Ship of Fools

It's where he painted Cafe Terrasse. Amongst much else. The café's still there, the terrace too. I went. We had it hanging on the wall, a copy of it, in the kitchen or the hall or the front room, in the first house I lived in. I used to stare at it. I thought it looked quite good.
There are eight other cafés around it now. You still get the picture. I stared at it. It's not a bad place, a leafy square, every house a different colour, flowers jumping out of windows.

Last night the rain attacked. My phone was swimming across the floor and moaning, I'd fallen asleep with the door open, a puddle was trying to sleep with me. I closed the door and moved away from the puddle. In the morning I put on the least wet clothes and turned the nearest tree into a sculpture of all my belongings. People came to look. The sun came out and started drying things.
A notebook was mush. I threw it away, and all the words and addresses and nuggets in it. I'd used a big pen, to fill the pages quicker, to bring a sense of small achievment closer.

One of the churches was full of trees and wooden limbs all pointing up from the floor. Some of them turned into glass tubes halfway up and inside the tubes were smaller worlds. Some of them had been shaped into swords. They were all lit from below.
I left.
Another roundabout. A lot of trucks passed saying sorry.
A small green car slowed down, a woman leaned out, asked where I was going, I shouted south, it stopped. I put my bag in the boot.
There were three of them. Marc and Seb and Chinez or Shainez or Chaynesse. Seb was driving and asking questions I couldn't answer, because I couldn't hear. I told them I was going to the sea, didn't matter where.
-Really doesn't matter?
After ten minutes we stopped to fill up. Seb went to pay. Chinez was talking about living in Paris, the theatres, living on boats. Marc was talking about working for a month then going back to live on a boat, not a normal boat, an eccentric one.
A while went like this. Seb didn't return. We ate brioche, Shainez skinned up. We craned our necks to see if Seb was in the shop or at the till. We couldn't see.
We hummed.
Five more minutes passed.
Marc spoke:
-Maybe he's having a monster shit.
-Or eating in the restaurant.
-Or doing drugs.
The spliff went round the car. Chaynesse started singing Tainted Love, quietly.
-Or kidnapped. You have this in England? Banditos?
-Most of the time no.
-He is lost. Marc, you can ask inside.
-For a man in a yellow t-shirt who disappeared in the toilet?
She laughed.
-Yeah. And get me a can of coke.
He went in. Five minutes passed. We got out of the car, milled around, looked thoroughly at everything there was to look at.
Marc returned, finished the spliff.
-They don't know! There is one cubicle locked, no answer.
We looked around again.
-Maybe he's in the female toilet.
I began to think about saying goodbye and getting another lift.
Then he returned, out of the main doors, we applauded. He was smiling.
We got back in the car and left. Shainez rolled another as they talked. It was something to do with a bank card and a phone call and the manager's office. He was laughing.
It was twenty minutes to Port St. Louis. The spliff went round the car. They talked more about Paris and work and asked where I was from and going and what I wanted to do when I got there. I still wanted to see the sea.
As we pulled into town they asked if I wanted to see the boat.
It was moored on the Rhone, by itself, it was the size of two houses and all the colours except pink.
The main cabin was bright yellow, it had Ship of Fools painted across it, in English, in bright blue Gothic. There was a six foot metal spoon and fork, crossed, at the very front. The mast had antlers on top, driftwood painted white, pointing backwards.
The deck was bottle green, the railings were dark red, the handrails were zebra-striped.
Seb said:
-I'll collect my things. We'll go to the beach in a minute. You want to see inside?
The captain was mahogany. He sat on deck smoking in a turqoise towel. He said hello. There were three other, younger people with him, they went out on bikes. We went down to a huge dark room with a wooden table the length of it in the centre. My eyes adjusted. There was a kitchen in the corner, Chainez pottering, pots and lights hanging from the ceiling, fat books, cushions and incense, brass lamps, maps, cans of paintbrushes, all neat, rugs on the floor.
Up wooden ladders, a bed to the left, a costume wardrobe in the middle, hats everywhere. A corridor to the right, paintings in red and blue and purple all over the ceiling and walls, animals, dreams, symbols, blotches.
Back out onto the deck and up to the cockpit, the bit with the wheel in it, what's it called, yellowing wood over a metal frame, bulbous handles, looking out past the fork and spoon up the Rhone.
-It was built in 1957 and will last for one hundred years.
We went back to the car, Marc stayed on the boat.
Five minutes down a long straight road with wetlands on either side. Marshes maybe, and beyond them a wind farm, and beyond that some giant industry, red and white striped towers, cranes, silos, barges, tankers. Chainez was singing something about gypsies, it was almost speech. Seb was eating a Mr Freeze.
They dropped me at the beach and drove back to their boat.