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Автор David A Ross

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Автор David A Ross

264 страницы
3 часа
1 апр. 2010 г.


A novel of art, love, intrigue and magic in the South of France.

1 апр. 2010 г.

Об авторе

David Ross is a medical sales representative by day and a band player/tarot card reader by night. He created a business called Tarot and Tequila, where he reads cards for people in restaurants and bars, or any place that serves tequila. His spiritual journey started twenty-five years ago when he was a tourist perusing a toy store in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where on a lark he bought a tiny tarot deck. He quickly decided that he was going to learn about tarot and form connections with other people to help them progress spiritually. Ross lives on the Jersey Shore with his wife and two children. He is the author of Tarot & Tequila.

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Stones - David A Ross


Art, Love, Intrigue and Magic in the South of France

David A. Ross

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2010 David A. Ross

For more information about David A. Ross, please visit


Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard word of this author.



Chapter 1

On his bed with covers wrestled free, Cornelius Valentine lay sleeping in the glow of a cold light that never really paled – not even after the orange and pink sun declined in the transmundane light of a springtime evening in Paris. For Cornelius, the deep hours of night contracted a dialog between expression and subjugation. His sleep was as deep as death itself. Though sometimes he experienced an indefinable wakefulness within sleep – a condition resembling sleep, yet one characterized by a curious index of propositions revolving around some hypothetical nexus. There were images: drawings of imprecise shapes, or geometric blocks of color randomly arranged, or nebulous symbols. Figures in terra cotta, or bronze, or stone. Especially stone. Divine sculptures by Maillol, Bourdelle, Camile Claudel, Rodin.

Or paintings by Marc Chagall… Ah! Chagall with the face that showed no torment. Chagall with the beautiful wife and inculpable child. Huge canvases in blue, green, and red, at once lucid and schizophrenic, a universe populated by gossamer beings floating through spatial consciousness. Were they guardians or simply observers? Perhaps they were destined lovers, such as Cornelius’ lovely Arielle...

They had first seen one another at a cafe in Montparnasse, her sidelong glances remaining in his mind’s eye for days after the flirtatious encounter. Feeling regret at not having spoken to her then and there, he returned to the cafe in hopes of seeing her again. Almost miraculously, he’d found her sitting alone and asked if he might join her. She agreed. They ordered drinks, and he told her he was an artist and asked if she would consider modeling for him. Quick to criticize her looks, she blushed. He watched her full lips take a drag off a cigarette.

They met three times that week at the same cafe. After restauracion they walked along the Seine with fingertips touching, almost like tourists. They sat on a bench and talked in the Place du Parvis in front of Notre Dame. In time, she did come to his studio to model.

A month into their relationship they made a trip to Giverny to see Monet’s garden; two weeks later they went for a weekend in Amsterdam. On Sundays, they took picnic lunches to the Jardin du Luxembourg. Visiting galleries and museums on free days, they spent hours studying the sensuous sculptures in the Musee de Rodin. Arielle was particularly drawn to Rodin’s recreation of Paolo and Francesca enfolded in their eternal kiss. And together they played squealing, breathless chase games in Cornelius’ studio, falling on the floor or on the bed in fits of laughter. Cornelius gave Arielle a nickname that referred to her inclination to hop about when happy or excited: la petite sauterelle – the little grasshopper!

The young artist speculated: Perhaps children and numinous young women, like Ida Chagall or Arielle Pieronette, were able to express their passion in ways which he was unable to fathom. It was a capacity he admired, for even in childhood his was the existence of an alien in an unfamiliar medium.

Now, in deepest night, Cornelius rose from his bed and moved to the window of his fifth-floor loft on the Rue Dauphine – the large window that looked out to Paris’ Right Bank, the Place Dauphine, and the iridescent River Seine. He beheld the breadth of a city and vicinity as insomniac as himself. On the Rue Saint Jacque stood the vast complex of the Sorbonne. Near Place Saint Germain des Pres was the Café Flore, where Sartre had once enucleated existentialism point by point, and where Cornelius often met his friend, Bernard de Bausset, for café crème and conversation. Nearby, the ‘Boul Mich’ and the Place Saint Michel marked the perimeter of the Quartier Latin. And in the street the flashing blue lights of the brigade les pompiers momentarily blinded him.

Looking skyward, Cornelius searched the firmament for stars but found none. Suddenly, the breath of a familiar spirit unexpectedly chilled his lungs. He exhaled in astonishment. For the moment, he felt lighter than air; though all his life it seemed he’d been floating between solidarity and ephemerality. And time itself seemed to move far more deliberately than it did within the context of the fundamental struggle. Indeed, his window ledge was a daring precipice.

Cornelius’ mother, Madelaine LaPoint Valentine, had insisted that her only son be raised Catholic. So Cornelius took the sacraments. Though even in adolescence the hypocrisy of the Church gave him pause. Whatever devotion he might have felt in adulthood was expressed in absentia.

Conversely, his American father found religion wholly intrusive; he was a materialist through and through, a businessman. Cornelius’ first ten years were spent moving about the United States as his father climbed corporate ladders, but the lifestyle ultimately undermined his parents’ marriage. The divorce decree granted Madelaine custody of her son, and Cornelius moved with his French mother to Paris.

Since he had been taught the French language from an early age, Cornelius’ schooling was not interrupted, but his language proficiency did not preclude a painfully difficult cultural integration. Nevertheless, nobody offered to return him to the States, so he navigated through adolescence in fits and starts.

At age seventeen, his inclination toward art began to emerge. Though his talent was never in question, his temperament gave reason for concern. He was sent to a prestigious art school in Florence. There he took classes in composition, form, design, perspective. He attended workshops in painting and sculpting, took studies in medium and style. There was freelance time spent in Spain, a trip to Belo-Russia, a two-month-long visit to Burma. Six years spent working in his Paris studio. Checks arrived routinely from his duty-bound father, B. B. Valentine, whom he’d seen only twice since the divorce. Occasionally, he sold his work in the neighborhood galleries of Saint Germain des Pres: Gallerie Grillon; Gallerie Mazarine; Gallerie Vanuxem... Regular payments from the French Government arrived as well. For unemployment was no disgrace in France: nearly everyone he knew younger than thirty years old received assistance.

Neither was his mamon abandoned to destitution. Since her divorce, Madame had drawn generous alimony payments from her former husband and traveled for months at a time with wealthy lovers.

But it was a ringing in Cornelius’ ears on a night not unlike this night – a night not forgotten – a telephone call received nearly a year ago to this day that somehow had set in motion the events summoning Cornelius to such a position…

At 3:00 a.m., incandescent light shone through an undraped window and cast the shadow of a plaster torso upon the wall, while Arielle slept naked on the bed beside him. Rolling over and taking the receiver, Cornelius heard himself coming out of sleep to say, "Oui, bonsoir..."


"Mamon, is that you?"

"Oui, Cornelius."

"I can barely hear you, Mamon."

Yes, the connection is terrible. But I’m so happy!

"Splendid, Mamon. But where are you? And why are you calling in the middle of the night?"

New Delhi, she related.

New Delhi?

I have wonderful news...

What news? he said sleepily.

A blessing, Cornelius. I’ve just been married.

Married? he muttered.

"Oui, Cornelius."

And what am I to call my new stepfather? he asked.

Madame Valentine laughed nervously. The gentleman’s name is Mr. Singh. A most elegant man, Cornelius.

"Congratulations, Mamon."

We’re remaining in India a few more weeks. Then we’ll come to Paris. I can’t wait for you to meet him, Cornelius.

He hung up the phone and exhaled deeply.

Partially awake, Arielle turned toward him. She was a night talker, and often the clairvoyant logic emanating from her dreamscape brought forth pronouncements that seemed to originate from a more knowing, if less spatial, dimension. In a throaty voice she said, So curious how men and women connect – I mean, the different ways their dependencies manifest – and ultimately resolve. Don’t you think so, Cornelius?

Ignoring Arielle’s vague point of reference, he said, That was my mother.

Is anything wrong?

Apparently she’s married an Indian man named Singh.

"C’est bien fait pour elle."

Moving closer to him, she searched out her lover’s warmest recesses. It occurred to Arielle that perhaps she knew Cornelius Valentine’s physique better than she knew the man himself. For them, making love was best in shadows. With her index finger, she outlined the contours of hope upon his firm belly. She felt the warmth of his breath on her skin. Her hair brushed lightly on his face, and she felt him quiver slightly.

On his neck she felt his pulse grow stronger, more rapid, and the momentum of their lovemaking somehow belied the progress of their history together. Yet his final passion was forceful and convincing, if less dependent than hers on deep emotion. It seemed to Arielle that Cornelius always protected his vulnerability, then denied its existence – almost as if he conspired to keep his sexual center quite secret. In velvety darkness, they smoked and discussed Madame Valentine’s marriage to Mr. Singh.

Arielle was intensely curious about Madelaine’s new husband, but of course Cornelius could offer few details. In truth, he was stupefied at his mother’s impetuosity.

Ever since we came to Paris, she’s lived a free and easy lifestyle, he related.

And now she’s chosen to marry…

For whatever reason.

Does the marriage disturb you?

On the surface, it makes little sense, he said.

Before drifting back to sleep, they recounted highlights of Arielle’s pleasant childhood – berry picking trips to the mountains with her beloved grandmere; happy dancing sessions to pop tunes with her pre-pubescent girlfriends; singing the Twelve Days of Christmas for holiday pageants at primary school – a topic unconsciously conceived and initiated to avoid talking about Cornelius’ own insecure youth.

They awoke in gray light after eight, and Arielle bolted from the warmth of the bed muttering, "Mon Dieu, I’m late for work again!" Employed at a trade union office in the area known as La Voie Triomphale near the Avenue des Champs Elysees, Arielle had a one-year contract as a payroll clerk. With the term of her tenure nearly completed, and in spite of the fact that finding another job would be difficult, if not impossible, she remained undecided about renewing her contract with the union. The work was dull, the pay barely adequate.

Of course Cornelius Valentine had no understanding of the everyday moil at a trade union office. At twenty-eight, he had no practical experience as part of the greater French workforce. And if not commercially successful as an artist, he was, nevertheless, dedicated to the lifelong process of his craft. When his hands were in clay, time seemed to cease. The insolent world disappeared and was replaced for a few hours by one of aesthetic complexity. What a luxurious release! What a survival tactic among a neurotic peerage whose daily concerns made little sense to him! Cornelius yawned and stretched and propped his head up on two pillows to watch as Arielle dashed to scrub her face, dress in business clothes, pin up her hair, and put on make-up. Eventually he got out of bed and slipped on his bathrobe. He went to the toilet to urinate. He looked in the mirror and determined he needed a haircut, though he presently had no inclination for the coiffeur. He lit a cigarette and paced circles around his most recent work-in-progress – a sculpture of a young Shirley Temple dancing with Mr. Bojangles, the two hemispheres unbalanced and entirely out of proportion.

I want to go to the cinema tonight, Arielle said as she kissed him on her way out.

Telephone me later, was his reply.

But Cornelius had barely heard Arielle’s simple request. He was hardly aware of the door closing behind her, or of the sudden absence of femininity in the room. Or of a possible deliverance. Already immersed in the province of creativity, he began molding a juxtaposed reality consisting of ponderous mass confronted by an undeniable lightness of being; an eccentric balance disputed by chaotic distortion. Indeed, he was creating a model of the conflicting natures that distinguished his own character.

Taking clay in hand, he added water to the loam. With the coolness of the argillaceous matter immediately obvious on his skin, he worked the clay into a favorable consistency before beginning to mold the figure. First adding amplitude to Bojangles’ shoulders so they might somehow bear the weight of imposed futility, Cornelius then molded the brow to convey the wisdom of age and abuse. He set the jaw at an angle that portrayed the qualities of endurance and perseverance. He made the hands strong but gentle. He re-worked the mouth to impart sympathy and humility. He sculpted a tear on the right cheek, then quickly rubbed it away.

Daylight came and went. He never bothered to dress. The bottoms of his bare feet blackened with the grit of the seldom-waxed floorboards. He mistook the ringing of the telephone for a ringing in his ears that he sometimes experienced when locked into one of his more temporal moods. Working into evening without food or water, he was wholly absorbed by the two forms emerging at his hand. A portrayal of something constitutive yet incongruous and off balance.

He continued to work till the point of exhaustion, then after 2:00 a.m. collapsed on the still unmade bed. Staring out the window at a red sky, he was asleep within minutes. He dreamed of the Taj Mahal, refulgent within a thick and humid atmosphere. In front of the shrine stood his mother and her new husband, Mr. Singh, posing for a wedding picture. Smiling vivaciously, his mother worked her hand inside her new husband’s pocket, while the untroubled Indian smiled the smile of a man well satisfied with a recent purchase.

Upon waking, Cornelius realized he had eaten nothing for thirty-six hours. No doubt his empty stomach contributed fresh abstractions to the ever-changing terrain of his consciousness; dark-eyed stepbrothers and stepsisters, swarthy and demure, speaking French; bank ledgers rich with Indian rupees acquired in a worldwide escalation of venture capital and timely market transactions; his own ingenuous mother, smiling wryly and dressed in a multicolored sarong, leading a sad-eyed cow to the slaughterhouse.

Cornelius dressed in black jeans and a sloppy sweater and took the stairs to the building’s foyer. Out in the street the ostensible warmth of early springtime was in retreat. He checked his pockets for the few coins he would need to satisfy his hunger. And shielding his eyes against cold drizzle, Cornelius dodged pedestrians with raised umbrellas as he walked a few blocks to Cafe de Flore.

Entering the venerable brasserie, he recognized his good friend, Bernard de Bausset, seated at a table in a mirrored corner of the room. At present, Bernard was not gainfully employed, though he had worked briefly for SNCF, washing trains at the Gare St. Lazare.

It was a somewhat demeaning job, Cornelius had concluded, for a man of Bernard’s considerable education – an accomplished playwrite who sometimes sought work as a drama coach or tutor of languages and literature. Nevertheless, he’d labored faithfully and steadfastly until a particular building site was cleared directly across the boulevard that separated the St. Lazare trainyard from an active commercial district. In the beginning, Bernard had barely noticed as architects and engineers in hard hats arrived at the corner lot with blueprints in hand. Later came surveyors. Backhoes dug a deep foundation, diagonal on the rectangular lot, but parallel to the train tracks across the street. Then came sewer pipes, electrical lines, plumbing. Curious framing appeared. Stainless steel panels – some flat, others rounded – were screwed into the framework. Portholes provided the building’s occupants a view to the outside world. When the structure was finally completed it resembled a TGV train gliding into St. Lazare.

Considering himself a man of refined sensibilities, Bernard rightly assessed the building to be atrocious. Each day he arrived at the railyard determined to ignore the gleaming monstrosity across the street, and each day he was unable to look the other way. By ten in the morning he was gnashing his teeth. By noon he felt physically ill at the sight of the perversity. And by quitting time he was enraged. The thought that the zoning council had ever approved such a grotesque design began to disturb his sleep. His health went into decline. Ultimately, he was forced to resign.

Now, Cornelius assessed his friend from a point halfway across the cafe. Clenching a toothpick in his teeth, Bernard de Bausset was a diminutive man, ten years his senior, with a high, shiny forehead, deep-set, thoughtful eyes, and a generous tuft of thick brown hair that covered the back of his neck and fell copiously over his shirt collar. Usually dressed beyond his means, he wore well-cut shirts, handsome jackets, and tailored trousers. He often wore a matching wool scarf and baret. Moving to join him, Cornelius said, "Mon ami, I’m happy to see you."

Bernard searched Cornelius’ expression for a clue to his mercurial friend’s prevailing mood. He knew that when Cornelius did not absorb himself in his work immediately upon awakening, and appeared at Cafe de Flore to take petit dejeuner and talk well into the morning, some distraction was likely supplanting the artist’s creative initiative. As Cornelius sat down, Bernard inquired: "Comment va-tu, mon ami?"

Day before yesterday, Cornelius related, Madelaine phoned in the middle of the night to tell me she’s married an Indian man.

Perceiving his friend’s restiveness, Bernard wondered rhetorically, If she’s happy, why should you care?

For years my mother has gadded about with a number of lovers. But this is the first one she’s married!

Bernard cleared his throat. "But a passionate romance is never rational, mon ami."

Cornelius ignored his confidant and continued, My mother is not given to romantic impulse; her approach has always been careful and calculating.

Bernard smiled over the rim of his cup. Careful and calculating… Perhaps like you, he said.

"Pas le moins du monde! Cornelius declared. My approach is nothing like hers."

A familiar waiter came to take Cornelius’ order of cafe espresso and a baguette, then left the two men to talk in privacy. Facing his friend, Bernard lit a cigarette. "Alors... What new account can you share in the pursuit of la vie d’art?"

You mean the pursuit of madness, Cornelius intoned. Offhandedly, he looked round the café to see if he recognized other faces. Next week, he related, I’m going to London. A Soho gallery has expressed interest in exhibiting my sculptures.

"C’est si bon, mon ami, said Bernard. But I doubt the English will appreciate the intensity of your vision?"

Perhaps not, Cornelius laughed.

Though art is the lie that ultimately tells the truth! Bernard appraised.

You stole that thought from Picasso, said Cornelius.

Did I?

You know you did.

Bernard shrugged. Last night, he related, Arielle telephoned me around eleven o’clock. She wanted to know if I had seen you. Apparently she’d been trying throughout the day to telephone you, but you did not answer.

Yesterday... A look of abstraction came over Cornelius’ face. "Yes, all day long I

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