tagRomancePassegiatta Pt. 04

Passegiatta Pt. 04

byAdrian Leverkuhn©

©2008 ©Adrian Leverkuhn

"So what do you make of all this?" Goodwin asked Doncaster when they were safely outside the ristorante. "And what was that stuff about you being on some sort of a quest?"

"Ah, well, come on Goodwin, let's get those photographs, shall we? My interests here are probably of interest to only a few old, moldy academics. Now, how big are the photographs?"

"Well, they're not printed up yet, they're still on the card, but I figured I could download them onto my laptop and show them that way."

"Can you print them up later, if necessary?"

"Yeah, I have a printer onboard."

"Smashing! Good show!"

"You know Malcolm, you're a hoot."

"Only when absolutely necessary, old boy."

"Yeah, I kinda figured that." Goodwin hopped from the quay onto Diogenes, Doncaster's boat, made his way over to Springer. He dropped down below and rummaged around until he found his camera bag, then took the CF cards to the chart table and powered up his Macbook.

"Might I come below?" Doncaster asked, his face peeking down from the companionway.

"Yeah, of course."

"Holy Mother of God!" Doncaster said when he was below. "The must have felled whole forests to build this boat, Goodwin! It's bloody fantastic!"

"What? Oh, yeah. Thanks." Goodwin slipped the first card in and opened the catalogue. "Whew! This is it. I was afraid I'd have to sort through a dozen cards to find the right one." He tapped a few keys and images flooded onto the screen; when he found the ones he was looking for he downloaded them and put them in a slideshow, then closed the laptop. "Okay, that's it. Let's boogey!

"Boogey? My God! Are you one of them? A real honest to God Hippie?"

"Yeah, Malcolm, that's me. Peace, love, dope, and keep on truckin'! Come on, let's get back."

"You don't want to watch it first?"

"Doesn't matter much, Malcolm, does it. I mean, without some record of what the one here looks like, there's no real proof, is there?"

"I wouldn't be surprised if Ludvico knows."

"Nothing would surprise me right now, Malcolm. Not a goddamn thing."

__________________________________

Maria Theresa Morretti sat by an open window that looked out over the dark sea, a black shawl wrapped around her shoulders to ward off the night air. She had been sitting in the chair since coming in from Passeggiata earlier in the evening; now she watched moonlight dancing on tiny waves in the harbor below. She had, she thought, so much to be grateful for. Only that one dark spot on her soul remained. Would that time allow, she drifted on waves of stillborn hope.

She had not seen the encounter off the cape; her eyes were not so good for seeing things so far away, but she had known on the most elemental level of instinct what was happening out there in the darkness, and between whom. She leaned back in her chair, looked at the inconstant moon and the many moods that swung in her orbit, and she smiled. 'If not me, then perhaps . . .'

Yes, it is good to have so many memories, she thought, even the bad. Their chance glancing warmth is so comforting when all there is on darkened seas is the coming of night.

Toni, her youngest son, brought her a cup of tea, and the warm china felt good on her time-ravaged hands. Cool breezes drifted by, parted sheer curtains on the windows of her world, and like the petals of flowers opening she could smell him once again. She could smell the sea, feel the cool breezes that had pushed them together now almost sixty five years ago. She closed her eyes, saw him falling into the sea again in all his flaming glory. She heard explosions echo through corridors of memory, fires consumed the sea, the never ending ruin of war danced to ghostly anthems beyond her understanding. The men who came to her in their need, and the men who were taken away to march into the fire. The memory of him, of the one – that alone made her days bearable.

Oh, there was that day. That day of distant miracles. The day he fell from a burning sky, the day he came for her, on flaming wings.

___________________________________

Goodwin followed Doncaster back to the ristorante, back to the table. They were all there, all waiting. Mary Ann and Margherita were seated again, though the younger woman's face was red from too much wine and the fire of too many conflicting emotions, and Paulo was still there too, still looking concerned for his sister and dreading the possibilities this night held in tenuous abeyance. Goodwin sat down, put his laptop on the table as a lawyer might present evidence.

The old man looked at the computer, his eyes full of dancing mischief. He took another sip of wine. "What is this? This is not a photograph."

Goodwin explained; the old man listened politely to descriptions of digital cameras and compact flash cards, but he waved such folly dismissively from the air in front of him with an errant hand.

"I see," the old man said as Goodwin's technical explanations fell to the ground like just another bitter illusion. "So, this is as it must be, of course. Things change, and I assume for the better, but nevertheless we must begin our journey now, for time grows short." He looked around the table. "Obviously, I have not seen Goodwin's photographs before. But I am going to hazard a guess. I am going to say that the dolphin the good doctore saw, the one so agitated as to warn the doctore of the coming storm, has two small scars on his left side, about a half meter behind the eye. He will have two dark spots, small but nevertheless visible, under his right eye. I am going to guess that the doctore's talisman is indeed a native of these waters."

"Preposterous!" Malcolm shouted.

"Now lovey," Mary Ann chided, "do try not to be such an ass!"

"Bah!"

"Must I stay for this?" Paulo asked.

"Si, Paulo, I would like you to stay. I don't know why, but you were there at the cape tonight, so you must have a part to play in this drama. Now if you pleasae, doctore Goodwin, may we see these photographs?"

Goodwin opened the laptop and the slide show started; he turned the screen so everyone could see. The first image that came up was of Goodwin's friends on the dock waving as he pulled away from land at the beginning of his voyage across the Atlantic, then a few more images of friends following him out to sea for a few miles, for a few last goodbyes, then several of a very dramatic sunset followed. The very next frame was of a dark sea, of torpedo shapes beside Springer as the boat pushed through heavy seas. The dolphins in the image were dark grey on top and shockingly white below, a few had specks of dark coppery brown down their sides. The light wasn't good but the images were in sharp focus, and Goodwin cycled through them until the old man called out: "Stop! There!"

Goodwin turned the screen a bit so he could see better; the photograph showed the dolphin who had warned him, and it was plain that there were no scars or spots in the relevant areas. "So, nothing! This insn't him," Goodwin said smugly.

"No, no," the old man said, now clearly exasperated, "not her! Him! Look at the one behind!"

Godwin looked at the photograph again; he looked at the dolphin behind the one busy warning him. The image was of the right side of this other dolphin, and two dark spots were clearly visible under the eye as the animal just barely arced out of the water.

"Coincidence!" Doncaster shouted. "Nothing but bloody coincidence!"

"Perhaps," the old man said. "We need to see more of this dolphin, eh doctore. Surely there is another photograph?"

Goodwin resumed the slide show. The alleged female was visibly agitated in many of the images, and Malcolm made a snide comment on the resemblance of this dolphin to Mary Ann. This earned him a round of laughter and a swift kick under the table.

The next image came and everyone gasped. Goodwin paused the slide show and zoomed in on the image. There was no doubt about it; there behind the left eye were two old scars, probably made by an encounter with a propeller years ago. Goodwin looked at the old man; he wasn't even looking at the images . . . he was eating cheese and reaching for his glass of wine.

"I will be damned," Doncaster said quietly.

"Oh, surely not, Malcolm," the old man said. "You've led an honorable life." He smiled at Doncaster, then looked at Margherita. "My dear, you recognize him, don't you?"

"Si."

"It is the same one, from all those years ago?" he continued.

"Si, I believe so. But how can this be?"

"And was this the same one you were with tonight?" the old man asked.

"I am not sure. I could not see him well," Margherita said.

"I could," Goodwin said. "and it's him alright."

"Are you certain, Goodwin?" Doncaster said. "I mean, absolutely certain?"

"Yes, I think so. But Ludvico, what were you implying when you asked Margherita if this was the same one? From many years ago?"

"Oh, I imply nothing, doctore," the old man said impishly. "It was merely an observation of fact."

"Margherita?" Doncaster asked. "What does this mean?"

She looked around the table uncertainly. Paulo was ashen-faced, his beliefs shaken to the core, Mary Ann was erect in her chair staring off somewhere into the infinite. Malcolm was leaned forward, rested his forehead in his hands as if nursing a sudden headache. The old man had resumed picking at his food, though he had a smile on his face. Only Goodwin was looking at her now, and she saw in his eyes that he alone was on the verge of understanding.

"Yes, Tom. Many years ago, when I was twelve, no, thirteen, I was fishing with my father on his boat. My foot was caught in a net as it was thrown into the sea, and it pulled me in. The men on the boat did not see this happen, not even Papa was aware of what had happened." She looked down now, down into the well of deepest memory. "I remember the water, how clear it was, the nets spreading out around me, my ankle caught in the line. I remember most the sunlight and how it filtered down through the water, and I could see Papa's boat, the propellers as they turned in the water, the bubbles behind the boat as it moved away. But I was never afraid. It was peaceful. I knew I was to die, right then, and there was nothing for me to do. Then I felt him. Not rude or subtle, but I remember his eyes, the way he looked at me. I knew what he wanted me to do. I put my hand on his great fin and he pulled me to the surface, he swam alongside Papa's boat until one of the men saw me. Papa jumped in and cut the line from me. The dolphin was gone by then; he left as quickly and as silently as he came."

She had to stop talking now, the gales of memory tore through her, and it was as if she was falling into the sea again, and she felt lost in her powerlessness once again.

"And you're saying, if I understand you correctly, this is the same one?" Goodwin asked, pointing incredulously at the screen. "This dolphin, here with me in the Atlantic last May, is the one who saved you? What, how many years ago?"

"Si, doctore. Thirty years ago. Yes. The same one."

Goodwin slumped backwards in his seat, sighed heavily as the weight of these implications settled on his soul. 'Impossible,' he muttered to himself.

"Yes, doctore Goodwin. This was no accident of chance." The old man pointed at the laptop with his fork, and for all the world Goodwin had to stifle the laugh that spread through him when he saw the old man so, for he looked then like an old statue of Neptune he had once seen.

"Alright," Mary Ann asked, clearly full of subdued anxiety. "I have a picture of these events in my mind, but why would Paulo not tell me what he knew . . ."

"Because," the old man interrupted, "Paulo doesn't know the story in it's entirety. He has played but a minor role in these matters. At least so far."

"Now what does that mean, Ludvico?" Malcolm asked. "This is riddle upon riddle without end!"

"Eh? Sorry, professore! Perhaps we will achieve clarity before the sun rises. Perhaps not. It is as you said; we are denizens of the cave, not inclined to accept some truths in the light of day."

"Clarity! Who's talking about clarity? We're talking about purpose! Purpose beyond our understanding!"

"Just so, professore. But I do not want Paulo to talk of his role in these matters just yet."

Goodwin continued to stare at the old man. It was as if by association with these mysteries that he could just see the skin of the old man ripple and reform right before his eyes; he could fathom another form lying just beneath that which was apparent to his senses. It was just an impression, an impression of huge blue eyes and bright red wavy hair, but it wavered in the air before him for a moment and was as suddenly gone. He shook his head, told himself he'd had too much to drink while he reached for his glass. But the visage held him, caught somewhere at the very boundary between instinct and memory . . .

"And what is your role in these matters, Ludvico?" Goodwin asked.

The old man turned toward him slowly, the smile on his face gentle, knowing, and full of incomprehensible power. "It is your time, Tom Goodwin. Your time to finish what was begun. I am just a simple guide, that is all. Do not fear me."

Goodwin shook his head. "Nope. Sorry. I've had enough. I'm tired and I'm going to bed." Goodwin shut the laptop and stood. "It's been nice," he said. "Somebody let me know what I owe for this shindig, okay? I'm out of here."

"Tom," Margherita said, an edge of sorrow in her voice, "you must not leave me here."

"Then come with me. Now."

"She can not, Tom." Ludvico continued to smile benignly at him, but now there was a hint of power gathering in his voice.

"And why not?"

"Tom, sit down please. Sit and tell us why of all the places in the world you could have chosen to run to, why did you choose to come here. To this village, this harbor."

"I didn't run from away from anything!"

"No, indeed not, Tom. But perhaps you were running toward something?"

"Bullshit!" he yelled as he slammed the table with his fist. "That's pure bullshit!"

"Is it, Tom?" Ludvico said as calmly. "Were you running from the truth, or to the truth?"

Goodwin sat down, sighed as defeat caught him unawares. "I don't know anymore," he said, clearly exhausted. "I don't know anything anymore."

"Tom?" It was Mary Ann speaking now. "Does this have something to do with what happened to your mother? Between you and your father?"

Goodwin looked at Mary Ann; his eyes accused her of an immense betrayal.

"Tom. Doctore Goodwin. Tell us of this. It could be critical."

Goodwin looked from Mary Ann to the old man. "Why? Critical?"

"Let me come to that after you tell us of this struggle between you and your father. Please Tom. Do not fail us now. We are so close."

"Close?"

"Yes, Tom. Close, to the truth. To a resolution too long in coming, too long denied."

"This doesn't make any sense," Goodwin said.

"I know, Tom. You are too close to just one part of the story. I have seen this story unfolding for many years, and I have seen the hearts of many people touched in it's telling. This story it too big to be about one person, Tom. But you are obviously a key piece of the puzzle, and I need to understand why. We need to know why you were chosen."

"Chosen?"

"Yes, Tom. How did these events choose to find you, and why were those dolphins there if not to protect you. To what end? From what?"

"My mother was ill, her heart was failing, she wanted me to perform the surgery. I refused, unsound medical practice to operate on family members. She insisted, then too, so did my father." Goodwin was lost as these memories washed over him, tears welled in his eyes. "I continued to resist, colleagues supported my decision, we found others to perform the surgery and yet my mother refused, and so in the end I relented; she went into SCD, sudden cardiac death, she died, before we could get her to the O.R." Goodwin cried now, cried openly, then savagely. "My father condemned me, disowned me, told everyone that I had murdered my mother. I left my practice. Left my life, rather than face his hatred any longer."

"Yes. He was always hot tempered."

Tom Goodwin reeled under the implications of the old man's words, his world turned grey, distorted tunnel vision defined his view of the old man.

"You knew my father?"

Everyone around the table turned to look at the old man.

"Yes, Tom. There was a time when I called your father my friend."

Mary Ann Doncaster's mouth fell open, Paulo shook his head, a bead of perspiration formed on his forehead.

"Oh, this just gets better and better," Malcolm said.

"The seventh of July?" Margherita said. "1943."

"Precisely!" the old man said as he slapped the table. Goodwin flinched as truth bit into him.

"Alright, I'll bite," Malcolm said. "What happened in July of 1943?"

"My father's B-24 was shot down." Goodwin said stonily.

"Go on," the old man said, but he was looking at Margherita now, concern in his eyes dancing like a wildfire before savage winds.

"His unit was based in North Africa; they were flying raids all over southern Europe. He never talked about it much. One day over northern Italy his plane got shot up pretty bad. I think he said he was trying to get to Corsica or Sardinia, he didn't have enough fuel to return to his base in Tunisia. A German fighter jumped him somewhere near Genoa, the gunners still alive on his airplane held the fighter off, but it managed to shoot up his plane some more. A few of the surviving men bailed-out over land; Dad bailed-out somewhere over the sea and partisans hid him until the invasion forces reached the area. Then he went back to flying, finished the war, as a matter of fact, bombing Berlin."

"And did he continue to fly?" the old man asked, though he was still looking at Margherita.

"Yeah, he flew for TWA until he retired."

"And did he ever talk about the day he crashed? The things that happened to him that day? Or about his time with, as you say, the Partisans?"

"No, not ever. Refused to, as a matter of fact."

"Oh, no, don't tell me . . ." Malcolm groaned.

"Yes," the old man said. "I watched him falling, from right over there Tom, from that window. His parachute was on fire, and he hit the water at an incredible velocity. There, right off the cape about a kilometer."

"Oh, no . . ." Doncaster too grew visibly upset, he too began to sweat as implications danced all round the room.

"Yes, Malcolm. A dolphin brought him to the our harbor. To a boat that was moored exactly, Tom, where your boat was this morning. Where you were, if I may be so indelicate, when you so graciously fell into the sea. And to that end, I suppose we should thank Paulo for his part in this drama. Eh, bravo, Paulo!"

"Yeah, glad I could be of help. Now fuck off!"

"There's an odd symmetry about that, don't you think, Tom?" Doncaster croaked.

"You know, Malcolm, you continue to be a master of understatement."

"Thank you so very much." Malcolm was rubbing his temples now.

"Wasn't he hurt," Mary Ann asked, "in the fall?"

"Yes, but not badly. He was tended to by a young woman in the village who had begun nursing school before the war. She came home to be with family when America was pulled into the war. Your father fell in love with her, Tom."

"Who was she?" Goodwin asked. "Is she still alive?"

"Oh, very much so. In fact, you walked with her this evening."

"Mrs Morretti? Margherita's mother! Oh, come on now! You can't be serious!"

Paulo had been very still in the moments leading up to this exchange. "Oh si, doctore Goodwin, this is most serious. Of that I can assure you."

"My father and your mother! Are we . . ."

"Oh, no, no, doctore," the old man continued, "Margherita is in no way related to you."

"I feel sick," Goodwin said. "Excuse me . . ." He stood and left the table, walked out into the night. Margherita looked at Goodwin as he left, then looked at the old man.

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byAdrian Leverkuhn© 4 comments/ 8445 views/ 1 favorites

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