The Song of the Gondolier: Episode 1

Ah, Venezia bella. Imagine the labyrinth of architecture enveloping the charming little island city cut by crystalline canals. Narrow cobbled streets frame the gondoliers who paddle serene and winding canals. Listen! The gondolier serenades. His tones are soft, and the sound of the water at his oar as he glides a forward stroke is at once soothing and evocative.

This is where Mr. and Mrs. Grubfeldt were to rekindle the flames of their courting days, rediscover each other’s coital mysteries and once again embrace one another in the naked, fleshy inferno that is the true romance invariably strangled by marriage. For, after smelling her swollen husband’s body gases for nearing thirty-five years, Mrs. Grubfeldt finally snapped, bought a travel magazine and demanded that he prove that his passions extended further than watching UFC and eating pop tarts dipped in butter. And to his unexpected credit, he got off his enormous behind and booked them a trip to Venice.

Within months (for spontaneous romance of this nature ought to be carefully prepared, outfits ought to be coordinated with shoes and exclamations such as “mi scusi, il cane sta leccando il suo pene”, ought to be perfected), Marty and Gail had checked into their hotel and dropped off the Louis Vuitton luggage Gail had bought for this purpose. On Gail’s insistence they were now seeking the pinnacle of bona fide Italian romance: The Gondola Ride. Gail’s bleached hair was newly permed, the camera was charged, and Mrs. Wazenski and Mrs. Cabot at the golf club would be most jealous upon viewing the photographic evidence of the Grubfeldts’ fiery new marriage.

They were carried along by the multicolored stream of tourists. A sea of T-shirts, baseball caps, backpacks, glow sticks and iPhones dipped and bobbed across the cobbles, and Gail and Marty fought their way through the mass, enduring other people’s elbows jabbing their armpits. Bedraggled, they arrived at the line for the gondolas that the concierge at the hotel had pointed out on a map they had extracted from a vending machine.

“I hate tourists, Marty,” said Gail, dabbing her handkerchief against her cheeks. “Why do they have to ruin every romantic experience?”

“Damn foreigners,” grumbled Marty.

“What’s that smell?” Gail screwed up her nose. “Sort of eggy mushrooms?” She made the same face she had made twenty minutes earlier on the other side of Piazzo San Marco when she had spotted a filthy Italian dog licking its tiny lipstick penis. “Oh God, Marty! It’s the canals!”

“What d’ya expect?” said Marty, a belch rolling out of his gullet as he spoke. “They’re toilets for Pete’s sakes. Pure piss.” He scrunched up the map and dropped it in the offending canal. It landed on a solid film of pollution.

“Please Marty, don’t be revolting. Oh dear, the magazine said the canals were crystalline. I wanted to see ‘the silhouettes of tiny fish playing in the wake of the gondola’.”

“There’s something floatin’ over there, that could be a fish.”

Gail pressed a hand against her mouth to stem the rising nausea. She had a delicate frame and a fragile constitution. This was not romantic. She tried slipping her hand into Marty’s but he only grunted and stuffed his hands in his pockets.

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*Featured Image: Gondolier, by Ekaterina Frolova

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