6. “Don’t get up, please,” an Italian voice instructed Servi, and he obeyed. Without moving his head, Servi’s darting eyes knew where he was: the deprived Roman medical clinic. He could smell the cheap disinfectant and see the pitted ceiling tiles. Then a bearded, gleaming face was looking down upon him. Small glasses dangled from the man’s hawk nose. A Roman type, a bit player in other people’s dramas, the jolly, often drunk district doctor, a shock of white hair at attention on his head. He smelled of tobacco and red wine. He smiled and winked at Servi.
“Good afternoon,” he said. “My name is Doctor Tedesco. They tell me you are Canadian and speak Italian?” The lie, Servi thought, was spreading to ever-widening circles.
“Yes,” Servi answered. “I’m Aaron Servi. Who brought me here?”
“Oh,” the doctor said, puffing on his pipe. “Maria and that American man with the Lazarus Society.”
“The Lazarus Society,” the doctor repeated. Then Servi tried to sit, but the room spun clockwise and then abruptly shifted to counterclockwise. The doctor gently helped Servi back down to the table.
“What is wrong with me, doctor?” Servi asked.
“I was going to ask you that myself,” and Doctor Tedesco pulled up a stool near Servi’s head. The doctor then asked Servi if he had any history of a long list of ailments. Servi answered them all in the negative, but for one. “Have you had a good meal today, Senore Servi?” And on hearing the reply, Doctor Tedesco gently helped Servi to his feet. “In that case, allow me to buy you lunch.”
Dear Aaron, his father wrote, we are all very concerned that we have not heard from you. Two of our letters have been returned to us saying, we think, addressee not found. I have enclosed them in this envelope. Your mother and I have been talking about you for some time. We have decided that you won’t receive any more money from us until we can settle on the terms of your stay…