by Prospero Dae
Stan Malatesta gazed outside where, along a wrought iron gate, under a giant linden, a man dressed in a flowing white chasuble walked a wolverine. It had a prominent stripe on its back and, despite the expectation of it having a belluine gait, the opposite was true: it pranced daintily, blissfully unaware of its shackles. The pavement, tessellated with turquoise and gold squares, glinted in the probing beacon of Moore’s lighthouse.
Away from the window, in a white wicker chair, Stan felt a tingle at the back of his head, just behind his ears, past the cerebellum, and all the way down the brain stem into a great and unending abyss. A wrinkly plastic bag dropped onto the vitreous tile. Suddenly there was a stir, and Issy—tall, crimson, dressed as fiery Carmen from Bizet’s eponymous opera, wafted down the stairs, her long black hair as sheeny as the rich, glossy coat of storybook steeds. She froze at the bottom of the circular staircase and stood arms akimbo.
The vapor continued to excite and presently, as in the best hallucinations, she spoke in a mellifluous soprano voice: “You work in a bookstore and have no respect for books—just these damned toy airplanes!” She tossed her flowing mane. Her nostrils flared broadly and she added, “Look at these books. Glue all over them. It’s appalling. And the smell. How can you stand it?”
“They’re my books,” said Stan with poorly masked overtones of self-righteousness.
“Oh, of course. You really know the difference…you’re in another world when you play with those worthless toys. Are you a man or a boy? When will you grow up?” She paused, happy to have drawn a tiny gout of blood, but judging by the impact it had on Stan the effect must have been so infinitesimal small as to have existed solely in the rills and rivulets of her agitated mind. “And where’s my copy of Finnegans Cake by H. Copperfield Elms? I can’t find it. I searched everywhere. It’s a rare copy. Did you defile it with your epoxy?” Fire was spewing from her cranberry-red mouth.
And with exaggerated panache Stan stood up and thrust his hands into his pockets. “Open my briefcase.”
“Why?” asked Issy bitterly.
“Do it,” insisted Stan.
Izzy acquiesced and found the book, in pristine condition, lying on top of various blueprints and glossy-covered aircraft magazines. “Ah, here it is.”
“Look inside. The first page,” insisted Stan.
She held the book firmly in her hot little hands and looked inside. “It’s signed! You got it signed,” said Issy, astonished at her good fortune.
“It was a surprise” said Stan. “Just a stupid surprise.”
“But how did you manage to—” began Issy.
“Elms was at the store ahead of a book signing engagement, when at the right moment I barricaded him in the backroom,” said Stan, returning to his chair, his left eye twitching. “I had the swine pinned between the water cooler and a stack of girlie magazines as high as the tower at Babel, and he produced his incomprehensible signature, willingly.”
“And you just happened to have my copy with you at the time,” said Issy.
“Blind luck,” rejoined Stan.
“I feel stupid now,” confessed Issy, toying with the scrumptious folds of her crinoline skirt. “I don’t even need to have my copy signed now, but I’ll go just the same. I must be one of his greatest fans.”
“Suit yourself. I’ll let you know when the prodigal son is due to return.”
Stan Malatesta sat back, snatched a model plane from the small table at his feet, and rotated lovingly a Spitfire Mk II in front of his wide, brimful eyes. “Do you like it? It’s my finest work.”
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Prospero Dae lives in Bermuda, with a dog named Ariel, near the 1609 shipwreck of the Sea Venture, amid a farrago of flowers, which whispers stories in his conch-like ears. He never sought formal training in shipbuilding or blacksmithing—or anything that could be construed as useful, though writing seemed natural.