The Accidental Tourist
Intro: up to 50 words (delete this text and enter your own)
A long hike in high summer
Crossing half-familiar terrain.
New walking boots.
With every step my blistered feet
Stab exquisite pain.
I am parched.
My canteen is empty.
Distilled sunlight sheeting off the bleached marble
Of the age old abandoned quarry
In whose navel the farmhouse nestles
Hurts my eyes.
I should have bought better shades.
I stand at the kitchen door knocking
Inhaling captivating aromas.
The scents of wild thyme and olive oil
And wood burning in the antique stove
Where a coffee pot sits steaming
Take me somewhere, somewhere
To someone, some place
I almost remember.
Wood-smoke glimmers tantalise –
Bats flitting in a deep dank cavern.
A languid cat stretched on a sill
Casts a withering glance
Flicks a paw at a moth meandering past
Misses. And mulling a second sally
Decides sleep is the better option
Permitting the moth another day.
A midriff faintness buckles my knees
I curve my weight against the frame.
I have been here before – or have I?
During that maniac ‘Spring offensive’
Before we retook… that lousy town.
What did they call it?
O God that was a shit storm and a half –
A blood bath.
Bullet-broken bodies strewn all over.
We were ambushed.
For one whole day we held the square.
My head took a ricochet.
It was hot like today.
Hot. Burning hot.
I have stood at a threshold just like this one.
I have leaned against a doorway just like this one.
There was no cat.
There was a woman
Naked to the waist
Washing her feet in a laver
Her head was turbaned
Her skirt wrapped high around her thighs.
I muttered a guttural apology,
“Forgive me, mamzelle,”
For the intrusion.
Keeping my eyes fixed on her eyes
Resisting the insistence of lust
I asked a drink of water.
The woman’s face exuded promise.
Promise and pleading.
Pleading and resignation.
Lust flooded me,
I laid aside my gun
And bustled her onto a paillasse.
Or did I?
And the patchy rapine replaying
Is a false memory.
A half-remembered horror dream?
The war! The bastard bloody war!
That mind warping fucking war!
A lad making aeroplane
Rat-a-tat tats in from another room.
He puts down his finger gun.
He calls to his mother.
She bustles in
Unlike the woman
Vague in my memory
Her hair is grey
Her face is pinched
Lined with age
Not as beautiful.
Hoping for coffee,
I ask for water.
My rucksack clatters on a flag.
A second look
Her face overcasts
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