(Read part one of this day here.)
My mind whirred. The Meyer business seemed a sterling opportunity, what with his Bank of England connection, but I couldn’t help thinking of my father, and of my grandfather, and my great grandfather, and the hedgehog who raised him—baton salesmen, all. Batons were in my blood, at least until the hematologists could find a cure. I knew what I had to do.
“Sorry to say it, Pierson. But you can tell Meyer I’m out.”
Pierson stroked his chin and forced a flurry of iridescent orbs from his pipe. He was taking the news well, or so it seemed until he flipped the table and body slammed a passing sommelier. Startled, I briefly considered reversing my decision, if only to safeguard the wait staff, but by that point Pierson had progressed in the stages of grief from anger to self-flagellation with a soba noodle, which I took as my cue to leave. And anyway, I was now covered in clams.
I’d nearly escaped the Zsa Zsa’s premises when a stern tapping accosted my trapezius. I spun ’round and came face-to-face with that grouch of a maître d’food, his calumnious gaze fixed on the clam-baked burqa. After the hurling of countless recriminations, intimidations, and heirloom tomatoes, I found myself hopelessly dragooned into ponying up for the garment, which, just my luck, was Chanel. A prêt-à-prayer loaner burqa I could understand, but haute couverture?
Debouching onto the sidewalk, then, I was more than slightly frazzled. I craved something to calm the nerves, not to mention settle the stomach and cleanse the palate of shellfish residuals. I espied kitty-corner a trattoria and reasoned a stiff Sambuca would be just the thing to right the ship, as they say; I made for the establishment with haste.
I entered the trattoria and found it quiet. The host stand was unattended, despite having received rave reviews in Platform Weekly. Sensing movement I turned toward the bar and there beheld the most beautiful woman I’d seen since my days selling sandcastle timeshares on Ipanema. Her hair was dark, and she wore a tight red sweater beneath a navy apron, though whose navy I couldn’t tell. Our eyes met and had much in common, like an aversion to direct sunlight. Our mouths smiled.
“I’m afraid the kitchen’s closed right now,” she said. “The ramekins are on strike.”
“Not a problem,” I responded breezily, though I’m quite serious about aggrieved ceramics. “I’ll just take a Sambuca.”
Another smile. What great teeth she had! So pearly and flossable. She set the drink on the bar. “I’m Beatrice, and this,” she said gesturing widely, “is my place.”
I glanced askance at the menu. “Why is your place called ‘Vincenzo’s’?”
“Vincenzo is a liar!” she screamed, flinging my Sambuca to the ground, shattering the glass. She drew a deep breath, then hung it on the wall with her other sketches. Calmly, she poured me a second drink.
“You see, it is a difficult subject. For Vincenzo was my lover.” Beatrice began: “I met him seven years ago, in the scorched hills of Calabria, where he was working as a donkey massager with his uncle, Giuseppe di Pepperoni. I’d gone for a long walk outside of town when, from behind a cantilevered copse, I heard an intense braying. I came to the other side of the thicket, and there he was. Vincenzo. Shirtless, muscles glistening with sweat, expertly performing ashiatsu on a jack’s ass. I fell immediately in love.”
I nodded, struggling to feign interest in this predictable story. Beatrice kept talking.
“But I couldn’t love Vincenzo. Or rather was forbidden to love him. First of all he was a mule kneader, and I come from a good family. My mother was a celebrated prima donna and my father, well, my father owned several toucans. Second, I was already pledged to be wife to the Duke of Fellini! But most importantly my people, the Mortadellas of Cosenza, had had vendetta against the Pepperonis since 1473, when someone sneezed. I despaired that I could never be with Vincenzo, my one true love!”
My glass was empty and my patience about exhausted. Beatrice may have had a pair of world-class calves, but they weren’t worth this earache. Before I could stop her, though, she’d bestowed a refill.
“Vincenzo and I began to meet secretly at night, in the donkey stables. There amid the hay and the parasites we consummated our love, sharing passionate, feverish butterfly kisses until dawn!”
My head was pounding. I started to wonder how much more of this tale I could take—and how much Sambuca I’d already had.
To be continued