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  • There are nasty nights when the gasses from the street lamps cast down through the raining and make the street a lonely emerald way, of bejewelled dripping cobbles.

    It's just you and that other shadow figure coming down the emerald and topaz.

    Night, nasty and damp, when inspiration comes directly from the shuttered bleak tunnel you feel compelled to walk through.

    No one but you, the stone, the zydeco shutters, the green rain hiss, the wet emerald valleys, and some other idiot you are already making into a figure in your novel, the shadow moving on the borderline between sulphurs.

    It is also possible that the shadow has seen me, and named me as that idiot besides him, and is making me into a character in his novel.

    Night, and the novelists own the city:

    Dear John, I met a guy named Joe.

    Dear John, Six Words.

    Dear John, Joe's my dear now.

    Dear John, I went out in my trenchcoat, belted at the waist the way you like it. I washed up at Santander, a short drive along the Cantabrian coastline. Bay of Biscay. That's right, Jack. Remember how I used to call you Jack, Johnny? That's past now, J. I hope you see that. It was never anything we could sustain. You said that, J.J., right at the start. Remember?

    Down at that squid joint on the Angel Gate. Yeah, that one. Then we went to see "Inland Empire." Yeah, that night, Jack. You, me, and four other misbegotten souls, in the retro theatre, right after the March bombing. That's right.

    The night I had the hatbox and nobody asked me any questions. Even the usher guy fell asleep in the balcony. I could have had anything in the hatbox.

    Too bad it was a hat.

    Yeah, John. I am going to be wearing my white felt borsalino for someone else whose name begins with a J.

    I guess I am just that sort of a pearl of a girl.

    I fall for guys named J. every day of the week.

    But, Johnny, this one was different.

    I was in Cantabria, see?

    I went to a bar on the waterfront. Just any old no name bar a girl like me tends to wash up at. You know the one. You've been there. You've been in San Francisco and Marseilles, in Halifax and La Palma. Yeah, that bar.

    So I was having a short one and I knew just by the way he looked at me not looking he had be another pencil-chewing hack, just like me. The bombs weren't bad yet, Johnny. He had the look of a man sniffing out a story, and sorry, baby. That story was me.

    I went out for a walk. I was reading William Irish. Yeah, I know. Tell it to the judge. I know you turned me on to him. I know it was an alias. But there it was. I was in a back room at our old hotel. I went out in the rain. My camera led me on its leash.

    What are the chances?

    Of all the rain sodden emerald topaz alleys in the world, there he was: the same wandering hack from the bar, out looking in the rain for a Babe of Biscay story.

    You know the rest.

    Short version: I traded a John for a Joey.

    Sure. He likes me to call him Joey.

    But I don't need to tell you that.

    You know me and rain. I look out the window, and I gotta get out in it and keep turning the pages.

    (photo by Susan)
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