jan windle

We stepped out into the cold moonless Venetian midnight. The piazza looked drab and grey. The puddles picked up streaks of orange light from the scattered street lamps. San Marco’s ornate facade stood huddled at one end.

There was no-one about at our end of the huge stretch of pavement.

A rose appeared almost under my nose. Next to my shoulder, his hand holding the flower out, a small brown face peered at mine, an anxious appealing smile: “For madam?”

Absurdly, I felt gratitude and a sense of flattery. I'd forgotten that beggars don’t operate a nine-to-five daily routine. “Thank you!”

Then, remembering where I was, “No thank you, I don’t want to buy a rose.”The rose shivered. “No, no, madam, is yours. Free.”

“Oh no, I couldn’t accept it.” “Free, Madam, please take.” He was insistent. I took it and walked on.

He followed us. It was after he had vanished into the darkness with a euro donated in pity by my companion that I looked again and saw the headless stalk of my free rose.

A euro doesn’t buy very much at all these days.

Jan Windle
The Favourite Game
Leonard Cohen