From Book 2: Kiki and Man Ray

            An adolescent boy’s voice piped up somewhere in the restaurant, answering a woman’s warning tone. The voice sounded familiar, but I could not place it. I turned from the window but I only recognized Kiki standing at the counter. She did not speak, and she did not look at me. The air was tangled with voices talking all at once, but I could still pull out the faint thread of that boy’s cocky jabber—who was he? Where had I heard him before? Then the crowd’s chatter drowned him out again.

            Suddenly an outraged cry from Kiki yanked all conversation taut.

            Man Ray had opened the door to the restaurant and walked jauntily toward us, but when he saw his lover, he stopped. Kiki grabbed a glass off the counter. Before anyone could stop her she threw the glass right at Man’s head. Man Ray ducked and the people near him headed for cover while the glass shattered. Screaming and swearing, Kiki grabbed ashtrays, saucers, cups, anything she could reach and they exploded against the door. The headwaiter struggled to hold her. People ducked under the tables. Trying to shield his head, Man Ray crawled back out the door on one hand and both knees. Kiki lunged in the arms of the waiters, and they dragged her to the back exit. Even with three of them they could barely restrain her, and she was shrieking at the top of her lungs: “Asshole! Prick! Where is she? Why didn’t you bring her with you? Let me get a look at her. Let her show her face!”

            “Yow!” Louis hissed. The waiters pushed Kiki outside and slammed the back door. Bernice rose from her chair and ran after Kiki. The room was quiet for a moment. Then, a waiter swept up the pieces of glass while voices began to inquire each other tentatively. Heads popped up from beneath tables. Nervous laughter rose here and there. I heard that boy’s excited prattle again: “What’s going on? Who was that man? Why did that lady do that?”

            “Fernand!” admonished a woman, and then I could pick out Artaud’s little brother in the crowd. He hovered over a table where an older woman, probably slightly younger than Artaud, was trying to persuade him to take his seat again.

I quickly tapped Justine’s hand and nodded in their direction. “Is that woman Artaud’s sister?”

            “Oh,” Justine murmured, craning her neck to look, “heavens, I think she could be. Yes, my God, she is! That’s Marie-Ange. And is that the baby brother Antonin told me about? Unbelievable.” Slowly she stood up. “I should greet her, but I feel shy. Come with me?”

            We both went over to their table. The woman caught sight of Justine and smiled. She had the same deep stare, high cheekbones, and thick dark locks as her brothers. Marie-Ange stood up to embrace her childhood playmate. Like Artaud, she was tall; she towered over Justine.

“Doxy!” cried Marie-Ange. “Antonin told me you were in Paris. You’re so thin. You’ve turned yourself into a flapper! Your lovely hair, it’s all gone.”

            “I’m growing it out again,” Justine replied, self-consciously twisting a curl with her finger.

            “Doxy?” I exulted.

            Justine wrinkled her nose. “Eudoxia Mendel was the name foisted on me at birth,” she grumbled. “Please forget it.”

I basked in my triumph. Now I had a choice piece of gossip for Louis, for once.

            “I’ll never think of you as anyone but Doxy,” said Marie-Ange.

            Fernand shook my hand energetically, then recovered his swagger and slouched into his chair, holding an imaginary cigarette. Marie-Ange ignored him and extended her hand to me. “It really is a small world to find out my mother, besides knowing Doxy’s mother, is acquainted with your aunt. Antonin speaks very highly of you, Geoff. I’m glad to finally meet you.”

            I nodded politely. Artaud spoke highly of me? I wondered what he could have told them. “I am glad to finally meet his family—and to meet Doxy!” I replied. Justine dragged a finger across her throat while I smiled down at her. “I’d like to learn more about this Eudoxia. What a nice, prim name.”

            “I was a very good girl once,” Justine admitted sheepishly, “sat up straight, crossed my ankles, never cut school, got good grades—was a goody two-shoes, in fact—and only listened to classical music, and I was prepared for a baccalaureate and marriage when it all got derailed.”

            “Now she’s a flapper in the jazz age,” I chuckled.

            Justine laughed. “Beethoven was my first love, but Louis Armstrong was the only man to stick around when the bills had to be paid.”

Fernand laughed with us, but Marie-Ange rallied graciously to keep a smile on her face. Her eyes went blank in the way that peoples’ eyes did when they did not know what to say.

            “When does the film crew release your brother for lunch?” I asked.

            “We were just leaving for Mother’s place to meet him,” Marie-Ange replied. “He’ll be starving and the restaurants will soon be closed. Our mother is out of town, and I promised to cook for him. Please come! We’ll have a long talk,” she added advisedly to Justine.

                It was Justine’s turn to look sandbagged. “We’ve left a friend at our table…” She pointed reluctantly at Louis, who smiled and stood up immediately.

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