The first time that I met Josy was in the 80′s. I had just walked out of a horrible drawing class on the “Places des Voges” in Paris. It was raining cats and dogs, it was cold and I was soaked to my skin. I must have looked like a “drenched Rimbaud”.
Josy worked the street at the corner of the “rue du Pas de la mule” and when she saw me, looking like a soaked kitten, she pushed me into the bistro at the corner and forced me to drink a bowl of Viandox (bouillon) with white wine (which I have loved ever since). When I stopped shivering, we talked and got to know one another better.
She was really adorable, Josy, with a real big heart. OK she wasn’t Miss France, not even Miss Massif Central or Miss Sarthe, but I could care less, she was the most generous woman that I had ever met.
She had worked the streets for ten years and saw no harm in it, in fact quite the contrary. Of course she had tried other jobs; when she was 18 years old she went fromValenciennes to the the capital… Experience, zero. Success, zero. And, as she had a child to feed, she started working the streets! It was like going to work at the Renault factory.
“And then,” she said with an angelic smile, “men, you know, there are so many who are lonely and sad”. And caressing… she really knew how to do that; she should be reimbursed by the social security, that’s how useful her work is. Instead, she’s often insulted by big jerks and their kids who tour the neighborhood, pointing their fingers and laughing only as jerks can do.
Since that rainy day, every time I can, I pass a moment with Josy, (honorably of course), and it’s always a great pleasure. We talk about everything… about work, art, films and above all we laugh like old childhood friends. Josy became my family. I often had to console her, when she was down, because her daughter had returned to live with her grandmother in “Lons-le-Saunier” and she really missed her. But, when your job is walking the streets… she was worried that her daughter would be affected by it. However I have to say that, on the “rue du Pas se la Mule”, there is no one more cheerful than my friend.
One day I talked about my passion for fly fishing and Josy’s eyes became big like saucers.
“What? You stick flies on hooks? That’s a terrible thing to do.”
So, I explained all about cock feathers and rabbit hair and all the rest; I could see Josy lapping it all up and she seemed really interested.
“Josy my friend, what do you think about going fishing together on Sunday? I know a sweet little river not far from Paris. We can take a picnic and you can get a little change of air?”
The following Sunday we jumped into my “blue 4L”, it was a sunny day for our adventure and Josy was totally joyous. She pointed out the cows in the fields,
“Look Fleche, that’s a Normande cow and that one there is a Berrichonne. Take a look at those udders…!”
When we got to the river I mounted my fishing rod and immediately pinpointed a band of chevesne (chubs) casually swimming near the opposite bank.
I didn’t want to fail on my first attempt, especially since Josy was watching me with her sardonic smile as if to say, “OK my friend, try, if you think that you can impress me with your pathetic little fly!”
On my second cast a little chevesne was seduced by my beetle. What a look on Josy’s face… and, she couldn’t believe it when I released the fish.
“But why did you let it go? We could have a little fish fry, no?”
“Wait a little Josy, I’m going to show you something!”
Less than 2 minutes later, I brought in another chevesne.
“OK Josy, take the fish in your hands, but don’t hold it to tightly, Promise?”
“But aren’t these beasts slimy?”
“Don’t worry about it, they are as fresh as dew. Go ahead, don’t be afraid… gently… wait a minute while I remove the hook… OK, open your hands and slowly let the fish go!”
And there my friends, if you could have heard the screams of joy… Josy in a state of pure exhilaration.
“Fuck (oh, excuse me!), Fleche that is the most magnificent sensation. I have never experienced such an emotion…”
“Voila, Josy, my sweet friend. Now you understand fly fishing!”
And then a few months passed; I left and installed myself in New York to do my artist thing.
One fine day I returned and, by habit, found myself in the same cafe on the rue du Pas de la Mule. Josy was nowhere in sight, but a friend of hers handed me an envelope with my name on it. I opened it with emotion and read the clumsily written words that Josy left for me:
”My dear friend. I’ve had it with this rotten corner of the street. I have gone to be with my daughter near Lourdes. You wouldn’t believe it, but even men making a pilgrimage often have need of love. And not only the love of Jesus, believe me. I’m working like hell and rolling in money, If I can say that.
Another thing, since our outing to the river, I got caught your fly fishing virus and believe me when I tell you that near Lourdes, the rivers are so beautiful they could make you cry. And the robes of the fish are so magnificent they could even go and work for Christian Dior.
My dear Fleche, I wish is that you are leading a charmed life. Thank you for your friendship and for the sumptuous gift you gave me.
Voila. This story makes me think of uncle Georges Brassens, and his old, but marvelous, song “La complainte des filles de joie” (The lament of ladies of the night). You haven’t taken on one wrinkle Georges!