The Mesturet Novel : A Life of passions

Article publié par Le Mesturet le 20/07/2011 à 13:55
Catégories : The Mesturet Novel
Tags : The Mesturet Novel

Chapter One, the Awakening of the Senses, part 4: 

The holidays passed very quickly with cultural visits, beaches, ice creams on terraces, night dances and night clubs. Still no summer romance for Pierre; he wasn’t really preoccupied with girls, he told himself he had lots of time. And anyway, if he had to act as stupid as the boys that hung around his sisters… it wasn’t for the good of the male gender. Most of his time at the beach was taken up with sports: a ball, a few pals and that was it.
There was something more this year, though: an urge to understand others, to watch them. He didn’t think it was an unhealthy curiosity. Since the conversation with his cousin Charles, he realized that there was something to learn in the words, gestures and expressions of the people around him. He had never seen before how eyes could express feelings, how silences could speak volumes and how, simply, he should stop to look. He discovered all of this serenely without knowing what it meant.
August fifteenth came very quickly. He was afraid and eager to see the beautiful hotel and restaurant again. The day before, at the end of the afternoon, he arrived at St Flour station. 
A few hours before, his parents had put him on a train with advice. His father did so simply, as always, and his mother swung between “leaving for the war” and “Caribbean cruise”. Pierre enjoyed it all, he loved his parents because of this too, this balance between emotional reserve and love for their children, their huge flock: their little ones, their treasures.
So Pierre had left his family for a new adventure. “To try it out” his uncle Charles had said. The suitcases that Pierre had brought made it seem as if he was going a long expedition to a faraway place. He had said goodbye to all his friends as well as his coaches. These last were flabbergasted. “You’re leaving high school? You’re crazy!” “Cook, well, it’s a strange profession, but it takes all kinds!” “Come on, you have a future in football.”
No, Pierre had nothing to do in football, just to dream that he could have been the best, scored the most beautiful goals in the world and fallen into the arms of his teammates after the final whistle blow of the 1978 World Cup. No, all that was from another time, another world. No, he’d made his decision. He would be a cook.
He had one regret, or rather a bit a nostalgia for a girl -- yes, a girl. He had never talked to her. She was the prettiest in the school. Brown hair, green eyes, tanned, almost taller than him; she moved down the hallways with a stunning elegance.
His friends and others had all tried: original conversation; light, dark and crude humour; or pushing themselves to the limit during gym class. Nothing did it, there was no word of a boyfriend. One day, Pierre even caught his history-geography teacher turn as the young lady passed. She was brilliant, serious, spoke little and went home quickly after school, that’s all Pierre knew about her other than her first name: Patricia. It was so little. He crossed paths with her from time to time in the city, Thursdays or Sundays. She was always with someone, either her parents, or one or two friends. A smile, a look, a shy hello was all Pierre could manage. He thought of Patricia as a romantic possibility, one day maybe. In his head, he put her on hold for “one day”, like putting an unopened book on the bookshelf with the intention of reading it at some future time. Anyway, that wasn’t what he was focused on right now… girls! His only regret was that he hadn’t been able to tell Patricia that he thought she was lovely, definitely his type, but not for now, he’d be back for her.
On the train, he realized that she didn’t know him, that perhaps she hadn’t even noticed him and that she was a long way from thinking about him. Innocent Pierre, naïve Pierre. Obviously, she had seen him. How could Pierre not have been noticed? With his big blue eyes, his blond hair and his smile that had turned the heads of her and her friends. But Pierre had been out of reach, too guarded, too shy, not like the others.
Patricia had never dared to talk to him. She had wanted to, but hadn’t been able to – when school started again in September, maybe?
A car horn made Pierre jump. Cousin Charles was there in his blue-grey van, an impressive Citroen.
“Come on, get in! Where are you going with all that? Leaving for the North Pole? Afraid of running out of something? Lucky I left some room in the back!”
Pierre got in, the scent of the fruits and vegetables captivated him immediately. The smell of spices was also mixed into it all and it was strange and nice.
“I’m coming back from the market. Today it was vegetables, tomorrow, it’s meat. You’ll come with me.”
During the trip, Charles described the entire restaurant team, the cooks, the head waiters, the desk clerks, in short – everyone. Pierre had a difficult time putting names to faces, he recognized some from his visit last time. He got the impression that the task weighed on his uncle a bit and that he felt he had to get it over with right away.
The Citroen pulled into the courtyard of the hotel. Again, Pierre saw the imposing view that he’d seen on his first visit. Two cooks came out of the door to the left of the staircase.
“Come on guys, let’s unload. Oh, this is Pierre, my nephew, no, my cousin, well, it’s Pierre and there it is. Germain, Albert, these two here will explain everything to you. But be careful, they’re little trouble makers. No going out with them for now. Come with me and I’ll show you your room, you can change into a top and pants and we can get going. What shoe size are you?”
“Uh, 43, I think…” How strange, why did he ask that? Pierre wondered.
He went up with Charles to the fifth and last floor of the building. In the hallways, red velvet and old paintings, chandeliers and candelabras surrounded the cleaning women who were already bustling from floor to floor. “Pierre, my nephew”, “Pierre, my cousin”, “Pierre”.  Pierre in many guises, but introduced to everyone. On the fifth floor, they took a staircase that you wouldn’t see unless you knew where to look for it. It took them to a row of eight doors, four on each side. “These are the rooms for the apprentice chefs and waiters. The showers are at the end of the hall, the restrooms too. You keep everything clean. The first one that messes around – penalty! No breaks, no weekends for a month. Your laundry, you bring to Josephine in the basement once a week. You take care of your underwear yourself.
At the time, Pierre thought he would have been better enlisting. He must have had a silly look on his face because his cousin added with a touch of affection and a lot of irony: “Welcome to The Tranquil Volcano.”
One hour later, Pierre, after getting lost, went down to the kitchen. He hadn’t understood half of what his cousin had said since he’d arrived and here he was at the entrance to the kitchen without really understanding where he was. He thought of his mother and his mother’s kitchen. His throat was tight, he would have liked his sisters to be there. His heart was pounding a hundred times a minute and he must have been flushed bright red. He knocked on the already wide-open door.
“Here we don’t knock,” called Charles. “We shout ‘Hello chef, hello gentlemen!’ Gentlemen, let’s stop for a moment.”
Nine heads came up, the noise of the saucepans stopped.
“I’d like to introduce Pierre, he’s going to spend a bit of time with us, he’s part of my family, but no special treatment, he starts off the way you did.”
Things were said loud and clear.
“Albert, you take the kid. Put him on steamed potatoes. Hey! Albert, it’s seven sides on each potato, not six or eight, all right? Seven sides! Let’s go, kid. Go see Albert, over there in vegetables.”
Pierre made his way towards a tall fellow that looked like a rugby player. He’d already seen him at the Citroën unloading, but here in the kitchen he was more impressive. He had a bit of Charles about him. Albert shook Pierre’s hand giving him the impression that a pair of pliers had closed on him.
“All right, let me show you.”
Charles pretended to be working on a magnificent fattened chicken, but mostly he was watching his little cousin out of the corner of his eye and thinking: “Go on, kid, go for it and fight. You’re my future. You’ll be the strength of my last years. So please, don’t give up.”
Overcome with emotion he concentrated on the chicken. Jean, his friend of thirty years and his loyal second, watched him. This old fighter, he understood and shared the feeling. But he had to move quickly, would Pierre hold on? He couldn’t give him anything easily and yet he had to pass on everything: what a lot of work, what an undertaking, the last battle perhaps… only Jean knew… 
The next week: the sequel to Chapter One/part 5
Translated from the French by Bodega Designs,
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