Mademoiselle Charlotte had exchanged her pudding bowl for a marijuana plant and bundt tin. Adam, the American artist, who inhabited the attic rooms of Mme Charlotte’s Paris home, had offered these items for exchange because he wanted to paint the pudding bowl. Literally, paint it, hence having to own it as Mme Charlotte might not have wanted the end result. If she decided she did at a later date, perhaps seeing the possibility of future fame for the artist, that would come up for discussion when she went to collect the next quarter’s rent. They both felt the exchange was satisfactory since Adam had an abundance of marijuana and no use for a bundt tin. Mme Charlotte was not a pudding maker but felt she might have talent for making cakes and the bundt tin would offer an excellent opportunity for showing off her talents to Madame Le Bousier next door.
Mme Charlotte and her lodger lived in the unfashionable area of Le Marais. This previously aristocratic district had fallen into squalor, but the buildings still had an elegance that appealed to an aesthetically keen eye. Mme Charlotte raised her eyebrows and squinted slightly at anyone who suggested she might have fallen below her allotted station in life and carried on as though a duchesse born. How she arrived in this district was nobody’s business but her’s and her cat’s.
The cat was called Pierre. And Pierre, like many very fluffy cats, suffered from an abundance of hairballs, which he brought up regularly on Mme Charlotte’s Persian rugs. Mme Charlotte sighed mightily every time she had to clear one up but understood that it was the price of his company. Pierre often chewed at the plants in the courtyard order to aid the regurgitation process and had a fondness for the marijuana plant. Mme Charlotte sometimes wondered if he might like to smoke it instead, but this thought was always followed by confusion over the logistics involved in trying to get a cat to smoke.
After chewing on a leaf or two, Pierre would sit on the table next to Mme Charlotte and eye up her caged birds as though in full appreciation of their beauty, the colour and movement in their feathers, the tuneful singing. Mme Charlotte having enjoyed her morning roll up would peruse her Daily Mirroir looking for some good news. There was rarely any, but she enjoyed the political cartoons and letters to the editor.
All in all Mme Charlotte felt life was proceeding in an orderly and pleasant fashion. Adam was a reliable tenant, for an artist, and even seemed to be showing a modicum of talent which could not be said for her tenant. The Russian had other talents which Mme Charlotte missed very much, but rent was rent and when he couldn’t pay he had to go.
Adam had an American exuberance which had at first startled Mme Charlotte, but she had grown accustomed to it and even to like it. It seemed to change the atmosphere, to lighten the air. Occasionally they would sit together in Mme Charlotte’s leafy courtyard and smoke in companionable silence or gentle conversation. He would tell her of his home in New England and how he was so happy to leave; his countrymen having no taste for his style of art. His French was acceptable and his accent amusing to Mme Charlotte. Adam too, had clearly come to enjoy these meetings, sometimes becoming a little flirtatious, especially after a glass or two of her father’s claret, which was all he left her when he died. She kept it under lock and key in the cellar and only she knew how much was there, but she was generous with it when the occasion called. Adam would add some cheese from the local fromagerie, with a baguette, cut with his trusty Opinel knife.
Mme Charlotte and Adam both knew where these evenings were leading; the smoking, the wine, the feasts and conversation, and both were very happy to let time work its magic and take them to the conclusion when it was ready. Pierre simply observed.