By Michael Francis Glennon
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He turned off the stratum onto a narrow stone-walled street and crossed underneath a gate into a darken alley that led to a path outside the walls of the old city. The stones at his feet did not shine like those of the stratum; they were not cleaned in the early morning as the main street was with all of its shops, restaurants and tourists. He passed over a bridge and onto a street where the sun was shining. At an intersection he bought two plums from a man with long blond hair who sold fruit from of the back of a rusty van. In the darken shadow was an old woman with missing teeth hawking live chickens.
When he saw her he knew she was lost in this maze of back streets enclosed by high walls colored with strands of hanging laundry.
"Wie weit ist es bis strand?" She asked.
He understood her meaning but not her language. Like himself, she was dressed for the beach and he held up his beach mat and gestured her to follow. She was lead through streets, up stairs and around corners. He sensed her alarm at the queer route they followed and she spoke lightly to him in German.
"It's just a little farther," he said.
They reached an outcrop above the city that looked out over the sea. He turned to her and she smiled. She was pretty. The entrance to the beach was hidden from sight so he lead her to the path of stairs and down to a gate where a man was collecting money beneath a fig tree. He handed a wad of paper currency to the man and without realizing it he had paid both their admission fees. The confusion amused them yet he refused to take her money when she offered to repay him.
The beach was crowded with sunbathers and swimmers and not far from the water he chose an area to lay out his things. He loosened the string on the furled bamboo mat and rolled it onto the smooth stones that made up the beaches along the eastern Adriatic shore. He was surprised when she placed her mat next to his and striped down to her bathing suit. She wore a leopard print bikini that he found amusing next to her creamy white skin.
He removed his shirt and espadrilles and dove into the warm saline water. She waded out slowly toward him and he swam to her and she splashed him playfully. He retreated to his mat, lit a cigarette and watched her swim. An obese Englishman on holiday with his family lay close by and his ivory flesh rapaciously absorbed the midday sun. She returned to her mat dripping wet and selected some coins from her handbag and walked toward the concessions where locals sold food and drinks. She reappeared holding two cups of cola and handed him one. He smiled and sipped the warm soda.
"Even," he said.
She tilted her head and he dismissed an explanation with a wave of his hand.
They became comfortable upon their mats. He made a pillow of his towel and there rested his head. He turned to her and saw that she no longer wore her leopard print top. Her large breast dangled before him, her pointy nipples facing the sea.
He found himself starring, admiring their firmness and milky white hue. When she turned to him his American morality forced him to look away. At the waters edge a film crew dressed in black poet's clothing directed a young boy and girl, both naked, to run into the sea and splash about while tossing wild honeysuckle high into the air. The nearby Brit could not look away from the breasts of the young German and a rash of freckles broke out upon his bleached skin.
She smiled at the American and sipped her cola. She laid back upon her mat and closed her eyes. He lit a cigarette and watched the film director lash out at the young actor while making him pick up the wild strands of honeysuckle as the young actress, naked and sitting in the shallows, tossed pebbles into the water admiring the ring forms that drifted out to sea.
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