“Whatever you do,” her voice was lost deep down in hundreds of pounds of suddenly haunted flesh, “don’t bring it here.”

“Death isn’t a thing you can bring with you, Fannie.”

“Oh, yes it is. Scrape your feet before coming in downstairs. Do you have money to get your suit dry-cleaned? I’ll give you some. Shine your shoes. Brush your teeth. Don’t ever look back. Eyes can kill. If you look at someone, and they see you want to be killed, they tag along. Come here, dear boy, but wash up first and look straight ahead.”

“Horsefeathers, Fannie, and hogwash. That won’t keep death away and you know it. Anyway, I wouldn’t bring anything here to you but me; lots of years, Fannie, and love.”

That melted the snow in the Himalayas.

She turned in a slow carousel motion. Suddenly we both heard the music that had long since started on the hissing record.


Fannie Florianna sank her fingers into her bosom and seized forth a black-lace fan, flitted it to full blossom, flirted it before her suddenly flamenco eyes, shut her lashes demurely, and let her lost voice spring forth reborn, fresh as cool mountain water, young as I had felt only last week.

She sang. And as she sang, she moved.

It was like watching the heavy curtain lift daintily high at the Metropolitan to be draped around the Rock of Gibraltar and whirled at the gesturings of a maniac conductor who knew how to electrify elephant ballets and call spirit-spout white whales from the deeps.

By the end of the first song, I was crying again.

This time, with laughter.

Only later did I think to myself, my God. For the first time. In her room. She sang.

For me!

Downstairs, it was afternoon.

I stood in the sunlit street, swaying, savoring the aftertaste of the wine, looking up at the second floor of the tenement.

The strains sounded of the song of farewell; the leave-taking of Butterfly by her young lieutenant, all in white, sailing away.

Fannie loomed on her porch, looking down at me, her little rosebud mouth smiling sadly, the young girl trapped in her round harvest-moon face, letting the music behind her speak our friendship and my leave-taking for now.

Seeing her there made me think of Constance Rattigan locked away in her Moorish fort by the sea. I wanted to call up and ask about the similarity.

But Fannie waved. I could only wave back.

I was ready for Venice in clear weather now.

Little balding man who doesn’t look like a detective, Elmo Crumley, I thought, here I come!

But all I did was loiter in front of the Venice Police Station feeling like a gutless wonder.

I couldn’t decide whether Crumley was Beauty or the Beast inside there.

Such indecision made me ache out on the sidewalk until someone who looked like Crumley glanced out of an upstairs jail window.

I fled.

The thought of him opening his mouth like a blowtorch to scorch the peach fuzz off my cheeks made my heart fall over like a prune.

Christ, I thought, when will I face up to him at last to unload all the dark wonders that are collecting like tombstone dust in my manuscript box? When?


During the night, it happened.

A small rainstorm arrived out front of my apartment about two in the morning.

Stupid! I thought, in bed, listening. A small rainstorm? How small? Three feet wide, six feet tall, all just in one spot? Rain drenching my doormat, falling nowhere else, and then, quickly, gone!


I leaped to yank the door wide.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The stars were bright, with no mist, no fog. There was no way for rain to get there.

Yet there was a pool of water by my door.

And a set of footprints arriving, pointed toward me, and another set, barefoot, going away.

I must have stood there for a full ten seconds until I exploded. “Now, hold on!”

Someone had stood there, wet, for half a minute, almost ready to knock, wondering if I was awake, and then walked off to the sea.

No. I blinked. Not to the sea. The sea was on my right, to the west.

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray