Evening in Naples

Ross leaned on the sill and looked out of the open evening window, called by the swifts. They swerved above, katana wings cutouts against the dipping sun; below, silhouettes of scythes sped across the late-drying sheets that hung from the balconies. He had seen them at home, where the Water reached the northern sea, but here they tumbled in shrieking crowds between the close red buildings and across the shining bay. He could go and get his camera or – no, perhaps not. It was enough to see them, and hear their bosun whistles, and remember them. His heart was of the sea and his hands of the sun; their cries were in his ears, and he smiled.

Walking, watching, the Water of Leith

A tall man in a splashed grey t-shirt taps a stick on his leg. A black-and-white patched dog looks pointedly into the distance away from him.

Ginger toddler twins sleep side by side in a double buggy. Finally silent, they are holding hands. Their pale parents look close to tears. Their arms hang heavy.

Four tan, brown, tan, brown dogs weave leads from two hands, over and under and over and under. The owner’s look says she is too old for this. She pulls them back and puffs out her cheeks.

A race of clouds skit, one by one, across the face of the sun. The girl’s father pulls his pullover on. She drops her ball and her face crumples. The ball rolls towards the river, picking up speed, and her father stoop dives to save it.

The patchwork dog snatches a narrow-eyed glance at the man in the t-shirt, at his stick, then fixes the distance again, shoulders pinched.

Happy loud tourists with sunglasses, good hair and warm padded jackets tumble laughing down the green mesh metal steps. Some must be couples, but it is not clear who is not.

Finally, finally, the stick whirls over the waiting dog’s head and splashes down in the river, just beyond a brief whirlpool. A yelp, one would guess of joy, and the dog is springs and tail and pointed ears and bouncing.

I smile vaguely to myself and vaguely at other people, pick up my bags and walk on. There is the sound of a dog hitting water.

Carlo and the lizard

Carlo lifted his head from the bamboo mat and looked into the lizard’s eyes. It blinked, once. Light reflected green from its throat, its pulsing heart. It held Carlo’s gaze, blinked again and flowed away, up and over the rocks. The caper leaves shook and it was gone.

Carlo rode home slowly from the sea. He rested his motorino against the wooden pole that held up the lean-to roof and went into the house. The salt on his skin needed to be showered away. But first he needed to clear his head. The sun had been harsh.

He sat on the kitchen chair and leaned forward, head in hands, elbows on knees. He felt water move at the back of his nose, behind his eyes. Too many dives from the rocks to the blue today.

The water moved again, then trickled down his nose, dripping clear onto the brick tile floor, darkening the dust. More water flowed. Carlo blinked. More than – and now the drops were not clear any more, he felt the water moving at the back of his nose, behind his eyes, at the back of his head where his scalp was tight with salt, water moving, running, flowing.

Just before he closed his eyes, Carlo was softly surprised at how clear the world was becoming, and wondered gently where all the water was coming from.

When he woke up, his eyes focussed on a fly which walked very slowly, deliberately, across the wet floor. And then was gone.