The Spare Leg in the Museum of Lost and Found (Musée des Objets Trouvés, Paris), Part 4 : Return of the Spare Leg, and a lost forensic examiner of elephant poo


So in my previous lost and found posts, I talked about a mislaid Lost and Found museum (the Musée des Objets Trouvés) that purportedly harboured a prosthetic leg; an existential  midnight woe on a station platform with a stolen suitcase and a mental mathematician; and the poem I wrote about it all, which began :

I went to the Museum of Lost and Found
to look for you there.
I’d heard there was an urn, complete with ashes
that someone left in the Metro.
I’d heard there was a leg, prosthetic,
fished out of the Seine.
You’d think the owner would need it –
but perhaps they had one to spare.

A few weeks after I wrote the poem, I went home to Edinburgh for a couple of weeks. With only hand baggage. The night before I was due to come back to Paris, I very sensibly stayed up drinking with my mum until 5 in the morning, as it was her birthday, though we would have done the same thing if it hadn’t been. The next day we didn’t feel very well, but she succeeded in making coffee and so I got to the airport on time. I checked in and then went to wait in the passport control queue. The person immediately in front of me was standing on one ordinary, fleshly leg and one prosthetic leg. In his right hand, he was carrying another prosthetic leg. My hungover brain shuddered. But it was real. I felt a bit peculiar. Most of all, I wanted to say, hello, I wrote a poem about your leg…the spare one. I longed to tell him that his existence right in front of me in the queue seemed a spinningly wonderful thing. But how do you tell somebody that their presence with their spare leg in front of you in a passport-control queue is making you delirious with delight? That it makes up for a lost museum and a lost suitcase? (though not a boyfriend – had he really been lost, not even a spare leg could have consoled me for that.) I wanted to invite him to tea, to meet my boyfriend, and my cat. Ok, the cat isn’t part of this particular story but she’s behind the curtain of every story I write, twiddling buttons. Cleverly, as she’s not a polydactyl cat. I wanted to read the spare leg poem to the spare-legged man, and perhaps to re-enact in the bath the fishing of the leg from the Seine (I was in the Seine once, so I’m an old hand. An old hand, a spare leg, what else do we need?) I thought, if I were a person with a spare leg in a passport-control queue, I’d like to know that I was (sort of) making a poem come true. Of course, that probably wouldn’t be true if I had just lost one of my original legs. I would be more likely to want to murder the poet – and I would have a convenient weapon to hand, or leg. You have to be careful with these things. But the spare-legged man didn’t look like he was new to prosthetic legs, spare or otherwise. He looked quite at home. Would he mind? I thought. Would he? Shall I..oh. The spare-legged man had showed his passport to the passport police people and marched away through some sliding doors, like Vishpala returning to battle; or maybe he was just going to Luton. I asked the passport police persons if they often had spare-legged passengers coming that way. No, they said. I sped through the doors, I looked high and low, above, below, but no spare-legged man was to be seen. Only three men in bear suits. Disconsolately I went up to one bear and asked if he had seen a spare-legged man, and by the way, where was Goldilocks? The  bear said he hadn’t, and that they didn’t have a Goldilocks, they were just three bears. Well, I thought. Then I went and sat in the departure lounge. I told myself that the spare-legged man mightn’t have wanted to know he’d just (sort of) made a poem come true. I pointed out to myself that, just because the spare-legged man didn’t know this, it didn’t mean it wasn’t true (sort of). I called my mum and she agreed. So that was alright.

When I arrived at Paris Charles de Gaulle, I went to Objets Trouvés. Not because I thought that the thief – who had stolen my suitcase the last time I arrived at Charles de Gaulle – would have handed it in, caught on the prong of a sudden fork of conscience upon seeing my lovely red boots that unbeknownst to her/him were once in a sculpture called a Nido, filled with scarlet feathers. No, I didn’t think that (not least because he or she would have had to have been a bit psychic. But then…how handy for a thief to be psychic. Wow. I wonder why more psychics aren’t thieves. Or…) I just thought I should go and ask because I was still floaty and hungover with a head full of spare legs, and bears. At Charles de Gaulle, Objets Trouvés is hidden away in the basement,as if embarrassing things are to be found there, ones that might not contribute to la Gloire de la France. Next time you’re in Paris, have a walk around and see how many times you spot these words. Everywhere you look there are monuments to the glory of France. They’re as ubiquitous as the dog poo on the streets. Interestingly, the next part of this story concerns poo, too, but of a size that’s more the stuff that dreams are made on….

The two ladies who work at the CdeG Lost and Found are as sympathetic as you could wish lost and found ladies to be (not like the pike ladies at the lost Lost and Found museum) and when they heard my sorry tale of the suitcase, the mathematician, the leg in the poem and the leg in the passport-control queue, they let me in to have a nose about, which they don’t normally. In the crammed back room, amongst the computers (100 a week turn up), the batches of phones and iPods and all those things, there were paintings and bird-headed canes, waders and a violin, ballet shoes and a flea circus (I made the last one up, but I’m sure there were plenty of fleas in there, making their home amongst soft porn paperbacks and suncream-sticky bikinis). I asked the lost and found ladies what was the most surprising thing that had ever made its way to them. They thought about it, and then they said a mallette scientifique (lab kit) had arrived. Inside were instruments for forensically examining la bouse des éléphants. Bouse? I asked. Ah. Dung. Right. So a forensic elephant poo examiner mislaid his or her lab kit case and didn’t get in touch with lost and found. Did they think it would be impossible to find among all the other forensic elephant poo examiners’ lost lab kits? Maybe they had just had enough of elephant poo for one lifetime, and flew off into the sunset of running a little gîte de charme in the Dordogne. Probably not; I imagine it’s like being a proper alcoholic : once a forensic elephant poo examiner, always a forensic elephant poo examiner. Think of the FEPOOE Anonymous meetings. Stinky. Though the lost and found ladies were more interested in the fact that the the kit was new. Toute neuve! they exclaimed. What a waste. Before it could be used to examine even one elephantpat. They shook their heads. So did I. Then I thanked them effusively and made my way into Paris, and I didn’t lose anything at all on the way; maybe my time in the heart of lost and found will protect me from those who would be tempted to steal my underwear, and deliver me from those who would question my existence. You never know.



By freakyparisandbeyond

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