The Writing Traveler: Secrets in a Quebec Bistro

Was he a stranger in town? Or home? Was he waiting for someone? Or alone? Was he looking for his wife? Or another man’s wife?

He came out of the old church and glanced nervously in both directions before dashing his away across the street, moving quickly between tour busses and taxis before slipping inside the little Bistro and leaving the rain outside.

He removed a tweed jacket and tossed it across the back of a wooden chair.

Rain had plastered his black hair against his head.

It hadn’t done the tweed any good either.

He wasn’t concerned.

It would dry.

He ordered wine.

“White or red?” the pretty waitress asked. She had fine French features and smiling eyes.


“A glass?”

“A bottle.”

An eyebrow arched above those laughing eyes.

Caleb Pirtle

The pretty waitress with fine French features: long slender legs and short black dress. She smiled as she sat the bottle on the table in front of him and walked away.

I watched her.

He didn’t.

His eyes had never left the doorway..

Lightning played between the towers of the church.

Thunder cracked.

The man flinched. He drank straight from the bottle.

The pretty waitress with fine French features saw him.

The laughing eyes frowned.

We were sitting in Old Town Quebec, a lovely place even in the rain. Its architectural face had been carved by artisans from another time and left to weather gracefully for three centuries or more.

I turned my eyes toward the man.

He was not yet old, but there were gray streaks in his hair. It grew long over his ears. He was short with square shoulders and a pensive face.

He appeared hypnotized by the rain.

The afternoon was cold. At least it was chilled.

The wine had warmed him.

And in the gray of the late afternoon, the wandering mind of a writer took over.

Was he a stranger in town?

Or home?

Was he waiting for someone?

Or alone?

Was he looking for his wife?

Or another man’s wife?

Had he gone to the church to pray?

Or confess?

Did he leave his sins in the lap of the priest?

Was he fearful that someone else would hear the words of his confession?

And had he killed the priest so no one would ever know his secrets?

If I wrote the story, he did.

But it was his story.

Not mine.

Perhaps he was a jealous husband.

Or a scorned lover.

Perhaps he was the hunter.

Maybe the prey.

It could be that the police were searching for him.

Maybe they had already found him.

He was waiting.

They were waiting.

The pretty waitress with fine French features and long slender legs might be his lover.

She might become his hostage.

Then again, he might have simply been a working man who shed the chill on a gray afternoon and came in from the rain.

The pretty waitress had fine French features.

So did the bottle.

He had his pick.

He chose the wine.

It could have been such a far better story.

I didn’t wait around long enough to find out.

Many of my travel stories can be found in my memoir of sorts: The Man Who Talks to Strangers. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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