Cellophane Birds

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All around the base of the Eiffel Tower there were people selling various trinkets — from Eiffel Tower key chains, to models of the tower measuring from 2 inches to 2 feet. My personal favorite was the little bird-shaped airplanes that, when wound up and let go, would flap their cellophane wings and “fly” (though it was more like a slow fall) in circles to the ground.

The latter was the biggest hit with the children. One could hear them ask the same question in many different languages, “Will you buy this for me?” But they all seemed to communicate with the same international sign for ‘listen to me!’ by yanking on any loose piece of parental clothing.

There was a man with a third degree tan lying, propped up against a low wall, to my left. All around him were bright pastel paintings of the Eiffel Tower, which he had laid out on the pavement as lackadaisically as he looked (and painted).

A child with a ring of jingling Eiffel Tower key-chains approached me, shaking it noisily with a hopeful and questioning smile. But she ran off to find a new possible buyer when I matched her fake smile and shook my head non.

A slow falling cellophane bird caught the sunlight as it circled above the hot concrete. Mesmerized by this, I never noticed the pastel painter until he charged by me, almost knocking me over. I scoffed in annoyance, and went to turn my attention back to the Cellophane Bird Man, but he was gone too.

My eyes and thoughts naturally went back to the tower, when a teenage boy sitting on another short wall cupped his hands over his mouth in a mock megaphone and yelled, “Police! Police!”

Suddenly, the sound of heavy running footsteps resounded around the tower and the adjacent park; sounding like a flock of pigeons taking off in flight.

Some nearby vendors made like the pastel painter and bolted past me. And then I noticed that it wasn’t just happening around me. Through the other side of the tower, permit-less vendors weaved through confused tourists like water flowing around rocks.

I spun around to see the sights behind me and then noticed the comically compact police van. Sandwiched between two officers and being dragged like a naughty child was the pastel painter; his ugly paintings still tucked under his left armpit. The officers loaded him into their vehicle and, seeming content with their capture, the petit police van zoomed off; leaving the Eiffel Tower empty of cellophane birds.