A Little Street Theatre

It was a bad omen: such a fine, cloudless morning on the first day of a new show!

He drove noisily in his baby fiat through the picturesque Spanish town and arrived at the riverbank with time to spare. But where were the usual crowds of onlookers and children? Where the flute-music, the stalls? He parked and walked across the bridge. Taped to the old stone wall was a poster: ‘Show Canseled’. Cancelled! For what reason? He dropped his arms. Well, and what now? He looked around absently, smiling bitterly, and came to the only sensible antidote to disappointment — he would take a walk, as he always did when life frustrated him, which was often. It mattered not in which direction…

After walking along the bank for an hour or so he noticed on the other side of the river a small, pleasant-looking cafe with a couple of tables outside. Yes! Iced lemonade — that was just what he needed… He looked behind him… no bridge! He didn’t remember passing one… but he couldn’t see one further up either… Just then, a young girl came out of the cafe and began wiping the tables. She stopped and looked up. He could see her quite clearly. She was lovely! He waved to her. She waved back. He jumped comically, in mock surprise. She began laughing. She had never seen such a thing! She put her hands to her head, waved again… He made a gesture of agony, pointed to the right, to the left, raised his arms to the merciless heavens. And though it was too far to hear the song of her laughter, it was nevertheless close enough to imagine its lightness, its sweetness… Oh, but she is pointing — ahead of him. There must be a bridge ahead of him! She seemed to be calling, inviting him, beckoning…

He set off at a cracking pace, as best he could with his enormous feet. He became hot, took off his long coat, his shoes, which were 15 inches long and curled at the toe… In the distance was the bridge! His heart was pounding. Here it was! Such a marvellous bridge, laden with the promises of romance, of sweet nostalgia… and his thoughts took him back ten years, to a police station in smoky Padua, and a stolen kiss. He crossed that beautiful bridge, full of the pleasures of longing, of unexpected company… and he remembered a hundred years before, the castle walls of Avignon, and the touch of a gypsy-girl’s hand. He reached the far bank and continued on towards that wonderful vision: the cafe with the lovely Signorina… and he recalled from a thousand years before, Vienna at midnight, sitting on top of a huge Ferris wheel, his arm around the waist of a starry-eyed Princess…

On he walked… so close, getting so close now when, suddenly… something touched his forehead, his ear, his face. Breathing hard, he stopped, wiped it away, studied his hands… so this was why the show was cancelled… He pushed himself on… he was exhausted… but the drips turned to hard rain, to a terrible downpour… it was too late: his face was awash with red and white paint, his feet became sodden… he faltered…

When he arrived at the cafe he didn’t enter. He only stood by the window and gazed in at her loveliness, at her youth. She saw him… dropped her arms, stared with wide eyes… What she saw was not a man reduced to a clown, but a clown reduced merely to a man, a very old man, standing in the pouring rain, pleading with the gods…

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