Pittsburgh Love Stories
For a Time We Wanted Something New
A Death in Venices
Sleepless Casanova glumly eyed
his impudent sentry, aflame,
standing erect, purpled with pride.
Was it just a crimsoned blush of shame
that colored his too fickle friend,
maybe just pressure of accrued
ashes from sour grapes brimming to send
the last of past night’s wine re-brewed?
Or could it be, that nether member,
only now, alert, awake, would choose
to dance round the May Pole in November.
Slumbering through calls to arms. We lose
esteem with each eager fair flower
poised to bloom. Those blooms ignored
while open and fulgent, soon sour
or brown, and emanate discord,
that all other blossoms will see.
Casanova eyed his standing spear
with vile contempt. “They will doubt me,
expecting the passion of a steer.
I too, now blush from cowardice!
It ages my face with shame,
in fear that when I rise to piss,
you will deflate, hang limp and lame.
You are the same age as I. How
can you wear out while I still feel
the young man’s needs. Why now
when I most need love, does your steel
backbone turn to limp spaghetti?
Grateful Ladies once tore apart their best
nightgowns to make the bright confetti
to salute their lusty conquest.”
The rest of Casanova died of shame
when his admiring crowd turned wary
while passing years had doused his flame
and left his shaft too soft to bury. •
June is dressed and ready to go.

Gene drags heavy steps of melancholy into Prescott Flowers. He smiles through the young florist standing behind the counter; she is dressing a vase with a bouquet of orchids and lilies. She smiles politely as Gene opens the sliding glass door encasing the flowers. Sharp smells — some sour, some sweet — punch Gene, stirring him from the memory he was romanticizing of his wife. He closes the door after finding a nicely wrapped long-stem red rose.

“I don’t suppose you have any Mandrinettes?” he says.

“Mandrinettes?” she says. She has a Prescott College emblem on her light green lab coat. “They’re beautiful, but no one has any. They’re on the endangered list.”

“Nearly extinct, young lady . . . nearly extinct. I read it in this morning’s paper. An extinct flower might as well be a lost love,” he says softly, almost to himself.

“Yes,” her eyes glisten some.

He hands her the rose.

“I’m going to need six dozen.”

“Six dozen?”

“Three dozen red and the rest white and yellow,” he says, forcing a smile. “They’re for my wife.”

“You must be in some serious . . . ”

“Of sorts, yes.”

Gene pulls a credit card out of his wallet and slides it across the counter. She completes the transaction with the card and slides it back to him. He puts the card back into his wallet and pulls out a fifty.

“This is for your trouble,” he hands her the bill.

“Ahh. Ahh. Thank you. Thank you. We’ll have them ready in about thirty minutes.


Gene waits patiently in his car, a 1967 Cadillac DeVille ragtop June’s parents bought them as a wedding present. It is the car they drove on their honeymoon to Mazatlan. On a Mexican beach, as the sun dipped into the sea, they consummated their marriage in the backseat. As years turned to decades and cars got smaller and more economical, the old caddie hibernated in their garage; much like their marriage did for a time. A mid-life crisis in Gene provoked him to cherry up the old ragtop. He had the straight body painted white. Replaced the motor that, with a twist of the wrist, purred like the day it rolled off the assembly line. Time and hail had pierced the top. Rather than replace it with the original black, he went with June’s suggestion and got a red one. A pink pin stripe across the side added a candy cane charm to the car; so she nicknamed it Sweetness. Highly appropriate, Gene thought, considering how sweet life turned out to be.

They joined the Prescott Classic Car Society and every other weekend they would run out of town with 15 other refined machines. She would read poetry while he drove. And if he remembered to take his blue pill, which most times he did, a new element was added. This was especially true when they traveled north, where the trees’ thick shadows invited them to stray from the pack. They would toss a blanket in a patch of pine needles; and then they would forget their age and remember themselves for a while.

June always got to drive for a stretch the trip back. Gene had tried the poetry but the accelerator/brake dance she did proved to be to distracting for him: sixty-five, forty-five, stamp, ride the brake. Instead of reading lines he watched the speedometer rise and fall.


A pigeon catches Gene’s eyes as it lands on top of the flower shop. Its mate lands next to it. Their beaks smack into each other’s and to Gene it looks like they’re kissing. An unfamiliar twitch works its way up the right side of his check. Out of his pocket he pulls a piece of butterscotch. The sweetness reminds him of June; its texture does not. He whittles the candy down until it is a mere sliver.

It wasn’t love at first sight for Gene and June; it was love with first kiss. They had just come from a drive-in where Gene had spent the majority of the movie trying to figure out how he was going to make his move. She wondered when and if. Finally, after sharing an ice cream they stood on the porch of her parents’ house. His heart bounced like a butterfly between sunflowers. His hands were sweaty, mouth was cotton with anticipation; jaw clinched from the taste of nerves. But like a poet freeing a sunset, she freed the tension.

“Awkward moments,” she had said with the brightest eyes.

“What?” he managed to squeeze between his teeth.

“First kisses, they’re always awkward,” her lower lip had trembled some.

He did not see fireworks or shooting stars; he only needed to feel the deep grooves of her tongue. The warm, moist grooves made his face tingle and itch for another. Through genetics her mouth’s muscle has rugged crevices tracing through it. Over time these grooves became his lifeline, and like a palm reader telling the future he would trace them with his tongue. And for more than three decades he transcribed all the joys and hardships of a lifetime.


The florist comes out the door carrying a box stuffed with roses.

“Whatever you did I’m sure this will exonerate you,” she says.

“I wouldn’t be so sure.”


Flowers consume the backseat. Gene leaves the top down, but watches his speed to keep them from taking flight into the busy street. Construction and an always-expanding population make driving seem like a chore.

The roses’ scent reaches him. The smells are strong with memories: rose petals in the bathtub and on the bed; rose petals stuck to her glistening breasts after making love; walking hand in hand through aisles of wine orchids; cocoa tanning lotion she wore on the honeymoon; her deep sexual smell before climax; the smell of age on her breath. His eyes glaze over and face turns sour remembering how the bedroom had a stale aroma of emptiness as he left it this morning.

The gravel crunches beneath Sweetness as he pulls up the drive. After parking he walks to the garage for his gardening gloves and a knife.

He feels his back strain as he leans over the backseat. Patient hands work steadily to free the roses from the green plastic wrapping. He un-bunches the flowers, blanketing them loosely across the seat. The wrapping, gloves and knife go in the trashcan when he finishes.

His footsteps are the only sound as he walks to the bedroom. He pauses just outside the door. The white transparent curtains move slightly in the window. June is sitting with her legs up on the bed. She is wearing a floral print dress, something comfortable she would have picked out herself had she had the chance; a light blue scarf curls around her head and neck: he tied it himself and hopes it will hold, he is not used to dressing her.

He moves to the bed and sits next to her.

“We’re going for a drive soon,” he whispers in her ear.

His back muscles scream at him, but he still manages to get his wife safely fastened to the seat. He puts her thick sunglasses on that he many times riled her about: he had called them old-lady shades because they have the thick black sidewalls.

A trail of perfume follows them as they cruise downtown on the way to the lake. They go by the old courthouse, splendidly guarded by giant elms still ripening with Spring. A young couple stands hand-to-hand on a white, Victorian style gazebo. Another couple lay on a blanket, staring up through the trees. He touches his wife’s shoulder, gently circling it with his fingertips. Her head leans to the side like she was nearing the end of a long trip and had fallen asleep before getting there. Her thick glasses seemingly fixed on everything and nothing. A few tourists notice the car and their noses get teased.

He sifts through the congestion, maneuvering the large car through the guts of town. He goes the long way, taking a dirt road that bends high on a mountain ridge. The ride is bumpy on his wife; she bounces in symphony with the ribbed dirt under Sweetness. He peers down the slope to a valley deep with greens and browns. Ponderosa pines bring a rich blue out of the sky.

Gene parks in front of the water’s edge. Two worn, dirt tire-paths separate Sweetness from knee-high grass. A crane is perched on a boulder two skips of a rock from shore, its tall neck pointing toward them. Behind the crane, in a small metallic fishing boat, two men drift aimlessly in the lake’s current. The men wave to Gene and June. Gene returns the wave and then draws his attention to his wife.

He pulls her across the seat, embracing her tightly in his arms. Then he unravels the scarf and tosses it on the flowers. Gently holding the back of her neck, he looks her tenderly in the face. He presses his thumbs on her cheeks, lowering her bottom lip — opening her mouth to him. Slowly his mouth moves toward hers. His mouth enters. Her mouth is cold and different: the lifeline is gone; there is nothing for his tongue to read. It has been this way since the stroke several weeks ago — and she finally passed this morning. Tears streak down his cheeks as he releases her.

“My extinct flower,” he whispers.

His hands tremble slightly on the steering wheel. He grabs the gearshift firmly and pulls down hard on it. His right foot stomps the accelerator flush against the floorboard. Sweetness’ tires kick dirt and pebbles into the air behind it. Water rushes toward Gene and June. The car’s front-end splashes into the lake; steam rises from the engine. Lake blue rushes in over doors, flooding the car. Gene instinctively takes a giant breath before his hair is wet and the car is completely submerged.

The water is cold from the mountain run-off. The car settles in six feet of water. Gene, still holding his breath, looks up to see the roses masking the reflecting sun like a strobe light. A peace fills his heart and he can’t help but smile.

Then two dark shadows invade the flowers — invade his heart. The shadows are the fishermen swimming toward Gene and June.

Gene closes his eyes and quickly exhales; grasping his wife tightly as the water chokes his lungs.


Gene spits water into the face of the man who saved him.

“No,” he tries to scream, but his throat burns.

“You’re going to be alright,” the man says.

“I can use some help over here,” the other man says.

Gene watches as both men try to resuscitate his wife.

“NO,” he screams through the pain in his throat, through the pain of his heart. On hands and knees he crawls to his wife.

“Stop, please . . . She’s gone . . . She’s gone.”

The men stop and look at Gene.

Gene carefully brushes away the rose petals stuck to June’s face. Then he lies down next to her in the dirt, resting his head on her shoulder, and closes his eyes: “She’s gone.” •

Gerald Bosacker studied journalism, but found success as a graphic arts salesman, which evolved through serendipity and pandering to his superiors, into a Vice Presidency of an international corporation, a role neither deserved nor greatly appreciated. Early retirement, as an unskilled and naive victim of corporate politics, provided opportunity for his first love of weaving words into meaningful poetry. Starting late, Bosacker churns out tons of poetry, and displays them pro-bono, hoping for acclamation or bare acceptance, while he is still mortal.

Michael Edwards is currently a psychology major at Arizona State University. He will graduate in May and plans on attending grad school in the fall.


From the Editors:
April 13, 2005

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