Bubbles eyes the man suspiciously. The orderly glares at him and says, “Ela é Americana. Speak English. Você levá-la onde ela quer ir e nenhum negócio engraçado. Você entende?” He finishes by patting his big fist into his palm. An exaggerated expression of hurt crosses the taxi man’s face. Placing his hand over his heart, he wags his finger while clucking his tongue. He then smiles at Bubbles, revealing a gold tooth in a horse’s grin.

“My only pleasure is to be at your service, Miss.”

Bubbles glances up at the orderly, who nods and winks. Remembering her bag, or lack of it, she gasps. She digs in her pocket and drags out some Brazilian currency and the key to the apartment. She looks over the bills. 130 real. About 75 bucks.

“I’m going to Botafogo. São Clemente Street. How much is the fare?”

“Botafogo? Not far. For you, maybe 30 real.

The orderly narrows his eyes at the taxi man.

“Perhaps less, yes. Maybe 10, 15 real. The traffic, it depends. Please, you go with me. I am poor man, but honest.”

The taxi man makes a big show of assisting Bubbles, fawning over her as she haltingly makes her way across the plaza and into the ragged old taxi. Putting her head back, she closes her eyes and and tries to relax as the taxi careens through the streets, Portuguese obscenities and blaring horns punctuating the trip at regular intervals. She fruitlessly fumbles around her pockets looking for a cigarette. Her stomach drops as the gravity of her lost handbag sinks in. Bubbles leans forward and taps on the glass. “Have you got a cigarette? Um, cigarro? Por favor?

The taxi man glances at her in the rear view mirror and furrows his brow. “Não Fumar. No Smoking.”

Bubbles sinks back in the seat and starts to cry. What the hell happened? How did this impulsive lark of a trip turn into such a fucked-up mess? She buries her head in her hands and lets it all go. Great racking sobs shake her whole body. A tapping sound startles her from her misery. She looks up to see the taxi man’s hand holding up a cigarette. She takes it in her trembling hand, “Thank you, thank you, oh—orbri—obrigado!” A lighter is proffered through the window and Bubbles sits back, and slowly savors each puff of that cigarette with an almost religious reverence.

The meter reads 14 real, but the taxi man only charges her 11. Making the sign of the cross, he gives her a pitying look as he pulls away. Taking stock of herself, Bubbles pulls herself together, tucks the crutch under her arm, and starts towards the apartment. She crosses a vacant lot, where barefoot kids playing soccer stop to stare at her as the late afternoon sun casts long, sharp shadows across the dirt. Reaching the rickety stairs that lead to the second floor apartment, awkwardly she hops upwards, one at a time, the annoying crutch clattering against each step. At the landing she digs in her pocket for the key. She gets the key in the lock, turns the knob, but the door won’t give. “Damn door always sticks!” She bangs her shoulder into the door, which suddenly gives, sending her tumbling into the apartment, the crutch sliding down the open door, coming down right on her head. She’s too tired to cry. She just lays there for a minute, trying to ignore the taint of cat piss emanating from the old carpeting. As she slowly gathers herself up, she reflects on Marco’s description of “this awesomely romantic little dream apartment right in Rio!” Hardly. Not much different from her dump of a place in Philly. However, it is pretty close to the beach. In Rio de Janeiro. She sits on the floor as the sun streams in through the west windows and for a moment, she feels a bit of peace.

“Marco?” His name escapes weakly from her lips.

She didn’t expect an answer. He wouldn’t be back until after sundown. Rock climbing. Kinda nuts. But Marco was just so  . . . adventurous. And spontaneous. I mean, who says, “Let’s just shoot down to Rio for the long weekend?” I mean, unless you’re really rich, which he’s not. Resourceful, yes. And clever.

“Anyway, he better come back with something clever to eat. And some tender loving care for this unhappy camper.”

She hobbles over to the fridge and grabs a beer, then flops down on the couch, sending a cloud of dust and cat hair swirling up, sparkling in the fading golden light. She pulls the pain pills from her pocket, shakes one out and washes it down with the beer. Maybe two, she figures, and swallows another. As she settles back, trying to get herself comfortable, she’s haunted by the thought of the ten thousand overnight guests whose DNA permeates this funky old couch. As she settles down, the throbbing in her leg begins to ease. She’s so tired. She shouldn’t fall asleep, she wants to be awake when Marco returns. So tired, though.

Bubbles Meets the Prince of Darkness
International Assholes' Day
Bubbles Runs the Voodoo Down
Bubbles Takes a Magic Carpet Ride
Big Brown lets Bubbles Down
Bubbles, Baked and Fried
Bubbles, Biff and Binny
Bubbles and the 99 cent Epiphany
Bubbles' Trip To See the Doctor
The Doctor and the Prince of Darkness Meet Again
The Doctor and the Naked Glory
More Troubles for Bubbles
What a Lame Vacation
Cristo Redentor
In Careless Act, 17 Drown, 3 Survive.

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