Part 42: Kylie: a wild poppy turning its iridescent orange blossom gaily to the sun (serialized fiction)
Here is this week's chapter of my serialized comic novel "Four Bidding For Love."(Those who find absurdist humor and adult situations offensive, please read no further.)
If Alexia was like a winter bulb's first hesitant bud pushing up through the darkness of cool earth, Kylie was like a wild poppy turning its iridescent orange blossom gaily to the sun. For she'd never felt quite the freedom she felt in Robin's company, nor the pleasure of exploring San Francisco with someone whose business had taken him to many of its most charming corners.
Having never expected to spend the night, Kylie had nothing else to wear but her frilly white dress; on a hurried shopping trip to Union Street that morning she bought two pair of horrendously pricey panties and a toothbrush, and blushed at the realization she was living just the sort of libertine weekend fling she'd frowned upon so mightily in the past.
Though she'd lived in Berkeley for some time, San Francisco had remained an undiscovered country to her. And so many of its peculiarly Pacific-Euro charms were new to her: the Italian bakery off Washington Square which baked only foccacia; the wood-paneled coffee bistro where a great screenplay was written decades before; a dusty vintage shop of fedora hats, cast iguanas and Native American beading overseen by a proprietor gruff enough to turn away all but the most insistent souls; a half-lit Chinese seafood market in a dank basement smelling of the sea; a gaudy green-walled Chinese restaurant with deep-fried spicy calamari which drew haute cuisine chefs through its yellow swinging doors, and a narrow alley with a wavy line drawn on the pavement which marked, incredibly, the original waterline of the Bay, since filled in with the hulks of ships abandoned the instant the magic word "gold!" was heard by the hard-bitten, poorly paid sailors.
Robin was delighted to have an enchanted audience to share all he'd discovered in the course of his job, and all the loneliness and dead-end dates he'd endured suddenly evaporated in this one day of effervescent companionship.
The squares of foccacia were wrapped in old-fashioned paper and tied with string, and the flat aromatic bread was warmly fragrant as they sat down to a picnic lunch on the lawn of Washington Square. The thick grass was dry in the early summer warmth, but Robin carefully laid out the brown paper bag so Kylie's white-clad derriere would not become grass-stained. Across the street an imposing Catholic Church of bright ivory stone reflected the day's sunshine, and the other residents enjoying the park provided free entertainment.
As Robin opened the package of chevre cheese and removed the top of their fizzy lemon drinks, Kylie watched a bicyclist clad only in striped shorts brake to a stop just in front of some elderly Asian men practicing the fluid sweeps of Tai Chi to the tinny accompaniment of Chinese opera from a battered player set on the grass. The bicyclist removed his helmet, revealing a perfectly bald pate; he then proceeded to do a firm handstand on the grass and held it for a few seconds. The old Chinese men feigned indifference, and with a flourish the cyclist regained his feet, strapped on his helmet and pedaled off. It was as charming as it was inexplicable, Kylie mused; just like today.
An Italian pastry shell oozing fluffy sweet cream provided a satisfying dessert—the crunchy outside and soft filling offered up just the right contrast—and then Robin led her on a long hot climb up Telegraph Hill past a quaint mix of Art Deco flats and modernist glass-walled houses which clung to the hillside.
Their walking tour took them up Lombard to the Crookedest Street in the World, which sported an endless stream of vehicles meandering down the zig-zagging pavement. Kylie opined that this would not be her choice of residence, for the noise, diesel fumes and constant parade of pedestrians rendered the hillside more a zoo than a refuge.
After a dusk dinner of crispy-hot calamari and walnut-prawns, the tired but well-fed lovers boarded a Muni bus on Union Street and returned to Robin's studio for a shower, a quiet serving of Thelonius Monk's meandering piano and a glass of wine. As they flopped on the sofa in their mismatched robes—his white, hers gaily striped—Dorothy the black cat slipped silently in through the window. Robin always left it open enough for her to come and go as she pleased, and she made her way from the sill to the floor via a narrow wood plank Robin had fastened to the bookshelf.
Pausing on the carpet, she eyed the humans nestled against one another and decided that they were worthy of her company. Leaping lightly on the sofa, she positioned herself between them; and as each petted her, she settled in and closed her eyes. Their conversation did not bother her; but once the wine had been drained their conversation ceased and they began cooing and squirming, and that was bothersome in the extreme. Surrendering to their increasingly annoying movements, Dorothy jumped from the sofa to the windowsill and exited into the quiet night.
To read the previous chapters, visit the "Four Bidding For Love" home page.