Click on the arrow above to listen (In emails: click on the title above)
“Hi, I’m Lisa Southgate. This is the beginning of a short story called “Two Weeks in Paris”.
‘What do you want to do in Paris?’ the travel agent asks.
I look at her for a moment. I’ve told her. I told her when I walked into this travel agency, I said, ‘can anyone help me hang out for two weeks in Paris.’
‘Hang…out,’ I say.
Her lips move without sound, as if she’s trying break open ‘hang out’ to find the hidden meaning.
‘Wander around,’ I add.
‘But when you’re hanging out, what do you want to do?’
I’m not trying to be difficult. I don’t know what else to tell her. I can’t remember what Paris has. Did I ever know what Paris has? When I think, when I really push into my memories I come up with a typed sentence, something like ‘the sewers of ancient Paris are a legend.’ Victor Hugo I think. And I see pieces of pictures like old photographs torn up and mashed into grey. A tilted black lamp post, a patch of cobblestone, a corner of a Renoir, and I hear a snatch of Edith Piaf that quickly fades.
The travel agent has turned and taken a magazine from the rows and rows of magazines along the wall. She holds one with purposeful hands and starts turning pages.
Something in me sinks.
I’m here because just after New Year in one of those empty waiting days when anything is possible my husband emerged from his study and said, ‘a party or an overseas trip?
‘It’s going to be our twentieth wedding anniversary this year,’ he says, ‘and I was thinking we never do anything because we don’t think ahead, and then it just happens. But it’s January so we should decide now to do something, and put money aside. So, a big party or a second honeymoon?’
I’m embarrassed. Twenty years. I don’t know what we did to earn it except fight and fumble the money and fall and get up to find ourselves here.
‘I’d be happy with a first honeymoon.’
He lets that go. ‘Yeah, okay, a first one. And it should be for us. No side-trips to see family, and we don’t turn it into a tax deductible work trip either. It has to be something whimsical and selfish, like two weeks in Paris or two weeks in New York or –‘
‘Yeah,’ he says, ‘or two weeks in New York or –‘
I have surprised us both. I don’t speak French. I sneer at French wine, bread makes me bloat, lactose makes me nervy. But when he said ‘Paris,’ something grabbed. Something warm and involuntary, like a baby’s hand just clutched my finger.”
ABOUT LISA SOUTHGATE:
Lisa Southgate is a former journalist who turned to creative writing after deciding her own point of view was better, and certainly more fun. Her early efforts received encouragement in 2006 when her manuscript Herald of Hope, written collaboratively with her husband Martin, won the Voyager pitch competition for speculative fiction. Later, Lisa’s creative non-fiction short story ‘In A Dark Time’, won the annual One Book Many Brisbanes competition, and was published in the 2010 anthology.
“I won the Varuna Publisher non-fiction Fellowship in 2009 with my manuscript Pie Street. I have stayed at Varuna twice, once as part of the Fellowship in May 2009, the second time in November 2010, just because I love it.” Lisa Southgate
My short story ‘In A Dark Time’ appeared in the 2010 One Book Many Brisbanes anthology.
I have also been published for many years as a print journalist.
Varuna has been funded by the Australia Council to produce a Varuna Writer-a-Day “app”. When we have recorded 365 writers the app will be made available via the iTunes store. In the meantime, if you subscribe to this free blog, you can receive a daily reading delivered to your email inbox which can also be directed to your mobile phone.
To find out more about Varuna’s programs, residencies, events and support services for writers click here.