Gina of San Paolo
Thomas M. McDade
On Gaeta shore patrol twirling my nightstick, children applaud. I bow; they request autographs. Round’s first stop, Morocco Bar. Leading Lady, beautiful Gina squeezes my hand. Her divas lounge in frilled skirts as short as tutus. A tyro who should only bad-dream of this makeup that’s all wrong. Sandpaper years need prep a face for such a gig. Hearing Gina’s racy banter, I’m strangely uneasy.
A new girl, Adona, drinks Coke with two straws and after a big draw says, the greatest love I’ve seen is the woman who smuggled her cancer dying Nazi mate out of prison in a suitcase. Like a dummy, scoffs Gina. Nazi’s killed her grandmother. In a rage, she slaps the love assessor into tears.
Sailors enter and it’s time to patrol the night. As I’m leaving, Gina fingers the “SP” on my armband. San Paolo is her place of birth. St. Paul to you, she says, but you’ll pay like the rest. She heads upstairs with a drunken Boatswain’s Mate.
The tapping of my stick on old stone walls solemnly chants, ”Gina, Gina, Gina,” but becomes a dirge of footsteps up and down littered streets. Ah, how pure are my thoughts of her, oddly without lust. The beat segues to false, false, and false! My armband shamefully reminds me of Nazis.
The night is quiet; moon is a hazy quarter. I avoid the Morocco but last round demands a return. Dancing Gina is dancing naked on the bar, a fountain of sweat. Sailors cheer. A white hat is tossed. In her gyrations, Gina flings washcloth like a wedding garter through the smoky air, a brawl souvenir. She covers her ears and collapses. Spotting me, she measures herself in my eyes. I move to stop the melee.
My nightstick grip is suddenly the fat handle of a suitcase that would hold. A fist smashes my temple like a stone off a road aiming St. Paul at Damascus.
THOMAS M. MCDADE is a resident of Fredericksburg, VA, previously CT & RI.
He is a graduate of Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT.
McDade is twice a U.S. Navy Veteran serving ashore at the Fleet Anti-Air Warfare Training Center, Virginia Beach, VA. and aboard the USS Mullinnix (DD-944) and USS Miller (DE/FF 1091).