Thursday, December 10, 2009

Le Grande Maison

My name is Jake English. I live in a French Colonial Cottage pained vintage blue. I bought the home a few years back in hopes of transforming the property into a Bed and Breakfast. I am not a man born of French heritage but rather my bloodlines can be traced back to the Mayflower. My wife, Katie’s heart sings Stars and Stripes Forever. Her eyes and hair are the color of chestnuts, and she looks as though she has just stepped out of a scene from an American picnic.

But the romantic French enthralls me, so I chose to take a few entrepreneurial liberties and open a French establishment in the heart of the American countryside. At one point I hired a French chef whose culinary skill could match the distinctly French name of the B&B: Le Grande Maison. Nevertheless, my efforts to appease my identity crisis of somehow existing as an American owner of a French business inevitably failed. The chef turned out to have a temper as fiery as crème brulee, and given that my patrons would not recognize the French countryside if they were visiting France itself, business flopped.

Still, I am an optimist at heart. So, I started a second business to cater to my American clientele, called the White Pickett Fence Company, building custom made fences that satisfied any idealist’s dream. Despite my efforts, I have not constructed a fence so ideal as to land its design on a magazine cover. Now it’s nearly Christmas and as I stand outside my home on this crisp December night, my dreams also stand here beside me, like ghosts shivering in the night. From inside Katie turns off the lights, unaware I had slipped out in the cold to evaluate my ambitions.

It’s hopeless, I whisper and tramp through the slush, making my way back into Le Grande Maison. The night is dark and still.
Suddenly, I hear the footsteps of someone making their way through the slush behind me. You think you’ll keep her going, or you think you’re gonna fold?
What? I ask, half startled, turning around. The big house? Is it a go? Inquired an old man, partially balding with white hair that curled down over the collar of his trench coat.
I don’t know. I stammered, feeling stripped of my own self-confidence.
What if I told you I got some real estate real nice like this-A beauty of a place? I can give it to you for free. He offered with a smile.
What’s that, for free? You been drinking tonite, Mister?
No. Not at all. See, there’s a place where the streets are made of gold and there are mansions even more beautiful than you can imagine.
Naaa, not tonight. That’s not for me.
All right, but if you ever change your mind, it’s yours.

Jake! Suddenly Katie calls from inside the house. Jake. Jake . . . . ..
But then the tone of her voice blends with a deeper one . . .
Jake, Jake, wake up. Hey, English! The Preacher is here. It’s the Christmas Eve service. Remember, you said you would go.
Jake lay there in a shabby bed. His body once longed for the soft flannel sheets of Le Grande Maison, but instead his now aged body lay dead and motionless, not in a B&B but in the Federal Prison. His cellmate, Frankie stood by shaking his cold shoulder.
We called him English because he always walked around with a notepad and pencil writing things down, and talking with fancy words, like a professor or something. He musta died in his sleep. Guess he couldn’t live to see another Christmas in the Big House. No one really ever knew what he was in for-just know it happened many years ago. See Preacher, look here. I think he wrote something from the Bible. What’s it say?
Frankie handed the small notepad to the kind gentleman, who read the note aloud,

He wrote down Luke 23:39-43:

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’
But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’
Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’
Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’”

What’s that mean, Preacher? Frankie asked.
It means he could be in the Big House tonight. But not like one you or I have seen, it’s a greater one called Paradise.

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