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January Signature Author Excerpt: Furlough by Mark Abour


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Did Monday's feature of Mark Arbour's WWI story feature, Furlough, intrigue you? Did you know he also wrote a follow up for the next year's anthology? If you haven't enjoyed Mark's historical features before, check out this excerpt below and then take a peek at his many other stories! 

Quote

 

He smiled again to thank me, and pointed to a café down the street. We headed down there, his pace slow as he hobbled along. He was remarkably short, shorter than 5'5” at most. They frowned at him at the café, but grudgingly led us to a table. “Your credit is no good here,” the waiter said rudely to him. “You still owe us 10 francs.”

Rude waiters in Paris were the norm, so that bothered neither one of us. “You can add the 10 francs onto my bill, monsieur. Your courtesy to your veterans is most reassuring.” The waiter scowled at me as he gave us menus, while Gabriel smiled at me.

“You do not have to pay my debts,” he said then, shifting to an indignant posture.

“Where did you lose your leg?” I asked, ignoring his comment.

“The Marne. At first I thought I was lucky that it was just my leg, that nothing else vital was removed,” he said, smiling at me. “But who wants to be with a legless man anyway?” I just shrugged. “Where were you?”

“The Somme,” I said. We just looked at our menus then, neither one of us wanting to talk about the horrors of the battlefield. After a little more than two years of war, we'd all had enough.

The waiter returned and we ordered a ton of food. He gave us a wry look, as if wondering whether we'd actually pay for it, until I took out 20 francs and handed it to him. “You see, my money is good,” I said in a snotty manner to match his. He nodded and left.

“You’re not supposed to pay until after we eat,” Gabriel said playfully.

“I'm too hungry to have them screw around, wondering if I've got money to foot the bill,” I said back. And then he did something that totally surprised me. He laughed. And then I laughed with him.

Our eyes met and our laughter stopped. “I didn't think I'd ever laugh again,” I said.

“I am glad you did. You have a nice laugh,” he responded. Was he flirting with me? Did he think I’d picked him up and brought him here because I wanted to fuck him? Did he think I was a queer? I found myself retreating from him, fleeing from the intimacy and contact. I wasn't queer. He sensed the change in my mood and he withdrew too, and I missed our personal connection.

“Thanks,” I said in a friendly way, trying to repair the damage. “You have a nice laugh too. It goes with your smile.” Why did I say that? Did I just raise the ante, throwing in a comment on the smile right after the comment on the laugh? He looked at me curiously, as if I was an enigma. I didn't blame him one bit. I wasn't sure what was going on inside of me either.

“So you are from Canada?” he asked.

“How did you know?” I demanded, wondering if my horrible Quebecois French had given me away.

“The maple leaf buttons,” he said, pointing at my uniform.

“Oh,” I said sheepishly. “I thought it was my horrible French.”

He laughed again. “Your French is not bad. Your accent is odd though, and your grammar is different. I think it is interesting.”

The waiter came and set the food down with his surly attitude, but we didn't care. Conversation ceased as we dove into our supper. It was obvious that Gabriel hadn't eaten in quite a while either. We indulged ourselves in a gastronomic orgy until there wasn't a crumb of food left on the table. He looked up with a twinkle in his eyes and we laughed again.

 

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