Read Gastien Pt 1 Online

Authors: Caddy Rowland

Gastien Pt 1 (10 page)

Just in case, he tore off a part of a piece of drawing paper. “Do Not Disturb. Special Church Project” he wrote, using a charcoal stick. He placed the piece of paper on top of the tarp. Gastien shut the bench top carefully. His heart pounded. What if he came back tonight, or any night, and everything was gone? He would really be hurting then! He had to take that chance. He could not continue to walk around carrying everything and look good applying for work. And what about when he was working, but had not made enough to get a room yet? He could not work with a tarp on his back!

 He stared at the statue of St. Catherine. Lady, he thought, if ever you have had a desire to protect an artist, please protect me. Just look after my belongings, so that I can make my way. I will be bringing art supplies here to hide tonight. They will take all the money that I have to my name. Please don’t let someone take my dream away. He felt silly even talking to a statue in his mind, but what could it hurt? He did not believe, but his mother did. Maybe some of that belief could transfer through him to good ol’ Catherine.

With that, he picked up his basket and opened it, eating his fruit. He should have kept the basket inside there with the bread and cheese in it!
He grabbed the canteen so that he had water for the day. He slowly opened the bench again, placing the basket inside. Gastien shut the lid, took a long drink, and headed down the hall. It was time to find a job.



Gastien walked the several blocks to get back to
Le Procope
Cremerie Restaurant Polidor
. By the time he got there they should be preparing for breakfast and lunch. As he approached the area, he grew nervous. He took a deep breath, trying the front door of
. It was locked. Of course, it was too early! He needed to go around to the back. He hurried to the end of the street to find the alley.

As he walked, he looked around. Gastien suddenly realized that the back alleys of Paris were not as clean and tidy as he had imagined they would be. In fact, they were more like his father described. He should have known that, he had come to the city enough with his father, and deliveries were from the alley. He just had not paid that much attention, as he had been busy trying to work fast so his father would not hit him later for being too slow. He shivered. He would truly hate to try to find a place to sleep in this alley once it was dark. Surely it would not come to that.

He heard noise coming from the back of the
and he approached the door. He knocked loudly. Getting no response, he tried again. Someone yelled, “No deliveries until half past nine!”

Gastien yelled back, “I don’t have a delivery. I am here to speak to the owner, please.” There was silence. After several minutes, Gastien tried the door. It was open, so he stepped inside. He walked through the delivery area into the kitchen. A few men where bustling about making the fare for the day. “Excuse me,
, but I would like to see the owner about a serving position,” said Gastien boldly. The cook looked at him doubtfully and then called for the owner.

The owner looked at Gastien with disinterest. “We are not hiring right now.”

. Don’t just brush me off. I am brand new to the city. I need a job so that I am not on the street. I would be a hard worker. My mother suggested that I try to get a serving position.”

“As I said, I am not hiring right now,” the owner said impatiently.

, I used to help my father deliver vegetables here. I know that you are a good man, and that your place of business is popular. When I am cleaned up, I am pleasant looking. That would perhaps be good for your business. I just want a chance.” Gastien was nervous. He did not expect a serving position to be so hard to get!

“Look, boy, I don’t care if you delivered Jesus Christ himself to
Notre Dame
! We are a busy, well known restaurant. Don’t you think every student in this area has tried to get work here? My customers expect smooth, professional service, not an inexperienced farmhand that thinks his big eyes will make up for a lack of food knowledge! My servers don’t serve here until they have experience somewhere else. Students, when I hire them, wash dishes or mop floors.”

Gastien’s face burned. He was not just some farmhand! “
I am going to be a great artist and I just – “

“And I‘m going to be the king of France one day. I told you I am not hiring. End of story!” The owner walked away.

Gastien could hear the cooks tittering in the background. He knew they were laughing at him. He forced himself to look at each of them, maintaining eye contact with each until they looked away. Then he turned around and walked out.

Regrouping, he tried to rally his spirits. There are many more places to work, he told himself. I can’t give up just because one man is impossible to reason with. With that, he moved on to
Le Procope
, the oldest restaurant in Paris. Knocking at the back door, he was ready to call out, when the door opened. Gastien jumped.

“What do you want?” the man said impatiently. “Are you another one looking for a hand out? Go on, get away. You vagrants test the patience of all of the businesses around here. Go on, shoo!”

“I do not want a hand out. I want a job,” Gastien said. “Is the owner here?”

“I am the owner. Sorry. I am getting real tired of all of the street bums hoping for a free meal. However, I am not hiring right now.”

Gastien looked forlorn. The owner continued kindly, “Look, Son. Your timing is bad. My servers are all experienced and the students apply for any dishwashing or slop positions at the beginning of the semester. With
Académie Julian
near here, we have more people applying than we can accept. That is true for every restaurant around here. I am sorry, but you are too late until spring.” He smiled kindly.

“Until spring???” Gastien said incredulously. “But,
, I can’t wait until spring! I have no place to stay and no food! I just got here yesterday. I am determined to become a great artist. All I need is a chance!”

“I am sorry, boy. You and dozens of others need a chance. No wonder you did not know to apply earlier, you are not even a student or you would have been here a couple months ago.
, I am sorry, but I cannot create a position that does not exist. You will have to go.”

“But what will I do if no one hires me?” Gastien whispered.

The man looked at Gastien. The boy was so sad looking.
Mon Dieu
, one could get lost looking into those beautiful eyes! That the boy was nice looking was not going to be an asset for him on the streets. There were too many men looking for a beautiful boy to lure into a dark doorway in exchange for a piece of bread and perhaps some fruit.

“You want my advice? Go back home. You don’t have a chance on the street and you don’t have a chance of making it as an artist. There are too many who will be educated in art, how do you expect to compete? Go back home while you can.”

“That is not an option for me,
. I no longer have a home,” Gastien stated flatly.

“Then may God have mercy on you, Son. Because the streets of Paris won’t. Now, goodbye.” He reached over and took a fresh croissant, handing it to Gastien. “Have breakfast on me, but don’t come around hoping for hand outs in the future. Either go home or just go away. The choice is yours.”

The man walked away. He felt sorry for Gastien, but what could he do? These damn fool kids flocking to the area to become artists! Some of them were supported by parents, so after the lark was over, they had a good home to go to. A few, very few, eked out a poor living until they found something else. One in a million made it. He doubted a farm boy with huge brown eyes would be the one in a million. He simply would not be sophisticated enough to take advantage of opportunity even if it did come his way. Too bad. Really too bad. But not his problem.

Gastien walked out the back door into the alley. His mouth watered to eat the croissant. He should save it. Hunger overruled and he ate it.

He was starting to get scared. But he would not give up. He tried ten more places that day, after waiting for lunchtime to pass. He did not realize that was a bad time to apply until he got yelled at for that, too.

He walked up to another one. This one did not look as nice, but at least it would be work. He knocked on the back door. A big man in a dirty apron opened the door. “Whaddya want?” he growled.

“I w-would like to s-see the owner to apply for a p-position,” Gastien stammered.

The man laughed crudely. “A “position”? Well, what “position” do you prefer, sweetie? How about down on your hands and knees, with me behind you and your trousers down around your ankles?”

Gastien saw red. “
Va te faire foutre!”
he hissed and turned to walk away.

“Oh, I would much rather do you, handsome. Much. If you get hungry enough the offer still stands. You could talk me into a few meals a week in exchange.” He was still laughing nastily as Gastien turned the corner to the street.

Gastien would have liked to punch that man in the face. He would rather die than allow a man to touch him in exchange for some food!

Deciding to try one more, he entered another alley and knocked at the door. A cook came to the door. “Not hiring, not buying, and not giving out food.” He slammed the door. Gastien was not going to give up that easily. He knocked again. Nothing. Now he was angry. What right did that cook have to not let him see the owner? He knocked again. This time the door flew open and before Gastien could get a word out of his mouth, a pail of slop water was thrown at him. Dirty, filthy water, hit him in the face and all over the front of his clothes.

“Ohh!” he gasped just in time to get a mouth full of the oily, brown water. “
Gastien spit the water on the ground. “You
fils de pute

Mes couilles sur ton nez!”
the cook laughed and slammed the door.

Gastien’s shirt and most of his pants were soaked. Tears stung his eyes as frustration grew. It was mid afternoon and he was dripping wet. If nighttime came he would freeze. He needed to get back to

Perhaps he should not buy art supplies after all. Maybe he would need the money to eat. But, deep in his heart, Gastien knew if he did not buy the art supplies now he never would. He stood in the alleyway and took off his shirt, wringing it out. The trousers he could do nothing about. He put the shirt back on. The park a few blocks away had a well. He could rinse his mouth and face there, rinse out his shirt.

As he made his way over to the park, he asked a young man who looked about his age where he could find an art supply store with reasonable prices and good quality. The student kept his distance from the soaking, stinking Gastien and gave him directions. He had figured right when he assumed there would be a store by the school.

He made his way to the park, washed his face, and tried to ignore the stares as he took off his shirt to rinse it out. Finally, he poured water on his pants to try to get the dirty, smelly water off of him. He now looked like a sewer rat, but nothing could be done about it. At least it was still afternoon. He decided to sit on a bench in the sun and try to dry off some before going to the art supply store. He did not look anyone in the eyes, because if he did he would probably burst out crying.



After a few hours in the sun he was damp, but not wet. Although the clothes felt moist against his skin, anyone looking at him would not think he had on wet clothes. He followed the directions to the art supply store. The sight and smell of paints, turpentine, and other supplies wafted into his nose as he entered. Although he had never used oils, his brain processed the smells and sights as “home”. Gastien was in his element. He had never felt so comfortable.

Approaching a clerk, Gastien stated that he was beginning to paint with oils. He explained that he did not know anything about what he would need. He thirsted for the supplies like a man with sunstroke thirsts for water. The paints were his lifeblood. Gastien knew it in his gut, in his soul. Had someone taken a knife and cut him it would not have surprised him had he bled blue or green.

He told the clerk how much money he had. The clerk felt that he could get a decent easel and good primary colors, brushes, and other things he would need. Canvas, stretching boards, all of it. The clerk asked him if he knew how to stretch and prime a canvas. He said
, so the clerk patiently showed him how to do one in the back of the shop. The clerk explained that he needed one ready to paint for himself anyway, so it would be good practice for Gastien.

Gastien had quite a bit of stuff to carry. He supposed he could put the paints and things in the basket that had held his food. Then, he saw large carrying bags that had a shoulder strap. That would be perfect for carrying everything, including the easel, which could fold down! Unfortunately, he did not have quite enough money for that. He was just a little bit short.

“I guess I will have to figure something else out,” Gastien said. “I just got to Paris yesterday, and this is the only money I have to my name. I don’t have a job yet. I don’t know when I will come back for the carrying tote, but when I can, I will.”

Luckily, the “clerk” was the store owner. He looked into Gastien’s huge, dark eyes. The poor kid was so green. Here he was, spending his last money on paints! How would he eat? Then, as he looked at Gastien, he got the strangest feeling…it was almost as if he could see the boy as a man and he was painting in his studio…not real clear…and how on earth would this boy survive, let alone have his own studio…but the vision would not leave him. He suddenly knew, without a doubt, that he was staring at someone who would develop great talent despite the horrible odds.

“Oh, that is quite alright,
,” the owner said mildly. “We are starting a big, storewide sale tomorrow anyway. You are just one day early. I would rather give you the discount now. Otherwise, you would haul everything back in for return in a day or two simply to buy it again at sale price.” The boy did not have to know there was not going to be a sale.

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