Florence caught our steps with smooth stone streets and the sound scattered through the alley. The walls with chipping sunflower paint tossed our noises back to us like lucky clattering coins. Len and I had been travelling for only a few days, and we had already managed to forget our route. We made our way under dark blue scaffolding and I clicked my tall boots beside his steel-toed shuffle. The sun was chariot-bright but the air was painted with the dry note of winter—my green hands reddened. Occasionally I glanced and smiled back at Len, absorbing the day building itself up from morning.
We lingered in front of a Russian train-set enthusiast shop, its door gaping open-mouthed. The shop was filled with men in hats and thick woollen coats, turning over trains in their thick wintered hands. Len, the enthusiasts, and I all turned at the sound of a bicycle, chiming a wild proclamation, untranslated to the street. A bicycle with wheels wheel as thick as a milk snake rolled around the corner, through a brown arch between artfully decaying buildings. The cyclist issued an explosion of poetry--his mouth stretched wide under his dark, greasy eyes, whitened with excitement. He had a hurried, bombastic breath, rising and plummeting, clanging along with his bicycle bell beside a wicker basket. A feral cackle, and his gray lumpy coat fluttered behind him as he passed.
Len’s steel toe stepped forward onto my plastic heel and ripped the bottom off. My pen exploded in his pocket. Ink spread like a wound over his heart. He stared at my heel on January’s pavement; his eyes watered. The capped Russians slid out of the open door uniformly, bemused and holding their trains.