Poetry Tuesday: Lachrimae Amantis

By Lope de Vega Carpio, 16th-17th Century Spain. Can’t help but wonder if this is where Ray Bradbury got the title for his story Frost and Fire.

What is there in my heart that you should sue
so fiercely for its love? What kind of care
brings you as though a stranger to my door
through the long night and in the icy dew

seeking the heart that will not harbor you,
that keeps itself religiously secure?
At this dark solstice filled with frost and fire
your passion’s ancient wounds must bleed anew.

So many nights the angel of my house
has fed such urgent comfort through a dream,
whispered ‘your lord is coming, he is close’

that I have drowsed half-faithful for a time
bathed in pure tones of promise and remorse:
‘tomorrow I shall wake to welcome him.’


Poetry Tuesday: Air

In honor of seeing Federico Garcia Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba last week, here’s one of his little ditties, of which there must be thousands.

The air
pregnant with rainbows
shatters its mirrors
over the grove.


Poetry Tuesday: When at the rising of the sun my nymph

Luis de Gongora, Spain, 1561-1627

When, at the rising of the sun, my nymph
Despoils the verdant field of flowers,
As many spring beneath her white feet
As she has gathered with lovely hand.

Wavelike is the breeze that flows
With fine gold, in illusory elegance,
Stirs the green leaves of dense poplars,
With the red light of breaking dawn.

But when she wreathes her lovely brow
With the various spoils in her dress
Putting an end to gold and snow

I swear her garland shines far brighter
Than flowers, and seems more star-like,
Formed of the nine orbs that light the sky.


Poetry Tuesday: Love Constant Beyond Death

Francisco Gomez de Quevedo y Villegas, 1580-1645 Spain

Perhaps whatever final shadow that
the shining day may bring could close my eyes,
and this my soul may well be set aflight
by time responding to its longing sighs;

but it will not, there on the farther shore
its memory leave behind, where once it burned:
my flame the icy current yet can swim,
and so severe a law can surely spurn.

Soul by no less than a god confined,
veins that such a blazing fire have fueled,
marrow to its glorious flames consigned:

the body will abandon, not its woes;
will soon be ash, but ash that is aware;
dust will be, but dust whose love still grows.


Book Reviews: Stolen Books, Storms, Living Dolls, and Medusa

As I walked out with the gorgeous blonde, I said, “If you guys don’t hear from me by tomorrow. . . tell everyone on Facebook and Twitter.”

A Murderous Storm
This is a murder mystery in the northern part of Germany—wasn’t sure if it was Deutchland or Dutchland for a while—told in first person, where in the first scene the three fishermen are listening to and talking about Johnny Cash; that was pretty jarring. To make it more strange, the three shrimpers are a retired doctor, a retired lawyer, and one guy who might actually be a fisherman, or just typical muscle. Anyhoo, they pull a body up in the fishing net, and the cops don’t want to do the work, simply calling it an accident, which offends the first person lawyer, especially when the victim’s sister asks for help and she’s too hot to say no to. This leads to a conspiracy involving a huge corporation and a big-time merger, and a dirty corporate guy who can’t handle his war-criminal “bodyguards.”
The story had some entertaining moments, though how some of these characters survived is beyond me. I think the author might have made the cops TOO stupid, unless of course they’re actually that corrupt. The main character’s daughter shows up, which will be good for some plot points later, but basically shows just how stubbornly stupid one person can be, though the acorn was too lazy to roll too far away from the tree, considering just when you think it’s all over the protagonist gets into trouble again. My favorite character was actually the dog; I think it was the smartest living thing in the story.
The best part of this novel was the settings; though I’ve been all over Germany, even relatively close to where this takes place, the starkness of the landscape described here is not something my camera has photographed. It’s different on the resort island, which is one of those places like Mackinac where motorized vehicles aren’t allowed. But most of all, the portrayal of the storm, and finding the victim in the middle of it, was the highlight.

Slush Pile Brigade
An Australian novelist, said to be second most popular author in the world, steals a manuscript from the slush pile in his agent’s office when he has writer’s block. He picks the right book, because he turns it into a best seller, but more importantly he picks the wrong book, because three years later the writer who was plagiarized comes looking for an apology, setting into motion a chain of events that brings death and destruction to everyone’s world, especially the agent’s.
The protagonist loses his job and girlfriend–she actually brings a new guy to same restaurant he always took her to–not cool, girl. He snaps and is forced to run from the police to Noo Yawk, where he plans to confront the agent, and the author who happens to be in town. Before it’s over his deep-CIA father, a Russian mobster, his three best buds, and the girl from his past that got away are sucked into the conflict as well.
Though Noo Yawk is one of my least favorite cities, the author showcases it lovingly, citing some old famous buildings as well as plenty of Central Park; my favorite was the walk through the dinosaur area in the museum, which fit the conversation perfectly. Big twists abound, like when he find out his father’s involved in the whole mess. The first half is more comedic than anything else, and it’s fun to read the shenanigans, in a butt monkey kinda way. But then it gets serious spy in a hurry, with people dying or being maimed, and some maybe dying or maybe not.
There was one part that annoyed the hell out of me. Not wanting to spoiler—is that a real verb?—suffice to say that the protagonist finds himself in trouble that wasn’t foreseen, but ends up surviving it differently than we were led to believe. Perhaps the author merely wrote in the wrong body part that exploded, but how he survived wasn’t explained, and as you can see I’m still irritated about it.
Some of the dialogue by the lesser members of the brigade is somewhat over-the-top, but mostly it’s well-written, with some descriptions shining, like, “But it wasn’t really like laughter at all. . . more like Kodiak bears groaning while shitting.” I do hate the author for that last twist, though. . .

This graphic novel starts with an inept mailman, who gets himself into all kinds of trouble, actually being the scout for a group of home-invasion thieves. The actual first page tells you the story of Los Angeles’s full name—too bad I already knew it—but sets the tone nicely. One of their targets turns out to be the house of a not-stable Hollywood prop master and monster maker, except not everything is a prop. . .
What I thought would blow up into a monster story turned out to be much more psychological, with an evil Frankenstein twist. The three male thieves are pretty dumb; of course it’s the girl with all the brains. I did enjoy how the story delved into everyone’s fucked-up origin stories, which made what they did all the more understandable. No one is more fucked up than the monster maker, though, and the story treats him well enough that you feel some sympathy for him even while he’s tormenting his adversaries and sacrificing women for his true love.
Bruce Campbell makes an appearance!. . . almost. The artwork is good, but nothing special, except for maybe the hot chick with the Kermit tattoo. There’s some well-included extras at the end, giving a cute background on how the story was thought up—originally set in London, which would have necessitated a different opener—and containing plenty of unused drawings, even a recipe from the bad guy’s “girl.” Some genuinely funny moments keep this from sinking into too much despair, but it’s still as dark and horrifying as expected from the genre.

Turned to Stone
An art history mystery—rhyme!—taking place throughout Spain and Italy, this story delves into the provenance and magical powers of a statue of the Greek myth of Medusa, and how some people will do anything to possess it.
Oddly enough I found myself enjoying it early on despite not caring for the protagonist; Jaime’s too much of a jerk to be likeable. Of course that changes later as his character develops, but I never really got to the point where I liked him, and liked Paloma less for the fact she was infatuated by him. His best friend, on the other hand, is a hoot, a former photographer now a security guard who doesn’t find anything weird in dressing up like Batman in order to get the job done. There’s plenty of other characters, most of them just serving a purpose, though some of them coming back at the end to show they’re not at all as expected. I was a bit miffed that the author drew such a fascinating character as the new art expert—gorgeous blonde, of course—and then quickly killed her off.
The bad guys were well-drawn, although Rosa—or whatever her name happened to be that day—seemed to slide back, being a complete badass at the beginning and ending up rather useless by the end. There’s also the henchman who just won’t die no matter how much you best him or beat him up, always showing up at the worst possible time. We also get the evil genius behind the curtain, and how he’s destroyed his family in his quest for money and revenge, which almost makes me sorry for Rosa but not quite.
The reveal of why the piece is so important, about two-thirds of the way through, was fascinating and well done, the best moment art-wise in the book. But it’s the hilarious image of three people struggling not to fall off a motorcycle that will remain with me forever. . .


Poetry Tuesday: In Santiago

By Spanish poet Lope de Vega Carpio, 1562-1635

In Santiago the green
Jealousy seized me
Night sits in the day,
I dream of vengeance.

Poplars of the thicket,
where is my love?
If she were with another
then I would die.

Clear Manzanares
Oh little river,
Empty of water,
Run full of fire.


Travel Thursday: Jerez of my Dream, part 5

The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art was the only one in the world good enough to be compared to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, which basically meant they only taught rich people and gave shows once in a while. With the place being next to the Palace, it didn’t take us long to walk there, even in her high heels, which she admitted she had to get used to walking in every time, let alone dancing in.
“But I’m fine now!” she giggled, and didn’t seem bothered when I didn’t say “Yes you are!”
Instead I went with, “Not after that last drink you’re not. And of course I did hear what that woman said to you, and more importantly what you said to her.”
I didn’t think she’d call me on that, for then I’d have to admit I was eavesdropping, but she simply blushed and hung her head, partly in shame and partly so I couldn’t see her grinning.
Stopping for a moment, I put my hand over her mouth; she fell obligingly silent, always being a good girl, as well as amused. “Wanna be a famous prima dona opera singer?” I whispered.
“Not especially,” she replied with a shrug.
“Do it anyway, all attitude. . . don’t say anything!”
Once there, I never broke stride as I gave the guard at the entrance a terse nod, holding the door open for her. She strode haughtily through it, pretending not to look at the suddenly-gasping guard. Enjoy it, baby, she thought, but immediately reverted to nice country girl and gave him a friendly “Buenas noches.”
“Good thing you wore those boots,” I muttered once we were inside, refusing to explain that, instead scolding, “I told you not to talk!”
She grinned, blushing. “Forgot. But why? What’s going on?”
“This is a show for special invited guests.” I put his arm around her shoulders and steered her, knowing she’d never remember which way to go. “Maybe we can get you off on mental incompetence.”
She chuckled and hugged me. “Afraid to admit it, but when I’m around horses, it’s usually true.”
“Don’t blame the horses.”
As I’d expected, soon enough someone challenged our right to be there, this one a bureaucratic jerk with a clipboard. “I do not know you.”
“You really need to get out more,” I smirked superiorly. “Everyone here recognizes the most famous actress in the world.”
“She is not on my list,” came the repeat monotone.
“Contact the people who actually know what’s going on,” I told the man sternly. “Then we’ll be more than happy to accept your apology.” I turned to her. “Let’s go, madame.”
She managed to hold the haughty this time until we were far away from the man– doing a damn good acting job, if I do say so myself!–before finally managing to look at me in something close to aghastment. “You need to give me acting lessons, mister!”
Making no reply to that other than a grin, I led her into the actual arena and found us some good seats. Reading from the flyer I’d been given, I translated, “A horseback procession celebrating the royal stud farm and the sixteenth century crossing of two Andalusian breeds, which gave rise to the superb horses of today.”
“Howz that different from what we saw at the fair?” she managed a good whine, wishing she could take the boots off for a few minutes.
“Top of the line horseflesh merchandise. Plus we get to sit.”
“Oh good!” She looked around and decided the people reminded her of those at Hollywood parties. “Not the actors, the behind the scenes movers and shakers. The money men and their trophy wives.” Then she grinned and waited for me to say something about her being perfect for that role.
Instead I went philosophical with, “Money can make men–and limber women–do strange things.”
“Limber, huh?” She had to keep herself from rushing into another fantasy, killed the thought with a Rush song. “Big money pulls a million strings.”
“Big money draws the flies.”
Grinning like a mean little kid, she continued the lyrics. “Big money leaves a mighty wake.”
“Big money leaves a bruise.”
“It’s the power and the glory.”
“It’s a war in paradise.”
“A Cinderella story.”
“On a tumble of the dice.”
She made a face. “We already did that part!”
The show started, and she thought of nothing else as she watched the horsies with a fascination that even took the self-proclaimed love of her life out of her brain. Luckily nothing happened to distract her from her happy place; she even gave what sounded like a sexual sigh of satisfaction when it was all over. Still clad in her tight green dress and honey-blonde hair up, plus the stilettos, she towered over most of the men in the post-show drinks room, either embarrassing or merely intimidating them.
Until she completely blew the mood–so to speak–by suddenly asking, “How do you say cucumber in Spanish?”
“Thank you.”
Not about to ask, I turned my attention, along with everyone else in the room, to a little stage in the corner, where two men dressed in centuries-old clothes began giving a fencing performance, unless it was a real duel over a girl or something.
As she watched the thrust and parry–and giggled to herself at the sexual connotations she couldn’t seem to stop thinking of–the younger of the guys was cut on the arm and immediately hustled away by his opponent, which basically told everyone the thing was indeed staged and dropped some of the enjoyment off the whole spectacle.
“Well, he’s dead,” Katarina announced cheerfully.
“Just a little scratch,” the woman next to her argued scornfully.
“A little poison on the sword and he’s done for.” She turned to glare at the woman. “Ever heard of Hamlet?”
Trying not to grin, I patted her ass gently. She, on the other hand, made no attempt to hide her smile. Now feeling completely relaxed, she started working the room, searching out any conversations in English. She’d never considered herself a brilliant conversationalist, but she knew herself to be a good listener, lively and quick to both sympathy and laughter, and with these qualities–added to her great beauty–no girl could go wrong.
So her mom told her, anyway. . .
Finally tired of meeting people she’d never meet again, she gave me a look that he interpreted quickly and easily. “I think it’s over here,” I smirked, and when she realized my cover for her escape was the old watercloset excuse, she clucked and scolded me like a maiden aunt, at least until we were out of earshot.
Instead I led her to a quiet balcony; she would not have been the least surprised if I’d either been here before or had scoped out the place while she was working the room. Wait, didn’t he say he always looks for the emergency exits? Glad he notices other things too!
Unable to stop herself, she looked over the railing and saw a gentle slope about ten feet down, an easy jump in a hurry, even in heels. “Ah,” she grinned. “You found this during your security explorations, didn’t you?”
“No idea what you mean, supposed-romantic lady.”
“Yeah, sure.”
I smirked evilly, as if to say, “Who ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”
Her only recourse was to douse me with a smile, showing every one of her perfect teeth.
But then she looked out past her little green escape hill, at the sight of the barns/ warehouses/whatever they were, and instinctively wrinkled her nose. “This place is butt-ugly!”
“You’ve never seen your butt, have ya?”
She winked. “Waiting for you to develop the photos.”
“Well, trust me, it’s as beautiful as the rest of ya.”
“Golly golly gosh!”
“Mmmm, I love your innocent character.”
“Knew ya would,” came the un-innocent smirk. “Plan on ravaging me?”
“Not that first time, no, but if you want to play that one day, don’t use your lousy German accent.”
Ignoring all the connotations that didn’t have to do with her acting, she huffed, “I can do a great German accent!”
“That was Russian.”
“Damn! It’s harder than I thought. Show me.”
“Why not?” That wasn’t whiny at all, right?
“I can’t be an actor,” he sighed. “Too exhausting.”
She looked smug, for some reason. “As true as that is, I have faith in you. Show me you agree by kissing me.”
“Not here.”
“So people see us, so what?”
“That would embarrass me.”
She snuggled closer. “I love it! Big man shy about kissing in public! You blush every time, it’s so cute! You’re blushing right now! It makes you appealing, you know.”
I thought about saying “I know,” instead growled at her, a mock carnivore rumble, and she squealed and hid her face in my chest. After a moment she pulled back and propped herself up with her chin on my shoulder to look at me, tracing the line of my nose, then my lips, with one finger. She obviously wasn’t the least bit embarrassed about anyone seeing us
“See how simple it is?” she whispered.
“That’s because you’ve done it so often in movies you can’t tell this is reality.”
“This isn’t reality,” she sighed. “This is paradise. . .”
On the other side of the corridor from the balcony we could look down at the ballroom, if that was indeed what it was called here. Smiling, I pointed to a man in a green tuxedo, whom she had seen and avoided like a plague. In fact, she shuddered as she asked, “Ever heard of a song called Marche funèbre d’une marionette? Classical composers were just as weird as today’s, if they wrote a funeral march for a puppet.”
“Ever see the Hitchcock TV show?”
“Remember the theme? That’s it.”
“That weird little march? Very cool! Really set the tone for the weirdness it preceded.”
For some reason she leaned over and kissed me tenderly on the cheek. . . only to be startled out of her mood at the shout of “Bella Americana!” from what sounded like more than one love starved/drunk guy. And indeed it was a crowd of them, scaring her. But at least they sound fun-loving rather than dangerous.
She did her best to be Hollywood-gracious, even signing autographs, until finally someone noticed how uncomfortable she looked under her façade of cheeriness. “You are indeed a special lady. Any time you need help. . . anything,” the guy added with a last glance at me.
She grinned and remarked, “All I ask is that you treat me no differently than you would the Queen.”
Which seems like the perfect place to end it. . .


Travel Thursday: Jerez of my Dreams, part 4

Because I’ll be out all day tomorah, you get Travel Thursday a day early. Easy on the champagne, you have to work tomorrow. . .

Being a relatively small town, we’d left the car at the horse show and walked downtown, finding it pleasant because everyone seemed to be out with the horsies. According to her–she’d read the tourist stuff at the hotel–the town dated back to Moorish times and “possessed a charming old town with beautiful palm lined squares.”
“You know what kind of feeling I get here?” she mused as she held my arm during the walk. “Aristocratic is the word. Maybe it’s the horse show, but I don’t feel at all like this place appreciates the common man.”
“And you haven’t even seen the liquor places. I think it’s the wide streets and overabundance of squares.”
Thrilled to find me agreeing with her, she added, “Plus all these rows of jacaranda trees.”
“Is that what they are? Thought you said you were only into flowers.”
“Read it in the brochure,” she quickly tried. “What liquor places?”
“Place is famous for sherry, and brandy too, I guess. You can go in and sample them and most likely buy some expensive bottles.”
“Not me! I’ve saving all my money for the horsies!”
“How many you gonna buy?”
“Depends,” came her usual impish tone; she even twirled around in a not-bad dance move before falling back into my arms, but after the customary fake sigh she as usual switched emotions like gears. “Hey, where are we, anyway? I like this fountain.”
“Looks like Plaza Simon Bolivar.”
Bending to sniff a flower, she queried, “Who was he?”
“The George Washington of South America.”
“What country?”
“A bunch of them, From Panama in the north to Bolivia in the south.”
“Holy cow! That’s what I call being influential!”
“Yeah, I’m surprised they gave him a statue here.”
“Hmmm?” She was taking a photo of the statue with her own tiny digital.
“Who do you think he was fighting to get independence for all those countries?”
“The Spanish, of course! Still, there’s a statue of George Washington or Benjamin Franklin in London, so why not this?”
“True, but that Mediterranean blood holds grudges a lot longer.”
“Don’t generalize, dear. Now tell me, what does it mean when the statue has a hoof raised like that?”
“That’s an urban legend,” I grinned. “It’s supposed to be that if the statue guy died in battle, the horse has two legs up. If the horse has a leg up, so to speak, then he was wounded and died later.”
“And if the horse is well-grounded?” she prompted, not that I needed it.
“Died of natural causes. But it’s not true. Depends on what the people commissioning the statue wanted, or else they left it to the sculptor to do whatever he wanted.”
“What about our buddy Simon here?” Of course she pronounced it Americanishly.
“Died of tuberculosis.”
“There goes that theory!” she frowned at the offending foreleg. “Well, that’s not really a natural cause, is it?”
“It’s not dying in battle or of battle wounds either.”
“Well, what else can the poor horsie do? Jump in the air?”
“The horsie might, but not the statue.”
“Right!” she laughed, tapping her blonde head. “But when we get levitation technology invented–”
“You’ll get the first one.”
“That’s all I ask. Okay, nuff of that. Flower time!”
For the next few minutes I shot about an equal amount of flowers and blonde, and of course some shots of both. Unfortunately it wasn’t long before she switched gears again. “Can we go back to the hotel? I’m pretty tired.”
“Gotta walk back to the car. . .”
“You can do that,” she yawned yet again; nap time, no doubt. “I’ll wait here and you can pick me up.”
“And who’s gonna protect you from all those rich assholes who come on to you?”
“I’ve been doing it since I was fourteen!” she grumbled, but saw my point. “Okay, I’ll walk back with you, but you gotta make it interesting. Different route, different sights. Make me forget my weariness.”
“Tall order.”
“You’re a tall guy.”
“Not that tall. But you’re definitely a tall gal.”
“I could use a tall glass of water.”
“How ‘bout a fat one instead?” I pulled her pink canteen from her bag, which made her laugh and gave her a little more energy to start the walk back.
Which was ultimately fine, since Jerez was a nice little town to wander in, full of monuments and museums and such. She was too tired to show off the moves she’d learned that night in Granada when we walked by the Centro de Flamenco, which advertised itself as a library that housed pretty much every document, song and video ever made about the dance. “Something I would usually be all over,” she moaned. “Why am I so tired?”
“Couldn’t be all the sex.”
That made her laugh. “Trust me, baby, that wouldn’t make ME tired! You’ll find out one day.”
“Looking forward to it.” But I put just enough doubt in my tone to bring on her giggles. While she wasn’t paying attention, I ushered her into a nearby shop and quickly ordered in Spanish, simply telling her I knew exactly what would perk her up right now.
In only a couple of minutes a smiling man brought us a huge platter on which sat a giant coil of what at first she thought was a cinnamon roll, but the brown doughy surface sparkled instead of glistened with frosting.
“Okay, what is this?” she muttered, also staring at the cups of thick brown semi-liquid placed in front of us.
“You forgot already? You did seem to like the churros in Granada.”
“These are churros? How come they’re not in long broken sticks?”
“Guess they figured you’d have enough energy to break them yourself.”
She made a face at that, then a worst one at the cup. “And this?”
“Boy, your memory sure requires a lot of energy to work! Chocolate! You dip the churro in it!”
“Right!” But then her eyes fell on the giant pizza-sized coil again. “Do they seriously think we’ll finish all this?”
“If you don’t, I will. Think of it this way: the sugar rush will get ya to the car.”
She made a “yeah, okay” bob of the head and dug in, holding her own in the mutual demolishment of dough, sugar and chocolate. She didn’t even kid me about my supposed distaste for the sweet stuff.
Unable to stop herself, she looked up at the menu on the chalkboard behind the counter, but could only recognize one item, which led her to screech, “I hate beans!”
“Really?” Grin. “Coffee and chocolate come from beans.”
“Shit,” she mourned, then stopped dunking her churro, in fact stopped eating altogether. And it didn’t help that I was giving her the patented, “It’s your own fault” grin. . .
The chocolate churro had indeed given her the energy to make it to the car, but from there she’d struggled to keep her eyes open long enough to get to the hotel, and I’d practically carried her to their room. She managed to grope her way to the bathroom, at times irritated with the heretofore loving-them! jodhpurs, but finally managed to completely denude herself in a way she knew no man would pay to see before running out with a last burst of energy and throwing herself on the bed.


Travel Thursday: Jerez of my Dreams, part 3

Finally, when she seemed to be almost lifelike again, I asked if she minded wandering around the horsies alone. “Gotta develop these shots and make a poster for this guy, otherwise I might have to buy the horse.”
“Would that be so bad?” she teased, but waved me away imperiously. Just for that, I grumbled to myself, I wouldn’t bring her any chocolate.
To her surprise, she found herself glad to be without me for a while, so she said later, if only guys would stop hitting on her. Luckily she had other thoughts and sights to deal with, like Hey, a miniature appaloosa! Squeal! I want one!

She might have told me what she did for those couple of hours, but I was too bored to care, since I was still enjoying her freakout when I’d come back and told her, “Hey lady, wanna buy a burro?”
Gasping in surprise at the voice coming seemingly from inside her ear, she turned right into my grinning face. “What are you doing here?” came her rather pathetic yelp.
“Anything I want.”
“But you’re back so quick!”
“I came as quickly as I. . . felt I had to.”
She snorted on that, but chuckled too. “Did they really develop them that fast?”
Shrug. “Took me the whole time just to find a place.” Smiling, I bent my neck so the side of my head would just touch hers. Feeling it, she leaned against me to reciprocate, without banging skulls. . . too hard. Maybe it’ll become our signature move, she chortled internally.
“Did you know there’s a musical group called Palomino Duck?”
She giggled prettily, the way she would when she wanted something given to her as a gift. “I’d pay to see one of those waddle by right now.”
Luckily I didn’t have anything to give her at the moment, but it was good to know she had that setting, and I could recognize it. “You are some crazy chick.”
“That’s why you love me,” she yawned.
“Wow, I’m pathetic.”
Laughing heartily, she hugged me from behind, then suddenly chortled, “All that glitters is not gold.”
“Nor iron bars a cage!. . . sorry, wrong one.”
“That’s okay,” she laughed, “as long as it was poetry and not a song lyric.”
“When you can fall for chains of silver, you can fall for chains of gold.”
“Now that’s a song! And I totally agree with it, since I’ve never fallen for it.”
“Not yet, anyway. . .”
She ignored that, instead asking, “Hungry yet?”
“Nope,” came my automatic response, but I still reached into his backpack. “Emergency rations,” I explained as I pulled out the pack of gummies.
“There are a bunch of snack places, you know.”
“Yeah,” she sighed, “but that’s clear over there–” She pointed. “–and I’d rather stick with the horsies for now.”

As always, she allowed herself to be led by my whim, and now had to concentrate as we took a small flight of steps into what. . . oh lord, is this a bullring?
As usual, I was able to read her thoughts. “It’s all horses this weekend.”
She squeezed my hand, knowing she should have trusted me, but glad she hadn’t said anything aloud.
Another parade was going on, though this was more than just horsies walking down the boulevard. Some did tricks, others the fancy dancing more commonly known as dressage, and other figured they were just beautiful enough to be admired for their looks. . . or rather their owners did.
I didn’t care that much about equine ego, but there was an amazing young Andalucían I couldn’t take my eyes off. . . more specifically, the horse’s ass. It was young enough to still be rather gray all over, but its tail had been braided into a delicious white braid that reminded me of a certain gorgeous softball player I’d shot many times. And the woman riding it was draped in a red and white flamenco dress, the tail of which framed the braid so perfectly. . .
I glanced over; she was watching the horse with wide-eyed absorption, so I decided not to say anything. She’d see the pictures soon enough anyway.
To my surprise, but also my delight, I found myself enjoying her reactions as much as the show. While I had a long lens on the camera to catch every tiny nuance of a passing horsie, I also had a tiny digital similar to hers, useful for capturing her delight as she cheered and gasped next to me. She watched the show with avid fascination, squinting in the dark of the shadows and clapping at all the right moments, appreciative of every flower and every horse, playing the perfect tourist and amateur horsewoman.
“Nice mules,” she even said once, but the highlight, or one of them, had to be when the most beautiful stallion–and this horse knew it, ego-wise–pranced across the dirt, quickly followed by an almost-identical mare.
“They’re probably brother and sister,” she murmured, “but wouldn’t it be awesome if they were a couple?”
I watched the color rise in her face, giving her red spots on her cheeks that stood out against the whiteness of her flesh. She was breathing quickly, nostrils flaring, chest heaving, and I thought I hadn’t seen anything as lovely in a long time.
“Lovely,” I said aloud, involuntarily.
“Yes she is, isn’t she?”
“Prime filly,” I sighed, causing her to grin and wonder if I was talking about her.
After that we kept quiet and watched the show, she trying to memorize certain horses to draw later, then realizing I was getting a ton of photos, so she could work off of that. Neither of us spoke until I suddenly murmured “Nice capriole” near the end of the performances.
She couldn’t help the sigh that escaped her, but that was due more to her acting instinct that anything else. “Stop showing off, you louse. What’s it mean?”
“Upward leap with no forward motion.”
“In that case, yes, very nice.”
Then came the other highlight, when I was really getting involved in the show she was putting on just for me, though there was probably more than a few men in the audience who had their eyes riveted to her rather than the horsies. But on hearing the gasps of the crowd, including hers, and seeing some tiny tears welling up in her eyes, I brought my attention back to the ring, and saw what all the fuss was about. Instantly my camera was against my eye.
For her part, she could not take her eyes away from the tiny colt clip-clopping obediently beside its mother, somehow managing to impart to its audience that it was both curious and yet happy to be here, or to be alive, for that matter. This baby, she instantly decided, had not struggled to stand up when it had been born, like a newborn giraffe, though that was cute in itself; no, this guy had been born graceful, fully prancing just minutes into its life. She couldn’t stop looking any more than she could stop breathing.
“I wonder if the owner of that little guy would like a walk-on role on an American TV series, or if he’d want something more to feel good about giving me that adorable little pony.”
“Gift horse?” I smirked, making her struggle not to giggle and ruin the show, but luckily the little guy had been designed to end things. Smart of them, I thought.

A few minutes later we were back amongst the stalls, with her cooing to each horse she came across. Eventually, as we reached the end of the stalls and she was realizing she was tired, we found ourselves looking at a beautiful palomino who, unfortunately, couldn’t hold a candle of attention to its owner or seller, whoever the ridiculous-looking guy was.
For once when there was a horse around, she could not keep her eyes off the pitchman. She thought that, the way he looked, he belonged in Hollywood–the town, not the state of mind that went with the movie industry. He was only about five-five, with a shock of yellow hair that stood out from his head in random spikes surrounding his round tanned face.
“He looks like a black-eyed Susan,” she whispered, once again showing off her botanical expertise, making me laugh and lose my way in the translation.
Noticing I was too quiet as we moved along, but not about to let me off easy, she made sure there was accusation in her voice as she asked, “What are you thinking of?”
“Trying to remember if any of the Susans I know have black eyes. Do you mean the actual eyes being black, or the punch-in-the-face type?”
“I didn’t name the plant,” she demurred. “And remember what I told you about thinking of other girls. . .”
“That it shows I’m not a stalker?”
“No, after that.”
“Um. You’re no fun.”
“I am too!”
“Show me.”
“Someday,” she chortled, “when there ain’t a Susan in sight!”
And I had to leave it at that. Knowing she would ask again, I thought of something else to be pretending to think about, and had just come up with a doozy when she quickly got sidetracked by, of all things, a clothing store. But of course it had to be horse-related, and once I realized what that meant, I hurried in after her.
But she was already in a makeshift dressing room, next to racks and racks of the tightest jodhpurs I’d ever seen. Just when I got to wondering how secure the place was, and was about to look for tiny security cameras, she came out and, seeing me, preened with a few spins. It was too dark to shoot in there, so I quickly paid for the garment and grabbed the jeans she’d taken off so she’d have to walk in her new oh-so-tight pants.
She caught on to my game, but only smiled and walked out, as well as she could, all things–or thighs–considered. Once out in the sunlight, I let her walk ahead a little, getting plenty of shots of the skin-tightness of the material against her ass. Though I did pause to wonder how she managed not to show any panty lines under. . .
Duh, I laughed to myself. No underwear, of course.
She knew what I was up to, of course; it was exactly what she’d planned when she’d spotted the jodhpurs, a way to reward me. Poor camera’s gonna burn out. . .
Hey, I just realized. . . he grabbed my jeans, but not my undies! Sure, he didn’t know I’d taken them off in the dressing room, but still. . . should I go back and get them? Hopefully they’re not being sniffed by some perv–or on eBay!–already!
Suddenly a very unusual Suthin’ accent–unusual for Spain, anyway–asked her, “Has anyone ever told ya you have a really pretty mouth. . .?”
“Yeah,” I immediately answered, next to her in a second, “but he was a lot prettier than you.”
And that’s why I love him, sigh. . . “Your camera having fun with my new look?”
“If cameras could have erections. . .”
“Ha! Bring out the long lens!”
I almost told her about the shot of me resting at halftime of a soccer game, the 500mm dangling between his legs, but I figured she’d see it soon enough.
“You really like my new pants?” She brought her shoulders closer together, dropping her chin, totally going for the eight-year-old urchin look, really incongruous with her body and the way she was showing it off.
“The only thing tighter than jodhpurs is WET jodhpurs.”
She tried a baleful look, but much to her chagrin she found herself picturing it, wondering when we were gonna shoot at the beach. . .
Stepping around a corner, she found herself in the midst of what looked to be a medieval costume drama, akin to those Renaissance Fairs she’d attended as a kid. There were tents, glowing brightly like they were lit from inside despite the harsh sun, and plenty of cooking pots filling the air with exotic spicy scents, making her mouth water.
“Just your kind of thing, huh?” I laughed as I saw her face.
“I’m so glad we’re here!” she yelped, throwing her arms around me.
Grinning because I knew what was on her mind, even if she’d never admit it, I asked, “Time to grab some lunch?”
She looked genuinely startled. “I’d completely forgotten!”
“Probably how you keep your girlish figure.”
She grinned as she led the way to a more substantial restaurant than what the booths offered. Figuring we’d be back here tomorrow, where she could sample the food to her heart’s content, right now she had to make sure she found a place my picky stomach could tolerate, and she’d spotted one earlier.
Less than five minutes later we were seated, the girl at the door giving her a look of askance at the jodhpurs, then realize only rich women dressed like that. She took our drink orders and handed us menus and then felt somewhat relieved not to have to deal with the odd couple any more, or maybe just the beautiful woman who made her feel like a lesser species of female.