MADAME PARTEGE STOLE MY BIKE, I THINK
of storms I unlock the garage door and my bike isn’t there.
An abyss opens.
Losing a bike always pulls the ground from under me. Even in
The garage is shared with Madame Partagé, a retired architect. There are two parking spaces with a wall between them and separate doors. However, the back entrances don’t have locks, and open on to a yard cut off by M. Pujol’s overhanging garden. This morsel of land is subject to contention. Qui terre a, guerre a. Last year it was weeds. The Black Widow, whose apartment overlooks the yard, insisted the ragworth was poisoning her life. Now, after Bras had its first spring snow in living memory, slate is falling from the crumbling cliff-face. Although it choked the noxious weeds, Madame Partagé complained to the Town Hall, and was told it’s the yard owners’ responsibility, not Pujol’s. Windfalls, like rain, benefit the soil.
the obvious suspect, it’s doubtful that Madame
Partagé would carry a heavy
mountain bike across a slate tip with the risk of rocks raining on her.
think again. Could
I have taken the bike
out for a ride, and it was stolen then? Stormy weather affects the
high winds whistle between the ears. So a long walk to jog the memory,
consider the possibilities, is in order. In
1. On Saturday afternoon the storm abates. I come out to stretch my legs, and see Madame Partagé disappearing down the road on her bike. Over the summer she has put on weight, and goes out every day on a junior bike (her grandchild is a regular guest). Maybe a cycle ride would be possible. The winds will have dried the road surface. I open the garage, wheel the bike out, and lean it against the wall between Madame’s space and mine. Then I remember the nids de poule, the potholes, and my fall on Rue de Paquebot. They will still be full of water. At that point the memory grows vague. Did I decide the risk wasn’t worth it? All I know is I locked the garage.
2. I’m passing
Bruno’s bar, and see Kevin, the Irish song and dance man, on
the terrace. He is
resting between shows (Chicken Flap Two and Seven
Brides for Seven
Brothers). Resting is an exaggeration. He is in a worse panic
usual. His mobile
isn’t working because
of the storm, and he is waiting for his brother, whose flight
have landed in
memory is of standing at the Fanal lighthouse, looking at the swell on
and the waves dashing against the jetty across the port. The spume is
metres at least. Since Le Journal next day featured
a photograph on the
front page, this memory, though vivid, could be false. But I would
swear I had
a cognac in Le
4. The final memory is of arriving at my gate in a downpour. The winds have also returned. Madame Partagé struggles up the hill on a low gear. Despite her high cadence the bike wobbles, almost to a stop. I’m glad to be on foot, and run in home.
I resolve to buy myself a new bike to forget what had happened. It would have to be from the Sports Supermarket since Aldo de Gross’s bike shop in Argeles is now closed. At his clearance sale I traded in my beloved Fondriest racer for the last decent VTT in stock. A replacement is never the same, but you get used to it.
was away visiting her daughter in
My chance came to confront her. I was looking at the yard to see if any of Pujol’s trees were damaged by the storms. Madame Partagé popped her head out, and said, ‘We must complain to the Council. That olive is worrying. Rocks are an insult, but uprooted trees are a threat’. I said point blank, ‘Do your realise you’re bike is just like mine, the one I mislaid?’ And she smiled, all friendly, most unlike her, and said, ‘Yes, I admired it so much I got one just like it’. Madame Partagé wants me to sign the letter to the Town Hall tomorrow.