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Peach Strudel



A young man decides life is no longer worth living and climbs to the roof of the municipal hospital with a calm mind. This causes traffic. I, luckily, am not a car so traffic has little effect on my comings and goings. I tend to walk on two legs and, when this is impractical, I am carried by kind-hearted muscular men in the fashion of pallbearers sans coffin. I detest crowds but am magnetically drawn toward all things suicidal. I once spent six months in Barcelona following Joselito Montalbán, the renowned matador, until his death at the horns of an unnamed half blind bull. I sometimes convince myself it was the most important thing I have ever done. So, it will come as no surprise to you, dear reader, that at the sight of this young man on that horrible ledge I canceled my afternoon appointments and sat patiently at the Café Almirante across the street. A proper Café is a difficult thing to establish. There must be enough space to move about yet not so much so that it, even when empty, feels empty. The men amongst the patrons must be haggard and seated alone while the women are required to have a minimum of one (1) child at their hip or stored in carriage. Breastfeeding is, of course, permitted. The server’s gender is unimportant, yet it is imperative that they are unattractive and rude—to keep away the hobbyists and weekenders. Espresso is to be served at one hundred degrees centigrade and be entirely unpalatable. I believe one needs to earn the right to comfort. Back to the dying boy. Blonde hair stuck against his sweated brow. A true blue horror show. The police begin with their song and dance. Tourists crowd. Some are weeping into the breasts of their lovers while others take photographs with their telescopic lenses. I order a pastry and the server spits in my face. Perfect. I cross one leg over the other and breathe in the dead summer air. The blonde boy says something for some reason. He might as well have been God. And me, here watching, might as well have been nothing. A dog urinates on a police car and continues about his business; not even thinking to look up. I am sure this all serves a purpose. An old man sits at the table beside me and rolls a cigarette. The server lights his beard on fire. The old man and I share a laugh. He tells me he is one-hundred and sixteen years old and has seen it all. I ask him how the years have been. Hard. I ask him what he treasures most. Automobile accidents. The police play Sinatra over the bullhorn and the boy takes a step forward. My pastry arrives. Peach strudel burnt to a crisp with a saucer of crème fraiche. I crush it between my hands and feed it to the pigeons. The old man tells me someone ought to get a gun and shoot that damned fool up there. I disagree. We do not laugh. The ants take what the pigeons leave behind. --Juan Ramirez







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