Monday, August 12, 2013

The Vulgar Tongue, xi


              Things then moved quickly.   The Carbineri arrived, then an ambulance, and the body was taken away.  Servi attended to Beatrice for the first few hours, holding her as she cried, and then people descended on the house: the mayor of Cavernascura, wealthy neighbors, politicians, men whose occupations were not inquired after.  With each new arrival, Servi felt his bond with Beatrice loosen.  The fantasy of Childhood Regained was over.  Servi knew Beatrice no longer wanted him at the Villa, but he could not leave:  propriety demanded that he remain until Grillo was in the ground. 
            Beatrice regained some of her composure the next day, and she coolly introduced him as an old family friend from New York.   People were polite but distant to Servi, realizing that an old family friend from New York could be code for something far less innocuous.  But Servi with his beard and disheveled clothes did not look the part.  He overhead one of the mourners ask why an Algerian was allowed in the house, and he realized they were speaking of him.
            A few hours before Grillo was to be buried, the fiancé arrived.  He was tall, brown, gallant, and as sad as the occasion demanded of him.  Beatrice introduced him to Servi and they shook hands.  A glimmer of mild dissatisfaction passed over his face as Beatrice provided the requisite information about Servi.  Her completely neutral words provided a code for Beatrice’s fiancé, a secret script of her taste in other men, and the choice did not suit him.  He looked at Servi derisively, knowingly, as if to say:  several tons of tufa rock can’t conceal what you did.  Then like the others he left Servi alone.

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