AW Flash Fiction — “Sanctuary” — 7/25/10

This was my bleary-eyed re-entry into the weekly Sunday night flash fiction challenge, written after a 10 hour international flight followed by a nearly three hour commute from SeaTac Airport to home.  It’s a little light in the loafers but was intended to convey some sly humor at the perception of American tourists in France.


“You better run, Eva, because when I catch you, you’re gonna get it!” Jonah laughed as he chased Eva in front of Notre Dame, the world famous medieval church in Paris, France.

They had chosen Paris for their honeymoon because it seemed like the most romantic place at the time plus they’d both taken French in college and wanted to put their linguistic skills to use.

“Hey, Jonah! Over here, Babe!” Eva shouted from one salon of the church to the next, ignoring the frowns and stares of the guides and other visitors.

“Shhh!” An old man held a tobacco-stained finger, gnarled from age, to his lips. “Silence! C’est une eglise! Doucement, s’il vous plait!” His bushy silver eyebrows marched to the center of his brow and formed a line of disapproval.

Jonah captured Eva in his arms and they laughed boisterously from their game of tag. He kissed her to the tut-tuts of passersby and those who came to pray and have quiet communion with God.

“Oh shh, yourself!” Eva hissed most uncharitably when the old man stomped past them muttering new words of French disapproval. She didn’t catch all his meanings but got the general gist.

The old man looked over his shoulder, shook his finger once more and said,
“Les Gargoyles…ils vous mangeront! Regardez!” With a final stab of that ominous digit, he shuffled out of the church.

“Bah! Il est fou! Let’s go to the top!” Eva grabbed Jonah’s hand and they ran outside. Ignoring the queue and the tariff required to ascend, they ran past those waiting and climbed the narrow stone stairs.

“What did that old man say anyway? I didn’t catch his meaning.” Jonah panted his question to his bride as they neared the top.

After unleashing her peals of laughter, Eva translated. “He said the gargoyles, they’ll eat you. Watch out.”

“And you said he was crazy, right?” Jonah pulled Eva into an embrace as they gazed out over the city.

Eva smiled and kissed him. “Sanctuary, my love, sanctuary!” She layed her hand across her brow and declared her freedom from persecution atop the catwalks of Notre Dame.

Jonah released her and walked to the corner. There he leaned over the edge and pointed to one of the stone gargoyles perched in silent sentry over the ancient church. “I think I’ll call this one Fred. Hey Fred! Sanctuary, Dude, Sanctuary!”

Eva skipped to the point immediately above the next gargoyle and said, “This one is Edith and that’s Pierre over there.” She snickered before she ran back into her new husband’s arms. “Come on let’s go get something to eat. I’m hungry.”

“But I haven’t taken any pictures yet,” Jonah moaned but he never could deny her.

“Aw, come on…we can always come back. It’s not like this place is going anywhere.” She glanced around for the nearest exit. “I think we came up over there.” With a tug of his hand, she led him toward the sign that said “sortie” or exit.

They walked the length of the cathedral naming the rest of the gargoyles as they did, assuming that the door would always be around the next turn. After making several turns but not finding it, Jonah said, “Stop. I think we’re going round in circles. Let’s just ask someone where the door down is.”

Eva looked to her right and to her left but no one else was in sight. “Huh, that’s strange. Where’d all the people go? Weren’t there at least ten other people up here with us a few minutes ago?”

“More than that. What the hell? Did they close it down and we somehow didn’t hear them?”

“You didn’t hear them because you sought sanctuary here, my dears,” said a voice that seemed to come from a meter below them.

Eva’s eyes grew wide. “Who just said that? Hello?”

A man’s voice boomed from the opposite side of the catwalk, “We take declarations of sanctuary very seriously here.”

Jonah face turned ashen. He felt Eva’s slight form tremble beneath his hands. “Don’t be afraid, Sweetheart. Someone’s just playing a practical joke on us. There’s probably a speaker or something below the ledges. I’ll bet there’s a hidden camera around here too.” He chuckled and placed a gentle kiss on the crown of Eva’s head. “Okay, joke’s over! Let us go down now!”

“But you said you sought sanctuary…” came a woman’s voice just below Eva. “You both did. I heard you. We all heard you.”

“That was just a joke. Just like what you’re doing is a joke…right?” Eva tried to sound brave but Jonah caught the quaver in her voice.

“Enough already! You’re scaring my wife. Let us exit, s’il vous plait!”

“Fred? Pierre? Edith? You guys hungry? Looks like we got ourselves another couple of sacrilegious tourists who have dared to mock the sanctuary we offer.”

Edith’s high pitched voice rose as she pulled her light grey granite form up the wall and over the handrail. “Oh goody, Americans are the most delicious ones of all.”

A half hour later, Fred burped, patted his belly and smoothed the whiskers on his chin into place. Even though said whiskers hadn’t moved because they were made of stone, he’d made a habit of the gesture centuries earlier. “Back in your places everyone. We’ve got a cathedral to guard against evil spirits and loud, obnoxious tourists.”

Edith nodded in agreement and clambered over the edge back into her usual resting spot overlooking the Ile de la Cite and the Seine. She sighed with pleasure as the sun set behind the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

This one was more for fun than anything else. Can you tell I just got back from my summer vacation? guess where I was yesterday? ha!