A Walking Tour Paused

by W.R. Smith

In nineteen eighty-one an Iranian fighter pilot taped thinly hammered leaves of gold to the skin under his flight suit. A few glorious pounds overweight and carrying a helmet under one arm, he crossed the tarmac. It was his most finely executed maneuver. Before anyone understood or could do anything to stop him, he flew his fighter across the border. Once landed in foreign territory, he turned his F-4 Phantom jet over to the authorities and sought political asylum. His first purchase as a new man was a bicycle.

Why? The backstage workings of fate are multiform and consigned to the shadows until called down for view. In the meantime on the opposite side of the globeā€¦
section break
Tina, the Calendar Girl of Kansas, dumped her goofy tiara in the trash. Remembering an old dream, she booked a trip to Paris and financed the freak on her soon-to-be revoked credit card.

Back in the States, as Corn-Queen of the Feed and Supply store, the months tore away under Tina's fly-specked image — while the living counterpart was having a fair time muddling French grammar and pronunciation in a distant marketplace.
section break
Outside a pleasant little cafe in Paris leans an abandoned bicycle. The flat tires are rotten, and its frame rusts against the lamp post. The story has it that one day the owner parked his bike for a few minutes to take a cup of coffee. Inside the cafe, he chanced to meet the love of his life and before the afternoon was through our newly acquainted couple walk away, arm-in-arm, never to be seen again.

Inevitably, a hand went up from among us on the walking tour, “What became of them?”

No one knows. And I mentally noted, no one really knows who they were.