Roulez au Pastis (c) Kristin Espinasse









Jean-Marc with his genial 'mop-spear'. Read on...


noun, feminine
a spear

While preparing for a romantic getaway, I asked my husband where he had set his suitcase. That was when he informed me he wasn't taking one. I guessed the shirt on his back would be, once again, sufficient for an overnight trip, and that he would just borrow my toothbrush and deodorant, comme d'habitude.

No matter how many times I object—Beurk!—regarding the toothbrush-sharing and—c'est pour les femmes!—concerning the deodorant, he does as he pleases. Such accoutrements and hygienic hassles are unimportant details—downright snags—in his very down-to-earth existence.

Meantime, life beckons with its rugged, cobalt-blue sea and its remote, Mediterranean coves now bursting with succulent sea urchins. Such were the treasures we were about to rediscover over the weekend, on the quaint French island of Porquerolles, where Jean-Marc had reserved a Valentine's Day retreat.

On the eve of our departure, I found my husband in the kitchen fashioning an impromptu spear from a floor mop.

"Where'd you get that?" I questioned, pointing to my mop.

"I didn't think you used it," he said, innocently.

"That's beside the point!"

Rather than argue, Jean-Marc began to pierce holes in one end of the mopstick, having already removed its stringy top....

"Hey! What are you doing?!" I asked as I stood there, goggle-eyed, not sure whether I really cared about the mop, but shocked, all the same, to witness its demise.

Jean-Marc opened the silverware drawer and reached for a fork. He had found an old shoelace and was now using it to tie the fork to the end of the mop. For an instant, I was tempted to calculate just how many gasoline points we had saved to pay for that fork... only this, too, was beside the point. Come to think of it, just what was the point? What on earth was he rigging together this time? A hunting lance, I think he said it was?

"Let it go!" I thought to myself, for the umpteenth time in 10 years of marriage. I walked out of the kitchen, leaving my husband to explore his creative side—at the expense of yet another cooking or cleaning utensil.

By the time we arrived in the coastal town of Hyères to catch the navette, I'd long since gotten over the novelty of the wacky, homemade hunting implement. It was when we began to receive odd looks from the other passengers that I realized just how goofy (worse—psychopathic!) my husband appeared, sitting there with a blank look on his face and the mop-fork spear at his side. One woman got up and changed seats. Another pulled her child close. A few people whispered. More than one set of eyes narrowed.

Jean-Marc sat oblivious to the commotion. I'm certain he was dreaming of the day's catch—all those spiky oursins (and the delicacy inside them: sea urchin roe), the ones he would soon rake in with his clever, multi-purpose outil.

There he sat, dreaming of the new frontiers he would be forging with the aid of his... mop. He was terribly impressed by how the mop-spear doubled as a walking stick.

"Look," he said, tap-tap-tapping it against the ground, stepping gleefully forward and backward for effect.

I shook my head, reminded of life's simple pleasures, and of my husband, who is like the child who pushes aside the newly-acquired toy to play with the champagne cork. May he continue to free himself of life's superficial snags, to enjoy the ongoing adventure that thunders beneath his French feet. May he go forward, unadorned by all that is superflu. May fashion or deodorant never hinder him from his burning quest to discover the rugged coastline, where shellfish rock gently beneath the shimmering sea.

Should the road less traveled ever get too bumpy, he'll have his mopstick to lean on—and he'll have me, too.

French Vocabulary

comme d'habitude = as usual
beurk! = ew, yuck!
la garrigue (f) = Mediterranean scrubland
la navette = shuttle (ferry boat)
une lance = spear
un oursin = a sea urchin
un outil = a tool
le superflu = excess

Did you see any typos or ambiguities? Thank you for pointing them out, here, in the comments box.


Listen: hear Jean-Marc pronounce the word 'lance': Download lance2.wav


baisser la lance = "to lower the spear," to yield; to give in
rompre une lance = "to break a lance" to support an argument
rompre des lances pour quelqu'un = to defend someone
rompre des lances contre quelqu'un = to cross swords with someone
être à beau pied sans lance = "on foot without a spear," to be ruined


Citation du Jour:
La France fut faite à coups d'épée. La fleur de lys, symbole d'unité nationale, n'est que l'image d'un javelot à trois lances. France was built with sword strikes. The fleur-de-lis, symbol of national unity, is only the image of a javelin with three pikes. -Charles de Gaulle

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Della - Colorado, USA

"at the expense of yet another cooking and cleaning utensil."
Perhaps 'and' should be 'or' since we generally don't use the same implements for cleaning and cooking.

"should the off-beaten path ever get too bumpy"
Doesn't read smoothly for the traditional use of the phrase since we generally put 'the' between 'off' and 'beaten'. How about putting the phrase in quotes - should "off the beaten path" ever get too bumpy -

Wonderful story with humor and love.

Hang in there Kristin! The goal is in sight! You'll have something to be thankful for on Thursday - regardless of the condition of the book! A job well done with 'friends' who love your work and spirit.


I wonder if you should clarify the meaning of "navette". Does that word work for any kind of shuttle? or just shuttles over water?


I don't like the last two sentences beginning with "And" which is, of course a conjunction. Perhaps I'm too pedantic. Sandra

Sushil Dawka

Great story!
An observation: Since 'hinterland' is the land behind a coastline, the clause that follows seems a bit odd.
With Regards.

Bill in St. Paul

I agree with Della: "or" works better for me than "and", and "off-beaten" sounds too much like "oft-beaten" which has the opposite meaning from what you want, so I'd add (like Della suggested) "the". (I've got to get up and on-line earlier!)


A typo here where "its" belongs between "removed" and "stringy."

Rather than argue, Jean-Marc began to pierce holes into one end of the mop, having removed is stringy top....

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you very much for these edits! Most of them are in now. On my way back to the story, now, to see about Sushils hinterland suggestion. Also, Sandras and (make that my ands :-)

Kristin Espinasse

Jolley, Ive added ferry boat before navette. I hope this helps.

Sushil, glad you caught that! Ive changed it to coastline.

Della, Ive switched it to road less traveled.  I hope these edits have made the text a little smoother. If anyone is reading now, with fresh eyes, please let me know.



English is not my mother tongue, so just checking. In the paragraph starting with "Let it be" should it be I walked or I walk out of the kitchen?

Sandy Maberly

Not much to change here, Kristi. It flows very nicely and paints a lasting memory in my mind's eye.

Here are some small points:

Rather than argue, Jean-Marc began to pierce holes into one end of the mop, having removed is(its) stringy top....

I walk (walked) out of the kitchen, leaving my husband to explore his creative side, at the expense of yet another cooking and cleaning utensil. (I think this part sounds fine to me "cooking and cleaning utensil". I think it just depends on how each person decided to interpret it.

"And should the off-beaten path ever get too bumpy, he'll have his mopstick to lean on. And he'll have me, too."

Should the journey, off the beaten path, ever get too bumpy, he'll always have his mopstick to lean on and the support of a faithful wife, who carries the back-up fork! (Something along these lines. You'll be able to think of something more exciting/funny/inspirational than my example. I agree that "and" shouldn't begin the sentences, even though our spoken English is full of such grammatical errors.)

Such a funny but tender story, a loving way to reveal the "little boy" who lives inside every man.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you Sandy and Sandra. Ive made a new paragraph out of the last sentence, and Ive taken out the ands. Hoping this reads smoothly, now.

Olga Brown

In the second sentence I would take "That is when" off and in "...,and that he would just borrow..." I would take "that" off also. It would sound smoother.

The story is good, BUT YOU SHOULD WORK ON IT'S SMOOTHNESS! It's doesn't flow smooth to me.
It's hard to do when you are in a time frame, but it's necessary.

Have a good Thanksgiving!

Linda Williams Rorem

Love this sweet story! However, here are two cents from a former copy editor and fact checker:

on the quaint French island of Porquerolles,COMMA HERE where Jean-Marc had reserved a Valentine's retreat.

"Hey! What are you doing?!" I ASKED AS I stood there, goggle-eyed,

A hunting lance,COMMA HERE I think he said it was?

By the time we arrived in the coastal town of Hyérès ACCENTS WRONG, IT'S HYèRES

It is I WOULD DELETE "IT IS" AND START WITH "WHEN," THEN DELETE "THAT" when we began to receive odd looks from the other passengers that I realized

who is like the child that pushes aside the newlyDELETE HYPHEN WITH ADVERBS acquired toy

Betty Gleason


Julie F in St. Louis, MO

"Meantime, life beckoned" -- put in past tense because you've moved from a general description of JM back to the actual telling of the tale.

And on an non-literary matter, is that the handle of le ubiquitous sac, Chief Grape carries everywhere he goes? No luggage and clothes, but le sac, oui?

Judi Miller

I think maybe 'that' should be 'who' in
" the child that pushes aside...." - change to .... like the child who pushes aside...

Another great story of blossoming/unfolding!

Bruce T. Paddock

Hey, Kristin –

I really love the two columns about J-M. He sounds like a trip to be with, and your feelings toward him come through loud and clear. He’s a lucky man.

The second sentence should start, “That was when….”

You should drop the comma after “toothbrush-sharing.”

In the second paragraph, I would cast the second parenthetical as a sentence to match the first one: C’est pour les femmes!

Consider dropping the comma after “life beckons.”

Assuming your reservations were for Valentine’s Day, it was a “Valentine’s Day retreat.”

The fifth paragraph is really three separate paragraphs (“Where’s you…,” “I didn’t…,” and “That’s beside…”), so there should be double spaces between them.

One generally pierces holes “in” something, not “into” something.

Consider adding “already” between “having” and “removed” to make it clearer.

“Let it be” makes me think of the Beatles song. I usually say, “Let it go” to myself, but of course, you can say whatever you want.

The comma after “to myself” is unnecessary but not incorrect.

The comma after “creative side” is probably incorrect. You could delete it or replace it with an em dash — or just leave it there, if that’s what you want.

“Navette = ferry boat” is on the vocab list, but in the story you provide the translation: “…to catch the ferry boat navette….” That’s not your usual style, to just place the French term immediately after the English one.
(I just thought of something. Was the navette a little, tiny boat that shuttled you out to the big ferry? If it was, then “…to catch the ferry boat navette….” would make sense.)

The next sentence should begin, “It was when…”

The tool wasn’t intelligent — I doubt it could even obey simple verbal commands. “Clever” would work instead.

One is generally impressed “by” something rather than “at” something.

Why was he stepping “gingerly” forward and backward?

Should be “…the child who pushes…”

Why is the adventure “beneath his feet”?

Man, I love this one.

Jackie Smith

I absolutely loved this story! What a prince of a husband you have!!!

You wanted input, well here's a couple ideas: Consider changing "to" to "at" to read "sitting there with a blank look on his face and the mop-fork spear AT his side." This to me evokes an image of a knight or warrior armed for battle.

Then why not change "feet" to "beret" which would emphasize his eccentricity as well as being French, qualities your readers admire.
So it would read "to enjoy the ongoing adventure that thunders beneath his French beret..." maybe change "thunders" to "churns" or "brews" or "ferments"?

This involvement in your stories is really fun! Thanks for inviting us all to put in our two cents worth!


Kristin Espinasse

Julie -- you have a sharp eye! Yes, that is indeed the sacoche that goes everywhere with Jean-Marc!

Bruce, thanks for the laughs (re intelligent tools)--needed that. 

Thank you all for these helpful edits. Tomorrow it the due date (but I think it is my head that is due for a decompression (is that a word in English?)

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
I really enjoyed reading this post from 2006 today, since I didn't "find" you until 2009! I'm glad I clicked on the link! Really fun story!

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