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Merry Christmas Correggio
Literary property reserved
Copyright 2011 Abel Books
All rights are reserved. Reproduction, also partial, is prohibited in any form, also photocopies for personal or didactic use.
....if you knew what pain
the existence you see as black
where there is no black..
The sun is warming up a day at the end of Fall almost as if it were summer. The tepid heat confidently riding on the star’s rays stimulates the urge to go out. The limpid sky cleared of smog and clouds, merit of the wind the night before, completes the picture. A little man behind the wheel of his own car is stopped at an intersection. He looks to the right, then to the left and again to the right, shifts into first, starts and toc... grazes with his bumper another car coming from the left that he did not see. The collision was insignificant but his eyes timidly scrutinize the rear view mirror: Luca is sleeping blissfully in his car seat, safely belted in. The man gets out of his car, sees the serene expression of the other driver who encourages him, “Don’t worry, things like this happen, are you all right?”
“Yes, all OK. And you?”
“Only the side view mirror broken. Look, for this nothing we do not need to call the police and I am a public official. Here is my card and my ID. If you want we can fill out the blue form and then the insurance will take care of it. What do you say?”
Surprised by such kindness he happily accepts the quick solution. This inconvenience resolves itself in a flash and each driver departs towards his own destination. Encouraged, the father looks lovingly at Luca who has not moved a muscle: It is wonderful to meet honest people, and continues in his thoughts ‘ the day is still young, it would be a shame to waste ‘.The planned trip resumes in every detail... Some months later.
The imposing hall is illuminated by timid candlelight, while trembling and protein form shadows ripple on the walls. A tall thin man holds a drape on his outstretched arm and erratically lifts it up towards the nave. Then he turns to the crowd and launches a proud glance towards those silent persons present in the hall. Long white hair crowns his bony face and the red tunic he is wearing is the only dab of color in the entire candor of the scene. Fascinated by his presence, all the participants, dressed in white sheets, are kneeling towards his pulpit, Such an austere figure who has the power to emanate imaginary heat arrows that slide down the walls and wrap the followers, rendering them subject. The lunar silence is shaken by a theatrical gong chime. The man puts the drape on the alter and with studied slowness he scrutinizes the questioning eyes in the audience, then authoritarian but also warm words come out of his mouth which bewitch the already obsequious and dumb listeners.
“You all who are here in my presence have brilliantly passed the first exam. From today on you are my favorite pupils. Our, but even more, your scope it to realize the importance of understanding the meaning of the golden fleece”, and with a ceremonial gesture lifts up the banner and shows it to the followers.
“You must reject all your old values both material and spiritual, because these are the things that have weighed down on your forlorn existence. Only when you have been purified of the old, you will begin to become intoxicated with vital lymph which will permit you to discover within yourself your best you. You must follow to the letter my instructions and mistrust who discredits our work, because they are the impure. They are those who do not understand and they will try to stop our ascent. They are envious and do not want this better world.”
Silence. Arrogantly he glances, without being seen, at the flock subservient to his charisma. The sheep with heads lowered to the floor mentally count grains of dust. A well studied pause that allows the listeners the time to assimilate the concepts, then he continues his sermon vehemently.
“If you are not able in the beginning to empty yourselves, you must try harder, because my teaching, which has been given to me from above, is perfect. It will only be your fault if you are not able to tune into my doctrine and it will then be my duty to inflict upon you penitence which will serve to open you once again. When you have assimilated all my knowledge, you will be able to understand the meaning of the golden fleece and only then will you reach the promised land. Are you conscious of this new path?”
A uniform consensus rises from the frightened audience. The witch doctor spurs the crowd on, “I do not hear you! You must express your awareness. Your certainty must make these walls tremble. Come on, begin the new journey …I, your teacher, am at your service and praise this golden banner”, and the golden fleece magically lifts up in flight touching the heads of the shocked pupils. An explosive cry from them makes the candle flames tremor and the euphoria expands among the crowd. Then another strong dong restores silence to the hall. Shiny greedy eyes illuminate the guru who, watching his own flock, gives the start for the second phase.
“Good, now we will let in those who allow us to begin our voyage of purification, that is those who are pure by nature. Children, come forward to me so that the new course may begin.”
The door is violently slammed shut and at the same time a red tunic lands on the black leather sofa. “Shit, Andrea, you know. Whoever is admitted to the second course absolutely has to donate all his possessions and better so in cash. If we do not take everything and right at the start, one of their family members could oppose.” The man lights a Havana cigar with a gold decorated lighter.
“Hell, you are as dumb as a jackass. Doesn’t your little brain have room for this simple concept?” Andrea rubs his hands nervously and looks shyly for a pretext, a defense: “Excuse me don Vito, but Mrs. Davolino has nominated us in her will, with which we....” The words block in front of the assassinating look of don Vito, who, not resorting to corporal violence, fingers his gold necklaces as a gesture of anti stress.
“So, I am right. Your intelligence does not exceed that of a chicken. The format of that inheritance has two big problems. The first, until the lady dies, we will not see a dime. The second, the most important, is that the heirs could contest it, take us to court…and for the next twenty years we will have lawyers bothering us. And this we cannot allow to happen.” Vito presses a button on a mahogany desk. A door is opened and a bottle of Louis XIII Martell cognac appears as if by magic. He pours the amber liquid into a Rikke Hagen 2004 crystal cognac glass, his favorite, and knowingly raises it to his nostrils. He sniffs the intense odor, heats it slightly with his palm and drinks a little sip, knowledgably enjoying it. Completely relaxed he turns to his assistant.
“You have to put this simple word into your head, donation. Repeat with me, do-na-tion.” Andrea, childlike, repeats the word several times. Don Vito caresses the frame of a painting of a woman with a fan, surely not purchased at an auction, because it is priceless.
“Look, with a donation there is no problem, they cannot contest the wish of a person who… but do I have to give you a lesson? It would be like telling a joke to a deaf audience. Can you leave, I need to reflect.” Andrea embarrassed, does not move, but cannot find the strength to speak. Vito looks at him perplexed and asks. “Other problems?”
“Vitalone who wants to leave tomorrow. He is in the office next door waiting for you.” Incomprehensible words come out of Don Vito’s mouth as he nervously paces the office. Taking a deep breath at regular intervals, restores his self control and he hisses between his teeth:
“I pay you to solve the problems, not to create them. Damnation. I said it to Bandiera, the other idiot, to not let him embark in the project. This Vitalone, I never liked him from the first moment. Too frightened during the recruitment and too much guilt towards the wife who he wanted to bring to the villa as if she were a souvenir or on a pleasurable outing, and sighing he put on the red tunic. He smoothes his long white hair and asks:
“Has he had contact with the guys?”
“No, not yet” replies a timorous Andrea.
“Good!” and looking at himself in the mirror, “Great, the gold chains are not visible. Let us go and bring this lost sheep back into the pen.” The office with completely white walls is furnished with an aluminum desk and two plastic chairs. As soon the door closes on his back, Vitalone turns his head, on which only a few grey strands frame the complete baldness. He timidly makes the gesture of standing up, but don Vito, with a sign of his hand, urges him to remain seated. With studied slowness, he reaches the desk and sits down on the other chair, the twin of the one which supports Vitalone’s weight. He extracts a bottle of water from a fridge and pours some into a glass.
“Would you desire some water, juice, a tea?” he asks the man in front of him. With an embarrassed smile, Vitalone declines the offer.
“No, thank you, I am fine as is.”
“It does not seem to me that all is fine” is the reply from a frowning Don Vito. A long sip and Don Vito continues with a amiable tone: “Water purifies the body and also the mind, So, let us return to our little problem. My helper averted me that you have the intention to leave us. Did something bother you, don’t you feel well with us?” Vitalone, even more embarrassed and frightened, is not able to speak. He moves on the chair as if were full of pins. Finally finding the best position, he also recuperates the courage to ask for exoneration.
“I find it difficult to follow the way. This new life that you offer is not suitable for me. Not that your credo is wrong, but it is I who am not able to fit in with the rest of the group.
Don Vito caresses his fluent hair and with a soft voice
“It is natural. The first impact is always traumatic, but you can count on my help and on my professional collaboration. We do and will do everything possible to help you get through the first moments of natural confusion. Once you have understood the beauty of the new status, you will not miss your dirty old existence.”
Vitalone moves, his flaccid body vacillates as if it were pudding.’it is really uncomfortable this chair’ he thinks, but he remains fixed in his convention.
“I made a mistake. I miss the stress of work that gave me the force to be active all day long. I miss my cell phone that rang every 30 seconds and made me nervous,” a pause, then he continues sure if himself, “I miss the arguments with my wife. Actually, I feel empty, out of place“, is his final harangue. Don Vito shakes his head and takes out a paper from a drawer in the desk and hands it to Bandiera.
“Look, this is the photocopy of the contract that you signed. A contract that does not contemplate clauses that allow one to leave our community. We cannot permit anyone to leave here and go blab to the first whore he meets about our teachings and the life style we wish to achieve and then spread it around. It is not that simple to leave our association.”
“Simple or complicated, contracts can be broken. Even if it means escaping... I will do it at once,tonight” he thinks pleased with himself, “I will leave this house tonight and I want my money back.”
“Another painful point in the contract, freely signed by you, is that the money donated freely by you, is used to further the project. As you can well see,” with his hand he points at the walls and the desk, “not one euro is wasted, everything is used for the good of the community.”
“This project of yours does not interest me anymore,” and like a child he crosses his arms and frowns. “I want to leave!” Don Vito caresses his forehead appearing to reflect, then with a persuasive voice he tries to calm the man.
“Give me two or three days. I will talk to the lawyer and we will find a solution, also for the money there will be a solution. Give me two or three days. Promise?” Happy with the unexpected opening of his final and solid grievances and like a child who gets a longed for toy, warbles a convinced, “For a few days I will be good. Scout’s honor.”
Panting follows Vitalone’s heavy shadow while going up to the third floor of the villa and looking for the room with the cell phones. A few days earlier when the community was busy doing the collective shower ritual he grabbed an unexpected bit of news. “There is a room where all the electronic devices, cell phone, portable PCs, electronic agendas taken from the persons who decided to change their lives”, a lady who was all skin and bones had murmured solemnly to him. Between one soaping down and another she continued, “It is on the third floor, the one forbidden to us.” A little cry of astonishment with a hint of complicity sealed their secret. He had taken the iron decision while discussing with don Vito: “Tonight I will escape from the house and not without my loyal cell phone”, and he would think about the money later. Onceoutside the house and safe, it was his intention to consult Francesco, his lawyer friend, and who thanks to his help would file an official complaint with the police, for kidnapping and other little penal things, no less relevant. At the top of the stairs, he headed along the hall and with his sweaty hands groped forward in the darkness. “Door, door on the wall, where is the fairest door of all,” thought Vitalone, who taken with enthusiasm had not focalized another problem: how many doors were on the third floor and especially which one contained the treasure. With his heart beating heavily, he reaches the first door and cautiously turns the knob. Closed. Damnation. “And if they are all locked, will I call a thief to open them?” He laughs at his own joke and continues slinking along the wall. On the north, he seems sure of the cardinal direction, he finds only one door, the one that is locked. Suddenly the hall turns to the right and there is another door. A prayer and he turns the knob and the door opens without a creek. He calmly enters and closes it behind him. He turns on the light: bingo. Shelves full of electronic items that would make any crook happy. A real electronic fair. Surprise of all surprises, each shelf is noted with a letter of the alphabet. “Very precise the good don Vito,” he murmurs smugly. He reaches easily the shelf markedVand, for sure …here is my bad bad baby.” He takes the cell phone with his two hands and puts it on his breast:
“Did you miss me? Those bad guys who separated us, but from now I will defend you.” He retraces his steps, is just going to open the door knob when a noise from the hall freezes him. Immediately he turns off the light, praying in his heart to have been in time. Few seconds, and the noise is lost in the silence of the house. He decides to open the door, puts his head outside and sees that the field is free, only one light is filtering from another door ahead along the hall. Not aware of the danger, he approaches it and opens his ears in religious silence.
“Tomorrow we will have to make that great mass of meat who has lost his faith disappear,” comments a shrill voice in reply to an inaudible buzz. More whispered words, impossible to understand, then the loud voice says “The acid is ready in the basement. When the body is all melted, we will water the flowers in the garden with the juice. They like that mixture of bone and meat.” A noisy laugh follows the last comment.
Hearing his own death sentence, Vitalone tries to turn around, but his legs do not reply to his brain, and are paralyzed with terror. His breathing becomes difficult, while his fingers even more sweaty, try to grasp the wall without being able to find even a minimal grip. He feels lost. He sees himself already half solid, half liquid and flowing down the pipes of the sewer as food for the carnivorous plant roots. He tries to recuperate at least his regular breathing when his ears receive another horror.
“What shall we do about the children? Those born within the community are no longer sufficient for the need of the all the perverts who come to the villa.” A third voice has a solution ready, “Don Vito said that we have to kidnap some kids and bring them into to the community. Where and how we fin d them is our problem… for each child we find there is five thousand Euros to split.”
“Now, we begin to reason. Do you want another drop of beer?”
Vitalone, stricken with panic takes his cell phone, he turns it on and calls his wife. “Come on, answer Jesus Christ. Come on answer, I know it is the middle of the night. Maria Giulia, answer the damned phone.”
“Hello...hello, who is calling me at this hour?”
“It’s me, I am coming home. Here they play dirty games with children and… a cold pipe that looks a lot like a pistol barrel is placed softly on his forehead, while a large tall man removes his cell phone and turns it off.
“Ops, is it true? is Vitalone’s idiotic question and there is nothing left for him to do but smile bitterly.”
The icy train station materializes through a wavy wall of fog. An apathetic colonnade, good only to protect from humidity and the stinging wind, stands like a drape of guards at attention. Some frightened cars challenge the snow covered roads with circumspection. The noise made from the screeching tires that crush the ice is pungent like a crash of crystal on the floor. The echo of solitary muffled footsteps dissolve into indifference. Not even a shadow of a pedestrian. “Did I mistake my calculations?” the man who is wholly packed within a coat that is too big for his slight figure, asks himself. He is pulling a small child with a swaying head, and who, because of his unnatural motions, seems to be inarticulate or dazed. The inside of the lobby is even colder, the thick walls, instead of protecting, retain the cold and emit humidity into ones bones, freezing them. The same humidity that makes one wish for winter in the summer. Walking quickly, he heads towards the ticket area where fortunately there is some life. The line for purchasing tickets is growing continually with people who are arriving from the parking lot below. Little steam geysers materialize from the breathing of the people in line while clumping of heavy shoes count the seconds. In the infinite waiting some people mentally note, “Next year I will book the trip at least 60 days before”, already knowing in their heart that they will not keep the promise. The moment of relief, thanks to event of the Christmas holidays has already faded in the gelid caldron of the waiting room. A few people begin to miss not being at work, hated up to yesterday.
A long row of suitcases patiently waiting. Containers holding hopes, delusions, defeat, deception, but looking at them closely tells you about the life of their owner. The bag of the commuter upon return from a weary day of work. A depressed wife and adifficultson will be waiting for him. Thirty years ago he would be marked as an idiot, a no good and trouble maker. Today, at least with terminology, were are more indulgent, but help and solutions are still far as away as before. While the cure for the wife would have been a few belt lashes, like his grandmother had endured in religious silence. For a week not even a fly moved in the home. Today, or you need affection, or if you look at her with intensity different from the usual she will file a complaint against you. Good times gone. The artificial leather suitcase of the emigrant, full of hope in the past, and in the present full of defeat, upon return to a foreign country. He has realized that here exploitation is identical to that which he experienced at home and in addition he is accused of stealing jobs from the locals. The shabby and mortified briefcase belonging to the salesman who had hoped for a deal before the holidays. A sure contract, gone up in smoke because the client came to Italy only for prostitution since it is forbidden in his country and punished by hanging. Thereare no longer loyal clients as before. A luggage set, value 49,99 Euros, a big, medium, small suitcase and a beauty case appear, dragged tiredly by a girl. The four wheels decide to go in different directions causing the convoy to derail. She stops and takes a breath and notices with a horrid look that she has a run in her pantyhose. Snorting, she mends the scar with nail polish. She takes off her high heels, revealing legs to be caressed, and puts on some boots that hide the run. Life is really full of pitfalls. And all these containers of existences will be picked up by the nervous hands of their owners who will throw them on a rack of an anonymous train coach, squashing them and banging them as if they were their own lives. In the middle of all this organized chaos, the coat with the man inside it tries to plow through all the wind jackets, ski jackets, hairy hats, disinterest, idiotic glances and rancid sweat. The explorers certainly met with less difficulties in opening a road in the jungle and also breathed fresher air.
Then horrified, he notes that he no longer is holding his child’s hand.