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“Did you get a shot of this one?” Anne Pope asked her friend, lowering her camera.
“Which one?” asked Rachel, a lively bob-haired blonde. The two aging women stood in front of the City Hall building in Louisville, Kentucky - clicking pictures for an assignment in their photography class.
“This guy over here.” The auburn-haired Anne pointed up some concrete stairs to an unused doorway, and a bas relief sculpture of a formidable King Poseidon, complete with crown, beard and scowl. “He’s great, isn’t he?”
“Sure is,” said Rachel, immediately starting to take pictures.
“Look at those fierce, deep eyes, the high cheekbones, and the wrinkled forehead…” mused Anne, looking upward with jade-green eyes.
“He looks like he’s getting ready to unleash the wrath of the sea and make humanity pay for their crimes,” said the blonde.
“I don’t think so, Rachel. Maybe he’s just thinking about things.” The red-head went up a few stairs and sat down defiantly. “Take a picture of me and him – like he’s watching over me. It might be nice to have someone keeping me safe for a change.”
“Happy to oblige,” replied the blonde, getting the pair into focus. “But I still think he looks like he’s ready to kill someone.”
As the pair played in front of the 19th century building, a tall gentleman across the street chuckled slightly. He glanced up at the statue of King Louis XVI that stood in front of the courthouse, gave a slight salute, and began walking down the street away from the scene.
Weeks later Anne was headed to her favorite pub when a street person began to approach her. He was still half a block away so Anne crossed the street to avoid him, but the stranger also crossed the street. It was too late at night to see his face clearly beneath a hood, but she could hear him shout at her. “Got a cigarette?”
“No!” she hissed back at him.
“How about some change…so I can catch a bus…”
Her hand was inside her purse now, pulling out a Bowie knife. “Leave me alone or I’ll cut it off and shove it down your throat!”
The stranger threw up his hands and stepped into the street to get away from her.
It was then that Anne heard clapping coming from the side of a building, where a tall man now stood. “My compliments ma chère,” he told her, stepping into the light of a streetlamp. “An excellent choice of weapons, indeed.” His sentences were rolled in a thick French accent, like syrup over hotcakes.
“Do I know you sir?”
He took off his fedora with a slight bow. “Do you?”
“You look familiar,” she whispered.
“Allow me to introduce myself. I am Carvel de Laurent. If you’ll have a drink with me, perhaps I can better explain where we’ve met.”
“I pay for my own drinks,” she told him.
“Lead on, ma chère. I would never wish to waylay such an independent woman.”
The Magnolia Bar didn’t serve food, but there was a pizza place next door that would bring over a slice until midnight.
“Okay, I’m ready,” she told him, beginning to eat. “Where do I know you from?”
“When I tell you, you will not believe me.”
“Try me,” she said, sitting back in the booth, smugly. “I’ve heard it all before, trust me.”
“My friends and I have noticed your interest in photography. We’ve watched you as you took photos of the faces on different buildings.”
“I don’t like people watching me, Carvel.”
“But we were there as you were taking the pictures – King Poseidon, The West Wind, Le Comique on the building at 211 5th street…” he stopped a moment to let her catch up. “You didn’t need to tell us to smile, because we were already smiling…”
She scoffed at what he was saying. “You’re telling me that you are one of these stone figures, a grotesque? As if!”
The man shrugged. “I told you the truth would not be believed.” He smiled at her broadly.
Suddenly she recognized him. “Poseidon! You do look exactly like that keystone!”
“Oui, madam – it is I,” he said nodding deeply. “More accurately, it is my image – as I am not the Lord of the Oceans, ma chère, merely a loyal subject of Louis the 16th.”
“Hold on now. Wasn’t Louis the 16th killed in the 1790s?”
Carvel edged closer to her. “Exactly! My friends and I were loyal to him when the Bastille was overtaken and our king was imprisoned. At Louis’ insistence we escaped to the Americas, here, to the city that bears his name. When the Armoire de Fer was discovered in Louis’ royal apartments –there were secret documents inside. Among these were pamphlets written by Gilles Edme Guyot filled with dark magic.” His eyes were on fire now. “One spell made it possible to bond the spirits of men to objects, and they bound us to our portraits, to our images, making sure we could not die until the portraits were destroyed.” The Frenchman took a deep breath. “Years later the Society de la Revolution found us here and paid architects to cast our images in stone – to insure centuries would rise and fall before we were finally laid to peace.” He drank deeply from a glass in front of him.
Outside the walls of the small tavern a bell from a nearby church tolled out the hour. “I must leave; my old friends will be waiting for me. There are good things about this unending life, however – like meeting new friends. I hope that we will meet again soon.”
“You’re a hoot, I’ll give you that much.”
Nodding, he put his fedora over his pointed ears and went outside, followed by the woman who watched him from the doorway. Within a few footsteps he was surrounded by four other figures, who disappeared into the night’s deep mist as quickly as they had come.
micheledutcher - This was a fun piece to write. Poseidon's picture, in fact, is on the front of my book Louisville's Silent Guardians - at the top of this page.
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