October 28, 2016 | Rome, Italy | Clear 18°C

The Tour Pro

"Be a skeezer. Shower and shave, then let's blow this town wide open…"
By Peter Vilbig
Published: 2016-10-10

ro: I'm the placard guy. When I see them come off the ramp, I start my speech.

"Welcome to our country," I say. "I'm your Tour Pro. May I carry your bags?"

"No?" (I sigh. They always say no.)

[There are two of them, by the way. Jafe, a senior VP, and Ms Brudge, Holly, I think, some sort of division director, or CMS expert. Both Lux Corp. execs. My job: to get them to their night digs with the usual pre-fab incidents and no more.]

We make our way through the terminal, past the guards half asleep under stained felt kepis, their untrustworthy Belgian rifles slung barrel down across their shoulders. Through the double doors, a beautiful night awaits us, along with the usual beggars. "Ignore them," I tell our visitors. "Nor should you be concerned about that sound like the wings of flies beating against tin pots, as one of our poets once described, quite inaccurately it seems to me, distant gunfire. A certain amount of political instability is to be expected in a touristic zone such as ours, no?"

[I wanted these protagonists from the Great Country to know the truth about our sad locality. For though our business districts gleam with the wet luster of crime just as theirs do, and our national stades are just as grand, for though our sand strands be as fine as any in the moond aroond, yea, brother, sister, if you wants to smoke some shit, sure we got the cracks too — it's true: our people are vulgar. Even when they do the same as your people.]

But I keep my silence, as per dictate, and anyway we're soon on the beautiful Rue Macabresando (and walking because that's what the touristic manual dictates), and now I'm a little dizzy moving through the occulae of curated theatrics, market fleshes, quaint exotics, the carnival lights wheeling, and the crowd curling like the dendrite spirals of cocaine psychosis. I let them wander off a bit, their packaged event calendar flowin' as per schema, and in a way it's a wonderful night. We pass a bar where music is pouring forth from the ultimate band that began it all and reigns today, the Bitter Ikons, a song about the world they hail from — when all to a sudden, I lose them in the crowd! Ach! No, son, I think, and then I paranoid an instant. I think I see the Jafe's red tie flash but no, it's only that big fleshpot Amazonian hangs on the corner of Macabresando and Lustrada, stripping off her red bra and waving it in the air. Somewhere in the tour book it says this can happen but I never believed it. The Jafe is flat gone. I glimpse her, Ms Brudge, looking wan, dragging her ultra-thin wheeled travel bag determined-like, but then she's swallowed in the crowd. My agency gone be pissed.

And then my cell goes off. I answer, of course. It's Itahl from the main office. We speak in our peculiar argot going back many generations of Call of Duty: Black Ops.

"How's ya."

"Visor down n' war-ready, boss."

"Big gonad that Jafe, no."

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