Jean devoured the newspapers trying to understand what was happening; in the evening the patrons discussed the war but all they could imagine was a quick victory, surely it could not drag on. Maybe by Christmas it would be over, Victor and all the other men would be back, surely by Christmas? Thus the old men ended each evening a little drunk but each one lying to help the other to hope.

Jean would close the bar, clear away the glasses, sweep the floor then do anything to put off that awful moment when he climbed the stairs, alone. In a corner sat the silent accordion, he would lay in bed trying to imagine those clever hands touching the keys creating music, dance and laughter or touching him, holding him, creating passion and weaving a cocoon of love. His mind would drift into sleep and then he would imagine those same hands holding a gun, killing, covered in blood. He would jerk awake terrified as he pictured Victor falling, falling, bloodied and lost into earth’s hungry mouth. He knew his mind was preparing him for the very worst and in his soul he knew that if Victor died he could not go on living.

Sometimes, unable to sleep he would take the accordion, hold it in his arms and pass the silent night hours gently touching the keys, hoping that wherever his beloved was he would somehow feel his touch and be safe. Foolish thoughts and wishes but in the dark desert of the empty nights, like the women, he wept for his love.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Seule ce soir - Leo Marjane - [Alone tonight]
January 1915

Not far from the village tents started to grow in the fields, some of them were hospital tents marked with crosses, the colour of blood. Strangers in uniform sometimes stopped for a drink, the little bar would be full and the locals crowded together trying to understand these people who came to fight the Germans, they were allies? Why would France need ‘allies’ to chase the Germans back home and out of France? they asked each other but feared the answers. What was happening out there where their young men were?

Jean had received some letters from Victor. Carefully written on creased harsh paper, little sad sentences about bad food, exhaustion and relating how because he was born a Breton and over thirty he was now in the 87th Territorial Battalion with a lot of older men, they were nicknamed the ‘bearded ones.’ There were also a few hidden words of love for Jean. ‘Give my love to my darling Jeanne, tell her I miss her so much’ He gathered these words into his heart, folding the paper with gentle care and keeping the letters safe in his metal box under the bed.

He came down one morning to open up and found old Madam Morel, who cleaned for him, sitting at a table with a glass of cognac untouched in front of her. She looked up at him with tired, sad eyes.
‘No’ he said sitting down and taking her hand in his.
‘Yes’ she nodded trying to draw a breath, ‘My little one, my darling boy, dead.’ He stroked her hand remembering tall, sturdy Albert – her little one. A good man living as a son should with his widowed mother helping her with their small fields, shyly pledging himself to marry his sweetheart when he returned. Jean wept with her. Such simple, homely plans but now not only was Albert gone but so were the children he and Marie might have had together. The future lost and so much happiness denied. He went and made some coffee. Madame Morel drank her cup and sipped a little of the cognac. After a sad silence in which the loss of Albert seemed to hang between them, she shook her head got up and went for the broom.

‘No’ said Jean ‘not today please. Go and see Marie my dear you need to weep together, would you like me to advise Pere Geoffroy?’ he held her gently against him patting her back. She nodded, her bent body shaking as she slowly raised her head, turned and left the bar. He sat finishing the glass of cognac then drinking his now cold coffee. He would go and see the priest – no body to be returned in glory to be buried amongst friends but at least a solemn mass for the dead man. He would hold the wake in the bar, little enough comfort but all he could offer.

By the end of February there was a slow drip of news of dead sons and fathers. Some of the men came home wounded with destroyed bodies and minds. Some of them wandered the streets; with staring eyes and trembling lips, jerking, shuddering lost in a distant world full of danger and devils. Some of them sat immobile staring at the empty spaces on their torn bodies where sturdy arms and legs once were.
An old farmer sobbing, inconsolable one day in the corner of the bar. His wife had returned white faced and stiff with horror from the nearest town telling him there was no black material or black dye for mourning clothes to be had in the shops. The shops had run out.

Jean began to imagine a hungry mincing machine in the centre of France being fed with boys and men from her towns and villages. An unending stream of healthy young men disappearing, until finally only the women, the old men and people like himself, already damaged, would be left wandering, bereft, weeping ghosts in an empty land.

Victor wrote that he was somewhere not too far from the French border. He wrote that he did not know ‘when he would see his darling Jeanne but that she was always in his thoughts.’ Jean sat holding the letter, tracing the letters with his fingers trying to absorb some of the essence of Victor, remembering nights of passion and the mornings of slow gentle love. Remembering jokes and sly kisses, sharing hot, sweet, milky coffee and bread at breakfast, leaning across to lick the crumbs and taste the coffee on Victor’s lips.

Anger churned in his belly, who were these men that came and took his love away. Who were these men that decreed the death of Albert, and seven other young men from the tiny villages that clustered near them around the coast. Decreed this one should lose a leg, this one should sit on a trolley for the rest of his life, this one would never again see the sun, his wife or his children’s faces. That this one would have no hands to hold his child. That another would wander a madman; speaking to himself, shaking, crouching, shouting in terror and trying to dig himself into the very earth with fear.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

4.45 pm April 22nd Ypres Salient

It was quiet and had not been too bad a day as these days went except he had run out of matches. Victor smiled across at an Algerian in the next trench and waved his unlit cigarette; the Algerian smiled back at him and shrugging his shoulders waved his box of matches. Victor and the Algerian edged closer, Victor shared his cigarettes the Algerian his matches as they both crouched down out of sight and lit up to enjoy their smokes.
‘What’s Algeria like?’
‘Full of sunshine’
‘Never mind soon be over and we will all be home’
‘Inshallah’****
‘One more for the road?
‘Yes why not.’
The cigarettes tasted so good that for a moment the bitter sweet fragrance took him back to Jean, back home with Jean sitting out in the little garden in the sunshine enjoying a cigarette before the bar opened. Then the whistles blew and they wished each other ‘Bon chance’ and returned to the firing lines in their trenches. It was screams not gunfire that Victor heard, then the rush of panicking men, retreating and running passed their trench. He saw the evil yellow cloud behind the men, swallowing them, then he too was up running, running, running, finally falling breathless to the ground his lungs on fire. Looking up at the dusk filled sky he saw a bird was falling too, it’s wings frantically beating then finally falling and hitting the ground next to his head. It’s beak opening and shutting trying to breathe, his mouth opening and shutting trying to breathe. Waves of nausea swept through him and his eyes stung as he started to both choke and vomit. For a second they looked each other, then surrendering they wearily closed their eyes.

* un bon mec - French slang – a real good lad, guy, dude etc.
** copain - friend, mate
*** Un tapette – vulgar slang for ‘gay’
**** If God wills it.

tbc

Notes

Date, time and details of this incident during WW1 are very sadly true. The battalion existed and suffered the first poison gas attack.* [Chlorine] I have stood on that ground listening to the guide and weeping for these dear men ‘the grandads’ they called them terrified stumbling and running away from a wicked yellow cloud. The ordinary German soldiers were frightened at its success, they did not want to press forward and enter that vile mist. It was all for nothing. I believe the Canadians eventually held the line and retook the land. However this is what the websites indicate. Maybe propaganda that over the years has morphed into facts?

A few years ago one misty November somewhere in la belle France. I went to a herring festival and then back to a small snug bar where I sat drinking brandy talking to the owner and imagining the history of this corner of France. The story was born then.

* Students of WW1 will point out it was the French who launched the first gas attack. True. However it was not a ‘poison’ gas attack, it was to confuse the enemy not kill him. [Tear gas]
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Czechmade
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Post by Czechmade » Wed Jul 27, 2011 8:16 pm

:flower: :flower: :flower:
Oh yes, the magic is back...thank you and I am waiting!
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sharpshooter1
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Post by sharpshooter1 » Fri Sep 09, 2011 9:40 am

Thank you for your kind words sweetie. Yes I am ready to write the final chapter now. This is probably my favourite story; the final chapter is based on a man who used to wander round our village when I was very small and very curious.
Hugs S x :-D
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Moominmamma
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Post by Moominmamma » Fri Sep 09, 2011 10:32 am

Oh my! I don't know how I came to miss this beautiful story when you first posted it. I am sitting here with tears in my eyes. Do please write the ending now. abighugs_gif
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