Along the boulevard, two lovers kissed under a flickering street lamp; a poodle trailed behind a woman carrying bread, fresh and hot from the oven. At one side of the square, a blonde woman sipped wine in the glow of her cigarette. Her eyes were hidden behind dark glasses. She didn't have bread. She had two books. One, thick and heavy, the other quite thin.
The thin volume, Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal laid open on the table. Soft raspy noises escaped from the woman's moving lips. She wept Les Fleurs du Mal. Les Fleurs du Mal. Les Fleurs du Mal. A man in the white apron and black beret leaned against the side of a produce truck. A cigarette dangled from his lips.
˝Hey, Charlotte,ţ he shouted at the woman. ˝Close the book, Charlotte. How sweet thy breast, thy heart. Come kiss me.ţ
She doesn't move.
˝Come kiss me.ţ The man's lips smacked together as he sucked on his cigarette.
The woman snapped a brittle retort and shrugged her shoulders. She closed the book, and pinched tobacco from a Drum pouch, and sprinkled it onto a paper. Her tongue flicked out of her mouth as she licked the edge. She quickly twisted the ends, and slid the cigarette between her lips. A red glow burned a hole into the night.
Wisps of smoke curled up through the leaves and disappeared into an open upstairs window.
The artist stopped painting and breathed deeply. It was a smell he remembered, the smell of a not quite forgotten lover late at night after making love. Veiling the painting, he raised the window and leaned into the moonlight.
The woman stubbed her cigarette in a tin ashtray before dropping it into a half empty glass.
First published: February 1997