In the Rainbows
by Andrena Zawinski
It was a bumpy ride in the back of the Peugeot pickup, its rakes, hoes, and shovels banging up against the rusting sides and bags of stinky fertilizer. Joy and I had taken the train from Gare St. Lazare to Giverny from Paris. We delighted in the Rouen bound ride, both taking window seats across from each other to relish fields of sunflowers, leggy geraniums at sills, even a backyard wedding with bride and groom waving at the passing train in a sticky July.
In the pickup, we had no fear of the three men, all in green jumpsuits, sharing the truck bed with us. The gardeners, PRDM stamped on their shirt pockets, seemed a bit young for hard work. They kept their eyes nervously but politely averted, except the carrot top puffing on one of those lavender gold-tipped cigarettes instead of an expected Gauloise, who seemed weirdly fascinated with my Tiva rainbow hiking sandals. I was wearing them for the first time since I bought them two weeks earlier from a vendor at San Francisco’s Pride March, stamped with “It Will Get Better” across the back strap. We would later discover these young men were from the Programme de Resocialisation des Détenus Mineurs that France’s detention centers require for older juvenile offenders.
Earlier, we had stopped at a small brasserie near the Vernon depot to share a ham and cheese croissant and café au lait, thumbed through our Poor Gal’s Paris & Beyond, and decided to forego a taxi or bus for a hike along the old railway path to make our way to Monet’s gardens. When the trail suddenly came to an end, we dashed through the weeds toward the sound of a truck rumbling near and flagged it down. Fortunately, Joy was fluent in French and the driver found her Swiss accent and tale of being lost charming and gave us a lift. I heard her say my name, Adelaide, to him; but she didn’t tell me at the time he asked if I were irlandais, my auburn pixie reminding him of folk where he grew up in Dublin.
The young workers passed a small canteen to us they shared, which wasn’t the anticipated water thirst quencher, not even a surprise of wine. Seems the French, unbeknownst to us, were fond of an afternoon whiskey. Not wanting to seem ungrateful or unfriendly, we took some, coughing to their amusement on our sips.
Inside Monet’s home, I felt locked before the mirror where he must have looked so many times, his Japanese prints reflecting from behind. Feeling slightly tipsy, I wished I could walk through it and time to him, smooth his tousle of grayed hair, straighten his shirt over his belly grown large with age, watch him pad through rooms yellow as sunflowers to lift a brush then shuffle between canvases and paint big with his sight on the wane.
Outside, stretched out on the grass beneath the cooling canopy of a willow and staring up at the seafoam sky, we kicked our shoes aside and watched dragonflies flirt flowers at the pond’s edge as a boy from the truck skimmed flotsam from around the lily pads with his long-handled net, occasionally glancing our way.
We catnapped, and when we woke discovered my rainbow sandals missing. Sticking to the budget for that month’s splurge in France, and now having to buy shoes in the village, we stuck out our thumbs to hitch a ride back to the station. Like kismet, the Peugot pulled up, this time with only the driver and red-headed lad in the cab. We hopped into the back of the truck only the canteen in the corner.
In a second-hand store in the village, as I was lacing up a pair of espadrilles, Joy leaned into me and whispered “Look out the window.”
And there they were—the man, a few years the boy’s senior, dressed in flashy gabardines and the lad in a boho skirt with a flirty flounce hem.
“Look again,” she said a bit ruffled, “at the shoes!”
And there he was, pointing and pivoting in the rainbows. “Oh, well, and there you go” I crooned, “vive la différence—and in my shoes.”
Andrena Zawinski’s flash fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Unlikely Stories, Summer Shorts II: Best Kept Secrets Anthology, Digital Paper, Panoplyzine, Beneath the Rainbow, Short Stories and Poems Weekly, Ginosko, Flash, Pretty Owl, Sabr Magazine, and Loud Zoo. She has three full poetry books and six smaller collections in print. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA she has made her home the San Francisco Bay Area.