The Avenue

by Herbert Jerry Baker

One wanders there who errs

          Late had I returned from the party which had been given in honor of my birthday. The moon was rising blood-red over the sprawling environs of the city, casting everything into murky darkness.

     As I wandered along the shadowy boulevards, watching the moon rise above the towers and domes of the city, I could not help but feel at peace with myself and the world—a feeling, I realized, undoubtedly brought on by the number of drinks which had been foisted upon me.

     I turned away from the river which I had been meandering along, passing the lamp-lighters as I headed for my studios. Passing one of the magnificently towering cathedrals which grace the city, I felt a few drops of rain.

     Pulling my cloak close about me, I hurried on, anxious to be out of the cool night air. I walked on in silence, which was broken only by the echo of my footsteps over the empty wet streets.

     It was some time later that I suddenly realized that I was nowhere near my studios. In fact, I was not even sure where I was, for I recognized some of the streets around me.

     Glimpsing a sign upon a nearby lamp-post, I hurried toward it. In the flickering light I could make out the words Avenue d—.

     I vaguely recalled having heard of this avenue before, but could not remember when or where. I stood there for several moments, undecided as to which way to go, when the sudden cries of laughter of people drew me up the cobbled lane.

     It was a festival upon the avenue; people crowded along the sides of the booth-covered byway, and I was soon carried along with the gaily-festooned throng. Torches and lamps lit up the scene, pouring out their light as if to outshine the moon. People in costume, both comic and grotesque, continued to gather in the avenue, and soon I had to force my way through the ever-growing crowds.

     As I moved along, I caught a glimpse of a young dark-haired girl who kept watch over me with her large brown eyes. With an almost superhuman urgency, I made my way through the mob. I took her pale, slender hand and introduced myself. She curtsied gently and told me that her name was Valery, and she offered to show me the many sights of the festival. Slowly we strolled along the avenue, often stopping at one booth or another. I knew I was becoming infatuated with her.

     I had to have the others meet this dear, sweet girl. We headed back towards the signpost where I had first entered the Avenue. I told her that I was going to fetch my friends here to enjoy the festival, and that I would return before long. I took her into my arms and as we kissed I realized that I had fallen in love with her. Releasing her from my embrace, I kissed her hand as I stepped away.  I hurried off, turning once to see her waving at me, then she faded into the darkness.

     The party still had a few celebrants left, and I hastily told them to grab their coats and come with me, for there was a Festival  in the city this very night. We rushed outside, where I managed to  hail a carriage. As the others climbed aboard, I jumped up to the driver’s seat and excitedly told him our destination.

     He gave me a puzzled look and I repeated my request.  He quietly said, “Sir, the Avenue d— burned out almost one hundred years ago, on a festival night, and was never rebuilt.”

     I said, “Hang it, then I’m not going out there, so you can forget the fare.”