Travel notesIssue 09 | May 2010

The Mayor Meets an American Princess

by T Stores

In our chateau, Izzy dresses in her prettiest blue and white dress, white stockings, and black shoes. It is our first Saturday in Saint Araille, France, where we will live for the next ten months. For the past few weeks, she has been carrying a silver and jeweled plastic crown won at the Guilford County Fair in Vermont; today she sets in on her head and asks to be called by her French name, Isabelle.

Saturday afternoon is the weekly open session at the Mairie (mayor’s office), and we must present ourselves to formally request that they be allowed to attend school. James’ cowlick is plastered down. I’m wearing an ironed shirt and my bag is filled with dot-to-dot books and treats to reward good behavior. Susan’s briefcase is full of documents—passports with visas, birth certificates, school registration paperwork, immunization records, our civil union certificate from Vermont. We have all practiced: Bonjour, monsieur! Ça va? Oui merci. Et vous? This is where my part of the conversation will likely end.

Our host, Rosie, drives us to the village, no more than a five minutes’ walk down the lane from the chateau. Two men and a woman are hanging a banner across the road announcing next weekend’s town fête—a sort of homecoming dinner and village feast. The village itself is nothing more than the town hall and two or three other buildings made of yellowish stucco, shuttered windows and red tile roofs. One of the walls is plastered with advertisements. A girl of about twelve follows us into the parking lot, and peeks curiously around the edge of the building to get a view of our American family. We enter the town hall and wait in a dusky room with one curtained voting booth, a long formica table and plastic chairs, and walls lined with pictures of all the French presidents. I only recognize three of the stern-faced fellows. No women Presidents here yet either.

We are called into the mayor’s office. Rosie jokes with him and after a brief introduction, we all sit before the mayor’s desk, with the children in two plastic chairs to the side. They open their dot-to-dot books and take out pencils. Princess Isabelle’s crown keeps sliding into her eyes.

Rosie conducts her own business with the mayor first. He shuffles through the mound of papers on his desk and pulls out French cartes de séjours. French driver’s licenses are apparently quite difficult to obtain. They joke some more, something about Rosie’s driving. The mayor stamps the documents—Wham! Wham! Wham!—and Rosie stands. Bon. Merci. D’accord. She will drive home and we will walk back to the chateau when we are finished. Au revoir.

The mayor, a small dark man with high cheekbones and a sharp chin who looks remarkably like an American character actor I can’t quite place, now turns to us. Susan takes out her papers. I follow the conversation as best I can. Mr. Mayor reaches for his cigarettes, taps one out, and lights up. Isabelle tips up her crown, wrinkles her nose at the smoke, and scowls her disapproval..

 

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About the author

On sabbatical from her faculty position at the University of Hartford, T (Teresa) Stores currently lives in southern France with her partner and children and chronicles their life in a blog.  Her work has appeared in numerous literary magazines, and has been supported by grants from the Vermont Arts Council and the Barbara Deming Fund. Stores won the 2009 Kore Press Short Fiction Award for her novel, Frost Heaves.

Read our current issue:

Poetry

Two poems by Anne Babson
Vignette, Townhouse, 9 a.m. by Troy Cunio
Night Becomes Day Over the West by Megan Foley
Yukon River Aurora by D. B. Goman
Two Poems by David Havird
Cretan Love Letter by Emily Linstrom
Holland by Rick Mullin
Fear in Kenya by Kristina Pfleegor
The Lounge Lizard by Ed Shacklee
Two Poems by Sarah J. Sloat
Night Flight by Vicki Stannard
Koinonia Farms by Alina Stefanescu
Thessaloniki, Four a.m. by Anastasia Vassos
Imaginary Oceans by Jason Warren
Two Poems by F. J. Williams

Postcard prose

It’s Salty by Kelly Hill

Travel notes

Anchorage in the Great Land by Karen Benning
The Value of Small Money by Megan Hallinan
Screensaver by Sandra Larson
Thirty Cents by Tommy McAree
Gokarna by Kate McCahill
Going Places by Rachel Miller-Howard
Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok