la fosse


  old French facade - vieille façade française (c) Kristin Espinasse
  Window and clothesline above an old shop in the village of Les Arcs-sur-Argens.

noun, masculine

Breezing past our living room, Jean-Marc is wearing a long African robe and a five o'clock shadow. In his left hand he is holding a small can of touch-up paint and in his right, a wet paintbrush.

I have grown to accept my husband's taste in lounge wear and the fact that he sees no reason to change into work clothes for his latest DIY project.

For a nostalgic moment I remember back to when he bought that robe, or "boubou". It was in '92, during one of his missions d'audit in Africa. Though he did not like his short stint as an accountant, he loved Djibouti. When he wasn't stuck in an office verifying spreadsheets at a local petroleum company, Jean-Marc enjoyed fishing with the locals in a deep, blue bay along the sea.

"Ça va, Mr. Touch-up?" I tease, following my husband through the house. I can't help but want to put in my two cents' worth. "You missed a spot! T'as oublié celle-la!"

The man in the robe responds by playfully poking me in the nose with the wet end of the pinceau. When I complain, he counters: "C'est lavable à l'eau."

Moving quickly through our little house, Jean-Marc brushes paint over child-size fingerprints and across chipped baseboards in a  quest to cover up grease marks, scuffs, and smudges.

"Grab a paintbrush!" he calls, when passing by the kids' rooms. "Allez, on y va!"

Because Mr. Touch-up forgets to mention where he's been, the kids and I are never sure just which surfaces are wet and when to watch out. It is the cream-colored streak across the seat of my pants (where I've backed into a wet wall) or beneath Max's palm or on Jackie's fingertip that reminds us that the touch-up artist has struck again. Touché!

Your Edits Here! Thanks for checking grammar and punctuation. Is the story clear enough? Good to go? Share your thoughts, here in the comments box. P.S. don't forget to check the vocab section. It will appear in the book as you see it here... Thanks!

French Vocabulary

le boubou
African tunic

une mission d'audit
an audit

Ça va?
everything all right?

t'as oublié celle-là
you forgot this one

le pinceau

c'est lavable à l'eau
it's washable with water

allez! on y va!
come on! let's go!



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Ray Stoddard

This is delightful as is. Lovely tone, light, quick, just like M. Touch-up!

Audrey Wilson

Red pen in action ! Please ignore if you don't agree
"Although" instead of " though he didn't--
Full stop after Djibouit & start the next sentence with" Here"
"I can't help wanting" instead of "but to want"
'on the nose' as apposed to 'in the nose'
Omit the Because at the start of the paragraph & perhaps say, Mr Touch-up forgets ----, so the kids & I etc
Good luck with the current project !

Kristin Espinasse

Many thanks, Ray!


As always, a lovely story. Some small suggestions:

In the first paragraph: I think you have a choice about commas (and need a hyphen in "satin finish," since it's a compound adjective; otherwise it sound like you're using a finish paint made of satin)--"In his left hand he is holding a small can of satin-finish paint, in his right a cream-tipped paintbrush." OR "In his left hand, he is holding a small can of satin-finish paint, in his right, a cream-tipped paintbrush." I think I prefer the first formulation.

About that quest to cover up small imperfections: no hyphen in "cover up" when using it as a verb.

As usual, tiny quirks in a charming story. Love to keep reading them.

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Audrey, just saw your comment. Off to have a second look at those suggestions... Thanks!

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks Jeri, just saw your edits. Off to study the text. Thanks!


I enjoyed the story.


Diane Young

Been there with husband/painter but he was always right so I never criticized. Therefore, I had little painting to do inside. Outside, I did a lot because drips could be handled easily. Story is so charming and true to life I'd leave as is.

Sushil from Mauritius

A beautifully light story.
I feel that the hyphen in 'cover-up' is unnecessary because you are using it as a verb here.

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

Bonjour Kristin,

The story is cute, quick & interesting. You do not need a lot of corrections. I would leave "in" the nose ---- it's the same as "on" the nose ----too picky.

I love these stories as they are real, bittersweet, and loving. Please don't change too much.

Be well

Kristin Espinasse

Sushil, thanks for catching that one, and for the explanation. (I am just now learning that hyphens create certain adjectives; as you guessed, I did not mean for that to be an adjective--but a verb!)

Thanks Diane and Faye for your comments :-)

Jean Creighton

I'm totally new here. Just found this site last night and am so entranced I can hardly do anything today. Love your stories and the french words. My mother took french in high school many years ago, and I still can remember her asking us "what time is it", in French. I think it was about the only thing she remembered. This story is great just as it reads. I get so caught up in the story, I miss any grammer mistakes! I'm going to get your books and start learning a word a day. You are a blessing to this old lady!

Ron Lauderbach

Lovely, as usual, Kristin. Another entertaining experience francaise. May I suggest that Jean Mark "playfully" poke you in the nose; or maybe even "playfully paint you nose," neither act requiring retribution. I also suggest "our" small house. It makes it a more family experience.


Hi dear Kristin,
What a lovely,light, and breezy story!
Excellent just as it is!
Love, Natalia XO


I can just imagine JM in a "boubou", très confortable. :-)
Comme toujours, I love the story, Kristin.

Betty Gleason

Love it, love it, love it. Hugs.

Rebecca Q. T. in Baltimore

The only mistake I noticed has been noted before by fellow red-penner Jeri: a hyphen is necessary for satin-finish paint. With regard to word choice, I don't know that "poke" is the right verb for when Chief Grape gets you on the nose...perhaps you should bring "touch up" here again to continue tying the narrative together? Or at least find a more suggestive verb than "poke." "Paint," "smear," or "daub" would all be much clearer than "poke." I'm sure with a little brainstorming one could find a plethora of other suitable verbs.

Keep 'em coming! And sorry I wasn't able to take a look at Friday's stories until this weekend, but I did make a few suggestions in the end that I hope are useful. How many more stories should we expect from here?

Karen from Phoenix

Love the light airy story today. xoxo

Susan Carter, Westminster, CA

Love this story and most of the things I saw have already been mentioned except in the 3rd paragraph, I don't think the comma is necessary after office. I think the sentence reads a little smoother without it.

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

Fun story.

Only one question: what is the seat of a pant?

the seat of my pants, perhaps.


Like others, I'd say "seat of my pants" instead of "seat of a pant."

I think a hyphen between "satin" and "finish" would be fine, but it's clear with or w/o the hyphen. (For many things there is no rule except "be consistent.)

Very cute story.

Marianne Rankin

Others have covered the literary aspects of this story; I agree with the observations, such as the hyphenation.

I found this anecdote entertaining, but also hard to believe: does J-M really paint OVER smudges, grease, etc.? Does he not clean the surfaces first? Paint adheres better on a clean surface, and covers better, too. (Of course for the "plot" here, that probably doesn't matter.)

Whatever you do, don't leave out the part about painting the noses and saying, "c'est lavable a l'eau." A great line!

Laurie Eager

Salut Kristin,
Just recently discovered you much to my delight. I feel like I have a new friend in France. Merci pour les photos des coquelicots! I have several faded and brittle blooms pressed between the pages of a decades-old scrapbook, collected during my 17 th summer which I spent living with a French family in Rochecorbon dans la Touraine. I have lots of red in my home and often wonder if it is because it's cheery shade reminds me of those coquelicots.
My love for all things French began that summer, and has brought so much richness to my life. Currently I teach French to elementary students in a Charter school, definitely not the norm here in the Central Valley of California. Hoping to meet you in person one day!
Laurie ( Stockton, CA)

Kristin Espinasse

Laurie and Jean, welcome! So nice to see your notes :-)

And many thanks, Red Penners! I am learning from and enjoying and incorporating your suggestions.

Marianne, your comment is priceless and has me giggling. No! JM does not worry about washing the walls first. I remember a conversation with my best friend, who was complaining that her husband does the same (no bothering to clearn first). I do appreciate my the just get it done philosophy (as for me, I would spend so much time lining up the tools, sponges, and what nots--that the project would never take off!)

Jeri, I meant to thank you, too, for the explanation (that cover up, here is used as a verb--so no need for that hyphen). I am beginning to understand the when and where of hyphes a little better.

Rebecca, I kept poke (but did look it up: poke = a quick push with a pointed object; JM did indeed quickly push that pointy paintbrush -- or poke me in the nose with it!

Ron, good idea to add *playfully* -- which makes it clear that JM is not offended (or irritated); he takes the orders light-heartedly

Thanks again, to all who wrote in. Your thoughts have helped me to clear up a few cloudy areas. I hope the story is reading smoothly (and that no typos have been introduced in the editing process!)

Kristin Espinasse

P.S. Rebecca, I did see your edits for Friday. Thanks for the help. Re how many more stories? We are now one-third of the way through, with these nine stories. Yah-hoo!

mhwebb in NM, USA

The grammar on this one looks good to me.

Although the first sentence in the last paragraph is fine as it stands, somehow my mind expects to read "neglects" instead of "forgets" so that it reads, "Because Mr. Touch-up neglects to mention where he's been,..". That's a silly little change, I know, but you wanted feedback.

Rebecca Q T

One third! We can do it! Hooray.

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