February 17, 2016, Prescott- I sense a false Spring, which nonetheless has given me good vibrations, and a fair amount of fresh energy.
#23. tea, tiger, night, train, television, tie
It was on the night train to Amsterdam, that Jean Corneille tucked a napkin into his brocade shirt, and looked out the window of his closed compartment. He enjoyed a light repast, followed by a cup of tea. Monsieur Corneille, descended from French literary royalty, had no interest in the writer’s craft. He was a television director, true, but his interest was in the action on the set. Scripts bored him.
As he watched the passing night scenes of various villages in Picardy and Flandres, Jean began to concoct his own scenarios. He viewed a series of railroad ties, dimly lit by the overhead lights, outside Lille. His mind wandered back to the ridiculous American melodramas of the 1920’s, in which snickering, one-dimensional villains, with curled mustaches and a banker’s business dress of the time, would tie up similarly one-dimensional young women on railroad tracks. The ladies would ever be rescued, just ahead of the thundering train, by a one-dimensional, muscle-bound hero. The villain invariably muttered, “Curses, foiled again!”
Nothing M. Corneille put forth on TeleParis was one dimensional. He was determined his program’s viewers would have to think about what they were watching. His mind focused on making a three-dimensional, thought-provoking update of the Hero-Damsel-Villain triangle.
As the train left Tournai, and headed into Belgium, he spotted a cage being loaded onto one of the freight cars. He heard a faint, but distinct, purring. Jean figured it was another of those contraband pets, rescued from some drug lord or money launderer, headed to a major zoo: Brussels, perhaps; Amsterdam, or Berlin. His mind went back to the melodrama.
The train had proceeded uneventfully through Belgium, and had just crossed into the Netherlands, when Jean, who had nodded off, was awakened by a series of shouts, coming from the third class car, behind his. “Mon Dieu”, he sniffed, “what on Earth are those peasants mewling about, this time?”
His upturned nose was brought a bit lower, when the conductor ran into the first class car, followed by ten frantic, screaming passengers- and the tiger, who had escaped from his cage and managed to leave the freight car, as well.
Jean, seeing a true opportunity for a ratings smash, raised himself up into the top berth of his compartment, edged over to the door, and opened it- drawing the tiger’s attention. The big cat abandoned his chase and warily entered the compartment. After initially trying to stand on hind legs and sniff at the well-concealed Jean Corneille, the beast lied down on the floor and rested.
Dutch authorities tranquilized the tiger, at Rotterdam Central Station, and took him off, back into a cage. Five months later, Jean Corneille won several awards for his televised account of the Wednesday Night Ride. He has visited his co-star, twice, at the small zoo of Utrecht.