Travelers are forever being told the whens and wheres of the city: when the church was reconstructed, where the Romans took their baths, how the rains affect the rosemary crop, but all they really want to know is why the sad man shuffles on his knees from one end of town to the other, starting at the granary in the morning and tracking the weary sun throughout the day to the bruised clouds just before dusk above the little chapel. A woman waits for him there, but turns her back as he draws near. “He’s no sadder than anyone else,” we tell them. He was a charming young man, athletic and witty, who had his pick of girls. She was underendowed but aloof. They should never have met and hadn’t before he helped her onto a tram. One phrase only of what they said is repeated every day: “Not in your lifetime,” she told him, he tells us, we tell them. Their courtship was a riddle no one could solve, their engagement unexpected as a tuba, but the biggest surprise were the wedding invitations which went only to the unlikeliest single women and men, “plus one.” The chapel brimmed with unprecedence. “I know a reason why this couple should not wed,” said a woman carrying a baby boy, though she needn’t have: everyone knew at least one. When the bride saw the look that passed between this woman and the groom, she crushed the bouquet underfoot and walked away. “This is the woman he crawls to every day?” ask the tourists. “No,” we tell them. “She was pregnant at the altar; this woman is her daughter.” “The man is making amends to his daughter?” the tourists persist. “No. He has long since died. The crawling man is his son.”

Copyright © August 10, 2008 David Hodges

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