Very sorry for today's hasty letter. I'm in a hurry as I need to be in Paris by 9 a.m. for three days of community service. The authorities contacted us after the herdsman I wrote about filed a complaint. Turns out we are being prosecuted--not for misrepresentation but for empoisonnement! That punk rock shepherd I profiled in January is now claiming his herd suffered gastro-entérite--or le gastro--after grazing in our mustard pasture. (Jean-Marc had sown la moutarde as a cover crop or soil amendment before planting his vineyard.)
The fact that sheep waltzed onto OUR property to enjoy a free meal doesn't seem to faze the French police, who informed us that when we made the verbal agreement, allowing the berger's flock to feed on our land, we were unwittingly taking responsibility for the said grazers' santé.
I am trying to see the good in this even if I am reluctant head out, now, for some punitive community service. The 8-hour chore I have been assigned is absolutely surreal: le nettoyage des ossements des Catacombes ( the cleaning of the catacombs ), i.e. Paris's underground cemetery of bones.
It took a moment to understand the punishment, owing to the confusing French legalease, and misleading words such as le nettoyage de l'ossuaire municipal. ("Ossuaire" threw me, but I recognized the terms municipale and nettoyage and so assumed I was to clean the floor of Town Hall--and not a wall of skulls and femurs!)
Good news is the State is paying for my train ticket. All I am to do is to provide a personal scrub brush. (The municipal order that I received via registered mail contained a small packing list.)
- votre brosse à dents (your toothbrush)
- un flacon d'huile d'olive (a small flask of olive oil)
- le plan des Catacombes de Paris (map of Paris catacombs, see attached).
A further note--an instruction, actually--states "une goutte par tête" or "one drop per head"). I guess they'll fill me in on the rest (is the olive oil some sort of skull emollient?).
We are scheduled to meet in the underground cavern, in one of the bony tunnels mentioned in The Paris Plot and The Bone Curse (I've been nervously reading all I can get my hands on)! I've printed out the map of the former stone mine-come-cemetery. So much for claustrophobia! Off now to catch my train.
P.S. If they think I'm bringing my own toothbrush--get out! I'm taking Jean-Marc's. He's the one that got us into this mess!
Also, I have never been to the Paris catacombs. Have you? Would you like to see the historic underground cemetery? Should I add it to our Half-Day Tours project? Bring your toothbrush...and leave your gullibility at home. It's April Fools today! Let me know in the comments if you were fooled by this Taule Story (taule = prison).