Three Rivers 2.1

Second Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

2.  A forgotten shelf in the library holds rich treasure

Most people didn’t notice Claude Deveralle.

two23

He was that old man on the bench, the one whose eyes you tried to avoid. What if he asked you for money? He was probably drunk.

two24

He knew you tried not to see him when you walked past on the sidewalk. There had been a time when the city noticed.

But now, you kept walking, too busy for an old man with a story. What if he were crazy?

two01

He could hear the crowds when he closed his eyes. He could see banners, hear the song:

C’est la lutte finale
Groupons-nous et demain
L’Internationale
Sera le genre humain.

They knew his voice, “Alors! Alors!” And the crowd came round.

two25

When he walks now, they quicken their pace. Don’t engage him in conversation. Who knows what mad tales the old man will speak?

two02

There had been a time when the city had noticed.

two26

There had been days when the pavement unfolded before him, and he had led the crowds down to the square and the banners had unfurled as he had marched.

L’État comprime et la loi triche
L’impôt saigne le malheureux
Nul devoir ne s’impose au riche
Le droit du pauvre est un mot creux

two22

There had been days when this courtyard shouted his name: Deveralle! Deveralle! Toujours Deveralle!

two20

The crowd rolled in, stopped the clocks, overturned the fountain. They had demanded change, and change had happened.

two21

Only it was still the same. A socialist bureaucrat was not that different from a fascist minister. And the piles of paperwork felt as deadening when stamped with blue ink as they had when stamped with red.

Perhaps if it hadn’t been futile, they would remember his name.

two08

But still! To affect change! To work for the people! To speak and watch as words manifest in action! And the songs! And the laughter. And the women. And the woman.

two07

There had been a time when solitude was not possible. Where he was, the crowds were.

two03

Oh, that summer when Isabel Rosella, the novelist, stayed in the garret of the Le Coq Bleu! That was her window there, below the clock. He would wait until after midnight, every night, and then race across the courtyard to the service door, praying that no one would see him enter.

Did they still read the novel she wrote that summer, Mountain Rebels? And if so, did they know that he was Jacques Delacroix, the gypsy lover with rose tattoo?

two05

Mais non. For they did not know that he was Claude Deveralle. He was that man that you do not see, sitting in his own thoughts at the side of the courtyard. Do not walk into the stray ramblings of an old man! You do not know what delusions you will find.

two06

Ah, but what of the truth that is more powerful than the strangest delusion!

There are tales that would make a young person stop, if only ears could hear.

There was a time when he didn’t have to shout to be served in a café, for when he entered, the barista would grind his favorite beans and tamp them down so that, by the time he made his way through the crowd, having shook dozens of hands, kissed a dozen cheeks, his espresso would be waiting for him on the counter when he finally reached the bar.

two14

No matter. It was not fame nor the servitude of others that he was after, not in the days when he led the marches. Not in the days when his name was on every tongue. He had wanted only what was right–for the people.

C’est assez, languir en tutelle
L’égalité veut d’autres lois
Pas de droits sans devoirs dit-elle
Égaux, pas de devoirs sans droits.

And now, in old age, he had this respite: Solitude. Silence. Memories.

He had time to remember the stories. He had time to consider: what had been vanity. What had been worth. It was love, that was all that lasted, and even that would fade with him.

two19

It takes a boy to see what you will not, an old man with intelligent eyes and a kind face, sitting alone at a table, waiting to speak.

two16

“What’s up, Gramps?”

Who will talk with the invisible? Just a scamp, one who is shunted out of doors, booted out, ignored. The young rebel sees those who does not fit.

two17

It is a fluke, a one time occurrence. But Claude smiled to himself to think that he had been seen, even if on one night only, by a rascal whom no one else noticed.

two15

But when it happens twice in a row, it becomes something else. It becomes something that makes an old man visible.

The second time that young Max Villareal sat with Claude Deveralle in the café, Claude heard his own voice and saw his words take effect.

The young boy laughed.

“Did you really steal shoes when you were my age?” Max asked, incredulous, after one of Claude’s tales.

“Will you be here tomorrow?” Max asked.

“I can be here tous le jours,” Claude replied.

“Tomorrow, I will bring someone to meet you,” Max said.

two18

The next night, Max’s brother Hugo came, too.

“Can I talk with you, sir?” Hugo asked. “Can I ask you some questions?”

“What questions would you have for an old man like me?”

“It’s for school,” replied Hugo. “For a project. It’s an oral history of our town.”

two12

The stories flowed, and laughter followed, and Claude remembered songs and chants and those others that even he had forgot.

two11

“We were surrounded,” he recounted, “when the gendarmes came. And then, Isabel, my Isabel, began to sing. And first the one guard, and then the next, put down their weapons, and raised their voices, and soon we all sang:

“Mais si les corbeaux, les vautours
Un de ces matins disparaissent
Le soleil brillera toujours.

“You should have seen us then! We were for the world! And the world was for us.”

two13

When Hugo and Max left, Claude looked out on the empty café. He heard still the echos of his words, and the song returned:

C’est la lutte finale
Groupons-nous et demain
L’Internationale
Sera le genre humain.

Rebels will be forgotten, and change may be undone. The new day will eclipse the old, and governments may be overturned. But some words were true and some promises will take. They sang it once, others will sing it again:  “Tomorrow the Internationale will be the human race.”

two09

To speak of old days, to remember, to be seen: It isn’t a gift until it is shared.

Learn more about the song Claude sings here >>

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