Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Cat in Florence

Chapter 16
[Go to beginning]
When I arrived at the train station the first thing I thought of were Jenny’s bags. I went to the lockers and looked in my ticket envelop for the small plastic locker key. Not there. I dug through my pockets. Not there, but it could be in the pants I’d packed. No it couldn’t. I was wearing the pants in which I’d arrived. It had to be in one of these pockets. It wasn’t.
I stood there thinking what to do next. I didn’t even remember the locker number. What could I tell the person who managed the lockers? Who did manage the lockers?
The hell with it. Jenny wasn’t ever going to need the things in her luggage. She was now just a cat in Florence.
I boarded the train, showed the porter my ticket, was shown to my compartment, and sat on the bunk with a sigh, holding my head in my hands. Good god, what a terrible trip!
A few minutes into the trip the porter brought me a menu for the evening meal and asked if I wanted anything. I asked for a bottle of beer, and then quickly changed the order to two beers. The porter looked around the compartment briefly and said, “Due persona, Signore?
“No,” I said. “Uno. The two beers are for me.”
“Si, Signore. Due bira.” He looked around briefly, no doubt wondering why I had a compartment for two. Let him wonder. He’d never believe me if I told him.
I opened my suitcase to get out my pajamas and robe. I’d jammed everything in helter-skelter and when I started pulling things out two shoes fell out. They were the loafers I thought I’d left, one in the woman’s house, and the other in the trash outside the hotel.
What the hell?
I  picked up up the shoes and stared at them. They looked okay, not like they’d been in a dumpster. Looking closer, I saw that one had what looked like claw marks all along one side, from heel to toe. Three marks, one deeper than the others. I dropped the shoes beside the bunk and fell back with just my feet hanging over the side of the bunk. I didn’t have the energy, physical or emotional to ponder how the hell these shoes had reappeared in my luggage.
I’d been about to fall asleep when the porter returned with my two beers and a bag of nuts. I finished the beers one right after the other and ate the nuts in big handfuls. Then I fell back on the bunk again and almost immediately felt myself drifting off on the rumble of the train wheels.

And there she was, Jenny. Just as I remembered her; standing besides the Ponte Vecchio, her green eyes following me as I approached, tossing her auburn hair, smiling that seductive smile she had. I was so relieved. I rushed to embrace her, but she kept moving away from me, not walking, but just seeming to be further and further away. And then the bridge started falling into the Arno River brick by brick, faster and faster, until the bridge was cascading into the river and Jenny, calling out to me, disappeared into the river with the bricks, until all that remained was her scream.
I woke to the scream of the train whistle and sat bolt upright, hitting my hit on the top bunk. I sat on the edge of the bunk and rubbed my head. I had to pee.
I got up and shuffled to the door, opened it and started to step out into the corridor. Then I realized that I was barefoot, and I remembered what the floor of the train toilet was like. I left the door ajar and went back and pushed my feet into the shoes, and then went out and down the corridor towards the toilet.
When I got to the toilet I stood and looked up at the door handle; up and up at the door handle. Had I fallen? I looked down and saw that I was on all fours. But all the four feet I was standing on were paws. One paw hurt and I picked it up and looked at it, and then sat on my haunches and licked it. Then I turned my head sharply and began licking the fur on my back. Once I started with the licking it became hypnotic and I licked my other paw and ran it over my face, licked it again, and ran it over my face again, and then did it a few more times until I was satisfied. Then I peed next to the door to the toilet, turned and started to scratch with my back feet. There was nothing around to bury the urine with, but I did it by force of habit.
What?! What the hell?! I’m not a fucking cat. What am I doing. Panic gripped me so hard it squeezed the breath out of me. I arched my back and hissed. Spun in a circle swatting at my tail. My tail?!
I tried to slow my breathing. Calm down, I told myself. You’re still dreaming. I closed my eyes and tried to wait it out. Then I heard footsteps. I opened my eyes. The porter was coming down the corridor. I watched him approach. He saw me and stopped dead, narrowing his eyes. I heard him hiss, “Un gatto!”
I stood and hissed back, “I’m not a fucking cat!”
The porter started towards me, moving slowly, calling me a ‘kitty,’ and making a clicking sound with his tongue against his palate, “Tchk, tchk, tchk.”
I watched him approach, putting my ears back and widening my eyes. When he got within a few feet, he lunged at me, but I was ready. I scooted between his legs and raced down the corridor towards my compartment. The porter, swearing under his breath chased after me, but I left him behind quickly and reached my compartment. But I couldn’t turn the door handle. I leaped up at the handle several times, but it was hopeless. I had to find someplace to hide until I woke up from this stupid dream.
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