It was midnight when Michel trudged across the bridge over the Midi, in the center of Carcassonne. His dog, Luc, followed nervously, a safe distance behind, aware that Michel was in a fit of rage. Kicks could land unexpectedly when his master was angry.
Michel was heading to the other side of the canal basin, where there were two or three benches, hopefully unoccupied. He should have been comfortably wrapped up in his sleeping bag in his usual space, the doorway of the gift shop, opposite the boulangerie. He should be waking tomorrow morning to the aroma of freshly baked bread, to a couple of warm croissants thrown across the alleyway to him by the kindhearted assistant working the early morning shift.
Instead, a Moroccan clochard, all dreadlocks, brightly colored scarves and jangling silver jewelry, had usurped his space for the second night running, no doubt relishing the croissants meant for the Frenchman.
“Bloody immigrants,” swore Michel, turning onto the quayside the other side of the basin. A number of smart white yachts were moored against the quay and Michel took pleasure in urinating on their mooring ropes. He motioned to Luc to do the same, and the dog sheepishly obliged. Michel would enjoy watching the boaters coiling their ropes in the morning as they prepared to depart. Small pleasures.
To his dismay, the benches all hosted men hunched beneath dirty duvets, whilst beneath them an assortment of dogs dozed peacefully, reassured by the rhythmic snoring of their masters above. Every clochard had a dog. It was a symbiotic relationship. The dog was a source of warmth, and an insurance against arrest, since the gendarmerie didn’t relish dealing with stray dogs. And the clochard shared food with the dog.
Michel turned back, making his way back up the main street, towards the Moroccan, resigned now to having to deal with the usurper.
As he reached the doorway, the space he called his own, he drew a long thin blade out of his boots. The Moroccan was asleep, amongst crushed beer cans and empty wine bottles, probably dead drunk. Michel raised the blade. He hadn’t once worked at the abattoir for nothing; he knew where to place the blade for maximum and silent impact.
Without warning, the Moroccan sprang up, seizing Michel’s wrist and applying just the right amount of pressure to force him to drop the blade. As the steel rang on the cobbles, the Moroccan snatched it up and neatly eviscerated Michel with two strokes. Blood and guts spattered onto the pavement. Luc whined in anxiety as Michel slumped silently to the ground.
The Moroccan leaned over the Frenchman’s body.
“My space, Frenchman,” he hissed.
He turned to the cowering dog and held out a filthy hand. The dog cautiously approached, sniffing, tail between his legs.
“Eat, dog” he invited, indicating the mess on the cobbles.
Luc sniffed, and obediently began to eat.
He needed a new master.
The Moroccan needed space. And a dog.
All was well.
- Copyright: © 2010 Sandra Crook
- Published October 2010 by microhorror.com