Anny Ballardini

in the World of Middle-Aged Men

The girl got up and put on her middle-aged dress. It was the day of the appointment with the big director of the gardens of the town, the one who decided on the life and death of her friends, the trees that talked to her day and night, and the golden flowers that smiled to the sun. She had prepared herself and had memorized the Latin names to show that she was, as a matter of fact, a distinguished Lady, well set in her armor of decades upon decades, experience after experience. The appointment had to be at 11 am. The trees had understood the importance of the visit, as much as the wind, the rain, the planets around.

On the late summer days, the 80/90-year-old trees, after the intense heat and the lack of rain, had turned many of their leaves to yellow and orange. Such a miserable sight. “Doctor Black_ Moustache will say again that you are sick, and he will have confirmation for his vandalistic acts,” thought Cindy.

But the day before the appointment it had started raining, and it had rained for hours. Also the wind had started blowing and it had blown the dry leaves away, down the street, and then all the way down to the big square, and again further down. On the morning of the appointment, the trees were all green, they seemed young gazelles dancing in the breeze against the terse sky. “He cannot say now that they are old and must be cut down,” was Cindy’s stubborn belief while she was combing her hair in a pony tail, “elderly lady, all right, but with a tinge of wilderness around”.

She was there before him. They had arranged to meet at the busy café that after endless passages of owners ended up in the hands of the Chinese, as had all the cafés in town. A group of elderly men were right on the doorway, a couple of ladies were chatting their mouths away at a small table, and other people were standing or sitting sipping coffees or aperitifs. She found the newspaper and headed to a table outside in order to glimpse and jump up promptly if he arrived. These are the good manners middle aged ladies have when they show interest in meeting someone important, at least that is what she figured she had to do.

His big face squared in quickly. She got up smiling and went towards him in an open gesture to show that she was going to shake his hand in friendship. He disgracefully looked at her, and almost pushed her away. She said: “It is me, Cindy!”

“I have to see if there is someone,” he said while walking away.

She returned to her table and was going to sit down again but halted, “No, a lady does not sit down, she waits for the person she was supposed to meet”. She therefore stood there, close to the table, turned the page of the newspaper, started reading the titles, she was alert.

He came back, did not say anything. She stared at him since she did not know what to do, showed his chair, “Please, sit down…”

“I am waiting for someone,” he said.

They therefore stood there, she looking at him, he looking away. Finally Long_Leg Foxy arrived.

“Cindy, how nice to see you, how are you, what a wonderful dress, I was here to wash my hands, every time that I pass by I come in to wash my hands” he said, and sat down. She therefore waited for Dr. Black_ Moustache to sit, and she finally sat down. “Are these the good manners of middle-aged gentlemen?” she asked herself, but tried to hide this thought by wrinkling her lips. But then she wrinkled her lips again because Long_Leg Foxy’s lie was so visible: Black_ Moustache had looked for him, and he said instead that he had just arrived to wash his hands. At that point she was very tired of wearing her middle-aged dress, and would have wanted to be the usual girl she was and just spit in the face of those two imposters, push them off their chairs, stick out her tongue, call them names, and run away. But there were the trees to save, and she wrinkled her lips for the third time and said:

“This is the first time I come out. I slept for three days and three nights, and I am still taking my medicines, I feel very weak.”

For a moment Foxy stopped talking, and Black_Moustache looked at her. For a moment she thought they were two human beings. It was an illusion.

“Lady Cindy accuses us of not doing our jobs. She thinks she knows more of trees than me who teaches at the grand amphitheater. She says that the trees are not sick, that how we trim them is not the proper way,” said Black_Moustache addressing Foxy, and then he looked away. She realized he did not want to look at her, he never looked at her in the face.

“Lady Cindy should know better, Foxy said, she is a grown up woman. I know that Lady Cindy did not mean that, I told her that myself. Besides, we did spray them so many times, she should understand that we are spending all that money, just for these trees…”

“There is a new town rule that abolishes the pesticide we are using now, we still use it, but we must comply sooner or later,” said Black_Moustache, “I must go now,” and he stood up.

Cindy rushed forward, “And the trees!”

“We will cut them all,” Black_Moustache turned his back and walked hurriedly away. She tried to follow him, but he soon disappeared. Out of the corner of her right eye she saw Foxy doggily running the other way down, she imagined he was saying: “You did not see me today, just forget about having seen me today.”

Anny Ballardini has published a collection of poems with Otoliths: Ghost Dance in 33 Movements, and a previous one with Moira: Opening and Closing Numbers. She recently received her PhD from the U. of Verona, to be added to her MFA from the U. of New Orleans, and to a degree as an Interpreter and Translator. She is the Editor of the Poet's Corner.
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