IV – THE MAGIC CASHBOX

IV

At the former Royal Castle atop a verdant hill – once Royal Hunting Grounds – once real people are now actors talking through elaborate costumes. Only Pulcinella, the mask, is as unreal as he once was. We linger a bit while, in the big room, King Charles V and his son Philip (not yet King of Spain) look at the scene through the eyes of Titian with what seems little amusement. They must certainly have other concerns with their Empire on which the sun never sets – they look out the big paned windows, at palm trees and magnolias, at the old town down below and the Bay, the mountains, Capri and the Vesuvius (you don’t see it now, you just know it’s there, which is a typically Neapolitan thing you’re told.) In another room a lady-in-waiting of some Crown Princess tells of how good the Kings are (were) and how many good things they do (did) and how much they love (loved) their people. Coy about the romantic escapades of the Queen, excited about the King who likes to mingle with the fishermen at the docks – unwinding, 18th-century style. The court, she says, is assembled in the Royal Palace downtown, facing the docks and the port and the dormant volcano, and looks out its big paned windows shaking its one head at the king’s odd behavior. She likes it, though; she’s one of the people. So kings look out, the court looks out, the city looks out, till the sound of coins tingle in the fancy plumed cap to stipulate a due return for these professional productions of professional actors – even though that does break the illusion and horses’ hoofs in the distance are just tourists being trotted around, not unclogged, smog-free roads and boulevards, on which the sun does set eventually behind acrobatic high-rises on winding paths up and down once lush bountiful hills.

I – WHERE TO LOOK

I

It is the day Ethiopia will plant 250 million trees to tackle climate change and yet another boat of refugees will sink in the Mediterranean; posts are viral with the reactions of Italian Navy officers rescuing dead bodies, of mothers, of infants, of newborns wrapped firm in their mother’s denim leggings; (globalization for all of us, baby; or the impression of safety you think denim leggings will give against the very blue waters of the Med? I was staring, spellbound, at the same sea only yesterday afternoon, from the soothing shores of Cape Posillipo, the ‘respite from worry’ of ancient Greek seafarers – this would have struck a discordant note with the death bulletins from south of Sicily.) This morning Vesuvius shows the bay and the city its sinuous flanks and round top, the middle ground being wrapped in clouds, white and light blue, like the clouds can steal the hues of the morning sky – anyone can wax poetic when it comes to the bay of Naples – guide books informing the impression-thirsty traveller where to look at dawn and where to look at sunset, where to be as the sun rises and where as the sun sets (then do whatever you like in between, explore what’s in between sunrise and sunset, like the vows some exchange at a wedding, for better, for worse, for rich and for poor, in sickness and in health, till death do us part – who’s us? – the Baroque absurdity of existence coming out in the crumbling palazzi, some wonderfully restored, which you will just stumble on, not visit, as they come to you unexpectedly. You can’t feel it unless you’re here.)

DUMBFOUNDED DUPLICATION

paper shots 2 - 127.jpg

“It’s in that drawer.” He marched to it confidently. “Found it?” He opened the drawer but found various types of tools, of which, let’s see… pliers, a kind of screwdriver… this looks like a hammer with a double blade at one end, it has to have a name, and, hold on, two more. So one is a chisel, the other is not. They do look similar, though. Small chisel and big chisel? “I didn’t know which size you preferred.” She grabbed the small one. “You do know that’s not really a chisel?” “You mean the big one?” “Yes.” “Yes.”

In response to: https://carrotranch.com/2019/03/14/march-14-flash-fiction-challenge/

THE BOOK AND THE FLIGHT

paper shots 2 - 128

On 30th November, 6 years ago at the very least, G. Mur[…]sy flew from Europe to warm Sharm el Sheik, Egypt. So says the faded stub of an airline ticket found in the 2013 reprint of a French book, a classic, written some seventy years ago and set roughly ten years before that. The book has nothing to do with Egypt and would make a few hours’ light reading only of a highly educated passenger, or one suffering from the same existential maladie the book is about, or one whose fear of any possible turbulence only deep philosophical absorption might help to ease. On the plane, G. Mur[…]sy was in class Y, seat 6A – takeoff occurred at 10:55 pm. Lots of people keep their ticket stubs because they forget about them so we can’t suppose G. Mur[…]sy would want this back, or the book either, which a dog ear on page seventy-three signals she might not have liked.

MISPLACED FAMILIARITY

15875493_10210768441234663_5030552133909808736_o

Suddenly at night they’re all lost and confused. Streets and stops in the light of day have a misplaced familiarity after it gets dark. It was blackout night, for their minds. “Oh, please, sorry, I forgot to call my stop, can you…?” The doors open for her, unlawfully but kind. Then we turn into a street and he needs to get off, presses the button, last minute, hurls himself onto the doors and calmly disappears along the sidewalk. Then there’s Fidgety, the seat too small, has three phones tucked in three pockets, jean jacket, sneakers and a cap. The fluorescent bar showing the stops is not working, will the driver please tell him where his stop is? He will. So he alights, checks his map on one phone, calls a friend on another and the third he lets ring twice before putting it on silent. The bus rides off and it’s a different kind of quiet.

In response to: https://fivedotoh.com/2018/10/09/fowc-with-fandango-silent/

#FOWC

BACK TO THE COUNTRY – PRECISION

paper shots 2 - 64

Grandma used to hang the laundry on those wires, and it would float in the breeze. She had a basket to put it in when dry and I guess I’d follow her up the sloping garden and onto the big expanse of green grass. Behind us, grandpa was picking peaches, apples and pears, orange apricots. Or he was busy inside, at other times, at his income tax – “he uses a calculator and then does it all again by hand to see if the calculator is right!” she’d say. Now their two sons balance his checkbook and he doesn’t seem to care, even laughs at their precision. And the laundry, seldom out to dry on the rusty poles and saggy wires, somebody else collects it. It’s the smell that takes you in – the smell has stayed the same. And the bees, fortunately, buzzing around the flowers. There, those have changed. There used to be so many more.

BACK TO THE COUNTRY – RUINS

paper shots 2 - 95

I am deaf and yet the world listens. I am blind and yet the world sees. I don’t talk and yet there are sounds. What a strange combination of thoughts. If I were any of these things I would think intuitively everybody else was like me, till they told me it wasn’t so. The other side of the little valley is the village, once thriving, now much less, with the willing effort of a so-called repopulation. We never can let go completely, but it does strike the imagination now as the unpretentious bell tower, above the rooftops, has a tuft of something sticking out under the tatty small dome of slate. It’s blades of grass, quite a clump must be, seen so from a distance, and it makes the bell tower a proper ruin in the modern sense – sneaky for a piece of architecture.

HELPIN’ OUT

paper shots 2 - 93.jpg

Platform numbers are late coming up, and in the midsummer dawn outside half a day seems to have gone by already – hence, probably, people rush around and enquire track numbers of perfect strangers (dedicated staff is a few steps away – too far!) or of this pink-shirted man, somewhat plump, those are sweat stains from yesterday or the day before, his hair slicked back, who walks up and down the station in pool sandals and helps out, his services now to a woman complaining in three languages before she gets the right one that, !!They moved track 7!! His being busy looks like he could genuinely solve the problem of homelessness, once and for all, because we all smelled what it’s like to be homeless coming up from the subway below and only ground Arabica at the 24/7 café could sniff that away. That, was only 2 and a half minutes ago.