by | May 2, 2024 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

La Cabané á livres, the notice read, on the side of the structure. The Book Shed.

Bernard returned to his adopted town to discover that they had adorned the square in front of the Marie with AstroTurf and wooden furniture. A recreational area they called it, they being the City Council, or the Mairie himself to be precise. He was making a statement having been newly elected to the position a month earlier. The aforementioned recreational area was tastefully executed, consisting of chairs, tables and other items fashioned from the same timber.

He took a seat which resembled an upholstered armchair one would find in the living room, but in wood. It was in one of several small themed enclosures, this one being literature, bordered by planting boxes in the same material and bearing herbs of varying species, neatly labelled with brown paper flags on thin canes. As he relaxed into the sculptured chair and admired the town’s magnificent viaduct, he was interrupted.

“Good morning Bernard, how was the trip? I saw your posts, you seem to have enjoyed yourself.” He turned to see his friend blocking the view, the hazy sun was eclipsed by his head, surrounding it like a halo.

“Hello Richard. I certainly did. Nevertheless, not everyone appreciated them as much as you.” Bernard responded, using his hand as a visor with which to see his friend.

“Ah, yes. Candice you mean? Your reference to Japanese women?” His friend declared. “ Perfect, eh? Do you regret it? May I join you?”

Bernard dismissed the barrage of questions with a wave of his hand to the adjacent seat.

“By all means, and yes I probably do,” He countered. Meanwhile a young boy, accompanied by his mother, entered the compound. He tried to reach for the books that were displayed in the small shed which had been constructed at one end.

La Cabané á livres, the notice read, on the side of the structure. The Book Shed. There were many such structures throughout the region, Bernard recalled, containing second hand books to be borrowed and exchanged free of charge. Returning to his friend, he continued.

“The definition of perfection is a paradox, in my opinion. Or is it just stating the obvious?” He declared as Richard settled into his chair. “‘The state or quality of being perfect.’  Yeah, right, who thought that up?”

“I feel a rant coming,” The other man said. His legs were just too short to reach the green faux grass.

“Let me explain by looking at a synonym of the word – flawless. That is, without a flaw. I suppose in some sort of manufacturing process, that definition is accurate.” Bernard began.

“Accurate, now there’s a word to trifle with, is it that?” Richard quizzed, shielding his eyes against the warming sun.

“No, that’s not really what I’m talking about. What of the subjective form of perfection? The one which is truly paradoxical? The enjoyment of a work of art, a book or a play? A piece of music or a good meal?” His friend had indeed prompted a rant.

“Carry on, I’m all ears,” Richard said.

“I was rightly berated for describing Japanese women as perfect. As you know, this was in a list of other things of which I had the same opinion, when it comes to that unique culture. Was it because, in placing the opposite sex in a catalogue of inanimate objects, all perfect, I was objectifying women? Or was there another reason?” Bernard paused, as if trying to rewrite a post he’d composed weeks ago. There was a brief silence as they both admired the young woman reading a story to the child.

“Carry on,” Richard tepeated, edging forward so that his feet touched the ground.

“On reflection, guilty as charged to the former, I’m afraid. I was referring to their almost clone-like similarity as well as the way they present themselves. Perhaps I have a penchant for the classic oriental visage?” Bernard said, shrugging his shoulders.

“Interesting. I must say I’m forced to agree with you. There is a certain exotic charm in the features of an Aisian woman.” Richard glanced up at the classic French female opposite, reading aloud to her son, and seemed to flinch with guilt.

“That’s not what I meant,” Bernard snapped, confirming his friend’s culpability. “Let me tell you about a recent encounter, but first I want to show you something.” He picked up his phone from the arm of the chair and scrolled through the gallery. “ I want your immediate opinion of what you see, nothing more, nothing less.,” he said, holding the handset to his chest.

“Alright, keep your hair on,” his friend replied, craning his neck to see the screen. In a flourish, Bernard turned the handset to his friend and held it there, waiting in anticipation. The image displayed was that of a woman, from the shoulders up.

“Rather plain, I would say,” Richard clipped instinctively.

“Aha! There you go. Now let me describe her and look again,” Bernard shouted triumphantly. He turned off the screen and placed it face down on the arm of the chair. His friend gazed down at the phone, regret tracing it’s shadow over his own features.

“Another rant?” He said sheepishly.

 “Her face is indeed oriental but one could not describe it as perfect in that defined sense, thankfully. Yet, to me she is. The more one looks at her, the more intrigued one becomes. It’s like staring at a beautiful landscape for the first time, having spent most of one’s life looking at random car parts. Perfect though the latter are, through meticulous design and fabrication, one’s eye is not instinctively drawn to them.”

“Oh no! Comparing women to car parts. You’re digging a hole there,” Richard interrupted, sitting back in the chair and wiggling his short legs.

“Excuse me, the one who mentioned the dreaded word plain?” The other man interjected. “It’s a figure of speech.”

“Carry on, please,” Richard said meekly.

“I will, if you don’t mind.” Bernard inhaled deeply, in the style of a true orator, unaware of the attention of the young mother opposite. “Conversely, looking into the eyes of this particular person pulls one away, momentarily, from the aesthetics of the rest of her features, before being drawn back to them. By no means symmetrical, apparently a prerequisite for beauty, her nose is slightly longer at the bridge and the nostrils are not level. However, their subtle irregularity is mirrored by her mouth which turns up just too much on one side when she smiles. This reveals teeth which are minutely but obviously uneven. Then there are the ears, or should I say ear because unlike its conventional partner, her left one protrudes ever so slightly, which she deliberately emphasises by pushing her hair behind it.”

Bernard’s description had his friend leaping up and down in his chair, gazing longingly at the inert handset.

“You may say, from my description, that she’s the sort to run a mile from. In fact, in so many words, you already have. Nevertheless, if you see what I see, the opposite would be the case,” Bernard said, placing his hand over the phone in an act of defiance. “All in all, this whole ensemble of seemingly odd features combine to produce the most beautiful countenance I have ever witnessed. In a way, a form of perfection in itself. Hence the paradox. This tiny oval-shaped exhibit, moulded in her mother’s womb from the DNA of both parents, turned into a vision that Picasso, Degas or Manet would struggle to reproduce.” Another deep breath was accompanied by a gasp from the woman opposite. Bernard noticed and continued, feeling the blush rise from beneath his collar. “Would you like to take another look?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” Richard breathed. The other man ceremoniously grasped the phone, scanned his thumb print and slowly turned the screen towards his friend.

“Wow! I see what you mean. Is she real?” Richard gasped.

“Yes, as real as you and I,” Bernard responded, tilting the phone so that the young woman could also observe the image. She nodded furiously at what she saw.

“All from nature. No jelly-mould robots here, just natural allure. Add to that an innocence and curiosity only found in children four decades her junior, and you truly find flawlessness. When I’m done answering her myriad of questions, I may actually ask her out,” Bernard chuckled.

“I am not worthy,” The other man declared, waving his arms in mock worship. “Fancy a beer? On me.”


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