A couple of years ago, I visited France with my friend, Delores. We joined up with another friend, Bev. I’d never been Europe, so this was quite an adventure for me, but Dee and Bev are both worldly, and both speak French, so I chose the right people to discover the country with.
We stayed a few days in Paris, then visited Le Mans, Normandy, and Mont Saint Michelle, but spent the majority of our time in the medieval village of Fresnay-sur-Sarthe. The town had cobblestone streets and a castle captured by William the conqueror… twice. The village, if it could talk, could tell tales about a couple of King Henrys, the Hundred Year War, The War of Religions, and Huguenots devastating the castle. The last village census cited around 2,300 people, a town very much the size of the one in which I live, proving, even when I travel 4,500 miles, I’m still a small-town girl.
Today, I want to tell you just a little bit about one “character” we met in Fresnay. I think his actual name was Daniel, but they called him Bidiue (pronounced Bid- Doo– eee). I’m sure this isn’t spelled correctly, but it’ll work here. They told me the name Bidiue meant, town drunk.
I know. I go to Europe, visit Paris, dine on Duck Confit in Le Mans, see Omaha Beach at Normandy, and then, drink wine with the town drunk of Fresnay. What the heck? Well, this was Bev’s next door neighbor and we chose not to snub him. He’s a human being, after all, and I’m really glad we included the little fellow. It meant the absolute world to him and his wife, who I’m pretty sure they called Catay. Neither of them spoke a word of English, but drinking wine is the universal language. And truth be told, Bidiue reminded me of my Uncle Eddie. Little. Kinda smelly. Sorta dirty. I sure hope at least some people were nice to my Uncle Eddie like we were nice to Bidiue.
The first night in Fresnay when we sat outside drinking wine and enjoying the weather, we encouraged Bidiue and his wife to join us. They lived right beside Bev, and there they were, sort of watching us. “Come over, have a drink!” Dee and I called, wanting to meet the locals. What a great way to discover characters for stories, and these two were a couple of characters, to be sure!
They sort of snuck up to us like stray cats, afraid we’d shoo them off. But the longer we sat with them, the more they settled in and realized we weren’t going to make fun of them, or be mean. I suspect that’s what they were used to. What happened though, was they were just so darned grateful. It was bittersweet. Every kindness we showed them they practically cried over. Bidiue even sang for us. I wish so badly I had a video of it. Just imagine a wavering little old voice with lots of vibrato, belting out a French tune of some kind. I applauded! He beamed. His wife looked on proudly. This is truly one of the best memories I have of France. It was so unique.
There are more stories of Bidiue and I may tell them some day. I believe I’d really like to write a story about Catay and Bidiue, but it would probably be a sad tale. They looked to live a hard life, hand to mouth, so glad to be included and eager to impress in any way they could.
The last day as we prepared to leave, Bidiue gave me a gift. Keep in mind, he had little. Their home was like a lean-to on the back of a house. I don’t even know if they had running water or electricity. But he came to the door and asked to see me, then handed me a ball point pen. That was my gift. He seemed really proud of it. He said a bunch of things to me in French, then teared up and ran back to his home. Catay watched from their doorway. I remember taking the earrings out of my ears and going over to give them to her. I hugged her. It was quite touching. None of us able to understand what the others were saying. Me knowing these were probably the people in this town who were shunned and considered a problem. Them looking at us as Americans, these odd, loud people who sounded so strange.
Oh, it was a peculiar little scene. And surely, I remember it more poetically than it actually occurred. That’s what writers do, after all. That day, Bidiue also called into the local radio station and dedicated a song to me and Dee. I couldn’t understand anything the man on the radio said, except “Americans.”
So, why tell you this story now? Well, a couple of years ago when I came back from France, I wrote a blog here and noted that I had stories to tell. I’ve been mulling them over for a couple years now, and I finally got around to publishing one of them. It’s called The Man with a Green Scarf. This short story is based on an actual conversation we had in Fresnay with an elderly man we met near the Chateau. The rest of the story is the imagination of this writer. I love the story. I love the memory. I loved my time in France. And I hope you’ll buy the ebook on Amazon today, so you too, can know the tale of, The Man with the Green Scarf.