Thesis Part 10
It was in the French Alsace village of La Tenatrice that Spartan Pete’s short-lived professional cycling career came to an end. As with most of the tales so far-related regarding the ups and downs of Team Gustav, this one too inadvertently hinged on the actions of a woman.
La Tenatrice roughly marked the halfway point of the TGICT, and the newly reinvigorated Team Gustav (holding a steady third in the race) had been invited to a cocktail party in their honor. The party, held in a well-appointed banquet hall above the village’s most exclusive clothier, was quite typical of affairs of this kind. It was a stuffy room full of halfway decent food and less decent booze, peopled with plenty of glad-handing public officials, decrepit town elders and moneyed socialites, along with a smattering of actual cycling enthusiasts who had snuck their way in to see the Swedish and Yankee curiosities. What ended up setting this soirée apart was the gusto and frenetic grace that Team Gustav brought to the event.
Cured of their romantic despair and bursting with confidence, Team Gustav were winners for the first time in years, and it showed–perhaps a little too readily. Their innocent guffaws at poorly told jokes, their exotic accents and their endless succession of boisterous toasts gave the party a youthful, democratic air. And as the highball glasses continued to be refilled, and a few enterprising party-goers left with shouted promises to bring back more wine, it seemed to all that the women began to grow more beautiful and the men more charming. Only the the true sourpusses were unmoved.
One such sourpuss was La Tenatrice’s Minister of Culture, Guy Magiot, who stormed out of the party after a particularly inebriated reveler–drunkenly pontificating on the uselessness of rain wear, attempted to pour an entire bottle of port into Magiot’s galoshes.
Spartan Pete, for his part, was deeply enjoying this break from the routine of the road (and the ever-present games of chess that had come to define Team Gustav’s success), but more than anything else, he was doing his best to enjoy the company of Helen “Kitty” Piraeus, the one true celebrity at the event. Kitty, the daughter of a well-known Greek shipping magnate and a less-well-known Parisian cabaret singer, was possessed of particularly fantastic level of beauty and charm, and like all beautiful women, she was part evil.
From long experience, Pete knew that he was most likely stepping into a giant heap trouble, but found that he didn’t quite care. He half-hoped and half-expected that it would turn out to be the good kind of trouble. Of course, if there’s a lesson our tale has thus far attempted to impart to the reader, it’s that the forces of chaos particularly enjoy paying visits to those fools who expect one thing to happen over another thing.
Special thanks to Isabelle La Place-Sacher for the French translations. Any grammatical errors are purely mine…