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Marty peered into Gail’s eyes, wet and bloodshot with clumps of mascara smeared into the lids. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, and kissed her on the forehead. “It was insured.”
“Hah!” laughed Pio. “You kiss your woman under Ponte de Sospiri! Very romantic!”
Gail blew her nose and stuffed the tissue back into her sleeve. “Just keep going, Pio.”
The gondola bobbed along until it came to a smooth stop in a water-based traffic jam between walls of damp brickwork. There were gondolas loaded with tourists jammed into the tight space with the Grubfeldts’ little black boat. A garbage boat emitted yellow fumes of rubbish, and a man sitting at the back of a vaporetto was playing an accordion over the sound of a tourist kid screaming.
“Honk, dammit!” demanded Marty. “Hey you! Get out of the way! We’re trying to get through here!”
“This music is beautiful,” sighed Gail, trying not to smell the garbage boat. “Isn’t it, Marty?” She put her hand on his knee. Sensing something, Marty didn’t swat it away but instead placed his own over hers. “I’m not angry with you about the camera,” she continued, her voice still thick but much softer. “We don’t need it really—romance is about feeling, not seeing.”
“Get moving, Pio,” Marty growled as the gondola traffic jam slowly dispersed. “What are you waiting for?”
“Red light, signor,” smiled Pio. “I wait for it to change.”
Soon the swishing of the oar once again disturbed the sludgy water, and Gail leaned in to Marty and put her head on his shoulder. She closed her eyes.
Pio smiled, and began to hum.
Gail and Marty did not explore each other’s hot and fleshy mysteries in their hotel room that night. Instead they ordered room service and ate it in bed watching Oprah Winfrey. It’s also true that Gail went home with no photos to show Mrs. Wazenski and Mrs. Cabot of her beautiful perm against a backdrop of crystalline canals and Italian architecture. Marty continued to belch and fart for the remainder of their marriage. But ever since their romantic trip across the Atlantic Marty and Gail Grubfeldt hold hands a little more often.
Thanks for reading The Song of the Gondolier by E. A. A. Wilson!
*Featured Image: Gondolier, by Ekaterina Frolova