This afternoon we have a meeting with the Meldrum Writers’ Club again. We write short stories (a thousand words or less) with set items that have to feature in the story. Sometimes it is very difficult to weave the items into the story. Keeping the word count to under a thousand is also a good exercise to make your words count.
This week the feature items were: an engineer, with ‘meticulous’ as a character trait, Paris, duck, and propeller. As we had used the word ‘duck’ before and I had used it in several ways in that particular story (see ‘Hunting’), this time I was so bold as to use the French word, canard, for it. For those of you who have never had the lovely opportunity to go to France, sit in a restaurant in Quartier Latin, and order Cou de Canard; it is the delicacy of ‘Neck of Duck.’ The French have a knack of using any part of an animal and make it a wonderful dish. My husband once had the opportunity to eat hare’s testicles. Whether he did, I can’t remember…
Anyway, without much further ado I’d like to present you with my little gem (if I may say so myself).
Cou de Canard
(A meticulous engineer, Paris, a propeller, a duck)
Sophie entered the boutique-type restaurant in Quartier Latin, Paris, as Pierre held the door open for her. She had met Pierre online and, as they were both single, after a few weeks of amicable, digital communication they had agreed to meet in person. Pierre had suggested to have dinner at the little restaurant; neutral territory. Sophie had agreed, although she didn’t know the restaurant. But that was the point.
As she passed Pierre with some difficulty, she wasn’t the slimmest thirty-two-year-old, she gave him a quick smile and looked away a tad too soon. She blushed as she realised this and kept her fingers crossed inside her coat pocket in the hope he hadn’t noticed. Pierre’s physical form didn’t appear to be what she had imagined when she had chatted with him online. In her mind’s eye, he had been abundantly muscled and deadly handsome. Instead, he seemed skinny and was nearly bald. As she was looking down she noticed his large feet. The sides of his shoes were hanging over the end of the soles and were worn.
A waiter interrupted her thoughts as he said, ‘Your coats, please.’
Pierre helped Sophie out of her coat, but when he wanted to hand it to the waiter she took it from him and folded the coat neatly before handing it over. Pierre frowned, but shrugged without saying a word as they followed another waiter to a table. As Pierre moved, Sophie couldn’t help but notice that his butt was big. He was skinny overall, but had a big butt. ‘What a strange body shape,’ she thought.
The waiter pulled out a chair for Sophie and Pierre sat down opposite her. The waiter asked what they wanted to drink as he handed them the menu. Pierre was given the wine list.
The table had wobbled when they sat down. Sophie took both corners in her hand and, rocking the table, measured how much one of the legs was lifted from the ground.
“Sophie?” Pierre said.
She looked up and saw Pierre nodding towards the waiter.
“Madam, what would you like to drink,” the waiter said again. Sophie had been too obsessed with the wobbly table to notice the first time he asked. She noticed Pierre’s raised eyebrow and upturned corner of his mouth.
“Oh, sorry, yes. Um, what are you having, Pierre?”
“I’m going for a Riesling wine,” he said.
“But that’s a dessert wine,” Sophie exclaimed.
“That may be so, but I fancy one now,” Pierre smiled. It was one of the character traits that Sophie had liked about him when they had chatted online. He didn’t care about what others thought about him. She had a quick glance at the wine list that he had passed to her.
I prefer to have a Pinot Noir, the Domaine du Cros lo Sang del Pais Marcillac, please,” Sophie said as she handed the wine list back to the waiter.
“That sounds delicious, I think I’ll have that one too instead,” Pierre said to the waiter as Sophie handed him the wine list. The waiter left to fulfil their order.
“You know your wines,” Pierre mused.
“It’s a wine from the Aveyron area. Their wines are indeed delicious,” Sophie replied. “Do you have a business card?”
Pierre blinked and for a moment his mouth fell open. “I… didn’t think this was going to be a business meeting,” he said, but did pull his wallet out.
“It’s not, but I gave my last card away this afternoon and haven’t had the time to fill my card holder yet.”
Pierre looked on in wonder as Sophie took his card, folded it double twice, and ducked underneath the table. When she resurfaced again she put both her hands flat on the table.
“There, now it’s not wobbly anymore,” she said with a smile. “I can’t stand wobbly tables.”
Pierre’s eyes had a twinkle that she couldn’t place. She was distracted by a waiter again, who brought them their wines.
“Here’s to engineering, who brought us together,” Pierre said as he held up his glass.
“You’re not an engineer,” Sophie said and hesitated to put her glass against that of Pierre.
“Correct, but that’s not what I said. What I meant was that if you hadn’t been an engineer, I wouldn’t have sent you that email about my plane’s propeller, we wouldn’t have started chatting, and we certainly wouldn’t have been sitting in this cosy restaurant having a lovely glass of wine from the Aveyron area together.”
Sophie dipped her head slightly with a blush and clinked her glass against his before they both took a sip.
“A very nice wine indeed,” Pierre said before he put his glass down.
As Sophie was still too embarrassed about her blunder, she picked up the menu and hid behind it. After a little while of reading in silence, Pierre put down his menu.
“Do you know yet what starter you’re going for?”
Sophie had looked up when Pierre asked his question. She couldn’t help but notice Pierre’s neck. It was long and angled, like that of a cartoon duck, with the sticking out Adam’s apple that bobbed up and down as he spoke.
“Cou de canard,” she murmured.
“Excellent choice! I think I’m going for Foie Gras.”
Pierre looked intensely at Sophie as he said it. She sat staring back at him for a moment. Then they burst out laughing together. The rest of their evening was a very pleasant one, with plenty more wine from the Aveyron area.