Thunderstruck & Other Stories by Elizabeth McCracken:
In the December rain, the buildings around the town square were the color of dirty fingernails. Still, the French had tried to jolly things up a bit. Decorations hung from streetlamps, though at midday, Tony couldn’t tell what lit bulbs would reveal at night: A curried prawn? A goiter? People had dangled toddler-size nylon Father Christmases out their windows, each with a shoulder-borne sack of presents. There were dozens of Father Christmases, and they hung slack, sodden, like snagged kites. They looked lynched.
Tony drove the rattletrap Escort he’d just bought around Bazaillac’s covered market a second time. He and Izzy and the kids had lived in the countryside nearby for eleven years. At the start, people in town called them Les Anglais, because they were the only ones. Now the whole valley was overrun with English. You could fly into Bergerac for three quid on Ryanair, flash the mere cover of your passport to the on-duty Frenchman, and strike out. You could buy an old presbytery or millhouse for next to nothing, turn the outbuildings into gîtes and rent them for the summer, and then sit back and lived the good life—or so the English thought. They renovated or half-renovated the properties and then lost interest, complained about how many other English were in the area: you couldn’t go into a market without being assaulted by the terrible voices of your countrymen. Tony had heard that Slovenia and Macedonia were the new places to go. He wishes Slovenia and Macedonia luck.