The day sparkled. Some days in Paris had that special quality. It brought the painters out into the streets and park and coaxed writers from their garrets. As the friends walked along the boulevard, the alchemist blinked at the unaccustomed light.
"It's a lovely day today," he said with some surprise to his friend Fabien.
The Parisian had known the Italian long enough to realise the significance of this utterance. He laughed. "How many days has it been since you set foot outside?"
Maggiormente shrugged. "Not so long, I don't think."
Eduardo snorted. "Three days."
The alchemist pondered this. "Are you certain? Surely it has not been that long."
"It has." Eduardo shook his head. Brigitte had begun plaiting his mane again. "I tried to get you to come out with me yesterday, but you wouldn't."
"I don't remember that."
Fabien laughed again. "I wonder that you remember to eat."
"Oh, I don't forget to eat. I am Italian after all." Maggiormente slapped his belly. "As my dear friend the poet Alessandra says, while you eat, you do not age."
"Of course when he does decide to eat," Eduardo added with an air of smugness, "It's usually the middle of the night."
"That's when pasta tastes the best," Maggiormente said, but joined in his friend's laughter. "When I'm working on a new process, I cannot pay attention to anything else."
"That is the danger of alchemy." Fabien nodded as if to confirm the sagacity of this observation. Anything that interfered with regular meals surely had to be dangerous.
"The danger of alchemy," Eduardo said as Brigitte bounced up and down on his back, "is that sooner or later something will explode."
"Sciocco! You will make Alain think alchemy is something dangerous."
Eduardo looked up at the alchemist. "Are you trying to say it's not?"
Maggiormente waved his words away. "Every employment has some kind of risk."
"I've never heard of accountants exploding their desks."
"Oh, it must happen sometimes—"
"Here we are," Fabien interrupted. They stood before a garage with a small sign that said only Mécanicien Delon in a small precise script. "Maurice! Es-tu lá?"
A shout of oui resounded from within but the speaker could not be seen. The small group approached closer but could not see the man. "Where are you, Maurice?"
"Up here!" In the rafters of the garage Maurice worked on a pulley. "This infernal pulley seems to have developed a most irritating squeak and it annoyed me so much I had to fix it while I should have been working on something else."
"No hurry," Maggiormente said. Now that he had come out into the sunshine he found himself in no hurry to return to the smoky workshop that was his flat.
"I'll just be a moment, monsieur," Maurice said, wiggling the wheel of the pulley. "I think this bacon fat has done the trick.
"Mmmmm, bacon," said Eduardo, lashing his tail. Brigitte squealed with delight as the tip of the tail brushed her leg, tickling her delightfully.
"Bacon fat," the alchemist scolded. "Don't beg for treats."
"I never beg," Eduardo said with a sniff.
"No, you wheedle."
"What is wheedle?" Brigitte asked.
"Begging under another name," Fabien said with a laugh.
Eduardo narrowed his eyes and showed his teeth. "Wheedling is a dignified way of acquiring what one wishes to have."
"Sounds like begging to me." Fabien chortled.
"So what have you come to wheedle from me?" Maurice said, swinging down from the rafters. "I assume you need something, eh?" He stuck out his hand to the alchemist.
"Buon giorno, I am Maggiormente."
"Delon. What can I do for you?"
"I need a motor, monsieur."