Short Short Story 2/1/11: The Graffiti Writer

First of all, I apologize for posting this story on Wednesday instead of last Thursday. You probably know by now that last week Egyptians started protesting. I spent a semester in Egypt in 2007, so I've been glued to the news for the past several days. I was very sad to hear about the looting of the Cairo Museum to the detriment of several beautiful objects and two mummies. Now, I give you the short short story based on last Wednesday's picture.

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Only a few people were on these streets near the larger houses. It was noon, but the walls of the buildings loomed high and close on either side, turning morning into night. Balbinus drew his mantle closer about him against the nip of early fall air. Almost time for the major harvesting to begin.

Balbinus stopped at the entrance to a courtyard an poked his head in. The yard, which fronted a tall townhouse, was empty except for a small white cat dozing on the warm flagstones. In front of the small family shrine, the grinning face of a bearded man spurted a stream of water into a low fountain.

No Livius. Balbinus slipped across the courtyard, pulling a stylus and small pot of paint out of his pouch. The cat opened one brilliant emerald eye, threw him a look of extreme disinterest, and closed it again.

Balbinus mounted the two front steps and edged to the side so he was next to the heavy wooden doors. He dipped the stylus in the pot and began to write his message for Livia above the green serpent that twisted itself across the plaster wall.

Slam! The doors flung open, knocking him sideways against the altar. A bear of a man leaned over him.

"Enough of this!" the man roared. His face was so close that Balbinus could see hairs sprouting out of his nose. "No more messages! No more love tokens! None! Stay away from my daughter, do you hear me?"

Balbinus wiped Livius' spittle off his cheek. "You can't keep me away if she wants me to come--"

Livius snarled and grabbed Balbinus by the collar, dragging the youth up to his face. "If you dare to come near this house one more time, I swear to the gods I'll--"

A bone-shaking rumble interrupted Livius. Not just a rumble--the flagstones bucked and cracked, flinging both men to the ground. Balbinus clutched the edge of the fountain to keep himself steady. In less than a minute, the tremors had stopped.

Livius sat up. Blood trickled from a gash on his temple and he looked dazed. Balbinus heaved himself to his feet and staggered out of the courtyard and down the street before the man had the chance to remember what had happened before the quake. The youth would find a way to send a message to Livia later.

Still a bit disoriented, and deep in his musings about how to send word to his lover, he didn't notice the dark plume of smoke pouring from the top of Mount Vesuvius.

©S.L. Stevens 2011
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The dialogue isn't that great and I'm really tired right now, so the ending is probably lame too. Anyway, if you want something that definitely isn't lame, check out Pompeii on Google street view.

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