Read Gastien Pt 1 Online

Authors: Caddy Rowland

Gastien Pt 1 (4 page)

She kissed him then and he kissed her back. “Go get your things in the attic,” she said softly. Gastien looked startled. “
Oui
, I knew about you drawing in the attic.” She smoothed his hair, touching his face one more time. “Don’t look so surprised,” she murmured. “Mothers always know what their children are up to. Meet me in the pantry after you get done in the attic.” Marguerite kissed him again. Then, she wiped her eyes and went downstairs.

Gastien was crying, but quickly brushed away his tears. Now was not the time to get soft and sentimental. He needed to think clearly. His life depended on it. What would he need to survive? First, he went up to the attic, getting his charcoal and paper. I need a weapon. It will need to protect me from both animals and humans. Gastien decided to take one of his father’s hunting knives. He went into the room where his father kept his guns and knives, selecting a long, lethal looking knife that had a solid sheath. He put it in his boot, but it was uncomfortable. He got some rope and hooked the knife through the rope, tying it around his waist.

He remembered the photograph of his mother that someone had taken when they were in the city once. His father would not have paid for one, but this person insisted she just take it. Gastien took that, too. It was from several years ago, and she was actually smiling a bit. His father had seen to it that she lost that smile, so he did not feel a bit bad taking it. The knife, either. Jean Beauchamp was always hounding him about why he did not enjoy hunting, trying several times to give him knives and guns. He was simply taking his choice now.

He made his way down to the pantry, stopping to get his coat, warm gloves, and a beret. His father had gone into the bedroom, and the door was firmly shut. The siblings were nowhere to be seen. Jean had ordered them out of Gastien’s sight. His mother was waiting for him with a basket packed full of the evenings chicken, vegetables, fruit and a loaf of bread.

“Eat the chicken tonight, Gastien, it won’t keep,” she warned. “Then, make the other things last. You may need it over the next several days.” She started crying again. “Here,” she whispered, placing a small sum of money in his hand. “Take this and put it in the pocket inside your pants. Be very careful with it. You can get a poor, cheap room…or you can get several meals of bread, a little cheese and water if you choose that instead. Try to stay as safe as possible. Ask around the restaurants for a job. Maybe someone will take pity and help you.”

“I don’t want to work at a restaurant, Mother. I want to paint!” Gastien replied.

“Son, I know that. That is your youth and your anger talking. You can’t just start painting and make a living. You don’t even know how to paint yet! You need to watch other painters and learn. I am so sorry you did not get to go to art school. I know that is what you wanted. Perhaps you will find a way to do that, or perhaps you are a natural and will pick up technique by watching. In the meantime, you will need a job so that you have a safe place to stay and to keep your supplies. Just remember my words. Before greatness there comes a very hard test.”

Gastien grabbed her and held her. “I love you, Mother! I wish I could say
non
to the money, but I’m not fool enough to think I don’t need it. What will Father do when he finds the money gone?”

“He will beat me, dear.” His mother looked at him soberly. “It will be the one beating that I will take proudly. You took many, too, and now I am doing something to try to make it right. It is not much, but it is all I can find. Your father will just have to figure out another way to pay bills next month.”

Gastien shook his head violently as he tried to hand the money back. “I can’t let you take a beating for me, Mother!”

Marguerite pressed his fingers around the money. “Oh, you can and you will! If you want to paint as badly as you say, you will allow many things to happen. Just don’t let go of the dream and don’t let go of your soul. For that is what will inspire you. Now go!” She kissed him again and turned away.

Gastien took a deep breath. It took all of his strength to leave her to his father. He walked out the door, forcing himself not to look back. At the barn, he found the tarp. It would be nice to talk to Paul, wish him the best of luck with the farm, and tell him that he knew Paul would succeed. Paul loved farming. But he could not wait for Paul to return from getting the doctor. He also did not want to risk his father finding out Paul talked to him, because Paul would definitely get a beating for it. Damn! He should have written him a note! Deciding to use a piece of his precious drawing paper, he wrote a note in charcoal.

“Paul,

I would have liked to have said goodbye and told you this face to face, but could not risk you taking on the rage of Father, had he found out you spoke to me. You have been my best friend. I know we are worlds apart in interests, but the connection is strong. You are a great farmer, because you love the land. I am glad you will run the farm. You deserve it more than I do. Let’s face it, a cow could farm better than I ever could! Good luck to you in life!

When you become “the boss” and no longer have to answer to Father, please look me up sometime. I will make my way to Paris, and probably find work there as I learn from other painters. I hope to eventually make my way to Montmartre. I have read that is the place that artists have been going to now for some time. It is getting to be quite the place, I guess! I don’t know how, but someday I will have a studio there. If a few years pass and you can’t find me in central Paris, I hope you look for me there.

Well, now I have used a piece of drawing paper and most of a charcoal on you, little brother. I would only do that for someone I really care about. Work hard. Be happy! Please, don’t forget me.

Gastien.”

 He hid the note in Paul’s tack supplies. Paul was always asked to groom the horses, so he would find it there.

Gastien headed to the woods for his painting supplies. By the time he had everything packed and wrapped up another hour had passed. The load had been a bit heavier than expected so he had figured out a way to tie the tarp to his back, making it a lot easier to carry. The scars on his back from the beating when he was sixteen were proof that carrying this small load on his back was nothing compared to what his back endured previously. He walked out of the woods, went to the outhouse, and then headed down the road.

At the last minute he remembered that he had not thought about water.
Merde!
I better start thinking better than that or I won’t make it two days in Paris, he scolded himself. Back to the barn he went. After selecting the largest canteen, he went to the well and filled it. His father could consider that, the knife, the tarp, and the money payment for eighteen years of taking his shit.

 

VII

Gastien started down the road again, refusing to look at the house. If his father did not want him to exist anymore, then this life would also cease to exist for him. He stubbornly concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. It would be smart to try not to think about how many miles he had to go or how alone he would be in the dark.

 As Gastien walked, he also tried not to think of the past. That life is over, he chided himself. It is time to start a new one! I am a man now, and my future is right in front of me. I know I have talent in me, I feel it burning me up inside! I just have to stay determined and not let anything stop me. I don’t know how I am going to achieve it, but someday people will come and ask me to paint. They will come to my own studio. It will be full of light and just how I want it, with nobody telling me how to have things or what I should be doing. All I need is a chance. One small chance. I will grab it, so that it is no longer a fantasy. Just one opportunity, one break, one way to move forward. Whatever it takes, I will do it.

As he walked he thought like that for some time. The temperature started to drop now that dusk had arrived. He figured he would keep going as long as he could without shivering. When he got too cold he would stop to get his coat out of the tarp, rest a bit, and eat the chicken. He would make sure to only allow himself a small amount of water. There was no reason to be greedy with water when it was cool and going to be dark soon.

After he ate and rolled things back up he would need to keep his eyes open for a place to possibly sleep. It would not be wise to sleep out in the open. Although rural France was usually quite safe, he did not want to take the chance of being robbed while he slept. If he did not see a place that looked safe he would simply walk until dawn.

Time went on. Darkness fell. The tarp roll was getting a bit heavy, but he tried not to think about it. He had only gone about five miles. However, he was starting to shiver. He decided to stop by a grove of trees to get out his coat and eat.

When he reached the trees, Gastien unfastened the tarp roll and sat it on the ground. It felt good to get the weight off! He went behind a tree to relieve himself, and then he put on his coat. Gastien stuffed the gloves and beret into his coat pocket. He may not need either tonight, but why waste time later digging them out of the tarp? Opening the basket, tears came to his eyes as he smelled the wonderful aroma of his mother’s baked chicken. A wave of loneliness washed over him, and he almost convinced himself to turn around.

What did he know about Paris or painting? Who was he trying to fool? He was just a stupid farm boy, who usually stunk like cauliflower and cow shit by the end of the day. Maybe, if he begged, his father would take him back. “
NON
!” Gastien spoke so loudly he surprised himself. “Non. You are talking like your father now. Stop this instant! Don’t let his past words become how you see yourself! Stop it right now, and remember the color! It is ALL about the color, remember? All about the color.”

When Gastien had steadied his breathing he sat down on the ground to eat. There was a large amount of chicken! He would be extremely full once he ate it all. Poor mother! How had she fed the family tonight? He imagined they had a very sorry meal, judging by the portions of various items she put in his basket. Leave it to mother to make sure he was well fed for as long as she possibly could. She had even packed a sweet for him! He would save that until he saw the city limits. That would be a celebration for him. With the last bite of chicken eaten, Gastien wiped his hands on the ground. That chicken was fabulous! He wondered when he would ever taste meat that good again. Or any meat at all.

He shook his head. It was time to think of something else like getting the tarp rolled back up, on his back again, and heading down the road. If he could keep going, he would possibly get about twelve miles in by dawn. If he slept, though, he would be stronger tomorrow. He decided to wait and see how he felt after a while. If he did not see a good place to sleep he would have no choice anyway!

With any luck, a wagon or buggy would come down the road tomorrow, with the driver offering him a ride. He really hoped to be in Paris before nightfall tomorrow night. The sooner he got there, the sooner he could begin making plans. He had a small drink of water before starting off again. The night birds were calling, and the stars came out. It may be cold and damp, Gastien thought, but thank God I can see stars. That means a clear night. I won’t have to worry about being rained on. If it rained he would have no choice but to quickly find a place to sit in order to put the tarp over him and his belongings. He could not afford to have wet clothes. He needed to stay healthy to make it in Paris, as he might be living on the streets for awhile.

He did not know exactly what that looked like, or how hard it would be, but surely it could not be as awful as his father always made it sound. Paris was a sophisticated city! The alleys, bridges, and the parks would not be bad at all. Something in the back of Gastien’s mind told him that might be false hope, but he refused to let that surface. There is no use getting all worked up about something until you face it, he told himself. Just take things as they come. You are not stupid, despite what your father said.

He decided to sing while walking. Perhaps that would take his mind off of drifting back to his father’s negative words. He started to sing, softly at first. Then, he realized no one could hear him, anyway. He sang louder. Singing seemed to lift his spirits and make him walk a bit faster. He continued down the road, singing dramatically. Gastien was determined to keep his dream alive and his father’s voice out of his head.

About an hour later Gastien had reached his fill in regard to the singing. He did not really know that many songs. He felt rather foolish walking along a road in the dark countryside singing the same songs over and over. He actually laughed out loud when he thought about what someone would imagine if they could see him. They would think he was drunk out of his mind! Not that he had ever been drunk. His father watched very closely how much
vin
was consumed with each meal. It was not so much that he cared if anyone got pissed on
vin
, but his frugality made it impossible for him to allow anyone extra of anything at all.

Gastien had no idea at this point in his life just how difficult it was to stretch money when you had eleven children, a wife to support, and workers to pay. Years later, he would realize that the tight fist that he had always mentally accused his father of was born of necessity. Jean was a cruel man to his family, but he also made sure that they did not wallow in poverty like the majority of peasant farmers. To always have decent enough food, some decent clothes, and a house that was not falling apart was a testimony to his business acumen. Add to that the fact that Jean was literate and made sure all his children were literate, and he was something of an anomaly. Gastien was about to learn just how hard life could be, but that night on the road he was still blessed with the naivety of thinking his father was just cheap.

Done singing, and not wanting to think about his father, Gastien’s mind turned to his favorite subject besides painting. Girls. Like any young boy entering manhood, his mind was on girls more often than not. He let his mind drift to images of girls. Yet again, he found himself wishing he could see a female naked. What he would give to touch her bosoms! He figured the nipple part would probably feel a lot like his. Sometimes he would touch his and fondle them to see what a woman would feel. It did not seem very impressive. Then again, he had none of that female fullness of the breast, that wonderful large mass of flesh that peaked out of the tops of dresses. It would be worth a beating just to touch and perhaps put his tongue on them, too. He wondered how they smelled.

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