“Sometimes wishing for a change in our future leads us through a journey of our past”.
From the YA Historical fiction “Banyan”
by Sameena Bachmeier –
Excerpt from the chapter entitled “Vincent”.
“Wake up! Wake up!” Kannie was jolted awake by an unfamiliar voice. “Have you seen my
sketch pad, woman?”
Kannie sat and rubbed her eyes. “What, who are you?”
The hyper man kept fussing about the room and rattled on, “Good Lord, I’m the one who
drank last night while you slept, and you can’t remember me? Serves me right for letting a
beggar sleep in my house.”
A beggar? Kannie was confused and dismayed to find herself dressed in rags. “I really can’t
remember who you are.”
“I am Vincent. Good God, woman! The name is Vincent. Now, my brushes?” He scratched
his reddish-brown frazzled hair glaring at her for not producing the brushes. Kannie scanned the
room. She noticed some sitting on the night table, but he didn’t seem to see them.
Kannie pointed to them, “Those brushes?”
Vincent turned. “Aha!” He snatched the brushes and stormed out the room. There was
something familiar about the man, but she couldn’t put her finger on it. She had never met him
before, but somehow she recognized his face. Kannie heard the front door slam shut and caught
sight of him out the window scrambling across the yard and off toward what appeared to be a
Kannie rolled out of the rickety little bed and couldn’t help but laugh at the sight of it. It was
wooden and looked like it was made for a dwarf. Where in the world am I now? She thought of
Buzz and Neil as she looked out the window and up toward the radiant, sunny blue skies. She
knew they would make it back to Earth and cherished the wonderful friends she had made. Will
they even remember me? There was nothing in the history books about anyone named Irnest
being there. Who is the crotchety old man that just left?
Her feet creaked on the wooden flooring as she proceeded to the master common room of
the house. It was a mess.
“What a sty,” she exclaimed, rather repulsed by the manner in which the house was kept.
Clothing strewn about, dirty china dishes on the table, and art brushes and paints everywhere.
She spotted some canvases drying in the kitchen area. She walked toward them. There was one
in particular she recognized immediately. “The Cafe Terrace at Night,” Kannie whispered into
the empty house. “That means that was…Van Gogh! Why didn’t I realize it, he said his name was
Vincent. Vincent Van Gogh.” Kannie looked at the other paintings and recognized some of the
others; The Sunflowers and Eternity’s Gate.
Looking down at her tattered clothes she decided to make herself more presentable. She
found the outhouse, right behind the house which was a bigger pig sty. She was disappointed to
find no mirror in sight. She headed back to the house and finally found a mirror attached to a
wooden dresser. She froze at the sight of her reflection in the smeary mirror. She barely
It had been days since she had seen herself and she stared hard into her dark hazel eyes. It
was like something was changed, she felt different. She knew she had grown from her
experiences and that she viewed the people and the world around her differently now. She
combed her hair with her fingertips and tied it back in a flattering ponytail. She smiled, knowing
she was still Kannie, just growing up in different ways.
Her clothes were rags sewn together, unfitting, and draped on her small-framed body. She
decided to do something nice for the man who let her stay in his home. For Vincent. She was
going to do something she hadn’t done in awhile. The chores.
Kannie ran around the house and opened all the windows, letting the fresh air fill the rooms.
She guessed the season was late spring by the temperature and the flowers in the garden. Light
radiated off the walls and Vincent’s paintings, making them look glorious. They were so much
more incredible when you saw the original work.
She started in the kitchen, and after all the dishes were done she went from room to room to
straighten, dust, and pick up. She left his room alone, feeling awkward in a man’s bedroom.
Just as she finished wiping down the floors Kannie heard the screen door slam again. He
Kannie walked to the front entryway. “Surprise!” she said, flashing her grand smile. He
stopped in the middle of the room abruptly.
“Surprise? I already knew you were here.”
“No, no, no. Don’t you notice anything else?”
Vincent looked confused. “You did your hair finally?”
Kannie put her hand on her hip like an annoyed housewife, “No. I cleaned your whole house
for letting me stay.”
Vincent looked around the room. “Looks good.” Kannie was a bit disappointed with his
“Well, you are welcome, all the same,” she snorted, and headed back to her room. She
looked out the window down at the market. She noticed a sign, Arles Bakery. Arles? Kannie had
never heard of Arles before.
She hollered to Vincent who was bustling about with something, “Where is Arles?”
He shouted back at her, “You’re standing in it.”
Kannie walked to the doorway and spotted him fumbling through a stack of sketches.
“No, I mean literally, where is it.”
He giggled. “Here, in Arles, France. It’s this very city you are in. I suppose you don’t know
what year this is either.”
Seeking information she joked back, “Yeah, what year is it?”
“1888 of course!” he stated.
Kannie couldn’t keep from smiling; France. She had always dreamed about going to France
and now here she was. Maybe this whole wishing tree thing is going to go my way for a while.
“So I saw your paintings. I really like Cafe Terrace at Night,” Kannie blurted out, eager to
let him know how much she adored his painting. Vincent stopped what he was doing and set
down his sketches. He glared at her.
“How do you know what I am planning to name that painting?”
Kannie realized she had startled him, the name of the painting wouldn’t be famous until
after his death. She tried to cover up.
“Well, I didn’t know that was the actual name, I just realized it was you know, the Cafe
Terrace and it was, uh, at night.”
Vincent thought for a moment and resumed his fumbling.
“What are you looking for?”
“Envelopes,” he stated without looking up, and moved to search a nearby desk. Kannie
watched him apprehensively; he appeared to be quite frantic.
“I have a present for my wench,” he added, catching Kannie off guard.
“Who?” she asked stunned.
“You know, my wench. My pay-for–the-day lover.”
Kannie realized she really knew nothing about this man.
“Oh.” He let out a shout of triumph. He held the envelope high above his head and danced
his way to the bathroom. Kannie thought he was quite bizarre, and she wanted to go out and see
“I’m going for a walk.” No response. “Crazy man,” she muttered and she headed toward the
door, letting it slam on her way out.
As she stepped out into the sun, it felt amazing. The air was comfortably warm and kissed
her skin. The breeze was cool and Kannie could smell the aroma of bread from the bakery down
She marched down the cobblestone street stopping every now and then to admire the
buildings. She arrived at the Arles Bakery and took a deep breath. It smelt heavenly. She entered
and sat at a table.
Suddenly, she felt like an idiot—she had no money to pay for any food.
“Bonjour! What can I get you?” The young man approached her from behind the counter.
“Just some water for now.” Her stomach growled in protest.
“Certainly”. He set a glass of water on the table.
“Thanks.” Kannie nodded.
The man turned to head back to the counter, but stopped in his tracks.
“I’m Adrien Moreau,” he informed her. “You don’t have any money do you?” Kannie
looked down at her clothes, a dead giveaway of her poverty. To avoid being kicked out of the
bakery, she lied.
“I do, I just don’t know if I’m hungry yet.” Her stomach growled loudly again.
The young man studied her. “Well, I have some free sample loafs if you would be
interested?” Kannie graciously accepted his offer. He winked at her and headed to the kitchen to
prepare her bread.
“Thank you.” Kannie grinned when he returned in short order and set a mouth-watering loaf
in front of her.
“Votre accueil.” He grinned back, laugh lines crinkling around his sea blue eyes.
“I don’t speak French, sorry.”
“It means you are welcome.”
Kannie stuffed a chunk of bread into her mouth. Every bite was warm and savory with the
cheese melted in the middle of the loaf. Utterly amazing. The bell over the door to the bakery
chimed. It was Vincent.
He spotted her and took the other seat at her table. “I did it. My present for that wench
Rachael is ready.”
Kannie stopped eating as she noticed he was bleeding profusely.
“Your ear, you’re bleeding,” she exclaimed.
Vincent laughed wildly. “Yes, I am!”
Kannie reached for a napkin to cover his wound. “Here, let me help you,” she offered, trying
to bandage his ear. She held the napkin tight to his lobe to stop the blood.
“What happened to you?”
“I cut my lobe to give to a wench at a local brothel.”
Kannie didn’t get it at first.
“You mean you did this? To yourself?” she questioned, horrified.
He suddenly rose and gallantlyheaded toward the exit, without answering her questions.
“See you at home.” He waved in farewell.
Kannie jumped out of her seat and followed him down the cobblestone street back to the
house. He left a trail of blood on the stones. He greeted each passerby cheerfully. Kannie was
becoming worried about the sanity of her new friend. Something was definitely not right here.
“Vincent?” she called out as she entered the house. “Vincent?” She found him sitting on the
edge of the bed in his room holding the envelope in his hand. Blood seeped through the paper.
“Is your ear in the envelope?” Kannie asked cautiously.
He didn’t answer. Within a blink of an eye, he had gone from euphoric to looking manically
depressed. “Vincent, are you alright?” she inquired, putting her hand on his shoulder.
He began to cry. Kannie hugged him and knew he was distraught over something or
someone. She didn’t know how to help him. They had a lot in common she realized. They were
both outcasts in a cruel world, feeling misunderstood and unappreciated. He leaned on her and as
she joined in his sorrow, she found strength in the thought of Kristopher.
Kannie watched as Vincent slept on the couch. He stirred a bit, until he awoke about an hour
later. He sat up, rubbed his eyes, and looked at Kannie.
Kannie nodded, trying to figure out if he meant she should go to the kitchen.
“Me too, and I think in light of our new friendship this calls for some potatoes and bread,”
he exclaimed, getting up and darting off into the kitchen.
Kannie couldn’t believe what a crazy person he seemed. Flipping from sobbing on the couch
to preparing a celebratory meal? Baffling. Kannie waited in the living room rummaging through
Vincent’s sketches and paintings until she heard his deep voice.
She rose and entered the kitchen. Vincent had set the table with his cracked dishes as if they
were fine china, lit two candles and served up two plates of boiled potatoes and fresh bread.
Kannie smiled at his efforts.
“Looks good.” She seated herself and admired the way he tried to be such a gallant host. He
sat at the kitchen table with her as they began to eat.
Kannie looked at him as he darted off again into the living room. He returned with a
painting in his hand. He held it up proudly for her to admire. It was a small self-portrait. He
looked so sad and solemn, it was rather depressing. It seemed to sum up his life.
“What did you use?” she prodded.
“Oil.” He lit up with her interest.
“I love it. It’s fabulous.”
He set the painting next to them as they finished their potatoes and bread. He’s rather a
quiet little man, Kannie thought as she enjoyed her buttery potato bites. “So have you painted all
“No, I really only started in my late twenties,” he replied.
Kannie was inspired by the fact someone could start something relatively late in life and
acquire such skill. Even though she knew it wouldn’t be appreciated in his life time.
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