Drunk In Paris

Drunk In Paris

A Story by Sean M. Palfrey

An Ex-Pat living in Paris during 'La Belle Epoque' is re-united with his astranged daughter.


"After the first glass [of Absinthe], you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world."

- Oscar Wilde.

She walked through the stagnant cigarette smoke that hung in the dark air of the club. She balanced a silver tray with two glasses, precariously on one hand and carried a tiny notepad in the other. She placed the glasses down in front of us, and clocked the bemused look on my companion’s face.
‘It tastes like liquorice.’ The waitress smiled suggestively through a French accent, and promptly returned to her mingling and flirting duties, as I took a sip from my absinthe.
‘Is that true?’
‘Is what true?’ I looked up from drink and into her eyes, which caused her to look back down at her own.
‘That it tastes like liquorice?’ she took a gulp from her glass. ‘I hate liquorice.’
‘Yes, and that’s why I ordered you wine.’
‘Oh.’ She was disappointed that I had actually processed some information about her. Being somewhat neurotic and image obsessed she would defend her mystique to the death. My defences were up as well tonight. We sat in silence, briefly scanning the clientele for a conversation starter. The old, fat and rich wandered through the young, talented and destitute - knocking them into the sides of the bar whilst in search of the young, female and irredeemable. The performing girls and waitresses flocked around anyone who looked like they could immortalise them in one form or another before their beauty inevitably faded.
‘Here you go… and for your lady friend. If you need anything else just ask for Justine.’ I traced the shape of her long perfect legs wrapped in green silk stockings, as she walked away and reached for the glass.
‘Why are we in here anyway?’ She scoffed, dragging my attention away from Justine’s legs.
‘It’s quite friendly.’
‘It’s a burlesque club.’
‘They do cabaret too.’
‘Tonight, why else would I have brought you?’ I flashed a smile at her and she pouted. The truth was I came in here most nights and wasn’t going to break my routine without good reason.
‘What’s it like?’
‘The Absinthe.’
‘Cold, then warm.’
‘Fine. Be like that.’ She gulped at her wine. My attention switched to the bawdy routine of the master of ceremonies until Justine’s legs sauntered past again. She mumbled something under her breathe but just audible so as to completely fix my attention on her.
‘Can I try it? The Absinthe.’ She turned on her best little girl voice and beamed a smile at me. I complied and watched her reel away from the glass.
‘Oh that’s so bitter, how can you drink that?!’ I chuckled at her and she smiled back.
‘I guess it’s an acquired taste.’
‘It’s a taste for people with no sense of taste.’ The master of ceremonies was working the room and interjected his opinion before disappearing into the smoky depths of the club. I looked over at her.
‘What he said. Are you ready for another drink?’ She nodded. I called Justine’s legs over and she made her way to the bar, eager to please.
‘So, how often do you come here?’ She’d been interrogating me all day, at first I’d resisted but now she’d worn me down and I stopped caring about what I might reveal to her.
‘Most nights. Failing that there’s a little bistro round the corner that the bohemians frequent. But politics, philosophy and general pretension seems too overwhelming most of the time.’
‘What do you do afterwards?’
‘After a night in here, or in the bistro?’

‘A night in the bistro usually ends in a fight or a war of wit. Whereas a night in here usually ends with some company.’
The warmth of the absinthe was rising out of my belly and up toward my brain, creeping up the back of my neck and then slowly pulling a veil down over my face, before loosening up my tongue. The show had begun and she was now fixated on the opening number. The legs wafted in and out of view again, less perfect than before.
‘That was rather good.’
‘Why else would I bring you in here? They’ll be back out in five minutes or so.’
‘Mum misses you, she wants you to write to her.’ That was out of the blue, I hadn’t thought about anyone really, let alone Lucile, since moving to Paris a few long years ago.
‘I told her I’d bring a letter from you back with me.’
‘I’ll see what I can do. How is your mother?’ It was an empty sentiment but she seemed satisfied by it for now. A chorus line emerged covered in feather boas, singing innuendos and working the spectators up into a hooting rabble.
‘I think she understands why you left us, but she would like to know for sure… So she can move on.’
‘You don’t have to pile on the guilt, I will start a letter tomorrow before we go out.’
‘Sorry Papa.’
‘I think it’s time for another drink.’
‘Not for me thanks.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes, do they have a powder room here?’ I pointed to a door next to the stage and as she followed the direction of my finger. I motioned the legs over to quench my thirst.
‘Who’s the girl? I thought you usually came in here to shop for them, not bring them on dates.’ Her French accent mutated into an American drawl and then recovered itself.
‘She’s no one. Just absinthe this time and nothing for her.’ By the time Justine returned she had emerged from the powder room and was again fixated on the stage.
‘Why is she so attentive?’
‘It’s her job.’
‘To flirt with everyone I get, but she seems too attentive towards you.’
‘I hadn’t noticed’.
‘Have you made love to her?’
‘Love is such a dirty word.’ The truth was I didn’t actually know. She didn’t find it funny.
‘I think it’s because I’m in here so often, I’m a patron, and the owner has purchased some of my work.’ Her eyes didn’t leave me despite my best efforts to pooh-pooh her question. I absorbed myself in my drink.
‘I would like to know more about you. I’ve known you all my life, but I haven’t got a clue about who you are.’
‘There’s not really much to know. I spend my days trying to paint and write, for which my efforts get me little recognition, so I end up in places like this drinking and being titillated and trying to remember why I came here to begin with.’ I don’t think I snapped at her, but my tongue was too loose for me to fully keep it in check. She returned to her previous pouting.
‘I don’t know who you think I am, other than a sad drunk.’
‘I don’t think your sad, just lonely.’
‘Maybe. Another act is starting.’ We sat in silence until those legs reappeared in my field of vision. I racked my brains trying to think whether there was more to Justine than just a friendly waitress with nice legs. I studied her hard but all I found out about her was she wasn’t as perfect as I’d thought, those legs were track marked, probably from injecting morphine. A drunk with standards.
‘Now there’s a first.’ She looked over. I felt momentarily naked for betraying my internal monologue in such a foolish way.
‘Nothing.’ She cleared her throat and in the soft light looked perfect.


© 2008 Sean M. Palfrey

Author's Note

Sean M. Palfrey
I am looking to expand this piece.

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You have lots of room to expand on this piece, and you've given yourself a solid scene for whichever direction you want to take it. I will reiterate, there needs to be some clarification as to who is speaking in some parts. It's easy to get lost at the moment. You had great imagery, and a good shape to your lines. They moved smoothly. Good start.

Posted 12 Years Ago

Interesting piece of writing. I can see myself in this guy... Yes I live in France, not Paris though, I write--try to write, and yes Absinthe... hmmm... According to my French neighbour, the real stuff is illegal, even though the local supermarket stocks a few bottles of a weaker version (only 75% proof....) try it with RedBull...LOL.

Back to the story... very good starter for ten, would love to see a lot more of it. I did have a small problem sorting out who was who, well except for the waitress with the legs. A little confused as to who was speaking at times. Became clearer the second time of reading. I do hope you will be adding to it.

Posted 13 Years Ago

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2 Reviews
Added on February 10, 2008


Sean M. Palfrey
Sean M. Palfrey

Scunthorpe, United Kingdom

I'm 21, and am a former Creative Writing and English student at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth where I was fortunate enough to be taught by (among others) Jem Poster, Matthew Francis, and Tiffan.. more..