~ Friday January 29
‘Will you walk a little faster?’ said a whiting to a snail,
There’s a porpoise close behind us, and he’s treading on my tail.
1:30 a.m. We walked the streets along the river for over an hour, and then circled back to the Bateaux-Mouches boat dock. It was deserted.
“Someone has stolen the rental car.” Nigel said.
“Nigel, not to offend the rental company, but that little car hardly seems like a desirable automobile. See there are two Mercedes, a lovely Fiat, a BMW and that cute red Volkswagen beetle parked along the curb. I don’t think a thief would have chosen that little nameless rental over these cars. Let’s take a taxi back to the hotel and look for the car in the morning.”
At that very moment, a shadowy figure ran up to us and flung a fistful of what smelled like rotten fish at Nigel, I was collateral damage. Another guy ran up, and swearing in French, flung a second wad of goo.
Nigel took it in his stride. “Jump back on the boat, love. I’ll lead them away.” He turned and sprinted down the road with the fish-flingers in hot pursuit.
I leaped from the seawall to the empty dinner boat managing to get my high heeled feet on the deck while grasping the horizontal safety rope with both hands. My feet slipped and the weight of my butt pulled me off balance. I dangled from the ropes with my nose pressed against the germy hull.
No one saw which was good for my self-image but sucked because it meant no help was on the way. I craned down at the inky black water, a plastic bag floated at my feet in a rain-bowed oil slick.
Think. Think. I pushed off from the hull with my forehead trying to reach the seawall with my feet. I scraped my brow. This had to be my imagination. If I hung on long enough I would wake up.
Using my velvet pumps, I tried to hook onto the seawall but both shoes loosened and fell into the river. My mind raced. If Nigel didn’t return and I hung there, would anyone find me? I wasn’t about to let go and fall into the Seine in a cocktail dress. Where were my stalkers when I needed them?
2:00 a.m. I had been hanging from the side of the dinner boat for about thirty minutes; my fingers were stiff, permanently formed into claws. My feet were frozen and my bladder was bursting. I heard footsteps. “Alice? Where are you?”
My voice was scratchy and I had trouble forming the word. “Help… ”
I could hear Nigel race past me and leap onto the boat. Bully for him. He walked the deck calling my name.
I had one last breath in me. “Help” I called.
He ran toward me. Thank you, sweet lord. He laughed and grasped my wrists. My fingers popped when I tried to let go of the rope as he pulled me onboard.
Nigel held me close to his pinstriped chest and guided me to tarp covered deck chairs. My guy smelled like a third world fish-market-garbage-can on a hot day.
“Who were those guys?” I whispered.
“Paris hoodlums – The Gourmet Gang. They take great delight in throwing rotten fish at Englishmen. There’s been a spate of that lately.”
It took another twenty minutes for me to gain the nerve to leap from the boat back to the seawall. Nigel hailed a taxi. The cabby opened all his windows on the drive back to the Chunnel Chateau.
We burst into our hotel room. I elbowed Nigel for the bathroom and jumped into the shower, turned the water to the hottest, and scrubbed for all I was worth. I finished off with a thick coating of anti-bacterial hand wash over my entire body. And put on a fresh pair of socks.
Nigel tried to beg off showering, he said he was exhausted.
“Are you kidding?” I pushed him into the shower, suit and all. Then I popped two pink pills and fell sound asleep. My White Rabbit had saved me from a slimy death in the Seine.
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