FOR BREAKFAST, FOUND POEM FOR BLOOMSDAY

 

Relish inner organs,
beasts and fowl-
roast heart, slices of all kidneys.

In the kitchen, breakfast,
light and air, out of doors,
everywhere peckish.

Coals reddening.
Sideways, squat. Soon. Mouth dry.

A leg with tail, on high, fire.

Lithe black form- sleek hide, white butt.

She understands. She wants.
She can jump her nature-

curious squeal.

Seem to like it.
Shame.

He
poured milk
on a saucer, on the floor.

She cried, running.
Weak light, she licked lightly.

Wonder is it true,
if you clip them?

  

Found poem by Damien B. Donnelly

based on opening page of Calypso in Ulysses by James Joyce for Bloomsday 2020

THE HAIR ON THE BACK OF HIS NECK

 

You had long black hair, a horse’s mane
that I held as we rocked through early years
and a red furry coat I never stopped to question
while we rode across uncertain terrines that echoed
his silence and her longing to not give up anything again.
Even then, even at play, I knew their mask of a marriage ran
short of imagination. I cut your hair later, amid the tension
but before the divorce, when I would have cut any cord
at the time if it meant getting out, getting away, me
and a red rocking horse with a mutilated mane,
wishing, later, that things we cut could find
a way to grow back,

better.

  

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

THROUGH THE SANDS

 

And when they danced
she would hold him, her
perfume by his face, his
hands as her strength
as they waltzed through
their current as the tides
swept the shore, through
love and labour, to the first born,
still born, through the twins
who stopped the tears
and the girls who tied
the bows as the sands slipped
through time and the pace
became a quick step, through
the hands that held and those
hips that swayed through
the melody they were making
as they danced through
waves of washing houses
into homes, children into
strangers; rarely calling
and barely remembering
but on they danced as red
locks swept into silver strands,
as full head turned to bald head
on an older head as they turned
to the music now made
in the memory, till she left him,
finally, one morning in May,
as he rose to the sunlight but
she had lost to the moonlight
and so he built her an alter
of sea shells and sentiments
and now he turns, alone, across
the sands still slipping,
as the stars plot a path for him
to reach her in eternity.

  

All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly

From the poetry series A Month with Yeats

PAIRED IN PARADISE

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We walk on soothing sands
in far flung foreign lands
that sweep seductions 
over sky and sea, we see,
in loving hands, golden wedding
bands, no tighter knot any sailor
ever made, we walk on beaches
of borders blue, better blues
than any blue has ever been, a better bond
than any eyes have ever seen, eyes
that tickle with tears, eyes that see
a future beyond the years, we twist
and turn to songs serenading the sunset,
a sway of celebration, a joyous jubilation
to court the continuous currents
of the fortunate fate that found you,
a dutch delight and a perfect Per,
here and happy folding hands
around hearts while a certitude
sweeps the shore, connections created 
in this paradise where gods have given glory,
where the universe maps out for you
a story, and when the sun sets your foot prints 
will settle upon the sand where you once stood, 
impressions tied by tides like the rings now worn;
bands to bind the bearers, you are now
like the sea and the shore;
bound to each other,                       always and forever more…

All Words and Photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

THEIR SPOT ON THE HILL, 100 WORD STORY

 

The light was losing itself to shadow.
Only a suggestion remained of what had once been.
The seas and the seasons had taken the rest.

He struggled up the hill.
He stood again, after all the years, on their spot,
on the whips of life tenting up through the dead grasses as the ruins watched him.

She’d been 19 when he asked her to marry him there.
She’d worn her mother’s perfume and a smile.

He’d only been 17 but he’d found all he’d ever needed.

Goodbye, he cried into the shadow of the day as he released her ashes.

All Words and Photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

Photograph of Dunure Castle along the South Ayrshire coastline in Scotland.

SCENE IN EUROPE, SCENE 9, ABERDEENSHIRE

Scene in Europe, Scene 9, Aberdeenshire, Roses and Thorns

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Sophie and Marty were sitting across from an ancient dovecot, amid the topiary gardens of Craigievar Castle, on a hill in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, not far from the Queen’s summer retreat in Balmoral which they’d driven through earlier in the hope of a royal glimpse but settled for buying a packet of custard creams in the local convenience store. It was an unexpectedly sunny day having arrived 4 days earlier to their two story Nordic styled lodge in the Hilton’s Craigendarroch resort, tucked into the woods of Royal Deeside, under a heavy blanket of clouds and rain. They’d detoured from their mainland European vacation for a family wedding, a distant relation of Sophie’s whose name she kept forgetting, but the festivities had distracted them from the downpour of the previous days. But now the party was over and it was their second day of Scottish exploration, at a slow pace, of course, considering the bunions, new hips, angina and all round ageing. Thankfully all bowel blockages were now a thing of the past, helped hugely by the sausage, bacon, eggs and haggis breakfasts.

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“It’s a castle,” Marty said disappointedly to his wife.

“I can see that, Marty, you think I bring you with me to point out the obvious? You think I thought it was mall?” his wife joked in her usual sarcastic tone, “this is what happens when you don’t want a shoe larger than your foot!” she whispered to herself. Even as a young girl, she knew she would never be able to cope with marrying someone bigger or better than herself, so you get what you’re given instead.

“But another castle, Sophie, really?” her husband questioned.

“Yes, another castle. Oy, if only I coulda got me another husband. Listen Marty, we don’t have these back home. It’s a once in a lifetime trip and at least it ain’t a cathedral,” she reminded him.

“But it ain’t all that different either,” he tried to point out.

“Oy Marty, you old putz, it’s a whole other story to a cathedral. People lived here; lords, earls, barons; the elite, gentry. Didn’t you watch Downton Abbey, it’s all the rage these days, all that old fashioned stuff; maids and servants, upstairs, downstairs; the traditions. We don’t have that sorta thing back home, all that land and not a bit of room for tradition. We pretend we do… but it’s all fake. We prefer a good condo to an old castle, even though we build our condo’s to look like castles.”

“Sophie, may I remind you that we’re Jewish, we have nothing but tradition.”

“Well, mazel tov to you then. We have our path, I know that, our Halakhah. I walk it daily and with you, believe me, Marty, it all takes on a whole other meaning,” she said with an exhaustive shrug, “we have Shabbat, Hanukkah, Yom Kappur, the mitzvah’s, the brit’s, the kipa, yada, yada, yada… they’re all a part of me, I ain’t denying that. But this, this is a whole other something, this is tradition on a whole other level. This is grandeur, this is excess, ain’t no one chopping anything off in these traditions, Marty.”

“Soph, you can’t say that,” her husband replied in an attempt to reprimand his wife’s words of disrespect for their faith.

“Really Marty,” she slapped back at him with that look he knew so well, reminding him instantly that he had forgotten that nothing was ever forbidden from falling from her lips, aside from a few words of affection that wouldn’t go amiss occasionally and a few other unmentionable words that he used to miss in the bedroom department, although that was now a department they no longer visited together. Someone had to love her, he told himself, maybe this was his Halakhah; his path in life.

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The baronial 17th century Craigievar Castle with it’s practically pink turret towers and glaring gargoyles loomed over them like a fairytale come to life as they shaded themselves beneath a giant topiary bush which Marty suggested was shaped like a UFO, a comment he’d earlier regretted sharing with Sophie.

“This one has a ghost too, you know, another story of love and loss,” his wife mentioned with a certain lightness to her gravel based voice while she scanned over the guide book, “seemingly, the father of a beautiful damsel tried to kill one of her suiters while he was climbing in the window one night, but before he was pierced in the heart, he fell from the window itself and plummeted to his death. Right here. Now they say he roams the hallways, in the eternal search for his love,” Sophie told him, “now ain’t that just darling. See Marty, men knew what love was back then, would do anything they could for it, dead or alive.”

“You know, Soph, they told us all this while on the tour, is your hearing all right? You think it’s time for a hearing aid? We could be hearing aid buddies,” he joked but as usual, she didn’t smile.

“The only aid I need is carrying around your lard ass, Marty. That pizza overload from Italy’s still pushing your tush southwards. And I can hear damn fine, thank you. Just can’t understand a thing anyone round here is saying. You sure it’s really English they speak in Scotland? I have my doubts. I can tell you. But it sure does sound good and boy oh boy, the men round here are real men, Marty,” she said, reminding him once again, in her own not-so-subtle way, of all his inadequacies.

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Yesterday, before their walk around the Spittal of Glenmuick at the end of Loch Muick, protected by the luscious heather covered hills dancing over glorious green mosses all rejoicing from the recent rainfall, they’d driven to Braemar Castle, built as a 17th century hunting lodge. It was there that Sophie had first been driven wild with excitement by the history of it’s reported ghost; a young woman who’d killed herself on her wedding night after awaking alone and believing her husband had deserted her. Sophie was almost teary eyed at the thought of the poor ghost, newly married and newly dead. And yet Marty’s wife managed to spent most of her time critiquing him, chastising him, chopping him. Today Marty realised he would never fully understand this woman on front of him, even if he managed to survive as long as this castle on front of him.

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He looked over at her; her dyed blonde hair, the skin a little softer now on the face as she’d missed her last two Botox sessions since they’d been away, her once buoyant chest now almost leaning on her fanny pack as she bent over to adjust the side seam of her turquoise leggings. Romance, he said to himself, half the time her heart’s as stone cold as these bloody castles and cathedrals, impervious to time and man himself. And other times, well, sometimes the drawbridge lowers itself to allow entrance but nowadays, with body getting older, that drawbridge seemed to be having trouble opening up as much as it used to.

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“You’re a real oxymoron,” he told her with a smile on his face.

“And you’re a real son of one, but so what? We make do with what we have, Marty,” she said as she took his hand to heave herself up out of the seat, “all these tales of youth and romance, they bring a flicker of something to me, what can I say?” she said with another shrug, an annoying habit she’d picked up in France.

“And what about us, what about our romance?” he asked, hands back to hiding in his tracksuit pockets, fearing the reply.

“Oy Marty, come on now, love in youth is a crown of roses, love in old age… it’s a crown of willows,” she told her husband as he made a small yelp, having leaned back too far against the shrubbery and pricked himself on a thorn from one of the low lying rose bushes.

“All righty then,” she continued, ignoring his pain, “how about we see about getting you a kilt to show off those legs of yours? You know how much I like your legs.”

“Well Sophie, that’s real nice of you to say,” he said, instantly forgetting the prick and suddenly beaming with an underused sense of pride and a rise in affection for his fortified wife. Perhaps the drawbridge just needed a little oil, after all, he thought to himself.

“Yeah well, Marty, anything to distract me from that saggy ass of yours.”

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.

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 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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