Swiped my mom's hat (while she swiped my camera for this photo).

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essouffler (eh-soo-flay) verb
  to make breathless, to wind

My son Max's example sentence (hear sentence in "Audio file" section):
     J'ai couru et maintenant je suis essoufflé.
     I ran and now I am out of breath.

Some choices, like whether to eat greasy pizza for lunch or to pedal over to the produce stand for something else, are made in a moral minute. And so it was that I finally took my new bike out for another spin yesterday. As I flew down the country road, I noticed the whoosh of the chestnut trees, the newly crimson grapevines and their light grapeless branches. The harvest is over and a new freedom is in the air. With the wind in my sails, I cruised south to a nearby fruit and vegetable farm to test the capacity of my bike's saddle bags.

Maybe it was the new wide seat, but riding a bike wasn't as painful as I had remembered and before long I turned off the paved road and coasted down a dirt driveway.

The fruit and vegetable stand was deserted. Rows of empty wooden cageots* lined the tables beneath the paillote* and the bright red bench was bottomless: not a soul's seat to fill it.
"Manque de pot!"* the farmer said from across the yard. "You're out of luck!" When monsieur mentioned something about new fall hours I assured him "Ce n'est pas grave." Not to worry. I'd be back! After the effortless journey out to the farm, my mind's eye saw countless aller-retours* in which I'd fill
those saddle bags full of cabbage, leeks, and navets* galore--soar soar! Riding, after all, was like flying. I'd be back like a rocket tomorrow, to shuttle home chou-fleur* and more!

Beaming with bonne intention,* I turned my handlebars north and pushed off...only the bike balked. Turning onto the paved road I noticed the pedals had slowed considerably. I tried shifting down, then up, but the wheels just wouldn't turn as they had before. It must have been the wind... As I zigzagged away from the fruit stand my legs quickly grew tired.

Nearing a mossy brook, beyond which a donkey stood as if in a plein air* painting (the serene Ventoux Mountains for a backdrop), I tried to take my mind off effort. But all those potholes in the road bucked me back to reality.

Not half way home, I had to get off my bike and push. It was as if some great Gallic giant was tampering with the country road, lifting it at the wrong end this time. I finally perceived the tilt, one that was no longer in my favor. Catching my breath while walking my bike along the near-invisible incline I could almost hear the giant's great guffaws--or was the laughter coming from the approaching car? As the vehicle eclipsed me, its passengers seeming to gawk, I whipped out my camera and pretended to be photographing the âne,* feeling very much like the subject in my camera's viewfinder.

Back at home, a slice of greasy cheese pizza on my plate, legs like jelly, tucked beneath the table, I say a quick grace for the missing vegetables. I'd have never made it home had I to shuttle back so much as one skinny stick of celery.

References: le cageot (m) = crate; la paillote (f) = straw hut; manque de pot = no luck; un aller-retour (m) = round trip; le navet (m) = turnip; le chou-fleur (m) = cauliflower; la bonne intention (f) = good intention; en plein air (m) = a painting done "in the open air"; un âne (m) = ass, donkey

:: Audio File ::
Listen to Max pronounce these French words:
J'ai couru et maintenant je suis essoufflé.
  MP3 file: Download essouffler.mp3
  Wave file: Download essouffler.wav

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Terms & Expressions:
  être tout essoufflé = to be all out of breath
  s'essouffler - to get out of breath, become exhausted; to run out of steam

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