Fr Cn De Es Pt It

VII - Le Clairon des Chasseurs

Painting by Jean-Marc Guéroux

To clear up the situation with her squatter, Elisa suggested that they go for a coffee. And this is where Ertann took her.

As they walked past the cafés of the Place du Tertre, Ertann muttered with his deep baritone Kurdish voice: “Let’s go somewhere else. They’re fascists here… Here, they’re assholes… Over there, they rob you blind… They’re jerks here…” Always loud enough for the café staff to hear them. Ertann started insulting each place in the square, but ended up going to the Clairon des Chasseurs. “They’re fuckwits here too,” he complained, “but less fucked-up than the others.”

When he ordered two coffees, it sounded to Elisa like he had insulted the waiter. She was surprised that no one reacted, but Ertann seemed to be respected at the Place du Tertre.

The Clairon was the fief of the portraitists. They were all welcome here. The energetic owner had a well-oiled operation and handled her clientele with kindness yet firmness. She served hot croissants out of the freezer, but they were crisp and delicious. The café au lait was good or bad, depending on the day.

It was 8 in the morning and Elisa’s breakfast time was a little noisy. The drinks were being delivered. One of the workers was seated at a table slicing lemons. The scent of lemon wafted through the room, in which Elisa was the only customer, apart from some early-rising portraitists.

The forecast promised one of the hottest days of the week. The worker with his lemon was not allowed to talk to the customers. Elisa asked him for a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice and started a conversation. He was immediately warned by the owner: “Don’t bother the customers.”

When she came back for the second time in the same week, the owner recognised her immediately: “You’re back for my good croissants.” She hadn’t forgotten the compliments of Elisa, who was crazy about hot croissants.

Luckily, she didn’t remember Elisa’s first visit in winter with Ertann, who was as rude as can be. Or perhaps she was one of those women – otherwise completely sane – who fell inexplicably under the charm of her enfant terrible.

It must have been the total absence of an attempt to be nice, the total rejection that Ertann had for people, that explained that when he suddenly did the opposite, he inversed the love/hate factors and exerted an irresistible power of attraction. Like a magnetic equation…

After Ertann’s initial sharp hostility, Elisa remembered that one day he came down to the worksite where she was working, where he squatted the first floor, with a steaming teapot of fresh mint tea for her and her foreman. She was so surprised that she lost her balance. A huge wave of relief washed over her after this sudden truce.

Elisa realised that when some people, who usually demonstrate open hostility, suddenly send some humanity your way, it can completely overwhelm you. This is why she had agreed to buy an old Mercedes that didn’t suit her at all, simply because her father had gone through the trouble of choosing it for her.

He was so far from understanding who she was that he had chosen a model with blue and red checked seats that Elisa hated. He didn’t know that the 7,000 euros that the car cost her could hardly be spared at that time. But she was touched that he wanted her to have a reliable car and this sign of unexpected attention merited her last reserves of money.

This year, her father offered her winter tires. No one in Paris changed their tires for winter, as they do in Bavaria, but Elisa appreciated the gesture.

It reminded her of the year when her father had bought her a power drill for Christmas. Elisa could barely manage a screwdriver and she found herself with the latest Bosch electric drill model on the market. All the same, she was touched by the gift and added the drill case to the decoration of her small studio. A piece of her father’s world.

At Le Clairon des Chasseurs, she liked the owner, the hot croissants and the fact that Ertann had taken her here for their first “date”. It’s a café that welcomes portraitists and poets, an essential factor for Elisa.

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