A Friendly Visit

Moving quickly and quietly through Paris’ midday throng, a young woman about twenty years of age walked along a twisting path, unlike that of any other person in the street. While travelers and locals alike zigzagged from merchant to merchant in the busy sunday market, the woman instead chose to keep a straight and steady path. The people pushed and shouted and bartered, and for what? A carpet that would lose its luster in an hour, once separated from its brothers? A small metal contraption to make mundane tasks even simpler? Granted, there was the occasional treasure among trash, and always the delight of eating some foreign delicacy. But the woman was in no such mood. Not after the previous night’s foul-up. 

She did not speak, or make much eye contact. Instead, she focused on the path ahead, as if she could see past the endless stream of people to instead see the ancient cobblestones on the street. She continued on until she had left the heart of the market and all its hubbub. The throng, once seemingly endless, suddenly seemed to stop. The occasional wanderer walked the streets and explored some of the other shops. However, said shops, away from the market, were geared more towards the locals, yet some travelers dared enter the depths anyway. Not that they would be spit out by some higher force, or even be kicked out of the store by the shopkeeper. The stores were safe havens for the locals, and most visitors had the brains to stay away. But not all.

For example, the store that the young woman stood in front of. Inside it, a middle-aged man spoke quickly to another, as both stared at a contraption sitting on the shelf. He spoke sloppy french with a thick british accent, the young man near him similarly speaking. They had obviously no real clue as to what one of the men held in his hand did. They assumed it to be something simple, something to be displayed on mantels and discussed at parties. In reality, it had great use and potential, which they would squander in seconds.

“Hello. Do you need any help?” The young woman asked in English, entering the shop and approaching the two men, who looked dangerously close to dropping the thing.

“Yes. Yes! My god, thank you for bringing me someone who speaks my own language.” The man exclaimed, happy to give up his attempts at speaking French. “Tell me.” He started. “How much for this clever little jewelry box? I wish to give it to my wife.” He looked proud of himself, as if he alone had discovered the most prized invention in all of Paris.

“Sir...” The woman started, her English slow and careful. “That is no jewelry box. No, it is not. In fact, it is a small garden. You put some soil in and fill this bottom shelf with water. This other one is for seeds...” The woman spent a few minutes explaining the rather simple device to the man. She showed how to heat the box, and what you could grow. In reality, it could have been used to store some sad woman’s jewelry, though it would have been a big, ugly mess. It’s true potential lay in growing. When the man finally understood, he put it back on the shelf, and joined his companion at another. No doubt, he was prepared to ask the woman about everything, until he found something simple enough to wrap his balding head around, and buy for either himself or his wife.

But at just that moment, an old, portly man emerged from the back of the shop, his hands black with grease. Grateful for the turn of events, she rushed towards him.

“Bolts!” The woman cried, reverting back to her native French. “You have customers. And dumb ones at that. They speak english and won’t leave until they find a jewelry box.” Bolts looked confused for a moment, then spoke. “Can’t you just deal with them, Natalia? You’ve obviously handled them thus far.”

But the woman, Natalia, shot Bolts a look that read, “Not in the mood.” So he bustled over to where the men were examining another fine machine and spoke in English to them. Satisfied, Natalia turned and entered the room in the back that Bolts had just left. The front room made him some decent money and excited travelers, but the real treasures, the one for which Natalia had really come, lay in the back.

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