I

He dances on manholes all over town. Francis, dancing, spins with one arm extended. His hand cradling popcorn attracts pigeons from the park to his wrist and sleeve. Bobbing up and down, they lose feathers which loopily fall to the ground as he struggles to maintain his balance. Francis, dancing, popcorn falling from the bag suspended from his belt, popcorn forming a circle around the manhole.

Cars swerve. Their drivers honking overwhelm the sound of pigeon wings and water from the fountain. Drivers gesturing urge him onto Grand Army Plaza.
Bismarck passes, walking briskly, the prozac tablets to be taken only under a doctor’s supervision filling his pockets. He glances repeatedly over his shoulder, certain of pursuit.
Francis, feeding pigeons, dances on a manhole cover avoided by cars and taxicabs with their hoods popped to let in the air.

II

Otto von Bismarck, boots rising high above the knee, slackens his pace and with diminishing strides eyes shop windows along Fifth Avenue. Trump Tower rises over his instep. His oversized sweater falls well below the waist, concealing the top of the boots and the loops used to pull them on.
Approaching Tiffany’s he spies the King of France.

He steps beneath the arch.

Too late! The king has seen him and now draws near.

“Oh! Ho, there! Otto,” he shouts, admiring the sweater taut over the belly and concealing just a tiny bit of those spectacular boots.

“Otto! How are you? Doing a little shopping? How are things in Prussia, Otto?”

Bismarck bounces on the balls of his feet, his heels gently tapping the pavement. He rubs his hands briskly together to disperse a slight October chill. He glances into the store to indicate he is waiting for someone and trying to be discreet.

The king, familiar with the game, understands.

III

Franklin mania was still going strong. There was a hit song. The Louvre staged a retrospective of his work, consisting of carefully matted newspapers and pamphlets. The famous Aphorism Wallpaper was all the rage and decorated the entry to the gallery.

The king had had enough. While he admired Ben’s wit and accomplishments and at times conceded he was the Newton of his day, Franklin had been in Paris for how many years now and he wished people would say enough! already. And so he ordered seven hundred commodes emblazoned with Franklin in profile and presented them to his dinner guests.

IV

Francis withdrew a plexiglass cigarette case, opened it and offered a Dunhill to Bismarck who refused with an I prefer cigars or a good pipe after a meal wave of the hand. He took one for himself and inserted it into a short cigarette holder withdrawn from his sleeve.

“And will you really leave this behind,” Bismarck asked, continuing the conversation from dinner.

“Yes.”

He renounced the plastics fortune inherited from his father and chose living by charity alone.

“Perhaps I will grow famous. Thoreau is thought a poor man, but he settled by railroad tracks and could always get back to town.”

“I see,” said Bismarck, raising the snifter to his nose to assess the swirling cognac.

“Personally, I prefer intrigue.”

V

Francis dances on manhole covers all over town. Franklin swerves to miss him, gesturing and cursing unheard behind the closed window.

The king, bidding Bismarck adieu, steps to the curb and raises an arm. The cab cuts across three lanes of traffic and stops.