I said to my Facebook friends while I was eating boeuf tartare at Le Départ St-Michel that I was going to go trolling for pigeon droppers when I had finished my food and drink. If pigeon dropper is not a term readily recalled from near term memory, read A Curious Confluence: The Story of Adrianna. I tell the tale of the pigeon drop tribe fairly completely in that book.
So I left Le Départ with high expectations. I planned to go as far as Pont d’Alma and cross the Seine there and cross to the left bank and loop back to La Frégatte at rue du Bac and Pont Royal. La Frégatte has a big glass of wine – un bacchus.
But those expectations were not to be.
I went across Pont St-Michele to the right bank with the intention of heading toward, and probably going to, Pont d’Alma. I knew the row of book and oddment sellers along the Seine would be clustered with lookers and customers. And I knew that that cluster would preclude any pigeon drop activity. Pigeon droppers like to have a stretch of the quai that is vacant except for their intended mark.
But I was sure that beyond the sellers the crowds would thin, and, the weather being good, the droppers would be cruising for marks.
I was right about the clearing of the route.
I was wrong about dropper activity.
Maybe they take time on the Mediterranean just like everybody else.
Whatever, they weren’t anywhere to be seen.
I was really disappointed.
Also, as frequently happens here, the weather was rapidly changing to looking to be bad from being beautiful.
I modified my plans. I would go to Pont Alexandre III and come back to La Frégatte two bridges early.
As I was within eyeshot of Pont Solerfino – one bridge from Pont Alexandre I saw that a huge kluge of tourists had begun to cluster just on my side of that bridge.
I just didn’t want to plow my way through a huge bunch of tourists. The bunch at the book and oddment sellers had pretty much taken my tourist tolerance quotient to a low level.
Also the weather was looking ever more like a Paris downpour was imminent. And my umbrella was at the apartment.
So I turned around, crossed Pont Royal and found a seat on the sidewalk in the front of La Frégate. Even though that is a smoking section the ever-present and wonderful breeze of the Seine keeps the smoke moving.
I took my seat and ordered un bacchus de bordeaux.
It wasn’t long before one of the local denizens – a lover, apparently, of bordeaux – made himself known. A bee started circling and diving and feinting at me and my bacchus.
If it had been a honey bee I would not have cared as much as I was caring about this bee’s activities. This bee was a yellow jacket, or a hornet, or a wasp or whatever any of those types are called in France. I had never had this happen to me before in France.
I said, “Monsieur abeille, fuck off s’il vous plais.”
The bee paid no attention.
Luckily – for both of us I thought to myself – he went two tables over and started bothering those people.
Those people were annoying, probably Romney supporting Americans. I had wanted to jump up during the never-ending, high decibel monologue from one of the two women of the four person party and yell “I paid a lot of money so I could come over here and not know what anyone was saying. Just because of people like you that lurk in all the venues of eat and drink in America I had to escape. Could you either speak French or shut up?”
But I had held my tongue.
And now they were engaged with a common enemy.
In consideration of their engagement of that enemy, I guessed that they weren’t such bad sorts – the woman and her deeply boring monologue notwithstanding – and settled back to enjoying my bacchus.
But the bee came back.
I knew that trying to flail him from the air in flight had only two possible outcomes: disaster and disaster.
So I decided to live and let live. I decided that in the hope that the bee would sense my amicability and just settle down next to me on my table and maybe strike up a conversation.
But this bee was either stupid or insensitive or intransigent, or all of those things. He kept flying at me as if he really wanted a good reason to give me a dose of venom. I had just had such a dose on Lopez two weeks previous when a bee had run into me as I was approaching 20 mph while passing Sunset Builders Supply, and, the bee lacking anything better to do, had hit me in the chest with something that created a great mass of red flesh spanning the front exterior of my thorax. I was really seriously disinterested in having another such encounter, even at a table on a street in the best city in the world.
So I wished this bee ill.
Luckily, being stupid, or alcoholic, or both, he kept flying closer to the surface of the wine in the glass. Finally he stopped and lit on the interior of the glass. He sauntered here and there. He went up and down.
I put the pewter tray that is used for purveying the check to customers and the payment and tip to the server on top of the glass. It was a perfect fit. I watched the bee. He watched me briefly, but then, overcome I suppose by the joyous aroma of the wine, he fell into the liquid. He swam. And he swam some more. and he swam yet some more.
When I thought he must be tired, or drunk, or both I folded my “addition” – the tote of what I owed – into a rigid probe-like configuration. The multiple linear folds made the thing pretty rigid. I hoped that that sort of rigidity would make it a tool with which I could scoop the bee out of the liquid when I deemed that action to be prudent. However, I had not gone to end-game. I had not thought of what to do with the beast once he had been scooped. I watched him swim in aimless, seemingly diminishingly-sized circles.
I decided that it was time.
I took the pewter tray off the glass. The bee didn’t notice. He kept swimming in circles. I grasped the tool. I lowered it to the surface of the wine and waited for the bee to come to where the tool waited. He came toward the tool. When he got within scoop distance I scooped. I missed. He kept swimming, albeit with some added vigor. I think he had been swimming and drinking previously; now he seemed to realize imminent peril and seemed to have made swimming his primary activity. In any event he was a motivated, wing flailing swooping around the glass sort of bee. That was a distinct change from his previously relaxed, almost leisurely backstroke sort of activity.
I scooped again. And I scooped again. After several more scoops I threw the bee out of the wine onto the table.
I had hoped he would be drunk – I had left him in my wine for quite a while to that end – and would just sit there. Perhaps he would look at me and perhaps I would hear a thin reedy voice saying “merci monsieur”.
Instead he did some kind of hostile looking bee dance. It looked as if he was about to hurl himself into the air and do evil to someone or something.
I was pretty sure that I would be the someone, since something did not seem to be readily available.
So I hit him – twice – with the little pewter tray.
That pretty well settled the situation.
It settled it at least for the bee. He got pushed off the table – guts spewing from his shattered exoskeleton – to the floor.
But now I had the better part of a complete bacchus of quite good bordeaux with – with what; or with anything additional from the bee?
Was the wine full of bee shit or bee puke? Or, of an even more sinister nature, was the wine full of bee venom? Do bees when under duress shoot venom out their asses? I had no idea. I asked the Americans to my left – the ones from which the long boring monologue had emanated – and they didn’t know. They thought me tobe rather quaint to even have such a question.
I looked at the wine.
The wine looked at me.
I drank the rest of it.