The Vittles of The Man From Vittel – A Short Story

There is a man who shapes his trade not far from Pune, in the small town of Alandi. Of Alandi’s 21261 citizens he is the only permanent outsider, a man whom no shop will sell to and, indeed, a man who will not sell to any shop. How this outsider kept his vittles numerous was of some curious interest to the locals and more often than not a source of extreme pontification for those inclined in the way of conspiratory babble. His real name is of no importance to this story, however, suffice it to say that he was known most commonly as the Frenchman of Vittel for he had in times past inhabited that small spring water town. In actuality he originated from the shores of Corsica where he as a child had stared starry eyed at the soldiers in their barracks before his daily rituals of study and woodwork had begun. It was most likely this early introduction to the art of war that inspired his former occupation as a solider himself. He, as I learned during our first meeting, was not a solider of the private class but that of the status of lieutenant; he confided that at this time he commanded a troop of loyal men, every one of which would have laid his life down for his gallant commander. He himself did not use the word gallant; he was a man of the most severe modesty and reverence, I merely inferred this quality from our many lengthy discussions.

Now, however he was no longer a leader, he was a simple sculptor, revealing his life and experience in his numerous and sometime profound work. Our initial meeting was somewhat serendipitous; I, while journeying to Mumbai, happened upon a water source which readily took me ill courtesy of a rotting goat, which the locals had left there in order that its decay might spite the belly of the Frenchman, for it was the water source he used most frequently due to its extreme proximity to his residence. He had discovered the skullduggery when one of his female models had also fallen afoul of the same symptoms as my own the day before. He found me in the height of fever with a tongue full of gibberish and my bowels like the Thames. Any other man would surely have left me; I am, of course, an outsider not welcome in these parts, but for the good grace of God he did not.

He took me back to his house and rested me. He expunged my fever and bathed me so that the flies kept at a distance. In total I was there for two weeks, although the recovery only took one, such was his good nature that I stayed another. While spending my second week in his company I noticed a lengthy scar across his chest. It measured half a foot and carved out a crescent from his nipple to his belly button. It was a striking scar; one worthy of a good battlefield tale I thought, and as he had previously mentioned his days as a lieutenant I deemed it appropriate to ask about. So that night over supper I asked. At first he drew back, lowered his shoulders as if to hide his chest and let out a huff of devious remembrance.

“I will tell you the story of this scar as long as its vibrations flow no further than these walls around us now.” I agreed to his wish and he began his tale.

      “I was out to the east of the Alps stationed with my men in a small barracks, training in the dense forests. We had defected and were planning revolution to free the peoples from our home towns. We had travelled to these forests, not only to train, but also to rendezvous with other defectors and to conspire. Unfortunately other troops had not been so careful as us and the loyal men of the French army had followed them straight to our position. Outnumbered as we were, for now we split off with the intention of regrouping weeks later at a new camp near to Vienna. I fled with a young man named Cascone to a large wreck of a manor, once the prestige of the Ardor family. Although only one hundred and fifty years old it looked five hundred. We laid our belongings there for two weeks, foraging for food and using the kitchen for our fire. By the seventeenth day I was ravaged and felt a great compulsion for meat so I took my rifle to hunt. The woods, however, were barren, and I was back not long after having left. Upon my return I could hear whispers in the library; my friend, Cascone, could be heard to say: “yes he will be back just after dusk, you may arrest him then, however you must promise my amnesty from punishment”. The young solider had sold me out for his own gain. I stormed in and confronted him over his dealings and with that he ran; I chased, but he knew the house better than I. After much cowardly chasing I cornered him in the drawing room. By now almost an hour had passed and dusk had come and gone. I could hear the step of soldiers in the pantry, so before I was caught I wrenched a scimitar from the wall and lashed it at Cascone, across his chest, to spell out a moon’s crescent.

At this point he stopped, shook slightly and I felt I had to prompt him further. “And Cascone, what happened to him?” He paused before replying.

“He took his blood money, watched his sacrifice being dragged to the bloody wall and fled to India to start over.” I patiently waited for the story’s conclusion but it was in vain. He turned his head away toward the fire and opened his shirt so the scar looked me in the eye. “You think I lie? Can’t you see this scar of cowardice? I told you what I did so as you would listen to its conclusion; I sold my commander’s life. I am Vicente Cascone.

Now you may despise me”.

By Luke Dedominicis.

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2 Comments

Filed under Fiction, Hashmark Fiction

2 responses to “The Vittles of The Man From Vittel – A Short Story

  1. francishobson

    Genius. Oozes quality.

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