Holydays at the castle…

The old castle was creaking everywhere, as if this XVI century building had sheltered some deceased souls looking for redemption inside its walls… The Baroness who lived alone on this property, surround by few servants, welcomed Gigola with a very “Old French” courtesy.

-A friend of my granddaughter’s is always welcome!
And she added while climbing up the monumental staircase leading to the residence:
-At least there’ll be some noise and youth in these old walls! Nobody comes here anymore, it’s too isolated… Even my husband has forgotten the splendor of our Berry…For sure, it’s not Deauville!
Berengère spent her days playing piano, reading Edgar Poe books and riding horses.
-My grandmother adores you, she told Gigola. It’s strange, as she doesn’t like anyone. Except her dogs and horses!
Gigola had always enjoyed this mythic world where time feels like it stopped. The engraved silverware, the stiff sheets embroidered with crowns, the impeccable service at meals, and the immense green landscape crossed by a bridle path lined with yellow rosebushes.
The Baroness owned a well-renowned hunting ground, and she proudly proclaimed her extraordinary vitality that let her, at 82 years old, to continue her weekly horseback hunt…
-Luckily you found my grandfather’s card, otherwise you would have never seen me again! whispered Bérengère while stroking the borzoi dog’s neck…
-Yes, at Moune.
Bérengère shrugs her shoulders.
-Yes, or somewhere else…
A silence.
-Don’t forget what you promised me, Gigola! You said you’d stay two months of vacation here with me…
Evasively, Gigola tried to change the subject.
Bérengère was insisting:
-Two months! Otherwise…
-Yes, I know! You’ll go straight back to Pigalle…
Bérengère smiled.
-Oh yes, I love this neighborhood…it ‘s thrilling!
Gigola had complied. The time to go back to Paris, pack her suitcase, warn her mother, and for her come back to the castle…Above all, it’s about avoiding Bérengère returning to Pigalle… Whatever the price!
After getting her high school diploma passed with distinction, Bérengère decided to enter a Medical School starting in October…
-I will do like you, Gigola, but I will go right to the end…
-You always go right to the end, do you?
And Gigola had whispered:
-Not me…
The arbor of roses started to fade; greedily, the wasps was devour the first pears’ flesh… Gigola rode every morning, in company of Bérengère who couldn’t stop getting ahead of her… Gigola also knew that Bérengère had promised herself to go right to the end of another dream: finding herself lying right next to her into one of those big canopy beds that filled every bedroom on that floor.
And curiously, that idea didn’t bother her anymore. Probably because that accomplishment would signal the death of Fleur de Sel. Without signaling the end of Gigola.

     Laure Charpentier


In the Arbois land

Preceded by the bellboy, Gigola enters the bar with pulled curtains.
The bellboy walks to the back room hidden by a pair of red velvet curtains. Gigola follows him. She feels a kind a fear, that fear that often churns up her insides and that she had learned so well to hide.
The bellboy opens the curtains, and leaves:
-Here she is, Monsieur Tony…
Gigola enters a small darkroom where the Corsican thug, the “nasty one” is waiting for her. She grips the knob of her cane tightly and walks toward him.
-Sit down!
Gigola obeys.
-So nothing. I came, that’s all.
The man smiles.
-That’s good, you’ve got guts, kid!
He lights his cigarette.
-Do you want something to drink?
--If you wish.
Tony snaps his fingers to call the waitress. An over made up waitress past her prime looks at Gigola from head to toe with disdain.
-A whisky, No ice.
Tony stretches his legs, takes a commanding pose.
Gigola notices his earthenware blue eyes, the signet ring with a sparkling diamond, the tattoo peeking out of his shirt’ sleeve.
-You know, I know who you are!
-Ah? says Gigola repressing a smile.
-Yes, you are a nothing girl who plays godfathers, nothing more!
The old waitress comes back with a glass of whisky that she puts down roughly in front of Gigola.
-And you, who are you? You will notice that I don’t use the familiar “tu” form with you…
-You are right, nobody uses the  “tu” term with Monsieur Tony. Ask around before crossing a Corsican hard man! All of Pigalle knows me, and you, you are there, you know nothing, you know nobody… You are just a nobody!
Gigola reacts:
-I may be a nobody, but I don’t want anyone insulting a garçonne* that I like.
The man bursts out laughing.
-A garçonne*! Because you, you too are a garçonne*? It’s nice to support friends! Me too, I support a lot… A pimp, do you know what it is?
She drinks her whisky with a hand that doesn’t shake. Tony goes on.
-At our place, you know, we don’t like dykes!
The curtains part.
-Hey, Tony, will you join us at the club?
Tony makes a sign with his hand. The curtains shut.
-Since you’ve been in Pigalle, we’ve been watching you… Gigola!
Imperturbable, Gigola holds up the man’s fixed gaze.
-There is a kid I’ve noticed…
Gigola absorbs the news. Cora?
-A kid that use to work at Moune and who got hit on the third day… Do you see whom I am talking about? Fleur de Sel?
-She’s a minor.
The man bursts out laughing.
-I’m interesting in her, that’s all!
-I don’t know anything about her.
-Between nothing girls, you support each other!
Gigola shrugs her shoulders.
-Figure out a way to find her, and we’ll forget all about the rest…I’ll give you eight days.
Gigola stands up.
-Good night, Monsieur, and thanks for the drink!
She goes away without turning back. Head held high and cane in her hand. The bar is empty. Men gone to gamble… The bellboy dozes on the back banquette… The jukebox plays a Tino Rossi tune…
The dawn is whitens the Rue de Douai.

                                             Laure Charpentier

*Garçonne :French term for woman who dresses like a man.


M'sieur Tony

On Rue de Douai the ‘Pays d’Arbois” is a den of Corsican thugs. Like many other places between Pigalle and Blanche. From the façade, the pulled curtains don’t reveal what is happening inside. A fake bellboy rules the sidewalk in front of the bar, not to draw customers, but to filter guests and to warn in case of a police raid…

The cab stops a little higher, just at the level of “Night and day”**.
Gigola gets out, hesitates, pushes Dédée bar’s door.
Girls are with their clients. José smokes his maïs* while daydreaming. Dédée sips a curaçao. The Jukebox plays a Dalida’s tune:”Comeprima”…
All is calm.
Gigola leans over the bar. She knows she had too much to drink.
-A whisky, Gigola?        
-No thanks, a Perrier please…
-Are you going home?
-No, I have a meeting…
-I don’t know, we’ll see. Do you know a “MonsieurTony”?
José leans toward her.
-The Corsican?
-Yes, I think.
-Is it with him, that you have a meeting?
-Yes, next door.
Dédée widens her eyes ravaged by alcohol, night and mascara.
-You’re not going in there alone, are you?
Gigola smiles. She drinks her Perrier in one shot.
-There was a bit of a rumpus tonight at “Elle et Lui”…
Dédée relights her maïs*.
-Yes, there was even someone hurt, Muguette, the arch of one eyebrow…
-A girls’ love story?
Gigola nods.
-I don’t see the connection with Tony…whispers José.
-He was there, he insulted Conchita.
-Who is Conchita?
-An old garçonne*. A girlfriend.
José bursts out a muffled laugh.
-You know, handsome Tony, he doesn’t like dykes!
Gigola looks at the wall clock above the bar. An advertising clock where Dédée had hung up some stuffed parrots.
-I have to go.
-Do you want me to come with you? Asks José without conviction.
A dig with her elbow from Dédée puts him back on track.
José sighs.
-Mind you, because of a muddle I had with his brother in Marseille, he doesn’t really like me, Tony… on the other hand, Pierrot the Bracelets, he’s a friend of his, if you want me to call “Trois frères”?…
-No, I’ll go alone.
-Champagne! Shouts Georgette pounding on the table where she knocks back between two night johns.
The maïs* stuck in the left corner of her mouth, Dédée leaves the bar and runs toward Georgette’s table.
Gigola grabs her cane.
-I hope it’s a sword cane, giggle José.
-Just a fetish cane…it protects me!
-Be careful, Gigola!
She gets out of the bar. On the sidewalk, the fake bellboy paces back and forth.
-MonsieurTony warned me, he’s waiting for you.

Laure Charpentier

*maïs: nickname for Gauloise Maïs cigarettes
*garçonne: French term for woman who dresses like a man

**in English in the text

*** Reference to March 22, 2011 billet: “ La suite”


The laughing man…

That night a fight had broken out at “Elle et lui”*… A fight between women, always jealousy, girl wanting to leave her sweetheart for the eye of another, a glass of champagne that shatters just above the arch of the eyebrow of the girl…Two garçonnes* that grab each other…The customers that run away…and Gigola finding herself in the middle of the “explanation”… At the bar, two men, the brims of their hats just at the level of their eyes, enjoy the scene. Some pimps searching for new girls, with one really laughing as he savors his short glass of casanis*

Jackie the Lock received a surprise punch while Mireille the barmaid dabs at her bloody nose. Imperturbable, the girls wait for the best girl to win… Gigola had stepped in because Conchita, more that sixty years old, risks a bad punch…and that, Conchita, the wonderful garçonne* who dances the Cha Cha like a god, is totally drunk. Conchita, Frankie, the other garçonne*, perfectly steady on her patent leather shoes, and Dominique, the third of the group, also totally drunk. 

The laughing man approaches the group. 

-Come on, girls’, let it go, the red head will show up! 

-What red head? Shouts Conchita while spitting blood in her handkerchief. 

The man laughs even more, showing a big row of golden teeth. 

-The cop if you prefer, honey! 

Gigola stands up in front of Conchita. She is facing the man who keeps joking. 

-You, you better change your tone, otherwise… 

-Otherwise what? Mocks the man while touching his belt. 

-Monsieur is holding a gun? That’s why he’s strong? A big shot… 

Jackie the Lock runs between them. Sobering up, the girls let it go. 

-Don’t listen to her, Monsieur Tony, she doesn’t know what she is saying… 

Annoyed, Gigola holds out her handkerchief to Conchita and straightens up, all claws out. 

- Monsieur Tony, who is that Monsieur Tony? 

A dead silence. 

The orchestra starts again for one last piece of music…” Cuendo calienta el sol**”… 

The garçonnes* tidy themselves before going to the powder room in the basement. 

-Stop, Gigola, por favor**!… whispers Conchita. 

The man turns back, walks to his buddy who hasn’t moved from the bar. 

-Gigola, talking about a nickname! 

-It’s worth it Monsieur Tony, lets out Gigola while lighting a cigar. 

He looks at her in silence. Sizes up her. He has stopped laughing. 

-You, I’ll find you again, don’t worry! 

-Whenever you want. Where ever you want… 

-Later, after closing? 


-At “Pays d’Arbois”, on Rue de Douai*…Do you know it? 

Gigola nods. 

-I know. 

She brushes her tuxedo lapels, turns back. 

Conchita follows her, scared. 

-Are you crazy? It’s a bar full of thugs! 


-I’m coming with you. 

-Certainly not! Hurry and go clean yourself up and don’t worry about the rest, it’s my problem! 

And she adds looking towards the bar. 

-That guy bugs me! Who does he think he is? 

Jackie the Lock draws her over to the entrance cloakroom. 

-Be careful, Gigola, he’s a Corsican… a nasty one! 

-Thanks Jackie, I got that… 

Gigola smiles. 

-Call me a cab, I’m going there right now… 

Burst of laughter. 

-I’m the one who will wait for him! 

Laure Charpentier 

*Garçonne: French term for woman who dresses like man 
*Casanis: Corsican Pastis


Breakfast at Hotel Normandy

At 10 o’clock in the morning, Moune and Gigola were buttering their toasts of their “continental” breakfast. Both of them had tired faces, looked drawn… 

-Do you want another “rôtie*”? The orange marmalade is wonderful… 

Moune offered her a plate where slices of toast, that she called “rôtie*”, were cooling down… 

Gigola stifles a yawn. 

-Did you sleep well? Asks Gigola as she picks up another piece of toast. 

Moune sighs: 

-With your Fleur de Sel, it’s unlikely to go on… 

-Why “my” Fleur de Sel? 

Moune bursts out laughing. 

-She’s a real pain in the ass, that chick! Can you believe she shows up at my room at five o’clock in the morning! Just when I was getting out of the casino… I had ordered some room service, a plate of salmon, whatever…all of a sudden someone was scratching at my door, I thought it was the barman… 

Gigola opens her eyes wide. 


-Uh, she’s bold, that kid! Luckily I wasn’t undressed yet! 

Ceremoniously, the Headwaiter brought a coffee pot intended for Gigola. Moune only drinks tea…Tea or champagne. 

-What amazed me, is how she found our rooms numbers, and above all, how she, in the middle of the night, moved along the hotel corridors… 

Moune smiled. 

-I don’t dare ask about that, you understand, it’s embarrassing… 

-Did she enter your room? 

-You bet, too happy to, the bitch! 

-Me, I told her to leave before opening the door… 

-I know, she told me all about it… even the slap she gave you! You, darling, you are in bad shape… I have never seen you slapped, especially coming from a kid… 

Gigola shrugs her shoulders. 

-That’s right, I didn’t want to play her game… 

Moune lights a cigar. 

-Yeah, you are probably right… After, she could have interpreted that, given her version… She is a scandalous girl, I’m telling you! 

Moune serves herself another cup of tea. Adds a cloud of cream. 

-And how did you get rid of her? 

-I accompanied her to her door. She cried, she told me she loved you, that you didn’t care at all…All of it bullshit! A real leech… 

-She will come back to the cabaret, I’m sure! 

Moune looks away. 

-Me too, I’m sure… She’s going to hassle you until you pay attention to her… I have known others like her, you know! Let’s say, she is pretty stunning… If she wasn’t a minor, we could show her the way, drive her… 


-By the way, the game? 

-It’s a disaster! 

Gigola feels the inside pocket of her jacket. 

-If you want… 

Moune, acting like a lord, declines with a gesture. 

-Don’t worry, I have an account here … and when I close my umbrella** I will have a suite named after me… a small consolation! 

-When do you go back to Paris? 

-Late this afternoon… I’ll try to get a hold of some more cash…the wheel of fortune is turning! 

Gigola stands up. Shakes Moune’s hand. 

-So, see you tonight, I’ll stop by around midnight… 

-Call me before, it’s not worth coming if she’s here! 

Gigola smiles. She understands that Fleur de Sel wasn’t leaving Moune out in the cold. 

Laure Charpentier 

* “rôtie”: French familiar expression for a slice of toast (in French in the text) 

** “to close one’s umbrella”: to die ( in French in the text : “ fermer son pébroc”) 


On Gigola’s doormat…

The hotel Normandy’s corridors are a reference of telemonitoring. Walls and roofs are peppered with video cameras, allowing each client the ability to creep safely in a peaceful and absolutely secure atmosphere. 

Satisfied, Gigola goes back to her bedroom a little before four o’clock in the morning. She won back double what she had lost. As for Moune, despite the originality of her infallible winning technique, she lost all she brought in. 

In spite all of Gigola’s sudden luck, she wouldn’t accept that she repay her the initial investment. “ No, you only pay for the bottle of champagne, nothing more…!”… and she added: “Don’t worry, tomorrow I’ll get hold of some more cash, it’s sure thing!”… 

Further down the corridor, just after the elevator, Gigola catches sight of a dark mass on her room’s doormat. For once, the cameras detected nothing… A sleepy mass, hunched over itself… like an animal curled in a ball. 

By instinct, Gigola, steps back. A hobo? An enemy? Probably not, considering the corridor’s surveillance of the floor… She approaches. She has to find out. A pair of cowboy boots, a wayward strand of hair, shaved hair… Of course, it’s Fleur de Sel… Sorry, it’s Bérengère! Again… 

Gigola taps on the shoulder of the sleeping beauty. 

-At last! I was really fed up waiting for you! 

Fleur de Sel stretches out, jumps up. 

-What time is it? 

-Four o’clock… What the hell are you doing here? 

-Can’t you see, I was waiting for you? 

Gigola stifles a yawn. 

-You can go back to your room, I’m sleepy! 

Fleur de Sel smiles. 

-Me too, perfect! We are going to sleep together… 

Gigola gets annoyed. She harshly grabs Fleur de Sel by the arm. 

-Get out, or you are going to be in trouble! 

Fleur de Sel holds her smile. Self-confident. 

Gigola turns on her heels and goes to the elevator. 

-Very well, I’m going to wake up your grandfather… 

Fleur de Sel jumps behind Gigola. 

-No, Gigola, you can’t do that! 

Gigola stops, turns back. 

-Go to bed, Bérengère, the sandman came a long time ago! 

Fleur de Sel gets closer to Gigola. She blows on her face: 

-You aren’t attracted to me, is that it? 

-That’s it. 

-You’ve never been attracted to me? 


-If I was old enough, would you be attracted to me? 


-So, there’s no hope? 


The reaction didn’t take long. Fleur de Sel slaps Gigola violently. 

An employee shows up from the corridor that leads to the elevator. 

-Trouble, ladies? 

Gigola nods no. Fleur de Sel turns back, first whistling into Gigola’s hear: 

-Don’t worry, we’ll meet again and you’ll pay for it… 

A burst of laugh. 

-For once, it’s Gigola’s turn to take one!!! Huh, usually you are the one who slaps… now it’s your turn! 

And she runs away. 

Unruffled, Gigola thanks the employee, and enters her room. 

Show’s over. 

Laure Charpentier


Rien ne va plus

After the dinner, Gigola went back to the casino. Around midnight, she lost the sum she had won before dinner again. The Baron had also left earlier, disgusted by a game that, tonight, denied itself to him. 

Just when Gigola was leaving the room to return to her bedroom, she caught a glimpse of a figure moving towards the slot machine’s «V.I.P » area, to the left of the main gallery. A figure she thought she knew… Obviously, Deauville’s casino had surprises in store… 

She retraced her steps. 


The figure abruptly turns back: 

-Gigola! What the hell are you doing here? I thought you gave up gambling… 

Gigola sighed. 

-I tried… 

Both burst out laughing. 

-Me too, I have tried… It’s like giving up drinking or smoking… Are you staying at the Normandy’s? 

-Yes, I like this hotel. 

-Me too. I have lost so much cash here that I hope that one day, they will name a suite after me… Did you know that big gamblers, - that is to say big losers! - once dead, get a plaque on one of the hotel’s suites? 

-If you knew who I just had dinner with!!! Crazy… 

Moune drew her to the bar. 

-Come over here, we will have more privacy to talk… 

-Anyway, I was about to walk upstairs, I have no more cash! 

Moune smiled, took out a wad from the inner left pocket of her jacket. 

-Don’t worry, kid, I’m loaded! 

They sit down at a table and Moune orders a bottle of champagne. 

-Fleur de Sel… Do you remember? 

Of course she remembered… its branded with red irons in her memory, Fleur de Sel! 

-I had dinner with her tonight. 

Moune opened her eyes wide. Pulled herself together. Lit a cigar. 

-No way? 

-Accompanied by her grandfather, an old washed up aristocrat… 

-A gambler? 

-Yes, and even more, a friend of my father’s…Well, a friend, more of a heavy gambling buddy! And she, Fleur de Sel, she’s waiting for me in room 310… 

Gigola smiled: 

-If that fancies you? 

Moune bursts out laughing. 

-I’m too old, my dear. I’m too old and she, she is not old enough… You see, it’s a question of age, whatever we say… it matters! 

Moune looked at Gigola like she was sizing her up. 

-It’s funny, you are lucky aren’t you… Picking up a minor, and a well-bred girl, at that … This has never happened to me! 

Gigola shrugs her shoulders. 

-Talking about luck, I would have preferred a jackpot… 

-You didn’t win at all? 

-I did, but I lost it all again… 

-As usual… When we made quite a bit of money, we should have run away, and fast! 

The bottle of champagne came to their table, while a deadening music was warning the gathering gamblers that one of them had just won… a jackpot! 

Moune raises her glass of champagne to toast in the direction of the room. 

-Cheers, old man, and go straight home with your cash, your woman is waiting! 

She leans towards Gigola. 

- The kid takes us all for suckers! 

-She got nerves, that’s all! I like that, but I will never take risks with a minor… 

Moune was looking at the neon signs which were turning with the promise of winning … 

-I like slot machines… the green felt liquidates you on the spot! 

-Do you need ammunition? How much do you want? 

Gigola shrugs her shoulders. 

-Oh well, luck can change, try at least to get hold of some more cash! 

-Moune took out a wad from her pocket. 

-There, take it, we are not gonna count! If you win, you will pay for the champagne… 

Gigola took the wad and slipped it into her pants pocket. 

-I feel we are going to close the place… 

Gigola smiled. 

-What about room 310? 

The barman refilled two glasses of champagne. Gigola lit the cigar Moune offered her. 

-You will see, she will be back one night… I’m sure of it! 

Moune smiled. 

-So, let her come to you… One day you will be able to bring her into the casino and to bring her into your bedroom! 

They both stood up at the same time… and parted after showing each other the sign V for victory… 

Laure Charpentier