The Children of Paris

Jim Windolf
Félix Hilaire Buhot/New York Public Library

About a month ago, because of an obscure but still binding decree made under Napoleon III, all the children were taken from Paris. Bureaucrats drove them away in thousands of buses.

In their absence, we laughed our way through three-hour dinners. We hailed cabs, we danced in clubs, we argued in the streets.

Back in our apartments, we were careful to avoid the silent bedrooms with the stuffed animals on the beds. When we made our way to work in the mornings, we quickened our pace as we stepped past empty schoolyards.

Government lawyers marveled at the sturdiness of the old decree before they started their assault on its logic. It took them a few weeks to unravel it. Once the job was done, the bureaucrats were sent off to fetch the children.

Early this morning, I heard the buses roar back into the city, and I heard the children scatter. On the métro, between Portes des Vanves and Pernety, I heard someone say, “They’re not as good as adults, not as learned or as witty, but it’s good to have them back all the same.”

Jim Windolf

Written by

I’ve published short fiction in Ontario Review and Five Dials, and humor pieces in The New Yorker.

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