Palace Players I: Introducing Palace Players
Palace Players II: Some Peculiar Fix, The Two of Us
Palace Players III: Turn Out the Lights as We Planned
Palace Players IV:
“This may be the most splendid Shiraz I have ever enjoyed.”
Earlier she said we needed to not draw attention to ourselves. She then proceeded to park the Pagani convertible in a handicap spot facing everyone on the beach. We hide behind large sunglasses, ordering foolishly expensive beverages in the daytime.
I shake my head at her drink selection. “We are in France. You ordered wine from Australia?”
“But you don’t know that it’s from Australia! Maybe it’s French? The French invented Shiraz, but we call it something different.”
“Do you call it Chianti?”
She gags on her food dramatically, causing everyone to look over at us. “No. Chianti is totally different, we call Shiraz ‘Syrah’ here. Chianti is more dry, but Americans just drink beer so I don’t fault you for this.”
“Ha! Wow how gracious of you.”
She kicks me under the table. “I have a good-developed taste,” she says.
“Yes but your English could use some work, you say ‘well-developed taste’ instead of ‘good-developed’. Just a little grammar thing. Those words aren’t necessarily interchangeable.”
“Sorry, I only speak FOUR languages. You speak how many?”
“One and a half.”
“No.” She reaches over the table and adjusts the collar on my shirt.
“If I was European I’d know more languages. I blame it on the American school system for how much ‘Spanish’ they taught me.”
She laughs and nods in agreement, pulling a pack of Parliaments from her enormous purse.
I lean over the table to light her cigarette, lighting mine next. “We should smoke less of these” I say, words muffled by the one between my lips. She shrugs at my suggestion.
In her company I’ve become accustomed to the lingering smell of smoke on my clothing, although of course her clothes always smell brand new. Resting my cigarette on the edge of the table, I poke at the penne pasta in front of me, pondering the disappointingly small “lunch-size” portion. Whenever we’ve eaten together, no matter where, she consumes roughly half of the food she ordered and takes the rest home in a to-go box. I eat everything on my plate in a matter of twenty minutes and finish whatever is in her to-go box when we get home.
Sitting across from me, she sips her completely full glass of wine and clears her throat, “If you smoke less than a pack a day it can be good for you actually.”
“No, no way in hell.”
“Don’t swear! No really, I asked my doctor.”
“Your doctor told you that smoking was healthy so long as you smoked less than twenty a day?”
She nods, exhaling. “Reduces blood pressure.”
I shake my head. He would probably tell her anything to have her remember him.
We’re down the beach from a luxury hotel and every four minutes or so American tourists walk by, speaking English to each other. Some sound Southern, others are from the midwest. She asks, “Are Americans born with cameras in their hands? I have never seen an American without a camera.”
“You have never seen me with a camera! I am an American.”
“That’s true! Do you even own one? How, then, are you an American?”
“I think I had one once but I left it in Las Vegas when I was in college. Hey are we safe in the open?” I ask, changing the subject, “Two days ago we were actually dodging bullets.”
She shrugs again, practically ignoring the question. “They don’t know we’re here.”
“They won’t see your car?”
“There are a lot of cars like mine in France. They are French I think.”
“Okay let’s pretend your car isn’t Italian, or, like one of 10 like it in the whole world. Wouldn’t these people know your license plate number?”
With a quick laugh she puts the cigarette to her lips. Holding the smoke in her lungs for a couple seconds, she soon exhales in a white column. It dissipates into the canopy of our table’s umbrella as the cigarette gets put out on the edge of the table cloth. “Why would I have a registered car, admirador? I cannot afford the taxes.”
I finish my drink; wiping disbelief on my face. “ Never mind.”
Palace Players V: And What Got Made Was Broken Too
This short story is the fourth in a series. The sister series, written by my dear friend H, can be read at areasonabledistance.wordpress.com.