He walked through the saddened streets of London. The American had come as a stranger to his idea of paradise, or the closest thing to it. Paradise had taken a traumatic turn the evening before.
Ed had left his room at the Rose Court Hotel and found the natives of the United Kingdom in a state of mourning. All flags flew at half mast. The vacationer wondered what trouble had followed him to paradise.
A newspaper explained boldly with a large photograph and a blunt headline. The Princess had done as her name suggested.
Princess Di, her driver, a bodyguard and her companion, Dodi Fayed, had been fleeing from the motorcycle paparazzi in their Mercedes Beins 600 sedan. It was in the tunnel beneath the Point De L’alma, soaring the streets of Paris at nearly three times the speed limit, with the army of tabloid photographers in hot pursuit, that it had happened.
The speed was too much for the professional driver. A pillar in the tunnel hit the Mercedes front and center. Even with the two front air bags triggered, the driver and Dodi died instantly. Diana lived. It took the Jaws of Life one hour to get her out of the sedan so she could be transferred to the hospital to die there.
The American’s face grew as heavy as those around him as he looked at the newspaper crinkled in his hands. Ed felt a connection.
He had always been interested in the British Monarchy. Princess Diana had always seemed the most exciting member of the Royal Family. His own great grandparents had come from the UK to the promise of New York, and then to less-known but more accepting promise of Baltimore. Ed and his wife had even spent their honeymoon in London some years ago.
He folded the newspaper and placed it beneath his arm. He looked around at the distinctly English atmosphere and walked down the architecture-adorned streets.
Ed was by no means alone in his emotional display. It was a gray day in London, overcast with tears and the fog tears leave in the eye. Most men and women he passed looked morbid, through his blurred lenses. Some cried out loud.
He passed through the royal rose gardens. The rainbow of roses did not appear ravishing as they had during his last visit. The last visit was before her death. The scent of the roses was bittersweet.
Having made several visits to street venders, Ed finally found one who still had a few bouquets of flowers left behind by the multitude of mourners. He purchased them, and proceeded on his pilgrimage.
He made it to Buckingham Palace. A skirt of flowers covered the bottom portion of the iron fence. It was only nine in the morning.
The streets and the courtyard outside Buckingham Palace were crowded with men and women, young and old, from all walks of life. All had come to mourn the death of their beloved Princess.
In his blue jeans, his button down cotton shirt, with an Indians baseball cap on his head, a newspaper under his arm, a bouquet of flowers in his hands, and wetness in his eyes, the American stood before the iron gates. Wails of pain for the Princess of Whales joined the cries and outbursts all about him. Stronger individuals, more reserved people, comforted those who openly displayed their sorrow.
The guards in their red uniforms and large black fur hats performed their duties as on any other day. Yet even their stone faces could not deny the mood, their eyes were moist beneath the black clouds on their heads.
What difficult events must be unfolding inside the palace, Ed pondered for a moment. Are the feelings inside that fortress as difficult as the ones inside me?
He placed his bouquet of flowers at the gate, adding another ruffle to the living skirt. He looked back to see the couples all about him, the pairs of solemn English faces.
Eric D. Goodman has been writing fiction ever since that third-grade writing assignment turned him onto the craft more than a quarter century ago. Since the start of this century, Eric has been a full-time writer and editor in the Baltimore-DC area. He is actively involved in the literary community. NPR describes him as “a regular on the Baltimore literary scene.”
His work has been published in The Washington Post, The Baltimore Review, On Stage Magazine, Writers Weekly, Travel Insights, Coloquio, To Be Read Aloud, Neck of My Guitar, Federal Voice, and Write Here Write Now. He’s a literary correspondent for Gather and publishes a weekly “Lit Bit at www.gather.com/litbit.
In 2007, his novel in stories, TRACKS, was a semi-finalist in a national novel contest sponsored by Gather, Simon & Schuster and Borders, beating out nearly 3,000 other novels and being read by thousands of readers. Also this year, Eric won third place in the Maryland Writers Association Fiction Contest. And he’s a two-time finalist in Paramount’s Chesterfield Writer’s Film Project, founded by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment.
In May, Eric read from his fiction on National Public Radio’s WYPR; a podcast of his reading is available on their website at this link:
This August, Eric is a featured author in Baltimore’s Authors Showcase at the Canton library. He will read from his published work.
Eric seeks a literary agent for TRACKS, his novel in stories (www.Train-Tracks.blogspot.com) and he is currently at work on another novel.
Visit Writeful, Eric’s literary weblog, at www.Writeful.blogspot.com.