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The Black Beret

The Black Beret

Ratings: (0)|Views: 161|Likes:
Published by Adora Svitak
I was inspired a lot by this black beret which sits on top of my computer monitor, combined with the fact that we're going to France in November (so the French setting--and just that connection between berets and France and artists), combined with my having read Hawthorne's "The Minister's Black Veil" and "The Scarlet Letter."
I was inspired a lot by this black beret which sits on top of my computer monitor, combined with the fact that we're going to France in November (so the French setting--and just that connection between berets and France and artists), combined with my having read Hawthorne's "The Minister's Black Veil" and "The Scarlet Letter."

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Published by: Adora Svitak on Aug 20, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial No-derivs

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10/01/2014

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³Pierre is, in every way, a normal man²´³Well, when you except that he likes to eat his ice cream with a fork²´³Not to mention that fastidious eyebrow-grooming! It is a shame thatsomeone so young should take so much time concerning their appearance²but Isuppose that is common. Yes, he is normal, except²´³For that black beret!´The black beret, the dread black beret. It hung over the dinner party like acloud of ash, choking all further discussion; there was no more to be said aboutPierre Jean-Luc Fournier, and that was that.They were right in much of what they said²he did like to eat his ice creamwith a fork (for reasons unknown, except perhaps the economic benefit of keepingno spoons in the house), and he did carry a small wallet of fine instruments withwhich to tune up eyebrows, but those were not the only things which marked himout as strange. For one thing, he was absolutely fine with a garret studio andapartment, when all the other (more fashionable) artists were moving to lofts, andfor another, he was not married²or in any romantic attachment, for that matter² at the age of 38, long past respectable parameters. But then, we all have our smallquirks. Madame Defly, being the one who had brought up eyebrow-grooming, hadan odd attachment to her fur stoles (often petting them, as though to revive theanimal), and a massive collection of former husbands to rival any of her neighbors¶.It was, however, the black beret which marked Pierre out as especially,terrifically, strange. Always, if the discussion turned to Pierre, the discussionwould turn to that black beret. Always, if Pierre was there, his black beret camewith him. He did not always wear it. Sometimes it was in his hand, on his lap, or  placed on the table, where it sat like a solemn frog overseeing a baptism²an eventwhich admittedly none of the diners had ever seen, but which nonetheless came tomind. No one dared mention it in Pierre¶s²and the black beret¶s²forbidding presence, but they speculated about it plenty in their homes and with their other friends.
 
Madame Defly was one of Pierre¶s most generous patrons, and took a rather  personal interest. She fancied herself a psychologist after a short-lived attachmentto one, but was (despite her overabundance of theories) rather stymied. She begandiscussing Pierre and the black beret with her latest paramour, Jacques, saying witha puzzled expression (oblivious to Jacques¶ obvious attempts to kiss her)² ³I still can¶t place my finger on why Pierre won¶t go anywhere without that beret. Is it some childhood attachment? The poor thing. No, perhaps it is a giftfrom a dead friend. But we are Pierre¶s friends, and we are all alive. What do youthink, Jacques?´ And Jacques, much offended, muttered something incoherent andslunk off.In the literary circles, where Pierre¶s friend Paul-Henri chatted with authorsand professors of literature, they all elevated the black beret to the status of metaphor or symbol. It had to
mean
something in the greater story of his life, it hadto be his Scarlet Letter of sorts, his minister¶s Black Veil, if you took a Hawthorne-ish approach.To the painters whom Pierre worked with, the black beret was some kind of muse, some higher artistic inspiration. They considered it very romantic, artistic,and perhaps just a little bit frightening for the awesome power which it held²toshut up Madame Defly, the chattiest woman in all of Marseille? No matter what position you took on the black beret, everyone agreed that itwas very strange how he took it everywhere. He went to dinner with the friends,the beret was there; he was painting in his studio, the beret was there. Childhoodaffliction, mark of sin, or artistic muse, the black beret did
not 
have to come withhim everywhere he went. The friends decided it was time for an intervention.The intervention would not be walking into a room and confronting him, asthough he were a drug addict; no, there was no way they could say a word aboutthe black beret with the beret right there, in front of them. No, their interventionwould be far easier, far more straightforward. They would steal the black beret andsee what Pierre¶s reaction was to it. If he showed signs of frenzied searching anddepression, then they would know that it was something unhealthy, and ask himstraight out what the problem was. If he didn¶t make a big deal about it, then thatwas that. The black beret would be locked away safe in someone¶s closet.
 
The hard thing, though, was stealing the beret. He kept it so close to him² most often it was on his lap, or on his head²that it would be impossible to grab it.Finally, the friends had their chance. He had invited Paul-Henri, Madame Defly,and a couple painter friends over for dinner, and they would all arrive early. Hisdoor was never locked when he expected company, so they could sneak in as easilyas they pleased. No doubt Pierre would be showering before the dinner²he alwaysseemed to²and they would simply walk in, unheard, and grab the beret fromwherever it lay. It was a plan that gleamed with its simplicity.They entered Pierre¶s garret apartment and studio, heralded by a non-descript door, soon enough. It was dimly lit with some of the light streaming inthrough the window, close to the room¶s ceiling and the sidewalk¶s ground (it wasa garret, after all). The rooms had, it seemed, been hastily cleaned²you could seethe vacuum cleaner marks on the carpet²but the furniture was tasteful and sparseas usual. The black beret was nowhere to be seen in the living room, but they couldtell that he was taking a shower. Perhaps he had left it with his pile of clothes?Paul-Henri was elected to scout out where the beret might be hiding. He began first in the studio, where he expected it to be lying somewhere amongPierre¶s coveted collection of canvases, then moved onto Pierre¶s bedroom. Therewere some clothes strewn carelessly on the floor and some in the hamper²andthere, lounging on the ground next to Pierre¶s dirty socks, was the black beret. Itstared up at Paul-Henri balefully, and he looked at it with as strong a face he couldmuster before he grabbed it and stuffed it in his waistband, racing back to thecouch. The friends looked at him expectantly.³So?´ Madame Defly asked, impatiently.³I got it,´ Paul-Henri said with an expression of utter glee. ³We have it!´At that moment, they heard the shower turn off, so they all turned silent,sitting on the couch in silent repression of emotion, though they shook and fidgetedin their excitement. What would happen when Pierre saw the black beret gone?They heard him towel himself off and presumably put on clothes.³We should pretend like we¶ve just arrived!´ Madame Defly hissed.³Otherwise he¶ll suspect us!´

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