Oh, hi. Hows things been? I've been good, thanks for asking. So I've been missing writing so much that I decided season 2 of Friday Fireplace Tales is a go. We start with something familiar, something that I've been going with for over a year now. The Potan means something more to me, so we begin there again, ready to make sense of it all and keep the fire burning.
“What did you think would happen?”
Le Mon thought about that for a few silenced minutes, both him searching for an answer and Pierre allowing the time to pierce through the seriousness of the question.
Finally having an answer that satisfied himself, Le Mon spoke. “I wanted to do something I’m not known for doing. And I wanted to do it well.”
Pierre gave his sideways smirk away, indicating that he was not as mad as he appeared to be when Le Mon had returned to the Potan Del La De Magnus, just an hour before their present conversation.
Le Mon had in fact been gone for a month and 28 days, leaving Pierre with a hastily organized crew to finish the opening menu for the grand re-re-opening of the Potan Del La De Magnus’s rebuilt permanent location, built upon the very ground the previous one had burned and the Halloween carnival a few months prior. Le Mon had disappeared the night before that most-important of dates.
“So you thought you could leave me when I needed you?” Pierre had a slight sneer to his tone. “That would be something you had never before done, true.”
Pierre took a hearty sip of his glass of wine, something he had picked up as well in the past days, a relief from his stress. He was on day 34 of that habit.
“Well, I found out that I’m not good at it. Not yet.” Le Mon said.
Pierre cast another sideways smirk followed by a drink of his sauvignon blanc.
“Not yet?” Pierre questioned.
Le Mon gave a sigh of readiness and explained. “I wanted to write. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to make images into words, to try and make sense of this world. I might be good at cooking, but it’s not what gives me joy. So a chance was given and I took it. Was I ready? No. But I’m glad I went and tried and thing than to wonder my whole God-damn life.”
It was understandable and Pierre did not have to say so. “You did what you wanted to do. Now it is my turn to do what I want.”
Pierre finished off the rest of his wine and sat the glass ever-so-gently down on the outdoor patio table. He then stood up and returned inside the restaurant, newly finished and operating, leaving Le Mon out in the cold Venetian winter that blew frozen water in his face.
Le Mon wanted to cry, but was so drained that he just sat there for a while, looking up at what he had left, all in effort for the most selfish of motives: To be happy.
Now he was the furthest one could be from that. Sure, his writing was moderately okay, but it was not the sort that made a person better than their contemporaries.
In fact, it was comparatively worse.
So now he had learned that he was both, a terrible writer and a rejected cook. He took a few quick breathes and realized what he must do. He went around to the back of the Potan and spotted it: The old “roach coach” him and Pierre had served out of for a time there.
Pierre felt for the ignition key he still kept in his pocket, where he had brought it to hopefully take the Potan truck out, to make some more money and get back into the habit of creating and catering to the under-served and undeserved masses.
He slid the jagged key into the driver’s side door lock, giving a quick hope of it still working, and turned it to the right.
He grabbed the handle and opened the door quietly, still giving a slight metallic squeak. Le Mon then slipped inside, seating himself and preparing himself for what he was about to do.
He wasn’t much of a thief, and this was an act he had already having second thoughts about. Now he had two regrets: This, and leaving the Potan as he had nearly two months ago.
If he could just prove to Pierre that he could still be dependable, still create the finest dishes in all of Florence, then Pierre would have no choice but to allow hire him back and make everything the same again.
He turned the ignition and the engine turned-over to life. Satisfied that all was going well, he turned the headlights on and drove the Potan food truck out into the cold Venetian night. He gave a sigh of relief that it had worked out so well.
Maybe too well.
A booming voice came out of the darkened back of the food truck’s kitchen, “Le Mon, why would you do this to us?”
Le Mon hit the brakes, trying to stop the truck, stop the voice, stop everything. His startled body turned towards the back kitchen and he saw Pierre’s outline lit by faded street lamps reflecting from the wet brick roadway.
“Le Mon, turn this truck around and return it to its spot, post haste.”
Le Mon gave his usual inhale of acceptance, turning the truck around on the Venetian streets and back next to the Potan. He knew he had screwed up, badly.
As the truck pulled in, the engine shut off, Pierre turned on the lights to the back of the truck. Everything was clean and gleaming, always ready to go and serve a meal. Pierre motioned for Le Mon to come and talk to him.
“I was going to give it to you.” Pierre said as soon as Le Mon had come sully-eyed into the back. “I was going to let you have this truck and never call it or come back to the Potan Del La De Magnus. But I can’t now, I can’t let you leave in such a fashion.”
Pierre pulled a bottle of pinot noir from the refrigerated wine cooler and poured two glasses. He handed one to Le Mon, knowing full well the man’s alcoholic past, and motioned for a cheers.
“So I say you start again, and when you leave the next time, it will be under better circumstances and a better you.”
Le Mon looked down at his glass of wine, staring at his sad expression reflected up by the white wine’s aromatic, tinged color. He had to keep it together, though he felt the slight welling of tears in his chest.
He gave a clink to Pierre’s glass and downed the whole serving, motioning for it to be refilled. Pierre followed suit with his wine and refilled the both.
Le Mon spoke. “I promise.” And then downed the second glass of wine.
Pierre gave a worried smile and took a sip from his, slightly slurping the sweet fermented grapes.
“Well then, you’ll be working with someone now.” Pierre said. “His name is Tanner. He’s a bit of an islander, but he brings fresh ideas and needed honesty to the kitchen. I’m sure you two will work together fine.”
Pierre took another sip and gave his friend Le Mon a hug, whispering in his ear.
“For now,” he whispered, “we will forget about this theft of the Potan Del La De Magnus. You will do what you love, and you will also do what the Potan needs. You are her cook and she will always be your mistress, allowing you to love other women, other things, so long as you always come back and you always make her right. Whether you fucking want to or not.”
Pierre pulled back and smiled. “Because, at the end of the day, we are the Potan. But she? She will never be us.”
To read more about the Potan and her crew, check out the 3rd, 13th, 23rd, 33rd, and 43rd fires! Thanks for reading, see you next Friday!