Monday, July 23, 2012

Les Ardoises excerpt by Anel Viz

In Les Ardoises, the new novella by Anel Viz, Félicien works as a waiter at Les Ardoises, a café-bistro in Villefranche-sur-Mer on the French Riviera. When his girlfriend leaves for a two-week visit with her family, he's hit on by Joel, an American in France for a business conference. Félicien feels secure about his sexual identity and has swung that way before. He doesn’t risk getting involved as he might if he hooked up with a woman.

As it turns out, Joel will be in town more than just a day or two. He'd like to see more of Félicien, and after that one-night stand, Félicien wouldn’t mind seeing a lot more of Joel, either. Before long, people have seen them with each other often enough to put two and two together, and Félicien begins to question who he is and what he wants from life.

Les Ardoises (novella)
Silver Publishing (July 21, 2012)
ISBN: 9781614956297 (e-book)


Félicien got off work at six, when the evening shift began. He changed back into his jeans and sneakers, put his white shirt in his shoulder bag, hung his slacks in the locker, and set about polishing his shoes.

"You should bring your pants home, too," Madame said. "You've worn them three days in a row."

"I'm off the day after tomorrow. I'll wash them then," Félicien told her, unconcerned she had come to watch him change again. "They're spotless. See for yourself."

"Can you work double shift tomorrow? Sylvain called in sick. Arnaud's taking his place tonight."

"How would I get home? If I work past eleven-thirty, I'll miss the last train to Nice."

"That's all right. We can manage with one less that late on a Wednesday night." Then, sweetening the kitty, she added, "I'll pay you as if you'd worked till closing."

Madame wasn't usually that generous. She was either desperate for the help or showing favoritism. Félicien pressed his advantage. "Overtime?"

"I'll give you an extra day off."

"Three in a row?"

He had almost pressed too far. "Come in for breakfast next Sunday and they're yours," she said, "but you had better wash those pants tonight if you're doing two shifts."

Félicien held up his shoes for inspection. "Good enough?"

"They'll do."

He put the slacks in the bag and left. Once outside, he crossed the street and exchanged bisous with Corinne, who was waiting near the moored boats. They had a date to go to a disco that evening, their last before she left on a two-week visit to her family in Lyon. "Laundry night again," he told her.

"We can stop by the laundromat near the station."

"I'll need to go to my room first and pick up the rest of the load. You're all packed?"

"I'll do that after the disco."

"Aren't you staying with me tonight?"

"My train leaves before seven."

"I live closer to the station."

"Then I'll pack while you're doing your wash and bring my bags to your place."

The American Félicien had waited on was standing in front of the Hotel Welcome when they passed. He hurried toward them and called out, "Wait a minute!"

"C'est qui, ce mec?" Corinne asked.

"Just some guy who had a beer at Les Ardoises about an hour ago."

"What does he want?"

"I'm sure he'll tell me."

"Why's he taking out his wallet?"

"I left that tip for you," the man said, catching up to them. "The other waiter picked it up."

"It was Jules' table. He wiped it off. He's welcome to the euros."

"His name's Jules? What's yours?"


"I'm Joel. Which tables are yours? I'll sit there next time so you can help me decipher the menu."

"They don't always give me the same ones. If one of mine is free, I'll look right at it so you'll know."

Joel looked at him suspiciously. "What happened to your accent?"

"I don't have an accent?"

"Yeah, you have one. It's just not as thick."

"That's because I'm not working."

"You mean you're expected to put on a show for the tourists?" Félicien could almost hear what was going through the man's head: Those pretentious French! "What about tomorrow?" the American asked. "Are you working then?"

"I'm there starting at eleven."

"Then I'll eat lunch there. What should I have?"

"The pizzas are terrific. Brick oven, wood fire. Now, if you'll excuse us, we have a train to catch."

"Sorry. Bon voyage."

While they were walking to the station, Corinne asked, "What was that all about?" She had taken Spanish as her foreign language.

Félicien explained what the man wanted. "And that's all?" she insisted.

"What makes you think there was more?"

"You told him I was going away. I heard him say bon voyage."

"That's just his execrable French. I told him we had to hurry or we'd miss our train."

"He was very good looking. Très distingué."

"You think so?" he asked without interest.

"You must have noticed. I thought you said you were bi."

He should have known where all this was leading. "It depends on my mood."

"Whether you want a man or a woman?"

"If I want a man. I always like women."

"Well, he's one I wouldn't pass up if I were you."

"Pass him up?" he asked, emphasizing his astonishment. "Was he hitting on me?"

"It looked like it to me. He asked your name."

Félicien probably would have noticed the American was handsome if he had been in the mood. Joel looked to be in his early thirties, very fit and masculine, with short, light brown hair and a friendly smile. "Is that why you thought I told him you were leaving—because you thought he was hitting on me?" he asked.

"I told you the reason. He said bon voyage. And he was hitting on you." She paused a moment and added, "I bet he's rich, too."

"Are you trying to turn me into a gigolo? Not all Americans are rich."

"Everyone who stays at the Hotel Welcome is rich."

Félicien seriously doubted the American had sex on his mind. If he did, Joel just might find him a willing partner. Because Corinne would be away for two weeks, not for the money.

* * * *

When they arrived in Nice, Corinne told Félicien she'd bring her suitcase to his place around nine o'clock and caught a bus to her apartment. Félicien walked home to get his things and take them to the coin wash.

He wondered if Corinne's talk about the American was meant to test him. Since he had told her he was bisexual, she had gone out of her way to point out handsome men they passed in the street. As if sex popped into his mind every time he saw a man! He could count his homosexual experiences on the fingers of one hand: a friend he sometimes masturbated with in his early teens and a couple of perfunctory anonymous encounters while traveling. He wasn't sure that qualified as being bisexual, although the jack-off buddy relationship had lasted close to five years. His other experiences had neither turned him off nor particularly excited him. It was something he might do again between girlfriends. On the other hand, he would not consider becoming involved with a man he knew. Jules at Les Ardoises was gay, and Félicien suspected another waiter might be as well. They didn't discuss their private lives at work.

He couldn't understand why some people made a fuss about homosexuality. Nobody really cared one way or the other anymore except a loud-mouthed minority of uptight bigots, so why talk about it? He understood it was a matter of principle for Corinne, who was outspoken about her liberal views. Intolerance in any form raised her hackles and she openly supported all equal-rights causes, especially same-sex marriage. Early in their relationship, he had thought admitting he'd had sex with men would make him appear worldly and open minded. Now he regretted having told her, but if he said now he wasn't really bi and had only experimented a little or that he'd changed his mind, she would get angry. Besides, he might experiment again for all he knew. He just wished she'd drop the subject. Not that it was anything to be embarrassed about, but why make it a matter of pride to have a bisexual boyfriend?

Fortunately, she didn't harp on it often. She would bring up gay rights if she came across an article in the newspaper or she'd seen some reactionary politician or cleric foam at the mouth on a talk show, but she would have anyway, and when she said, "Isn't he handsome?" it wasn't necessarily for his benefit.

"As handsome as me?" he sometimes asked.

"Nobody's as handsome as you."

Félicien thought it impolite to comment on other women when he was with her, so he never did. Maybe it was why she didn't question his supposed bisexuality. Maybe she thought he was gay. Or maybe she hadn't gone on and on about the American in order to test him.

No, she couldn't possibly think him one hundred percent gay. In the eight months they had been together, he had given her all the proof she needed that he never had trouble getting it up with a woman. She had no reason to complain about his performance, nor he of hers. She was his most enthusiastic partner and certainly the prettiest and most vivacious, a petite brunette with a dimple on her cheek and an infectious smile, a smart dresser, easy to talk to and interested in everything. If he had to choose between her and the American, he wouldn't hesitate a second. Corinne would win hands down.
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Victor j. Banis said...

As usual, Anel does not disappoint. It's an intriguing excerpt, from one of the best writers in the genre.

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

Ooh la la! Very good job. What's gay, what's bi, what's straight? Just bend down and see for yourself ;)