6:30 am : There's no noise in the streets, except in the distance the incessant roar of some crossroads. The dull sound of someone's steps reminds you you're not alone in the city. There are few of them to go to work while street lights are still on, and they look mistrustfully at you behind their huge scarves. Pigeons are not asleep either, but you don't notice their cooing. The sickening artificial smell of a bad bakery's floating from times to times in the air. Not so far away, the market is being installed. Not any fruit smell yet, just metallic noises: it seems the place doesn't want to wake up either. In fact, you can't imagine that in less than two hours it will be overcrowded. Some klaxons are making too violent «beeps», snatching you from your bed mists ; you won't be in a good mood this morning. Three homeless are sleeping on a subway grid. You readjust your coat, you don't want to let the cold invade your body. If above the bitumen it seems desert, so many people are already strolling about the subway corridors. Nobody's looking at nobody, nobody's sweating yet but the smell of each one perfume isn't that nice. When they emerge from underground, it'll be daylight.
3:00 pm : The heat combined with silencers' gases just overwhelms everyone. People are running everywhere, trying to escape from the crowd, from the sun, from the noise. Children are crying or laughing, tourists with cameras are getting lost, businessmen are calling other businessmen in other towns, trendy ones are sporting trendy sunglasses. English, Chinese, Spanish, French, Arabic, unknown languages are spoken all around. Old ladies are giving bread to pigeons, or shopping in the supermarket. From the coffee pavement, you examine closely each passer-by while reading your newspaper. Pieces of chilly silence remain in some forgotten backyard or maybe in libraries. The Red Cross or Greenpeace accost you, asking you for some time and some money. Teenagers are leaving school for the day : they are invading parks and stores. Restaurants are closing until this evening, some still offer pizzas if you didn't have time to eat before. Everybody feels that a storm is coming : The light is becoming darker and darker and the clouds huger and huger. A car, its loud music escaping from its open windows, receives the first drops. Everybody's looking for a shelter under shop fronts : during this short time avenues are desert. It smells like wet pollution.
Midnight : Tic, tic, tic ... It's the time where all skins are black and all grey cats are out, it's midnight. The park is nearly quiet, at this time it's closed, but not for everybody. Behind a trash can, a little raccoon is looking for food; all kinds of animals are coming for the same thing. They're very hungry and hurry to find their treasure. Since the park street lamps are off, shadows have spread all over the place, so they are now invisible and free to take a walk. However, they have to stay careful : they raise their small heads and open their ears. In opposition, in another place, some people aren't sleeping or watching TV and they keep partying. All their windows are lightened, you can hear deep big noises: it bothers the neighbors who just wish to sleep peacefully. In a little street, shop neons are still on, blue, yellowish, pink, while there's nobody around anymore. Further, some have drunk too much, and are having a strange psychedelic walk. There are always lots of cars on the road, especially taxis. This night again, taxi drivers are going to meet a lot of different persons, amazing or strange, while the tramps are going to spend the cold night alone. But yet midnight is over, grey cats are coming back home and mice which were wriggling out of their hiding place come back quickly to their holes, more scared than ever.
Justine F. et Maëlle T. - B2 - Lycée Hélène Boucher -
The nearly sixty-two-year-old man was dreaming on his soft mattress, in the overloaded bedroom giving off a weird smell, which had a tendency to become encrusted in all the furniture the room could contain.
“Roger! Roger! Come downstairs immediately!” screamed an annoying woman's voice. I have two or three things to tell you! This noise had roused him and he quietly went to his wife.
“ I have a meeting with Mrs Belsey and her cousin Ann, so I won’t be able to fetch Johanna at school. She leaves at half past four this afternoon, and don’t forget to take my dress at the dry cleaner. And go to the supermarket, we need some butter and sugar. See you later!”
She had left an empty room, full of her perfume, the same she had had for years. Roger went out in the pouring rain, a typical English weather though. He saw the old and lonely Mrs Daltrey, taking care of her new flowers, as usual. He used to tell her at the beginning:
“ Good morning, Mrs Daltrey, it’s raining today, isn’t it?”
And then she answered:
“Never mind the weather Mr McGill! Flowers have to be well-kept!”
Now Roger headed for the dry cleaner’s, at the crossroads of St-John Street and Nelson avenue. While he continued his way, the memory of an old event came to his mind. Roger! Roger! Do not touch everything like that! Be quiet! It was the voice of his mother, speaking to him at the baker’s when he was a little boy. And Roger suddenly realized he was passing just next to the baker’s. But it’s not the same baker’s, he immediately thought.
He had had a very happy childhood in the working-class side of Saint Paul city. Obviously, he hadn’t had what his grandchildren had today. But he had been happy at least. Happy, particularly when he went outside with his uncle, the big Peter. They used to walk all the morning long and that was Roger’s first experience of the city. He discovered then, with his eyes wide open, the activity of the early morning, when the shopkeepers opened their shops and when a long queue of workers headed for the factory. The alcohol of the day before tinted their rough faces. It was in the late 50’s and he thought of all these coloured dresses women were wearing at that time. It reminded him that he had gone past the crossroads for five minutes. He thought he would go later.
The rain had stopped and the sun was nearly shining. Roger believed it would be a great day, like all these afternoons he had had in his youth. It was surely in 1964 or 1965, he couldn’t exactly remember a date, as if the memory of these days before all had never left him. He was a very handsome and well-dressed young boy at that time. Each girl was here to remind him of this, as all the girls smiled at him when he was passing by.
But this success was not only the product of his growing beauty, but also the fact that he played three evenings a week at the Sunny club- that was its name- with some friends of his, mostly boys who already worked at the factory, as well as every men in their families. Roger was not in that case: he had had the opportunity to pursue his studies and maybe to become a famous journalist one day. At that moment, he realized how the look of the other people on him had changed, as well as the look he took on the city. This one, which meant everything for him when he was young and full of hope, seemed to be a superficial showcase now, as everybody judged him by his appearance. That was true, he was no more the beautiful young boy he had been, his face was now full of wrinkles and his eyes seemed to be always dull. But according to him, the present city was not less unpleasant to look than his face.
He arrived now to the supermarket and he saw everything that he loathed the most. In front of the entrance, there was a group of common people, taking a large space, speaking very loud and each one was terribly disgusting, not because they were ugly, but because the mass they formed was shapeless and absolutely without interest. Roger entered the supermarket and went towards the fresh department. He took a pack of butter and he thought a few moments of the composure it gave him. After having taken the sugar, he paid and went outside. Roger had a look at his watch: four o’clock and fifteen minutes; that left him only fifteen minutes to complete the overview of his memories.
He had thought before about the group of musicians he formed with some boys and wanted to remember this era. Like all the young people, he had been influenced by rock 'n' roll in the 50’s, and that had pushed him to play an instrument. A few years later, he was the most talented guitar player of the city. His reputation was permanently growing and at the gigs he made, one could see people of very different sides. The workers danced with the middle-class persons, and that’s probably that, which gave him the desire to play. He had realized very young the power music can have: the one of melting all the people together. As his mind was full of the happy memory of his youth, he compared it to the current period and thought it was no more like before.
This thought left him a bitter taste, as if he had lost what he had, and he wondered if he could still live with this state of mind when he arrived towards Defoe school, at the end of a common street lined with the same grey buildings, a tree between them from time to time -a very depressing sight- he thought. Johanna was already outside and she seemed to think about something until her grandfather arrived. Roger looked the little girl in the eyes, she smiled and he felt soothed. But he remembered he had forgotten his wife’s dress; she would cry again.
Thor-Oona Pignarre - B2 - Lycée Montalembert -
Life is full of wonderful places
Earth is full of wonderful places. Quiet places. Beautiful places. Overviews so spectacular that they take your breath away. And there are some places, not as pretty as those ones, but where you just feel like yourself. Places so warm that even if you’ve never been there, it just feels like home.
I have grown in one of these spots. It was a very green city, where the weather was always nice. People knew all their neighbours and they would all gather very often.
I was born on a wonderful summer day. The sun was high up in the sky and the heat was so heavy that all the citizens of this small town were locked up in their houses desperately chasing for the smallest draught.
While everybody was dozing, children would step precociously out the doors and run to the lake where they would dive with relief.
But that Monday, two abnormally silent kids were standing in Mr. Jackson’s field. Unlike the others, they wouldn’t search for freshness. Indeed, they were so busy that they didn’t even notice the water pouring on their chins.
“You will see Molly! In one week, there will be a huge apple tree just were you are standing and we will fill our baskets with a mountain of apples.”
“Don’t be stupid, Walter! You can’t get a tree out of a simple apple. My mother told me not to listen to your stupid stories!”
And this is when they planted me. But of course, I didn’t grow as fast as expected.
I can still remember small Molly coming back one week later, I can still see her cute face becoming red and the tears starting to come out.
I didn't see them for a long time after that day. And I started to grow slowly: I got bigger and bigger everyday. But I wasn’t the only one to change. The village around me changed quickly: there were more and more people coming. It seemed like everyday brought a new family of farmers searching for a fresh start. Houses grew like weeds, finding a place even though there was no room left. Mr. Jackson’s field turned quickly into a school and I saw so many trees being cut that I feared to get cut down too. But I got lucky and I still wonder why I’ve been spared. They’d built everywhere: new shops, new monuments, new streets and even new floors on old buildings. There were so many people, and they were all different; it was a happy melting pot. The city was rising, as if it wanted to touch the sky.
But as days went by, I got fewer and fewer chances to see the sun, and light became precious. Tar burned my roots and trucks tore out my leaves. Life was getting tough and the city was becoming grey.
It seemed as if I lived in a permanent winter. It rained often and I was always cold. Face went by like total strangers, nobody knew each other anymore. Time passed, and days were very much alike.
But I remember one special day. It was one of those rare sunny days. I woke up not expecting that much from life, and the day went by like it always did. When the sun went down, I was starting to get ready for the night. But that day, as I was looking to the crowd passing by, I saw two people I thought I’d never see again. They didn’t come with the purpose of seeing me that night but they did remember me.
“Hey Walter! Doesn’t this place remind you of something?”
“Well … he said, looking at the buildings. I don’t think so.”
“Walter! It’s old Mr. Jackson’s field! Can’t you see? Oh! I can remember everything! The fence was here, and here was the cowshed … she exclaimed. And just right under the window was the drinking trough.”
“Oh yes! you’re right, we used to have so much fun playing there! Do you remember when we threw Mrs. Jackson’s cat in the water”
“Of course I do! Wasn’t that the day where we planted the tree?”
“Hahaha! He laughed, giving her an amused look. Where was it?”
“Over there!” She ran to me.
And there was little Molly, standing in front of me, with the same mischievous look she had fifty years ago.
“Wahoo! Do you really think this is the one?”
“Maybe…” he said, walking slowly to join her. “This place certainly has changed.” Then he looked at me. “You really don’t look good my friend… It looks like the city is no good for someone like you…” he took her in his arms and they just stood there, looking at me.
Finally, she cut the silence: “You know Walter, I heard something very interesting.” She reached for one of my fruit. “Did you know that you could grow a big tree in one week, just with a small apple?”
Lucie Vallée et Frédéric Faye - B2- Lycée Montalembert -