Feb 21st – Ragamuffin remembrances

February 21st – Ragamuffin remembrances


It was better when it didn’t rain.

It was always a little easier being on the streets when it was dry, and warm: winter brought cold and rain and sleet and snow, and all of these made living hard. That was when your friends disappeared, kids you played and fought and stole bread with, kids you slept alongside, huddled up together in doorways or in the tunnels under the city, or under bridges by the river where it was dry, disappeared. You never saw them again. Once they were gone, they were gone, and it was better to forget them and move on.

I was one of those children. I am one of the lucky ones. There are very few of us who made it out.

I never go back to Paris, if I can help it. If I do I feel drawn back to the same streets, my pockets full of sous, handing them out to the echoes of my past.

Monsieur, rien pour nous?

Ragamuffin voices. Urchins. Hugo’s Gavroche. I was one of them.

The memories hurt.

I am an old man now, and I see in the faces of my grandchildren as they play in my garden, chasing birds and butterflies, the faces of Pierre, of Henri, of LeMarchand, Oiseau, Colette.


She didn’t see the spring of 1830. Colette, who had tears at the corners of her eyes, even when she smiled,, Colette who taught me to read the words she knew, who drew letters for me in the dust and showed me that there was more than just stealing bread and chasing cats. Colette named things.

Colette named me.

I watched them take her body away, tiny, on a cart, watched them drag her off through the streets as the ice cracked in the gutters under the heavy wheels. Spring was late that year, but I chased it south, walking, hitching rides with sympathetic coachmen, stealing rides from others, until I came to Aix. Where I stayed.

I worked hard. At everything. And what little I earned, I saved. I saved a man from drowning: he rewarded me with a roof, shelter, food. A home.

The home I still live in, the home with the garden where my grandchildren chase birds and butterflies, and laugh in the spring sunshine.

I still think of Colette.

I know I am the lucky one.


Inspired by a prompt from here

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