L’ Esprit D’Escalier: Part Fifteen.

by | Dec 14, 2023 | Uncategorized | 1 comment

Can you wash and chop these mushrooms? Make sure they’re totally dry before you chop them.

Lucien removed his overcoat and attempted to hang it next to the opulent collection suspended in the hallway.

“No Lucie, not there! We don’t want that thing touching our coats. Put it on the back of the bathroom door when you’ve washed your hands.” He felt another jolt as the penultimate chord gave way leaving his sanity dangling by a solitary thread. One more negative event would see his brain floating like a rudderless ship in his head.

He consented to her demands and hooked the coat onto the back of the toilet door. After washing his hands thoroughly until they stung, for probably the twentieth time that day; he joined Marielle in the kitchen.

She was still insistent on an inspection, the curt nod of her head all he needed to hold his hands out, like a first grader to his teacher.

“You will do. Now, let’s get on with it, the boys are waiting. We have time to make up,” she jabbed at him.

“How are they?” Lucien asked, his mind bereft of anything more constructive to say.

“You’ll find out soon enough. Chances are they’re better than you appear. What on earth have you come as? Surely you must have a budget for clothing?” The role play continued echoing of the classroom. He waited for the next rebuke.

Marielle threw him an apron covered in a map of the City, her City,  north of the Seine.

“Here put that on, hopefully we won’t catch anything. Can you wash and chop these mushrooms? Make sure they’re totally dry before you chop them.” He wanted to escape this throw back to his childhood and would have done anything to do so.

Following almost an hour where the single thread of his sanity was stretched to the limit, everything was ready. Marielle had continually drank from, and topped up, a large wine glass with Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1978. Lucien was offered nothing, not even the vintage Bordeaux he bought, which she’d consigned to the back of an anonymous cupboard muttering something about Bolognese sauce. He craved the distracting buzz of alcohol to numb the agony of his existence.


The pair entered the lounge, which was also adorned with expensive artwork. It was an image of one of the side rooms in the Louvre.

“Voila!” Marielle  exclaimed, referring to the entree. “Oh yes, and look who’s here.” Her cynical grin was sheer poison. The two other guests were male, of comparable age to the two cooks.  That is where their similarity ended.

The first, Gaston Trebuchet, had an almost feminine beauty. Each feature could have been made by the brush of an impressionist stroking the canvas on a Sunday in Montmartre. His raven hair flopped over his forehead and contained individual strands of grey. Far from ageing him, these highlights emphasised his youthful looks. He wore a tobacco brown corduroy shirt over a violet silk singlet and cream cravat. The combination was stunning.

The second guest, Valéry de Souza was the total opposite to Gaston. A chubby individual who obviously liked his food. He had thinning grey hair, combed over, a round puffed face with features that were too small for it. The horn-rimmed RayBan spectacles gave him a studious look and magnified his tiny currant bun eyes. He sported an immaculately tailored olive green three piece wool suit, crisp white cotton shirt and cerise silk tie.

“Muersac! How the Devil are you? How are the great unwashed of the eighteenth?” Gaston flounced. His voice, like a thirties female songstress.

“How many terrorists and scroungers have you brought into the world this week? Still contributing to the downfall of our country?” Added Valéry, chuckling and shoving a breadstick in his mouth.

“Now now boys. Give the good doctor a chance. Someone has to do it while we elite still lend respectability to the Fifth Republic,” Marielle chipped in, her voice thick with sarcasm.

“I see our young President has clipped your wings again Lucie. No exile on Elba for you just yet. You’ll be mopping up after the invasive hordes of Africa until you drop,” continued Valéry, devouring a row of stuffed olives from a cocktail stick.

“It’s Reunion actually,” Lucien whispered tamely.

“Ah, yes. Another tiny rock infested with mosquitos, stuck in the sixties. At least you’ll be dressed for it.” Gaston’s remark sent the three others into fits of laughter.

“He tried to hang that rag of a coat over ours. It’s in the bathroom now. I’ll probably have to fumigate it when he’s gone.” Marielle spoke as if the doctor wasn’t there.

“Don’t tell me you came on the Metro? Don’t you know there’s a bedbug infestation? No doubt brought in by your itinerant patients,” Gaston said waving his hands camply, like silk handkerchiefs.

Lucien tried to find a response in his errant thoughts but his mind was vacuous.

Marielle, recovering from her mirth, served the warm wild mushroom tarts with truffle cream.

“I’ve had the pest control around twice, and they’re not cheap! Precautionary , may I say,” muttered Valéry through a mouthful of starter. “Marielle, darling. This is divine.”

As Lucien took his seat, the final thread relinquished its hold on his reasoning. It was at that point that he decided he would kill his fellow diners.

1 Comment

  1. Kenneth Childs



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