Little Panda

They were just nearing the top of the Ferris wheel when Pietro told her. The ocean was spread out for infinity, glistening in the sun. The sounds from the boardwalk seemed miles away. “I love you. I have always loved you and I will always love you.” His black eyes held her and she felt like she couldn’t move. “Really…” she started, her voice thin and weak. “Why didn’t you ever…say…something?”

He looked out at the water and they crested the top. Then he looked back to her and they started going down again. She looked away and cried. He studied his hands.

When they reached the bottom she got off first and rushed ahead. He chased after her. “Marlina!” But she disappeared into the throng of tourists. “Marlina!” She was gone.

He wandered around the fair and ended up throwing balls at plastic gophers until he earned himself a sad little stuffed panda. He had no money left so he went to the end of the pier, bouncing the panda along the railing as though it was walking. He stood at the very end, holding the panda teetering on the rusty bar above the surging water. “Any last words, Little Panda Man?” He stared at the pandas little plastic eyes.

“Don’t do it,” Marlina said. She walked over and took the panda from him. Her face was red and puffy, eyes smeared with mascara. She said to the stuffed animal: “You’re coming with me.” And she turned and walked away down the wharf, talking quietly to the panda as she bounced him along the railing.

Pietro ran after her. He grabbed her arm and jerked her towards him. He kissed her. And then they walked very closely all the way down to the beach. They sat down in the sand, facing the little panda, holding hands.

The police found them a few hours later, lying in the sand. The officers pulled their guns and ordered Pietro to get away from the girl. He squeezed Marlina’s hand. “Goodbye Pietro,” she said and moved away from him. She walked down the strand, holding the little panda tightly.

She heard the gunshot but kept walking and didn’t look back, slipping into the bustling crowd on the boardwalk.

Copyright © 2008. All Rights Reserved.

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