Jimmy took his taxi down to Rue St. Honore and looked for something nice to get Barbara. He decided on a carnation and looked for a florist. He found a small shop with a well-heeled Asian proprietor. Jimmy approached her after she said, “Bonjour.”
“I would like to buy a carnation for my date.”
She said in shocked fluent Parisian French, “Only one? Monsieur, you need to buy her a bouquet.”
“I would buy her a bouquet but we are going to dinner first.”
Her face creased in annoyance. “You are a very stupid young man, you greet her with the bouquet at home.”
“She is not at home. I’m meeting her in front of the Louvre, where she works.”
“Well you stupid boy, buy the carnation now and set up the delivery for Monday.”
“You don’t understand, Madame. I don’t know exactly where she lives, I just know she rents an apartment with several friends nearby overlooking the Seine.”
“You really are stupid, you set up the delivery so all her colleagues can see how much you love her!”
“I don’t know if I love her yet. My crystal ball was broken in a tragic accident several years ago.”
“You are stupid and have a terrible sense of humor.”
“How much is this going to cost me; and who are you anyway?
“I am Madame Tran, and now I know who are, Monsieur Joyce. I thought you were more intelligent than that, does someone write your columns for you? You may know about what you write about Paris, but you, stupid boy have never really loved a woman before?”
“You’re Vietnamese, aren’t you?”
Madame Tran put her hands on her hips and looked up at Jimmy as though she would swat him like a bug.
“I am Parisian, Monsieur, unlike you Monsieur Joyce, and why, do you have anything against Vietnamese?”
Jimmy was briefly off balance but recovered quickly, “Non Madame, just making an observation. It’s what I do in my columns…”
“But not with love, no? You are stupid at love, and you need me to educate you,” Madame Tran said with a smirk.
Jimmy couldn’t resist the wisecrack.; “Does the love doctor cost more? Do you call your other customers stupid, it’s a miracle you are still in business.”
“Stupid boy, I have government ministers and judges buying at my shop. They don’t ask all these impertinent questions. If you really love the young lady, you will not ask the price. By your suit and your success with your columns, you can afford what I charge.”
“Jimmy was now pleading. It’s the first date, I don’t know if I love her yet.”
“You really do know nothing about love. You asked her on a date, stupid boy, do you want her to love you? You want to sweep her off her feet.”
Now Jimmy was stuttering like Porky Pig. “Wellll yeeeessss, I guess I want her to love me.”
“You guess, you GUESS? I am losing patience with you, do you want the flowers or not?”
Jimmy now realized time was marching on and there was not time to shop anywhere else. Oh she’s good, she’s really good.
“All right, let me have a carnation for tonight, and a bouquet for Monday.”
“Now that’s more like it, you are getting smarter, Monsieur Joyce. Now let an expert florist get to work. Sit down over there and I will be finished soon, but don’t rush me, you cannot rush a skilled artist.”
Jimmy sat down and immediately was lost in thought. Madame Tran immediately got to work. It seemed like an eternity and other people were waiting in almost reverent silence as Madame Tran finished up. When she turned to Jimmy, she smiled. She handed Jimmy a carefully wrapped carnation and showed him the finished bouquet. “I will carefully store this until Monday. I would normally charge 350 Euros, but because you can write about me and you are a young boy learning, I will charge you 250. Don’t become accustomed to this generosity. Now off with you, I should charge more for my time and you can see some of my regular customers are waiting. One well-heeled woman told Jimmy how lucky he was and his date must be very special. Jimmy
paid the 250 Euros. Luckily, he was doing well enough to afford it now.
“Bonne Journee,” Madame Tran called after him.
It had been a strange experience and Jimmy understood he had not seen the last of Madame Tran. He felt this would be one of those life changing experiences.