Today's Reading

7.

"Left here," Scottie said, squinting at the property manager's foreign scrawl. There was something about the city being divided into three parts, terzi, but which part were they in now?

They turned, she believed, onto Via di Città, but it wasn't. It was some other street, which led to an alley. There were no signs. Suddenly her map seemed all wrong, a threatening labyrinth. They turned around, barely, Michael red-faced, the tendons in his neck standing out. She shrank down in her seat, ashamed and a little frightened, as he roared up the narrow street past a laughing old man in a tattered black hat and took a sharp right onto...

"Wait," Scottie yelped, madly searching the map. "I'm not sure that's—"

"It must go somewhere," Michael snarled. Her genial husband was gone, replaced by—who was this man?

Scottie looked up from the map to see brick walls narrowing and arching over them. The sky disappeared and they were plunged into semidarkness. She couldn't understand how he thought the car was going to fit.

"I think it's the other way, Prince," she said gaily.

"Well, I can't back up," he snapped, and she was quiet. They inched forward, the web of laundry lines seeming to get lower and lower over them, and the walls closer and closer, until...crunch.

The eagle was firmly lodged between two brick walls.

Michael hit the accelerator hard, but only produced a horrible noise and a smell of burning rubber. He put it in reverse, but got the same result. He smacked the steering wheel with his palms. His formerly beautiful mouth was set in an angry, ugly line.

We're strangers, she realized.

They couldn't get out of the car. They had to sit there, avoiding each other's eyes, waiting for help.


TWO

IL BRUCO, THE CATERPILLAR

"THE REVOLUTION SOUNDS MY NAME"

1.


Scottie was no stranger to adventures gone wrong. When she was a child in California her pony had regularly bolted on her and carried her under guillotine-like tree limbs. Like a trick rider, she simply dropped her head and torso down one side of the evil beast and spurred him harder. She had often gotten lost while hiking in the mountains above Los Angeles and come home after dark, always lying to her father about having "visited a friend" so that he would not be worried about her. And after her father had decided his little tomboy needed "polishing" and sent her to Miss Porter's, a fancy boarding school back east, she and Leona had snuck out of their dorm when they were thirteen and gone into New York City to see a shirtless Kirk Douglas in Champion. Spotting a teacher attending the same matinee, they hid under the seats, Scottie pretending to Leona that she was licking the sticky floor, Leona tying an unsuspecting man's shoelaces together. Scottie had come to believe that an adventure really wasn't an adventure until something went wrong and you had to rise to the occasion. She reached for the radio, but thought better of it. She thumbed through her Berlitz phrase book, looking for the word for "stuck." La macchina è...

Michael stared straight ahead. He looked as if he were in some kind of trance. She felt a new kind of worry bloom inside her like a fungus. Why wasn't he doing anything? His hands were still on the steering wheel, as if somehow the crushing jaws of this unfriendly place were going to suddenly open up and free them and he could race forward. Even though it was silly, she couldn't help but feel it was all her fault—in 'Roman Holiday' Audrey Hepburn had stuck her
fingers into the Bocca della Verità, an ancient carving. It bit you if you were lying.

It made perfect sense that the jaws of Siena had snapped shut on her.


2.

As he sat in the stuck car, feeling the persona he had presented to his new bosses and to Scottie disintegrate, Michael remembered something his literature professor had said, that in Dante's Inferno the worst, Ninth Circle of Hell was reserved for those guilty of treachery. Because they had made a mockery of love of family, of country, of friends, of God, they were exiled to a place where they were frozen, their screams rendered immobile and eternal. While Scottie's natural instinct was to defuse tension and laugh at complications, Michael had a more operatic temperament. He was
hearing the clashing cymbals that foreshadow the hero's agonizing death, already seeing the coffin with his body being unloaded at the pier in New York, his mother weeping over it. But not, a voice crept into his thoughts, weeping as much as she had wept for his war-hero brother. He sighed. It was truly a bad day when even thoughts of death were not a consolation.

Trapped in the car and deeply unsure what to do about it, he found himself staring at an election poster plastered to the wall next to the car. A man's enormous face stared back at them. VOTARE GIANNI MANGANELLI, it shouted in huge type. A single word was scrawled over it in red paint: MAI.

"I would vote for him," said Scottie brightly, as if they were stuck in a traffic jam instead of between two walls. "Looks like a friendly type. What's he running for?"

"Mayor," said Michael. He pretended to study the party shield in the corner of the poster, as if he didn't already know it by heart. "Looks like he's the Christian Democratic candidate. That's the Catholic party. They're pro-American."

"Oh. Well, that's good. And what's mai mean?"

"Never."

"Oh," she said again. "So a Communist wrote that?"

"Yes," he said, his fear deepening.

"That's not very nice."

"No," said Michael. "It is not. The Communists are trying to take over Italy."

"Oh dear," she said. "But not here, right?"

"Yes. Here," he said, trying to sound casual. "This is the heart of Italian communism." The blood red heart, was what he had been told. And you must cut out its aorta.


This excerpt ends on page 14 of the hardcover edition.
...

What our readers think...

Contact Us Anytime!

Facebook | Twitter