The Ten Weeks: Week Six (17-23 January): Learning About French Kissing From the French

The setting of the novel The Ten Weeks was exactly forty years ago. This is one of a series of excerpts from the novel, one for each week (except for Weeks Two and Three, which were combined).

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Madeleine was decidedly nervous about returning to Bell’s Political Science class Wednesday morning, but return she did. She eased into her seat as Bell began to pontificate.

Towards the end of class, Bell got off the subject of the basic structure of the legislature and started talking about the nationalisation of health care in the Republic. He was obviously happy it took place, and added the comment, “And, of course, with socialised medicine, we don’t have to rely on miracle workers— such as we have here in class—of meeting our public health needs.”

Denise and Vannie giggled a bit; Madeleine began to squirm in her seat. Then Jack raised his hand.

“Yes, Mr. Arnold,” Bell said.

“I don’t get what the big deal is,” Jack said. “The little girl’s better off. Doctors never could fix the problem. Besides, man, it just saves the government a lot of money having to take care of her.”

Bell’s anger welled up very quickly; the veins around his temple bulged. “Get out!” he barked at Jack, pointing his finger at him and then sweeping it to the door. “I won’t have such a serious matter made light of!” He turned to Madeleine. “You get out too—you started all this!” making the same gesture to her as he did to Jack. Both of them got up and make their way to the door. It was all Denise and Vannie—and a few others—could do to keep from rolling in the floor laughing.

Jack made it to the door first, holding it as Madeleine went through. They both made it out to the hallway.

“I’m sorry I got you into trouble,” Jack said.

“It is not your fault,” she replied. “It is mine. I started all of this.”

“Everybody is sure making a big deal out of this.” They looked at each other for a second. “Can I ask you a question?” he finally came out with.

“Sure.”

“You’re from France, right?”

“That’s correct.”

“Do you really know how to French kiss?”

She looked at him with a combination of astonishment and amusement. “It took you two and a half years to ask me this?”

“I’m kinda shy. . .” he replied, looking sheepish.

“How well did Denise ‘French kiss,’ as you say?”

“Oh, she was great, she had a lot of cool moves. . .oh, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be talking to you like this.”

“It seems that Denise has many advantages over the both of us,” Madeleine finally stated.

“Looks that way. . .” Jack wasn’t the type to be at a loss for words when talking to a girl, but this time was exceptional.

“That was very kind, the way you held the door for me,” she said. “I see this up in Hallett when I visit Carla, but not here.”

“I guess we’re kinda rude. I’m glad you liked it. Maybe I should walk you to your next class.”

“Our next class?”

“Yeah. . .our next class.”

“Then let’s go.” They walked together down the hall.

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