Three Rivers 20.1

Twentieth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

20.  Sweet apples


Isabel Rosella stood amongst the echoes in the courtyard, where the gendarmes had shouted and the rebels sung. She had sung, too, a lifetime before, when they had been young.

After she had married Denis, she promised herself that, if she lived long enough to become a widow, she would return, buy a cottage on the island, and settle for her remaining days. And so, once her year of mourning passed, that was what she did.

The changes provided counterpoint to the memories, rather than writing entirely new songs. The bistro was now a café.


She heard the same dialect as before, with jokes that followed the old cadences.


The thrum of political change still reverberated through the courtyard, though now it traveled that well-worn route of elections, rather than revolution.

One evening, while sipping her macchiato, one of the political candidates stepped into the café. She recognized Alec Dolan from the Green Party website.


“Your last speech,” she said to him, “it was brilliant!”

“You liked it, no?” he replied. “I hit the vital points right in the, what do you say, the pressure spot, no?”

She laughed. “You had me at ‘for the butterflies’!”


They talked for hours. He had heard of her, of course, though he had not read Mountain Rebels, nor any of her lesser known but similarly highly acclaimed novels. She listened to every name he mentioned, as he spoke of his speech writer, his campaign manager, the campaign finance manager, and the stalwart party supporters. Claude’s name was not among them.

She had heard that Claude was still in Three Rivers, though he had dropped out of the political scene decades ago and was seldom seen.

“Perhaps you know an old friend of mine,” she said at last. “Claude Deveralle?”

Alec shook his head. “But I know of him, of course.”

Like he knows of me, she thought the next morning at breakfast. If Claude were still here, she would find him, likely in one of their old haunts.


The day was fine, with that sparkling light of late summer.

Isabel rode the ferry across the bay and walked to the old orchard.


The trees were heavy with an early crop, and the apples still tasted sweet.


“Nice to see someone making use of the harvest,” said Janet Fuchs, on an afternoon hike.

“Oh!” laughed Isabel. “I’m a trespasser from way back. You don’t mind, do you?”


“Not I,” said Janet. “I don’t think anyone does, right? This old orchard, if it belongs to anyone, it belongs to the village. We all help ourselves.”


“I used to come here often,” said Isabel, “back, oh, forty years ago! More!”

“I guess it’s changed, then,” Janet said.

“No,” laughed Isabel. “Not that much! And I find, neither have I! I’m still the same fool-hearted romantic I was that long ago summer, when my lover and I would meet here to hide from the crowds on stolen afternoons.”


“Happy days,” Janet called, as she continued on the trail to the waterfall, leaving Isabel to her memories.

This had been their favorite spot, aside from the garret where she’d stayed that summer. This was where Claude had inspired the idea of the gypsy lover, the rogue in Mountain Rebels. Ah, if she had written even half of the pleasure they’d made beneath these trees, the novel would have been banned, for sure!


She strolled to town to visit the library. What was she looking for? Maybe proof that those days had happened–maybe the other side of the memories, the public side. On the shelf with histories, she found L’Internationale: An Analysis of the Windenburg Rebellions. The index listed her name and Claude’s, along with their closest comrades.

She passed the shelf which housed her novels. A gap stood where Mountain Rebels, The Heart’s Handmaid, and Forgotten belonged. Perhaps some young romantic was reading her stories.


In the history, she found Claude’s most famous speech, the one they’d written together in the garret.

“And don’t believe that what you make with your hands has no worth. For what could mean more? Your thoughts! Your ideas! Your own hard labor! On this, we build a country. Let it be yours.”

The translation was pedestrian, but still, it moved her.


Her spirits were high when she stopped by the tavern for a drink and a bite to eat before catching the late ferry.


The barman flirted with her, and she flirted back.

“Should I know you?” asked the man at the bar beside her. “Are you someone famous? You look familiar.”

“I just have one of those faces,” she said.

“One of those beautiful faces,” said the barman, “that we never forget.”


At the end of the evening, she was alone. She marched along the road where they had marched for a cause those decades before. For a moment, she heard the rhythm of feet beside her, she felt the warmth of the shoulders of her comrades, she heard Claude’s voice, “Alors! Alors!


And then, she reached the top of the hill, and it was all gone, faded in an instant. She stood alone, an old woman, a writer, who had woven the stories her life had spun.


She was a fool still, still in love. Love had been the warp of every story, and she had been the weft, and the broadcloth wrapped around them still, and if they were alone, they were never apart.


Three Rivers 16.1

Sixteenth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

16. The gap inside is filled with presence


Savannah Trejo loved to watch her young wife. Sierra moved with calmness. To be near her was to sit beneath a willow on a summer afternoon. Worries drifted away with the dandelion puffs.


In the few years they’d been married, frenzy had dissolved from Savannah’s life–this, despite being the mother to two teens: Elaine, the foster child that Sierra and Savannah legally adopted, and Leigh, Savannah’s natural-born daughter.


The girls weren’t angels: Elaine fell into moods, and Leigh would do nearly anything to pull off a successful prank. But somehow, Sierra made it seem that everything was ok: even the tension of Elaine’s hormonal cliffs and valleys or the principal’s call after an entire row of lockers were sealed shut with Leigh’s favorite brand of bubblegum.

For Sierra, life–in all its complications–was simple: accept everything. Nothing lasts, so nothing need be clung to nor resisted.


Shortly after they’d first met, Savannah tried to learn Sierra’s secret.

They sat together at a café, and Savannah leaned over the table to look into Sierra’s eyes.

“How do you do it?” she asked.

“Do what?”

When Savannah finally managed to explain what she was asking, which was challenging because she wasn’t sure herself, Sierra just laughed.

“There’s no trick!” she said. “Do you remember when you were a baby?”

Savannah shook her head. “I don’t remember anything before Leigh was born. I mean, I know the facts, but I don’t remember how anything felt. It’s as if my life ended and then started again. Everything from before is merely hypothetical. Do you remember?”

“I do!” said Sierra. Sierra’s earliest memories were of lying in her crib while the sunlight poured in through the nursery windows. “Happiness, I discovered, was as easy as holding my toes! As natural as the sunlight! That’s all there is to it,” she explained. “Simply breathe! We have more than we need to be happy! We have everything.”

Savannah loved to watch Sierra walk through the park behind their home.


“Are you meditating?” she asked sometimes.


“I’m walking,” Sierra replied. “Walking and breathing and feeling the soles of my feet on the earth.”


Savannah walked through the park while Sierra did a sun salutation. She wondered if she could walk long enough that her thoughts would stop. She wanted to ask Sierra if her thoughts stopped while she practiced walking meditation, but Sierra was in the middle of her yoga routine. Savannah continued to walk the path as it wound past the garden, behind their house, through the many arches and back past the sunny lawn where her young wife practiced yoga. With each step, she watched her breath. One, two, three, four–on the inhale. One, two, three, four, five–on the exhale.


With each inhale, she thought: I walk on the earth. With each exhale: the ground is beneath me. With the next inhale: the sky is above me. Exhale: the ground is beneath. Around and around. Her feet sounded on the cement pathway, and the sound resonated inside.

She stopped to watch Sierra finish the routine. Stillness within, stillness without.


“I think my thoughts stopped,” she said to Sierra, while Sierra rolled the yoga mat.

Sierra smiled.

They held hands and walked together down the path, while slowly thoughts found their ways back into the minds of each woman.

“Let’s have salad and scrambled eggs for supper!” Sierra said.

They met a community gardener on the way home.

“Oh! We should tell her about the next Green Party meeting!” Sierra said.

Savannah watched the two women talk. Her mind still had so much space within–is this what peace feels like? We don’t need the Green Party, Savannah thought. All we need is this. Stillness and quiet.


They said goodbye to the gardener, who’d promised to attend their next rally, and as they approached the street, they came upon an old man.

“Good evening, M. Deveralle,” Sierra said.

“Ah, ma belle!” said the old man. “What is the young rebel doing wandering through the park this fine evening?”


As they chatted, Savannah learned of the old man’s experience with political reform. “We will change the old ways once again,” he said. “You tell that to Alec. All he needs to do is call. I am always ready for the consultation.”

They bid goodnight to Claude Deveralle and walked the rest of the way home.

“He was once the leader of the Socialist Movement,” Sierra said.

“That old man?” Savannah asked.

“That man,” Sierra replied. “He has such stories to tell. Such experience.”

Savannah sat at the counter while Sierra chopped the salad.

“Are you sad, dear?” she asked.

“Oh,” said Sierra, “I suppose so. It will pass.”


A hot shower, the supper of salad and scrambled eggs, and the sadness lifted and jokes flowed between the two.


And then the doors slammed and the two daughters were home.

“School is the biggest crock of garbage,” pronounced Elaine. She sat on the couch and glared.


While Savannah washed the dishes, Sierra sat next to her, not talking, simply sitting, smiling, resting and breathing. Elaine sighed and leaned against her mother. “If only everyone were like you,” she said.

Before bed, Leigh came down with an announcement.

“I’ve figured it out. I want to be a botanist. Either that or an astronaut. No, a botanist. Do you think that botanists make good money?”


Her mothers laughed.

“I doubt that many botanists become botanists for the money,” said Savannah.

“No,” said Sierra, “but you know? There are so many good jobs for botanists!  And for gardeners, too! And if Alec wins, Three Rivers will be hiring even more of both!”

“I think I’ll be a botanist,” repeated Leigh. “I like trees.”

After the girls went up to their rooms, Sierra and Savannah tidied up the living room, putting away the books and magazines, watering the house plants, folding the afghans and comforters.

“I hope our daughters pick up something of you,” Savannah said, “so that when they move out into this big world, they’ll always have a center of calm, like we do, here in our home.”

“They’ll live their own way,” Sierra replied, “for it’s their lives, isn’t it?”


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.


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.


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?


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
Sera le genre humain.

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


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


There had been a time when the city had noticed.


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


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


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


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.


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.


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


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


“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.


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.


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.


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.”


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


“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.”


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
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.”


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 >>