“Is she all right?”
“In Valencia she fell from a balcony. She is dead.”
Dead. The word took the breath out of Simon. The German said, “She
had the quiet, nice manner of a polite girl. When I woke in the morning
my dishes were washed, or the floor was mopped. She came in late, and
I could hear her moving, the small sounds in the dark. I liked to hear
Simon retreated two steps and looked around. This news on top of the
other was difficult to grasp. Clapped like two great hands with Simon
between. Across the plaza Anny was following a pigeon. He watched her
follow behind it fast enough to bother it and keep it walking ahead. But
not so fast as to startle it into flight.
“Is your wife pregnant?” the German said.
Simon didn’t know how she could tell. He didn’t answer. The interface of death with life preoccupied him like a great glowing crack in his
vision. He remembered the girl standing in the doorway with her eyes
closed. He knew nothing about her, really. The girl was dead, and he
could go on living and living and living. The presence of life didn’t contradict the presence of death, though he felt that it should.
“Your wife doesn’t like me,” the German noted.
“She thinks—” Simon said. But he lost the thought. From openings at the top of the cathedral’s bell tower peeked distant and small
faces. Anny scuffed her feet on the ground in mincing steps. The pigeon
“She’s beautiful,” the German said.
Simon said yes. He resolved to tell Anny that she was beautiful.
Anny pursued the pigeon into a seething and cooing flock. Pigeons
bobbing in a teeming, mottled herd. She kept along behind the one.
Then the cathedral bells began to ring. The bells were mounted on
shafts and rang by spinning round and round like so many gymnasts on
the high bar. The bells in the tower spun and made a sudden calamitous
racket so dense that in the plaza below, nothing could be communicated.
And the pigeons startled into the air. All of them. All directions. White.
Gray. Black. Flashes of iridescence. Rising. A hundred wings flickering.
In the middle stood Anny. She lifted her hands. Simon found himself
thinking of god, with everything blurred into everything else.
When the bells stopped, Megan from Jacksonville reached into a bag
at her feet and brought out a copy of Lonely Planet and studied it.