…………The Queen’s Last Dance…………….

He leaned over the metal rail feeling the sea spray on his face. In spite of the ship’s pitch and sway he was feeling steadier out here in the fresh air, and away from all those prying eyes and intrusive questions.

What had begun innocently enough with a hotel visit following a public appearance in Rome (and let’s be frank, not even the Holy leader of the Roman Catholic Church can refuse a Queen!), had quickly turned into a parade of snapping garter belts, candle wax and….God help him, the sweet degradation of roleplay! (He clutched his rosary to his chest mumbling a quick Hail Mary under his breath.)

He pulled his tweed collar up against the wind and his flat cap down on his head against the chill of the early morning (how he missed the holy vestments). What had been a clandestine transgression, a momentary lapse in the rock steady faith of a man of the cloth, (THE man of the cloth), had – thanks to the telephoto lens and baseless morals of the paparazzi – turned into un affare internazionale. It had signaled his downfall not initially at first, the long arm of the Vatican had been able to quell dissenters, to grease the palms of minions at Berlusconi’s media empire and he had been reprimanded (if that is the right word when archbishops speak in gently reproachful tones to the Holy Father). But the paparazzi are nothing if not tenacious and the photos that followed, each one more sensational than the last, had proved his undoing. He blushed to himself as he recalled the debaucherous romp across the Alps, into Switzerland and overland by train to Rotterdam and, finally, to this cruise ship.

He’d been sequestered and confined to his state room for the last few days as a ‘person of interest’ following her Majesty’s rather spectacular suicide off the coast of Cape Verde following three bottles of champagne and an elaborate dinner party, she’d lead the passengers and the entire ship’s crew in a ‘Macarena train’ followed by a ‘rolling Cancan’ around and around the decks. She had then refused his advances, claiming fatigue which had merely been a ruse to lose him and the rest of her entourage so that she could visit the Captain’s quarters where she’d shared a few toots of that fine, off-white powder she kept in her compact mirror.

He was inferring that from the hushed, excited whispers of the cabin boys and her subsequent behavior which he’d awoken to about 4am (along with most of the other passengers and even a few stowaways). Bleary-eyed without his glasses he hadn’t believed it was her at first, in a freshly pressed lily white ball gown, holding a wireless microphone, high up by the smokestacks, belting out arias from La Traviata. As the crowd gathered below her, shouting encouragement and cheering her on, she’d launched (seamlessly it seemed to him) into a lounge version of Wu-tang Forever, in its entirety.

Her final words were ‘If you gonna spread mathematics, spread it right’ she then launched herself overboard in a tremendous leap and proceeded to sink rapidly (but not without grace) her dress billowing out like a benevolent jellyfish. The cabin crew had been too enraptured by her performance and the previous night’s activities to save her in time (but something told him that the Vatican gold that had gone missing from his room had found its way into the lining of her ball gown, thus dragging her down to the depths of the ocean.

A two day search and rescue mission had followed to no avail and they’d now been redirected to the port at Mindelo where he’d no doubt face another barrage of questions at the hands of the police and a fresh scandal. Still as he looked out at the coast of São Vincente, now nearing on the horizon, he was reminded of an early morning train ride through the Alps. The hushed air, the tousled sheets, the spent cherry pits and her toes, Lord God in heaven, those toes!

 Judson Hamilton lives in Wrocław, Poland. Twitter: @judson_hamilton


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