Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mothers & Sons, XIX

Servi was drinking coffee at a cafe while reading the novel I Promessi Sposi. He looked up for a moment and was surprised to see Claudia and Father Roberto standing in front of him.

“There you are, damn it,” Claudia said without breath. “Do you have Paulo?”

“No,” Servi answered, laying the book on the table. “He isn’t at school?”

“No,” Claudia explained, “nor at the rectory.”

The three then discussed a search strategy. Servi was to check down by the river, where the boy often enjoyed walking along the retaining wall, but decided instead to head toward the Vatican.

He found the boy on a bench in the Sistine Chapel, not looking at the ceiling like the herd of tourists, but the floor, which was scuffed and scored from the footwear of four continents.

“How did you get in here, Paulo?” Servi asked, sitting beside the boy. “Admission costs an arm and leg?”

“That’s not my real name,” the boy answered sullenly. “It is Cosmo.”

“Alright, Cosmo,” Servi answered. “How did you get in here?”

“I slipped in with a bunch of people.”

“Well,” Servi answered, grasping the boy’s shoulder. “Let’s get back. Your mother and Father Roberto are worried sick.”

“Claudia,” the boy answered firmly. “She isn’t my mother. She’s Claudia and she stole me…”

“Alright,” Servi said gently. “That’s fine, Cosmo. How about we get out from under this fresco and straighten this whole thing out?”

The boy then began to quietly cry, but the sound gathered momentum, and in the cavernous space, echoed off the walls and ceilings. The guards, who constantly hush loud tourists, said nothing to Servi as he carried the lad out the door; for even they knew that a child must cry even in the most sanctified of places.

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