Monday, July 11, 2016

Old Man and the Wishing Fountain, Katy Comber

The Dreamer
By Katy Comber

Bobby Sali made it. He had waited 70 years for this moment. Water surged and a flock of sweaty tourists unintentionally pushed the elderly man aside as they stared down at the filter options on their smart phones and he stood, transfixed, before the magnificent Trevi fountain. This, this was where Bobby Sali would find her--his first love.


“Bobby! Bobby! Get away from the edge, sweetheart.” Amelia Sali beckoned her twelve year old son away from the edge of the spectacular Italian fountain. The boy came forward clutching a coin his father had given him the day his mother announced an idea for an adventure across the Atlantic.

Amelia wanted Bob Sr. to come, but Bob Sr. had another wife. His other wife had his mind, Amelia had his heart, and Junior had the remaining bits of both. The Anderson case, two missing girls and a lunatic cult leader, was the other woman in the house. Bob Sr. hated when his wife called it that, but he knew that she had been right to do so. Lori and Dawn Anderson and their frozen school picture smiles stared at him when he was at work and when he fell asleep each night.

“We’re going to Italy to see family, Bob. It’s settled. We started planning this trip years ago, and now I’ve had enough. I’m going. With you. Or,” Amelia faltered. Bob Sr.’s brown eyes were deep and so tired. Those eyes. Those safe, thoughtful eyes. She cleared her throat, “Or without you.”
“I can’t leave this case, Amy. You know that as well as I do.”
“”Three years, Bob. Three years, I’ve waited for the day. I can’t wait anymore.” Bob nodded thoughtfully and left the room. Amelia’s shoulders dropped a fraction. “That’s it? Bob? Bob?” The door to Bob Sr.’s office closed with a click, and Amelia sighed. Bobby Jr. sat watching over a cold glass of milk that had become a disappointing room temperature in his tight grip. He wasn’t very thirsty anymore anyway.

When Bob Sr. came out of his office, his thoughtful brown eyes glinted like Christmas morning.

“See this coin, Bobby? This is an Italian lire.” Bob pulled out the chair next to his son and folded his tall wiry frame down into the chair’s seat cushion. Junior inspected the flying horse as his thumb rubbed against the olive branch on the back.

“This coin has a specific purpose. Only one. Nothing else. Do you understand?” Bob Sr. spoke with serious urgency and yet his eyes still sparkled. Junior, wide-eyed and curious, nodded.

Now, two weeks later, Bobby Jr. focused. His sweaty hand gripped the coin as he recalled his father’s instructions. With his back to the fountain, Junior considered his wish. Up until this point in his life, the only thing Bobby wanted was for his father to solve the case--for his dad to come back, coach his baseball team and play catch in the back yard. As the wish formed in his mind, a girl bumped into him and the coin went flying.

“Ah! Sorry!” her crisp American accent rang out like a buoy in the linguistic sea, fluid with Italian romance. If Junior had not been panicking over finding his coin, he would have found it refreshing. The girl bent down to recover the coin just as Bobby spotted it. Their heads bumped. The girl sprang up with a yelp, clutching the coin in her left hand. Bobby sat down with a thud, his ears ringing.

“Sorry, again. Oh. I mean-- excusi.” She offered her hand to Bobby and as he looked up to accept, Bobby took in the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. The girl was lithe and tan. Freckles scattered across the bridge of her nose and under clear green eyes. Her arms were slender and strong as she helped him to his feet. When she handed Bobby his coin, the girl smiled and ran toward a family waiting patiently a few yards away and beckoning.

Bobby Jr. looked down at the coin in his hand, and made a simple wish. He wished for a name.

That night, Bobby dreamt of the girl. Throughout the dream, they held hands, told jokes, and walked the streets of Italy. Bobby took the girl to meet his family, they had gelato, and went swimming. It was the best dream Bobby ever experienced. The girl’s name was Amanda.

The sun woke a reluctant Bobby the next morning. Bobby clenched his eyes and begged to go back to the girl and the world his subconscious had created for them. But the dream world peeled away, and Bobby trundled out of bed and down the stairs.

“Good news from the States, love.” his mother sang over a steaming cup of coffee. Her eyes were shimmered with relief and joy. “Your father, he found the man. The case is resolved! That man’s name was found on a piece of evidence that had been lost or incorrectly cataloged or something. Those poor girls.” Amelia’s tone darkened with a part of the news she wouldn’t dare say out loud and then brightened again as she announced, “He’s coming to join us next week!”

The remaining weeks in Italy, went by in a blur. Bobby looked for Amanda everywhere they went and prayed to dream of her again every night. She had become his dream girl. A girl no one would ever be able to live up to, because his imagination created her to be without flaws and she became the love of his life.

Bobby Jr. spent the rest of his days searching for a woman who could live up to his Amanda. Eventually he settled for Eve Tap. A girl everyone in his high school wanted to date or emulate. She was wonderful in every superficial way, and if Bobby had taken the chance to get to know her, he would have found out that she was every bit as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside. Years went by for the couple, and Bobby remained distracted by someone he had dreamed about as a twelve year old boy. Eventually the light in Eve’s soul, her generous heart and everything that made her special dimmed as she went unnoticed by the man she loved. When she passed away as a wife of 62 years, mother of three, grandmother to twelve, great-grandmother of four with two on the way, the church was packed with mourners and stories of an Eve Bobby had failed to know.

After he buried his wife, Bobby knew that his days were numbered and time was of the essence. The next day, he packed a few belongings, bought a one-way ticket to Italy, and left everything else in Brooklyn to his children.

When Robert Ernesto Sali Jr. walked up to the Trevi Fountain, his heart thrummed and his mind raced with a solitary wish that had been crafted over 70 years. Among the hoards of wishers the solitary 92 year old man turned his back to the fountain, squeezed his eyes real tight and threw his coin over his shoulder.

When the sunset that night, the man rushed into bed. Sleep could not come quickly enough; when it did, the man dreamed of a girl named Amanda. They rode Vespas and kissed under fig trees. They lived and laughed and everything was perfect once again. Then the dream shifted. Bobby Jr. saw Amanda go home to Philadelphia to a small townhouse full of boxes marked for New York City. He saw her drift through the house marking boxes in large font, AET’s Room. He saw her perch on a counter and discuss with her mother about where they were going and why. Then, he saw Amanda announce a decision that she made during her time in Italy. She had decided to go by her middle name while they lived in New York. It felt more dramatic and colorful. Amanda’s mom laughed and agreed. Then, in the man’s final moments of life and dreaming, he saw Amanda dash to her room to practice a writing her new name on the cover of a journal currently lying dusty and unread in a Brooklyn basement thousands of miles away.

This Journal is Property of:
Amanda Evelyn Tap
Eve Tap, Adventurer


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