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Après nous le déluge

by Katherine Crighton

Originally published on tumblr, January 26, 2015

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it starts

“I feel like a stupid American,” Ben says, staring up at the glass pyramid in front of the entrance to the Louvre.

“That’s because you are a stupid American,” says Alyssa, or at least that’s what he thinks she says, because she says it in perfect French and while beating some insane level of Candy Crush on her phone, which is completely unfair, she’s not even looking at what even he knows is kind of a big deal in terms of art, okay, Ben is not the philistine here. 

The rest of the Albert Finch Memorial High School language club is scattered around the wide courtyard along with the other tourists, snapping pictures on their phones (except Lucas, with the DSLR), running their hands through the shallow water in the fountain that surrounds the pyramid. The sun is high overhead, though some clouds are in the distance, sweeping closer, and it’s summer-warm. The light, though, is still somehow brighter than the light they had in New Hampshire – which doesn’t make a lot of sense, because it’s the same sun, isn’t it? Then again, Paris smells weird, too, like Boston stink and the perfume Alyssa likes to wear, all at the same time.

Ben looks around, at the too wide, too Rococo buildings, and the sudden breath of modernity the glass pyramid represents. He isn’t really here for France, when it comes down to it. His French is limited to bonjour, merci, and combien? Which, so far, has been good enough.

Ben studies Spanish. He’s saving his phone’s available memory for the Sagrada Família.

“I’m going to get my revenge when we hit Pamplona,” he says mildly. He scratches his fingertips over Alyssa’s screen, messing up her level. She looks up and scowls at him. “I’m going to order squid for you and tell you it’s chicken.”

“They are related languages, Ben, it’s not as if I can’t–” She stops, suddenly, her mostly put-on annoyance dropping from her face as she looks over her shoulder. “Ben,” she says. “What the hell is that?”

He’s been fooled by her before – distraction is a well-worn tactic – so he sidesteps her before he turns to look.

It’s–

The sky is boiling.

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