Better to be a spectator than a participant when time stands still.
As to exactly how long it stood still I have no idea…best guess? As long as it takes to quaff a bottle of cheap plonk from the south? Make love in a hurry? Run a barefoot marathon over broken glass? No odds…it took as long as it took.
Certainly when time was up and running once more all there seemed to be alive and kicking was yours truly and, if you could call it ‘alive’ the foreboding black clinker plain where once stood The City of Love and I might add a bothersome profound high pitched pulse ringing in my ears.
However, and as ever I was wrong…I was not alone. I remember her now, the petit blond girl with ridiculous overkill rouge lips in the plain white frock now stood before me albeit out of my reach, just gawping at me quizzically, head at a tilt, her expression an ostensibly puzzled one.
In my mind, a nanosecond before the colossal detonation I had christened her ‘Grenade Girl’. You see I had glanced in her direction at the very moment she pulled the pin.
I strode toward her, my much favoured military boots crunching lumps of shale to dust with each tramp – a rather melodic percussion of sorts in the circumstances even if I say so myself. Annoyingly the dust I raised caused me to expel the sneeze of all sneezes…one that echoed obstreperously notwithstanding the fact nothing that might reflect sound remained upright…odd thing that!
Getting closer I noted not a mark upon her person whereas I was battered, bruised, cut up and bloody, my clothes in tatters, my briefcase oddly intact, my fedora God knows where. As I advanced she straightened up, looked disconcertedly delighted at my approach. From her little brown leather bucket bag she drew a fresh nectarine. Offered it me from the spotless palm of her hand. I accepted her gift…she beamed.
Doing my level best to talk through a mouthful of the juicy fruit, “Some hand grenade that…I mean to say you’ve taken out a whole city…my favourite city of all I might add.”
“True…although I think you’ll find I’ve ‘taken out’ as you succinctly put it the entire planet.”
“Why on earth would you do that?”
“I determined it was the only way to rid the place of evil…seems to have worked don’t you think?”
“Fuck me you’ve killed everyone both good and bad and regardless how do you know I’m not evil?”
It was then in a matter of fact manner she explained she was aware that I was a serving judge and that in her opinion the most honourable of all judges and it was thus that I should determine her guilt or otherwise and pass an appropriate sentence…one befitting of her perceived crime. Indeed I was told that that was the reason I was not obliterated along with the rest of humanity, the rest of all things.
She went on to say, “Justice must be seen to be done,” before adding, “Will you don the black cap and have me executed…Madam la Guillotine perhaps…or will you go for a life sentence without remission?” I sensed a certain impudence in her words.
“Look young lady I shall do neither. Firstly I abhor the death sentence for it sees good men sink to the same noxious depths as the perpetrators of evil and secondly given that there are no bloody buildings left let alone prisons where on earth could I incarcerate you even if I wanted to…and believe me I really, really want to.”
“Just a thought.”
“Bloody stupid thought. Can you not simply put things back to how they were before…you know…make it all as if this never happened?”
“I can do anything I want as it happens…It’ll cost you dear mind.”
“Yes…would you swap your own life to save all that there is…I mean was?”
“Sell my soul to the devil you mean…metaphorically of course what with me being an atheist?”
“Yes…metaphorically…although ‘never have ever existed at all’ would be more precise. It’ll only work if I airbrush you from time…shame really yet that’s how it is.”
Walking around aimlessly I gave the matter some considerable thought and determined that this was the right course of action and replied that if my life could be traded thus then she should do her worst. With that the girl insisted I close my eyes tight shut and not open them until directed to do so. Then perceiving the merest click of her fingers in an instant I detected the sound of car horns, the white noise of the hustle and bustle of shoppers, excited tourists and listless office workers on lunch break, the bellowing of profanities from a disgruntled whore from a garret window aimed toward a liberty taking punter, the desperate foreign tongue of ‘in your face’ beggars, the waspish sound of 50cc mopeds, a concertina virtuoso, indeed the living sound art that could only be Paris. She told me to open my eyes; that I was allowed one last view and I saw the whole kit and caboodle was restored.
Her last words? “The fortitude of one good man knows no bounds.”
Of me? I have no substance that’s for certain. I’m not entirely sure I where I am.