Le Petit Roi (the little king)
He was sent to spend the summer of his parents’ divorce at the home of one of his mother’s friends, in Saint Omer. At the narrow end of the garden was a deck no larger than a doormat and a splintered boat .
The first time he jumped into the boat, he was sure to be caught and punished but nothing happened. The next day, he tried to move the oars but they turned out to be heavier than he thought. By the fourth day he could feel strength building in his arms.
Then the friend took him on a picnic in the boat. She showed him the eels in the water below, taught him where to find a good post to tie the boat down, how to operate the dykes.
He could come and go as he pleased, she said, and even sleep in his own tent in the backyard.
Just don’t lose or break or lose anything, she said, especially not yourself. I don’t have the time or patience fort that sort of things.
He had just turned nine. His first solo trip was to the edge of the neighbor’s orchard where he plucked a hard lit-tle pear without tipping overboard. Within days he was roaming the labyrinth of canals that crisscrossed the fields of cabbage and flax.
He saw the friend at breakfast each morning. He would tell her how he had seen an owl bigger than himself in an elm, how he’d learned to lift the mesh baskets filled with eels, how he meant to write to his parents but never seemed to find the time.
To this day he would smile at the memory of her, lifting her bowl of coffee in a toast: vive le roi!
And she’d send him on his way.
“Le Petit Roi” is the fourth story of Project 105 — illustrated flash fiction. All 105 hand-embroidered original illustrations of Project 105 are being gifted to individuals who express an interest in art and fiction. Preference is given to first time art owners and to those who might not otherwise have access to art, fiction or both. Each art recipient is also given a free original copy of the story. To learn more about Project 105 or to sign up and become eligible to receive a Project 105 illustration visit www.pmneist.com