A journal of narrative writing.
At Brokmeyer’s House
by Claude Clayton Smith

Brokmeyer pointed to a postcard on the table, a shot of the Eiffel Tower. It was from Michele, the message short: “Merci pour la visite.” Taylor read it aloud in a whining voice, then folded the card and stuck it in his back pocket.


“Why do you worry for that girl?”

“She was a three-year investment—with no interest.”

“And so?”

Taylor didn’t answer. He had learned how to make love that summer, the willing student of a willing teacher. The lesson had changed his life, but all too briefly.

Brokmeyer held out two fists. “Ready for another try?”

Taylor nodded and drew the black pawn. Still a little drunk, he lost his knight on the third move of the game. But as the afternoon slipped away, he sobered up while Brokmeyer drank his scotch, and by dinnertime he had avenged his loss.

* * *

On Saturday, Francine arrived from Brussels. Her arrival threw Taylor into a war

movie, the scene where the refugee gets off the train. She seemed plain and nondescript, her dark hair a mass of springy curls. Brokmeyer met her as she stepped to the platform, kissed her, and took her suitcase. The station was empty. Francine’s train, like Taylor’s, had arrived after midnight.

“This is Taylor,” Brokmeyer said, patting him on the shoulder. “From America.”

From the way that Francine stared at him, Taylor realized that Brokmeyer hadn’t told her of his visit. He extended his hand. “Enchanté.”

Francine shook his fingertips and said nothing.

“Studiker!” Brokmeyer announced.

Still staring at Taylor. Francine nodded. Dark circles underscored her eyes.

“Maybe she’s tired,” Taylor said. “Maybe we should go home.” He addressed Francine. “Fatiguée?”

She answered quietly. “Il veut boire.”

Brokmeyer turned. “What does she say?”

“She says you want to drink.”

“See?” Brokmeyer said. “She is not tired.”

He led the way from the station to the parking lot and tossed Francine’s suitcase into the back seat of his VW. Francine climbed in behind it. Taylor felt funny riding with his back to her.

At the Studiker Brokmeyer slid into a booth after Francine, put his arm around her, and kissed her. Taylor sat opposite, looking away to the Picasso poster above the jukebox. Yes, Brokmeyer confirmed, there was a Picasso exhibition at the museum,

beginning Sunday.

Without being asked, the waitress brought scotch and beer.

“Ask Francine about her mother,” Brokmeyer said. “She has been sick.”

“Votre mere?”

“Pas bonne.”

“Not good.”

“Tell her I am sorry. Tell her she must forget.”

Il le regrette. Il vous faut oublier.”

Déjà oubliée.”

“What does she say?”

“She already has.”

Brokmeyer smiled. “Wery good!” Raising his glass, he toasted the table.

* * *

In the morning, already dressed, Brokmeyer opened the door to Taylor’s room. “I am going to the cigarette machines,” he said. “Francine still sleeps. You must stay here.”

“OK, Ricardo.”

“I will not be long.”

Taylor stayed in bed for a few minutes, then got up and pulled on his jeans and tee shirt. Opening the bedroom door slowly, he walked quietly to the kitchen. All doors were shut along the hallway. It was noon, the day overcast.

To the basket of apples and cheese on the table, he added two wine glasses from the cupboard. They were out of bread.

Just as he was wondering if Francine had slept with Brokmeyer, the toiled flushed

in the bathroom off the master bedroom. Then Francine came to the kitchen doorway in

an oversized pajama top. Her feet were bare, her legs unshaven. She looked puzzled. “Où est Ervin?”

“En ville. Il arrive tout de suite. Du vin?”


Taylor poured two glasses of wine, but Francine stayed in the doorway, arms folded beneath her breasts. Stepping from the table, Taylor held a glass at arm’s length and she accepted it quietly. “À votre santé.”

“Et la votre.” Taylor raised his glass. The green pajama tops, he noticed, picked up the color of Francine’s eyes. And her legs, though unshaven, were long and slender.

Then the front door opened and Brokmeyer returned, quicker than usual, from the cigarette machines. He marched down the hall with a loaf of French bread under each arm. Turning abruptly, Francine accepted his kiss and disappeared into the bedroom.

“How’d it go?”

“Not a hassle. Not much business yesterday.” Brokmeyer put the bread on the table and took his scotch from above the refrigerator. “It is not wery nice today. Maybe rain.”

Taylor popped a piece of cheese into his mouth. “What should we do?”

“I do not know what to do.” Brokmeyer tore himself a piece of bread.