Roulez au Pastis (c) Kristin Espinasse









Jean-Marc with his genial 'mop-spear'. Read on...


noun, feminine
a spear

While preparing for a romantic getaway, I asked my husband where he had set his suitcase. That was when he informed me he wasn't taking one. I guessed the shirt on his back would be, once again, sufficient for an overnight trip, and that he would just borrow my toothbrush and deodorant, comme d'habitude.

No matter how many times I object—Beurk!—regarding the toothbrush-sharing and—c'est pour les femmes!—concerning the deodorant, he does as he pleases. Such accoutrements and hygienic hassles are unimportant details—downright snags—in his very down-to-earth existence.

Meantime, life beckons with its rugged, cobalt-blue sea and its remote, Mediterranean coves now bursting with succulent sea urchins. Such were the treasures we were about to rediscover over the weekend, on the quaint French island of Porquerolles, where Jean-Marc had reserved a Valentine's Day retreat.

On the eve of our departure, I found my husband in the kitchen fashioning an impromptu spear from a floor mop.

"Where'd you get that?" I questioned, pointing to my mop.

"I didn't think you used it," he said, innocently.

"That's beside the point!"

Rather than argue, Jean-Marc began to pierce holes in one end of the mopstick, having already removed its stringy top....

"Hey! What are you doing?!" I asked as I stood there, goggle-eyed, not sure whether I really cared about the mop, but shocked, all the same, to witness its demise.

Jean-Marc opened the silverware drawer and reached for a fork. He had found an old shoelace and was now using it to tie the fork to the end of the mop. For an instant, I was tempted to calculate just how many gasoline points we had saved to pay for that fork... only this, too, was beside the point. Come to think of it, just what was the point? What on earth was he rigging together this time? A hunting lance, I think he said it was?

"Let it go!" I thought to myself, for the umpteenth time in 10 years of marriage. I walked out of the kitchen, leaving my husband to explore his creative side—at the expense of yet another cooking or cleaning utensil.

By the time we arrived in the coastal town of Hyères to catch the navette, I'd long since gotten over the novelty of the wacky, homemade hunting implement. It was when we began to receive odd looks from the other passengers that I realized just how goofy (worse—psychopathic!) my husband appeared, sitting there with a blank look on his face and the mop-fork spear at his side. One woman got up and changed seats. Another pulled her child close. A few people whispered. More than one set of eyes narrowed.

Jean-Marc sat oblivious to the commotion. I'm certain he was dreaming of the day's catch—all those spiky oursins (and the delicacy inside them: sea urchin roe), the ones he would soon rake in with his clever, multi-purpose outil.

There he sat, dreaming of the new frontiers he would be forging with the aid of his... mop. He was terribly impressed by how the mop-spear doubled as a walking stick.

"Look," he said, tap-tap-tapping it against the ground, stepping gleefully forward and backward for effect.

I shook my head, reminded of life's simple pleasures, and of my husband, who is like the child who pushes aside the newly-acquired toy to play with the champagne cork. May he continue to free himself of life's superficial snags, to enjoy the ongoing adventure that thunders beneath his French feet. May he go forward, unadorned by all that is superflu. May fashion or deodorant never hinder him from his burning quest to discover the rugged coastline, where shellfish rock gently beneath the shimmering sea.

Should the road less traveled ever get too bumpy, he'll have his mopstick to lean on—and he'll have me, too.

French Vocabulary

comme d'habitude = as usual
beurk! = ew, yuck!
la garrigue (f) = Mediterranean scrubland
la navette = shuttle (ferry boat)
une lance = spear
un oursin = a sea urchin
un outil = a tool
le superflu = excess

Did you see any typos or ambiguities? Thank you for pointing them out, here, in the comments box.


Listen: hear Jean-Marc pronounce the word 'lance': Download lance2.wav


baisser la lance = "to lower the spear," to yield; to give in
rompre une lance = "to break a lance" to support an argument
rompre des lances pour quelqu'un = to defend someone
rompre des lances contre quelqu'un = to cross swords with someone
être à beau pied sans lance = "on foot without a spear," to be ruined


Citation du Jour:
La France fut faite à coups d'épée. La fleur de lys, symbole d'unité nationale, n'est que l'image d'un javelot à trois lances. France was built with sword strikes. The fleur-de-lis, symbol of national unity, is only the image of a javelin with three pikes. -Charles de Gaulle

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