Don't Ever Go to Saint-Tropez - excerpt from chapter 5
Girls are everywhere in Saint-Tropez: lying nude, like adolescent, tide-washed goddesses,
on the top deck of yachts, or standing, drink in hand, on the lower one, clad in three
strategically placed fabric flowers, or else draped on lounges, displaying endless tans.
They parade along the harbor, wearing not much more than a G-string, or in long, diaphanous
skirts that open as they walk, or else they sit at cafe terraces bare, or better than bare-breasted.
Further into the village, they play boule under the plane trees, wearing nothing but bikinis, to the
delight of pot-bellied locals, who sit on chairs lining the boule grounds, commenting on the sights.
They shop at the open-air market in abbreviated, clinging shorts and unbuttoned shirts, breasts
revealed each time they reach for a peach or weigh a pound of tomatoes on the hanging scales.
Breasts are everywhere in Saint-Tropez, either bare or concealed for revelation. Not the
massive silicone or saline type, for cleavage is out, out, out. The breasts of Saint-Tropez
are the kind you cannot buy: small, firm, upturned. They resemble, if anything, lemon halves,
or better, pointed hyacinth bulbs. None sag, or even hint at the onset of gravity. Rib cages
are delicate, waists round and narrow, bellies taut with sweetly coiling navels. Thighs are
long and slender. Hair is four feet long, straight and sweeping, raven or else a frosted taffy blond.
It seems that red and platinum are out this year. Any woman, proud of her good figure and smart hairstyle,
suddenly feels like her own grandmother.
A New Alchemy: Turning Old Stones into Gold - excerpt from chapter 11
We sat in a circle, placed hands spread out, fingertips barely grazing the table top. After some hesitation,
Terry, trying to remember what he'd read and heard about seances, addressed whichever spirit might be hovering near.
"Knock once for yes, twice for no. Spirit, are you here?"
Silence. At the fourth or fifth repetition of the question, I swear the table vibrated slightly.
Yet everybody's legs were to the side, where knees or feet couldn't possibly touch it.
"Spirit, are you here?"
One foot of the table lifted slightly, one hesitant knock: Yes. I began to wonder just what we were getting into.
"Have you lived in this village?" asked Terry.
One knock, louder: Yes.
"Have you lived in this room?"
Another assertive knock: Yes.
"In this century?"
Two knocks: No.
"How many centuries ago?"
Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock. Five centuries. The fifteen hundreds, then.
"Was this the guardroom of the castle?"
"Were you a guard?"
"Did you die here?"
No knock this time, but the table shuddered violently, the candle flame bent, almost went out. Shadows rose against
the walls. "I think we should stop this," I said, trembling. "I'm afraid of what we're doing."
But nobody paid attention. Terry, his voice strained, went on:
"Can you tell the future?"
"I am Terry. Shall I own a house in Provence?"
Silence. Only a light shudder of the table.
"Shall I own a house in Provence?" repeated Terry
"When? Knock once for each year hence."
"Here? In this village?"
This time, the single knock struck so loudly that the table nearly tipped over, but it incredibly righted
itself. I cried out loud and stood up. The candle went out, the seance was over, leaving us all shaken.
But Terry had learned what he needed to know: His search would narrow down to this village.
A few shots of marc restored everybody's composure. But for weeks, I'd avoid walking down to the voutes at night.
We never held another seance, and never mentioned that one again.
The Returning Ones - excerpt from chapter 16
"I told them how Marie and I had been meeting, walking home every night; how I'd fallen in
love with her and asked her to marry me. Only, she'd seemed oddly afraid of me, or perhaps
of what her folks would say if they found out she'd been meeting a boy in the dark. I needed
to reassure her and them, too, that I was an honest young man, with nothing but the most
honorable intentions and a home to offer her. Only, I wanted to see Marie and speak to her
in front of her parents right now.
"All along, the mother was sobbing: 'My poor, poor child,' she kept repeating. Finally, the
father wiped his eyes and placed his hand on my arm.
"'Come with me, my boy,' he told me. 'Come with me and I'll take you to her. You'll see
where she is.'
"So, together, we walked past the next village, I more puzzled all the time. He took me
to a path beyond, that led to the cemetery.
"'Where are we going?' I asked, but he shook his head and wouldn't answer. Soon, we were
at the cemetery gate. He pushed it open. We walked down the main alley, turned once, and
came upon a fresh grave, just a mound of earth with a plain wooden cross.
"'This is where Marie is, my boy', he whispered. 'She passed away last month, after a
sudden fever. No time yet for a proper tombstone.'
"On that mound of freshly dug earth lay my cape in a dark heap, and in the brilliant
moonlight, something on top was shining: my ring.
Paul and Vincent, Brigitte and Caroline - excerpt from chapter 17
Sometimes, visitors to the Clergue's home are informed: "You are stepping on the very floor that van
Gogh trod barefoot." Indeed, when the Clergues were restoring their seventeenth-century home, they
heard that the Arles public baths were being demolished. The centuries-old pavers were about to be
carted off to some dump. But Madame Clergue, who knows a value when she sees one, commandeered a few
wheelbarrows and, with the help of friends, transported load after load of the beautiful, thick terracotta
tiles. These today pave the floor of their reception rooms, glowing with the low patina of age.
..."Vincent was a regular at the baths," explains Lucien, "and he certainly had to take off his shoes
like everyone else. I know. I used to go there myself as a child, because we were too poor to own a
bath." And then he tells of worshipful visitors who have slipped off their ownfootwear, in the hope
of communing better with whatever inspiration might still linger on the tiles trod by a barefoot Vincent.