Monsieur Zola's Funny Valentine - Brendan Gisby Short Story Image
Short Stories

Monsieur Zola’s Funny Valentine – Brendan Gisby

On Valentine’s Day 2019 I feel privileged to share with you this poignant, romantic, and yet heartbreakingly sad story of love – for every sentence in it shows us the special love Brendan Gisby felt and feels for his departed wife, Alison – a story written in her honour.


This poignant little gem of a short story is part of Brendan Gisby’s new – seventh! – collection of short stories. They are, as the author describes them, “down-to-earth, punchy and poignant.” These stories are, according to the author, almost all based on true events – apart from the two last two ones.

Now, without further ado, I give you your Valentine’s story of 2019.

Monsieur Zola’s Funny Valentine

He brought me another book this morning.  It’s called Nana and it’s by a chap called Émile Zola.  He says it’s about a courtesan, a high-class prostitute, living in Paris in the eighteen hundreds.  It sounds quite good.  Even if it’s not, I’ll give it a go anyway.

He brought me The Leopard yesterday.  That one was also set in the eighteen hundreds, but in Italy.  It was by an Italian author, whose name I can’t remember.  But I do remember the film of it, starring Burt Lancaster.  Like the film, the book was okay; quite an easy read, really.

Aye, I’m working my way through all his classics that are on show in the fancy bookcase in the living room.  He’s had those books ever since he was a young man, when he was a member of one of those mail-order book clubs that everyone seemed to join back then.  He says he read all of them at the time, and I believe him.

So far, I’ve done the Dickens and Jane Austen collections, most of which I had read before.  And now it’s the turn of the ones with the gold lettering on their faux-leather covers.  Once I’ve finished this latest one, he’ll bring me another, usually first thing in the morning along with my meds and some water.  He won’t shake me or call out my name to wake me, but very softly he’ll ask “Are you thirsty, Blondie?”, mimicking the bad guy in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly when he comes across Clint Eastwood in the desert.  That always makes me smile, but what makes it more funny is that all my beautiful blonde hair has gone forever, thanks to the chemo.  The hair that’s grown back in is a dirty brown colour, but that’ll be gone as well soon enough, with chemo phase two looming.

Anyway, before starting on the classics downstairs, I went through some of his other books in the study next door.  I thoroughly enjoyed War and Peace, which I had always wanted to read.  And I persisted with Ulysses, no matter how hard it was at times.  But it doesn’t actually matter whether the books are good or bad.  It’s the reading of them that matters.  Whether it’s to Russia in the eighteen hundreds or Dublin in the early nineteen hundreds, I’m transported to another place and time, where I can forget why I’m lying here and I can stop wondering what that malignant bastard in my body is going to do next.

It was the same when I was a kid.  I’d spend hours on end in my bedroom, reading anything I could get my hands on to help me forget the pain from the latest battering inflicted by that other malignant bastard, the one I called my father.  Reading even helped me recover from the time he really let me have it.  That was the morning I was due to sit the eleven-plus exam when he kicked me down the stairs just for looking at him the wrong way.  I still went to school, though, limping and bruised and bleeding.  I was late, but the teacher saw the state I was in, took pity on me and let me sit the exam, which I fucking passed to spite him.  And all because I stood up to him and wouldn’t let him near me to do what he did to…

But I don’t want to dwell on what that bastard did.  I want to read instead.  Let’s see what Monsieur Zola has to say for himself.  Oops, something has fallen out of the book.  Not a bookmark; a card.  There’s a picture of a teddy bear surrounded by love hearts on the front of it, with the words My Funny Valentine printed above the teddy.  And inside there’s a single handwritten line, saying: Don’t change a hair for me.  Of course, it’s Valentine’s Day!  I had forgotten, but he didn’t, bless that lovely man.  Oh, fuck, I’m going to cry.  But I promised myself there would be no more tears.  No more tears.  Just reading.  And forgetting.

About the Author

Brendan Gisby was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, halfway through the 20th century, and was brought up just along the road in South Queensferry (the Ferry) in the shadow of the world-famous Forth Bridge. He presently lives in splendid isolation in the wilds of Strathearn in Scotland.

Retiring from a business career in 2007, Brendan has devoted himself to writing. To date, he has published four novels, four biographies and several short story collections, details of all of which can be viewed on this site.

Brendan is also the founder of McStorytellers , a website which showcases the work of Scottish-connected short story writers.

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Book Info

‘Monsieur Zola’s Funny Valentine’ is the first short story in Brendan Gisby’s  seventh short story collection, ‘Monsieur Zola’s Funny Valentine & Other Stories’ – available at Amazon:

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