Three nights ago I came my closest ever to being in an action film and I hate action films.

So my little one decided she was not going to sleep. Fortunately, this is rare but on this particular night she was into everything. She even turned on the stereo at 3 a.m. Finally, at 3:30 am she went to sleep and so did my partner and I.

That may be why we were groggy and slow to react when the door started buzzing at 4:30 am. The lady of the house went to answer the door buzzer while I considered cowering under the blankets but even in my highly fatigued state my curiosity was piqued by the loud popping noises and screaming coming from below in the street.

We live on the fourth floor. My curiosity overcame my cowardice sufficiently for me partially open the shutters and peek out…. only to be blinded by a mushroom cloud and feel my cheeks flushed with heat. Armageddon was the view from hiding post. Further inspection revealed that were also quite a few police vehicles, surrounding some remnants of our trash and recycling bins and several cars on fire and exploding.

I calmly plodded to the living room and enquired hopefully “sugar darling, where might you have stationed our little car”. When she confirmed my worst fears I said “I fear we may be in for a spot of bother transport wise in the near future”. She, in turn, suggested it may be judicious for me to jaunt downstairs to see if there were anything salvageable, like the state of the art baby seat that represents about two weeks of my salary. I had to agree that it would perhaps be the right thing to do.. and I was about to add “were I a braver man” but something about the intensity of her look told me that I felt more confident facing a raging blaze then staying where I was.

Les Arceaux Montpellier

Upon arrival on ground zero I first pushed past neighbours in housecoats wishing to chat then a cordon of police. I indicated which car was ours and asked one of the ever so useful officers enjoying the view if I could retrieve my car to which he said I could if I went about it in a prompt sort of way. I was wearing pyjamas and unlaced running shoes. If it came down to it, I thought it would be most unbecoming for a white man of my status to be tackled by the police while wearing pjs in front of my domicile. I have seen enough American reality television to know that always ends badly.

With the blessing of the law, I made my way amongst the black clouds and angry flames and had a devil of a time attempting to get the door open with my key. It seemed the ruddy thing would lock again as soon as I unlocked it. I assumed it was the heat but I was later to learn that my intrepid partner was aiding from the window with the automatic opener.

I stole away with the hot car and parked some blocks away. I am not sure how I managed the gear changes with my wobbly knees but I got there. Inside the car the parking stickers had turned black. The front headlights and plastic bumper were melted as well as the paint on the front grill. You can’t read our front licence plate anymore either.

The wiser of us thought to get good insurance so we “only” have to pay 250 Euros from our pockets. Our parking lot now looks like the American Embassy to Kabul and the little one slept well…. as one of her age might in entirely different circumstances. In spite of her slumbering through the most boisterous parts of the evening she didn’t neglect to wake us up at 7 a.m. Ahh the joys of settled life in Montpellier.

Brad Jeffrey

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