Dead for a small piece of French cheese.
By Javier Iborra
I know you will not believe this story. Only a madman could hope that you would believe it – and I am not mad. That morning the air smelled heavier and stronger tan ever, the silence was at last present and it was quiet enough to hear the first singing birds in years. It was the 27th of August of 1944 and the Allied Army commanded by Major Lecrerc had entered Paris the day before. After the first occupation that time would end with the brutality of a furious storm and the German occupation German of Paris bécame a hell. The Gestapo began their ravages, aided by French mercenaries, volunteers from the prewar fascist movements. In their looting of France, its potential manufacturing, their agricultural and natural resources, the German left Paris hungry and cold, without fuel, even materials to make clothing. The black markets, and a new class of Parisians wiche rose with betrayals and the estraperlo directed the city beside the civilian administrators and military nazi administrators flourished. The City of Light became a dark, evil place for four long years. Nobody has spoken well of it at that time.
John was still remembering the cheerful shouts, all that people overcrowding the “boulevards” welcoming them, the kisses from the French girls. All of these memories had suddenly been shadowed: the birds were now signs of fear; the crowds, the Army, seamed a lost Paradise.
A dead man was lying in the bed and he was able to remember nothing about it, apart from the boy he had met when they arrived to the old and pretentious buiilding supposed to host them.
Who was that boy? And the dead man in his bedroom?. Even with the morning glimmering light, he could´nt remember. The only fact that was underlined over his lack of memory, was a Little French boy smiling, speaking Little English, when he shared with him his Army packed food and a small piece of cheese, a present from a farmer from a town a few miles from Paris. He was also a farmer from a little town in Kent. His family had laboured for hundred of years part of the Lord Kingsley´s land. He was about to cry when his mother´s face appeared in his mind, waving him goodbye when he enrolled the British Army and was saying goodbye from the train at Lansborough Station.
That little boy with no name… he couldn´t even remember his face, was so happy with the cheese – The best cheese I´ve tried in years – he said. So he invited the newcoming soldier to a “café” where his father and some friends were having a hard and strong wine from a barrel.
Was the dead man … maybe the little boy´s father? He could find no answer. This was a dream, he told himself and looked carefuly to the room. It was large and log, with high narrow Windows, which let in only a little light. Shadows lay in all the corners of the room and around the dark pieces of furniture: a bed, a big wardrobe and a chair. On the grey and sad wall there was a strange, dark picture which made him nervous. Deep gloom filled the air.
The soldier was shocked and frightened, smelled as hell, a disgusting mix of cheap wine and dust and he had heavy swollen marks in his fingers. A shadowy relationship cause-effect appeared in his imagination, he had beaten the man and…Trying to avoid terror and close to the edge of madness, he looked again at the dead man body and discovered a big crush in his forehead, all covered with dryed blood. Sure it had been an accident: he was eager to prefer the best option, but maybe, looking and the knife deeply burdened in the dead man´s chest, he was a bastard murderer… Who knows? The sudden death had left the dead man´s body a dark brown color and that unchanching half-smile on his lips which is so terrible in death.
Running away or trying to get some help? His military training forced him to choose the latest, but in war time, in another country, he wasn´t sure what to do. A deep gloom came down on him and covered him like a blanket. He looked at the old room, with his stone walls and tiny Windows. He felt cold and sick and could not think of one happy thought to chase aways his gloom.He began to imagine that the gloom was not in his mind, but was something real. It was like a misterious cloud, which seemed to come straight from the dead man.
Suddenly, he he Heard footsteps coming up the stairs. Was the little boy looking for his father? He realized that what he was hearing were heavy steps, maybe from two or three unknown estrangers, what frightened him more and more, as the steps were approaching the bedroom. Clap clap clap.. He tried to calm himself he only become more frightened. The he heard a knock on the door.
Two British officers entered the room. The look on their face, pale and white, seemed a new danger, but he was pleased not to be alone any more. One of them shouted and his voice shook with fear when he spoked – At last we´ve found Captain John Merrick. He´s murdered – As his name was pronounced by the officer, he glanced at the body fighting against fear and an unpleasent feeling aroused, starting to remember all what had happened last night; he focused at the body, the crush on his head and his poor efforts to survive. He was looking at his corpse. Dead for a small piece of French cheese