Merci for your encouraging notes following last week's update regarding subscribership. Your words revive me! Today's mischief takes place in La Ciotat (photo snapped outside Le Palais Lumière where a patch of daisies looks as innocent as a team of pranksters in hiding. Read on.)
TODAY'S WORD: UN CANULAR
: practical joke, prank, hoax
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
Getting cozy on the couch with a cup of tea and our shepherd Ricci, I watched my daughter prepare to leave for her brother's pour rendre un service.
Grabbing the car keys Jackie turned to me, "Mom, why don't you come along to Max's? We can walk Ana's dog while she’s away.”
Visions of climbing 4 flights of stairs to my son's condo (to lead a scent-obsessed Beagle on a kilometer-long promenade) had me sinking back into the sofa. "J'ai la flemme," I admitted.
"Energy comes in moving!" Jackie countered.
Don't you love it when young people share their wisdom? Jackie is right. I needed to shake up my afternoon routine. Some salty fresh air and, though I didn't know it yet, a little mischievous behavior, would be vivifiant for body, mind, and soul, and who could have guessed the positive effect would ripple out and tickle somebody else in the process....
UP AND AT 'EM! (DEBOUT ET EN AVANT!)
If my daughter managed to rouse me, the drive to her brother's fired up every nerve ending in my being as I gripped the handle above the passenger door. "Jackie, slow down! Don't follow so close to the other cars! DID YOU SEE THE PEDESTRIAN???"
Speaking of pedestrian, between beginning today's story and procrastinating its development, I came across the word "pedestrian" and was amused by its various meanings:
1) lacking wit or imagination
Isn't it interesting how the very act of walking stirs creative intelligence? Perhaps this explains how, after marching from the car to Max's condominium and up 4 flights of stairs, a creative urge came over me. The urge to play a practical joke on my son. Normally void of ideas for these kinds of bêtises, my mind was now reeling with ideas.
A look around Max’s home revealed he’s been struggling to keep up with le ménage ever since he began his new job two months ago. On top of domestic challenges, he's been exhausted from keeping on top of a new job. A little prank might perk him up.
"Jackie!" I giggled. "Do you know what a practical joke is?"
"I'll show you... Let's turn everything in Max's fridge upside down! Here..." I said, opening the door, “Start with the condiments..." While Jackie upended the ketchup, mayo, and pickles, I grabbed a bowl. "Let's put the jar of cornichons here in case it leaks. We just want to have fun--not flood his apartment," I said, bummed that we couldn’t turn over the bottles of beer because of their narrow tops.
As Jackie turned her attention to the shelves, putting everything the wrong way up, I carefully flipped the bowl of onions, peppers, and herbs on the counter, and then made my way over to the spices. Les épices were lined up neatly at the back of la table de cuisson, but not for long...
After we'd somersaulted everything in the frigo and around the stove, I headed to Max’s room when Jackie suggested we stop here. Elle avait raison. We'd made our mischievous mark, besides, there'd be more occasions in which to mess with Max. Especially after he retaliated--no doubt he would!
CHUT NE DIS RIEN!
With a pat on the back we left Izzy the Beagle, swearing her to secrecy: Chut! Ne dis rien! "Now Izzy, don't tell Max what you saw!" With that, we returned home for dinner.... and waited for a call from Max, eager to know his reaction.
Finally, when the call came, our victim didn't mention anything amiss.
"Where are you?" Jackie quizzed.
"I'm in the basement, organizing some things."
"Oh, anything else new?"
"No," Max replied with a yawn. Jackie and I were feeling let down until an afterthought from Max stirred us again: "By the way, did you turn over that bowl on my countertop?"
"No..." Jackie responded. Giving me a thumbs up as she spoke into the receiver. "I don't know what you are talking about."
"Bon," Max said, sounding bored. "I've gotta finish up here. Talk to you later." We were sure we'd get a call back, but the night wore on, and not a word from Max.
Meantime, I began to doubt our farce. Was it not clever? But then, a brilliant practical joke isn't about cleverness--its appeal lies in timing. Was this bad timing?
The next day I nearly bypassed the morning prayer to open text messages first thing. The little devil in me was desperate to know if Max had discovered the full extent of our friendly trespass. Surely by now he would have seen the contents of his frigo mis à l'envers.
Still no word from him, I tried to be coy with my message. "Hey, Son. Do you know the term "topsy turvy?"
"Things feeling a little upside down over there?" I persisted.
Finally, my phone chimed! "I saw your joke" the text read. My son's deadpan response killed it -- that wonderful creative buzz born of a pedestrian effort.
"But Max," I despaired, "didn't you think it was funny?"
"He's just tired," Jackie remarked when I couldn't let go--until finally I did.
I let go of the fish. In French un poisson is synonymous with "practical joke" or farce. But it may as well be synonymous with "the outcome of things". It reminds me of the would-be thrill and adventure of writing: the reward, it turns out, lies not in the untouchable outcome but in the golden nuggets we gather along the way. This story (and the fun and games behind it) was born of one child's wisdom and the other’s wisecrackery. Indeed, the old Max will be back. Once he gets the hang of his new job, he'll be back at our home, setting all kinds of traps for the family. After all, we learned these pranks from him—even more, Max has shown us time and again how les badinages and plaisanteries are a good way not to take ourselves too seriously.
Meantime, let the outcome be the uncontrollable outcome. Continue to work, love, learn, and especially to have fun. See you next week, dear reader, for another story about whatever the universe conjures up.
Typical of Max to shake up his professional presentation...with something unexpected! (That's the cereal he and his sister used to eat when they were little).
You might say our son has been in the wine business ages before we had our two vineyards: At the age of 10, Max rode his bike to town to buy a bottle of wine as a gift for his dad. After consulting with the storekeeper in our little French village, the boy rode home with a Côtes du Rhône!
un canular = practical joke
j'ai la flemme = I'm feeling lazy
debout et en avant! = up and at 'em!
une bêtise = mischief, tomfoolery
cornichons = pickles
le ménage = housework
les épices = spices
la table de cuisson = stovetop
le frigo = fridge
elle avait raison = she was right
Chut! Ne dis rien! = hush, don’t say a word!
mis à l'envers = put upside down
un poisson = fish
le badinage = banter
la plaisanterie = joke
une farce = practical joke
une rousse = a redhead (see photo at the end of this post)
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In today's story, I mention "rendre un service" (return a favor). After Max's girlfriend Ana dyed Jackie's hair, Jackie offered to walk Ana's dogs, who sometimes stay at Max's. How's that for bartering services?
Looks great, Ana! After blond, brunette…we’ll see how long Jackie remains une rousse.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety