'La Grande Boucle' by Janis Lane

Before his death, Monsieur Bijou’s neat Parisian apartment was compact and eponymous. He believed that everyone and everything had its place, his place being at the office or in his home, with an occasional bière en route from the working day. He was content.

Monsieur Bijou maintained his status quo for almost 365 days of the year. The exception was one day in July. When the Tour de France arrived on the Champs Elysées, Monsieur Bijou threw open the shutters, wearing his own custom made yellow jersey. He leaned from the Juliet balcony, shouting “Allez, allez!” at the top of his voice as the kaleidoscope of colour rushed by: riders enjoying their glory laps at the end of the gruelling three-week bike race. After they were gone, Monsieur Bijou closed his shutters for another year.

Monsieur Bijou had many fond memories of le Tour. He remembered the searing heat, days when the temperature was so high the street smelled hazy. Or when the rain came, and the road would be slick with oily wetness. Most of all Monsieur Bijou remembered the atmosphere; it was always different, always electric.

Years passed. The custom Maillot Jaune grew more threadbare with each outing, the cries of “Allez” fainter from his weary lungs. One year, Monsieur Bijou found himself breathless from struggling into the yellow jersey. Before opening the shutters for his victory cry, he sat on the chaise longue under the window, to catch his breath. He allowed himself a brief moment to lie down and close his eyes. He could hear the crowd outside and knew the cyclists approached. Just one more minute and he'd get up.

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