Sitting at a Parisian café across the street from the Centre Pompidou, the Parisian Museum of Modern Art, I casually observed the stream of traffic that crept past as I enjoyed my aromatic cup of espresso. Suddenly, to my amazement, I saw among the countless VWs and Fiats, of all things, an angel, his blindingly silvery wings each stretching at least six feet from his white-robed body.
The angel was not in a car. With those expansive flappers it was impossible for the cherub to have squeezed into an auto, especially an European model. No, this angel was atop a chrome-decorated Harley Davidson with black leather saddlebags and dual mufflers that snarled guttural sounds like the roar of a lion warning those nearby that the dead deer on the ground was his and his alone.
I noted the French sitting near me and my wife paid the earth-angel no mind, as if to tacitly say that a man straddling a Harley with angel wings in the middle of city traffic was not unusual in The City of Light, or as they would phrase it, “Tres naturel.” “Only you Americans,” their expression added, “find such things odd.”
“Did…did you see that?” My wife elbowed me and, with her coffee cup stilled halfway to her mouth, pointed to the Harley driver. “His wings are so long they drag over the road.”
“How could I miss it? Don’t be alarmed, he’s probably one of hell’s angels who has experienced wing problems.”
My wife and I never discovered why the rider was dressed in an angel costume. We guessed he was playing a bit part in a movie being filmed in Paris, or that he had an angel’s role in a play.
Fast forward, seven months later. My wife hands me the rough draft of her latest novel. It’s opening scene? A man wearing angel wings rides down a busy street in Paris on a Harley Davidson motorcycle. What follows is a series of chase scenes, kidnapping, terrorist attacks, etc.
What’s the lesson in this little story? As a writer, don’t overlook anything. You can find inspiration in the strangest of places. Sometimes they wear angel wings and ride a Harley Davidson…having somehow experienced a wing malfunction and tumbled to the earth, landing on a motorcycle on a busy street in Paris. Where, lucky for my wife and her readers, she saw him and he blessed her creative mind.
Calvin Davis is the author of The Phantom Lady of Paris. He and his wife will return to Paris in September. Both will be on the lookout for angels flying too close to the road.