L’ Esprit D’Escalier: Part Eighteen, Valéry.

by | Dec 17, 2023 | Uncategorized | 1 comment

This led to a discovery of an unfinished manuscript by an unknown writer

The door clicked shut. Silence descended on the remaining trio and with it, a sense of thorniness. The false affection dissolved like jelly in boiling water at Lucien’s exit. The fox had escaped the pack and left a vacuum which could not be filled. He had been the subject of their derision and his vulnerability no longer remained.

Marielle tugged on the ornate cord hanging from the ceiling. The faint ring of a bell sounded from somewhere in the apartment. Pascal Crozac, the long-suffering man servant and secretary of the Deschamp household, appeared genie-like, from the source of the bell.

“Clear this lot up Pascal. I am less than impressed with your choice of asparagus, it was woody,” she clipped at the flunky. Pascal, already bent half-double, stooped further at the rebuke of his mistress. 

“Yes ma’am, sorry ma’am.” His bronzed, bald head shone in the lights of the hallway. The vicious trio rounded on their second choice victim, however the sport wasn’t as thrilling as goading the good doctor. As Pascal began to clear the dishes, the three bade farewell, in a more sober manner.

Gaston and Valery shared the claustrophobic lift, something the latter dreaded. To be so close to the object of his desire sent the little man into a combination of rapturous longing and crushing embarrassment. The ten second journey was both too short and too long for his opposing emotions. The two men parted in the foyer with hardly a word. Gaston strolled over to his Basalt Black Porsche Carrera GT and slid into it, out of view and reach of the other man. Not for the first time, Valery was enveloped in the freezing fog of solitude at the loss of his love.

***

Valery de Souza was as French as most of the population of Paris. In other words, he wasn’t. His family were former Portuguese colonialists from Goa. However, his ancestry could be traced back to the children of Moses. By the time Valery arrived in the world, his family’s faith had come full circle. During the war, his parents had escaped the Nazis by fleeing to Switzerland along with their fortune, which was unfortunately left behind when they returned to France. Consequently, young Valery spent his youth reading, in the rear of his parents’ tiny pawn shop.

The young man loved literature, and his parents loved him. Enough to put a few Francs away, every month, from their meagre profits to pay for his education. School was a paradox for Valery, he adored classes but was the subject of a campaign of bullying from his fellow students. As a result, he perfected the art of invisibility, slinking into the background, whilst observing his fellow students. This became a template for the formative years of his education. The combination of consuming classic literature, and his keen people watching skills fed Valery’s vocation of becoming a writer. He penned thousands of words, never to be read by the public. They weren’t deemed to be good enough by the self-deprecating author.

Valery won a scholarship to the Literature department of the Sorbonne and his parents’ prudence provided the means for the young man to live comfortably amongst his well-off fellow students. It was there that he met his three friends and they became inseparable. 

The formality and subjective nature of the course knocked any creativity that Valery had out of him. On graduation, all he had was a top class academic degree and an empty mind.

Valery went on to study for a PhD in French Literature. This led to a discovery of an unfinished manuscript by an unknown writer, in the bowels of the university archives. The author had been mistakenly guillotined during the revolution, like hundreds of other victims. The young man was absorbed by the sheer genius of the work and soaked the words up like a sponge. Eventually, he decided to steal the manuscript and finish it, submitting the result for publication.

The novel was subject to a bidding war which saw Valery offered a six figure sum for its exclusivity. Vindicating the publisher’s confidence, it went on to be a record breaking best seller. Valery remained in the elite circles to which his parents’ investment and his own academic genius had propelled him. He retained the writing style of the unfortunate author and applied it, as if possessed by his ghost, to his own discarded manuscripts. They all went on to repeat the success of his first novel.

Valery’s success continued, as did his love for the young sculptor Gaston Trebuchet. His unrequited affection accompanied him through life, causing Valery to distract himself with food, alcohol and drugs. Externally he was the darling of the literature world and a valued member of the foursome. However, internally, he was deeply saddened by his adoration for Gaston. The only pleasure he got was rounding on Lucien at their monthly meetings. There, he could show off in front of his love. Nevertheless, his efforts always fell on stony ground, thanks to that bitch Marielle. She made her own obsession for Gaston plain, to the annoyance of both men. Valery felt sorry for the fourth member of the quartet whilst admiring the doctor’s commitment to his patients. Something he would never admit to.

***

He walked a few hundred metres to the nearest bar, where he sought refuge in a triple whisky and soda.

1 Comment

  1. Kenneth Childs

    Story is getting complex now.

    Reply

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