Story Time – Luncheon of the Boating Party

(Writing Exercise for Corydon Quills & Quibbles writing group – this  exercise was assigned to be a 500-word story about one or more of the figures represented in the Renoir painting, “The Luncheon of the Boating Party”.  I chose the man with the red-banded hat, background, at right).

Nouveau Chapeau

My Dearest Clotilde, My treasure…
Can you ever forgive me?  I am bereft, I am devastated, crushed.  In my vain attempt to impress you, I fear that I may have lost you.  I cannot bear the thought, I cannot live without you.  Can it be?  Where is my justice?  What shall I do?  Please let me try to explain.
It all began with the inquisitive cat which belonged to my concierge.  Yes, it does sound incredible, I know, but stay with me a bit longer.  This heinous animal, with the unfortunate name of Pandora, was forever prowling the rooms of all the tenants and marking his territories with foul leavings.  For some reason Pandora chose my flat for his most despicable desecrations.  I repeatedly appealed to Mme. Morisot, our concierge, to get rid of the satanic beast, but to no avail.  I had no funds to allow my move to more favorable lodgings, or I would certainly been on my way.  Alas, I had to remain and suffer the attentions of this spawn of the dark regions.
I received my invitation to the boating luncheon just this past week and was unfortunately of two minds about it.  On the one hand, it would be a delightful gathering of artistic luminaries and friends, including you, my sweet, but it also meant that I would have to attend closely to my meager wardrobe in order to be presentable at such a party.  If I could not quickly sell at least one more painting I would be required to decline the invitation altogether, since my jacket was in need of repair and I had no suitable hat.  All I wanted was a straw hat, sometimes called a boater, just a simple hat, but the cost would be ruinous!
You may ask, “What happened to the hat you most recently wore, with the fine blue band upon it?”  Regretfully, I would have to admit that the aforementioned feline has defiled and destroyed it; it is no longer fit to be worn by even the rudest of street workers.
I visited the local mercier to examine his wares – perhaps he might have something newly acquired that would suit my needs.  I entered his shop and espied a wonderful chapeau with a narrow red band that would certainly be appropriate and dashing for the party.  I went to the counter to pay for it, but the owner pulled me aside with a whisper, “Are you certain that this is the hat you wish to wear?  Do you know of this type of hat?”
In my haste, I assured him that indeed this was the hat, and I must have it immediately.  He sighed, then took my money and sent me on my way.  If only I had heeded his warning.  If only.
My dear, disaster befell me as I headed back to my flat after the party.  An officer of the government passed me on the street, but then turned and came after me, shouting as he came, “You there, Communard! Halt, or I’ll shoot!”  I ran and ran, finally losing him in the crowd, but they seek me still.
If only I had known, the red-banded hat was the secret sign of the subversive Communards, and now I was branded as one of that hated group.  Now, I must leave France, or risk deportation to New Caledonia.
I must say farewell, Clotilde.  I am a victim of fate, and I must go.
With great sadness,
Claude

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