FROM CHAPTER 17
“Beth, with those long legs you should have been a dancer.” Eddy Miller was posing his favorite model.
“Oh, I did take a few lessons in school, but I didn’t like the teacher. ‘First position … second position … en pointe.’ Not a lot of fun.”
“Do you think you could still pose those positions?”
“Not on my toes. I never really got on pointe before I quit; and I haven’t the ankle muscles.”
“It would make a nice spread. You could wear something long with those stems peeking out when you spin.”
“It wouldn’t be much of a pinup. I can’t see guys who look at Titter being turned on by ballet.”
“I’d like to see you dance, Beth.”
They looked at each other for a long moment. Beth was smiling her famous smile, but Eddy seemed lost in thought. It was time for Beth to leave. When she had gone Eddy walked into the night in search of relief.
It was evening in Constantinople. Constantine with a few disguised guards had slipped away from the palace. The teenager wanted to see the city, the real city which had not been prepared for a visit by the Anointed of God: swept, decorated and perfumed, and strewn with flowers….
It was evening but not yet night. There was still light on the streets lined with stucco and terra cotta houses. Some of the houses also served as shops or workspace for their tenants but others were just dwellings. Those who did not work in their houses but on small farms, or were merchants, or were employed in the city’s many workshops were headed to their homes. Many looked tired from the hard work of their day but others were walking together in pairs or small groups, sometimes talking quietly and seriously but sometimes laughing too. God told Adam: “By your sweat you shall earn your bread” and so they do. It was not an unhappy populace just a weary one. Soon they would be with their wives and children. There would be food enough. Even those who could not afford much meat would still have plenty of bread and vegetables. Bread was free for the poorest and anyone could grow a few vegetables in the fine Constantinoplian climate. Good water was brought from the mountains by the city’s aqueducts and was free at the fountains. Simple table-wine was inexpensive.
Constantine stumbled on a paving stone that stood up too high. He recovered just as one of the guards rushed to support his emperor. Together they entered a small square where an unimpressive fountain took the last gleams of twilight. It was not one of the great forums but a simple crossing of streets with a fountain. Some merchant who might have been busy a few moments before with a last minute sale was still closing his stall and rolling his awning. An hour ago the little square would have been very busy and noisy. Now it was quiet and pretty in a simple way that Constantine noticed more than those who spent their days there would have. It was nice to just look around at the things that generations of plain folk had produced. Simple things like paint on wooden window sills instead of the marble-work that was polished daily at the palace. He noted the roofs of red clay and the tastefulness of arches and vaults about him. There were no trees, only stone and stucco and a few plants in pots for their color. This was the city. It felt almost enclosed, and every sound was loud. Some reverberated. There was enough of nature not far away, olive groves and orchards even within the walls. People here were happy to be clustered one family upon another where they could chat together without even leaving their windows. Besides, the summer had been unusually cool so the stench was tolerable and nothing more than Constantine was used to. At night the mule shit would be collected for monastery farms. Gutters beside the traveled way removed much of the other wastes when it rained. His people lived in this scene and were so accustomed to it and so busy with their routine chores that they hardly noticed it was pretty — except maybe sometimes, when the seasons changed and the breeze was fresh, and there was nothing of importance for one of them to deal with. Then he might take a moment to rest by the fountain and sip a little water before heading home to dinner, children, and finally bed with the wife he loved.
The last rays of the sun gilded the simplest things. Constantine was totally relaxed and without a care. Far down a street with a view of the sea behind her, a dancer pranced from one doorway to another. Her steps and clothing were not of his century. Back-lit by the sunset her whole long legs flashed beneath a full-length skirt. For just a brief moment she stood en pointe. Constantine was amazed. It was the most beautiful pose he had ever seen, in its way more erotic than when Beth wore boots and a thong.