Surprise plazas are a thing here, like forest clearings depicted in moves, much of them sun-dappled and hiding dryads and faeries.
The clearings, not the plazas.
Inclined and cobble-stoned, even the gray of the pavers is tinged with rose and the setting sun over the harbor paints odd and faint shadows into the corner of the eye. A door opens onto blue ocean, and the gray stones there are damp where the salt-water has stood up on tiptoe for a kiss.
I made a mental note to return to this doorway, to walk through it, but I was out of cigarettes before I was curious and later when I tried to find that plaza again, that doorway, I cannot.
Curse of a nicotine fiend.
On the edge of the dock are round pillars and short gray stones for people to sit on and I park my ass on one and light a smoke, shielding my eyes from the blazing and falling sun. A shadow spreads over me as a large yacht pulls in, its sailors calling to each other and to the harbor hands in Aussie-accented English. They toss bow lines onto the stones to either side of me and make them fast, hands over hands over hands.
I look down and see a coiled bow-line, one end done up in a monkey’s fist.
A sailor’s knot, the monkey’s fist is knotted and coiled rope around a weight of some sort so that the heavy end can be heaved onto the dock no matter the force of the blowing wind. Sailors would weight the knots at the center with a single grape shot, the lead balls used to sweep clear the decks of enemy sailors before boarding.
Grape shot by the hanful, fired from small canons called falconets would save the ship herself, while splintering rigging and turning rows of sailors with cutlasses and muskets into clouds of flying meat.
Take care in a tavern brawl on the docks, sailors would carry the monkey’s knot, weighted with grape, and swing them in tight, dangerous arcs against skulls. From ship’s equipment to improvised weapon, imitators in New York City’s dock gangs carried the same though their feet were clear of callous, their backs of tar and salt.
From Burma, India and Africa, when the earth birthed fat gems into the shifty hands of smugglers, they would be bound inside the monkey’s fist for transport past the watchful eyes of dock wardens and customs officials. Make fast the lines and the cargo is already on foreign soil, gripped fast within. Let the creak of the boat against the docks give voice to the unease you cannot.
I think about that doorway as I drink the last of the smoke from my cigarette, I think about that plaza I could not find, the town of Sainte Tropez curled around it like a monkey’s fist and that plaza a precious jewel.
I missed my chance, the gem was smuggled past my very eyes.
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