Still Waters & Deep Dead Ends
Do You Want Your Palm Red?
There is a dolphin at the zoo that speaks Italian—your sister says she’s shared an anchovy with it. She always brings this up as distraction whenever talk of your demise comes up.
When she was a teen Adeline wanted to be a dancer selling gelato down by the riverside, but you, replacing both of your dead parents, discouraged her with searing harshness. (Sherlock never managed to plumb the depths of your cruel psyche to reach anything resembling a reason for this vile behavior. The book was just titled The Case of The Devil Brother.)
Whenever it was time to carry the waterlogged hexagon over to the shredding machine you’d slip on your Auguste Rodin mask, and deeply carve into her self esteem with snide remarks.
Yes, she still remembers those days—each as dreadful as a hangnail or stubbed toe—when the setting sun disappeared over Missouri like a slice of rotting baloney. There you always were, arms akimbo, flaunting your moist dodecahedron as the machine excitedly sliced it to slivers. Like chalkmarks on a dungeon wall—torments, day after day.
Who could blame her for emptying a thimble-full of cold tears onto a venus fly trap at her office when she saw that photograph taken from above—your arms and legs outstretched as if in flight.
She went to college, got a degree in rubber stamping, and is now managing the Gondola Club’s rental office — the neverending sound of seagulls imitating Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Mikrophonie II overhead—rubber stamping in red ink the palms of those borrowing one of those fancy watercraft here in Venice, Illinois. It’s just how things are done here.
Q. Which Side Of Your Hand Do You Grease?
A. The Palm.
One year plump Belle and her similarly rotund brother Lüga had come down from Quebec for the weekend, hoping to drench their eyeballs in midwestern sights and role play a visit to that other Venice. Intending to go the whole megillah, their rucksack was bloated with his sailor shirt and woven straw hat, her crinoline, and a couple of Carnevale masks. Lüga’s green alligator wallet was ready to spew the extra spondulix to assure reservation of the most lovely vessel—one decorated like the fanciest coffin.
(Adeline inadvertently bats her eyelashes when bribed, humming Funiculì, Funiculà to herself to drown out her tinnitus.)
I had watched them depart from the pier that day. His robust arms working energetically, he rowed his sister in that Italianate dinghy—out along the consequences of her astrological chart and all the way to the edge of happenstance. I recall noting that the long oar handle was permanently carmine from years of rubber stamped hands. When the gondola was not returned by morning Adeline notified the authorities, who found little in the couple’s hotel room but the usual tourist miscellanea, some sex toys, and an Italian phrasebook.
It took a week but the garzilla ended floating up dead near the Merchant’s Bridge—masticated bits of the Canadian couple found during the ichtological autopsy.
Pay The Pavement Piper
Most evenings you worked as a cartwheeling maître d' at the riverside restaurant next door to the indoor rock climbing boutique. To scorn your sister’s dreams you were known to always wink at the pliéing ballerinas who sold tiramisu from their carts.
All of us knew your vicious monologues in the script you had written for yourself and your captive sister. But—as if under the spell of an actors’ guild strike—none of us were willing to act to stop you.
But then the two visiting cinematic spies—who had rented the fifth floor apartment with the fish skeleton balustrade— looked down and microscoped your camouflage.
Your jig was up, then down, then up — bobbing on Adeline’s tears.
Pineapple latte in hand I surveilled it all — over the azalea-filled flower box in the bordello window across the esplanade.
The duo of moles, who nom de guerre’ d themselves Fields and Brooks (after W.C. and Mel), figured Newton’s apple law—combined with a strong pat on the back—was a good strategem.
Inviting you up for Spinoza Mimosas on the veranda, they calculated correctly that your nostrils would be distracted away from the smell of impending doom by the champagne bubbles.
The local paper, the Illie Noise, headlined “Splat!” above the photograph.