“Waiting is all well and good but its such hard work! How long will you wait to get what you want?”
Patience of a Saint
“Hey, Gaston. Can you come here, please?” waitress Avril called whilst polishing tables within the Ristorante Gallo. This was her third week working here and she was loving it.
Gaston was the chef-owner. He came through humming an Italian classic. “What can I help you with, Avril?” he asked in his always cheerful voice.
“Look outside the front door. That beagle has been waiting with great patience since I arrived an hour ago.”
From inside was just possible to see the top of the beagle’s soft brown head and hopeful eyes. The rest of him was hidden by the green woodwork of the restaurant’s façade.
“How funny! He was probably in the alley when the butcher came this morning. He’s hoping you’ll offer him a steak, I’d bet.” Gaston chuckled and repositioned his tall chef’s hat.
“I don’t think that’s it. Go closer,” Avril urged. The young waitress walked behind the bar to put her cleaning things away.
“Very, well.” Gaston walked to the front door.
The beagle popped up on his back legs and pawed the glass with a whimper. Beside him, a biscuit lay uneaten.
“You see. His pads are scratched up. I think he’s been running for a long distance. Also, he wasn’t interested in the food I gave him.”
“I see …” Gaston opened the door and knelt.
The beagle whimpered as he threw himself on the chef in a burst of excitement.
“I know this dog. This is Claude, his mistress comes here every so often.” Gaston steadied the dog and began to calm him with gentle strokes of his soft fur. “What are you doing here, boy? Where’s Amelie?”
“You think she’s in trouble?” Avril suggested while smiling at the antics of the dog. He was now pulling on the chef’s sleeve as if trying to get him out of the restaurant.
“I don’t know. Whatever the case we have to go and find out,” Gaston stood up. Can you get him some water while I change?”
“Sure. Come here, Claude.” Avril beckoned.
The beagle gave a little bark and returned to sitting outside.
“Fine, you stay out there then.” Avril smiled and brought the water to him instead.
Claude had a couple of licks. He was too stressed and desperate to have more than that.
Gaston returned swiftly. “I’ve locked the back doors. Will you come with me in case I need help?”
“Of course.” Avril pulled on her coat and followed him out as he locked the restaurant.
Gaston and Avril put the beagle in his Citroen and set off through the narrow streets of Paris. “We’ll try Amelie’s home first.”
“Just as well you know where she lives,” Avril said smoothing the dog’s ears trying to keep him calm. passing the Eiffle tower should be a treat but not when you’d seen it every day of your life. Avril barely glanced at it as she focused on the dog.
“Amelie was taken ill last year. For a while, I prepared my delicious soups and personally delivered them to her.”
“Aww, Gaston. That’s so sweet of you to do that for her.” Avril hugged Claude, “Isn’t he a sweetie? Hey, boy?”
Claude gave a little bark.
“See! Even he agrees.”
Gaston’s cheeks turned a deep shade of pink, “Well, it’s nice to help where you can.” The chef indicated into a street lined with Belle Epoque terraced houses. Pulling up behind a small van, he glanced at house number six. “Let’s see what’s going on.”
Avril opened her door to get out.
Claude leapt into the road, barked, and set off along the street.
“Oh, no! Claude! I’m sorry, Gaston!” Avril cried as she ran after him.
Claude shot through the legs of a lady of flamfoo style with her gaudy dress and haircut.
“We’re sorry!” Avril said as she dashed by turning the lady in a circle.
“Not your fault. I think Claude’s leading the way. Come on!” Gaston was twice Avril’s age and yet much faster than her in a foot race. “He’s got plenty of energy despite his sore paws!”
The beagle outpaced both as he swung between parked cars.
“Claude, no!” Gaston yelled.
Horns blared as little dog crossed the street right in front of braking cars. Tyre screeched and people swore. Claude reached the pavement unscathed and stopped by the door to an old chapel.
“Phew, he made it!” Avril breathed as they caught up. “Looks like he wants us in there.”
Claude barked and pawed at the ancient oak door.
“Amelie told me about this place. This is the Chapel of St Jacques.” Gaston indicated the historic monument sign on a nearby post. It’s been closed to the public for about a decade. Amelie was helping to raise funds to get it renovated and reopened after it was closed due to being unsafe.”
“Okay, so why would she be in there now?”
“That, Avril, is a very good question.” Gascon tried the door and found it open.
Claude immediately bounded inside.
“Come on,” Gaston beckoned as he stepped inside.
“Go slowly. Be careful!” Avril urged. Taking out her phone for the torch function she followed him inside. Her light played off the billowing dust motes floating all around the building like lost spirits.
It seemed like an ordinary little chapel on the outside. Inside it opened into a lost treasure. An aisle bordered by beautifully carved pews ran to a circular altar surrounded by formally beautiful stained-glass windows filled with religious scenes. A beam of sunlight cut through a hole in the roof and fell upon the altar stone. The effect was as if God was taking a sermon.
“Amelie! Are you in here?” Gaston yelled.
“Look at this poor place,” Avril said saddened by the heaps of dust and debris from falling ceiling and broken windows. Even the floor had collapsed in one place. “Such a shame this beautiful chapel fell into ruin like this.”
“It’s a travesty. That’s why Amelie was trying to rescue — Amelie!” Gaston sprinted between the pews and ran to the left of the altar.
Avril followed. There was Amelie. Half-buried in collapsed roof trusses and debris. Claude was sat by her, licking her wrinkled face. Avril wiped away tears as she called the emergency services for the old lady.
“Amelie. It’s going to be okay. Claude bought us to you. We’ll save you now.” Gaston said beginning to dig her out of the rubble.
The noise and Claude’s licking brought her back from unconsciousness. “Gaston? Oh, Gaston.”
“Yes, it’s me, Amelie. Take it easy, you’re going to be okay.” The chef knelt and kissed her forehead. “You were so silly coming in here alone.”
“I’ve always been a stupid old fool!” Amelie said disdainfully. “My family are all buried in the crypt beyond this fallen roof. Coming here every day is the only way I can be with them. To not feel alone for a while.”
“An ambulance is on its way,” Avril said. “Amelie, this is the first time we’ve met. But I want you to know, you never have to be alone. Gaston and I will always be at the restaurant and a phone call away. We’re here for you.”
“Yes we are, you just have to ask. We promise to do something about this place too,” said Gaston hugging her and the dog carefully.
Almost a year later Amelie stood on crutches in the chapel with Claude at her feet. Gaston and Avril stood on either side of her. Over the last eleven months, the chef and waitress had put together numerous charity events from the restaurant. Between them, they raised enough to fix the chapel. Now a new priest had been ordained as caretaker to the beautifully restored building.
“Welcome one and all to the Chapel of St Jacques and Saint Claude. Saint Claude is no ordinary Saint. He is a living and breathing beagle. Through heroically running through Paris to find his friend chef Gaston, he saved his mistress Amelie from an awful death. He also saved this beautiful building by bringing it to the attention of chef Gaston and waitress Avril. Over the last year, they selflessly worked to save our beautiful chapel whilst being friends to all those who require one. That’s why we ordain this beagle ‘Saint Claude’ and bless you both Gaston and Avril!”
Have a great day!