While the stevedores unloaded the containers, Chum took his shore leave. Dressed in his only suit, he stepped up to the box office. “Tonight only — Aida”.
“There’s a single seat available on the aisle. Interested?”
He bought it.
Men in tuxedos, women in silk and diamonds, swirling. People waving to each other, friends, captains of industry. His black suit seemed almost too casual.
The bell sounded. Most of the aisle was seated, when she appeared. Cream-coloured silk showed her figure, diamond-and-platinum earrings drew his eyes to her bare white neck and her upswept ebony hair. She hobbled down the steps, using a crutch to keep the weight off her cast.
“Excuse me,” she said, stopping beside Chum. “Would you mind trading? I need the aisle seat with this cast.” She pointed to the plaster-swathed right foot that peeked out from beneath her gown.
Smiling, he nodded and presented her with his stub. She returned hers. It was one seat over.
When they were both seated. She returned his smile. “Riding. Broke the ankle, and now I’m forced to rely on the kindness of strangers. Mrs. Blanca Walters. You’re sitting in my husband’s usual seat.”
“John Johnson. Friends call me Chum. Where is your husband? Will he attend?”
“Have you forgiven your parents for your name yet, Chum? Mr. Walters is in New York on business. If it hadn’t been Aida tonight I would have stayed home.”
The conductor rapped with his baton. Silence, and then the first notes of the overture. Chum turned his attention to the music.
Love, passion, and hatred set in the time of the Pharaohs on the banks of the Nile wove its spell. Chum drank in the music the costumes, the story, lost to reality, and even to the beautiful woman beside him.
Intermission. When the lights brightened, he leaned back in his chair for the first time. The sound of shuffling feet rose to a roar. Mrs. Walters stood up to defend her leg that had poked into the aisle. Rising, Chum reached her in a stride.
“My hero,” she said in a throaty voice. “Protect me from this mob.”
He guided her to a safe spot and brought drinks. They discussed Verdi, Aida, the state of opera in the States, and in Milan. She shared his fascination with opera. Intermission ended.
After the final curtain, Chum lent her his arm. He brought her coat from the coat check along with his. Outside the streets were as shiny as patent leather.
“Thank you, my gallant,” she said. “I am planning a dinner next Saturday. Perhaps you would care to join us?”
“Unfortunately, I’m off to Lisbon tomorrow.”
A cab appeared. One final soft touch of manicured fingers resting on his arm. She smiled, and was gone.
Back aboard the ship, his suit carefully packed away, Chum was reading when his mates stumbled home.
“Heh, Chommie,” one shouted. “Did you get a focking?”
“Huh? What can be better than focking?”
Born in Toronto, Edward McDermott has pursued a professional career during the day, while taking writing courses, joining writer’s groups, and writing at night. When not writing, he spends his time sailing and fencing, and working as a movie extra. Currently, Edward is sailing his sailboat off the Florida Coast. Perhaps in the Bahamas.