fiction

Black Licorice

Everyone has that one great story. The one that you tell your grandkids so many times that they can mimic every word down to your colloquies, more often behind your back(dependent on your hearing they might do it right in front of you). It’s a good story; Solid has a few ups and down a little romance and a twist. I’ve told the story to friends and coworkers. Their eyebrows perk in surprise and furrow in worry, just like any writer wants. I worry about the potency of the twist. It’s over powering like black licorice and not for the “feint of heart”. Which is precisely the reason why I never tell my parents the part when I’m in jail. What is a story without a twist? It’s an answer to “How was your trip sweetie?”. A lovely reciting of a completely safe and magical trip that involved room service and hardly leaving the hotel yet going out enough to see the world. I tell my Mother of how I spent early autumn in Spain. The warm breeze against the pale yellows of the Alhambra and the sea, you cant go to Spain and not come back gargling metaphors and spitting up lines of Steinbeck inspired description of the of the crystalline blue that hugs the shoreline ensuring that the secrets of Spain remain Spanish. When my Mother leaves the room to check on the roast I tell my Dad about my favorite part of the culture; the women. The fair skin, The exoticness, and maybe even dip into the eroticness that can only exist in Europe. I get an “atta boy” smile and punch to the shoulder followed by my Mother emerging blissfully from the kitchen. I let her get settled back on the couch, she folds her hands across her lap and I begin to tell them both about Bepa. I met Bepa for the first time in the hotel lobby. The concierge had mixed up my bag with another guest, although similar in outer style, the contents: lacy undergarments, scarves and plum lipstick were not familiar to me. I arrived in the lobby to see that the front desk was occupied with a young woman about 5’4. She was arguing with him in what I think was supposed to be Spanish. Her accent made her incapable of rolling her r’s and lisping like the Castilians. The Spaniard waved his arms downward in a controlled panic hoping that the international sign of “Ma’am please keep your voice down” would come through. She doesn’t break eye contact and continues to yell, now shaking a suitcase, my suitcase in his face. I interjected. She furrowed her brow, I explained to the concierge that we were the ones he called and long story short, I got my bag back and introduced myself to the beautiful lady. She looked at me and said something in Russian (my russian was never good and will never be good yet alone passable) turned and started walking to elevator. I followed, not out of “the love for the chase” or “pursing a dame” but out of I didn’t want to walk up 14 sets of stairs. The doors opened and we walked to our polite corners. I asked her for her floor number. She looked at me with the winds of russia and said, “15” in that thick Eastern Promises accent. I’ve been to Europe enough times to know that small talk doesn’t get you far and I knew enough about Russia to offer the nice lady a drink. She accepted. This is where the quick montage starts and we fall in love, the ice cap melts under the warmth of straight Vodka, her lips loosen just enough to introduce herself as Bepa. This occurrence happened many times and we became companions. When I tell this part of the story to my parents I make sure to fluff it up. I give my Mother so much vivid detail and nearly write a sonnet about my love for Bepa and the touristy things we did together. I tell her enough that when I start telling her about our spring on the French country side and the heavy rains of Toulouse, she doesn’t even think to ask when the snow melted. It’s hard to say you love France without sounding like a romantic, even harder to be in France and not be a romantic. This line makes my Mother smile and my Dad throw his arm over my Mother’s shoulders. I let the story fade to Summer. I spent my Summer with Bepa on the Mediterranean. First to Italy where Bepa’s pale skin became kissed by the Tuscan sun and where I gained ten pounds or rather four kilograms from the delicious food, mind you not one meal was pizza. My mother tilts her head in confusion and I explain to her that we’ve americanized pizza and so forth. She looks disappointed and looks at me to press on. I tell her of our times in Greece. Where the buildings are blue, white, and geometrically pleasing and the sheep are in abundance. Priapus himself must till watch over greeks giving them enough lamb to eat yet still there is enough sheep for shepherd to be a profession. At this point Dad smiles as Mother is disturbed by the thought of eating a little lamb. I smile at her and continue to the white sails of Crete. There is nothing like sailing the Mediterranean it feels natural, effortless, and almost as rewarding as it was relaxing. Unless your Bepa, then it mostly just made you sick. I like to think that she had a good time.I tell them about the argument we had in Greece. The story needed a conflict to over come. Bepa didn’t want to come to the States and I would never go back to Russia. Instead of arguing we spent the last week of Summer in Monaco, had our last drink in Monaco and had our final good byes in Monaco. I look to my Dad and he’s staring into the floral pattern of the arm chair, probably thinking of his own adventures. My mother stares at me expectantly, “Where is Bepa?!You love her I can tell!” I inform her that Bepa has decided to visit me next month. She stood up excitedly and started to hear wedding bells that have yet to be wrung. My Dad smiles, tells me he’s proud of me, and tells me “I should write it down and make a buck.” Neither of them missed the Winter nor noticed it was gone. I could describe the cell I spent two months in but sometimes a story is better of without the taste of Black Licorice

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