Read The Adventures of Mademoiselle Mac 2-Book Bundle Online
Authors: Christopher Ward
Rachel Mackenzie, the original “Mac,”
for the inspiration
Robin for the joy of adventure
and Mom and Dad for the love of reading
“It's summer in Paris. You can't wear only sneakers!” My mom pleadingly held up a pair of lemon-coloured sandals for inspection as my dad peered into a stack of guidebooks.
“It's a school walking tour, Mom, not tea at the Ritz ... and besides, my ankle's still a bit swollen.” I instantly regretted reminding her of last week's “incident,” when I'd tied some sheets together and parachuted off their bedroom balcony.
“Did you realize that the Erik Satie museum in Paris, celebrating the famous twentieth-century composer, is the smallest in the world?” My dad hummed an obscure melody, bouncing his head lightly from side to side. “Oh, but it's by appointment only.”
I feigned disappointment as my mom launched a chiffon offensive. “And this picks up your eyes beautifully,” she said, wrapping something caramel-coloured and more than a little itchy around my neck. “How I envy you, sipping a coupe of champagne ... or rather, a Shirley Temple at the CafÃ© de Flore in the very heart of the artistic
on Boulevard St. Germain.” At this she became a little dreamy, and I saw my chance to tuck the sandals back in the closet with the scarf and floral frocks.
“Hey sweetie, did you know that they still leave roses daily on the grave of the little sparrow, Edith Piaf, at the PÃ¨re Lachaise cemetery?” He sang her famous song, “La Vie en Rose,” in a fluty falsetto as he waltzed my mom around the bedroom.
While they were distracted, I put seven of every item of clothing I'd need in my backpack, along with my copy of Victor Hugo's
Notre Dame de Paris
, number one on our summer reading list, and snapped it shut. “Okay. Done.”
“Don't forget this.” My dad handed me the letter from his old friend and former bandmate, Rudee Daroo. “It takes some time to catch on to Rudee-speak, but he'll give you a great cab driver's view of Paris.” Rudee, a classically trained organist, had toured with my dad's band one summer way back before they had computers. My mom loves the scrapbook, which features pictures of my dad with a ponytail and a mushroom-embroidered vest. Rudee was the resident clown who had supposedly once played a keyboard solo with his nose and with his feet in the air. Other tales of his love for pickled herring juice and beets always seem to bring choruses of laughter, but I guess that's just adult humour. The letter looked like someone had served dinner on it.
Hey Mr. Bigsport,
Good to hear from you after so many spin cycles. How are you and the pretty missus? So you are air mailing the little Mac to Paris to smell some buildings. Good
I understand architexture you know.
I'm fine. No, I'm not. I've got a problem and I don't know what it is. It's Sashay. She says her gig at the Moulin D'Or is in danger and it's the only place she can dance and that when this one ends she's going to do one last twirl and disappear. And there is something strange about the city but I'm not going to tell you because no one believes me and you already think I'm mad as a dormitory.
Nevermind. Send the sprout to the Pont Neuf when I go on my brakes at 4. Jerome the bookseller will find me.
Yours for days, Rudee
My mom watched with trembling lips as we got in the car to pick up my friend Penelope on the way to the airport. I was glad that Mom was off to “Twigs and Roots,” her annual yoga retreat in the hills near Santa Barbara. Mellow is good for moms.
My dad called from the driver's seat, “Okay, let's go, Mac, or as they say in France, â
The “Mac” is short for Mackenzie. My mom is a teacher and my dad is a songwriter, and we live in California in Upper Mandeville, which tells you that there's a Lower Mandeville. Both towns are made up of wood-and-brick houses that run the length of a very green canyon, not far from the ocean. Sycamore trees surround our house. The teetering redwood fence has ruby-coloured bougainvillea climbing over it, and my mom has planted roses and calla lilies all around the property. There are lots of creatures that share the place with us â hummingbirds, lizards, dragonflies, deer, the odd skunk, and even the occasional bobcat.
I like Upper Mandeville. It's a little quieter, not as ritzy as Lower Mandeville, where my friend Penelope lives. The trees meet over the road, and it's easier to get lost, which I like to do whenever I can, and it has more butterflies.
When we passed through the gates and pulled up in front of Penelope's house, she rolled out her matching set of pink Louis Vuitton luggage in top international girly-girl form, lowered her giant sunglasses and flicked a tiny wave in the direction of her parents. “
Au revoir, maman, papa
... Paris awaits.” Inside the car, she snapped her first of a million photos, me cross-eyed, pretending to read Victor Hugo upside down.
Airport. Waiting room. Plane. Luggage. Customs. Bus. Paris!!!
Most of a day and almost 6,000 miles later, I stood with Penelope and ten other girls from my advanced French class outside the student residence in the Latin Quarter that was to be our home for the next week. A stream of taxis and a blustery wind swept down the ancient boulevard. The whole street resembled one giant cafÃ©. We didn't manage the “two straight lines” thing, but it still reminded me of an American version of Madeline and her posse. The school chaperone handed us off, a little too hastily, I thought, and disappeared into a nearby
for the first
of the rest of her life. Our Parisian tour guide, Mademoiselle Lesage, batted her eyelashes like Audrey Hepburn and spoke in a bird-like trill.
Les filles. Les filles!
, welcome to Paris. Before we check you into your rooms, I want to say how excited I am to guide you on your architectural tour of the beauties of Paris. From the gothic majesty of Notre Dame to the breathtaking modernity of I.M. Pei's Louvre pyramid, we shall see it all....”
“Those hand gestures look like she's making doves fly out of a hat,” I whispered, and Penelope bit her lip. I checked my watch and realized I was going to have to sneak away soon if I was going to meet Rudee on time.
“... and the Renaissance creations that honour Marie de Medici, the Italian wife of Henry IV, whose sculpture is featured on the Pont Neuf....”
“Excuse me,” I interrupted, “Mademoiselle Lesage, is the Pont Neuf near here?”
, it's but a few minutes walk along the
,” she replied, gesturing vaguely toward the river. “But why do you ask?”
“Oh, it's just that, you know ... Henry and Marie ... I'm a big fan of the reno at the Louvre.”
She continued with a puzzled expression. “And who could ignore the baroque glory of Louis XIV, the âSun King,' whose vision for the incomparable âLes Invalides' was inspired, they say, by St. Peter's in Rome.”
“Penelope, can you cover for me if I slip away for a few hours?”
“No problem,” she said, “when she's taking attendance, I'll just put on a beret, go to the other side of the group and look restless.”
“Ha-ha, and thanks,” I said, giving Penelope a little hug. Mademoiselle Lesage seemed to be just warming up.
“... and the tiny little oval windows known as â
oeil de boeuf,'
which means ... anyone?” she paused hopefully, “eye of the beef, of course.”
As the wind picked up, so did the pedestrians' pace along the Quai des Grand Augustins (no just plain Elm Street here); I hustled along with the crowd, my backpack bouncing behind me. Looking over the wall to the River Seine below, I saw barges and tourist boats passing under bridges and kids with guitars taking shelter ahead of what felt like a coming storm. Booksellers unravelled plastic wrap over tables of books and posters. Just beyond them I spotted a beautiful old bridge with stone half-moon shapes on it and a statue of a man on a horse.
“A little lost,
?” A bookseller who looked as old as the bridge itself called out to me. At that moment the sky opened, and a wild rain crashed down upon us. He quickly began closing up his bookstall. “Here, you'll need this today,” he said and handed me a tattered umbrella with the head of a duck on the wooden handle.
“Thank you,” I said and struggled to open it as the wind tried to gather me up. “Who is the statue of and what bridge is this?”
He pulled his coat around his neck and continued closing his stall. “That's Henri the Fourth, one of the great kings of France, and this is the Pont Neuf.” He smiled at me through a bushy white beard. “That means ânew bridge,' although it's actually not so new; it was built about four hundred years ago. It's the oldest bridge in Paris.”
A rivulet of rain slipped through a hole in the umbrella and ran unnoticed down my face. I must have looked a bit like a statue myself.
“C'mon, I don't want you to catch a cold on your first day in France, little one. Rudee's waiting at the cabstand. It's Mac, isn't it? I'm Jerome.”
There was only one taxi idling at the corner, and in the time it took the bookseller and me to reach it, the driver had waved away a businessman with his briefcase on top of his head and a tourist couple trying to stuff a wad of bills through the crack in the window.
Jerome tapped at the cab window and leaned in to speak with the driver, who turned to look at me intensely.
“Good luck, Mademoiselle Mac,” Jerome said as he waved and disappeared into the rainy street.
The door was barely closed before the cab took off over the Pont Neuf. I think I would have felt safer on the back of Henri the Fourth's horse.
The taxi was filled with seriously gloomy organ music, and a deodorizer in the shape of a beet dangled from the ashtray. In the mirror, a pair of stormy eyes glared at me from under a forehead that resembled the edge of a cliff. Over the seat, which was covered in those little wooden balls you only ever see in a taxi, I could make out a helmet of hair wedged on an otherwise bald head that I recognized from my dad's scrapbook as belonging to Rudee Daroo. I smiled and a voice growled from the front seat, “Who pushed the funny button?”
“My name is Mac, and my dad ...”
“Yesyesyes, I know him well, and why you were not here yesterday is not worth the sound of the clock.”
I felt like I needed a translator, but I pressed on. “I did
yesterday, Rudee, but it's an overnight flight, so you see ...” I realized why he might have expected me the day before, “... anyway, my dad told me all about you and the band, and he played me the tapes of the Pipeline Tour and the nose solo ...”
Rudee snorted and turned down a narrow street, squeezing past a double-decker tourist bus. “Don't make me smoke out loud. I should send you straight home, but the least I can do is give you a bowl of borscht.”
Borscht wasn't my first choice, but I was very hungry. Rudee turned up the organ music till the doors rattled, so I sat back and got my first look at the old stone wonders of Paris on a rainy day. He navigated the taxi down an impossibly narrow alley and into a vine-covered shed before leading the way, grumbling to himself, into the shadow of a gloriously beautiful church with three spires, two of which were topped with gleaming gold crosses. It seemed ancient and dream-like to me. We rushed into a side entrance and up a set of stairs to a small apartment with two tiny rooms. Shelves of cracked dishes, plastic flowers, a stopped clock, and an intense odour of cooking vegetables greeted me.
The source of the smell that hung in the air like a damp towel was soon revealed as Rudee starting warming his pot of borscht, stirring happily and whistling some sombre little melody.
“Rudee, where are we?” I asked.
“The Ãglise Russe, the Russian church where I play the organ every Sunday, little quarter note. The taxi is just to make ends meet during the week. Here you go.”
He placed a bowl of purple steam in front of me with the first smile I had seen from him, and I was glad for both. A plate of bread with a crust like concrete, but soft inside, helped the beets go down. “Listen, I'm sorry for being upset. I thought I had misplaced you, and I've been sweating marbles since yesterday, but ... so, your daddy played you âBack Burner,' did he?”
I nodded and he seemed pleased. While I ate, he told me some of the history of the Ãglise Russe, including the fact that Picasso had gotten married there, and all about some music composers from behind what he called the “Cabbage Curtain.” He asked if I had noticed that one of the crosses was missing from the spire in the middle of the church and told me sadly about the recent theft. By the time Rudee got to his version of the immortal Pipeline Tour, I was feeling a bit woozy.
“Okokok, little Mac, you need to count some winks, I can see. You can stay in the turret tonight, and we'll get you back to your class tomorrow.”
I was too weak to argue, so he grabbed my backpack and led me up a wooden staircase with no railing into a spire of the church. The air seemed different, fragrant but older and definitely dustier. The first thing I noticed by the light of the candle that Rudee left burning was the stained glass windows. They had panels like a comic book of saints and kings and queens, plus a lot of people in robes and hoods. I'm not sure how a full-sized person could sleep on the wooden bed that was attached to one wall and followed the curve of the church tower. There was a sparse library of very heavy-looking books. The corners of the bookshelves were tiny carved angels that seemed to guard the bed. Who had they looked down on and protected before me, I wondered. I didn't feel as sleepy as I should have, so I pulled out the smallest book I could find from the shelf. It still felt like a box of bricks. Inside were paintings of a beautiful church like this one and winding streets filled with food carts, dogs, and children playing.