F. Patrick Butler

Book IV- VICTOR HUGO on the wild side

Book IV- VICTOR HUGO on the wild side

"Imagination is intelligence with an erection"

Victor Hugo

Chapter 1: Road Rage at the Arc de Triomphe

Chapter 1:  Road Rage at the Arc de Triomphe

"Merde!!! Je déteste ce traffic horrible!" Jean-Michel growled, wrestling with the steering wheel of his old Renault, a 4CV of uncertain vintage sporting an urban texture of spotted rust on faded blue.

It was 8:45 a.m. and the little Renault, its frayed canvas top flapping, dodged and scurried among the sleek sedans cruising along the city's avenues on their way to work. The avenues led to boulevards and boulevards to a vortex of automobiles speeding around a great circle, one that sucked them irresistibly into the gigantic merry-go-round of morning commuters. Like a symphony of schooling fish, the cars swirled about the Arc de Triomphe and then out through the city streets darting rapidly across perilous intersections threatening all whose veniality included distraction. It was rush hour at what Parisians called the circle from hell.

Suddenly the Renault sped ahead in a harrowing attempt to maintain its position, then lurching violently sideways tires squealing it tried to breakfree. Crouching as best she could in a cloth seat no more secure than a well-worn beach chair, Charly gripped the flimsy armrest and gasped, "Jeeesus Jean-Michel!" Then screamed, "Watch OUT!" as the Renault swerved to avoid a big silver Mercedes, while Jean-Michel worked his steering wheel like a harried astronaut dodging asteroids.

In the back, Astèrix, a white Labrador with tan floppy ears and large paws, struggled valiantly for balance against the centrifugal forces of his master's careening car whining urgently for escape.

Round and round the Étoile they went, swept by the tide of automobiles, there a glimpse of the Champs-Elysées, moments later the Elysées again, then a third time, and always over their left shoulder the massive Arc de Triomphe. Jean-Michel struggled to guide the little car out of the swirling forces, but by the third time around, he felt the rush of bona fide road-rage, waving his arm from the window, shouting and cursing "Ta gueule, salaud!" inciting nasty rebukes in kind. Then suddenly, as if ejected by a slingshot, they were off the racing carousel onto the safe haven of a vacant taxi stand. The old Renault coughed, bucked, and shuddered to a stop.

"Thank God!" Charly gushed, combing back curly hair with trembling fingers. "Now I know why the slowest traffic is called rush hour." Transfixed, she sat staring through the windshield, recovering from the maelstrom not knowing whether to laugh or cry. "Sweet Jesus! Jean-Michel, I thought we were dead. Did you see," she said breathlessly, hand to heart and halting voice, "the expression on that man's face?" He gave her a quizzical look. "You almost hit his Mercedes!!" She blurted.



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