Friday, December 14, 2007

Calypso of the Appenine Way

This extract continues the first chapter of my novel, "Calypso of the Appenine Way". I'm not sure whether I'll post anymore after concluding the first chapter. Perhaps it's best to keep people guessing!

“What time is the appointment with Eva?” enquired Mario.

“At 8:30 in ‘La Bussola’” I replied. ‘La Bussola’ was one of our favourite pizzerias, quiet and hidden in a dark back street near Piazza Garibaldi.

“Good”, nodded Mario. “I have had nothing to eat since this morning and I am famished.”
We had instinctively begun to move in the direction of ‘La Bussola’, but Mario stopped outside an ice cream parlour. “I think that I will eat an ice cream before the pizza” he declared solemnly. “My stomach is empty and grumbling.”

Mario locked up his motorino outside the shop and we both walked in. The shop was empty except for the salesgirl and ourselves. I noticed that she was a very pretty dark haired girl with sparkling brown eyes. Mario ordered a huge ice cream and flirted with her a little as he debated which flavours to have. I declined to take an ice cream as I’d eaten only several hours before. After a few moments, we found ourselves back outside, Mario unlocking his motorino while I held his ice cream.

“Actually I always stop at this gelateria”, he informed me. “The girl is beautiful and if things continue going as they are between myself and Ilaria, I may need a new woman soon.”

I knew that Mario and Ilaria had been passing through a bad patch, but I was not aware that things had deteriorated so much.

“What’s the main problem?” I enquired. Mario sighed.

“She wants to change me. Her father can get me a job in a bank after I finish the diploma--but it’s not something I desire. As you know, in Italy the herd mentality is very strong and the older people continually try to divert the younger ones along well known paths. Anyway, I will refuse: the boredom would kill me.”

I looked closely at Mario as he slowly pushed along his motorino. His face was dark and troubled. I knew that he loved Ilaria very deeply and would not lightly let her go. Nevertheless, it seemed that a life spent working in a bank under the cold assessing eyes of Ilaria’s relatives represented a step too far for him: a step he was not prepared to take.

“What about Ilaria herself?” I asked. What kind of work does she want to do?” I knew that at present Ilaria was working as a secretary in her uncle’s computer parts factory.

“She is very intelligent”, Mario replied. “She wishes to become a computer systems analyst and is pursuing various courses at night school. I think she will succeed. However, I can see no future for us if she does a job she loves while I am tied into some low level bank job which I hate. Mathematics is my worst subject and the idea of counting all day and every day fills me with a terrible fear and loathing--disgust even. Perhaps I will finish with Ilaria and pursue this beautiful girl in the gelateria.”

I said nothing. I knew that it would take a major disagreement to rupture Mario’s love match with Ilaria. For his sake, I hoped that they could work it out. Ilaria had already shown her faithfulness to Mario by sticking by him after he had botched his first chance at the high school diploma and, as a result, been condemned to working in the factory for a year.

“Well, you should take it easy”, I advised him. “Don’t take precipitous decisions without thinking them through. Sometimes, when you think about an issue carefully a compromise position emerges that enables one to avoid the more extreme outcomes.”

Mario nodded slowly. “You may be right, but Ilaria will have to accept that I could never work in a bank. If she does this, we may be able to work out the rest in one way or another. Really, it is up to her.”

I gave Mario a sidelong glance and almost smiled. He was very testardo and not too good at understanding other people’s motivations. I felt sure that, given time and effort, he could talk Ilaria around. After all, she loved him. I did not believe that he’d be making a determined effort to acquire the dark haired girl’s love at any time soon.

The issue was obviously a disturbing one for him and he decided to change the subject.

“And what is Eleonora up to these days?”

I hardly knew how to reply and shook my head dispiritedly.

“Some things don’t change Mario. She is, as always, a self centred conniving bitch.”

“But you still love her?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “Who can tell? I think she is the debt I must pay for too much bad karma. I see through her; I see her shallowness. Yet she still fascinates me.”

Mario nodded his head slowly. “She is a bitch indeed. A two-timing bitch. I would ask you to drop her if I thought you were capable of doing it.”

I smiled at the thought of the twenty one year old Mario giving me advice about love.

“A certain kind of emotional satisfaction is very hard to find”, I answered. “Who knows why we don’t let certain things go? Obviously I feel that I’d be losing too much, too much that was dear to myself, if I allowed her just to drift out of my life.”

“You love her so much then?”

“I think I hate her more than I love her, but sometimes it is very difficult to tell the difference between these emotions. I feel that the die has been cast and that the present situation needs to be allowed to play out to its natural close.”

“And what does she say?”

I sneered. “Different things every day. She is inconsistent in everything except her beauty and her cunning.”

“So are you not heading for an unpredictable crash landing?”

“Probably. But as I said earlier, fate insists that we follow certain situations to the very end, fino in fondo.”

“Are you sure it is fate that insists my friend? Could it not just be the siren voice of your own ego?”

I smiled and nodded. “Well, perhaps I am like Ulysses strapped to the mast, listening to the sweet siren melodies. Nevertheless, I must listen to the song and, like Ulysses, make preparations so that it doesn’t destroy me.”

“And if the ropes were to break?”

“Then I would descend to Hades with a stupid smile on my face. Life is uncertain, but in rare situations it’s worth making a stand, come what may.”

Mario was silent, apparently turning over my words in his mind. Finally he spoke.

“Here we are: ‘La Bussola’. It seems deserted around here.”

Mario was right. The road on which ‘La Bussola’ lay seemed quiet as the tomb. I looked at my watch: the time was 8:25. Eva would either be waiting inside or hurrying along some nearby street in order to make the arrival time.

“Let’s go inside”, I suggested and we walked slowly towards the bright entrance, Mario still pushing his recalcitrant motorino. Some short distance from the pizzeria we stopped and Marco locked up his motorino. We could hear sounds of revelry coming from within. ‘La Bussola’, in addition to selling fine pizzas, was a famous expatriate restaurant and, inside, one was likely to meet travellers from all over Europe and even beyond. It was a favourite meeting place for me too and I often arranged to meet my friends here.

Inside, ‘La Bussola’ was built in a rustic style with great timbers supporting the bucolic roof. Tables were arranged casually--and most of them seemed already full. A careful examination of the people present confirmed the fact that Eva had not yet arrived and so we allowed a pretty waitress to lead us into a distant corner where a still unoccupied table awaited us. I took a quick glance at the menu before ordering a pizza margherita and a beer. Marco followed my lead and the waitress left us. I had been watching a small bald man for a while who was eating alone at a table near to our own. His eyes never left my face and he seemed in some way fascinated with me. I had the feeling that I’d seen him before and at length he waved his hand, wiped his face with his napkin and came over to stand next to me.

Buona sera, he commenced formally. Vi ricordate di me, signore?

I could not place my finger on exactly where I’d seen him before and shook my head.

Mi dispiace. So bene che ci siamo incontrati prima, ma non ricordo dove.

The man smiled. E’ stata in mensa. Parlavamo di quella Tedesca, Eva.

Now I remembered the man. He had come over once when I’d been eating in the university cafeteria one afternoon. He’d told me that he’d often seen me with Eva and believed that she was, without doubt, the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. I had told the story to Eva herself and she’d blushed for pleasure. Still, I knew that she wouldn’t have any real interest in this rather bloated and bald example of the borghese parmigiano.

Although the man had finished eating and was now clearing his bill with the pretty waitress, I invited him to sit down and wait with Mario and myself for the arrival of la bella Eva. He thanked me profusely and with a deep bow sat down. As the waitress returned with his change, Eva’s bald admirer ordered another beer before turning to us both with a smile.

“So you are meeting Eva here tonight? How exciting to have the opportunity of meeting a goddess.”
I smiled. “Yes, I will even introduce you to her Signore....?”

“Sacchetti. Lorenzo Sachetti.”

At that very moment, I picked out the petite figure of Eva making her way towards us in the crowded room. I waved my arm in welcome and turned to the bald Italian.

“My dear Signor' Sacchetti, it seems that your moment has arrived. Here is the beautiful Tedesca on her way to join us now!” Sachetti fixed his eyes on the diminutive form of Eva and seemed to sigh deeply. Within a moment, the smiling figure of Eva was with us and I was introducing her to Sacchetti. “Eva, this gentleman is Lorenzo Sacchetti and he has been admiring your beauty from afar for some months now. In fact ever since he spied us together eating lunch in the Mensa.”


Anonymous ely said...

Bella foto!

5:23 AM  
Anonymous ely said...

è una bella composizione

9:15 AM  

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