In addition to the visitors we invite (read about these guys, above), we had some unwelcome guests recently. A story about a prowler, or un rôdeur de nuit, in today's column.
faisceau de lumière (fay-so-deuh-loo-myer)
: light beam
Example sentence (and handy retort!):
Still smarting from a recent disagreement? Why not forward the following quote (mwah ha ha ha! That'll get 'em!)
...il est plus facile de reconnaître les erreurs chez les autres, mais dirigeons vers nous le faisceau de lumière ! It is easier to recognise failure in others, but let's turn the search light on ourselves. -Philipnunn.com
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
A Prowler Appears
While refilling Smokey's and Braise's gamelles on a scorching hot day, I was pleasantly surprised by our neighbor.
"Oh, bonjour Annie! Quel plaisir de vous voir!"
There beneath the parasol pine trees, Annie walked slowly up our gravel driveway, her every step hindered by an enthusiastic welcoming crew: our golden retrievers.
"Smokey. Braise. Poussez-vous!" (No matter how bad my accent is these days--or that skedaddle is more fun to say!--all dog commands are still issued in French. Our bilingual dogs respond to it.)
Annie waved her finger in a gesture of "not to worry," and I remembered that she is used to animal herding. She walks her feisty goat and her sheep each evening, keeping those two in line, whether in French or in Provençal (a sheep's second language).
"I have something to ask you," Annie said as she gently patted the welcoming crew.
"Bien sûr!" I emptied the dogs' water bowls next to the sunflowers which now tower beside the front door. After refilling the gamelles with fresh water, I encouraged Annie to come inside. It was too hot to chat here on the patio and, besides, I had a question of my own for our next-door voisine.
We sat down at the kitchen table, a pile of freshly-picked roma tomatoes between us. I'd get to my question soon.... First, I was curious to know what Annie had to say.
"Did you hear all the commotion last night?" she began.
Having no idea what Annie was talking about, I guessed I hadn't. Quel bruit? I hadn't even heard her goose honk. Ever since the second goose passed away, last month, things were sadly quiet in the field above our house, where Annie lives.
"My dogs went crazy--barking like mad around 1 a.m.," Annie explained, adding that last night she was all alone (her grown children, my age, were away).
I was on my own too, I told Annie, anxious to know why her dogs were barking.
Annie continued, "I got out of bed and headed toward the kitchen, where my chien-loup was going mad. That's when I saw a faisceau de lumière out in the field..."
The words faisceau de lumière were puzzling. I could picture the "lumière"... but wasn't a faisceau a kind of dessert? I jogged my brain, trying to eliminate the image of a villain dessert traipsing through the countryside. But then, just what was it Annie had seen lurking out there?
Annie kept mentioning the faisceau de lumière until I understood from context that it was a beam of light she had witnessed--and not a creamy dessert (or "faisselle"). The faisceau was shining across the field between our homes. Yikes! It seems we had an unwelcome visitor last night!
"What did you do?" I quizzed Annie, anxious to know la suite.
"I stuck my head out the front door," Annie said, illustrating her gesture. I could just see her brave face poking out the cracked door. "It's not something I would normally do..." she said of her courageous peekaboo, "but I just had to know what was out there!"
Next, she said the light faded away as the intruder disappeared.... That's when Annie asked if I'd noticed the light from my end of the field... Whoever was lurking was now lurking in my yard!
Just then, Max appeared in the kitchen door well startling me. But the sight of my son in his bright-colored boxer shorts was unmenacing.
"Good morning, Max!" I said. "Listen. Annie says someone was lurking around here last night. Someone with some sort of lantern...."
Max mentioned that when he returned home from a party, after midnight, he had used his telephone screen to light the path to our front door.
Annie and I perked up... until Max added he had arrived home after 1:30 am. Annie was certain, having looked at her clock, that the prowler was in the field at 1 a.m. Max would have arrived a half hour later. That meant Annie and I were all alone at the time of the mysterious visit!
"You have my phone number," Annie assured me.
"Thanks," I said. "And don't hesitate to call me, either. I'm right next door--not far at all!" We would look out for each other, the one a middle-aged housewife, the other a gentle-spirited widow.
It was a comforting thought. However, one had to face the facts. I studied Annie in her dainty débardeur with its lace bretelles. And there I sat in my T-shirt dress. Both of us had our hair tied back with bobby pins. Should we encounter the prowler tonight, would we be the picture of intimidation and ferocity?
There was no use fearing. I shared with Annie that I was croyante, unsure of whether she might be an atheist, like my belle-mère. If that were the case, perhaps these non-religious words could comfort her: the old adage "nothing to fear but fear itself!"
I sat there fumbling through a personal translation of Franklin D. Roosevelt's famous words... rien a craindre sauf la crainte... I couldn't be sure if Annie was getting the gist of the idea, but her next comment eased my troubled mind in the same way the holy scriptures do:
"Don't worry," Annie chuckled. "Come to think of it, the visitor we had last night was probably no more than a lost soul who had wandered up the hill after the town's "summer night" festivities. "He probably had a pretty girl on his arm," Annie smiled. "Just a couple of lovers who had snuck up to the forest."
I liked that idea much better than a torch-bearing psychopath. Speaking of unstable types, Annie shook her head and pushed a carton across the table. "My hens are not themselves these days," she admitted. "But here are a few to enjoy."
"Freshly-laid eggs! Thank you, Annie!"
With that, I remembered the roma tomatoes I had for my neighbor. Filling a bag I handed them to her and then picked her brain about canning this year's harvest. And, just like that, we put a lid on the big bad prowler!
Post note: Remember the men who came to prune all our olive trees? There in the orchard they found many lost items--including a blue satin g-string. Ah là là! It seems this wasn't the first time lovers have lurked in the surrounding fields!
Exercises in French Phonics bestseller on French pronunciation and how to pronouce French words correctly! (click here)
la gamelle = water bowl
quel plaisir de vous voir = what a pleasure to see you
poussez-vous! = beat it! (move out of the way!)
bien sûr = of course
la voisine (le voisin) = neighbor
quel bruit? = what noise?
le débardeur = sleeveless T-shirt
les bretelles = spaghetti straps
un croyant (une croyante) = one who believes in God
Help answer this reader's question:
Melissa is anxious to find a novel to read that takes place in Avignon or nearby, to enhance her connection to the area. (She does already have your first book....)
If you've not already written about a favorite roman, then perhaps you could post to poll ideas from your readers?
We had such a touching visit with my sister Heidi (to the left) and Brian, her first husband... more about the reunited amoureux soon!
Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi