Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Frankie's Many Voices by Peggy Rockey

Prompt: Delete| Word Count: 1250 Words Exactly | Genre: Fiction…-by-peggy-rockey/
Due September 5, 2018

“Tell me a story, Papa?”

It had become a ritual, this asking and telling of stories. It started when Lacey was but three, and she would sit upon her Father’s lap, gaze into his hazel eyes, and ask in her French accented English for her Papa to tell her a story.

Lacey was five now, and Frankie still loved the way she said Papa, with the accent on the last syllable, paPah.

“What story shall I tell?”

“Tell me about Aidan.”

“Ah. Aidan!” Frankie’s face became animated and his voice took on an Irish brogue. “Twas 1975, and Aidan O'Connor was just twenty seven when he first arrived in London. Sure and he came with such high hopes of joining an acting troupe. But, alas, poor Aidan didna make the grade."

“Oh, oui! I remember, Papa! He became a tour guide instead.”

“Indeed he did. Aidan put his acting skills to use on the grand double decker buses of London.”

“Like you, Papa, here in Paris?”

“That’s right, my smart girl. And, like I, Aidan took such delight in his work, for he was wise and imaginative and handsome, and all the ladies loved him.”

“And Max? Did the ladies love Max too?”

“But that is two stories, mon amour. Ah, very well.” Here Frankie’s mannerism shifted, to that of a serious, somber mien. “Max Brunner wast a fine man,” he said, in a German accent. “Max wast smart and creative, but he could also be unkind and somevat moody. Max moved to Vienna in 1981, before the grand sightseeing buses had come to that beautiful city.”

“Oh, but that was only four years before I was born!”

“Da, very goot! Max too wast a tour guide, but he wast employed on the Ring Tram, entertaining tourists with fun facts about all the fine sights along the Ringstrasse.”

“Will you take me there someday, Papa?”

“Only if you are a good girl,” Frankie replied, shifting his accent to that of a frenchman, Andre Duval, father of Lacey and lover of Elyse.

** *

“Tell me a story, Papa?”

“What story shall I tell, ma cherie?” Frankie asked eight year old Lacey, who snuggled next to her Papa, absentmindedly petting her stuffed teddy bear.

“Tell me about Nicolas.”

“Nicolas? But where have you heard that name?” Frankie rose from the settee, combing his long fingers through unruly chestnut hair and struggling to hide the agitation that name provoked in him.

“I heard you tell Maman, just yesterday, Papa. You said Nicolas Gaspar would live in Barcelona, and you had a funny accent when you said it, and it made Maman laugh.”

But Frankie could not tell his little girl that her mother had asked him to leave, because Elyse felt Andre was losing his love of life and said it was time for him to fly.

“I will have to tell you stories of Nicolas another time, ma belle.”

“Okay, Papa,” said Lacey, with the nonchalance she'd begun to learn from Elyse. “Then tell me a story about Frankie?”

“Frankie? But why Frankie? He is such a bore!” Frankie exclaimed, still in his French accent, which he had perfected in the ten years he had lived in Paris as Andre Duval.

“Because he is a mystery, Papa. You never tell stories of Frankie. But yesterday I saw his passport. It is blue, not red like Maman’s, and it has your photo on it.”

** *

“Papa, you’ve come home! It’s been so long. I’ve missed you so!”

Lacey was 11 now, and she still looked at Frankie with those adoring green eyes, her chestnut curls bouncing and bobbing as she pulled him down to the settee.

“I’ve missed you too, ma belle. Have you been a good girl in my absence?”

“Papa! Of course I have. I am always good. Now, will you tell me a story?”

“What story shall I tell?”

“I have not forgotten, Papa. Now you will tell me about Nicolas Gaspar.”

“Of course you would want to know about Nicolas!” Frankie complied, speaking now in a slight Spanish accent, his facial expression changing to reflect loneliness and boredom. “Perhaps you will remember, Nicolas went to live in Barcelona in 1993. He made his living telling stories of Catalonia to the tourists on Bus Turistic. Nicolas, he is a funny man, witty and independent…”

“Like Papa!”

“Si! But Nicolas had trouble making friends, because they all thought him to be conceited and a bit secretive, and he was very lonely.”

“Did he miss Andre?” Lacey asked, with perception beyond her years.

“He missed Lacey! Three years is too long to be away from my beloved daughter! Come here, and give your Papa a kiss.”

** *

“Ma Cherie! Just look at you. My goodness, you are all grown up!” The crowd at the JFK International airport streamed around them as Frankie hugged his daughter and enthusiastically returned her kiss on both cheeks. It was 2006 and he had not seen the transformation occur in his daughter, as Elyse had sent him on his way three years after his return from Barcelona. For she had found another lover and Frankie no longer fit into her lifestyle.
“I am twenty one now Papa. I have many stories to tell!”

“I just bet you do! Let’s get you home first; Wendy will want to meet you.”

“Oh, oui. Papa. I too am looking forward to meeting your new wife. But on the way home, you will tell me stories!”

“What story shall I tell?”

“Tell me about Lorenzo. Did he also work on a tour bus?”

“Indeed he did! Lorenzo Vecoli moved to Rome in 1999, adopted an Italian accent and took on the characteristics of an easy-going, adventurous saint!”

“Never! Papa, how could Lorenzo be a saint?”

“It’s what the tourists wanted! But it was getting much too hard to remember to be Lorenzo, and not slip back into Andre, or Nicolas.”

“Or Aidan, or Max?”

“You remember?”

“Oui, Papa; how could I forget your voices?”

“And which did you love best?” Frankie asked, knowing the answer, but needing to hear it anyway.

“Yours, Papa! Always yours!”

** *

“Papa?” Lacey’s voice was low, close; the breath of her words tickled his ear. Frankie thought she cried. But he did not want to see tears spilling from her beautiful green eyes, so he squeezed his own tightly shut. “Papa, please. I know you are awake.”

He opened his eyes at her entreaty and there she was, this beautiful girl who had grown into a mature woman, so like her mother, except Lacey was constant and her love for Frankie was true.

“It’s my birthday, Papa! Today I am thirty.” There was such sadness in her face, despite the forced cheer he heard in her voice. She sat on his bed beside him, and took his limp hand within her own. “Will you tell me a story?”

For Frankie, this was a good day, for he was lucid and he still remembered the ritual response. “What story shall I tell?”

“It does not matter to me, Papa. I just love to hear your voices. You pick one, and I will be content.”

But it was a cruel fate that struck Frankie with Alzheimer’s in his late sixties, so that now, at seventy, he could no longer remember the lives he had lived. And one by one the voices and stories were fading away, like files on a computer accidentally, irretrievably, deleted.