Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Vulgar Tongue, xii


            There was a long Latin Mass in the Cavernascura cathedral.  The heat was liquid in its heaviness.  The sky was a looming, low gray.  The cathedral was overflowing with people, and Servi had to stand at the back near the baptismal font.   
            He could not see the casket, Beatrice or her fiancé.  He followed the funeral procession, which except for the hearse and the limo carrying Beatrice and her intended, was on foot:  the most extreme Latin expression of respect to the dead.  Surprisingly, it began to rain.  Large drops at first, and then smaller, until the curtain closed and there was a downpour.  All the other mourners but Servi were prepared with umbrellas.  Servi did not know how they realized it would rain.  Water had not fallen from the sky in Tuscany for two years.  By the time they lowered Grillo in the ground, Servi was soaked.

            Servi walked back to the villa to collect his bag.  A few mourners were getting into their cars for Florence, Rome, Milan.  Only Servi entered the house.  He retrieved the bag he had packed before the funeral for a hasty departure.   
            When he came down, the rooms appeared to be empty.  He only heard the ticking of the clock in the living room.  He waited with his bag at his side, and then heard the hissing of an espresso pot in the kitchen.  Francesca the cook was about to pour herself a cup.  She saw Servi and smiled.

            “Would you like a cup, Senore Servi?” she asked.

            “Yes, thank you,” he answered, and she handed the coffee.  They both drank standing up.

            “A shame about Senore Grillo,” the cook said after a few sips.  “But not unexpected,” and then she continued in a lower voice, even though the villa was empty.   
            “He never drank this much before the Senora died, may God rest her soul,” and she crossed herself.  “She did not go peacefully, poor thing.  It was a long struggle.  It took nearly two years.  She was in such pain.  She was relieved when the end came.  I think Senore Grillo was relived too.  Both for her, and for him.  I think this knowledge, that he was relieved she was dead, made him drink even more once she was gone.”  Francesca sipped her coffee and sighed.  “Such suffering, all around.”

            “Is Beatrice here?” Servi asked.  “I’d like to say goodbye.”  The cook shook her head.

            “She went back to Rome with her fiancé,” the cook answered, looking at Servi knowingly.  “You know her life is in Rome.  But she came back here nearly every weekend to see to her father.  Devoted daughters like this aren’t born anymore.  Poor girl.  She did everything she could.”

            “Well,” Servi said, placing his empty cup down on the counter.  “I’ll be going now.  Thank you for your hospitality.”  Servi picked up his bag and slung it over his shoulder.  He could hear the rain pounding on the tiled roof.

            “But you haven’t had lunch,” the cook cried. 

            “No time, thank you.  I have to catch the 5:15 bus to Florence for the 8:25 train to Rome.”

            “The gardener will drive you.  Have something to eat.”

            “Thank you, I’d rather walk.”

            “But it’s raining like the Deluge out there,” she pointed to the window, stained with streaks of water.  “Do you have an umbrella?”  Servi shook his head.  “A rain coat?”

            “Yes, in here,” Servi gestured to the bag.

            “At least take a sandwich,” she said and scurried to the counter.  “I fried up some eggplants.”

            Servi took the sandwich and held it in his hand .

            “And you’ll need something to wash it down, here, take this,” the cook thrust a bottle of Grillo’s wine into Servi’s free hand.  He tried to give it back, but she wouldn’t think of it.  “Take it.  He would want you to have it.  He liked to talk about New York.  He always spoke fondly of the Servis.  Take it in his memory.”


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