Canvas: Toile, carte bancaire, papeterie and belle époque in French
Friday, May 22, 2009
French art and a classic car along the port in St. Tropez
Françoise has not changed much in the three years since Mom and I have frequented her art shop. She still has her ballerina-thin figure and still paints cherry-red streaks through her chocolate-brown hair; the contrast is as stark as her customers' paintings, which line the store's entrance hall and make shoppers feel smug about their own art.
At the cash register, when I take out my carte bancaire, Françoise still picks up the phone to call over to the papeterie, shouting for them to bring back the hand-held credit-card processor (the one the two stores have always shared, never mind the inconvenience).
"Moins vingt... moins vingt... moins vingt...." Françoise mumbles, as she tallies up the art supplies. She still gives my mom twenty percent off all items, and then rounds down the total. This morning she even threw in a freebie.
"Those paintbrushes have been discontinued," she said. "I can offer this one to your maman."
To this day, Françoise listens to my mom's English, only to reply in French. Just how the two women can understand each other is high art to me. The paintings which result from their exchanges need not be translated either. They are, like the language barrier the women have overcome, indeed like love itself, transcendent.
* * *
Returning a few years later, Mom and I were shocked to discover that Françoise's shop had closed down. Standing out on the sidewalk, we stared sadly at the handwritten sign in the window; it read "A VENDRE". Our eyes caught on a bold reflection in the window; we turned to discover the bigger, fancier, more deluxe store that had opened across the street....
Unlike Françoise's window, which displayed tubes of paint, brushes, and even a few modest creations of her customers, the competitor's windows were filled with a new rage: "scrapbooking"... ink pads, stamps, glue and tiny cutouts crowded the window.
At the back of the glittery new store, a few paint supplies hung, like the end of a belle époque.
Click here to leave an edit or suggestion in the comments box. Thanks for checking the vocab section, below. Note: the story was originally published without the sad post note (about the shop closing). Do you think the postnote should be included in the book? Or leave off the story with the happy ending?
la toile = canvas
la carte bancaire = credit/debit card
la papeterie = office/school supply store
moins vingt = minus twenty (percent)
la maman = mom
à vendre = for sale
la belle époque = beautiful era
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but are, like the language barrier the women have overcome--indeed, like love itself-- transcendent. (You don't need the second "they are."
bigger, fancier, more deluxe store (not "deluxer"!)
Posted by: Leslie | Monday, April 23, 2012 at 01:38 PM
I wonder where Francoise went and what she's doing now? Maybe you could find out and complete the story. Perhaps it was her own idea to retire, or she had to move for some reason, or... who knows? If there's an ending in there, good or bad, my vote would be to leave it in, unless you only want to focus on your mother's and her ability to communicate through a language barrier.
I would rework part of the sentence before the Post Note. The last part, "they are transcendent"... the "they are" part doesn't fit.
the paintings that result from their exchanges need not be translated either, but are, like the language barrier the women have overcome--indeed, like love itself--they are transcendent.
How about this: "the paintings that result from their exchanges need not be translated either, but are, like the language barrier the women have overcome--indeed, like love itself--transcendent."
Or, "the paintings that result from their exchanges need not be translated either, but are, like the language barrier the women have overcome, transcendent--indeed, like love itself."
I like the first one better.
Best wishes on your latest endeavor!
Posted by: Cyndy | Monday, April 23, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Good morning Kristin,
I like both stories and think they should both be included. Happy stories are fine but this is what is happening in all parts of the world today and it, at least to me, invokes memories of places that have changed and stores that have died. It makes your story all the more real and interesting.
Posted by: Louise Tramontano | Monday, April 23, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Thank you all for these edits and suggestions! Ive worked them in.
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Monday, April 23, 2012 at 03:08 PM
"scrapbooking". Just a little copy edit - change to "scrapbooking."
I enjoyed Blossoming in Provence and also like your more mature stories, as you call them. You can do them all, one at a time. Walks in the countryside will loosen up that writer's block - could be something really big coming.
Posted by: Rosalie Isom | Monday, April 23, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Perhaps "for Mom to use "
"---hair.The contrast (a new sentence I think)
"---which the women have overcome "
I agree that something like a walk or listening to good music might help the 'block'
Bonne chance !
Posted by: Audrey Wilson | Monday, April 23, 2012 at 05:14 PM
My eyes caught no mistakes in this one. A sad hunting day for me but a congratulatory moment for you. I think you could dedicate an hour to fleshing out the "epilogue" to this story and make it really something special. As a matter of fact, you could rework both stories, combining them into one potentially poignant tale. For example, you might open with you and your mom's encounter with the A VENDRE sign and then go into the story of your previous meetings with the lovely Françoise, ending with one of your Espinassian musings on love and change. I think it could be very powerful. Just a thought!
Posted by: Rebecca Q. T. in Baltimore | Monday, April 23, 2012 at 05:18 PM
I really like this story --- I would leave in the last part of the story. It is the point of the story ------a lot of the mom & pop stores have been closed due to the big box stores. And a lot of the charm has disappeared.
Again, it is not about the structure of the piece, it is about the warmth
and meaning you bring forth.
When I read your musings, I am always transported to Provence.
Posted by: Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR | Monday, April 23, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Our eyes caught on a bold reflection in the window;
I don't think you need "on" here.
Posted by: Sharon Marchisello | Monday, April 23, 2012 at 06:02 PM
I think you need to add the translation of la toile at the beginning of the story
Posted by: Herronali | Monday, April 23, 2012 at 09:19 PM
You need to add an acute e accent to the first e in epoque in the very last line of your story. You have it right in the vocabulary list.
It's a lovely and touching anecdote, and I think the final paragraphs only add to its poignancy.
Posted by: pamela | Monday, April 23, 2012 at 09:40 PM
'Post note' seems unnecessary, given you have the row of stars. In fact, simply saying, Returning a few years later
is very clear.
There are at least 3 times of buying from Françoise -- 3 years before the story begins, the time of the story describing them talking one in French one in English, yet somehow understanding each other making la belle epoque,
and third, a few years later.
The lingering question in my mind -- was your mother sad at the loss of Françoise, of une belle epoque ? Had the time of painting healed her, and she too had moved on?
Posted by: Sarah LaBelle near Chicago | Monday, April 23, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Thanks, Ali, for noticing that the definition was left out. Yikes!
Rosalie, I hope this punctuation problem was resolved by the use of the three elipses .... P.S. thanks for your lovely encouragement re writing.
Audrey, good idea re for Mom to use. In the next edit, I've left the semi-colon am still trying to decide whether to use "which"... or to leave as is.
Rebecca, the story would be wonderful that way, rearranging the different parts. I will keep that in mind in case I ever expand the story.
Merci Faye and Sharon and Pamela and Sarah. Some of your edits have gone in (others I'm still unsure of :-) Thanks for your response to the story and for the writing prompts.
Does anyone see any other *coquilles* (or typos). If not, I will go ahead and transfer this story to the manuscript (thump, thump, thump... goes the heart!)
French Word-A-Day http://french-word-a-day.com
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 03:24 PM
I'm being unbelievably nitpicky, but, technically when you start a quotation, you don't need the ellipses; when you end a sentence with ellipses, you should use four--one is a period (in this case, since it's a quote, you use the comma instead), and the other three are the ellipses. So:
"Moins vingt . . . moins vingt . . . moins vingt . . . ," Francoise mumbles.
Also being nitpicky, it's better to insert a space between the dots in the ellipses (. . . )than to run them together (...).
And this is fine as is--just remove the unnecessary comma after "either":
the paintings that result from their exchanges need not be translated either but are, like the language barrier the women have overcome—indeed, like love itself—transcendent.
I assure you that absolutely nobody will care in the slightest about any of this. You are a wonderful writer, and I encourage you to remember the old saying (with apologies to teachers): "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach." Or, in this case, nitpick.
Posted by: Jeri | Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 08:53 PM
I just have a few word choice suggestions. In the opening sentence, "haul toile" sounds awkward to me, and so I would rework the end of that line. "since I used to buy toiles in her shop for my mom to use." The emphasis in the sentence should be on Françoise, and not how you transport the canvas.
In the second paragraph, I would say "which the two stores" rather than "the one the two stores".
In the third paragraph, I would make this change: "She still gives my mom twenty percent off all items, and then rounds down the total." You repeat the phrase "only to" in the next paragraph, and it has more weight it you eliminate it here.
In the second to last paragraph, I would replace "sported" with "displayed." To me, the word "display" has more of an art connotation. It also feels like a less aggressive word than "sported," when you're describing the scrapbooking store as the more showy replacement.
In the last sentence, I would insert the word "new" as in "the glittery, new store".
Like Sarah, I'm wondering what became of Françoise. How did you and your mother feel, not just at the loss of this shop that you cared about, but the relationship you built with its charming owner?
Posted by: Kris | Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 09:21 PM
As one of your other readers mentioned, I would also like to know more about your experiences with Françoise. Definitely leave in the part when you and your maman discover the "A Vendre" sign. It fleshes out the story and not only addresses a situation that is happening in many countries, but also adds a touch of the melancholy that we all feel when something treasured is replaced by something that is new but lacking in charm. This has happened in a town near us: the old downtown has been entirely re-done and businesses run by the same family for generations have been told they don't fit the new image the city council wants to project. Everything must be new and homogeneous in style!
Posted by: Barbara Penn - Palmdale, California | Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 08:40 AM
Thanks, Jeri! I have taken your suggestion to not begin the quotes with those elipses. However, Ive put a fourth period (in place of the comma) in the folowing quote: Moins vingt... moins vingt... moins vingt....
Kris, I agree and have changed it to: Françoise has not changed much in the three years since Mom and I have frequented her art shop. I have also incorporated your other suggestions (displayed is so much better than sported. Françoise was not the sporty type anyway:-). Many thanks.
Barbara and those of you who suggested I add how Mom and I felt. Good idea. I will think about it. (The quick answer is: we were terribly sad! Françoise rocked! and what a generous and encouraging spirit she had. Because we did not know her personally--beyond the handful of visits to her shop--we did not know what became of her.)
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 04:58 PM
In that long paragraph about Francoise and your Mom overcoming the language barrier, I'd like to suggest the following:
Just how the two women can understand each other is high art to me. The paintings which result from their exchanges need not be translated either. They are, like the language barrier the women have overcome, indeed like love itself, transcendent.
The original text is a run-on sentence. The separate sentences add clarity and move the text along more smoothly.
The story is a beautiful vignette. Two women from different cultures, brought together by their mutual love of art. Lovely.
Posted by: Luci | Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 02:37 AM
Luci, thank you for this perfectly smooth solution!
This story is about to be transferred over to the manuscript. Have all the edits been included--without introducing an accidental typo--yikes--in the process? Thanks to anyone currenty reading, with fresh eyes!
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 08:19 AM