MONSIEUR FELIX FOX FLY
© by John Arnold
FELIX (To the audience) It was a lovely summer morning in 1967 and Monsieur Felix Fox Fly looked into the mirror. He saw himself as a boulevadier; debonair, come il faut, très élégante, full of espirt, grace – modèle – and – (kisses his fingers) that je ne sais quoi.
After years of suffering the indignities of a career as a bureaucrat, he found himself a comfortably retired former civil servant.
He lived in a comfortable flat in a comfortable neighborhood in Paris.
Every morning he would rise at 6:30 and, as was his custom, fastidiously follow his morning toilette. Every tooth was brushed, every hair was pomaded and combed – including his pencil-thin moustache.
His shirt was pressed, his tie was tied, his shoes were shined, and his suit was brushed.
He felt he cut a dashing figure as he walked down the street and imagined he caught the eye of various madames and mademoiselles.
“There goes Monsieur Fox Fly,” he imagined them saying to each other with fluttering eyelashes and hearts, “He is so debonair – so – comme il faut!”
And we would buy Le Monde from the vendor on the corner and settle into his table at the Café du Chat for his morning coffee and croissant.
Felix Fox Fly was a man at peace with himself and the world, or so he thought.
BETTY (To the audience) Betty Henderson had just graduated from high school. She had always been popular, from grade school on. In her senior year, she missed being named “Most Popular” by only two votes. It was high school politics. She had been robbed. She knew it. But she moved on. She had been on the pep squad, the student newspaper and yearbook committees, and active in student government. Unlike her best friend Pam Paddock, who said the only degree she wanted was a M – R – S, “missus”, Betty really wanted to go to college and really did study, although her major was always rather vague. As a graduation present, her parents gave her a roundtrip ticket to London and a Eurail Pass. This was her chance to See The World before she had to buckle down to the reality of college.
PAM (To the audience) Reluctantly, Pam’s parents gave her the same gift and the two girls set off together for adventure. Pam wasn’t as pretty as Betty. She didn’t have Betty’s sunny, outgoing personality. And she wasn’t nominated for ANY category in high school, let alone miss “Most Popular” by only two votes. BUT Pam was smart. Cagey. And she was smart enough to know that she could meet boys just by hanging around Betty.
BETTY (Writing a post card) “Dear Mom and Dad. London is fun. Saw lots of museums and famous places. On to Paris! Lots of love, Betty.”
PAM (Putting coins in a phone) Damn it! These phones are impossible to use! DAMN IT!
BETTY Wait for the pip-pip-pip. Did you hear the pip-pip-pip?
PAM I didn’t hear any damn pip-pip-pip… Oh! Mom! Is that you? Hi! Oh! I’m sorry! (To BETTY) It’s two o’clock in the morning. (To MOM) No, I don’t want to give you a heart attack. Or Daddy, either, for that matter. I just got the time all mixed up. And the money. And these damn phones. DARN phones. I’m sorry. Yes, we’re having lots of fun. Look, I don’t know how much time I have because I just threw a bunch of coins in the phone, but can you send some money to American Express in Paris? Why? Why, because I need it. (Exasperated) No, I am not squandering my money. Things are just so expensive here! No, I am NOT squandering my money. Honest! Oh! Damn! There’s that pip-pip-pip! (Shouts) JUST SEND THE MONEY TO AMERICAN EXPRESS IN PARIS, OK? LOVE YOU! AND DADDY, TOO! (Hangs up.) Damn!
BETTY What did she say?
PAM I couldn’t tell. Daddy was yelling. Oh, Daddy’s always yelling. I hope the phones are better in France. (To the audience.) The phones were not better in France and the money from her parents was not forthcoming. (To BETTY) Damn.
BETTY (To the audience.) So they saw the Louvre, flirted with other students, rode the Metro…
PAM: (To the audience) And ate hotdogs every day for lunch to save money.
FELIX One particularly sunny summer morning while Felix sipped his coffee and looked at Le Monde, he peered over the paper and saw two American girls at a table nearby.
BETTY (Waves her hand.) Everybody smokes here.
PAM It’s part of their culture. (Waves offstage) Oh, garcon! Garcon! Deux tasse de Coke, si’l vous plait! (Eyes FELIX) That man is looking at us.
BETTY He is!
PAM What should we do?
BETTY Ignore him. Dad warned me about French men. He won’t even let me GO to Italy!
PAM We don’t have time to go to Italy. Our Eurail Pass doesn’t last long enough.
BETTY Even so. Oh! He’s looking again.
PAM (Looks off.) What do you have to do to get a Coke here? Where is that guy? This is ridiculous! You can never get any service and, then, when you do, you can never get your bill!
BETTY It’s part of the culture. He’s looking again!
PAM Oh, hell. (Turns around and waves.) Bonjour.
FELIX Bonjour. (To BETTY) Bonjour.
PAM Now that we’ve got that taken care of… (FELIX saunters towards the table) Oh damn.
FELIX It is such a pleasure to meet such charming American ladies.
PAM How did you know we were American?
FELIX (Smiles) Because you are so charming. I would be enchanted to buy you a Coca-cola or other refreshments.
PAM Well, how nice.
BETTY Well, we couldn’t…
PAM Yes, we could.
FELIX Oh, I am so sorry! Where are my manner? Mon Dieu! I am Felix Fox Fly. And you are – ?
PAM: Pam Paddock.
BETTY Betty Henderson.
FELIX Betty and Pam. How charming! You are such charming American ladies! How delightful to meet you this beautiful summer morning in Paris.
BETTY Well, yes.
PAM Your English is so good.
FELIX No, it is not so good, but you are very kind to say so.
PAM Do you want to sit down? (Indicates a chair.)
FELIX You American girls are so charming! (Sits) And where in America are you from?
BETTY & PAM California.
FELIX: California! Mon Dieu! I should have known it! Everyone from California is beautiful- and rich! It is a fact.
PAM Have you ever been to California?
FELIX I am sorry to say, no.
PAM Then that explains it.
BETTY You’re in for a big surprise.
FELIX I would love to visit your country, but, alas, it was not possible. But I love your American movies – and television. I am a big – what is it? – FAN – of your “westerns”. I love your Wild West. Where do you live in California?
BETTY & PAM Sacramento.
FELIX: Sacramento? Sacramento?
BETTY It’s between San Francisco and Lake Tahoe.
PAM: It’s the state capitol. Sutter’s Fort is there.
FELIX How marvelous to have a fort in your city.
BETTY People come from all over to see it.
FELIX But, of course. I’m sure it is very unusual.
PAM It is.
BETTY But you live in Paris! EVERYONE wants to go to Paris – and here we are!
FELIX Yes, here you are. And how marvelous to have you here!
BETTY Oh, you!
PAM (To BETTY) Oh, YOU.
FELIX You must let me invite you to dinner! (Holds out his hand) I insist. If I may ask, where are you staying?
BETTY The Hotel Alfa.
FELIX (Pondering) The Hotel Alfa… The Hotel Alfa… I am not familiar with it.
PAM It’s a dump. It’s in the Marais District. That means “swamp,” doesn’t it?
FELIX Actually, yes.
PAM How apropos.
FELIX Well, you ladies should not be staying in a “swamp.” I invite you to stay with me.
BETTY Oh, my –
FELIX (Holds out his hand) I insist. Pas un mot!
(PAM looks at BETTY and raises her eyebrows. BETTY shrugs. There is a moment of uneasy silence.)
FELIX I assure you. My intentions are entirely honorable. Isn’t that the saying?
PAM It sure is.
BETTY Well, it’s very kind of you…
FELIX Not at all.
PAM Well, we ARE broke. And it would extend our trip.
FELIX You would have your own room and key. You could come and go as you please.
BETTY My parents would kill me.
PAM What they don’t know won’t hurt them.
BETTY Easy for you to say.
PAM Think of the money we’ll save!
FELIX Precisely. Then it is settled.
BETTY I don’t know…
FELIX (Holds up his cup) A toast to the two charming American ladies.
PAM So Betty and Pam drank their Cokes – when the finally arrived – and picked up their backpacks [which they do] to follow Felix home, which was on the third floor of a centuries- old apartment building that had once been a private home, school for girls, and a brothel.
BETTY (To the audience.) Betty was sure that it hadn’t been cleaned in a century. (She looks around then drops her backpack.) Wow.
PAM (Drops backpack.) It’s very ornate. If these walls could talk! Wow. (Raises her eyebrows)
BETTY This was your idea.
PAM It was not. You agreed. Does the door lock?
FELIX (Enter with towels.) Ladies, here are some towels. Please, please, make yourselves at home. It is such a pleasure to have you here. Please refresh yourselves and I will prepare dinner.
BETTY Oh, you don’t have to…
FELIX (Holds out his hand) But I insist! I am going to make coq au van avec haricourt verts et potatos aux gratin. You are not végétariennes?
PAM No. Sounds great!
FELIX A bientot! (Starts to exit, then turns:) Oh! And soufflé! (Exits.)
BETTY What’s for dinner?
PAM Soufflé and something. They speak too fast around here.
BETTY We should have told him we were vegetarians. At least then we wouldn’t be eating anything weird.
PAM Well, it’s better than the Hotel Alfa. And a hell of a lot cheaper.
BETTY That guy’s a little creepy.
PAM He is not. He reminds me of Mr. What’s-His-Name, the science teacher.
BETTY Oh, yeah. He does. Well, he’s creepy.
PAM I’m going to take a shower. (Picks up a towel.) I want to get some of this road rust off of me…
PAM No telling what the shower’s going to be like…
BETTY At least it won’t have snails crawling up the walls like at the Hotel Alfa…
PAM Don’t count on it! ‘Bye. (Exits.)
BETTY (Goes through her backpack, looks for a clean blouse, then starts to unbutton the one she’s wearing. She senses something and turns around to find FELIX looking at her. She screams.) !!!
FELIX (Placating) Betty! Betty! Betty! I am so sorry! I am so sorry!
BETTY (Holding her blouse tightly) Don’t they knock in France? My goodness!
FELIX I am so sorry, Betty. Please forgive me. I was just going to ask you if you would prefer salad nicoise or tomato salad….
BETTY My goodness!
FELIX (Smiles weakly) Nicoise or tomato?
BETTY Tomato. …S’il vous plait…
FELIX Merci. Merci bien. (Exits)
A beat. PAM enters, hair wet, carrying the towel.
PAM Do you know what that guy just did?
BETTY “Nicoise or tomato?”
PAM Yeah. While I was in the SHOWER.
BETTY: I said “tomato.”
PAM I said, “Get the hell out…”
PAM Well, yeah, a little.
BETTY Maybe we should go back to the Hotel Alfa. Maybe he’s another Bluebeard or Jack the Ripper…
PAM That skinny guy? Nah! (Looks around the room) Here’s the deal. After dinner, when we go to bed, we’ll move that armoire against the door.
BETTY It looks like an antique.
PAM It looks like a HEAVY antique, but it’ll keep that door shut. We were going to take the train to Amsterdam tomorrow anyway – think of the money we’ll save…
BETTY You’re always getting us into trouble…
PAM I am not. I’m just being practical. My money’s running out, yours isn’t.
BETTY My parents would kill me if they knew I was staying in a strange man’s apartment.
PAM So would mine. But it’s not like we’re going to let him get within ten feet of us, for Pete’s sake. Right? RIGHT?
PAM OK, then.
Betty and Pam hung out in their room looking at guides to Amsterdam while Felix Fox Fly slaved away in his kitchen.
Felix wanted this meal to be very special for his American guests. It was so very rare that he had guests that he was quite giddy with the excitement and had to fortify himself with the table wine.
PAM Finally, there was a knock on the door.
BETTY He knocked.
PAM And Felix announced.
FELIX Dinner is served.
BETTY It was really quite a nice dinner with faded elegance. The china was chipped, the silverware was dull, and the linen was a threadbare.
PAM But the food was pretty good.
FELIX (Holds a wine bottle) …Please?
BETTY Oh, no, thank you. I’m not used to drinking wine with dinner.
PAM Me, neither. The only kind of wine I’m used to is the kind you unscrew. You know, like Thunderbird. Dinner was real good, thank you.
BETTY Yes, thank you. Delicious.
FELIX You are so charming to be so kind.
PAM No, it was really pretty good.
FELIX I was wondering…ladies…if you would be so kind as to let me escort you to a café nearby – a charming little café where they have jazz, American jazz…
BETTY (Looks at PAM, who looks back at her in surprise) Tonight?
FELIX Yes, of course, tonight.
PAM Gee, it’s kind of late…
FELIX But you are on holiday…on vacation.
PAM Yeah, but…
FELIX It is a most amusing boite de nuit – the most unusual people go there…
PAM I’ll bet!
FELIX I would be so pleased to take you there. You, see, ladies, not that very long ago I was quite a frequenter of nightclubs. Oh, yes. I would be there to see and to be seen. Definitely. And the young ladies I would escort would always be surprised when the door man and the waiters and the bar men would always say, “Bon soir, Monsieur Fox Fly… A bientot, Monsieur Fox Fly…” In this little world I was as well known as, well, Charles De Gaulle! Bien sur. And when the band would play a meringue, a samba or a foxtrot, I would be there with my young lady and every eye would be on us. We would spin and glide and never lose our cheek to cheek. (Sighs) But, alas, things are not what they used to be. The music has changed and people don’t dance cheek to cheek so much anymore. (Sighs)
BETTY Gee. That’s kind of sad.
PAM Yeah, but we’re too tired. (Nudges BETTY)
BETTY Oh, yes.
FELIX (Sadly) Yes. I understand. Perhaps I am a little bit tired myself.
BETTY (Rises) Let us help you with the dishes.
FELIX No, no. Please. I insist you rest. It has been my pleasure to enjoy your charming American company. My pleasure indeed.
BETTY Well, thank you for your hospitality.
PAM Yeah. (Long pause) Maybe we’d better hit the sack.
FELIX But it is not late…
BETTY We’re so tired…
FELIX Well, in that case, I will say bon soir. (He kisses their hands. They squirm a bit.)
BETTY Bon soir.
PAM Yeah. (To the audience) So, the girls went up to their room, pushed the big, heavy armoire against the door and got ready for bed. (To BETTY) That guy is really creepy.
BETTY He is creepy. But he’s kind of sweet, too.
PAM Yeah. Sweet – and creepy.
BETTY He’s just lonely.
PAM Yeah. BUT…
BETTY OK. Good night.
PAM Good night. (To the audience.) And, in the morning, they made a rope out of the old bedspreads and sheets and climbed from the balcony to the street.
BETTY (To the audience.) They took the Metro to the Gare du Nord and took the train to Amsterdam where they met two other students who took them to a discotheque.
FELIX (In his bathrobe, knocks at the door to their bedroom) Betty? Betty? (Listens at the door) Mademoiselle Pam? Mademoiselle Betty? (Pause. Then: to the audience.) And Monsieur Felix Fox Fly went back to his routine. He pomaded his hair and brushed his suit. (Throws off the bathrobe.) And began the day.