Continued from previous post:
Mike Rowe’s face paled considerably in the moonlight washing the patio, which was a difficult thing to discern in the darkness, but I was able to spot it. (Apparently Mother was right about those carrots after all.) He turned to his producer. “Could you step back inside and let me speak to these gentlemen privately?”
Producer: “But Mike, we need to finish this segment. The crew is already on overtime.”
Mike: “Go back in the house. Send the people home if that makes you happy. This is going to take a while.” (Oh?)
The producer stood there a bit longer, glaring at everyone with intense dislike, his eyes telling a tragic tale indicative of years of painful suffering, a miserable existence where people simply did not take his urgency seriously. But we didn’t care. Once he realized this, he and his irritating headset marched back into the house.
Henri and I turned back to Mike, giving him our full and devoted attention. However, he was not quite ready to share. “I don’t know if I can do this without proper lighting.”
Just then, a gypsy woman sporting faded but still colorful attire modestly danced our way from the nearby courtyard, hoisting a clever torch she had fashioned out of an old crutch and a discarded phone book. She gently lit several candles that had been strategically placed in the vicinity, creating a wonderful ambiance, then she waltzed away into the night, warbling a wisp of a forgotten opera. This is France, these things happen.
Mike nervously cleared his throat. “Well, gentlemen, I suppose I have a confession to make.”
Henri stirred beside me. “A confession? Well, then, we simply must have wine.”
A hand suddenly appeared at the kitchen window, thrusting out a bottle. Henri leapt to his feet and graciously accepted the offering, which was quickly followed by wine glasses, some bread, and an artfully-arranged tray of cheese. Then the window was discreetly lowered and the kitchen light extinguished. Well, then. At least someone around here knew how to be a gracious host.
We arranged our treasures on the patio table, made ourselves comfortable in the available roomy and sturdy chairs, and settled in for a winsome tale of livestock and circumstance. Somewhere down the street, a string quartet softly played, perfectly accompanying Mike’s saga, which went like this:
Two days before my surprising arrest for nudity and lewdity, Mike and his crew arrived in Paris for the first of their “Dirty French Jobs” assignments. Not being familiar with the city, there was an error in judgment that resulted in the crew taking rooms at a less than savory hostel, located just a few blocks from Henri’s abode and where we now sat. This in itself is not that unusual. First-time travelers to Paris often find themselves on the unfortunate side of the decision-making process. Just ask Marie Antoinette.
In any case, the crew, finding themselves stacked like cordwood, six to a room, soon grew to hate the sight of one another. There was an altercation involving bathroom privacy, and Mike, knowing that he would need his crew for the shoot in the morning, realized he could not kill them, and therefore decided to venture out, find a nearby bistro, and drink anything the wait staff placed before him.
Unbeknownst to Mr. Rowe, the dominoes of fate were now being placed in position.
Whilst swilling a concoction that supposedly included the once-again-legal ingredient of absinthe, Mike chanced to innocently glance to his right, and spied a comely French woman sitting alone at a table. She appeared to be somewhat blue, possibly on the verge of tears, and quite despondent over making her dinner selection from the detailed menu.
Emboldened by excessive drink, Mike tossed his linen napkin aside and approached her table. “Might I suggest something pleasing?”
The woman, startled at first, glanced up at Mike and then smiled, her tears instantly drying. “But of course. You appear to be a man who knows things. I like men like that.” Then she giggled seductively, which is often all it takes to own a man’s heart, and thus began a whirlwind infatuation. Mike quickly snatched the remainder of his escargots, and slid into the opposite chair at the woman’s table.
As the evening progressed, Mike and the woman, whose named proved to be Vivienne, enchanted one another with amusing anecdotes and flirtatious gazing at one another. By dessert, love was rearing its tender head.
Sadly, the hour grew late, and the lovers had to part. (Vivienne was giving her doctoral thesis in the morning, and simply could not be late.) As they were breathing heavily on the sidewalk outside the bistro, they promised to meet again in two nights. (Mike had an unavoidable segment shoot the next evening, wherein he would be scraping barnacles off of fly boats.) In a frenzied moment of passion, Mike had an inspiration. “Can I bring you a little something for our next rendezvous?”
Vivienne did not hesitate. “I’d like a goat.”
“I’m sorry, my love?”
“A goat. But not just any goat, mon chere. I require a goat, white as pure snow, but with four brown paws. It is something I have dreamed of since my childhood days in the Loire Valley. It would mean the world to me. Now, my love, I must run.” And then she was gone, vanishing into the sultry night.
Mike stood there a moment, perplexed. What an absurd request. But he was smitten, and therefore determined to find the exact goat that would send his new love into rapturous spasms of gratitude, even if it took him the next 48 hours to do so.
But Mike did not have 48 hours. He had a very busy schedule, with segments to film, meetings with boring people who approved budgets, and a photo shoot for an ad campaign wherein he would frolic around at sanitation landfills outside the city and throw sludge at the camera. So he was forced to call upon an innocent intern who could devote her time to finding the perfect goat.
This poor intern. Imagine the horrific experiences she must have gone through, tasked with finding a goat in the City of Lights whilst everyone else gets to wear couture and read poetry in cafes. It must have been grueling, the wretched thing. But find a goat she finally did, with just a few hours before the lovers were scheduled to meet.
Once she had obtained the animal, the intern rushed to the set where Mike and the crew were filming. Upon her arrival, Mike was overjoyed, climbing out of a manhole to embrace the young staffer. After heaping copious praise on the blushing woman, Mike tied the goat’s leash to the crew’s van and returned to the sewers. The jubilant staffer, convinced of an impending raise, raced off to the Rue du Faubourg Saint Honore and immediately purchased something useless but fancy at Givenchy.
Sadly, now that the sacred goat had been wrangled, no one thought to make sure that it remained so. While the crew was busy capturing Mike’s exploits with a drain pipe, a short man by the name of Jacques de Bouvier snuck up to the unattended van, untied the goat, and scampered around the corner. The goat, happy to be away from the sewage, did not protest.
(“Jacques is my client!” gushed Henri beside me. Mike glared at him. Let me tell the story, you insipid little man. Henri shushed and refilled his wine glass.)
Jacques then proceeded to the villa of his therapist, and made his customary payment of livestock, never mentioning to Henri that his funds were tainted. Of course, Jacques didn’t really have a chance to mention it, because Henri was not there, trapped as he was in the south of France, his car having ruptured an axle after being run off the road by boisterous Americans. Jacques simply retrieved the key under the third rock from the sundial, shoved the goat in the front door, and walked away. Done.
(This, dear reader, is where yours truly entered the picture, arriving a few minutes later for my session with the Cucumber Lady, and the tragic mishaps that followed.)
Meanwhile, back on the set, Mike has lumbered out of the sewer for the final time, and various people are rushing about, dismantling equipment and storing things in the van. Since so many careless people are not paying attention, it takes some time for the goat abduction to be discovered. Finally, Mike, putting his shirt back on after once again having taken it off for no apparent reason, realizes that things are amiss.
“Where is the goat?”
No one responded, as none of them were in love and thereby did not understand the significance of the smelly goat. Instead, they continued attending to their various duties and pondering what delicious meal they might encounter that evening. Besides, Mike was always asking philosophical questions that didn’t necessarily require an answer.
Frustrated, and assuming that the goat had simply escaped and had not been forcibly taken, Mike thundered out of the little square, racing in the direction he determined the goat would take if achieving sudden freedom. (Mike had once done a segment on a goat farm, and knew that the unimaginative creatures always ran in a southwesterly direction and would always veer left when given road-choice options.)
Luckily enough, short men named Jacques often adhere to this same flight pattern when bringing payments to their therapists. Within minutes, Mike was approaching Henri’s apartment, and soon found himself at the front door through which the goat and been unceremoniously shoved a few hours ago. The door was now locked (Mike did not know about the key under the third rock), but by placing his desperate ear against the portal, he could hear the sounds of bleating accompanied by running water. Mike raced around the building to the patio, found the back entrance to be locked as well, and pondered his next move.
Then he spied the open kitchen window.
Briskly stepping up to such, Mike peered in, and discovered the goat standing in the kitchen, contemplating a cucumber on the counter. Startled, and not in the mood for further travel, the goat snatched the cucumber and tottered into another room. Frantic, Mike tried to climb through the window in pursuit, but his muscled bulk could not quite slip through.
Then he spied the can of Crisco, and inspiration dawned anew.
Quickly ripping off his shirt (which he probably would have done anyway, given any opportunity), Mike then seized the can and began slathering his torso in the hopes of improving his window-access chances.
Just then, the sounds of running water ceased, and Mike spotted a naked, freshly-showered man stepping out of the bathroom and wrapping himself in a towel. In a slight panic (things might be misperceived, given the circumstances) Mike dropped the can of Crisco and hurried across the courtyard, taking shelter behind a dumpster that reeked of garlic and faded memories. He waited for the showered man to become interested in some activity that would take him out of the apartment, or at least away from the window.
Much to Mike’s surprise, the back door suddenly flew open, and the brazen man with his skimpy towel stepped out and rescued the fallen container of cooking grease. Two seconds later, the goat, the cucumber lodged in his tiny teeth, thundered out the back door as well, completely unconcerned about the Crisco, but certainly interested in something on the other side of the courtyard. The man and his towel let loose with a cry of disdain, and then quickly raced after the Billy.
Realizing that his chances of goat recovery were dwindling, Mike joined in the impromptu parade.
The precocious animal darted toward an open door off the courtyard, with the man a few hooves behind him. There was a brief tussle, wherein the man acquired the cucumber but not the misbehaving creature, and the goat raced through the door. Just before the man entered the building as well, Mike reached out to stop him, hoping to plead his case about how desperately he needed the goat, but his efforts failed. Instead, Mike found himself clutching a consolation prize in the form of a damp towel.
Five seconds later, Mike was startled to hear the sounds of children screaming and a harridan woman alerting authorities. Mike wisely decided that perhaps he would retrieve the goat at another time, despite his desperate desire to please his love, and he slipped away from the scene in search of a calming beverage and an alternate plan.
Mike finished the last sip of his wine, his tale complete, and then regarded Henri and I with doleful eyes. “And that, gentlemen, is my tragic tale of love and livestock in the city of passion.”
Then I regained my composure. “So it seems, Mr. Rowe, that, in essence, due to your torrid romance with a woman you hardly know, I now find myself in this legal predicament. I am facing criminal charges because you got drunk and fell in love with a woman, promising her a goat.”
Mike smiled wanly. “What can I say? Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder.”