The Rossenoff is a heavy tool, more so now he is old. The hotel in Paris is no longer managed by the beautiful Algerians, offers a full breakfast, but the lift is still intimate, two people in it are crushed together. The Marais trendy and full of the young. He leaves the memory in there, the curl of hair beneath her left ear, the soft kiss on her bottom lip as he fired. Only this time the smell was dreadful, the blood as he lowered her to a seated position, the sulphurous flash reducing life all around it. He needs both hands now, arthritis in the trigger of him, deafened years reach about his slow and practised steps. The door is not locked – it was their room. “I thought this an apt ending, if you can still hold that thing.” Jacques has no interest in conversation, he has no desire to ask anything of this man who was his paymaster. “I suppose if it misfires you could at least throw it at me?” It does not.
His apartment is in the Opera District. He likes the way Vienna is Paris but smaller, the open market restaurants in summer, the waltzing in the square, the dogs allowed in to finish off the pork knuckle, the total disregard of future health of the in-house smoking, the way the empire road has embraced graffiti’s rebellion. “You should have moved”. She tells him to open the window, sit astride with the back of the chair towards her, his hands holding on to the sides. “This is still our place; I will never leave.” She knows by the lines of his jacket where the Rossi is and knows he cannot reach it. He has many years on her and looks it. When he was younger, he may have flipped the chair, thrown it sideways, taken a chance. Emily senses he will not, his eyes are expectant, his posture relaxed. Jacques doesn’t need to tell her; he smiles as she pushes the chair and he falls through the four storeys of their lives.
She takes the train to Milan and changes lines there, carefully wandering the platforms in case. She moves two young men from her seat and watches their disgruntled leaving. Just to be sure. Their old flat in Nice is down the hill from the Chagall and Matisse museums. Her eyes remain on the stained-glass windows of the Chapel, as her fingers find the postcard beneath the seat. She pulls aside the triple photo page of the Hofburg Palace and Museum District to find the note, ‘thank you, Jacques’. In Arles Emily goes to the Mauritian Restaurant, enters through the back and finds Leon wiping dishes. “I’m going to retire, we can finally move to Avignon, inside the wall, get a place by the university.” Leon holds her close, “You can get old and fat like me, but maybe not so bald.” As she walks home by the Colosseum a couple ask, “Can you take a headshot, please?”. Emily laughs, “Always”.
James Walton is an Australian published in many anthologies, journals, and newspapers. He is the author of four widely acclaimed collections of poetry. The Leviathan’s Apprentice, Walking Through Fences, Unstill Mosaics, and Abandoned Soliloquies. His fifth collection will be released shortly. He has been shortlisted for the ACU National Poetry Prize, the MPU International Poetry Prize, The James Tate Prize, and the Ada Cambridge Prize. He was nominated for ‘The Best of the Net’ 2019, and is a Pushcart Prize 2021 nominee. He was a librarian, a cattle breeder, and mostly a public sector union official.