Grenouilles du Berry, bisous de Californie

Sujet de mon midterm paper de littérature :

Inspirez-vous de l’une des photographies de l’exposition du Ackland Museum pour écrire votre propre histoire californienne.

Dorothea Lange - Heading toward LA

« Heading Towards L.A. », prise par Dorothea Lange en 1937.

Et voilà mon histoire –

« Louis Bonifé was one of those guys people say “I don’t understand, he had everything to succeed – good family, good brains, good health”. But Louis was unlucky, he could not make anything work, no matter how hard he tried. In 1949, he was twenty-two years old, he had finished college and decided to plant bananas near Lille, in the North of France. Of course they could not grow because it was too cold there. So he gave up, and three years later, he started a frog farm in Henrichemont, the little village where he was born.

Meat was so expensive then. The war was over but the people still lacked everything. They were starving and lived on black bread and wild mushrooms. Frog farming was cheap and would furnish plenty of meat. That was a great idea. The frog farm was alright for two years. Louis started to earn some money, people enjoyed the frogs and invented all kind of recipes to cook them. The farm grew ; Louis was farming more and more frogs. But at the end of the second summer, the frogs fell sick. In just a week, it was over, they had all died. Louis was ruined. As he was a good Catholic, he interpreted his misfortune as a divine sign.

He thought it over seven days and seven nights. At the end of the seventh day, he had made his decision. He had to leave. He was twenty-six, he had to get married and have children. The further the better. With the money he had left, he bought a single-trip boat ticket to America. He arrived after a month in New York. He was broke. There he did what all immigrants do. He worked for nothing, just to earn some soup and bread. He did not like New York. He had to move further, to own land, to meet a girl and get married and get rich. One cold winter night, he jumped in a train to Ohio, then to another train to Oregon. He got kicked out of the train because he did not have money to buy a ticket.

Another guy got kicked out of the train. He was slightly taller than Louis. He had deep brown eyes and he smelled strangely. Louis spoke poor English, so did the other guy. His name was Frank Ekema. He used to be a priest in the Netherlands. Because their English was so bad, Louis did not really understand why Hylbert had to flew away from the Netherlands, but it did not matter. They instantly liked each other. They were the lonesome-kind and did not talk much but genuinely enjoyed each other company.

They arrived in America like every one, attracted by this American Dream, the West, the Land, the Greatness of the Country, the White-Picket Fence, the Abundance. Without even formulating it, they knew what they had to do : walking, obstinately, towards West and towards South, until something happens.

God, these long straight roads did not seem to be never ending. And the heat. And the sun. And this country was immense. One night in a little town, they broke into a shop, and stole two cowboy hats. After all, a cowboy hat is also a part of the American dream. Now with their bags and their hats, they really looked like each other. They did not meet anyone on the road, as the people were defiant towards these two strong foreigners who looked like they were walking forever. And this is what happened at the end of the seventh week.

They eventually arrived in California. And there, they did what they had been wanting to do from the first minute they saw each other : they kissed, again and again and again, for hours, and they made love, and they thought it was good. And they did not care anymore about frogs, or trains, or God ; they did not care anymore about cowboy hats, or bananas or wives or making money. This is California.

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