Along a very small street is a small cafe nestled in the southwest corner of Paris.: Le Bougie. It’s where the sun had casted its warmth on the few flowers that make their home in the flower pots and vases along the widow sill.
The smell of roasted coffee and freshly baked croissants always attracted the artists and writers seeking early morning inspiration.
One such artist was Dameon Ricard who spent the long nights contemplating his next painting. Most of his works adorned the walls of the little cafe. He preferred to keep his work there at no charge. His hands where soiled with a variety of paint stains.
“I wash my hands,” he’d say. “Although not very thorough.”
He’d enter the cafe around 7 am every morning and order the same thing. “Triple shot of the Tunisian blend with a lot of goats milk. One sugar cube.”
Every day he’d come and spot an empty dish of milk on the floor.
“No wonder on they’re always low on milk,” he’d whine.
He would open a day old newspaper he’d find sitting on an empty table.
The maid, Darlene Parlour, as frail as a marionette, scampered to his table, tray filling both hands. It was too heavy for her petite body. Her flat shoes prevented her from ever spilling a single drink.
Ricard’s assortment was brought to him, neatly. He placed a clean silver stirring spoon next to the cup. Delicately grabbed the goat’s milk and just as Ricard was ready to pour the milk, something uncannily purred by his feet.
He’d peak under the table only to find a rather large head of a black cat asking for love.
He reached down and proceeded to rub the cat behind it’s ears. He couldn’t believe how wonderfully furry the cat was. A splash of sunlight beamed just close enough. Ricard wanted a better look and scooted his chair aside to allow more sun to extend beneath the shaded coverage beneath the tables.
To his surprise, the fat cat was not only black, but purple as the sun’s light seemed to indicate.
“I’m not a zoologist,” claimed Ricard. “but I’ve never seen a purple cat before, let alone a fat one.”
“That’s FiFi, he belonged to my dearly departed Aunt Sophie, he’ll be accompanying the cafe for a while,” proclaimed Darlene.
The cat continued to ask for love, then pulled away in impatience.
“Ok, fine, be that way” darted Ricard.
He continued to pour his goats milk only to hear an even louder purring and to feel more love than before. FiFi’s tail slapped against Ricards knee.
“It’s the milk she wants,” said Darlene.
“Ahh, and now the dots are connected, so there’s a motive indeed. Typical. ”
FiFi had scooted the dish closer to Ricard’s reach.
“Give in, it’s no use.” claimed Darlene.
He poured the milk into her dish. FiFi gave one more thankful rub, and trotted over to the dish.
Her big round head shrouded over the tiny dish, blocking the suns rays. Her purple coat, gleamed.
“Probably the goat fat,” reasoned Ricard. “Gives that extra gleam to her purple coat. Let alone the fat.”
The sun, the white milk, her red tongue and her fat purple coat, all gave Ricard and excellent sight. Ricard reached into his pocket and pulled out his sketch pad. He began to sketch.
That night and throughout the week, Ricard did not leave his home. He did not respond to any messages or any knocks.
He mixed his last amount of purple paint, soiled his last new brush and proceeded to complete his new piece.
A month later Ricard brought in a wrapped portrait of FiFi.
The cafe had changed. No more Darlene and no more FiFi.
“Where’s Darlene? Fifi?” asked Ricard.
A rather rude barista emerged from the dark.
“She’s gone to another cafe, and so is that filthy fat cat.”
Dejected, Ricard pulled away and walked home somberly.
He set his portrait back up, opened his cabinet of drinks and poured himself a few strong glasses of cognac . Defiant he rushed over to the cafe. It was already closed and in anger tossed his portrait agains the wooden door. It fell to the cold ground and Ricard stormed off.
Ricard woke with a start and found himself in a semi-flood of broken sun beams and dust-filled air. He shuffled to his feet, wobbled, threw on his clothes and exited his apartment.
He stumbled down the block to Le Bougie. It was a bright morning like any morning, except Le Bougie was closed. No tables and chairs outside. Just a closed sign on the front. Oddly enough the door was slightly open and Ricard proceeded to open it.
Inside the darkened cafe, Ricard could hardly see and nearly stumbled upon a single table and chair sitting in the middle of the room. He reached into his pocket and lit a match., then opened the blinds to let the sun all the way in.
The entire cafe lit up to reveal that nothing much had changed. His artwork still adorned the walls, even his portrait of FiFi.
And on the table in the middle his typical tray of coffee, goat’s milk and sugar was laid out and a dish on the ground next to the table.
Ricard stepped closer to the table and sat there.
He stirred a sugar cube into his coffee and proceeded to pour the milk. He stared at his portrait to find FiFi missing from his portrait, and then the feeling of FiFi’s thick coat of fur at his feet.
“Very bizarre indeed,” proclaimed Ricard.
He poured the goats milk into the dish for FiFi. Rubbed behind her fury ears. He stood and walked over to his portrait. It seemed as if he’d never painted FiFi-just an empty corner of the cafe.
Then he heard the voice of Darlene behind him.
“FiFi missed you,” said Darlene.
He turned to find Darlene pouring more goat’s milk into the milk jar.
“They said you had gone to another cafe,” said Ricard.
“I did, and didn’t.” replied Darlene. “I work the late/early shift now.
Ricard inspects the counter which is completely covered in dust.
“Dusty,” said Ricard, “it’s as if it hasn’t been open in months.”
Darlene prepared Ricards newspaper, folded it to his favorite section of the paper. “I thought you’d like to read a bit,” she said. “Get caught up on things.”
Ricard sat down. Everything was prepared perfectly. FiFi was enjoying her goats milk. Her large head hovering over that dish of pure white goat’s milk. Her tiny tongue slurped up every drop. Darlene rushed behind the counter to prepare more coffee. The gentle sunlight felt more nurturing than ever. Even the fresh flowers in the vase that were normally set out every morning were healthier than ever.
Ricard began to skim through the newspaper but noticed something very odd. There was blemish in the text and the photos were not photos at all but paintings. Ricard’s paintings.
Closer Ricard began to make out the text which said “Ricard gave so much light to the Le Bougie Cafe.”
Ricard looked at Darlene and she gave him the most intense look that they’ve ever shared. It’s as if time had slowed down, even FiFi could not really know the feeling. For she was only a cat, yet with a strange presence. The light outlined her purple coat once more.
Then whispers grew louder and they could hear people talking to one another. The portraits of the people and places Ricard had made all stood and applauded.
The then whispers grew into voices and Ricard and Darlene were not there. Just FiFi licked up the final drops of the goats milk.
Another man, Louis Henri, a journalist from Normandie. , admired the little cafe, prepared his coffee with goat’s milk, and felt FiFi purring at his feet.
The next day Henri’s article appeared in smaller newspapers across France. It read “Le Bougie’s only unmentioned fixture was FiFi the fat purple cat, who’s coat gleamed in the entering sunlight.”
This has been “The Fat Purple Cat” by Stephen Unger, the eighth installment in our Fractured Retina series.
Stephen Unger was born in Brazil and raised in the United States. He began writing for the high school newspaper, and also wrote children’s books, screenplays and short stories. Stephen currently lives in Los Angeles and is writing a screenplay for a Hollywood-based production company. See more from Stephen here: http://stephenunger.weebly.com