There is a disembodied voice talking nonsense on the old bridge. It has been there for three days. So far no one has noticed. The voice spills out in gruff, lumbering monotones on the corner by the macceleria.
Incidentally, Miles Banyan had his dentures molded a few days ago. Neither he nor his dentist, Jackie Abernathy, were aware of the odd lithography engraved in his third mandibular molars.
The disembodied voice talks a lot about the end times. Punctuates its diatribes with long, waiting pauses. It is no coincidence the Medici girl has contracted a serious fever. She’s going to die without having ever spilt the fagioli.
Miles Banyan has bought a flat by the river. And a radio for the bedside. The flat is made of brick. There is only one window, and for some odd reason it faces north.
North toward the mud slicks, and the trash heaps. North toward the open cardboard flame. North toward the broken glass, the moonlit water lockets. North toward the shore, and the olive gunk swills. North toward Polaris. North toward the limestone shoes of the cross river trafficway. North toward the Kaw, and the twisty, misty Missouri. North toward the Three Forks. And the stonecutter, Signore Toro. North toward Earth. Toward the baby blade Moon slicing slabs into the Marble Heart, the carved white callus of eternity.
It’s sleeping now, beating maybe once an hour. Have we reason to rush?
Coincidentally (or perhaps fatedly so) the disembodied voice also faces north. Much like the Nile. Much like the Ob.
Jackie Abernathy is home with a flu. Her girlfriend, Bridget, brings soup from work. It does nothing to cure the good dentist’s hallucinations.
Signore Toro has been awake for three days. He is not dead. And much to the chagrin of vocational puns, he is not stoned. The stonecutter is simply awaiting a package from Cosimo de’ Medici. The package has taken six hundred years to arrive.
Just now there is a knock on Miles Banyan’s door. Outside the air is cold and blue, biting like the beak of a dying steller’s jay. He lets out a loud grumble and rises, stupored, to answer it. Wind thwacks against the lone window. Empty bottles of Old Crow tinkle and spin at his feet, parting like a Dead Sea of dumb clock parts. He is no Moses.
“Who is it?” The disembodied voice asks. It is an unseasonably cold night on the Ponte Vecchio. Beneath its spandrels and piers, the Arno huffs and puffs silver gobs of steam. A stray pooch juts its nose from fibrous unkempt folds of fur to investigate the possibly odorous source of the voice; its slimy proboscis furrows and sniffs, finds nothing.
“Who is it?”
When Banyan opens the door, his guest is gone. The crisp Kansas City air cat scratches at his naked thigh. Lying on the front steps, soaking in the snow, is an envelope. He pokes his head out, finds the street empty save for Yadsley the Rottweiler who’s just now sniffing a wad of styrofoam beside the dumpster. Miles slams the door, leaving the letter on the step.
“Could be anthrax,“ the voice mumbles. But there is no one to hear. The cobblestone pitter patter has stilled. With the exception of the pooch, Florence is fast asleep.