From the Teeth of Angels
For Bunny & Charlie –
Hands on our faces forever
Richard & Judy Carroll
Hurry, Godfather death,
Each message you give
Has a dance to it,
A fish twitch,
A little crotch dance.
– “Godfather Death”, by Anne Sexton
The Gods only know how to compete or echo.
Just returned from Sardinia, where we’d planned to stay two weeks but ended up driving away after only five days because it is one HIDEOUS island, darling, let me tell you. I’m always suckered by books like The Sea and Sardinia or The Colossus of Maroussi, where famous writers describe how wonderful it was to be on wild and woolly islands forty years ago when the native women went golden topless and meals cost less than a pack of cigarettes.
So, fool that I am, I read those books, pack my bag, and flea (intended) south. Only to see topless women, all right – two-hundred-pound German frau-tanks from Bielefeld with bazooms so enormous they could windsurf on them if they only hoisted a sail, meals that cost more than my new car, and accommodations the likes of which you’d wish on your worst enemy. And then, because I have a limp memory, I always forget the sun in those southern climes is so deceptively hot that it fries you helpless in a quick few hours. Please witness my volcanic red face, thanks.
No, I am past forty and consequently have every right to “just say no” to things like these trips from now on. When we were driving back, I said to Caitlin, “Let’s just go to the mountains on our next vacation.” Then, lo and behold, we came to an inn below the mountains near Graz, next to a small flickering brook, with the smell of wood smoke and slight dung, red-and-white-checked tablecloths, a bed upstairs that looked down on the brook through swaying chestnut trees, and there were chocolates wrapped in silver foil on our pillows. There’s no place like home, Toto.
While we were in Sardinia, we spent a lot of time in a café-bar that was the only nice thing about the place. It was called the Spin Out Bar, and when the owners found out we were American they treated us like heroes. One of them had been to New York years ago and kept pinned on the wall a map of Manhattan with red marks all over it to show anyone who came in where he’d been there.
At night the joint filled up and could be pretty rowdy, but besides the Nordic windsurfers and an overdose of fat people in floral prints, we met a number of interesting characters. Our favorites were a Dutchwoman named Miep who worked in a sunglasses factory in Maastricht. Her companion was an Englishman named McGann and there, my friend, sits this story.
We couldn’t figure out why Miep was in Sardinia in the first place, because she said she didn’t like a lot of sun and never went in the water. She was happy to leave it at that, but McGann thought it germane to add, “She reads a lot, you know.” What does she read about? “Bees. She loves to study bees. Thinks we should study them because they know how to make a society work properly.” Unfortunately, neither Caitlin’s knowledge of bees nor mine extends beyond stings and various kinds of honey we have tasted, but Miep rarely said anything about her books or her bees. In the beginning Miep rarely said anything about anything, leaving it up to her friend to carry the conversation ball. Which he did with alarming gusto.