Short Fiction by Tom O’Rourke
ARCHDUKE FRANZ FERDINAND IS DEAD
SOPHIE DIES WITH HIM
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He reads for the first time Franz Ferdinand’s reported last words. He stops, checks himself, reads the words again, looks up from the cafe table, stares out of the open-fronted bar, as if thinking of somewhere else. He looks back to the report. No sign of emotion shows on his face:
“…Sopherl! Sopherl! Sterbe nicht! …Bleibe am Leben für unsere Kinde! –“
german triestino english words echo in his mind:
“…Sophie, Sophie, don’t die! …Stay alive for our children! -”
Absently he removes the wire-framed thick lenses.
Out on the pavements of Trieste he can see now only blurred images can hear the triestino germanic slavonic italian voices of many strangers young and old can sense the throbbing energy life in many voices many strangers as if in this Babel all the nations of the world are speaking all the languages of the world are surging back and forth over the teeming city pavements flowing over the bridges of Trieste moving marching swaying dodging hurrying through the warm evening sun turning to talk to each other smiling professing cajoling wheedling arguing uttering oaths exploding into laughter others with their heads down worried by thoughts of what is to come, scurrying home, alone.
A series of loud shouts, a whistle; still more sonorous bright laughter goes up from young men somewhere nearby, goes up… up… illuminates the evening air for a few brief moments before fading away.
A church bell sounds the hour.
He blinks again, replaces the lenses.
An electric tram careers past shuddering metal clanking…
A beautifully made well-muscled chestnut horse stood between the shafts of a cart rears up…skits about… unsettled…