Missing: Part One.

by | Mar 9, 2024 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

The two cylinder Boxer engine coughed, then died.

The battered 2CV Fourgannette bounced into Ploubazlanec village square. The two cylinder Boxer engine coughed, then died. 

“Will this do young man?” The driver shouted, failing to adjust to the silence.

“Thank you. This is perfect. I am grateful for your kindness,” the tourist replied in his best French.

“Not at all Jaw. I hope you find what you’re looking for.” The old man’s voice hadn’t compensated  for the unconscious Citroen. “ Don’t forget, you are welcome in my home anytime. It’s only a twenty minute walk from here. Ask anyone in the village, they all know me,” he continued. His swarthy pock-marked face, which resembled the nearby sea-battered rocks, showed true sincerity. His eyes, mindful of two shining mussels clinging to the rock, displayed intelligence.

“I will be sure to take you up on your kind offer,” the passenger responded. “By the way it’s João, you can call me Jean, it’s the same.” He stepped out of the van, causing it to rock gently on its tired springs. Had João not been a hardened sailor, he pondered, he would have surely been stricken by seasickness. The combination of the ancient van’s suspension, the bomb cratered roads and the constant smell of petrol was a nauseating concoction. He’d spent more comfortable times on a choppy day in the Bay of Biscay.

He managed to close the paper-thin door at the third attempt, fearing it would fall off its hinges, and waved goodbye to his benefactor. The driver breathed life into the old vehicle and the resulting cloud of black smoke dissipated to reveal two stone pillars. João recognised them from his research, as the two columns which guarded the Cimetière De Ploubazlanec.

The upright on the left bore a sign in brown and cream, of the kind directed at tourists.

MUR DES  DISPARUS EN MER

Wall of the Missing at Sea, João translated into his native Portuguese. His chest tightened at the words on the sign as he prepared to enter the graveyard. In contrast to the single figure temperature, he began to sweat in several places. The cold liquid on his skin did its work and he shivered.  João had no time to prepare himself as he was hit by the first plaque.

Fixed to the stone wall by rusting brackets, the marble tribute had cracked in four. One quarter, the lower left, had parted from its fellow pieces and hung precariously. All he could make out from the faded inscription was a year, a christian name, and one word which would become a common theme.

1922

Guillaume

Regrets

The young man’s feelings were mixed at the sight of the mournful memorial. Regret, as it concluded, for those lost and those left behind, and a sense of relief that he hadn’t achieved his goal. Taking in a lungful of the damp, chilling air, João worked his way along the linear tributes to those claimed by the waves. He felt like a visitor to a macabre gallery of morbid paintings. Each one a story of anguish in the name of survival.

João kept a mental tally of those lost on each plaque, until he lost count around one hundred and eighty. Then, all at once, it was there in front of him. The sensation was sub-zero, Arctic, reflecting the words on the stone. ISLANDE, ICELAND. Words which looked like they had just been carved by the engraver, on a slab freshly cut by the mason.

The names, the date, the vessel; all so familiar to him even though he was seeing it for the first time.

…et son fils Jean

17 ans

Regrets

…and his son John, seventeen years old…Regrets.

His search was over. Or rather, had just begun.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Receive an email notification for new posts

Loading