Quasimodo Takes the Grand Tour
15 September 2003
Beginning in Dublin, where the whale-lanes end. Below
the Trinity belltower, Stephen's Green, where the
citizens like August dogs stretched under a flurry of
sun. I climbed the steeple, rang the bells. On the
Green, a few books were shut, fewer eyes opened.
Across the turbulent North Sea, I rounded the stark
pillar of the Old Man of Hoy, to arrive at the strange
flat Orkney Isles. An angus bull still and black
against the ever-lasting wind greeted my sea legs
impassively. I hauled the ropes in stolid St. Magnus'
redstone cathedral, an edifice raised with fishermen's
prayers. Below, the bull refused
to move out of the slate winds.
Onwards, across the Channel to Notre Dame, my
unbearable home town. No friends anymore, the Phantom,
Athos, Scott Fitzgerald, Esmeralda, all gone to New
World sanitariums for their varied addictions: fugues,
honor, champagne and me. I avoided the bells, haunted
the Boulevard St. Germain, bought hard candies from
lab-smocked students attempting to raise money for
texts. I rounded the corner and huddled in close, dark
St. Severin's. Lit a candle that instantly sputtered
out, telling me to leave on the wisp of a prayer that
Fleeing eastwards, away on the rails, watched a
romance flicker and dim in a single night. The couple,
Saxons you could tell by their spectacles, like new
lovers, much touching of fingers upon thigh. Later,
the purple compartment curtains closed. Later still,
her in the corridor pressing her face against the soot
screen. Then, the midnight transfer at Koln, him alone
craning his neck, searching the platform while I pored
over an unreadable schedule of departures.
Nurnburg, in the smallest of hours, the border guards
kicking open the compartment door, icy hands
demanding, "Passport! Papers!" I found both and the
night train was allowed onwards, towards dawn-breaking
Prague, Praha, the city with a laugh at the end of its
name, and the gypsies eyed my watch-less wrist with
scorn. I took a room above the rough Vinohrady gin
mills, where a sandy-haired whore with fingerless
gloves was oddly sympathetic to my humpback. The next
morning, aimlessly strolling the Royal Route amid
flocks of chirping Italian tourists, I rubbed the
plaque of the martyr and hound for good luck, the
bronze cur and saint shiny from the hands of other
strangers. Up the hill, up the great staircase where
old men in black berets sold postcards at every
landing. Finally reaching the mighty Cathedral of St.
Vitus, every eighth gargoyle's mouth open, a gutter
spouting blue sky. With blistered hands and a cold
from lack of sleep, I hauled the ropes one more time,
hoping for the sun to gush continuously from the
laughing gargoyles above.
Copyright © 2003 Tobias Seamon
Nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize in 2002, Tobias Seamon's work has appeared previously at The Mississippi Review, The Pedestal Magazine, and Strange Horizons. A contributing writer with the web-based broadsheet The Morning News, he lives in upstate NY and co-edits Whalelane, an online journal of the arts. His previous publications in Strange Horizons can be found in our Archive. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.