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  • Ah, Venice. Years ago, my daughter and I were cruising around Italy in one of the greatest adventures of my life. I'm sure she has had more and better since, but for me Italy would be hard to beat. I may tell the story later where in Roma I panicked and made Jess jump off a moving train with me, but I don't want you to think I am a total nitwit so I'll skip that one...for now.

    Jess and I were in Venice doing what we loved to do: wander. We had had dinner, frutta di mare risotto for two, and were exploring the back streets of Venice, having already seen the major tourist attractions, including the Bridge of Sighs and all the pigeons in St. Mark's. Jess is based in Florence for her junior year abroad with Smith College studying Italian, so she speaks my native tongue better than I. In the days before GPS, we used maps and asked for directions to specific sites, but in this case, it was not possible. There were no people in the neighborhood we were wandering. Just empty buildings, abandoned for one reason or another. And how can you get lost on an island like Venice?

    It was getting dark and we kept crossing over canal after canal and sometimes the same canal, looking for the main canal where the water taxi would take us back to the mainland and our hotel. After a certain hour, they stop running and you are stuck in Venice with your stuff stuck somewhere else, and it was Easter week and everything in Venice was booked and way beyond our budget. Sundown: shadows were lengthening, and we strolled linked-arms, dressed Italian style in shoes with heels, marking our steps and time passing in this abandoned stretch of antiquity.

    The hollow clops of our heels along one particular stretch reverberated off a great wall to our left. The sign said "Cemetery" (in Italian of course). A cold wind crept over the wall and ruffled our hair. Jess clutched my arm and pulled me faster along the via. At about the halfway point along the wall, a black cat leapt from the top and landed directly in front of us, yellow eyes blazing, teeth bared, malignantly hissing. It arched its back to realign itself and darted between us. We screamed like a couple of scardy-cat girls and ran, clutching backpacks and purses. We didn't stop galloping along the vacant streets and over deserted bridges until we finally discovered the canal, last taxi idling by the dock. We dove on, and he immediately took off. We just made it! But my heart didn't slow its beating until were were back in the hotel with the lights blazing and the door locked.
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