In the Shadow of the Square, by Delphine Boswell

He watched the people crowd St. Mark’s Square—the locals, the wandering musicians, and the tourists. He knew them all, had observed them for over three centuries. Seldom did any of them take the time to notice him, though, perched on the highest pinnacle, teetering at the very edge of the red-tiled roof of the cathedral.

His curiosity intense, he often contemplated what would happen if he could release his angel-like wings mounted at his stoned sides? What if he were to come burrowing from his mount, with his sharp horned head? What if his boned claws at the ends of his thin arms were to. . . ?

Only a dream over the years as he basked in the sun-drenched skies or felt the needled pinpricks of rain pierce his naked body.

When Father Mario ordered the cleaning and polishing of the copper dome of the cathedral, a man by the name of Giopillato took notice of the ornate sculptures, the intricate paintings, and, of course, the artistry of the numerous gargoyles atop the roof. An amateur photographer, he pulled his camera out of his back pocket. He angled his lens to get side views, back views, snapping shots of each of the gargoyles. Then, he got out his chisel and got to work scraping and picking the grime from the gargoyle at the very peak of the cathedral.

That’s when the horn-headed gargoyle heard a chipping from near his base. He felt a slight breeze on his back, a warm breath on his neck, a pair of large, sweaty palms shove hard on his shoulders. His carved wings released from his sides, the point of his horn plummeted downward. The crowds in the square pointed upward at him, screaming. The locals deserted their lunches on the wrought-iron tables and ran for cover. The wandering musicians threw their clarinets, piccolos, and violins onto the sidewalk, sounds of banging and crashing like an orchestra tuning up for a performance. The tourists dropped their parcels of souvenirs, in their haste to seek shelter.

And there at the base of the Doric column in the square, a shadow cast, much like that of an eagle but with a much wider wing spin. A small boy ran out from one of the shops to the gargoyle’s side. He picked up the broken granite horn and attempted to restore it to the top of the gargoyle’s head. The young child let some of the coral sand sift through his fingers onto the monster’s cracked wing. The boy shielded his eyes from the sun and peered upward at the pinnacle of the cathedral. “Look Mommy.”

The boy’s mother came out from hiding and stood in the shadow with her son. She, too, looked toward the cathedral’s roof. “Come along, son. One of those ugly monsters up there,” she said, as she pointed to the other gargoyles, “must have fallen. I can see part of its tail. Good thing no one was crushed by its weight. God forbid.”

“But Mom, listen. . . .”

“Come along now, I said. Don’t be foolish.” She shoved her son across the square.

There in the blackened shadows next to the gargoyle’s elf-eared head, a scratchy voice came from its opened mouth. “Sometimes things are better left as they are,” it said, as a trickle of blood ran unnoticed across St. Mark’s Square.

~~

Delphine expresses her love of writing in the words of John Steinbeck, “I nearly always write just as I nearly always breathe.” Delphine has had numerous short stories published, several in anthologies. Her latest can be found in the anthology Ugly Babies 2. When not writing, she teaches English. More info can be found on her website:  delphineboswell.com.

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Posted on January 20, 2014, in Issue 12: The Shadows Only Hide the Monsters: Poe & Lovecraft Tribute and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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