Archive for travel

Italian Movie

Posted in The Word: Stories, Writing Exercises with tags , , , , , on 12/10/2011 by Janet Fitch

The Word: SLIP

A youngish man with graying hair stands on the sidewalk of the elegant Via Ariosto, looking up. Across the street, an older woman follows his gaze, up the building’s third story to where a young woman stands on a balcony in her slip. A young brunette woman in a white slip, tall shutters half-open behind her.

Milan, summer, twilight.

Leaning over the art nouveau railing, lush dark hair full over her shoulders, the young woman drops a white handkerchief–no, something wrapped in a handkerchief–to the man looking up. He misses the toss. Leans over and picks the package up.

It is an Italian movie. A key. Dropped from the third story balcony to the lover below.

What she remembers are those slender arms, the flutter and flash of a white handkerchief, the white slip, the glossy brown hair, the smile, and how the youngish man unwraps the handkerchief, climbs the steps, lets himself in with the tossed key.

Now the older woman stands alone on the Via Ariosto. The youngish man with the graying hair is gone. The slender-armed, graceful, barefoot woman on the balcony, the woman in the slip, has disappeared inside the half-shuttered room.

The other woman feels it, a deep ache. That she would never drop a key in a handkerchief from an elegant balcony before shuttered doors, wearing a white slip, for a handsome graying youngish man, in a midsummer twilight on an elegant Milanese road.

She’d just come back from the leafy corner café, where she drank a vino bianco alone under the trees–elms? Her divorce already cold. She is 56 years old, and she would never stand on a balcony in a white slip… god, they’d call out the Carabinieri! Her ashbrown hair streaked with gray would make no appealing picture, her plump bare arms tossing a key–to no one.

And yet, the beauty of this movie is unmistakable, heartpiercing in the twilight. She is slightly drunk. The fierce heat has ebbed to sensuous luminous blue. A man stands on the curb reading a newspaper lying in the street. His hands remain in his pockets, he has no intention of picking it up. An older man, older than her.

It is too early to return to the hotel. She strolls along the leafy street, remembering the loveliness of the woman on the balcony. Wondering, did loveliness need to be one’s own to give one happiness?

And what if she were the woman on the balcony? That Giulietta or Giovanna. Would she even know how beautiful she was? No. Truly, she would not.  She would be thinking of her lover, of their evening ahead, the salad she would make, a light salad on a night like this. But not the beauty of this moment.

It’s all merged into one single thing–the woman, the man, the twilight, the street. How evanescent–life, beauty. But this, this is hers alone, this moment–she, with the eyes of a traveler, she is the one who caught the key more surely than the graying youngish man.

Part  of a semi-weekly series of short short stories based on a writing exercise, The Word.  “Inspired by a simple word, chosen at random, write a two-page double-spaced story, using the Word at least once.”

 Next week’s word is: PAN


Unter den Linden

Posted in The Word: Stories, Writing Exercises with tags , , , , on 11/26/2010 by Janet Fitch

The Word: Map

Helena opened her map of Europe, spread it before her on the kitchen table, sipped her coffee. Her next trip would be northern, she decided. Yes. In late spring. Germany, Denmark, Sweden. Maybe even Helsinki–their design was so good. Textiles, furniture, glass. Marimekko, Alvar Aalto. Curved birch. All right, Stockholm with its canals, the stony Swedish coastline. Though in winter, gas lanterns warmed the night down the major Stockholm boulevards. But Berlin in winter? She shuddered. No, it must be spring. Spring Unter den Linden, and the Zoo district where Shklovsky and the old exiles from Russia had lived… Koln, with its Carnival, when was Carnival? She checked her Lonely Planet Germany guide. Oh, it was early. February. She would have to choose between budding lindens and the wild street festival of Rosenmontag.

She traced the rugged northern coastline of Germany, the island-dotted Danelands. It would be an easier drive in spring. If she rented a car, she could hit the little villages, ferry between the islands. By train she could cover more territory. Warsaw? Or stay to the west, Netherlands, Bruges, Cologne, then across, Marburg, Leipzig, the university towns. Gottingen, Heidelberg, Tubingen… Freiburg too far south. But there was Prague and Vienna–Klimt, the Vienna Secession. The cafés–the pastries! She went to her files and pulled out her old Germany/Austria/Czechoslovakia Michelin road map–but really, it was too old, Iron curtain stuff. She would need a new one if she were to do it by car again.

She sighed. How much it had changed since she was there last. No more shuddering as a uniformed guard peered into the car, checked the passports. She wondered if she would like it as much.

Every year she went somewhere, a big trip, two months, she used to do it with Roger, but now that he was gone it took a great deal of planning. Roger used to attend to all these details, all she had to do was pack. But she was up to it. Last year she had gone to Argentina, Chile, Peru and Ecuador–oh the damp, and the headaches in that final ascent to Cuzco! The furniture shops of Buenos Aires–the value of the dollar was at least good somewhere–Europe hadn’t been worth it.

But now, the dollar seemed to have sorted itself out and Europe was possible again.

Her son, Bart, knocked on the kitchen door, came in, kissed her, set a bag of groceries down on the counter. “Planning another trip?” he asked. He was getting old himself, she could see the worry lines in his face, the silver threads in his dark hair.

“Germany. The university towns, Berlin, maybe Rothenberg. then Vienna and Prague.” She gazed at him owlishly through her large glasses.

He sighed and began unpacking her groceries into her refrigerator. Such a good boy, so thoughtful. But he really needed to travel more. Have more a sense of adventure. She had given him Travels with my Aunt for his birthday, ordered it online.

“Well, you know you won’t have to worry about dysentery this time,” he said.

She didn’t like his tone. Not one bit.

“I went to get your prescriptions,” he said, looking up from loading the crisper drawer–he’d gotten romaine again, instead of the redleaf she liked. “They closed that Walgreens. We’ll have to go over to CVS now, on Glendale Blvd. We’ll call Dr. Thomas to change the pharmacy.

“They closed the Walgreens?” she said. The Walgreens had always been there. It disturbed her that it was no longer where it had been. She didn’t like to have to recalibrate her image of her neighborhood.

“At least you could go out and get your newspapers, they’re piling up. On your way to the airport.”

“I’m not leaving until April.” Yes. It was decided. Unter den Linden.

“It’s six steps off the front porch,” he said. “It’s broad daylight. I’ll come with you.”

He was such a noodge! “I’ll get them when I get them.”

He kissed her then, and fished the trash out from under the sink, and carried it out to the cans, which she could see from the window. April in Berlin, that was just about right.

Part of a weekly series of short short stories based on a writing exercise, The Word. “Inspired by a simple word, chosen at random, write a two-page double-spaced story, using the Word at least once.”

Next week’s word is: NOSE