I wandered haggardly, my eyes wet and my gaze torpid. All I could hear was the sound of my footsteps on the wet sidewalk, the traffic seemed to accompany me and I skirted the boulevard like one skirting a river. I didn’t mind the rain gently dripping down my neck, people didn’t seem to see me and several times I had to dodge selfish umbrellas.

Franky, on the other hand, had had a stroke of luck, winning like that, with a pair of tens. Just my luck. I’d still have to tell impossible lies, pretend, invent cracks, my head seemed unable to cope with so much pressure. What would I tell Marianne, I’d lost the rent money? She’d never forgive me. She’d seen too much and I knew it, but I couldn’t stop myself from going over to Franky’s house. We’d started out as fishing buddies. I’d met him at the Flyfishing Club de l’Ouest, a stupid name for a pretentious thing where, between a couple of whiskies and a few outings on the banks of Normandy rivers with ass-combers, we’d tie flies and bang the bell. Anyway, after two or three outings, Franky, who’d been fishing on the Touques, headed for Trouville in his Alfa. “We’ll say we did the evening trick and slept in an inn”. It was so clear that I couldn’t answer. And then it was the first of many. We invented trips for ourselves almost every weekend and spent our time in Enghein, Trouville, Forge les Eaux… only to end up, stiff, in shady gambling dens from which we were chased in the morning amidst boozers, whores and trannies.

The rain blinded me, but a red neon sign caught my eye: “Josephine, future, love, money”. I was magnetized, standing there in the drops, in front of the black window, watching the neon flash like a bumper-car sky. I looked down at the few coins and banknotes I had left in my hand.

My wet finger slipped on the doorbell, which seemed to work, I heard footsteps in a corridor, the door opened: “it’s for Madame Joséphine, wait in the room” and the girl in heels disappeared behind a pearl curtain, the red light more reminiscent of a slap than anything else.

I sat down on an upholstered armchair and drops of water continued to drip from my clothes. As I watched them slide down the fabric of my overcoat, they seemed alive, with a life of their own. The girl came back to get me and said: “Madame Joséphine is waiting for you”. I jumped to my feet, then hesitantly followed the girl to a door that opened in front of me. The light was red, the perfume light and yet present, and in the half-light I heard a warm, husky voice say, “So you’ve lost everything? Sit down, make yourself comfortable”. I saw a black leather sofa and sat down. In front of me, on the floor, on a multicolored carpet, blending in with the red velvet walls, there she was. She knew everything.


Joséphine by CK & Flechemuller