Many of my readers have asked me to elaborate on one of my occupations before becoming a writer, namely on how I became a bouncer in a disco on the French Riviera. This is the abridged version.
After a moment a petite brunette appears, leaning against one of the half -opened doors.” Oui?”
“I’m looking for un job”.
She looks me up and down, turns and yells. “Mario, someone here pour un job.”
A voice back in the room yells back : “ Pas besoin.”
“Dommage,” she says, hunching her shoulders in powerlessness. She looks genuinely sorry.
“Come”. He signals for me to follow him, and we enter the discothèque. Before us, a wide open room in an undulating shape, at the right of which is a bar. To the left, down a couple of steps the dance area, where workers are sanding the wooden floor.
We cross the main room, enter a small office where Mario goes behind the desk and sits down. He gestures me to the chair in front.
After a brief exchange, he says: “We open this Saturday and we need a cashier.”
My mood brightens, but I try not to look too eager. “How much does it pay?”
“500 francs per week. 6pm to 3am. Mondays off.”
“Fine. You’ve met Annette. Come meet my brother.”
(As it turns out, the blondes turn out to be more Dutch than Swedish, and I take a liking to Jolette from Amsterdam, whose French improves dramatically by frequenting yours truly.)
End of Jean. The next evening, Mario calls me to his office. “How would you like a promotion?”
I laugh. “How much?”
“750 francs, plus free suppers.”
“D’accord. You start tonight.”
I grab Roger’s pistol from him, while Alan pins him to the floor. After a moment, we carry him to his car, and a couple of friends drive him home. Mario, who has seen all this, tells his friends to tell Roger he’s not coming back.
Now you must understand the Southern French culture. These guys are all buddies from Marseille, grew up together, know each other inside out, their families, their friends. It’s one thing not to hold one’s liquor, but way worse to be ostracized, banned from the best watering hole in the area, the “in” place to be and to be seen every weekend. Suddenly you’re no longer part of the crowd.
Roger comes back the next day to apologize, but Mario and Sergio are implacable: no.
A few days go by, until one night I think I recognize a car coming to a stop in the parking lot, a couple of hundred yards away.
“Isn’t that Roger’s car?” I say to Alan.
“Yeah, think so.”
The driver gets out slowly. It’s Roger.
“Not good,” says Alan.
Roger sees us and waves, then slowly goes to the back of his car and opens the trunk.
He pulls out what looks like a duffle bag and sets in on the pavement, next to the car. He opens the bag and pulls out a tripod, then the business end of a machine gun.
“Jesus Christ !” says Alan.
We enter the disco, close the doors. Alan runs to the office, and tells Mario who rushes to the cashier cubicle to see for himself. Roger is now preparing the ammunition box next to his machine gun. “Il est completement fou.”
I turn to Mario :“Time to call the cops.”
Mario chuckles. “They won’t come unless there are dead bodies. For them, this is gang warfare, out of their jurisdiction.” Mario turns to Alan : “is Néné here?
“I think I saw him at the bar.”
“Get him here quick.”
“Are you sure?”
I open, Néné walks out, very slowly, hands up in the air. He stops about 20 ft out. I close the door.
I say I’ll think about it.
I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I’d accepted his offer.