Friday, August 9, 2013

The Vulgar Tongue, xi


             Servi sat on her bed while she took out a small book from a satchel.  The book was old; its binding was torn, the pages, brittle and yellow; spots of mildew speckled the cover.  But the cover clearly read De Vulgari Eloquentia.  Beatrice held it open for him with a broad smile.
            “What am I looking at, Beatrice” Servi asked. “I can’t read Latin.”
            “Well, Dante originally intended De Vulgari Eloqentia to be four books.  He only wrote book one, and book two to chapter fourteen.  For centuries, it was believed he never finished it.  What you are seeing is the complete book.”
            “How did you get it?”
            “From the Vatican,” she answered, and then more preciously: “The Vatican Library.  It was cataloged improperly for centuries.  It was just found two years ago.”
            “But you are only a PhD student,” Servi answered.  “Shouldn’t an expert in the field examine it?”
            “No,” Beatrice said, sitting next to Servi, fingering the book with care.  “I will be the expert in the field.”
            “Your father arranged for you to have it?” Servi asked, for the first time in his stay broaching the old taboo. 
            “Yes,” she said, placing the book carefully back in the satchel. “It is supposed to make my career.  Father knows many important people in the church who owe him favors.  They were happy to hand it over to him, trust me.”  Servi was silent.  Beatrice took his hand.
            “I told you,” she said, looking at him fully.  “I am well taken care of here.”

            Beatrice and Servi went down to the dining room for dinner.  They both expected to see Grillo at the head of the table, already four glasses into a bottle of wine, for Grillo was a man of set routine.  But he was not there.  Beatrice grew alarmed.
            “Francesca!” she called the cook.  “Have you seen my father?”  The cook stuck her head out of the kitchen door.
            “He isn’t here?” she said, unconcerned.  “He is probably still out with his grapes.”  Beatrice cast a confused glance at Servi and sprinted out of the villa.  Servi scurried to catch up.
            “Don’t run Beatrice,” he called out to her. “You’ll fall!”  For she had twice stumbled on her heels on the way to the shed.  When Beatrice reached the open door she screamed.             
              Servi sprinted forward.  Beatrice was leaning over her prone father, who was completely naked.  Empty wine bottles lay scattered around him.
            “My God!” she screamed.  “Help me!”  Servi felt Grillo’s wrist for a pulse, and finding none, he placed two fingers on the artery on his neck.  He then pressed his ear against the man’s hairy breast bone.  He failed to hear a heartbeat with every search.
            “I think he is dead, Beatrice,” Servi said with hazy precision.  The words stuck to his tongue and only rolled off his tongue with great effort.
            “We have to dress him!”  Beatrice shouted.
            “We have to dress him before we call the police…”
            “God damn it, Servi, help me,” Beatrice screamed.  “I don’t want people to know he was found like this.”  Servi helped her gather up the far flung clothes, and then together, with no words, they struggled to dress the dead man, from his underwear to his tie.  When they were done, Beatrice called the Carbineri

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