Authors: Caddy Rowland
Gastien returned his thoughts to the journey ahead. He had been thinking about women and that past memory for quite some time. My father knew! He knew, and he did not humiliate me. At least we had one thing in common that we shared, he thought sadly.
While Gastien was hurriedly packing, he had come upon the postcards. They were well worn now. He thought about taking them along, but decided he would have plenty of other things to worry about. Finding time to look at postcards of naked women was probably not going to be a priority for awhile.
Plus, he was going to be in Paris! Nowhere in the world would he find more beautiful women. He was sure it would not be long before he was sampling the real thing regularly. Again, the hope of someone young and naive. Gastien would find that living in the streets did not exactly bring the passion out in beautiful women. Having many women would not happen immediately like he thought, but once he got started he would more than make up for it. For Gastien was cute already and destined to grow into a handsomeness that would be hard for women to resist.
He decided to leave the postcards for Paul. Paul had turned sixteen, and he knew that Paul was pleasuring himself now regularly, too. Although they certainly did not do this together, he sometimes could hear Paul next to him in bed as he relieved himself, thinking that he had waited until Gastien was asleep. Gastien never said anything. After all, perhaps Paul had at times heard him. Men need to think some things are secret! Putting the postcards under a pair of Paul’s underwear, he smiled as he thought of Paul’s surprise and pleasure when he discovered what his brother had left him. “Enjoy, little brother, enjoy. I know I sure did,” Gastien whispered.
Thinking about those postcards had affected Gastien as he walked. What was wrong with him? He had “little Gastien” fully awake and at attention, while walking down a country road in the middle of the night! Perhaps he should have kept singing instead! Well, he also had to piss anyway, so he started to look for somewhere to take care of things, and then perhaps sleep.
He had walked for quite some time, he could tell by the movement of the moon in the sky. He was tired, his back ached, and he had to find some relief. Ahead, and to the right, he saw an old building that looked as though it might be abandoned. He walked up to it and found that, although it was abandoned, the age was new enough that it had not really started to decay much. It was sound. Animals would not get in. This was a perfect place to sleep for awhile.
Taking his tarp off of his back, he spread it on the floor. He quickly went outside, took care of all of his needs and came back in. He took a small drink, grabbed the blanket he had packed and laid down. He bunched up part of the tarp for a pillow. He fell asleep quickly and slept deeply through the rest of the night.
Gastien woke slowly. Between sleep and wakefulness, it felt like he was in another world. He knew he was not in his bed. He could smell the outside, and it was hard beneath him. There was a brief moment of panic, as he came more fully awake and opened his eyes. Then it quickly came to him. He had left home last night, walked quite a way, and finally found shelter when his legs could not carry him any further. He also remembered the show down with his father. I hit him, Gastien remembered, I hit him twice…and I think I even spat at him! The man had it coming for a long time. Gastien hoped his father’s jaw and nose hurt like hell for weeks.
Deciding not to dwell on it any longer, Gastien sat up.
he had to pee! He quickly hurried outside around the back of the building. The rumbling of his stomach told him that it was time to eat something. Going back in, he decided that he better eat the vegetables. He was sick to death of vegetables after farming them since childhood, but he knew they would not last as long as the bread would. The cheese would last, too. He had better plan on eating just a little of the cheese for lunch, with a bit of bread. For now, he would have to make do with cauliflower and other vegetables that his mother had packed for him. There was fruit, too, which he would save for dinner that night.
Finishing up, Gastien stood and began to pack up his belongings. He came upon his crude “toothbrush” and used it to try to get his teeth somewhat clean. He would have dearly loved to use some water and rinse his mouth, but knew he needed to make his water last. He could only afford the small drink he took after he had finished his vegetables. Spitting water on the ground would be foolish.
An urgent need to go to the bathroom sent him back outside. He suddenly realized that he had nothing to wipe with. Looking around, he found nothing but some small trees, so he pulled off some leaves. Thank God I remembered before I finished the job, he thought. It might be awhile before he could clean himself, he did not need to add to the smell. He briefly wondered what he would do in the city when he needed to go. Well, hopefully, he would find a room that was very cheap. One that had a privy on the property. He knew that public toilets were rare, even in Paris. When there was a public toilet it was usually over-flowing, and stank so awfully that you were lucky not to have stuff coming out of both ends before you were through!
He stretched a bit before securing the tarp to his back. He had slept a lot later than he had thought he would. It must have been quite late when he stopped. He needed to get on the road, now, if he dared to hope that a wagon heading to Paris would be coming his way.
Gastien started off down the road once again. He wondered how many more miles he had to go. He should have paid more attention to landmarks during the trips to Paris with his father. Well, knowing it would not make it any closer, he decided, so just keep moving. He did not let himself think past arriving in the city. The only goal right now was to get there.
He had not been walking long when he heard a wagon and horses approaching behind him. Please let it be someone generous who will allow me to ride, Gastien thought. As the wagon approached, Gastien turned and waited. To Gastien’s delight, the wagon slowed down.
“Whooooaaaa!” Peering at Gastien, the man suddenly said, “Aren’t you Jean Beauchamp’s oldest?”
, I am,” Gastien answered. He recognized the man from church.
“What are you doing so far away from home in the middle of the morning? And why do you have that contraption tied to your back?” queried the farmer.
“I am going to Paris,
. I am going to start a life of my own.”
“Oh, boy. That must not have made your father very happy. We expect our eldest son to take over for us as we age. By the way, I am sorry, but I can’t remember your name.” The farmer looked puzzled as to why anyone would leave the farm.
. My name is Gastien. My father is very unhappy with me. He asked me to never return.”
“Oh, my. Well, Jean Beauchamp is a stubborn man for sure, but very well meaning. He is always so friendly to everyone at church! I can’t imagine why you would want to leave the farm.” The man shook his head, and then shrugged. “Well, at least he has other boys to take over. Your younger brothers aren’t as foolish as you, are they?”
Gastien smiled. “I would say perhaps they are more foolish, because I know that at least the next oldest wants to farm! No disrespect to you,
, but I do not have love for the land in any part of my body.”
The farmer thought for a few minutes. Then he snapped back to the present and said “Well, Gastien, what are you waiting for? Jump up here by me in the wagon. I don’t have all day.”
Gastien could not climb up fast enough. “
Merci beaucoup, Monsieur. Merci beaucoup
“Sure, Son, but take that bulk off of your back, and you will have an easier time sitting in the seat. Go ahead and throw it in behind you, there is room for it. I don’t think you want to sit for hours with that pressing against your back,” the farmer chuckled.
” Gastien said as he unfastened the tarp, placed it in the back, and sat on the bench next to the farmer.
“Do you know my name, Son?”
. It is Mathieu.”
“Then please call me Matt. You will drive me nuts if you continue to call me
for the next several hours.”
Gastien looked at him and smiled shyly. “Then Matt it is. I take it you are going all the way to Paris?”
, I am. I have some supplies to pick up for the wife, and then I want to get a repair done to the drop door on the wagon in back. Damn thing catches on me all of the time, and I can’t get it to open. Pretty unhandy when you are trying to unload things.”
Gastien laughed. “
, I bet! I would hate to be handling crates of vegetables and not be able to pull them straight out and down.”
They rode in silence for awhile. Finally Matt broke the lull. “Gastien, your father has a damn successful farm, for a peasant. Care to tell me what has you so on fire that you would leave? After all, you are the eldest.”
“Well, Matt, I not only have no interest in farming, I actually hate everything about it. Don’t get me wrong. I know my father has done a good job. I have seen how poor most farmers are, how shabby they live.” As soon as he said it, Gastien was sorry. Matt and his family barely made ends meet. That was apparent by the shabbiness of the family’s clothes and the condition of their wagon. “I am sorry, Matt, I meant no disrespect. I did not mean you,” Gastien said quickly, as his face burned.
Matt smiled sadly and looked Gastien in the eyes. “It is ok, Son. There is no shame in being poor if you are giving everything you have to what you love doing. I am well aware that we are barely making it. Most farmers are in my shoes. That is why it puzzles me that you would want to leave a farm that is far more successful than any other around the area.”
Gastien took a deep breath. He hoped Matt would not be another one to think a man feminine and foolish for wanting to paint. “Well, you might laugh…but as far back as I can remember I have wanted to paint. I have drawn probably since I could walk! Once Mother gave me some watercolour paints that is all I wanted to do. I could not get enough of painting, although I had to hide what I was doing. I kept my paints in a secret spot in the woods.” Gastien stopped and glanced at Matt to see his reaction.
Matt shrugged his shoulders. “Why would I laugh at that? If that is in your heart, then I guess it is what you are supposed to do. Good artists are highly valued in Paris. I can’t understand it, because I have no artistic talent, but if that is what God gave you, it is good you are pursuing it. Although, I have to say, you are taking quite a risk. You could have a decent, if hard, living on that farm. Painting is risky at best. Most don’t make it and end up starving in the streets, from what I hear. Are you sure you are great? “Good” is not enough, I don’t think.”
Gastien hesitated. “I don’t know it for a fact. Not yet. I have no training and have had limited access to paints. But, when a brush is in my hand I seem to work magic with it. I dream of paintings that I want to do. I always have. It just comes out of me without much thought for technique. I have only had watercolours, but I want to work in oils. I will need to watch other artists of oils and pick up technique that way.” He stopped. “I know that sounds dumb. Like a wild dream. But I can think of no other way. I worked very hard for the last two years at something I hated to please my father, so that I could go to art school. I had hoped that, once I proved myself, my father would help with money for a room. I would have worked to get through school somehow. Many do that. Unfortunately, he would not help me. I knew if I stayed much longer, I would lose my dream and live a life of regret until the day I died. I could not let it eat away my soul.”
Matt smiled. “That is pretty dramatic, Gastien. Jean is a reasonable man. I am sure you could have worked something out. How hard did you really try?”
Quietly, Gastien removed his coat and, turning his back to Matt, lifted his shirt. Matt gasped when he saw the many scars across Gastien’s back. “
! Who did that to you, Son?”
“My father, Matt. You are looking at the artwork of Jean Beauchamp,” Gastien said simply.
“But that can’t be! Jean is always such a charming man at church, so ready to lend a hand! He always has a kind word. That just can’t be true!”
Gastien dropped his shirt but left his coat off. The day was warming up nicely. “Well, Matt, I did not put those scars on my back. Do you think I would allow one of my siblings to do that to me? Or, maybe it was my mother! All ninety pounds of her!” he laughed bitterly. “I am sorry to have shown you. Of course, I should have known you would not believe me. All the farmers in the area are in awe of the great Jean Beauchamp. Let’s just drop it.”
Matt could see that Gastien was telling the truth, but it was so hard to believe! Then he saw that Gastien was trying mighty hard not to allow tears to come. Matt all of a sudden realized that the scars he had been shown were only the evidence left behind from one of many beatings. It was his turn to feel ashamed for talking so quickly without thinking. “I am sorry, Gastien. I spoke without thinking. If you say your father beat you, then he beat you. Oh, how awful for you! Did this happen more than once?”
Again Gastien tried to laugh, but it came out sounding like a croak. “More than once?
I lost count of the beatings by the time I was ten. The scars simply are the result of one beating that got out of hand, even for my father.”
“But, why? What on earth would make a father do that do his son?” Matt exclaimed.
“To be fair, I am not the only one. He hit Mother many times, too. And my siblings. They just did not get the beatings I got, because they don’t stand up to him. They don’t have the desire to be different. I am, unfortunately, different from the rest. I have a different dream, and I refused to give it up. I was willing to die at my father’s hands, rather than bow to his authority on matters regarding my future. My father equates men who paint and draw with homosexuals and libertines. He called me the worst of names, and many times tried to humiliate me by calling me a girl or a
. I did not care. I know I am a man. I have no interest in men that way. But it grates on a person to be verbally lashed, worse than physical beatings. I finally had enough.”