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Sunday, November 26, 2023


Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha's "Helen of Troy."

It was that goddamned smile. 

There on the steps of Powell’s Saloon in North Beach that led to the basement where he first saw her. 

His mind exploded. 

He was transformed back to his senior English class at Sts. Peter and Paul School. His teacher, a wiry older priest introduced him to Christopher Marlowe, who in 1604 penned “was this the face that launched a thousand ships? And burnt the topless towers of Ilium. Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss…” 

Tom Gresham stared at Annee, she of the strawberry blonde curls and the slight silly gap between her front teeth and her collection of freckles across the rise of her cheeks and nose. 

He crossed himself. If the smile alone melted him causing his entire being to flow down the shopworn wooden steps to form a puddle at her feet then what was he in for when she allowed the soaked trench coat to slip off her bare shoulders? 

Naked, there would never be enough ships for that smile. 

Arriving with no clothes, Annee rummaged through the bars lost and found bin until she found a small jacket and a  co-ed’s blue and white plaid skirt that she could wear to dinner. “Stop staring and close your mouth,” she teased. 

Why? How? 

What a story she would tell him later at dinner. 


By Thomas Shess, Author of CANTINA PSALMS, a novel.


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