The foreigners were so blunt, so completely unembarrassed about their offspring, even though you had to get them outside first thing, clean up their messes, etc.

And these children were somewhat dangerous with their claws and large bodies—except for the girl, Carol, who stood upright and looked submissive.

Day after day climbing trails through steep gullies after them and having to wade through their shit which was like rice and beans and was, I knew, quite organic, but—

One morning I went up to my room and saw my door flung open, my clothes strewn around, the bed covers rumpled…

As I pulled up the blankets I sensed one of them stirring—it had crept into my sheets! I crawled away.

I had come here to learn the language. I was paying these people $360 a day! I saw the invoice lying on the counter.

Downstairs, the mother made a place for me at the table and asked: Did I like Leonardo?

When he came running up I was pleased, but my fright caused me to raise the amulet. Leo, shamed, loped off.

Months later there was a huge feast. Both families were there for the wedding. At the laden table, Carol said that kissing me was not satisfying.

It was a moment of intense realization. I said, Well, you know why, don’t you? Everyone hushed. Uh, uh, I said. I will only say it to her.

We went to another room where more of her brutish relatives were lounging about, playing games and scratching themselves.

They shuffled out gracelessly when we waved them the go sign. It’s because I’m not in love with you, I said, which felt so ungrateful after all the expensive feasting and presents.

It was Leonardo whom I desired.

Leo, Leo, Leo, I sing to myself, remembering his large teeth, his heavy brow—from a distance.

About the author

Mary Beth has recently taken some road trips around New England and walking tours in Scotland and England. She visited Crete about eight years…

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Issue 16 · October 2012

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