SCENE IN EUROPE, SCENE 7, ERUPTIONS IN POMPEII

 
Scene in Europe, Scene 7, Eruptions in Pompeii

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“You remember the dust in Florence, Marty? Well, let me tell you, I was wrong, that wasn’t dust, this is dust. How many bubkes did this cost us? Look at it, I mean, the parties certainly done and dusted in this fakakta place,” Sophie complained, not for the first time, to her long serving husband as a sea of sweat swept its way down her neck, seeping under the strap of her bulging brassiere strap and on down to places her husband hadn’t seen in years, “and where are the people? I read in a book they had folks from ancient times, days of yore or what-have-you, who were turned to stone, literally, and you could see them! Well, I ask you Marty, where the hell are they?”

“That’s a lot to deal with all in one go, Soph. You want me to start anywhere in particular?”

“Oy, Marty. It was rhetorical, re-tor-ic-al,” she repeated phonetically, “don’t be a schmuck, if I ever needed an answer to anything, have I ever asked you? Come now Marty, let’s face it, you don’t send a dog to the butchers shop!”

Marty ignored her little saying, and the knowing dig, but was grateful that, since being in Europe, she’d actually managed to reduce her spewing of confusing little rhymes, phrases and all around sayings about what to do or not do with life, though never her’s, alway other peoples, but she rarely managed to use the right saying at the right time, he knew her more as a woman who liked to be heard than to put too much worry into the content of what she was actually saying.

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“If we ever get to Berlin, you can be advised to just lock me up in Jane’s apartment, after we check it out first, mind you, and then just leave me there, night and day,” she told him.

“What, so you can take to peeing in the closets like Mary Margaret’s old klutz? That was a narrow escape, I tell you.”

“I just need some structure, can’t you understand that?” she asked him as she twisted her fanny pack back around to the front, “I need walls that are built to last, air conditioning, the fresh smell of polish. I believe the Germans know the difference between a bomb site and a bloody good building,” Sophie said, ignoring the still painful reminder of the loss of two shiksas who seemed like the perfect travel companions who they’d bumped into in Barcelona but who turned out, regretfully, to be no more than one half of a pack of lunatics.

“You can’t say that,” her husband told her.

“You wanna bet? Show me a good German and I bet they can show me a perfectly made bed with hospital approved corners and a decent martini, but I will say this,” she said, looking up along the remains of a cobble stoned road and off into the distance, “I will confess to being very partial to this landscape. Look up there, at that mountain, the pointy one,” she said as she mustered up enough force to raise her arm through the weight of the midday heat, “I wonder if they have a cable car or yet another form of decrepit transport to get up there. I’m sure the view from the top is just darling. And away from all this soot into clear breathable air. I need something to get my mind off all those vulgar men, loitering around that backwards station this morning. What is it about Italian men and their need to constantly touch themselves, as if it makes us gals all wanna run up to them and have a go on it ourselves?”

“I’m not sure what you mean about the Italian’s and having a right old go on them, but I do know about that mountain up there. That’s Vesuvius, Sophie!”

“Oy, look at you, who’d have known it? A schmuck like you knows the name of a hill. Marty, you wanna build one of those now, too.”

“It’s not a hill Sophie, or a bloody cathedral, and I never wanted to build a cathedral in the first place, thank you very much. But I will tell you that that hill you’re talking about, that’s the damn volcano that tore this place apart,” he informed his uninformed wife, “but if you want me to send you up, then I tell you now, Sophie Moskowitz, I’ll sure as hellfire carry you up there myself,” he told her, eye to eye, in no uncertain terms, “and throw you in.”

“Marty,” she yelled at him as the already ruined walls shook from the force of her gravel grazing voice.

“Sophie,” he yelled back, sending further reverberations into the city of what used to be.

And then there was silence. It was a standstill. It was 40 years of marriage together, day in, day out. It was 50 days on holiday, alone but together, back to back, with no family to break them up and distract them from each other. It was Pompeii and the weight of its own destruction in the scorching midday sun reflecting poorly on their own long standing, but often fragile, union. It was blisters, bowels, bunions. It was flights, fatigue and foreigners. Eruptions were bound to arrive, eventually. They just had no idea who would blow first.

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After 30 minutes of time out, Sophie found Marty sitting in the remains of the 80BC Roman Amphitheatre, looking more broken than usual as he sat on one of the steps, melting in his white tracksuit. What a vision, she thought to herself, this ancient site with its rising stone walls all around her and her ancient husband amid it, certainly no gladiator but, well, he’d done her well, so far. Maybe his angina was acting up again, she thought as she came towards him, although she was secretly more concerned that he’d get dirt stains on the seat of his white pants.

“But you love me,” she began coyly, hopefully and her head nodded with a mix of rejection and old age.

“But I love you,” in said as his facial frown cracked like plaster and he reached out and took her fine freckled hand in his as he stood up, next to her, and they looked around as if there were Pompeiian King and Queen.

“You know Soph, we’re just like this place. Once young and happy and now just crumbling under a heavy layer of ageing.”

“Oy vey, I gotta tell you Marty, you sure are full of shit sometimes. The only thing heavy about us is your mozzarella and basil filled pizza belly. How I ever managed to marry so beneath myself, I’ll never know,” she told him, much to his surprise as she looked out over the walls of the amphitheater until her gaze closed in on the point of Vesuvius, once again, “but I guess we gotta face it,” she continued, rubbing her free hand along the length of her husbands arm, at the end of which their hands were forever entwined, “it’s gonna take more than a volcano to tear us down!”

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All Words and Photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

SCENE IN EUROPE, SCENE 6, CUNNING COLOGNE

 

Scene in Europe, Scene 6, Cunning Cologne.

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He was sitting by the edge of the river, proudly stroking the growth of his beard, as tourist boats sailed by when she passed his table and her scent caught him, a lingering fragrance of citrus and bergamot, flooding him with childhood memories of beaches filled with exotic tourists who’d frequented his usually quiet seaside town during the summer months, hijacking the harbour with their boats, the sands with their strange accents and all the while emblazoning his local haunts with an air of excitement and mystery.
Dressed in an almost transparent turquoise skirt that caressed her ankles and a cream, almost gold, fitted tee shirt, she smiled as if in reply to his stare and took a table next to his, even though the terrace was empty except for them.
“You are foreign, no? American?” she asked in a direct and clear voice.
“Yes,” Henry answered, adding a cough to clear his throat and break his stare.
“I think so, I see you here and that is what I think, you look much too relaxed to be German.”
“Well, can’t say I know much about that, only been here a day… you know, but you got the American tourist damn right, and in one go. Am I such a goddamn giveaway?”
“No,” she replied, both immediate and forceful, as if there were no point to ever question her answer and she swept blonde tresses back from her face that bellowed on a breeze that continued to cover him with teasing traces of her scent, “but you have an air of elsewhere, if you understand me correctly, you have a… a certain mystery to you,” she said, almost repeating what he had just thought himself with regard to the people who’d visited his home town, now way across the seas.
“I gotta tell you, your perfume’s sweet as,” he told her, sensing a directness to the situation that was both integral and to be encouraged.
“Oh,” she said, almost dismissively, “this stuff,” she continued as she brought her wrist up to her noise and took in her own aroma, “I guess it’s ‘sweet as’, like you say, to someone who does not live here. No one from here would ever remark on it, but thank you,” she said and he wasn’t sure if that had been an acknowledgement of his own ignorance or a disappointment at her own countrymen and their disregard for all that lay beneath their noses, literally.
“May I ask what you’re doing here, at such an hour, you know, for a Tuesday?”
“I may ask you too, no?” she responded, cunningly throwing his own question back at him.
“Well, for me, it’s just like you say, I’m the relaxed tourist, remember? So I got my excuse.”
She raised an eyebrow and smiled at his slowly reverberating response before turning towards the water to watch an open topped barge pass by, shipping coal down the ancient flowing valley of the River Rhine.
“It’s good to step out of oneself, now and again, do you not think? Test the other water.”
“I heartily agree,” he replied, reminding himself of the various waters he recently waded through and the ladies who’d only been too willing to share them with him since he’d arrived on this exotic continent, overflowing with tastes and odours that he’d previously only dreamt of.
“I go to the Chocolate Museum this morning, two children were at the cacao fountain and, behind their parents backs, they let the chocolate trickle onto their tongues,” she told him,” it’s that building just over there,” she continued, pointing just a short way down the river.
“No one from here goes in, you know, we don’t even eat that chocolate. But I saw them and wondered what it felt like, to be so excited, to taste what you shouldn’t, what you usually can only dream about and then… well, I suddenly found myself doing the very same thing. Can you believe it?” she asked him.
“No, but gimme a sec,” he said and he began to imagine her delicate tongue slipping its way out from her tender lips and moaning slightly as the warm liquid caressed her tongue.
“Okay, now I can,” he said as he shifted in his chair and spread his legs in her direction.
“I see you can,” she said, giving him a sultry smile before standing up and walking over to him.
“4711,” she told him, “Glockenglasse 4. See you at 5pm, today, then you can really get close to the scent that is so arousing to you. I see you there,” she said and suddenly she was off before he could reply.
Shocked at her straight forwardness, he quickly noted her address on his phone. Jesus, he’d been told the Germans were direct but this was something else. He’d been in the city less than 24 hours, was leaving the following day, but had already scored and scored big.

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At 4.30pm, he was on the way to her apartment, No. 4711, in the Glockengasse, building number 4. He was wearing navy American Eagle jeans that gripped this thighs and a crisp white teeshirt, trying to suggest an air of low key, kinda-bothered-but-not-really.
That afternoon he’d wandered haphazardly around the ancient town, past the imposing darkness of the city’s impressive Cathedral, a short flit around the modern art museum next door before taking some photos of the old City Hall as a smiling, newly married couple posed on the historic Renaissance steps of the hall’s magnificent Loggia which looked as if it had been kidnapped from some sleeping Italian city.
Later, after changing at his hotel, he turned off the Rudolphplatz and wandered through the gay dominated streets known as the Bermuda Triangle and realised that not only were gazes turning in the direction of his 21 year old ass, but if he didn’t hurry up, then he might not make it past some of the tougher looking leather clad drooling faces, all busy dreaming up ways to show an American in Germany how down right perverse they could truly be.
Once free of the wolf whistles and surprising amount of chaps without a horse in sight, he felt a certain stride slip its way into his walk. This Europe was doing its very best to make a man out of him. Mamma would be pleased, he thought. She’d had her own share of foreign adventures right on her own doorstep, throughout his childhood, with the Cuban cabana boy, the Mexican gardener and the Brazilian so-called masseuse, so perhaps it was rooted in his jeans after all.
He crossed a busy intersection and immediately came face to face with a startling Neo-Gothic building with the number 4711 splashed across its top floor. Instantly his heart began to sink. What the hell, he though to himself as the stride slipped from his legs and his steps became heavy and slow. Under the arches of the lower floor he could already make out countless windows stacked with enormous bottles of perfume with a turquoise and gold label.
As he stepped beneath one of the arches and, as the sun slipped away from his fair hair, he made out the name of the perfume, Eau du Cologne, and suddenly a German sense of twisted humour flooded his 21 year old innocence and foreigner gullibility. He’d been duped, he thought to himself. He’d met what looked like the perfect girl by the water in Cologne who’d turned out to be nothing more than a walking advert for the water of Cologne itself.
“You’re one damn fool, Henry,” he said to himself as he opened the door to the ancient perfume store and followed up on the truth of her offer by really getting close to her scent, even if it was only in a cold, but well packaged, bottle.

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All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

Scene in Europe, Scene 5, Barcelona Bonding

 

Scene in Europe, Scene 5, Barcelona Bonding

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Gravel voiced Sophie and her hard of hearing husband, Marty, were sitting on a sun drenched terrace near a bustling intersection, burnt, blistered and blocked up but embracing a very real possibility of relief. They’d just met another American couple, also doing a European tour, though travelling in opposite directions, and they were overjoyed at finally finding like-minded people after all the weirdos they’d come across so far. It was also a well deserved distraction from their own company. Marriage could be a blessing, but 40 days together, without a break, was beginning to put more of a strain on their relationship than their previous 65 years of togetherness. Mary Margaret; big earrings, big boobs and bigger smile, and her grown up daughter, JoBeth; no earrings, no boobs but winning smile, had been at the same cafe, a table away and, as accents carried, a conversation began between the 4 foreigners and, 2 hours later, they were huddled together under the heat of the Passeig de Gracia putting this strange European world to right. Sophie was already calculating the possibility of cancelling Jane in Berlin and following her new BFF’s while Marty basked in the much appreciated attention of his new female admirers who knew nothing about his bunions or his wife’s poop problem.

“Oh golly, I tell you, Parc Guell is just wonderful, truly, like Disney without the Mickey’s. What can I say, I’m a Gaudi fan, love the man, even have one of his t-shirts. So much colour, I was in heaven while Mother just loved the mosaics, didn’t you, tell them, you did,” JoBeth was saying, “and then the beaches, oh my! Although I’d stay away from Mar Bella and Sitges. It’s sorta boys only, if you know what I mean,” she told them and gave Marty a cheeky wink along with her winning smile.

Marty and Sophie didn’t know what she meant but nodded away in blissful ignorance.

“And you gotta take the cable car up to Mont Tibidabo. I swear, I didn’t think that old contraption was gonna make it, truly. Thought we’d plummet back down when we were only half way up, but once you’re up, golly, the view is just wonderful, I tell you, wonderful. Am I right Mother, or am I right?”

“Oh well, she’s right, but she always is, it’s just darling,” Mary Margaret replied as she fumbled with her phone, “we should take you both up there.”

“And the food,” JoBeth interrupted in another bout of excitement that seemed irrepressible, “have you ever seen so many small plates just begging to be tasted? Tapas back home’s nothing like this. Authentic, didn’t I say that, Mother? It’s truly authentic. Watch out for anything red, mind you, blows your head off. Mother here downed a whole pitcher of water last night after the peppers,” she told them in between gulps of sangria, “then spent the night pressing her ass into the fridge. Not really, but you get my drift,” she said as her mother giggled and Sophie and Marty smiled at them even though they’d been petrified to try anything that wasn’t sauce free and grilled to cremation.

“Red is hot in every language, in every culture, on every plate,” the daughter told them.

“Unfortunately, Marty here ain’t really one for anything too hot,” Sophie told her BFF’s, as if signalling a slight disappointment at her own husband which, this time, didn’t slip past him.

“No, but you could sure do with something to let more than just the steam out,” he whispered to her “if you know what I mean.”

Sophie knew exactly what he meant. There was rarely a time when she didn’t, but there was many a time when she wished otherwise.

“And you gotta see the Flamenco, it’s wonderful. How they don’t break their heels with all that banging I just don’t know, and the noise, but it adds to the atmosphere. Just don’t go expecting a quiet romantic dinner,” she told the couple and Sophie wondered if this younger woman had any idea what romance was when you’d been stuck to the same man, bunions and blockages, for more than half a century.

“Our JoBeth was taken up, actually, two nights ago. This moustached man got her into a right sweat. She brought the house down, our little girl,” her mother said, smiling at her daughter and touching her cheek as if she were still 13 with pig tails and double track braces.

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“Oy Marty, things are finally looking up,” Sophie said, almost unable to contain her excitement when JoBeth went to the restroom and her mother left them to find a better reception for her cell phone, “these are the kinda gals who could put fun into foreign, into being away from home, for so long, away from good company. I feel homely just hearing their adorable accents,” she told her husband as she waved a salamander painted fan over her glowing cleavage.

“Thought we got away to see something new, Soph?” Marty replied, not wanting to appear too over eager at the adoration he’d been getting from these new glorious gals.

“Oy vey, you wanna make friends with these European freaks, Marty? I’ve barely understood a word anyone’s said in the last 3 cities. And now, at last, two smiling shiksas, happy to share their adventure with us. They’re probably lonely too, starved for a little male company, I’d say,” she said as she jokingly elbowed him, “seems such a pity it can’t last a little longer.”

“Well, they are good ones, I’ll give you that, Soph. And they seem to like us, even listened to your description of every cathedral we’ve seen so far. I can’t believe you hold in so much,” he remarked, with pun intended.

“So, how is everything?” JoBeth asked her mother when they both returned to the table.

“No change, praise the Lord,” she replied as she checked the buoyancy of her body-waved hair, “he’s in bed and she’s still held up in the suite with her empanadas for company.”

“And the closet?” the daughter asked.

“She won’t check,” came the response that intrigued Sophie and Marty and he gave his wife a look to see if she knew what it was all about but she seemed equally lost.

“Is everything okay?” Sophie asked, hoping her new friends felt close enough to confide in them.

“Daddy’s taking to peeing in the hotel closets. It’s our 3rd hotel in Barcelona,” JoBeth told them bluntly while her mother covered a giggle with a napkin.

“Daddy’s taken to what?” Marty asked, feeling more confused, “it’s not just the you of two?”

“Oh Lord no, sometimes I wish it was, Daddy’s here with us,” Mary Margaret explained, “and our Chilean nurse who’s decided to get homesick. Locked herself up in the hotel in the last 5 cities. Refuses to come out anymore till we go home.”

“And your Daddy?” Sophie asked Mary Margaret, confused as to whether it was her husband or if she just called her husband Daddy.

“Oh God, last time we took him out we lost him for 3 hours, at Park Guell. Security found him before we did,” she said, now unable to cover her laughter, “he’d taken off all this clothes and was sitting in the fountain. They didn’t see the humour so we were asked to leave.”

Neither did Marty or Sophie whose connection to their BFF’s was suddenly slipping away.

“He took a body wash across the road, in the Casa Batllo,” JoBeth added like it was nothing unusual, “there was an old washstand in one of the rooms, we got carried away with a painting and when we turned back, well, he’d just dropped his pants so we can’t go back there again either. It was truly a sight to see. A Chinese couple took a photo of him, they promised to email it to us.”

“Does this happen often?” Sophie enquired, deflating in her seat as her hopes ran down the drain.

“Oh golly, this is nothing, truly, wait till we tell you about Paris and the Louvre. He certainly put the smile on Mona Lisa. But it’s best if you meet him, maybe tomorrow?” Mary Margaret suggested.

Sophie shifted her position so she could kick her husband in the leg. It was time to go.

Who needed strangers, who needed peeing Daddies, who needed naked men in fountains? They had each other. They’d survived 65 years together. It was time to get back to just the two of them. Who needed American wackos, Europe had its own and they had each other.

5 minutes later, they’d made their getaway and were happily strolling hand in hand until Sophie felt her bowels finally move and she smiled at Marty lovingly before she made the most startling noise.

“There she blows,” said her husband with a proud smile.

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All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

SCENE IN EUROPE, SCENE 3, FLORENCE

Prose,
Scene in Europe,
Scene 3:
Famished in Firenze

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Florence bustled in the early evening light as true Italians took to the streets in their finery, partaking in their nocturnal parade of pride and prowess. It was still early for aperitivo’s but the hunt was already on for the best place in town to sit, see and be seen. Sophie and Marty had found the terrace at Harry’s Bar, along the banks of the River Arno, the night before and today had downed two cocktails before the bells of the Santa Marie del Fiore had announced sunset. Marty was wearing the new tracksuit Sophie had found for him in Paris while she herself was in her usual colourful leggings, cerise today, and a lightweight North Face jacket beneath which she’d tucked her fanny pack. It was their third day in Florence and their 30th day in Europe and the sights and sounds of this whole new world were taking its tole on the pair of them, not to mention the demands of each others constant company.

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“I mean, it’s all just darling, who could say otherwise, but it’s so old, Marty,” said Sophie, attempting to whisper through her gravelly voice, a tone below what her husband’s hearing aid could pick it up.

“What’s that, Soph?” Marty shouted, attracting attention from the terrace of coffee connoisseurs who preferred contemplating the gentle gyration of the Arno than overhearing foreign critiques on their celebrated city.

“Old, I said, Marty,” she replied with a raising of the eyes, wondering if any of his responses ever required her to not raise her eyes, and asking herself why he always had that damn hearing aid on so low? He never hears anything I say, she noted. “I just mean, well… I just wonder, don’t they ever wanna to build something new on this continent.”

“Well, I guess they could ship everything off to a retirement village, Soph, but I’m not sure it’d travel that well.”

“Oh now Marty, look at us, we manage to move around, relatively intact,” she said with a quick look down at his feet which were now outside his sneakers. She could actually see his bunions throbbing while she unconsciously rubbed her new hip that had been a little too active in recent weeks.

“Soph, honestly, I don’t know what you mean,” her husband told her between bites of his custard filled pastry that flaked down the napkin he’d tucked into the neck of his t-shirt as if he were back at the Lobster Lounge, although it did cover the gelato stain he’d gotten earlier from downing an ice-cream the size of his head in the Piazza della Signoria, “you wanted to see it all, Alice,” he reminded her, “while we still had the ability to remember it, or have you forgotten that already?”

“Well, it just feels a little dusty, is all. I’m entitled to my opinion,” she said, with that attitude of poor-unheard-little-lost-girl that he knew only too well had never ever suited her well stocked closets of opinions, “and I remember everything, Marty, believe me,” she continued as she looked him up and down, “I remember it all… sometimes too much.”

“Oh come now, Sophie, I mean really, you’ve always entitled yourself to an opinion, has anyone ever told you otherwise? Really Soph, as if? But what about that Duomo, the Santa Maria what’s her name, you can’t tell me you weren’t impressed by that massive erection?”

“Dusty Marty, dusty, and I can tell you, straight faced with just a hint of Botox, I’ve seen more erections in my time with a lot less dust,” she said with a shake of her head, annoyed she’d followed him down the erectile slope.

“So what about that Palace we just saw, the Pity something or other? They filmed Hannibal there, and you loved that.”

“Dusty,” she remarked as she took a look at her fingers as if to check for a residue before she pulled a small vile, filled with lubiprostone pills, out of her fanny-pack and knocked two back with the rest of her Mojito.

“Are you sure it’s not your glasses? Maybe that’s the only thing that’s dusty, Soph. I mean, I saw you take them off to look at the tush of that David.”

“Oy, don’t be vulgar Marty, I have a new hip, I don’t go that low anymore. Besides, a woman can still look, no? It’s nice to see what an ass is supposed to look like… now and again, besides the one we have to travel with,” she said, knowing that his would pass right over his empty head, currently covered with an Orioles baseball cap, “and would it hurt you to look at mine now and again? Maybe then I wouldn’t be looking at a giant stone one, Marty.”

“Soph, don’t be looking in the mirror then, your tush ain’t that big,” he said, with a chuckle that told him that he still had it; that charm, that wit that had first drew her to him.

“Oy… he made a little joke. Bring me a drink,” she laughed with her hands and fingers washing through the air as if to fan herself from the shock of his response, “who knew all this time I was shleping about with a funny man? So what’s next then, Marty, or should I call you Jackie Mason?”

“Alrighty, well… according to the last few emails about the German itinerary, Jane said she has a couple of good bits of theatre lined up for us in Berlin, so we should cross that off the list while we’re here.”

“Oh good, so we can finally get some tips on how to build a theatre back home, eh? Who does she think we are at all, I wonder?”

“Oy, enough of that sorta talk, Sophie. Besides, I hear there’s a Dante trail in town, maybe we follow that tomorrow for a few hours?”

“Marty, for goodness sake, I’ve been following you for the past 65 years, now you want me to follow another old fool into the gates of hell. Let me tell you, heat burns, Marty, and when it doesn’t burn… it fades.”

“Damn it Soph! Alrighty then, well let’s just walk along that Vecchio Bridge over there and then we’ll go wash up before dinner. I’ve got a real treat for us, Alice, you’re gonna love it, I just know it.”

“Pizza again, Marty, really,” she asked him as she placed a hand over his bulging belly, “you sure that tummy of yours can take it?”

“Well, looks who’s talking. How those pills treating you? At least I’m able to let it out now and again. Would it hurt you to push once in a while on that toilet seat, Soph?”

His wife gave him a look that needed no words and her husband’s swallow was suddenly almost as difficult to pass as her holiday poop.

“No pizza tonight, Soph, we’re in Florence. Tonight we are dining on cow. Pure red blooded cow, a Florentine favourite, according to those in the know.”

“Ay-yay-yay, now you’re talking. I am practically carnivorous. I could eat a human right now. If it was good enough for Hannibal then let’s do it. You know how much I like cow, Marty. You sweet old man,” she said as she slipped her foot out of her sandal and gently grazed it over his stockinged foot and smiled at him before turning her attention to the last of the sunlight that slowly wound its way along the banks of the Arno. He was a sweetie, she thought to herself. He might not have been one in a million, but he was her one just the same. Mazel tov!

“Yes Soph. I know how much you like cow,” he said, taking a sip of his chianti and sucking in the air over it through his teeth while he put his hand on top of hers on the table before he turning away and, just a whisper under his breath and out of earshot, continued “and they say it takes one to know one.”

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SCENE IN EUROPE, SCENE 2, VENICE

Prose,
Scene in Europe,
Scene 2,
L’Ora Blu- The Hour of Blue

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All was cloaked in sombre shades of azure as dusk gently fell. Henry, 21 and fair haired, wandered through the shadowy slender streets of the ancient city that awoke within him so much of his, as yet, unspent youth and energy. He was only now beginning to feel the pulse of blood rushing through his body as he finally understood what it was like to look upon life and taste its endless bounty. Free and far from family ties, he’d been travelling through Europe on his father’s seemingly endless wallet of money and his mother’s gin flavoured blessing and quickly found temptations too intoxicating for his nubile body to say no to. He had a swagger in his step now that had replaced his teenage goofiness and the stubble, newly worn on his high cheek boned face, still enticed his own fingers to stroke its magnificence.

Having spent the last hours of sunlight in Piazza San Marco, amid the lure of the orchestra and the popping of champagne corks which increased his relaxation with every explosion, he left the small group of Spanish ladies who’d gathered around his table, intoxicated by his charm, carefree gaze and ripening musk, and wandered off alone to explore the island, leaving the grandeur of the Bell Tower, Basilica and the Doge’s Palace, stopping along the way to watch the market traders of the Rialto Bridge close down their stalls for the evening before he let the island and its canals be his guide. After taking a turn somewhere to the north of the island, through a cluster of narrow side streets of scorched red walls, lined with drain pipes, hanging baskets and swaying blankets on balconies being aired, he approached a rundown old bridge where a wane woman leaned over the balustrade and permitted troubled tears to fall into the water. Her taffeta skirts, in bolts of brilliant blue, billowed in the breeze while in her hand she held a single white zinnia. As Henry drew close to the woman, her scent enveloped him, an aroma reminiscent of his grandmother’s pantry filled with cinnamon sticks and almond paste wrapped in muslin cloths.

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“Why are you crying, Madame?” inquired Henry, “don’t you think Venice is already filled with enough water of its own?”

“Tis the hour of melancholia, sir,” she replied and, as their eyes met, she saw immediately in his those sparkles of youth and life that were so recently his gain and so long her loss. She looked away, as if to shield herself from more unnecessary pain, turning her gaze instead to the zinnia which trembled in her hands, hands that had once been complimented on their texture and tone, which now looked like cracked particles of paint longing to fall from a mural upon which it had rested for far too long.

“I am Padua,” she told him, but her eyes remained on her fading reflection in the water beneath her, “I was once worshiped like this Venetian City, had a youth that was considered priceless and a lust for life that was worshiped by all, and not just the myriad of merry men who courted me constantly. But time is cruel and now I’m as broken as the bridge upon which I stand, as the city upon which it leans into. So quickly fallen from momentous to meaningless and I’m falling still,” she said as she dropped her single zinnia into the canal.

Henry quickly bent by the water and retrieved it, still intact, though dripping with its own tears, but when he rose there was nothing more to see except for the empty broken bridge and a rusting balustrade held by nothing but the grip of unyielding time. It was then that he noticed the old and pealing poster on the wall just across the bridge, advertising the perfume.

L’Ora Blu was written in sapphire smoke escaping from an open bottle. “We are nothing more than the memories we make,” it read, “remember who you once were in the melancholic magic of L’Ora Blu.” And there, in print on the cracked poster, was Henry’s vanished woman, younger certainly, but still recognisable. As he watched the last of the light caress the wall, her fragile hand extended out to accept a zinnia from a man serenading her from a gondola, while the rest of her body leaned toward another hand, beckoning her deep into the shadows.

Time is cruel, he thought to himself, remembering her words, but then he remembered the bar from the previous night with its own myriad of merry maidens and he turned away from the scented shadows and headed off for continued adventure with that newly acquired swagger. As he hummed a tune to himself, he was totally unaware, that with each footstep he took, another petal fell from the single white zinnia that he still held in his, as yet, unblemished hand.

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All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

SCENE IN EUROPE, SCENE 1, PRAGUE

Prose,
Scene in Europe,
Scene 1,
Prague; Crumbled, Cracked and Magnificent.

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A married couple are standing in line outside Prague’s Neo-Gothic St. Vitus’ Cathedral. It’s an old, cracked, crumbled, reinvented, restored and altogether magnificent building standing in the very heart of what was once Bohemia. In their early 70’s, the husband, Marty to most, in a typical grey tracksuit which many tourists over a certain age think is appropriate to wear while vacationing, ignoring how humorous the get up is on a body that can hardly get up on its own anymore, suffers from angina and bunions on both his feet which is why his oversized trainers slide about from time to time. It is also why it took them a full quarter of an hour to cross the 14th century Charles’ Bridge over the River Vltava earlier on in the day. Sophie, his wife, currently wearing an astonishingly large amber necklace which he just bought for her at the Erpet Bohemia Crystal store on the Old Town Square, still thinks she could’ve married better if she had of held out a little longer and has a voice that sounds like it scrapes over gravel as it makes its way along her vocal cords and out her throat. She has a new hip, a new knee and would have a new face if Marty weren’t such a tight ass with what she calls ‘their finances’ and he calls his ‘hard earned cash’.

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“So what’s so important about this cathedral?” Sophie asks her husband as the queue comes to another standstill.

“I don’t know, Soph, how many cathedrals must we see, I mean, really?” he replies as he leans down on her gamy shoulder to balance himself while he tries to adjust this Nike trainers for the twentieth time in as many minutes.

“I don’t wanna to see another cathedral anymore! You want to see another cathedral, Marty?” she asks him, adjusting her position slightly so that she can no longer be his balancing pole but so underhandedly that he doesn’t notice she did it on purpose.

“Lord no, I’ve had enough,” he admits as he steadies himself against the wall while the young couple behind them snigger.

“So why don’t we just tell Jane that in Berlin we don’t want to see another cathedral?”

“Damn fine with me,” agrees Marty, “though I believe that she’s already lined up a few for us to see.”

“Well, good Lord, what do people think of us, I don’t want to build a cathedral,” his wife insists with a growing impatience, “you want to build a cathedral, Marty?”

“No, Soph, I sure as hell don’t wanna build a cathedral!”

“Well then, there you go, we’ll just say that cause we don’t wanna build a cathedral then we can’t bare to see another cathedral. We’re old, Marty, can’t we be honest, finally? Oy!”

“It sounds like a plan to me, Soph,” her husband concedes with a nod and tries to put his arm around her but she adjusts the position of her over-the-shoulder-travel-pack just in time to keep his hands from making contact.

“In Berlin, we’ll see art museums,” she informs him.

“Art museums? Good Lord, Soph, what now? Haven’t we seen enough art museums already? And I can tell you, I don’t wanna build any art museum either!”

“Well, neither do I, Marty, but what’ll we do instead?”

“Drink beer,” he says with a self satisfying smile, proud of his own ingenious suggestion.

“Why Marty, you gonna make some beer back home?” she mocked him, not for the first time in their 65 year sentence of a life served together.

“No Sophie, I’d just like to drink some beer, that’s all!” he replied, as usual missing the overtones of her undertones completely while addressing her by her full name so as to give his answer a certain level of maturity.

“Well, alrighty, we’ll say we wanna drink some beer, see a little art, but definitely no more cathedrals!”

“Well, I sure do like the sound of that, Soph. You think they’ll have some of those old wartime tanks in Berlin?”

“Jesus Marty, what the… you wanna build a tank now?”

“No, I just want to…” he tried to answer before she silenced him with a wave of her hand that had ended every argument they had ever shared since the day they’d first met.

“Oh shush,” Alice tells him anxiously, grabbing his hand which she always took hold of in moments of excitement, as if to make sure they were experiencing it all together, “the queue’s finally moving,” she said with a quiver in that battered old voice of hers that brought an instant feeling of pride to her husband, “come on, let’s go see this cathedral!”

And so they did…

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MH17

I am the morning’s excitement
And the afternoon’s adrenalin,
The suitcase that’s been packed
And the closet that’s been emptied,
I am the silly song
That you heard on the radio
As the taxi whisked you away.
I am all the commotion
And the confusion at the gates
And the skipping couple in the queue,
I’m the oversized baggage
And panicked search for passports,
I am the liquids left in handbags
That you can’t take with you.

I am the last minute shopping
At duty free prices
From beer and wine
To cigarettes and chocolates,
I’m the magazines you bought
To read on the flight,
I’m the books to forget on the beach.
I am the baby that cries
In the buggy in front of you
And the boy that smiles
In the line behind you,
I am the red ribbon worn
On the jacket of the man
Who types on the laptop beside you.

I am the final greeting
As you board the plane,
But I never once believed
I’d be your final step on earth.

I am all the anguish that’s been left in your absence,
All the pain that’s departed you from pleasure,
I am the empty space in the air above,
I am the void that’s impossible to measure.

I am the white balloon set free to fly,
You are now the twinkling stars that fill our sky.