Writing Poetry by Yao Peck Lu

This is a request from me, I needed to hear something that is missing in my heart. Too much work? Too much COVID? Too much nothing? I asked my good friend for a poem. A simple poem to reconnect us with what we were. Here we go…

The kaleidoscope of my emotions – Photo by Ena Wang – Art Glass Museum, Seattle, June 2021


















Writing poetry

Sometimes I worry that the fountain of poetry will dry up

Inspiration no longer flows from the mountain stream of the brain

The wise man said do not worry too much

Young spring


A volcano that has been dormant for a hundred years could erupt

As long as the pain

Begins to overpower the heart

Mouth open

The magma can be vented

Short-lived pleasure

It takes a lot of time to be melancholy to build

Weave strands of melancholy into thick and dense

Wings named imagination

New poems are reborn from the ashes


A letter home – by Yao Peck Lu

Here comes another beautiful poem by Yao Lu – Quite difficult to render in English. Enjoy it.

Spring in the City -Photo by f. Marincola, Gaithersburg, Maryland April 2021


A letter home





Mom, I have walked a long way in the maze, unable to tell the East, South, West, North, but my feet are still on the clean mud, where the flower of sin cannot grow.

Mom, raise the kerosene lamp in your hand. The light is like a beacon shining on the sea at night, faint, blond enough to show me the right direction.

Mom, I heard that my cousin’s second child was born. In the war-torn era, the haze of death lingers, coexisting with the hope of a newborn.

Mom, the moment I stared into the abyss was just a nightmare. In the gentle breeze, people went out in groups, laughed together, you should go out with them, enjoy the peach blossoms on the riverbank in spring, and don’t disappoint the bright spring.


(You ask about my current situation?)


Although I am good at writing, I lack words this time, don’t know how to describe the scenery I saw on this inaccessible road: a glass full of clear water, a pill that fell into the water, lost the sugar-coated package, the mouth is full of bitter taste, for treating high blood pressure.


I walked a long way, It’s been a long time until the words on the movie ticket faded. We are flocks of cattle and sheep on the road, graze on the hillside all day, wagging their tails, have fun and come home late. Keep up with the huge team, one more and one less, audit errors are normal.


Mom, I used all the happy coins I accumulated in the piggy bank during my childhood to exchange an adult gasp in the cold world. When I see you again, I am afraid I will not be the original teenager anymore.

3:45 AM, a poem by Dark Lullaby

A new contributor to the blog and a good friend is sharing her middle on the night thoughts with this beautiful poem. I hope that you will enjoy and please welcome Dark Lullaby to the blog.

Agua Caliente Park – Photo by Ena Wang, Tucson, Arizona, March 21 2021

03.54 AM

I was born to a soft dark lullaby my mother did not hum to me,

It came dancing in my mind’s eye, my hushed, diabolical self,

Carving a thirst to decipher the echoes of my soul, which I did not understand.

Another entity, another me, yet more so than I am.

Captivated, free, just out of reach, her sweet melancholy.

Always out of reach yet engulfing me.

Her waves, rarely submissive, often wild, and always untamable.

Her sweet melancholic solitude; never withering.

Some nights I’d trace my finger around the rough edges of her, my grand unknown,

Always there, yet not.

On nights like those the silver moon whispered –‘One day’, spilling secrets of her freedom.

On nights like that I’d dive too deep into her grip on who I was

Who was I? Could I see us if I leave my ambiguous existence?

Spill out in the universe and see the whole of me in a single unified moment with all.

See her, see us…. see me. Me?

Not yet says the sun, bright and mendaciously trying to make me believe the Universe is ordinary.

I refuse to believe the light; instead I trust her, and that brought me calm in the largest storms of my life.

I was always an unusual girl, and that is my power. Full of dream, thirst to know and inner indecisiveness.

And if I said I didn’t want to turn out this way, we’d be lying.

“Love forever” by Yao Peck Lu

As Yao Lu puts it, this may sound like a Chinese version of “How do I love thee?” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Personally, I like Yao Lu’s poem much better but, of course, I might be biased. And of course, I wish I could do a better job translating it into English. Maybe one day, I will or maybe someone out there could help?

Day two; camelia resting in water – Photo by Ena Wang – El Granada, January 30th 2021

永恒的爱 – Forever love

When we say goodbye in silence,




May we expect that we will never meet again in this life?

Staring tenderly one last time, my love.








How long can I love thee?

I love thee to an endless mountain range across man-made boundaries

I love thee to a blooming sunflower, a raging flame protected by thick hands in the wind

I love thee to the cicadas that can’t be silenced in the midsummer night

The echo of I love thee left the secluded valley to the place out of sight

At this point, I do not need to preach about my love. It is written as an established fact in the lines near my eyes and mouth, hidden in the tail sound inspired by the gently opening lips.

I take the initiative to swear, even after that, the feeling that I love thee is like a diamond, always pure!

Almonds and Grand Marnier by Catterina Coha

A short “COVID vignette”, as advertises by Catterina. It deeply moved me when I read it. It may not portray a specific individual but rather the spectrum of all of us, those departed and those who are left here wondering.

The first camelia of the year – Photo by F. Marincola – From my backyard, El Granada, January 29th 2021

Almonds and Grand Marnier

Reality was so painful that I tried writing, as a form of catharsis. But I could not write anything, so I started drinking instead.  Some evenings I made it through by working, but others I was restless and ended up trying to poison myself with almonds and Grand Marnier. But there is too little cyanate in almonds to kill you, at least in the almonds I bought in the Turkish store at the corner.  The liqueur just helped dissolve the nutty stodge in my stomach and made me sleepy.

For the most part I did not have troubles sleeping. My dreams were confused and confusing, but at least they were there, and this was reassuring. Getting up in the morning required motivation, which was fading a little more every day.  Some weekend mornings I slept late enough to see the sun rise but it just made me feel like a prisoner looking out of the window at a world that no longer belongs to me.

As plan after plan got cancelled, I stopped making any. Life was passing as a continuum of monotonous hours, days, weeks, months. Desires previously so vivid were muffled by a sense of worthlessness. It was not that the desires that became meaningless, I did.

It was odd that I became more efficient in accomplishing important tasks because I stopped caring for them. It was almost as I was compelled to take care of unfinished business before I departed.  Nevertheless, I was painfully aware of being a phony. I suspected that the people I tried to deceive realized it, but I could not force myself to care about what they thought about me. Once you accept your ugliness you stop trying to look nicer, since you know it is useless.

When I think of this time, the best moment I had was when I was sick. The feverish body demanded attention to my life, providing an excuse for being useless, at least until I recovered. I recall waking up in the middle of the night completely drenched in sweat, having to change in silence as I was feeling cold, the fever starting to raise again. I remember lying in bed one afternoon and feeling that my body was too hot to touch. A breeze from the open window felt like heaven. Oddly, the forced separation from everybody was easy. Maybe it was because it made me feel important, or it was the ultimate way to feel empathy with the masses of people who had been and were sick, to participate in this historic moment. “If you cannot help them, join them!”

In retrospect, it was a stupid death. Lost in the statistics of so many deaths, without even a proper funeral.  

“Wrestling with life” by Yao Peck Lu

This poem dovetails with my “Happier New Year” wish

Thank you Yao Lu for your devoted participation to this blog and all your beautiful poems that I am sure miss part of their beauty when translated. But still are deep and thought provoking. And with this poem and my wishes , we lower the gate and leave 2020 behind.

“Happier New Year”

Full Moon at Fennimore – Photo by F. Marincola, December 29, 2020


Wrestling with life





Take off the bandage

The bleeding wound has healed

Life is my enemy

I am determined on fighting it in the fort and leave a medal.





Don’t call me

The bullet in the barrel is about to run out

Life is not my enemy

I gave up fighting it in the fort and raised the white flag




I received a letter

Dear John

When will you quit the battle?





I am also waiting for the thick fog and smoke to dissolve

Let the shabby cowboy hat lie in the corner

I tried to write down my real thoughts on parchment

The hand that lifts half of the charcoal pencil is so weak







Open the cage

Life is in the same arena with me

Just as I give up fighting

Bystanders know that no one is the winner

And when I am gone

We will all know that no one is the winner

“Happier” New Year to All – A goodbye to 2020

May 2021 be “happier” than 2020! It should not take much imagination to figure a scenarior that passess such a low threshold! Even for a pessimist like me and my favorite Italian Poet Giacomo Leopardi, it should not be difficult to envision something better. God willing, the best of life is what remains to be seen, even for those who know that things can always be worse.

To make the point, I translated a “Moral Assay” from Giacomo Leopardi: “Dialogo di un venditore d’almanacchi e di un passeggere” that I could not find already translated in English (I hope that, by publishing it, I will not infringe any Copyrights considering that it was originally published in 1834). Even the passerby would agree that the next year bears a good chance to be an improvement over the apocaliptic 2020!

The story also, introduces a new poem to be published separately by Yao Peck Lu: “Wrestling with life” that well fits with the wishes of life.

“Happier” New Year to all!

Sunset reverberations at Soldier Trail – Photo by F. Marincola, December 28, 2020, Tucson, Arizona

Dialogue between an almanac seller and a passerby

By Giacomo Leopardi


Almanacs, new almanacs; new lunar. Do you need almanacs, sir?


Almanacs for the new year?


Yes, sir.


Do you think that this new year will be happy?


Oh illustrious, yes, of course.


As this past year?


More! Much more.


How about the previous one?


More! much more, most illustrious.


But like what else? Wouldn’t you like the new year to be like some among previous years?


No Mister, I wouldn’t like that.


For how many new years have you been selling almanacs?


It will be twenty years, illustrious.


Which of these twenty years would you like next year to be like?


I? I do not know.


Don’t you remember any particular year that you thought was happy?


No in truth, most illustrious.


And yet life is a beautiful thing. Isn’t true?


We know that.


Wouldn’t you go back to living these twenty years, and also all the past time, starting from when you were born?


Eh, dear sir, God willing that I could.


But what if you had to redo the life you have led no more and no less, with all the pleasures and sorrows that you have gone through?


I would not like that.


Then, what other life would you like to live again? The life I led, or that of the prince, or who else? Or don’t you think that I, and that the prince, and that anyone else, would answer like you precisely; and that having to repeat the same life that one had led, nobody would want to go back?


I believe this.


Nor would you also go back with this covenant, not being able to otherwise?


Mister no really, I wouldn’t go back.


Oh what life would you like then?


I would like a life like this, as God would send it to me, with no other agreements.


A random life, and not knowing more ahead, where you do not know about the new year?




So I would like if I had to relive, and so everyone. But this is a sign that destiny, up to this year, has treated everyone badly. And it is clear that everyone is of the opinion that the evil that touched him bore more weight than the good; if as long as they get back their former life, with all its good and bad, no one would want to be reborn. That life which is a beautiful thing is not the life that is known, but the one that remains unknown; not the past life, but the future one. With the new year, chance will begin to treat you and me and all the others well, and a happy life will begin. Isn’t true?


Let’s hope.


So show me the best almanac you have.


Here, very illustrious. This is worth thirty sous.


Here’s thirty sous.


Thank you, very illustrious: to see you again. Almanacs, new almanacs; new lunar.

One day (一天) by Yao Peck Lu

Another beautiful Chinese poem. I wish I could be a good translator. I hope that the beauty in not lost in translation! Enjoy.

Vase and Trulli – Photo by F. Marincola, December 3rd 2020, Tucson, Arizona


One day



I have forgotten your appearance,

But this day every year, I remember it again.



There was no wind chasing the waves that day, a sea of people was quiet,

A light boat floated on the lake of the heart.





The colorful lanterns that decorated the city lit up that day,

Light white stars

Some falling on your shoulders,

Others falling on the shoulders of your shadow.             




Passers-by noticed

A gravel in the earth that didn’t turn into a pearl that day

Lived in my eyes by accident?







Today the spring breeze incites new buds,

You ever judged rudely that

The dead wood that has been silent for a long time will not sprout again,

Wait patiently, wait a little longer,

Wait a few more minutes,

The feeling is that the underground river is flowing,

And the tree on the ground will grow facing the wind.

From the Forest to the Sky by Heer Patel

Another contribution by our young writer Heer Patel, who already received quite a lot of attention with her two previous stories: Adventure in Candy Island and Magic Herb

I hope that you will enjoy as I did

From the Forest to the Sky

Sunent in Peace Valley, PA – Photo by Dharmesh Patel, November 26 2020

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 – The Seven Mystical Realms

Chapter 2 – Pegasus

Chapter 3 – A New Friend

Chapter 4 – In the Twilight Library

Chapter 5 – Bralzror

Chapter 6 – Down the Stairs

Chapter 7 – Befriending a Dragon

Chapter 1 – The Seven Mystical Realms

Once upon a time… Well, that’s not exactly the right beginning for a place like this. I’m Alvena Glynmys. So, as I was saying, I live in a place called The Seven Mystical Realms. I stay in Evergrowing Forest with other elves like me. Evergrowing Forest is only one realm. It’s always luscious, green, with plenty of animals roaming about. Another realm is the Skylands, which is more north and, well, in the sky, as it’s name refers to. Near southwest of Evergrowing Forest is Flarania; a world of fire. There’s always at least one volcano erupting every 10 seconds. Maybe I’m exaggerating too much, but you get the point. Anyway, farther south is Aquaria, full with colorful sea life underwater. Dolphin pods, schools of fish, and lonely sharks inhabit Aquaria. Neighboring Evergrowing Forest is the realm of Silver Peaks. Half the place is covered with the tallest and snowiest mountains that shimmer in the sunlight. The rest of the place has beautiful, glistening frozen lakes. The Seven Mystical Realms sounds like a wonderful place to live, but there’s also dangerous places here.

At the most northern part of The Seven Mystical Realms, there is a dark, eerie, and spooky realm called Shadow World. Not many know about Shadow World, but it’s foggy all the time, and it’s covered in super pointy mountains. Few creatures have been there, and even fewer have returned. By creatures I don’t only mean normal animals like leopards, squirrels, and bears. Here, there are lots of wondrous creatures that you would think only exist in myths in your world (Earth, isn’t it called? Seems interesting, but I can’t imagine a life without mythical creatures!). Unicorns, dragons, phoenixs, flying horses, fairies, merpeople, and so on. All live in The Seven Mystical Realms. I haven’t actually been to these places, just heard of them from my grandmother, who is a wonderful storyteller. So, that’s six of the known realms. Most creatures don’t believe there is another realm. Grandmother told me it’s called The Lost Land. Pretty mysterious and exciting name. I can’t tell you more, but maybe I’ll get to go there one day and see what it’s like.

“Alvena! It’s time for your practice with Elva!” someone called from the distance. Oh right. That’s my mom. I have to go practice for the archery competition we elves have every year. I’m just the right age for it now, 12! I practice with Elva Miralynn, an older elf archer who won the archery competition last year and many other years, and she’s my friend. She decided to help me out this year since she’s too old to participate in the competition. Today was the last day of practice, since the competition would be soon. If you win in the competition, you get a unicorn! Or something better! So cool! “Coming, Mom!” I said, getting up. Getting up, I grabbed my intricate golden bow and my quiver full of sharp golden arrows. I walked out of my house, and went towards the practice field.

Chapter 2 – Pegasus

“Hi Alvena! You’re early!” an older elf said looking at her watch. She was also carrying a silver ornamented bow and a quiver that was slung on her shoulder with arrows inside it. “Yeah, my mom reminded me early today, because I need as much as practice I can get for the competition.” I replied. “You’re right. Let’s get the unicorn!” Elva said enthusiastically. I smiled at her, giving a big thumbs up. As they headed for an empty target, I saw Lyra Keylynn, one of my classmates, practicing her skills. “Hey, Lyra! Great shooting!” I said, waving to her. “Thanks Alvena! But you’re a pro at it!” Lyra called back, her long brown hair fluttering in the wind. I found an empty target near where Lyra was practicing. I nocked my arrow, aiming for the bullseye.

I shot, and it flew straight and hit smack in the center of the bullseye. I looked at Elva, who said, “Great job! You’re definitely going to rock it today!” “Thanks, but I need to practice a little more, just in case.” I responded. I aimed a second time, and this time, it flew like the first arrow, and split the first arrow in half. “Wow! I’ve never done that!” Lyra exclaimed. I smiled and reached for another arrow. But this time as I shot, I saw something lurking in the woods; something white. My arrow completely missed the target and went inside the woods instead. Elva came to me. “What happened? You were shooting just fine before.” she said. “Sorry, I was distracted. Let me go get it.” I apologized. Elva nodded and I went inside the woods, looking for the arrow and what distracted me. I saw another flash of white, but the creature or thing was too fast. My arrow was sticking out from the middle of a tree, so I took it out and went back to practice. I wondered what the white thing was, but then started focusing on archery instead.

I looked at a nearby clock, nervous and excited at the same time. Soon, it would be time for the competition. The entire village would be there! But I also like archery, so it would be fun. I heard trumpets in the distance. It’s time. I took a deep breath and walked to my spot. I focused on the bullseye, and nocked my arrow. Other archers around me did the same. Ms. Carralei, an archery instructor, signaled for us to release. We did, and watched all the arrows fly in synchrony to their target. Some of the elf archers missed the entire target. Others missed the bullseye. My arrow was sticking in the middle of the bullseye. We kept shooting, as elves got disqualified, until it was the first of the final three rounds.

Only two other archers besides me stood on the field. Lyra and some other girl I didn’t know. This was going to be tough. They were both good at archery, so I would have to focus even more. We nocked our arrows and released them. Before I released, I saw a flash of white which I had seen during practice again in the woods. I took my eyes off the target for a second, and my arrow hit the ring just outside the bullseye. Lyra’s arrow hit the bullseye and the other girl’s arrow hit the outermost ring. I took a deep breath and released another arrow. Bullseye. I did a silent cheer in my head. Lyra and the other girl hit the middle ring. A strong breeze blew my long blonde hair into my face. I pushed it away, focusing. We released for the last time, holding our breath. My arrow hit the bullseye, splitting my other arrow. Lyra hit the outer ring, and for some reason, the other girl got distracted and missed the target. I had a feeling she saw the same flash of white like me.

The village people burst into cheers as they cheered for me. I had won! Father came towards me, bringing a snowy white horse with him. At first, I thought, Unicorn! As it came closer I saw it had no horn. Instead, it had wings. A flying horse is way better than a unicorn, don’t you agree?I was delighted. It was beautiful, with big, cute brown eyes. Father must have gotten it from his trip to Silver Peaks. Then, something flashed into my mind. The flash of white in the woods might have been this flying horse! “Congratulations Alvena! He’s just for you! What are you going to call him?” Father said. I thought of a good name. The right name popped into my mind. “How about Pegasus?” I said. “Sounds good!” he said. “Can I go ride Pegasus?” I asked. “Of course, but be back before dinner.” Father replied. I reached out and touched Pegasus. He was smooth and silky like light snow. Pegasus made a soft neighing sound. I led him to a clearing where we could lift off from.

Chapter 3 – A New Friend

“I wish you could talk,” I said to Pegasus, but I don’t think he could understand me. Pegasus looked at me as if saying, I can talk. We walked farther into a nice, sunny clearing. “Hello. Alvena is your name, right?” a voice said. I jumped, started. “It’s me, Pegasus. No need to be alarmed.” the winged horse said. I looked at Pegasus in disbelief. I nodded, answering his question. Then I found the words. “You can talk…” I said in wonder. “I am one of the only talking winged horses. Not lots know that I can talk. Now, why don’t you hop on for a ride?” Pegasus replied. I climbed onto Pegasus and he began walking away from the clearing.

He started trotting, then cantering, and finally galloping at full speed. He started unfurling his wings. Then, he started lifting into the air. I held onto Pegasus as we flew in the air. Flying was incredible and breathtaking. “Where do you want to go Alvena?” Pegasus asked. Hmm. “Can you fly to the Skylands fast?” I asked. “Sure. But I would suggest you would hold on tight. This is going to be a wild ride.” Pegasus said. I grasped tighter, following Pegasus’s suggestion. I didn’t want to end up falling from the sky. Pegasus stopped flying for half a second, then burst through the air as fast as lightning. “Un… believe… able… flying!” I shouted with huge gulps of air. The trip probably lasted only 3 minutes!

“You did say fast…” Pegasus said mischievously. “That. Was. Awesome!!!” I exclaimed. Pegasus slowed and glided down to stand on a cloud. The Skylands were made of clouds and were really pleasant and sunny, although it was probably rainy underneath this realm. I got off Pegasus. The sky was filled with fairies as they hustled to their destination. All the fairies had wings on their back, and most were flying. One fairy was flying over our heads and landed in front of us. She had beautiful long brown-blonde hair, purplish-blue eyes and shimmery lavender wings. “Hello, you’re an elf, right? Nice horse! I’m Lilah Magiclight, by the way,” she said eyeing Pegasus. I nodded, as Pegasus said, “I am not a normal horse. I am a flying horse.” Lilah jumped, surprised that Pegasus could talk, like I did at first. “Yes, I can see that now,” Lilah said, replying to Pegasus’s comment, then turning to me, she said, “You are probably the only one who can help me.” “What, when, and why?” I asked, curious. Lilah sighed. “First answer: I asked you and the flying horse-” “My name is Pegasus,” Pegasus interrupted. “Right. And your name is…?” Lilah asked me. “Alvena Glynmys,” I answered. “So, as I was saying, I just asked you and Pegasus for help. Secondly, I don’t think there’s a when. And thirdly,” she paused, “It’s a long story. Follow me. I’ll explain everything.” I had no choice, so I followed, hoping not to fall into a trap.

Chapter 4 – In the Twilight Library

Pegasus and I followed Lilah, going past fluffy clouds. Everything was peaceful on the clouds, while overhead was noisy with chattering fairies. I looked around, taking in the magnificence of this place. I breathed in the fresh air, listening to the hum of wings above me. It was wonderful. I looked ahead and saw Lilah and Pegasus far ahead of me. “Come on, Alvena! Hurry!” she called from the distance. I ran to catch up with them, then stopped, trying to catch my breath. I started walking again and saw Lilah go into an old  building, with a blue sign that said Twilight Library. I followed her in, but then I looked back for Pegasus. When I saw him eyeing the door, I wondered, Will he even fit through the doorway? As if reading my mind, Pegasus said, “Don’t worry about me. I’m sure I can fit.” I moved aside, and Pegasus went through the doorway with ease.

Suddenly, the ground, well I should say the sky shook, as if it was an earthquake in the air. I heard a giant roar outside, glad I was inside. If I was outside, my eardrums would have burst. “W-what was th-that?” I asked, stuttering. “I think that should be another answer to your first question.” Lilah said calmly, “Come.” We followed her to the corner of the library. Lilah held out her hand and felt the wall, as if looking for something. “What are you doing?” I asked. “You’ll see.” Lilah answered simply. She stopped her hand on the middle of the wall. There was a tiny hidden lever there. She looked at us. “Okay everyone. Now stand in this rectangle. We’re going for a wild ride.” Lilah instructed, and pointed to a rectangle on the ground. Pegasus and I looked at each other then followed as told. Lilah tightened her grip on the lever and counted to three. “1… 2… 3!!!” she said as she pulled the lever down. The rectangle under us opened, and we tumbled into the darkness…

“Why are we falling?” I shouted. “Only way to show you guys. Sorry.” I heard Lilah say. I expected we would fall and break our bones. We didn’t. Instead, we landed on something like a soft mattress. Pegasus whinied. “Are you okay, Pegasus?” I asked. “Yes, at least I think so. No broken bones.” he replied. Lilah got up and walked away into the darkness. My eyes adjusted to the absence of light, and I saw what the dark room was really like. It was breath-taking.

The walls had interesting, foreign language symbols and letters that I couldn’t understand. There was a faint glow of light coming into the room from somewhere. I looked up. The ceiling was dome-shaped and made entirely out of shimmery, multi-colored stained glass. That’s where the light is coming from… The glass was designed with five symbols: a fairy, an elf, a winged horse, a phoenix, and a mermaid. There was an empty spot next to the mermaid, as if the design had been erased, or never been there at all. I got up and looked around for Lilah. She was next to a wall with symbols like the ones on the glass above us. I walked over and Pegasus followed. “Now can you tell us why you need help from us?” I ventured to ask Lilah, although it seemed the explanation might be a long story. “Long story…” Lilah said, as if reading my mind, paused, and continued, “But I’ll tell you if you put your hands on the elf symbol, and Pegasus puts his hooves on the flying horse. We did as she said, as usual, and Lilah put her hands on the fairy design and muttered something that sounded half like a spell, and half like random nonsense to me, but I must  have been hearing it wrong. She stopped saying her weird incantation… The wall started shaking.

Chapter 5 – Bralzror

Oh no… I hope we don’t fall again, I worriedly thought. I didn’t want to end up falling again and again. If there was no mattress down there, then I would totally break all my bones. But nothing like that sort happened. What did happen was a big drawing had popped up on the wall. There was a blue sea dragon in the ocean under what looked like a world of clouds on the drawing. That must be the Skylands… I thought. The dragon looked beautiful and terrifying at the same time. It had aqua colored scales, golden fins horns on its head, green eyes. It looked like it was roaring. “I think this will help you to understand while I’m explaining.” Lilah told us. She took out a slender, golden wand from her pocket and while waving she said, “Actusendio!

I couldn’t believe my eyes. The dragon on the drawing started moving, as if it was really in front of me! Pegasus’s eyes widened with surprise. “This sea dragon is why I am asking help from you. Do you remember when we were going to Twilight Library to get here?” Lilah explained. “Oh, yes, and then the ground shook.” Pegasus informed. Something clicked in my head. “Was that the dragon’s work?” I asked. Lilah nodded, “Yes, you got it. And the dragon is called Bralzror. Bralzror is trying to destroy the Skylands! I need your help to stop him.” “But how would we stop such a powerful underwater sea dragon?” I asked, surprised. I had thought Lilah needed help for a small thing, but it was exciting to stop a dragon. “That’s the hard part. Let me explain.”

“Thousands of years ago, there used to be a team called the Peace Bringers who saved The Seven Mystical Realms continuously from any danger. Then, as they were getting weaker from saving the world against villains, they passed on their powers to others worthy of them, ones who would not misuse the powers. This continued for years and years. But as the years went by, there wasn’t a lot of danger. The Peace Bringers’ team faded away, but some special people still had their powers; they just didn’t know how to use them. We’re part of the team.” Lilah said. I had heard this story from my grandmother, but I never knew I was part of the amazing Peace Bringers team! I gasped. “How could we be part of that team? I think you’re making a huge mistake. I don’t even know I had powers!” Pegasus exclaimed, half confused, and half trying to activate his powers. It was very funny to see Pegasus flapping his wings, clapping his hooves, and saying weird stuff. “Abracadabra!” Pegasus said, trying desperately to do some kind of magic. It looked hopeless. Lilah looked at me. “That’s what I mean about people not knowing how to use their powers.” I tried not to burst out laughing. “But still, I don’t get why we would be in the team. And, can you tell us more about it?” I asked, not believing a word. Lilah nodded and said, “My grandfather told me about these heroes. This place is their secret headquarters. Our headquarters. We have powers, let’s try and active them.” On the word activate, Pegasus trotted over with keen ears. “Did you say that we can activate our powers?” Pegasus pondered. “Yes, let me show you how. I still didn’t activate mine yet, but we fairies can do magic with wands.” She tapped the drawing where Bralzror was swimming with her wand. A soft, golden glow appeared on the drawing, slowly becoming brighter. The glow was so bright now that I had to shield my eyes. Then the light vanished, revealing on the wall… nothing. Instead, there was an old, tattered looking scroll in front of them, floating in mid-air. Today was a really weird and crazy day. I must be having a crazy dream, I thought. I pinched myself. Ow! Nope, totally real. Lilah took the scroll and opened it carefully. “Okay, these are all the spells and steps to use our powers.” She showed us what was written on the scroll.

Luckily, they were in a language I could read, unlike the walls. “Let’s try a spell.” Lilah looked for a good spell to try. “Oh, let’s try the lucernia spell. It conjures a glowing ball in your hand.” “The what spell?” Pegasus asked, confused. “Lucernia. You just have to wave your hand, like this…” Lilah demonstrated, “…and say ‘lucernia’. Simple. Pegasus, you’ll have to flap your wings instead. Let’s give it a try.” I nodded and held out my hand. I did the funny hand-waving motion and said, “Lucernia!” Three voices echoed at the same time.

A tiny, brightly glowing ball hovered slightly above my hand. I looked at the others. They also had a cute little ball with them. Pegasus’ was hovering near his snout. “Whoa…” I said in disbelief, then exclaimed, “Let’s do more spells!” And with that we practiced all the spells until we knew all of them by heart.

Soon, we were safely out of the Twilight Library. “It’s probably time for me and Pegasus to go home. We can meet you here again tomorrow morning.” I said to Lilah. “Sure! It was great meeting you. Now I have new friends! Bye!” She hugged me and stroked Pegasus on his back. I hopped onto Pegasus and we both said goodbye to Lilah and flew home…

Chapter 6 – Down the Stairs

When we reached home, I led Pegasus to his new home: a large, cozy stable just for him. Pegasus loved it. I brought Pegasus some hay, apples, and carrots for him to eat. Then I left for my own dinner. I had a lot on my mind. “Alvena! Good that you’re back, it’s time for dinner!” my mom said as I walked in. I sat down and started to eat. My mom and my dad were chattering together, so I ate my dinner silently. I decided I wouldn’t tell them just yet about Lilah and Bralzror. I went to bed after finishing my dinner, still thinking about which spells to use on Bralzror. Then, I remembered that I had to go to the Skylands to meet Lilah the next day. I was excited, so I couldn’t sleep. It was a long and restless night.

I woke up early the next day to see a beautiful pink tinged sunrise. I was tired because I didn’t get proper sleep, and jumpy because I would meet Lilah again. I quickly got ready and started walking out the door when I saw my golden bow and my quiver full of shining arrows. I grabbed them, just in case. I left my parents a note saying, I’m taking Pegasus out for a ride. Be back

I thought about when I would be back. I scribbled one last word on the note: later. I went out to Pegasus’s stable and saw that he was already awake, munching some oats. “Come on, Pegasus! It’s time to go!” Pegasus trotted over. I walked Pegasus out into the same clearing we took off from yesterday. I got onto Pegasus as he said, “Lightning speed, Alvena?” “Can you please go a notch slower? I think I was going to be sick yesterday.” “Sure. Let’s go!” Pegasus neighed. He took off, and a few minutes later, we were standing outside the Twilight Library. We saw Lilah arrive, flying. I waved to her. “Hi Alvena! Hello Pegasus! It’s great that you came! Let’s go to the headquarters.” Lilah said, as she looked around to see if anyone was listening. I went into the library, followed by Pegasus, with Lilah at the end. I pulled the same hidden lever that was in the wall and we plummeted, at a great speed, downwards…

We landed again on the soft mattress. Lilah and I sprang up at once, but Pegasus rolled around in the cozy bedding. I followed Lilah to the middle of the room and looked at the ground, where Lilah was also gazing. She looked at me. “Alvena, we are going to stop Bralzror today.” Pegasus rushed to us. We spoke at the same time. “Today?! Why?” “We are ready for it. Alvena, unlock the trapdoor.” Lilah answered solemnly. I hadn’t seen any trapdoor… I looked at the ground again, and this time focusing more. There it was, hidden in the floor, disguised with mandala designs. I hovered my hand over the trapdoor, and slightly waved it, muttering, “Recludio!” There was a clicking sound and the trapdoor flung open. “Who’s going first?” Lilah asked. “Not me, I’m not sure my wings will even fit.” Pegasus replied, stepping back uncertainly. “You will fit. And also, I’m going first.” I said. I was excited about having a new adventure; a real, daring one this time. “You sure?” Lilah asked. “Yep. It seems dark, but you two can follow after me.” I gazed into the trapdoor and saw the beginning of stairs, disappearing as they were swallowed by darkness. Lilah hugged me and said, “You’re really brave, you know.”

“I didn’t even know I was part of the Peace Bringers. You’re the smarter one.”

“No way! Bravery and friendship is important, too. I can see why you were chosen.”

I smiled. “Thank you, but we must stop Bralzror soon!” Lilah nodded and said, “Alvena’s right. Pegasus, follow Alvena and I’ll bring up the back.” Pegasus flapped his wings nervously, but had no disagreement to what Lilah had said. I quickly did the Lucernia spell so I had a light source as I went down the dark steps…

Chapter 7 – Befriending a Dragon

The walls looked muddy and dark, with the only light coming from three little glowing balls. The stairs led down into a dark passage. I couldn’t see much ahead of me, so I relied on my hands to feel anything in front of me. “Brrr… It’s so cold here. My tail is getting wet.” Pegasus complained as he followed me down. “You are going to have to be wet for awhile…” I paused, “I haven’t seen any passage out yet, Lilah.” Then, we came to a dead end.

I felt a drippy wall behind my hand. I looked for some kind of exit, still full of hope. There! I grasped a ring-shaped doorknob. I tugged. It was too strong to even budge. “Did you find something, Alvena?” Lilah asked from the back.

“I found a ring doorknob, but it won’t move. It’s stuck.”

“Let me try.” Lilah said, and was trying unlocking spells soon. None of them worked. “May I try?” Pegasus asked, looking at Lilah fail at the spells. “Yes, of course, if you can do anything… I’ve tried every spell I know, and none of them work!” Lilah replied. Pegasus grabbed the ring in his teeth and tugged. He pulled and pulled and pulled. A mini escape door shot open, and Pegasus was flung into the air.

“How did you do that without breaking your teeth?” Lilah asked. “I dunno, just pulled with all I had.” came a reply from Pegasus. We went through the door, one by one, and met with blinding light. Soon, my eyes adjusted to the light. I saw that we were on a beautiful beach with the wide ocean stretching out in front of us, endlessly. I thought I saw a large fish, or whale, or dragon pop a bit out onto the surface, then go back underwater. Bralzror!

“Come on, let’s show that Bralzror what we can do!” Lilah said bravely. Pegasus and Lilah rose up into the air, as they had wings, but I used the hover charm to fly (Yep, I said fly. I know, right? Super cool!). We zoomed across the sky, searching for Bralzror, like we had planned earlier. Suddenly, a dragon head popped out of the water. It looked exactly like the painting back in the headquarters. Bralzror looked like he was in a mischievous, destroying mood. “We have to use the Relligo spell to start off.” I said. Lilah and Pegasus agreed and soon we were swooping at Bralzror, setting ropes binding him. Bralzror thrashed and flailed around in the water, struggling to get out of the wrath of the tight ropes. He gave an enormous, painful roar that filled the air of The Seven Mystical Realms.

 “How dare you bind me?! I, the great Bralzror, was going to destroy the Skylands until you three fools came and tied me with ropes!” he thundered. “You can’t destroy the Skylands! It’s home to many fairies and unicorns!” Lilah retorted, then said, “Why do you want to destroy the Skylands anyway?” For some reason, Bralzror looked embarrassed. “I – I don’t have a home where I can peacefully live, because of the fairies! They all thought I was too dangerous so they attacked me, but now I decided to destroy the home of the fairies!” Bralzror replied, getting more and more confident with every word. “If I destroy the world above, I can live here peacefully and rule the seas under the Skylands! Mwahahaha!”

I thought of it for a second. If you are thinking what I’m thinking, then you are probably on the same track as me. Bralzror is only destroying the Skylands because he has no choice.  Everyone is unkind to him and so he didn’t get to live peacefully. Now he wants revenge from the fairies by destroying their home. But there must be another way… I thought. “But that’s what you don’t want to do, Bralzror.” I said, getting a sudden idea to settle things between the fairies and the fierce looking sea dragon. Bralzror looked at me with sudden surprise and a crafty evil grin on his face.

“Why would you little elf want to decide things for me?”

“Because, I could settle things without having one destroying another’s home or peace.” 

“And how would you do that?”

“It’s a bit long to explain, but let’s get to the main point. Since the fairies believe you are dangerous, instead of doing something that is dangerous, you should show them somehow that you are safe. Then, if they believe and trust you, you will be able to live peacefully! Good plan?”

“And what’s plan B?”

“What do you mean plan B? Alvena’s got a great plan! It’ll work for sure!” Pegasus said.

“What if the fairies don’t believe me?” Bralzror replied.

“Lilah will convince them, right Lilah?” I said.

“You got it. Plan B, up to me!” Lilah said, winking.

We put our plan to action and at dusk, Bralzror was swimming happily in the seas. “Thank you for your help Alvena, Lilah, and Pegasus!” Bralzror called out.

“You are welcome! We love to help others! Go Peace Bringers!” Pegasus called back cheerily.

We flew towards the Twilight Library, as Lilah said, “And thank you for helping me settle things around here! You guys are great! I’ll come visit the Evergrowing Forest soon! See you!”

“Come visit as soon as possible! So long, Lilah!”

We waved bye and left for home. It had been a great time, from winning an archery competition to befriending a sea dragon. Now, it was the time to relax. And that, my friends, was my long story of how I ended up on the Peace Bringers team.

I am not in your garden by Yao Peck Lu

The resilient avocado sapling – Photo by F. Marincola, El Granada, November 16th 2020

This poem reminds me of “the art of gardening by Catterina Coha! Sad but beautiful.

I wish I could add the narration by Yao Lu herself, but unfortunately this website does not allow recordings


I’m not in your garden




Lazy gardener, the wet cold air strikes,

Please cover me with warm straw like you protect these vegetables,

Let me not be afraid of the accumulation of white snow.






All silent on a snowy day,

This makes me miss the meticulous spring rain,

The light and shadow leaking from the gaps in the lush summer leaves.

More often, I will miss

Humans celebrate the separation of fruits from their mothers.




Snow covers the only path in the garden,

I should remind you to light the fire in the house,

Then put on a cotton coat exuding the scent of mothballs.





Lazy gardener, I am not rooted in your garden,

Until the golden eyebrows stained with melancholy white,

There is still overgrown grass here, unattended.

I wonder, I can transplant myself to other places, where the soil is more fertile,



There are always kind people, who come to irrigate me, believe it or not,

Tomorrow, I will not be in your garden.

Across Venice by Delia (translated from Italian by Gaia)

Delia wrote a beautiful story of her trip to Venice and I had the honor to translate it. She wrote about Venice as if it was a person and in Italian we only use masculine or feminine pronouns (we have no “it” for things or animals), so I chose to maintain the feminine Her/She to give the idea of a lively city, that lives, breathes and laughs (as Delia says in the text).

There is also a part in which she talks about a horse and its horseman falling into the water, but it is only her imagination. In the original text it wasn’t very clear and I added the hallucination part, hoping it would be more understandable.


So please enjoy as a continuation of an indigenous view of Venice and a safety travel alert by Delia

A cappuccino with a view – Photo by Nadia, Venezia, October 2020

Across Venice

Too many times I’ve postponed due to many undertakings, unstable weather conditions or just laziness… but She keeps calling me and I can’t let Her wait: today I’m going.

I ask my mother Nori (who’s 89 years old) if she wants to come with me. “Of course I’m coming with you” she immediately replies “this may be my last chance to visit Her!”

We’re on the train that in 45 minutes will take us there. I’m so excited and I just can’t wait to see what wonders will Venice reveal today.

The sky does not bode well though. Big grey clouds and a lightning remind us that we forgot our umbrellas in the car…never mind, we’ll buy those clear plastic rain ponchos that only tourists would wear.

We leave the mainland and the tracks are now running on the bridge to take us through the lagoon. I try not to look to the right, where there’s the industrial area of Porto Marghera (from the dialect “Mar gh’era”, meaning “There was the sea”).

I only look to the left: there are still some isolated clouds but a shy shaft of light is breaking through the clouds, the water is shining and I feel like Venice is winking at me as a way to say “Welcome”.

The train station looks like a big shopping center, only shops and more shops in every direction.

Finally, we’re out of the station…oh, how I’ve missed you! I hear the seagulls and take a deep breath, feeling the smell of the canals once again. 

I tell Nori that I want to see the Old Ghetto. We walk past a charming pastry shop, with typical Jewish pastries. I go inside and ask them if I can take a picture of their tempting treats. Then I catch up with Nori, who has stopped in front of the synagogue, but it’s closed. I regret not buying some pastries earlier, both because I am a glutton and because they were nice people so I could have asked them if they knew the story of the ghost of the old rabbi, which was seen inside of the synagogue more than once.

Nori and I keep walking. We’re lucky, the storm had broken out just before we got to Venice and it has left behind a beautiful blue sky and pleasant fresh air. We drink a cappuccino and soon our attention gets caught by a canal: clothes are hanging from a clothesline, which seems to be joining two buildings that want to be friends. But then not so poetic thoughts come to my mind… “What if someone’s underwear fell in the water? Are they going to get it back with a fishing pole?”

Venice is shaped like a fish and divided into six areas, called “sestieri”: Cannaregio, where I’m right now, Castello, San Marco, Dorsoduro, San Polo and Santa Croce. Oh, how smooth are these stones I’m walking on! I wonder how many people have walked down these “calli” … (“calle” means street).

In Venice, instead of street signs, people know the name of the “calli” thanks to the “nizioleti” (“small bed sheets”): they display the name of the Saint venerated in a certain area or the surname of a local aristocratic family. However, they often refer to the type of craft work they used to do in that area, for example “Calle dei fabbri” (“Blacksmiths’ street”). Near Calle dei fabbri there’s Ponte chiodo (“Nail bridge”), because blacksmiths worked with iron and produced nails. Ponte chiodo is the last bridge in Venice without railing, like they once built all bridges.

Suddenly something bizarre happens: I hear the sound of hooves and when I turn around there’s a big skittish orange horse (yes, orange, they used to dye horses to make them visible in case of fog) ridden by a clumsy horseman. They almost hit me and then they fall into the canal with an impressive dive.

Venetians were always known as bad drivers and guess who caused the first and only car accident I was involved in? Yes, you guessed it! A couple of Venetians! And they both fell asleep in the car because they were very tired… However, according to the old chronicles, Venetians were quite clumsy also when riding horses, even if they could practice in the famous “Cavallerizza dei nobili” (“Nobles’ horse school”).

I look into the canal: the horse is swimming and I know it’s going to come out easily, but there’s no sign of the horseman…except for a white wig! Nori didn’t notice anything. Mmh, maybe the milk I’ve drunk earlier in the cappuccino is giving me hallucinations…

We go on with our stroll in Venice, we walk past some churches: Chiesa di San Felice, Chiesa di Santa Sofia, Chiesa dei Santissimi Apostoli. Normally, Nori would always go inside a church and pray for the health of her grandchildren and ask God to give her some more years to live. Today I could use some time to sit down and rest my feet, but she keeps going on reeeally quickly.

We’re now close to the Rialto Bridge, which is always crowded. Everyone is wearing a mask, not to celebrate the Carnival, but to avoid Covid-19. Venetian masks have a long story and were worn all year long in order to hide people’s identity, even priests and nuns wore masks when they wanted to… uhm…well, when they had romantic dates!

I wonder how many times Giacomo Casanova had worn a mask to mislead husbands or escape the law, even if he didn’t always get away with his trouble. Everyone knows he was one of the most famous adventurers of his century, but few people know he was also a magician, a musician and an academic. I like to think that he’s the one who coined the proverb “Ogni lasciata è persa”, meaning that any chance you don’t take is lost forever.

“How is it going mom?” I ask Nori. “Everything ok, but my feet…” she replies with a brief look of pain. “We’ll rest somewhere soon”. We’re now in Sestiere San Marco, in Campo San Bartolomeo (campo means “field” but in Venice is the only word to refer to a square, except for San Marco square), where the statue of the comedy writer Carlo Goldoni stands.

I see a man from the past, “Guten Morgen Herr Wagner” I say, smiling. He makes a nod of greeting and walks past me, but I know he’s going to his favorite Café, Caffè Lavena in San Marco Square and then he’s going to sit on the stone bench under the colonnade of Palazzo Ducale.

“Mom, did you see Mr. Wagner??” she looks confused and asks “Who? Is he from Treviso?”. Maybe I need to eat something, I’m going insane.

But before lunch I want to check out the fish market. By the Rialto Bridge I ask an old lady for directions, “Eh no! No ghe se la domenica e il lunedì!” she replies (“There is no fish market on Sunday and Monday!”). It’s a pity, I wanted to see the fish stalls full of seafood. A young seagull is standing in the middle of the empty market space and I can tell it is just as disappointed as I am.

I start thinking about an elderly woman, Anna, who was born and raised in Venice. I met her in the nursing home for the “not so young people” where my father-in-law was living, but I used to spend more time with her, since she was really outgoing and fun. She used to sing the naughty songs of the gondoliers and once she told me that every time her husband went fishing in the summer, she would swim naked in the lagoon. I send Anna a kiss, wherever she is…

Three posts in the laguna – Photo by Nadia – Venice, October 2020

After a tramezzino with tuna, tomatoes, mozzarella and a good espresso, we sit on the big steps at the bottom of the Rialto Bridge, close to the water, in order to see the coming and going of boats and gondolas in the Canal Grande. A venetian friend of mine once told me that, since gondolas have no horn, gondoliers shout “OEEEEEE!!” to make everybody know that they’re turning…but if someone doesn’t hear them it can quickly turn into an argument or the gondolier may fall into the canal!

I change my shoes to flip flops and my feet immediately feel better.

What do I know about gondolas? Well, I know they’ve been used for a thousand years and in the 1500s a law imposed black as mandatory color, to stop nobles from excessively decorating them, just for vanity. I know that the six indents at the front of each gondola stand for the six “sestieri”. Gondoliers started wearing the typical striped shirt during the fascist period, after refusing to wear the black shirt the regime had imposed.

Gondole in a row – Photo by Nadia – Venezia, October 2020

I still need some rest, so I look for more information about gondolas on my phone. Turns out, there are specific regulations in the Venetian municipality. For instance, gondoliers must meet certain requirements to obtain their licenses, which expires on their 65th birthday. After that, they can hand it down to their sons, but only if they are at least eighteen years old.

Certified gondoliere – Photo by Nadia – Venice, October 2020

I can imagine the conversation between a gondolier and his son: “Son, now that you’ve come of age, do you want a car to drive your girlfriend around Mestre?” “No dad, I’d rather have the old gondola to take her to the lagoon”.

I keep reading and I find out that gondoliers must wear a specific winter or summer uniform and keep it professional with clients (this means not flirting with the ladies). Moreover, the police can fine the gondolier and relieve him from his duties if they find the gondola to be messy or dirty. A gondola can also be booked for a funeral!

I finally feel like I’ve learnt enough, so we can continue our little adventure. I persuade Nori to go into a small shop, owned by a kind Pakistani man, who convinces my mom to buy a pair of glittery flip flops…now I can’t lose sight of her, not even on purpose!

We’re in Sestiere San Paolo, I love this quiet Sestiere! There’s a white cat sunbathing on a balcony, it seems very busy looking at the garbage collector, who’s putting each bag in a cart. Then the man brings all the bags to his nearby boat and I notice that in Venice there are few trash cans, but the streets are always clean. Also, cats here live a really good life, since there are no cars that can run over them.

We keep walking. The sun has almost completely set. After many narrow Calli, we end up in Campo San Polo, which is still full of puddles from this morning’s storm. Two dogs are happily running around, splashing water on the passers-by, who just smile and secretly hope that they could enjoy that free Disneyland too. A group of kinds is trying to earn back its playing area around the well, so we sit on a bench and enjoy the show.

I’d like to go to “Fondamenta delle zattere”, near the Academy of Fine Arts. I remember trying a special ice cream called “Gianduiotto” there, but we’re both tired and we decide not to go. We’re walking slowly and I look at all the chimneys around me, each one looks different from the others and I wonder what they’ve seen in all these years…in the past they saw the sumptuous ship of the Doge, the leader of the Republic of Venice, which was called “Bucintoro”. Unfortunately, nowadays all poor chimneys see are big cruise ships. These chimneys talk to me and tell me about that one time they saw La Fenice Theatre burning down, they congratulate my mother on her energy despite her age. Well, they don’t say anything about me, but maybe it’s nap time and they’re tired…

Everything in Venice has a soul and talks: She breathes, cries, laughs. I may be crazy but I want to caress all I see! There are even some steps that like to prank people: they let those green algae grow on them and then laugh every time a tourist slips and falls.

“Vere da Pozzo” are the wells, which collected rainwater for Venetians. They can be seen all around Venice and are made of marble or Istrian stone. Some of them are richly decorated, others are more basic, but they all are really vain and want me to take a picture of them. They’re beautiful, so that’s exactly what I do.

We walk in the “Sotoportego Casin dei Nobili” (“Portico of the Nobles’ Casino”) and I tell Nori that “Casinos” were apartments for gambling. Impoverished aristocrats were the croupiers and Jews lent money.

Nori looks bored, but a “nizioleto” near a bridge catches her attention: “Ponte delle tette” (“Bridge of the boobs”). At one point in the history of Venice prostitutes could work only in the buildings owned by the Rampani family. As a consequence, the area called “Ca’ Rampani” became known as the red-light district, where prostitutes were obliged to sit on the windowsill topless or with dangling legs to show off their features. This happened in order to avoid misunderstandings and oppose homosexuality, which was very common, but nevertheless considered against nature.

We walk past “Sestiere de Dorsoduro” and “Ponte de Dona Onesta”, we have an ice cream, take a last look to the Ca’ Foscari University and we finally arrive at the train station.

Platform 2, the train to Udine is almost empty. My mom was so strong today, she walked all those kilometers!

I close my eyes and start thinking. Mankind has done beautiful things, but they don’t always last long. I wonder if aliens have ever landed in Venice, spooking all the pigeons…I really hope they have. I trust their intelligence and pray they make Venice immortal.

The train leaves the station and starts crossing the bridge on the lagoon. This time I look to the right.

A plane is flying just above us, heading to Marco Polo airport…what a view must the passengers have!

I’ll come back soon dear Venice, I promise!

A comment by Catterina Coha about “The Kite”

I read the Kite: short but inspiring poem. So, this morning on the train I was compelled to write a comment,


Colors of fall – Photo by C. Coha, October 2020

The kite’s thread in this short and meaningful poem serves as a perfect symbol for the inner boundaries that restrict our choices in life through deep-routed feelings of responsibility and commitment. Parental authority can exert a lifetime of influence: I still remember my maternal grandmother Catterina in her mid-80’s commanding around her two daughters by the power of respect and love and yes, an invisible thread of authority.

And then I thought about the day I broke my thread: my parents drove me to the airport to take a flight towards a future that was as glorious and uncertain as it was controversial, with some aspects that they did not exactly approve of. The car broke down in the highway, it was a cold winter morning and we had to wait at the toll booths for a taxi to come and bring me to the airport on time. I remember that my mother and I cried and yet, at the same time, we almost laughed at the thought that my luggage could be left unattended because it was too heavy for anybody to still. It was New Year’s eve and the next day, when I called them still feeling guilty for leaving, my mom was in a good mood.  She explained that they had troubles fixing the car but finally made it to dinner with their friends, where my father exposed the ironic side of the morning’s heart-breaking moment peppered by a series of unfortunate events and told the amusing story that made everybody laugh.

It had been an unusually warm night in New York and I remember big rain drops running down my face and mixing with my tears of sadness as I was standing on the boat to watch the fireworks at South street Seaport. I missed the snow-filled New Years’ Eves with my sister and with our friends.

For several years I remember feeling a dull deep pain, I imagined it due to my limbs being stretched between Europe and the US. Unlike the invisible thread of the kite, it did not limit me, it was just love: a piece of me had stayed with my family.

A couple of moths ago I drove my son to the airport for a similar journey, only in the other direction: he left from New York towards Europe to start his independent life. Unlike for me and my parents back then, airports are places my son and I are used to, travelling so many times since he was born. But this time it was different, we both felt it. This was his time to break the thread. Before going he gave me a note. He told me not to read it until I was back home. It is the most beautiful note that a mother can receive, it makes me feel that I am not an anchoring thread but a little light that he can use if he’ll ever feel lost in the dark.

Kite by Yao Peck Lu

Certainly, there are few things as inspiring as a kite dancing free at the cadence of winds …except that the kite, is not free! An invisible bond keeps it strapped to the fingers of its master as an upside down marionette. Enjoy Yao’s new poem.

Breaking away, Interstate 8 on the way to Yuma, Arizona – Photo by E. Wang, October 2020




I closed the door gently,


Seen through the narrowing gap in the door,


Mother stood at the door of the house watching me leave insincerely,


I know I cannot go far and fly away,


To freely explore the blue sky,


I am tied by a transparent and strong thread,


No special circumstances,


The woman with frosty temples,


Wishes me a good journey with her mouth,


While she holds the reel with both hands tightly.

A safety travel alert and… more Venice …from Delia

In these days of jaw dropping events starting with the pandemic, we must remember that other perils far from being erased are still there waiting for us (the insurgence of a new problems does not eliminate the previous ones). Particularly, safe travel to Italy will not depend only, passed the quarantine stage, upon wearing masks and keeping the distance but protecting from autochthonous traps waiting for for the naive traveler including the masterful pickpocketers. Just the same, one should be cautious about less celebrated hazards such as the …Cantucci! Particularly if one cares about about the own jaws. This is a purely Italian threat not to be underestimated! So here comes Delia’s alert:


I repeat. I love sweets!

… A kind, considerate, old Tuscan Lady once offered a trayful of “Cantucci”: typical Tuscan cookies. They are very, very dry and plump and one must soak them in wine, …to be precise: in “Vino Santo”!

…But I don’t drink wine.

I bit greedily and heatedly into a biscuit with my molar teeth.

…“And you broke your teeth!” you must be thinking.

No, you are wrong!

I dislocated my mandible.

I became a nervous wreck.

I had difficulty eating, swallowing and I couldn’t even open my mouth.

Fortunately, my dentist put the mandible back where it belonged with some special manipulations.

…I eat Cantucci no more!

Yup, that is me!

You may encouragingly say:

“It could happen to anybody!”

Well do you actually know of anyone?


Good news that they do not have Cantucci in Venice. So here are more photos from Delia in her indigenous search for off-the-path versions of Venice as continuation of “an indigenous view of Venice“. Here we go!

“Bottino di guerra (was booties)” Jewish specialties from Ghetto Vecchio sestiere Cannaregio – Photo by Delia, Venice October 2020


Venetian mask artist – Photo by Delia, Venice October 2020


High waters bookstore with gondola – Photo by Delia, Venice October 2020


And respective book shelves – Photo by Delia, Venice October 2020


Calle Varisco, the narrowest alley in Venice (53 cms) – Photo by Delia, Venice October 2020


Calle de le moschete (alley of the little flies); in reference to the resident artisan shops devoted to the production of artificial mouches for Venetian dames cosmetics at the times of Casanova -Photo by Delia, Venice October 2020


Palazzo Contarini with the famous “bovolo” (spiral) built to accommodate the owner’s inclination to ride to bed on his horse. Photo by Delia, Venice October 2020

Squero di San Trovaso – one of the oldest shops for construction and service of gondolas; seen from the water – Photo by Delia, Venice October 2020


Same as above on closer scrutiny – Photo by Delia, Venice October 2020


Arsenale di Venezia – Where warships were built for the Serenissima Republic of Venice – Photo by Delia, Venice October 2020


And to finish, let’s go back to Canal Grande – Photo by Delia, Venice October 2020

我这一生, All my life. Another beautiful poem by Yao Peck Lu

Another beautiful poem from Yao Lu, which I match with this recent photo of a black necked swan at the Tucson Zoo: entitled “Solitude


“Solitude” – Black Necked Swan at the Tucson Zoo. Photo by F. Marincola, October 2020


All my life



All my life, youth has passed away suddenly.

I am a faintly scented orchid withered secretly.



All my life, time has passed away swiftly.

I am an indulgent comet falling to the ground quickly.




All my life,

I couldn’t understand other people, and other people couldn’t understand me.

I am not a sentence that is difficult to read, but I sat on the shelf for a long time.




All my life,

I couldn’t get close to anyone, and no one could get close to me.

I am not the white snow in the spring, but there is no sound when I melt.




In my whole life,

Still grateful to be read,

Still looking forward to being heard.

The Adventure of the Rose by Yao Peck Lu

Another poem by You Lu written in Chinese originally with a hopefully acceptable translation. It belongs to “A Gifted Life” series and it is reminiscent also of “Life of a Rose“. I accompany the poem with a recent photo taken in my backyard in Tucson, where in the middle of the Sonoran Desert life is as vibrant as it could be in the early fall.

The dance of the humming birds – Photo by F. Marincola, September 2020, Tucson, Arizona


The Rose’s Adventure


A quite ordinary rose is traveling to…                                   


The weather is always changing rapidly


The blizzard wants to bury the body


The scorching sun burns the chest


Winter departs, summer comes



She passed a river, and floated on the water with leaves, naughty plants teasing her,

She passed a mountain, the air changed from warm to cold, then from cold to warm,


The beautiful scenery tries to stop her steps, but



She is not a carp living in fresh water,

It’s not a spruce growing in the sub-frigid zone, either.



She is just a quite ordinary rose,

Longing to bloom into a dazzling firework.



“Is anyone there? Anyone?”

Rose asked the witches in the forest,







A kind nightingale told her,

A big plague broke out in the village,

When the houses are strong cages,

People are well-behaved prisoners.

I stopped singing on the branch,

Singing cannot cure that sadness.



The rose fell on the soft green grass after hearing the words,

Dedicated her own silent elegy to the tragedy of the World.

Quality research in Africa and why it is important by Elizabeth Marincola

Sometimes a deviate from storytelling and from my fictional world to post something of substance. I thought that this short manuscript is unique and deserving special attention particularly for those who may not have a direct impression of the true Africa. It is from my ex-wife Elizabeth, who left a most prominent position in California to join the African Academy of Sciences in Nairobi a few years ago. The purpose was to foster open access publishing and other activities in the Old Continent to help building an independent, self-sustaining research community. The full article published by ACS Publications can be accessed at: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acsomega.0c04327 . Here, we just present the introductory paragraph.

Elizabeth Marincola professional headshot taken recently in Nairobi, Kenya

Quality research in Africa and why it is important

The African Academy of Sciences, based in Nairobi, Kenya,
is a pan-African nonprofit institution that supports world class scientific research. It also serves as a thought leader for
African science, assembling its own Fellows, professional staff,
and other experts to study and issue policy statements on the
important issues and questions that impact science in Africa.
The research and training programs of the Academy operate
under the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in
Africa (AESA), which was created in 2015 through a
partnership of the AAS and the African Union Development
Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), founding and funding global
partners, and through a resolution of the summit of African
Union Heads of Governments. The mission of AESA is to shift
the center of gravity for African science to Africa through
agenda setting, the mobilization of Research & Development
funding, and management of continent-wide Science, Technology, & Innovation programs that promote the brightest
minds, strengthen the best possible science environments on
the Continent, foster scientific excellence, inspire and mentor
emerging research leaders, and accelerate and translate
research and innovations into products, policies, and practices
that will improve and transform lives in Africa. We think of
AESA and the AAS as the U.S. NIH, NSF, and National
Academies of Sciences all rolled into one.
This moment in history, between the pressures and
uncertainties of COVID-19 and a long-overdue recognition
of inequities among people in the U.S. and worldwide as
exemplified by the Black Lives Matter movement, provides an
opportunity to attempt to put African research in perspective.

Happy Moon Festival with a poem by Yao Peck Lu

Happy Moon Festival!

Full Moon


The potted plants at home follow the seasonal law and yellowed their leaves

the autumn rain in the afternoon bloomed the red flowers in the courtyard.



the pigeon departing the front of the pleated window left no news since

the white jade plate is hanging from the black curtain.



The bright moon shines on the earth as always,


Eternally, You and I will be like the river that flows East.


Silence around,


But the heart is still rippling like the moon in the water,


Broken, flickering, and sighing.


Has ever anyone saved that shine?


An indigenous view of Venice – photos by Delia

Venice can only be described as: “Venice” as there is nothing alike in the world. And Venice is a most photographed place. So my good friend Delia was generous to share a personal view of “her” Venice. Not that different from many other ones save for a few nuances. I thought it good to share of course with her permission. Enjoy …and thanks Delia.

Continued in: a safety travel alert and across venice

The passing game by Catterina Coha

A nice birthday present from Catterina; a good story reminiscent of other that we published regarding the surreal moments that frame our lifes at the time of COVID-19 such as Yao Lu’s “Disappeared” or the “premonition of the Eve“. It comes with a link to a song that she really likes “take me back” and a photo: back to the water.

The passing game

I left early. I packed a few clothes and disinfectant wipes, a bottle of water. The rental SUV was easy to drive, and I quickly got used to it. It was a clear morning, one of those mornings when the blue of the sky and brightness of the sun fill you with hope, but today it felt different. I needed to stay focused, concentrate on the long journey, make it on time. It had all changed so quickly.

The road was running along the river and the hills embracing it. The familiar scenery and memories of driving that road a thousand times with her kept me company. We would talk and sing and listen to the radio. It was our special Saturday trip up the valley for her rehearsals at the theater. I still marvel at the recollection of her performance as the Shakespearian Ophelia, credibly mad, so naturally transformed into a person different from the one I knew. It was magical, yet unsettling.

The exit to the bridge came up, I had to cross the river and abandon the valley to go in the northwest direction. No more daydreaming, I had to pay attention. I glanced at the directions on my phone, making sure not to miss the signs for route 84. At a narrowing of the road, due to unfinished construction, there was some accumulation of cars. I was annoyed, but it cleared after a couple of miles. As I took the exit to merge on route 84 Siri coldly stated: “Go straight for 156 miles”.  Flat fields and woods with occasional wrecked farms run along the road, a monotonous landscape of no significant beauty. Every so often a sign indicated a rest area. The speed limit of 65 miles per hours seemed to reassure everybody on the road that it was safe to go 80. The traffic was light; mostly commercial trucks were on the road. I turned on the radio to keep me company and found a good station, playing light and pleasant music that did not arise any emotions but filled the silence. After about an hour, I lost the station and started to search for another one, unsuccessfully. Only 50 miles left to go, before the next road. I glanced at the gas indicator, it was down below a quarter, so I decided to stop at the first gas station. Few minutes later I saw a sign “food and gas in 25 miles”. 

It seemed to take forever to reach it. I was not hungry but desired getting out of the car to stretch my legs and after getting gas I drove up the side road towards a mall, hoping to find a Starbucks. But the entrance to the mall was blocked.  I was disappointed but did not make too much of it and went to a nearby McDonald. The parking lot was empty. I got out of the car and walked towards the door, which was closed. I read the sign on the door “drive through only”. Of course, what was I thinking?

I got back on the highway, with a sense of anticipation for the next step, another exit, another road to take, going in the right direction, getting me closer to the final destination. Only 10 miles to the change, eight, six, four, two…. now! An imperceptible change, but Siri assured me that it was the right road and in the usual emotionless tone directed me to “continue straight for 272 miles”.  I couldn’t help it but yawn. There were woods on both sides of the road, somewhat more interesting nature than the prior landscape, and I passed near a little lake. Occasional clouds in the sky.

“Maybe something interesting on the radio” I thought, but there was poor reception, “of course, who is there to listen?”  There were no more than ten houses in a hundred miles!

Finally, I found a song that was possible to listen to, but the music in my head was better than the one on the radio, so I turned it off. What I really wanted to hear were news, but not local news, I wanted to know how many people had died today in Italy, I wanted to know if the curves were flattening or kept climbing, and the breakdown by region.

Damned, I yawned again, twice, and seeing the sign “Next rest area in 15 miles” I told myself loudly “I need to stop”.

The parking lot of the rest area was almost empty. I walked into the small building happy to have access to the rest room. An old lady waited patiently, at some distance, for me to get out before she walked in. The vending machine was not working, leaving me frustrated that I had spent a few minutes trying to choose a snack. I went back to the car, opened the back door to pull out something to munch and my water bottle. The sun was still strong but so was the wind, it was cold. Maybe a good thing, I thought; some cold air to wake me up better than the coffee I did not have. I looked at the phone, checking if any text message had appeared that needed my attention. None from her, and I decided not to bother her, and went back to the road.

It was then that the orange Volkswagen passed me, positioning itself at a safe distance in front of my car. I do not know why I felt the urge to overtake it, maybe it was the carelessness in the color, or the fact that it dictated my speed, which was anyway above the limits. I guess it was annoying to have to follow the cheerfully insulting orange car.  Even more annoying was the fact that another car prevented me from moving to the left lane: the silver-colored hatchback took a very long time to pass both of us, at least this is how it felt. Finally, I did get my chance, and while passing the orange Volkswagen, I tried to glimpse at the driver, but they were concealed by the dark glass of the window.

I was now positioned between the silver hatchback and orange Volkswagen. I could have taken over both, but I did not want to take the chance of triggering a speeding fine. It had happened to me once before, and I had learned that it is better to be careful in roads that you do not know, the troopers could be hidden anywhere.

A few minutes later the orange Volkswagen appeared in my left side mirror, coming up full speed and passing both me and the silver hatchback. Without much thought, I felt it was my turn and did the same, getting ahead of both cars. The silver hatchback went next, and we continued the game for about hundred miles. Occasional interference by other vehicles made it more interesting. At one point, when it was my turn to pass, I got stuck behind a big truck passing a smaller truck and blocking the way. The heavy truck struggled to pass the other, which had increased the speed to hold its ground. For a while it seemed that I would be boxed there for eternity.  Finally, when the larger truck moved back into the right lane I was able to speed up, but could not see the orange Volkswagen or the silver hatchback at the horizon. I felt abandoned, like a kid playing a game of hide and seek, who realizes that the other kids already left the playground and went home.

After a few miles, however, I saw my friends. The orange Volkswagen was easier to spot, and it was the same car because I recognized the yellow bumper sticker. I felt strangely happy. I passed it mainly to let it know that I was there and check if it was still in the mood to continue the game. The silver hatchback was hidden in front of a bus but came back into the game as well when I passed it on my way to take the lead. So, we continued the passing game, until the silver hatchback suddenly moved to the right lane and took an exit I had barely noticed.

Now, just the two of us, which became a little less interesting. We passed each other a few more times, until the time came for my SUV and the orange Volkswagen to split. We had reached a major intersection with another road and went in opposite directions. No parting gesture, we were just two of the many cars in the road, like strangers, who had never shared a playful moment of their journey. It made me wonder if the game was just the mere product of my imagination, and the driver of the orange Volkswagen had never noticed me. Regardless, I felt lonely.

I was on the last stretch of the road, last 100 miles or so to go, the sun starting to settle down, when I got her text “Can you come pick me up tonight?”.  I had reserved a joint nearby to sleep planning to come the next morning, not to deprive her of the chance to spend the last night with her friends, in her dorm. The decision to close down even before the spring break had been made in such haste, nobody was prepared. 

When I arrived, we did not even hug, it was understood that it was better to restrain emotions and focus on the practicalities. We went up and down the three flights of stairs carrying boxes and pillows, blankets and books, her flute and her sax. Other kids were doing the same, packing their things in the parent’s car and going away without saying anything. Freshmen were trying to absorb the reality, the fact that the promised land was slipping away abruptly, in such unreal circumstances, just when they were preparing for concerts, dances, parties and finals to come. Older kids, especially the seniors, were hugging each other, some were quietly crying while saying goodbye forever to their peers and effectively ceasing to be college students without the closure that comes with a celebratory graduation.

Mrs. Nancy, a middle-aged woman with a strong built and warm smile – whom my daughter referred to as the “dorm’s Mom” – was there to help and support the kids, to make sure that they were picked up. I thought that she would probably lose her job, yet she was projecting optimism and energy, and she had bought pizza for everybody the night before, to cheer them up.

Before leaving we went to her favorite café. We both needed to say goodbye to the beautiful college town, a parting gesture. Little less than a year had passed from the day when we first visited, after acceptance, before the final decision, full of excitement. There was a cold wind, the table section was closed but it was still possible to get a coffee. The bartender was one of the college kids, and I thought: “where will she go, and what will happen to the cafes around here without their main customers?”

We drove away, in the fading light of dusk, ready to go home.

“My dinner with Wally”: by Yao Perk Lu

I wrote to Yao a while ago: “You should watch “My dinner with Andre“. One of my favorite movies. It is spectacular how you can sit and watch two guys dining for two hours and don’t get bored”.

She did and she liked it, and she sent: “My dinner with Wally“. If you cannot guess who Wally is, it is understandable. Yet, it is not that difficult. It is explained in the first sentence.


Onion Flower

Onion Flower – Photo by F. Marincola, May 25, 2020



My dinner with Wally



There are two small guys in our heart, one is satisfied with the existing state of affairs, and the other with great expectations. They always argue, and it is difficult to judge whose advice is better.


The questions we have to face in life are unavoidable multiple choices. Critical choices such as majors, occupations, marriage, are not as easy as choosing clothes and food. Wally, no matter what choices we make, we are always left wondering: …what is the story that would have followed those choices that were not made? We will never know. It’s a one-way ticket, every decision is an arrow that cannot be turned back, a wild horse that runs away, leaving behind a congealed life scene. A variety of factors will influence the choice, and the final decision is not necessarily the one that one desires most in the heart.


After the awakening of human consciousness, people instinctively want to have more choices, supposing that there are opportunities to change the status quo. People will gather the courage to jump off a cliff to soar into another state of life. Conscious awakening is to perceive everything and to start thinking about aging and death. One day I slept for a long time. The room was dim when I woke up. The afterglow of the sunset outside the window gave me the illusion that it was sunrise. I soon realized that the bright glow was no more dazzling. Then I watched it sink cruelly. I often fall into constant exhaustion; but no one perceives me in a terrible state. I was still in a very peculiar state at that time, expressing my emotions directly into society. Those cold robots regarded me as a weird person.

年轻的时候我看The legend of 1900那部电影,那是一部枯燥乏味的电影,就像我的生活。那种真实的懦弱,尝试着踏上陆地却没有成功。我没有计算自己看日落的次数,但肯定比小王子要多。我和寺庙里的佛像对视却没有弯曲自己的膝盖,炉子里香火鼎盛,案头上一支点燃的蜡烛,灼热滚烫,飞快的消耗着,稍有不慎,烛泪就会随着烛身流淌下来风干在烛台上。信徒们将纸币放进箱子内,将硬币丢进水池内,没有人发现神明不在寺庙内。

When I was young, I watched the movie “The Legend of 1900”. It is a long dull movie just like my life. That kind of real cowardice, tried to set foot on the land but failed. I did not count the number of times I watched the sunset, …it must be more than the Little Prince. I stared at the Buddha statue in the temple without bending my knees. A lighted candle on the altar was quickly consumed. Tears of wax flowed down the body of the candle and dried over the indifferent candlestick. Believers put the banknotes in the box and threw the coins into the pool. No one found out that the gods were not in the temple.



I asked a monk who was cleaning the floor, “Where did the gods go?”

The monk told me, “You are unlucky, the gods have just left.”


I instinctively wanted to know more like a curious cat. I left my name and address on the wall of the temple, and stayed overnight in the mountains. The night was cold and the noise of the crickets was so loud that it covered the sound of the spring water. I walked out of my room. There was a faint smell of blooming flowers in the courtyard. The monk was drinking alone under the moonlight. He said that in fact he was a god, but he couldn’t give any instructions to believers. When he was born, he could choose to be a god or a devil. He remained always curious about the devil’s life. He drank all the wine in the jug, and then tossed the jug on the bluestone board, and the jug was broken into many pieces. He seemed crazy and his mental status appeared unstable. I packed the bags and left the temple at night.

我不知道我从哪里来,要到哪里去,我的使命是什么,但是生活的进程还在继续。当我无所适从的时候,我只能选择写作,阅读以及和人交流。我发现没有人对自己的生活现状满意。有人说人生是满足欲望的过程,欲望无法得到满足就会痛苦。我不同意,人的欲望是无底洞,是永远无法被填满的,学会抑制自己的欲望,才能找到一个让自己舒适的平衡点。从长远眼光来看,在时间周期面前,生命只是宇宙中的尘埃。“众生皆苦,万相皆无。” 愿众生都能在苦难找到信仰。

I don’t know where do I come from, where I am going to, what is my mission; yet the process of life continues. When I lost my way, I can only choose to write, read, and communicate with different people. I found that no one is satisfied with the status quo of their life. Someone said life is the process of satisfying desires. I don’t agree. People’ desires are bottomless and can never be fulfilled. Only by learning to suppress desires, we may find a balance that makes us comfortable. From a long-term perspective, life is just dust scattered in the universe over time and space. Life is suffering, to ultimately vanish. May each of us find our faith in suffering.



Tidal Lock (The story of Giselle, Part 3)

This is the third part of Giselle’s story, which is in turn the first act of Tidal Lock.

We refer the reader to the previous ones in case they were not acquainted with hour heroine (and still the most popular of my characters):

Tidal lock:

        a. the story of Giselle, Part 1 , Part 2,

The perfect rose growing

The perfect rose coming of age – Photo by F. Marincola, El Granada, May 20 2020 (Follow up from the photo from two days ago).

There come occasions when, upon awakening, it takes a very long time to regain consciousness of whereabouts in space and time. Extremes include revisiting life from a prolonged coma, or deep anesthesia. In ordinary conditions, dreams can present so vivid that, upon recall in the morning, they overshadow reality making it hard to shake off the recollections and to reckon that it is unconceivable for one to fly the open skies like a bird, holding hands with the long-gone mother and just the same for other preposterous delusions. And, like Chuang Tzu, one wonders whether the incarnation of a butterfly dancing from flower to flower reposes in one’s dream, or rather it is the butterfly that, upon falling asleep, lives the illusion of being a human.

Among such extremes, was Giselle’s awakening in the new home. Nothing around was familiar and only a vague remembrance of the previous evening lingered to connect her to the past. It was as if she was a different person, while Grandma, Oldie and its hens, Uncle Borysko, Sasha, Demetri, and the fiddler with the big mustache and the tapping foot were just accessories from an ancient period that loitered in the outskirts of a capricious fantasy.

In the stillness of silence, the sunlight was sieving through the gaps of the roller shutter projecting faint beams, tainted by busy dust particles, over scattered objects unknown to her. From the soft mattress where she was laying, she could observe a mahogany dresser and a desk. On the desk stood a shiny brass lamp. It was a bankers’ lamp with the emerald green shade. Close to it, rested a Royal of Copenhagen porcelain that portrayed the figurine of a little girl in a light blue dress and wearing a white Dutch cap. The head was reclined toward a doll that she cuddled within fragile arms. A loveseat stood on the opposite side of the room, above which hovered the painting of a lake with mountains around and elegant ladies in the forefront that held colorful parasols with gloved hands. The loveseat was coated by silk upholstery of delicate patterns; weaving gold and green vines ran up and down the pink pillows and the azure arm rests. A Persian carpet connected the components of this new world, which was patiently waiting to be enlivened by Giselle. Such unwarranted beauty held no place for consideration in Giselle’s previous stark life when none of this could be fancied.

On a chair to the left of the bedside table, she noticed the cracked leather suitcase open and empty. Giselle remembered that Mrs. Maria had asked the driver to carry the suitcase up and deposit it right on that chair. When Giselle tried to open it to find the wool night gown that Grandma had saved for her, Mrs. Maria waved the hand and said in Russian:

“Do not worry! Tomorrow you can take care of your things! Time for you to go to sleep now.” And she handed a flannel Tyrolean night gown with patterns of red hearts and blue flowers and an eyelet lace trim. That was her last memory from the night before because as soon as she sunk into the soft sheets also made of flannel, her eyes shut and her thoughts, together with her vision, turned black.


But then, what happened to her belongings? She wondered.

Life had moved so fast since Grandma accepted Uncle Borysko’s advice to send her to Milan, a place she had never heard about. Mrs. Maria had sent a plane ticket just for her, with a provision for child care during the flight. Uncle Borysko had taken her by bus to the Airport in Kiev and strangers had taken her into the plane, made her sit all the way in the back, and gave her a soda and cookies. A young lady, who was sitting close to her, had smiled and said something that she could not understand. Then the lady fished from the purse a little box of mints and gave it to her. Giselle took the mints and put one in the mouth returning the rest to the kind lady never to be seen again in her life.

Other strangers tended her after the airplane landed till she was out, passed customs, and saw a sign with her name written in Russian held by an elegant lady whose name was Maria and who was meant to become her surrogate mother from that day on.

Before letting her go, Uncle Borysko had shaken her hand, like one does to grownups and opening the old bag made of discolored and cracked leather, he took the book where the story of Giselle was engraved.

“This is a gift for you. In Milan, there are many wonderful things waiting for you. Among them, there is a theatre called La Scala, where only the best of the best performs. One day you will be one! You must be the best of the best because you can. This way, you will make all of us proud and your Grandma’s sacrifice worth it.”

Then he added with an accomplice smile:

“And… I want you to show to the whole world which one is the “Real Giselle”!”

Then, he took another little black handbook with an Italian flag painted at the top right corner:

“This is a dictionary from Russian to Italian. You know enough Russian to get by with Mrs. Maria; this will help you with the rest. Carry it with you all the time.”

Then Uncle Borysko patted her on the shoulder and quickly turned around. Giselle followed him till he walked out of her sight, waiting for him to turn around for a last good bye. But he didn’t.


Now, a new day was dawning and together with it, a new life. It was a day that faced the unknown, in which the only sequence to follow were the steps that take a little bird away from her nest to spread hesitant the timorous wings and fly toward the horizons of an unexplored world.

And so Giselle, with caution put a foot on the floor, listened for sounds coming from behind the closed door, and walked to the suitcase, which remained empty even upon close scrutiny. Wondering about her clothes, she went to the dresser to find her modest belongings folded with care, ordered, piled and organized according to purpose in different drawers. The dress shoes, the first pair of her life, that she had tolerated during the flight with the dignity of a little girl and even some pride, had been stored under a little bench at the foot of the bed with the tips basking under the warming sun rays. And the two books rested on the desk, right under the brass lamp, on top of each other silently waiting, just as Giselle, for the future to come.

Timorously, Giselle opened the door, jutted the head with caution out of its frame and looked left and right. There was a long corridor where a runner rug stretched over the marble floor in either direction toward dark and mysterious ends. Tiptoeing barefoot, she stepped out a little further.

It was then that a middle-aged lady appeared at one of the ends and shouted:

“Ma no signorina! Ma cosa mi combina!? Non coi piedi nudi sul marmo! Si prenderà un raffreddore![1]

The lady walked toward her, pointed at an armoire to the side, opened it and withdrew a pair of pink slippers.

“Ma metta queste per favore[2]” and without waiting she bent over and in turn placed over her knees each one of Giselle’s feet to tuck the slippers.

Giselle, who did not speak a word of Italian, bowed and looked with wide open eyes wondering what she could do wrong next to upset the lady.

“Io sono la Lori[3]” said the lady pointing at herself and then, pointing at Giselle she added “e lei è la mia nuova padroncina!”

“Andiamo, andiamo a fare un bel bagno e poi la colazione[4].”

And, appreciating that Giselle had no clue about what she was talking about, she held Giselle’s hand and guided her to the bathroom.

Now, Giselle had never seen a formal bathroom before, least the monumental vision to which she was introduced. A dark granite bathtub and two sinks with brass faucets, knobs and dispensers were bordered with ledges of white marble. These in turn were framed by candid and elaborate stucco sidings creating patterns on the wall all the way to the high sealing. Aside the windows long silky drapes were kept apart by golden ropes, and in the center, an armchair faced a huge mirror where Giselle could see a little girl staring at her with wide open eyes. A warm fragrance of jasmine impregnated the room stirring her curiosity. But she could see no flowers.

Lori went to the bathtub and turned the faucet checking every few seconds the temperature and then went to a closet at the entrance of the bathroom to fetch a white and plush bathrobe of Turkish cotton. Lori came back, and while waiting for the tub to fill, she showed with pride a few golden letters in the front of the bathrobe that read: “Gisella”.

“Ti piaciono? L’ ho cucite io![5]” she said, miming with the hands the sawing act.

“Su! Provalo![6]” And resolute she unfolded the garment around Giselle’s shoulders and tilting the head she hinted with an encouraging smile for her to slip her arms into the sleeves.

“Un po’ grande!” She frowned “Ma non troppo. E poi tu ci crescerai dentro come un bella signora in un battito d’occhi![7]

Next thing, Giselle found herself floating over a cloud of foam, while Lori scrubbed her back as if she was grooming a horse for the fair. And then came the time for the hair washing and drying, and then the brushing and styling, while Lori kept adding along each step in the process cryptic comments that could not be deciphered. In the end, when everything was said (in an unknown language) and done, a pleased Lori placed in front of the mirror Giselle, who faced a completely different girl staring at her.

It is not that Giselle had never seen her reflection in a mirror before, but she had been too taken by other preoccupations to pay any attention to her own looks particularly when there was nothing special to explore. But now, in that regal environment and all the time at her disposal, those big black eyes contained within the frame of the braided hair made a mark.

Yet unsatisfied, Lori made Giselle spin around a few times two underscore the three-dimensional beauty of her gracious person. In the process, Giselle began conscious for the first time in life of her own appearance. She reckoned that perceptions are bidirectional and from that day, like all of us in the process of maturing, she lost the naiveté of the inner person that could observe the world behind the safety of the eyes. A second person came into her life; the outer Giselle, exposed to judgment by the surrounding world. As for all of us, that discovery molded her spontaneity turning it into self-consciousness that proved critical to hone her skills in the years to come. Often as life went by, she recollected that moment when the carefree Giselle had turned into a rigorous performer.

The enchantment did not last long because Lori, who had stepped out returned with a set of clothes for the new Giselle. Cute underwear with minuscule red flowers, a cotton undershirt and a short sleeve blouse with a dark V neck embroidery matching the color of a dark blue skirt with a Gucci logo on the belt. Lori kept piling these ornaments over the little girl as if she was dressing a Christmas tree, till the time came for a pair of cotton socks and the slippers. Then Lori took Giselle by the hand, walked her to the kitchen and showed to sit on a white bench while she prepared breakfast. A muffled whirring sound reminded Giselle of the burr of the water mill at the end of the village. It was the telephone, another acquaintance of the new life. Lori interrupted her fretting and answered. Then she hung the phone and came to Giselle:

“Era la signora, chiedeva come stai! Lei e al lavoro. Sono tutti al lavoro. Non ti preoccupare, ci penso io a te, fin quando ritornano.[8]

Giselle thought of the dictionary patiently sitting on the desk and felt an urge to go to the room to fetch it, but she didn’t dare. She realized that her body was frozen, with no resolve whatsoever to make any movement that was not summoned by Lori. So she patiently waited, while Lori warmed in a funny looking and beeping oven a croissant and brought it to her in a white plate, together with a cup of warm milk, another little plate with a piece of butter, a Nutella jar and a silver spreader.

Lori, noticing that Giselle was paralyzed at the bench, took the spreader, opened the croissant with it, and placed a little bit of butter and Nutella at a corner.

“Prova! Vedi se ti piace[9]” she intimated.

Giselle put the flavored corner of the croissant in her mouth, cautiously chewed and then nodded. She would have wished to say that what she really missed was Grandma’s tomatoes and eggs, but instead, she waited while Lori spread the butter and Nutella all over the rest of the croissant.

While Giselle was eating, Lori disappeared. Left alone, she slowly chewed breakfast piece after piece, swallowing tiny sips of milk with each portion and began to recollect as a wall clock was ticking the pace of the new life.

Her last sitting meal had also been a rushed breakfast on the day before. Grandma had woken her up when it was still dark outside because Uncle Borysko was already waiting. She handed the fresh clothes and showed the suitcase that she had prepared during the night while Giselle was sleeping. Then Grandma told her to put on the new dress shoes. When she was dressed, Grandma looked at her in front and in the back.

“Very good!” she said. “A real lady to please Uncle Borysko!”

Then she sat the plate with the tomatoes and eggs in front of her, and some stale bread to go with them. She poured some tea, added a vein of milk and stood to admire her.

“Aren’t you eating Grandma?”

“I am not hungry, and I have a lot of things waiting for me to do as soon as you leave. Better get ready for a busy day! Lots do to without your help!” Grandma said looking at Uncle Borysko.

“Will you feed the chicken and Oldie for me, Grandma?”

“I will, don’t worry.”

“Will you say hi to them for me?”

“Of course!”

“Will they miss me?”

“I think so but they will be happy to know that you will be in a better place. Do not worry, you write to me and I will tell them all that you say.”

“…And I will get new reading glasses for your Grandma!” Added Uncle Borysko.


After breakfast, when Giselle returned to her room to find everything in perfect order; the roller shutter raised, the window open and a fresh waft lulling the curtains. The bed was made, the suitcase gone, the nightgown folded at the foot of the bed, the books moved on the bedside table and a peluche teddy bear resting on the pillow and wearing a green bowtie was waiting for her with wide and lucid eyes. Recollecting the mysterious reorganization of her belongings during the night, she could not explain all those changes, and not being familiar with the concept of being served, she began to wonder whether that home was under a magic spell and spirits, albeit of favorable disposition, governed its course.

But Giselle had not much to time to wonder as Lori came in wearing a soft jacket and holding a red umbrella, and told her:

“Andiamo a fare la spesa[10].”

Giselle grasped that they were about to depart and she pointed to the dictionary. Observing no qualms from Lori’s end, she walked to the bedside stand, held it and showed it to Lori. Lori smiled. Then, as if she was suddenly caught by a revelation dispatched directly from the heavens, she spelled syllable on syllable:

“Ma certo mia cara signorina, c’e’ bisogno della borsetta![11]

And proceeding to the armoire in the hall, she took out a mix backpack-purse of red leather that had been specially acquired by Mrs. Maria for Giselle. Then Lori took the dictionary from Giselle’s hand, deposited it into the backpack, and hinted for the girl to lift one arm at the time to be vested with a final touch of Milanese vogue.


June had just begun; the air was crisp and warm at the same time. It appeared that a breeze of bipolar temperament pleased itself by frolicking with the passersby. A few clouds were scatter over Piazza della Scala, but posed no threat, and Lori’s folded umbrella hung from her left forearm, while the right hand kept a tight grip on Giselle’s. Coming from via Manzoni, where they lived, the two ladies, crossed the Piazza, walking around the severe statue of Leonardo da Vinci encircled by the disciples, to reach the Galleria, marched through it, entered Piazza del Duomo, crossed it all the way toward via Torino, and turned right in via Spadari, where Peck incarnates since 1883 the zenith of high class Milanese indulgence.

Innumerable scenes had passed through Giselle’s eyes along the path as if a dream had taken control of the mind. That sensory overload had shut her reasoning and she passively accepted the kaleidoscope of impressions imposed upon her by passersby of innumerable colors and denominations, from exotic tourists, who took pictures of everything, to elegant businessmen in dark suits and gaudy ties, from carabinieri with red feather plumes on their bicorn hats to elegant ladies wearing the latest fashion, and mischievous children, and artists sketching portraits in front of jeweler shops and the fashion windows of Prada, the restaurants and bars teeming with solicitous waiters, and the newsstands adorned with colorful flags of the soccer teams, and the respective shirts, together with golden statues of La Madonnina, and models of the Duomo, and the pigeons in front of the Duomo scouting charitable souls that would buy corn grains from improvised photographers for their gracious consumption.

By the time they entered Peck, Giselle had been exposed to more newness in the fraction of an hour than in her entire previous life.

At Peck, an endless chain of crystal clear display counters featured exotic delicacies and emanated overbearing fragrances. Chocolate wonders on one side, collections of wild mushrooms and truffles on the other coming from God knows where whether it in season or not. And the meats, arranged to look like blooming flowers, and pastas of all rainbow colors and unthinkable shapes, freshly made or imported dry from the surrounding towns of Modena, Parma, Bologna, and hundreds of cheeses paired to exotic dry fruits to compose still-lifes worthy of the Poldi Pezzoli.

Lori proceeded resolute to the delicatessens display. From there, Giselle glimpsed the busy kitchen just behind the store with chefs fretting around flaming stoves that incessantly erupted fresh delights to be carried the counters. In those, there were Cornish hens stuffed with aromatic herbs, slices of sear-roasted beef dressed with caramelized onions, compositions of skinned animals, fish, vegetables and bottles, gelatin-covered lobster tails floating on pink mayonnaise, quenelles, seafood salads, Russian salad garnishing pink salmon trout, veal in tuna sauce and capers, sardines in vinaigrette sauce, caponata and parmigiana eggplants, and so much more.

A server from behind the counter greeted Lori. It was a young man wearing a white uniform, a chef beanie and a black bowtie:

“Buongiorno signora. Cosa posso offrirle oggi? Abbiamo dei cappellini farciti con morelle fresche e vengono con una salsa di salvia da aggiungere a fine cottura![12]” As he was going on describing the new options, a lady came to Giselle’s side and greeted:

“Ma che bella bambina! Da dove vieni, non ti ho mai visto prima[13].”

It was Mrs. Rossi, the store manager, who new Lori quite well and enjoyed a few gossips in the mid-morning when the traffic in the shop was at the nadir.

Giselle looked at the lady, also dressed in a white coat and tried to smile, but even that effort was unsurmountable. It was Lori to answer:

“Questa a Gisella! La mia nuova padroncina. È appena arrivata a stare con noi e non parla Italiano ancora. Gisella, saluta la signora Rossi. Dille: piacere di conoscerla[14]!”

The confused Giselle, instinctually tightened the grip of Lori’s hand and approached her flank as to hide behind; an innate reaction that surged for the first time in her life, since she never had a mother to hold hands and Grandma almost never left the hut.

But Mrs. Rossi was not the one to let the conversation languish:

“Ma si capisce benissimo solo a guardarla che è un bambina intelligente e graziosa[15].”

Then posing the right hand as if she was holding a fork she asked:

“Che cosa vuoi da mangiare[16]?”

Giselle in response shrugged the shoulders.

Lori had a constructive idea and pointed at items sitting across the glass inthe display counter to facilitate the choice.

“Quale ti piace? Dai, aiutami a scegliere[17]!”

Giselle, who had finally figured what all of the turmoil was about came up with an even better solution: she slipped off the backpack, dug into it, fetched the dictionary and when she found what she was looking for she showed to the ladies.

“Mm…Uova, …pomodori[18].” Said Mrs. Rossi. Then perplexed looked at the server behind the counter. “Ma io non credo che prepariamo questo piatto.”

There was a tense moment. Then, as Lori was about to suggest that it did not matter, the servant with the bowtie said:

“Un momento [19]!” and he went to the kitchen in the back.

When he returned he announced triumphantly:

“Se questo è quello che madam vuole, questo sarà[20]!”

And in fact, moments later a sous-chef came from the kitchen ceremoniously presenting a soufflé of eggs and tomatoes in an improvised pie crust garnished with sage leaves.

And so it was that from that day on, Peck began to include among the hundreds of delicacies the famous “Giselle’s quiche”.


That evening at dinner, Giselle ate among servings the quiche that had gained popularity also among the other family members. Not much was said at the table worth reporting save for a comment made by Mrs. Maria that changed Giselle’s life.

Casually speaking in Russian to involve Giselle, Mrs. Maria told her husband:

“Uncle Borysko mentioned that Giselle wants to be a ballerina. I have a friend who moved from Moscow a few years ago. She was an instructor at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in Moscow and she now trains for La Scala Ballet School. She prepared successfully many girls. She has a studio nearby and she said that she would be happy to meet Giselle”.

Professor Federico, posing just exactly as his great grandfather portrayed in the painting on the wall behind him, turned toward Giselle, protruded the right hand with the open palm toward her and asked in broken but understandable Russian:

“Let’s ask Giselle what she thinks. Do you want to give it a try sometimes?”

Giselle cheeks flushed red, while she kept staring at the plate in front. Then, she shook her head:

“It is not true; I don’t know how to dance. Nobody taught me.”

“Well that is what schools are for! You will never know if you do not try!” said Professor Federico with a provocative smile.


Back in her room, Giselle set to the side of the Teddy Bear not to disturb it. She opened the book at the page with the picture of Giselle and she saw destiny knocking at her door. She remembered Grandma’s last words:

“Bye my dear Giselle! Be happy! I did my part and now it is your turn. And I know: you shall overcome!”

Giselle reckoned that it was not up to her to choose; from the day of her birth, life had chosen for her.

[1] “But my young lady! But, what trouble are you getting into? No the feet on the marble! You will catch a cold!”

[2] Please wear these ones!”

[3] “I am Lori…And you are my new little master”

[4] “Come on, let’s go to take a good bath and then …breakfast”

[5] Do you like them? I embroidered them!”

[6] “Come up, Try it up!”

[7] “It’s a little large…But not too much…Oh well, you will grow into it as be a beautiful woman in the blink of an eye!”

[8] It was the mistress, she wanted to check on you. She is at work; they are all at work. Do not worry, I will take care of you till they return”

[9] Try it, see if you like it!”

[10] Let’s go grocery shopping

[11] Of course, my dear lady! we need the purse!

[12] “Good Moring Mam, what could I offer today? We have cappellini stuffed with fresh morels. They come with a sage sauce to be added before serving.”

[13] What a pretty girl! Where are you from, I never saw you before!”

[14] “This is Gisella! My new little master. She just joined us and she does not speak Italian. Gisella, say hi to Mrs. Rossi! Tell her: nice to meet you!”

[15] “But everyone can tell, just looking at her, that she is a smart and gracious little girl!”

[16] “What would you like to eat?”

[17] “Which one do you like? Come on, help me chose!”

[18] “Eggs, …tomatoes” … “But I don’t believe that we prepare this dish.”

[19] “Just a moment!”

[20] “If this is Madam’s wish, this will be!”

ix. 皮佐的智者 Epilogue – 尾声

Here come the Epilogue of “The wise men of Pizzo” Mandarin version

I hope that you enjoyed the book

Here is the index with links to the chapters:

I.  The Chiazza 广场
II.  亚历山大的故事
III.  亚历山大的成年
IV.  幕后生活
V.  三个强盗, 一场刀战, 以及一起谋杀
VI. 祖母之死
VII.  蒙特卡洛之旅
VIII.  一个爱情故事
IX.  尾声

Pizzo the last sunset

The last sunset from the terrace – Photo by F. Marincola,  July 2018

9. 尾声





在皮佐呆的两个星期的最后一天,我在缪拉城堡见马尔凯塞。我们按惯例喝了杏仁牛奶和卡布奇诺咖啡,但是之后我们没有走向tavolino桌子,而是走了一条陡峭的来自Chiazza广场临海一面的被称为“la salita dei morti”[1]的斜坡。之所以如此命名可能是因为这是一条前往墓地的路,墓地就在山顶,如同美洲豹从巨石处巡视它的王国,耐心地等待猎物一般。一步步缓慢地爬着,我们到了最高点,然后继续在平路上走,最终来到永恒安眠之所。

















唐·皮诺深深叹了一口气,交叉双手置于胸前,说,“Ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis in nomine Patris et Fili and Spiritus Sancti[2],阿门。卡罗·朱塞佩,你是对的。你的问题也许难以解决,你的罪也是无法忏悔或救赎。如同基督一样,你会背着你的十字架直到生命尽头。但我知道万能的上帝,仁慈的上帝会看到你在挣扎,会理解你好的动机。我确信如果你之前没有办法找到他,他会在合适的时间来找你。他会张开臂膀,在天堂之门等你。你不需要现在担心,你只要尽你最大的可能努力做就好。你的罪是一种无法被任何实用的或是精神的解药医治的,但是你应该应对它,如同每个背着自己十字架的我们都应该做的那样。但是…”他继续,“作为一位看着你从小男孩开始长大的老朋友,如果我能在更实际的问题上给你一点的建议的话,那就是你在精神课题上的不可知论是正当的,可以被接受的,因为这不会影响到别人,只会影响到你自己。但是,这并不适用于实际问题。在这个世界上,你不能设想认为不做决定就不受指责。我认为你的懒散是以自我为中心。它甚至是你用来保护自己避免接受生活挑战的借口。因为你无法直面小问题,所以你的问题变得越来越大。很多人会因为你的长期拖延而痛苦、受罪,尤其是那些真正关心你,没有抛弃你的人。费边·马克西姆[3](Fabius Maximus)胜了汉尼拔(Hannibal)是因为他有计划和目标,但是你的目标是什么呢?如果也是幸福的话,你就必须争取自己的喜悦,把别人从达摩克里斯[4]之剑下解脱出来。自私是需要勇气的,但最终,这对那些将幸福寄托于你身上的人来说是最好的。如果在你控制范围内你感到不幸福,运用你的力量,让自己知足。不只是看在你自己的份上这样做,更要从把别人从苦难中解放出来这个角度来做,但如果你决定不做,不愿意为了他人的幸福牺牲自己的话,那么同样地,全心全意这样做,坚守这个选择。你可能会好奇我怎么知道你脑袋里想什么。我能告诉你的就是,一个好的牧羊人了解他的羊群。”









当朱塞佩先生变身为令人尊敬的美国科学家时,我们的访客意识到他没有解决任何一开始试图解决的问题。与最初的想法相反,他没有直面任何问题,而只是把它们置于脑后,被小镇生活分了心。但重新回到老麻烦的想法没有让他动摇,因为那两个星期给他这样一种印象:时间会解决一切问题,无论有多可怕,只需让所有的一切变得无关紧要… 最终就会得到答案。











本文学小说作者为弗朗西斯科 M. 马林柯拉(Francesco M.Marincola),

译者为侯燕俐,由Paraules Organization 监制,由陈静怡编辑。

[1] “死人之山”

[2] 以圣父、圣子、圣灵之名,我宽恕你的罪

[3] 罗马政治家和将军,被称为拖延者 ,在第二次布匿战争中,部署军团以拖延战术应对汉尼拨,聚焦于供应链,避免正面迎战,直到敌人筋疲力尽。他被认为是游击战之父。

[4] 一位叫做达摩克里斯的轶事人物,坐在上方仅用一根马鬃悬挂着的利剑的王位上,其寓意在于权力伴随着焦虑和风险。




viii. 皮佐的智者 A love story 一个爱情故事

Here comes Chapter 8 of “The wise men of Pizzo” Mandarin version: “A love story

Here is the index with links to the chapters:

I.  The Chiazza 广场
II.  亚历山大的故事
III.  亚历山大的成年
IV.  幕后生活
V.  三个强盗, 一场刀战, 以及一起谋杀
VI. 祖母之死
VII.  蒙特卡洛之旅
VIII.  一个爱情故事
IX.  尾声

The perfect rose

The perfect rose – Photo by F. Marincola, May 18 2020


  1. 一个爱情故事






十年以后,一位年轻时记得小火车站荣光的新镇长,花大气力筹款恢复它的往日风光。最终,为了新火车站的开幕一切都准备就绪时,皮佐人觉得有必要将此事与第一辆到皮佐的火车回归结合起来。于是,皮佐镇政府向Ferrovie dello Stato[2]发了一封热情洋溢的信,告知他们重建工作的完工,改造的火车站可以重新提供服务。不幸的是,意大利铁路系统回复说,尽管他们对描述的重建质量很钦佩,但因为新的铁路已经代替了旧的铁路,可以一路直线抵达重要城市,因此目前来看没有火车会在那里经过,更不太可能在世界上这个过时的角落停下来。于是,新火车站的开幕仪式举办的时候,没有任何火车,老的地滚球场地仍然可以用来打无数的游戏,然而却再也不用担心有火车来打断人们玩游戏的雅兴。”





针对这个理论,安东尼奥师傅皱起前额,挑起右边的眉毛,插嘴说,“不好意思,signori miei[4]。什么这个‘鞋带’[5]那个‘鞋带’理论的,皮诺佐太古怪,他都不知道怎么系自己的鞋带!”于是,这一雄辩的、具有说服力和总结性的逻辑结束了当代物理学的重要且具争议性的话题。之后安东尼奥师傅不在的时候,有人披露他对弦理论的憎恶以及对平行宇宙之怀疑的部分原因可能是因为那个药剂师在他为其提供了乡间别墅相关的服务之后还没付钱给他,但我们还是把这个形而上学的讨论留到下回吧。





















如同负负得正,两个死人能成为一个活的灵魂。突然,我再也不觉得孤单。臂弯里拥着这个温顺而毫无防备的女人,我获得了很长时间都未曾体验过的一种力量。那天晚上,我们根本没有出去散步,而是在她的套房里度过,之后又是几个晚上。白天,我们沿着湖边散步散了很长时间,或是乘渡船到加尔达湖的另一边。在加尔达内的山顶上,我们参观了Il VIttoriale[6]。我们到湖东边的果园,或是到山里远足寻找野生蘑菇。在这些活动期间,我们说了又说。是一种自然的交换:随性、诚实,我从来没有跟妻子或是以前的其他女人有过这种交流,我不知道她为什么能萃取出我最好的一面。




蜜月是在米兰度过的,这也是他公司所在地。他们去了几次斯卡拉剧院(La Scala),但他心不在焉,急着在歌剧结束之前就离场,试图逃避演出结束之后的拥挤人群。他会带她去Giardini Pubblici[7]简单地散个步,但是他们之间无话可说。他沉溺于自己的忧愁里,即使有时她问及,他也只是回答,“没什么重要的事。没什么你要关心的事。”他会补充一些没有推断的结论,比如“真奇怪,人们总是期待得到没有资格获得的东西…”或“我相信我总是竭尽全力。希望吧,有一天我们能看到结果。”
























晚宴很雅致,因为阿喀琉斯和他的妻子都在尽力善待一位家庭旧友,同时,他们也着实感激我还记得他们。两个漂亮的孩子在他们自己的幻想世界里跑来跑去,完全独立于大人。还有一位上了年纪的深思熟虑的‘贵族’过来闻我的衣服,检验我的社会地位,以及我出席的礼节。满意于结果,它躺在我身边,对着我的腿伸缩自己的爪子,好像在织面团似的。它的爪子经常会被修剪,这让我很安心。事实上,这按摩还是很舒服的,一点也不疼。很多无关紧要的事情发生着,或被讨论着,包括里拉和欧元之间的兑换,以及抗拒这种交易没什么意义,还不如从金融角度想想怎么利用这一点等等。阿喀琉斯讨论着世界的大事件,他的妻子则不时地讲孩子们的趣事,他们如何刚好成为世界上最好的生物。在开胃菜和鸡尾酒之后,晚饭上来了,晚饭带着罗马正餐的含蓄的雅致:来自北部和南部意大利的冷盘,海鲜沙拉,简单的pasta cacio pepe[9],撒上磨碎的黑松露,配有玛莎拉白葡萄酒的小牛肉,再加一点带有异域风情的小茴香,以及好多其他令人愉快的菜肴,构成了看上去没有尽头的晚餐。




阿喀琉斯站起来。“这是一种新型疾病。他们说是来自acca vu[10]的一种病毒,会感染血细胞。如果你感染了的话,会无法抵抗传染。”









悄悄耳语,我介绍自己是一位家里的老朋友,刚好在米兰。她笑着看我,用一口蹩脚的意大利语说道,“Io sono Ophelia, amica di Alessandro. Alessandro dormire adesso. Stato sveglio tutta notte.[11]





我回想起我的痛苦。我记得自己觉得这个小女人是如何的前后矛盾。我知道她一生都把爱献给了我,但她却躲着我,就像是飞蛾渴望光亮,却躲进深夜,逃避日光。我回想起我的孤寂:沿着岸边长时间散步,想着她和儿子的近况。我回想起我的嫉妒、冷漠、后悔…… 所有这些情感汩汩地从我遭到诅咒的生命潘多拉之盒流出来。












“我希望我能怂恿你写一部小说,一本充满你的反思和回忆的书。”我说着支持他漫无边际、无拘无束的想法。“你知道;教授现在退休了,他是一部a la reserche du temps perdue[12],尤其是他钟爱的学生,你就是其中之一。我很确定,他可以时不时过来探望你,帮你写你的回忆。”













当他母亲问他美国那边怎么样时,他冷冷地回应,“Tutto bene… ottimamente bene[13]


[1] 带味儿的冰水

[2] 意大利铁路系统

[3] 比萨知名的物理大学

[4] 我的先生

[5] “弦”在英语中的发音string听上去像意大利语的stringa,意为“鞋带”;于是有了可怜的安东尼奥师傅的困惑

[6] The Vittoriale degli italiani(意大利胜利神殿)是加尔达内小镇的一处房产,俯瞰加尔达湖,意大利作家加布里埃尔·邓南遮(Gabriele d’Annunzio)自1922年在这里居住,直至1938年去世。

[7] 公共公园

[8] 罗马的高档消费区

[9] 带奶酪(佩科里诺奶酪)和胡椒的意面,阿尔弗雷多白脱奶油面(Fettuccine Alfredo)的真正

[10] 意大利的发音方式,将HIV发成HV

[11] 我是奥菲利亚,亚历山大的朋友。亚历山大现在睡着了。他晚上都醒着。

[12] 《追忆似水流年》(Remembrance of Things Past);马塞尔·鲁斯特(Marcel Proust)的小说

[13] 一切都好…相当好!

vii. 皮佐的智者 A trip to Monte Carlo – 蒙特卡洛之旅

Here comes Chapter 7 of “The wise men of Pizzo” Mandarin version: “A trip to Monte Carlo

Here is the index with links to the chapters:

I.  The Chiazza 广场
II.  亚历山大的故事
III.  亚历山大的成年
IV.  幕后生活
V.  三个强盗, 一场刀战, 以及一起谋杀
VI. 祖母之死
VII.  蒙特卡洛之旅
VIII.  一个爱情故事
IX.  尾声

Pizzo by the sea

Pizzo by the sea – Photo by F. Marincola -July 5 2017

7. 蒙特卡洛之旅





据说当皮佐人因为逮捕了缪拉而领受奖励时,他们全体一致地选择将皮佐提升到“市”的级别。这也是为什么这座小镇仍然被称为La Cittá di Pizzo[1]

Il Castello[2]自相矛盾地以其受害者命名,因为这就是若阿尚·缪拉被关押入狱五天之后最终被处决的地方。历史上说缪拉迈着坚定的步伐走向处决地。眼睛被蒙着,他宣告,“我已经面对太多次的死亡了,一点也不怕。”当一切准备就绪,他向执行枪决的射击队下令,“Soldats! Faites votre devoir! Droit au cœur mais épargnez le visage… Feu![3]

























结果,我就像被卢奇尼奥洛(Lucignolo) 煽动的匹诺曹一样,到了玩具王国旅行。我以同样的坚定,拒绝了他早期的坚持,但接连产生了下一个结果。说正经的,我也无法拒绝来自亲爱朋友的邀请,毕竟我已经好久没见到过他了。对于能见到老朋友的笑容并跟他一起分享儿时的无忧无虑,这实在太过诱人了。于是,我打包了几样东西去了火车站。第二天,我到了蒙特卡洛。



















她起身,透过她透明的睡衣,我可以更好地看到她的美。我觉得需要做点什么,自问到底做了什么,但是我回想不起任何事情。我很希望把她叫回床边,跟她做爱,但头疼以及没有任何保护措施的现实,加上我不知道她到底是谁,甚至连她的名字也不知道,这一切让我犹豫不决。在我脑海深处,我听到我们光荣的国歌,我看到bersaglieri[4]跨越路障,保卫我们亲爱的意大利,但我就是无法再现il Risorgimento[5]的那种国家英雄主义。慢慢地,我挠着头发,穿上短裤,走到了小桌旁,她已经给我倒好了咖啡。






































当我站起来,再次瞪着眼睛转向亚历山大时,一个船员猛扑向我,从背后抱住我来拯救亚历山大,同时向困惑的女人们展示自己的肌肉。被这位乐善好施的人没必要地抱住,我冲着亚历山大喊,“Patto fatto[6]”。











“我当然不爱!我何曾有能力爱任何人?或许我应该问,有人爱过我吗?我的意思是,真正地爱过真正的亚历山大 …?但我跟她在一起确实感到很舒服。她让我感觉更好。我不知道她在我身上看到了什么,但是我觉得她不怎么关心我的样子。她对待我好像我是她的十几岁的儿子。她有耐心,但没有任何期待。她喜欢我不是因为我的英俊,而是不管我的个性有多坏,她仍然喜欢我。似乎她能够在我身上看到我都无法解密的自己。我可以告诉她一切,她会聆听。她不做任何评判,但她试着理解。当然,我不认为她全都理解,但这不重要。最重要的是,她努力去做。本能地,我从内心深处认为她比我自己都了解我。







Muor giovane chi agli dei e’ caro[7],有句话是这么说的!是的,我希望我能年轻的时候就死去,在一切太迟之前不被生活污染。如果我有勇气的话,我应该早就自杀了,但是我不能!自杀不是自然的事情。无所事事,也就是我当下在做的,是我能操作的自我破坏的现实方式,所以我在船上驻留,看着时间像在船体下的海浪,或是天上的云彩一样过去,我平静地等待结束,想要慢慢地安静地杀死自己,就像是饿死自己的果戈理一样。”







































[1] 皮佐市

[2] 城堡

[3] 战士们!执行你们的职责吧!请避开脸,往心上射,开火!

[4] 神枪手部队,意大利军队的精锐军团

[5] 19世纪中期促成意大利统一的政治和革命运

[6] 结了

[7] 带着上帝的爱,趁年轻就死去吧


vi. 皮佐的智者 The death of Nonna – 祖母之死

Here is Chapter 6 of “The wise men of Pizzo” Mandarin version: “The death of Nonna

Here is the index with links to the chapters:

I.  The Chiazza 广场
II.  亚历山大的故事
III.  亚历山大的成年
IV.  幕后生活
V.  三个强盗, 一场刀战, 以及一起谋杀
VI. 祖母之死
VII.  蒙特卡洛之旅
VIII.  一个爱情故事
IX.  尾声

Pizzo Funeral of a Carabiniere

Funeral of a Carabiniere (in front of the Cathedral of San Giorgio – Photo by F. Marincola – Juy 4 2017


6. 祖母之死






       走向里加医生车的时候,我注意到保险杠上的贴纸,上面用意大利文写着:“Non sono un comunista[1]!”还没来得及问,里加医生已经觉得有义务来解释,“教授几年前贴在这里的。”之后就没有更多解释。



Ma siamo pazzi[2]?”里加医生回答“如果我们跟唐·皮诺一起出现,律师要心脏病发作了,他所有可能挺过肺炎的机会都会消失。有人生病的时候,谁想看到一个神父在他们床边?作为医生,我从来不跟穿黑衣服的绅士一起去看病人。这是个坏事;或是病人一看到预兆就死,又或者如果他幸存,他也会余生恨你跟他开这个愚蠢的恶作剧。”我同意他的说法。



“那时我跟一些朋友一起去的旅行。从卡马尔多利(Camaldoli)一直下山,经过柔和的溪流,爬上其他的山,去到更远处,我们到达了礁石的底下,最顶端像一只鹰,矗立着维纳(La Verna[3])女修道院。我们是一群很古怪的人。托尼诺(Tonino)的生活建立在教条之上。他痛恨问题,不希望质疑任何事情的基础,尽管他喜欢围绕着这些基础来进行争辩和讨论。对他来说,无论对错,一个很好的立论基础价值巨大。他本该成为一个律师,他喜欢为了赞成或反对任何事情而争论。对他来说,只要他开了头,从无神论到基督教,对与错只是一个决定而已。他相信上帝,就像是一周之前不相信他存在一样笃定。我问他为什么改变主意的时候,他不知道。他耸耸肩,告诉我那并不重要。直到那时他还是错的,现在他看到了光,他希望能够坚持,直到下一阵大风把他推到别处。

“托尼诺组织了这次跨越翁布里亚和托斯卡纳的朝圣来重新确认他的新信仰:在这一场步行参观里,我们会拜访僧侣:那些严肃对待信仰的人。对于这些人来说,上帝不是周末的消遣,而是日常职业:基督教的赞成者。尤其在维纳修道院的时候,我们想要参观方济会,在那里,圣·弗朗西斯度过了跟上帝最接近的日子,这也多亏了il Conte Orlando di Chiusi馈赠的礼物。”

“在托尼诺之后沉默跟着的是瘦长和苗条的Lo Spillo[4]。没人知道他对这样的奢侈之旅是怎么想的,又或者对所有事情的真实想法,因为他宁可点头,不太喜欢对话。他爱我们所有人:他把每个人都看作偶像。他从来不争论任何事情,只是很开心地跟随。如果我们中间起了争论,他就会马上试图去找其实并不存在的共识,缓和气氛。除了在背包重量的压迫下不得不前倾,关于他并没有更多特别之处进行更好地描绘。我们都觉得他有点儿逗,值得起个昵称,因此我们就叫他别针。他最终在一家鞋店工作,我听说他比从前更加坚定;他很有技巧地使用这种坚定感在大甩卖的日子里为自己鞋的质量而辩解。或许,他是我们之中最成功的那个。”





“这是真正的生活。这是我们所有人都应该居住的地方。在这里我们可以接近上帝的创造,不受任何打扰。如同il Conte Orlando对圣弗朗西斯说的那样:“我拥有一座山,非常遥远,自由生长,太适合那些想要悔悟的人了;那山远离人群,对那些想要过孤独生活的人是极好的。如果你愿意,我很开心为了我灵魂的健康,把它能给你和你的兄弟。”兄弟俩作出了正确的决定。要有足够的勇气才能放弃生活里的庸俗回报,贫穷地生活,整年无论下雪还是泥沼都穿凉鞋,睡在没有床垫的木床上…”














我一边听着,一边跟着车一路喘上山。在我的右方是桑塔乌费米亚海湾(Gulf of Santa Eufemia)壮美的景色,我断定里加医生毕竟不是个坏人。从开着的窗户往外看,新鲜的微风吹进车里,我看着可爱的皮佐镇矗立在礁石上,就在第勒尼安海之上,九月初的太阳底下,真的仿佛在微笑。

当我们进到病房,看到律师穿着一件干净睡衣,露出两条多毛瘦削的腿,拖着一双拖鞋,推着吊着静脉注射液的杆子。他急忙向我们走过来。“Dottori miei! 谢谢过来啊。你们得马上做点儿什么。他们在这里要杀了我!你们一定要救我!不能抽烟,不能喝酒!我担心你们不帮我的话我就要死在这里…或者也许更糟糕的是,我担心我不能死,得一直听这些清教徒的废话!”


里加医生看了挂在床尾的表格,上面勾画了一些重要的标记,他给我看了划得很明显的温度线已经指向正常。他没有抬头,告诉律师,“我很遗憾地告诉你,不管你喜不喜欢,你都不能再吸烟了…除非你更想选择死亡。为了帮你,我自己也戒烟。朱塞佩拿着我最后一盒烟作为纪念品!我们要一起戒烟,人家说“mal commune mezzo gaudio[5]。如果你以祖先的坟墓,庄严承诺你要戒烟的话,我可以带你去酒吧,请你喝咖啡和茴香酒。”考虑到他别无选择,至少在医院期间已是如此,这两项额外津贴要比什么都没有强,律师含含糊糊地说“andiamo[6]

我们正帮他穿上裤子,从床下找回鞋子的时候,从护士那里听到我们来了的il Primario[7]走进房间。他是一位上了年纪的绅士,梳理整齐的白发,一席长身白大褂,衬衫敞口处,一条金色项链在黝黑的皮肤上闪闪发光。这条项链质地很精美,有一个简单的十字架,很像是孩子们参加第一次圣餐仪式所得到的那种。这项链很有可能自从他母亲几十年前给他带上的那刻开始就一直紧随在他胸口。他没有任何装腔作势、矫揉造作,而是带着自然的温暖,微笑着走向我。科室主任很有活力地跟我握了手。“请到我办公室来,我给你看看X光片。真的很高兴见到你,我听说过好多关于你的事情。实在是很荣幸!”


































[1] 我不是共产主义者

[2] 我们疯了吗

[3] 维纳(La Verna)-位于托斯卡纳(Tuscany)的方济会修道院,1224年,圣·弗朗西斯得到了圣痕。

[4] “别针”

[5] 分享痛苦能转化成部分的幸福

[6] 那我们走吧

[7] 科室主任






v. 皮佐的智者 Three ladrons. a knife fight and a murder – 三个强盗,一场刀战,以及一起谋杀

Here is Chapter 5 of “The wise men of Pizzo“: “Three ladrons, a knife fight and a murder

Here is the index with links to the chapters:

I.  The Chiazza 广场
II.  亚历山大的故事
III.  亚历山大的成年
IV.  幕后生活
V.  三个强盗, 一场刀战, 以及一起谋杀
VI. 祖母之死
VII.  蒙特卡洛之旅
VIII.  一个爱情故事
IX.  尾声

Pizzo Castel Murat

Castel Murat seen from via Marincola – Photo by F. Marincola, June 5 2018


  1. 三个强盗,一场刀战,以及一起谋杀




事实上,当轮到某个顾客,如果这次刚好不幸地分配给李奥纳多,这位受害者总是非常真挚、热情、友好,竭尽全力地鼓励排在他身后的人先来。后面的人也同样地热切地鼓励他后面的人,后面的人也如法炮制。“Prego!Prego![1]” 他们这样对后面的人说。“您先来,我一点儿也不急!事实上,我可能得跑到西乔的店买份报纸,好知道世界上发生了什么!”




“谁知道?今早我从扫路工那里知道的,说是唐娜·菲洛梅娜(Donna Filomena)住在律师的家前面,是她告诉他说,她今早两点左右看到救护车离开他的家。”







西乔·佩尔科科被这一混乱分散了注意力,他停止了日常的自我争辩,走近我们,在我面前很尊敬地鞠躬,补充说,“是啊,他自己用报纸卷烟,报纸还用Avanti[2]的! 不管怎么说都不好…!” 尽管西齐出身卑微,但他是一个热情的、颇有洞察力的报纸阅读者。

药店的妻子唐娜·丽塔(Donna Rita)刚刚听到这个新闻就加入了猫吧的谈话。她同样进行了回忆响应,但想的却跟大家不同。她补充了值得鉴别诊断的“消化不良”可能性,她认为出事原因是因为律师先生时不时在晚饭后立刻洗澡,没有遵从饭后三小时须等待身体恢复才跟水接触的黄金定律:一种尚未被实践医学或科学区域发现的现象,但在镇里comari[3]那里却成了共识。



教授反过来坚持说,现在律师已经彻底死了。但以防他还没有死去,我们应该做些事情来挽救他的生命。说到这里,每个人都热情地转向我,根据观点不同,尊称或是降级称呼我,从朱塞佩少爷到“il Dottore dall’ America[5]”。大家都一致决定我应该赶紧去维博镇[6]的医院去看律师并挽救他的生命,不然就太迟了。





        亚历山大有个叔叔叫唐·安东尼奥(Don Antonio)。他在内陆是一个富有的地主。他的房产跨越好几英里的丘陵和山谷,覆盖着山峰槽谷,绿草地和金黄色的小麦,丰富的玉米地,果园,葡萄园,橄榄树林及散落的百年橡树。在树木无边的阴影投射之下,牛群在吃草,公鸡为了母鸡而战,狐狸出现又消失,狗叹着气等待一些事情的发生。也就是在这里,亚历山大度过了童年和青少年时期漫长的夏日,阅读了经典著作:《战争与和平》、《包法利夫人》、《伊甸园之冬》、《带着小狗的女人》以及其他一些冗长的故事,这似乎与他在老橡树阴影下的生活是同步的。










穿着天鹅绒裤,方格衬衫,带着一顶羊绒帽,一个大约五十岁的男人出现在后门,司机继续开车并把车停在同一棵橡树下的荫凉处。这个男人是真纳罗师傅(Mastro Gennaro),他是农民头之一,也是在唐·安东尼奥王国里备受尊重和信任的人。

“请受我一拜,唐娜 ·特里莎,”他说,然后除去帽子,走向餐桌。迎住唐安东尼奥问询的眼神,他补充说,“一些流氓在Granatari把狗毒死了。”




唐娜· 特里莎从来不敢说话。她太愚蠢无知,无法讲出什么话来参与有实质内容的谈话;她也太无能幼稚,无法对实际的对话做出什么贡献;而且她太害怕丈夫严厉的眼神,以至于无法发出任何没必要的声响以提醒他自己的存在。她年轻时太受溺爱,在家族的困难时期,祖母将她送到一个远离家乡的全女生的寄宿学校接受教育。在那里,她学会了背诵成串冗长的诵经,其余时间则学习编织——两种技巧都在乡村很难有什么价值。

微风的耳语重新出现,这时唐·安东尼奥作出最后声明,“Mio caro[8]真纳罗师傅,我很确信你能够处理好这个不幸的情况。我把最美的祝福送给你。”真纳罗师傅站起,优雅地向唐·特里莎鞠躬,然后把帽子放回头顶,回到车里。







“从拉圣布鲁诺(Serra San Bruno)附近的山上来。很有可能他们之前在那个地方偷过牛。”






















关于这一不幸的剧情本没有什么进一步要说的,但那天晚上当亚历山大跟两个朋友沿着海滩走时,一辆车呼啸着停到他面前。车里出现了三个人,迅速地抓住亚历山大。一个按住他的胸,另外两个一人握住一条腿,把他扔进车里。就像来时一样,车快速打滑离开,驶向松树园(La Pineta)偏远的海滩,并且消失了。







































平淡无奇的三天过去了,巴比诺过来探望。他告知亚历山大唐·安东尼奥已经亲自去看了唐娜·乔凡娜,并安慰她说,她最亲爱的亚历山大正在山里面跟农民们在乡村远足,享受山间微风的凉爽,唐娜·乔凡娜很高兴知道他跟自己亲爱的叔叔在一起。巴比诺还汇报说,他们在皮佐的朋友们都不错,他们都希望他尽快好起来,等待他回去。他们已经安排好,等他回来之后就乘帆船去埃奥利群岛(Eolie Islands)、帕纳雷阿岛(Panarea)和武尔卡诺岛(Vulcano)。他们会花一些夏日在深蓝的大海里游泳、垂钓;在海滩上享用晚餐、远足爬山。那些山上的山羊从奥德修斯时代就在那里吃草了。巴比诺继续描绘着完美生活的景象,他只等着亚历山大康复之后可以回到皮佐。突然亚历山大打断了他。
















[1] 求您了!求您了!

[2] 意大利一份具有跌宕起伏历史的报纸。

[3] 爱嚼舌头的人

[4] 带有贬低色彩的意大利语表达,指的是那些像某些律师的人能够在伦理领域消化任何事情。尽管这一立论逻辑的线性关系可能比较费解,在文中情况里,这与人们通常抱持的评价一致,也是可以被接受的。

[5] 来自美国的医生

[6] 距离皮佐只有几公里之遥的位于山顶的另外一个姐妹小镇。

[7] 芦笋

[8] 我亲爱的

[9] 盗贼,小偷

[10] 一种跟传统观点一致的态度,认为男人应该表现得强壮好斗;意大利南方男人常见的模式化形象。




iv. 皮佐的智者 A life behind the scenes – 幕后生活

Here is Chapter 4 of “The wise men of Pizzo“: “A life behind the scenes

Here is the index with links to the chapters:

I.  The Chiazza 广场
II.  亚历山大的故事
III.  亚历山大的成年
IV.  幕后生活
V.  三个强盗, 一场刀战, 以及一起谋杀
VI. 祖母之死
VII.  蒙特卡洛之旅
VIII.  一个爱情故事
IX.  尾声

Pizzo Marina

La Marina di Pizzo from lo Spuntone – Photo by F. Marincola, July 3 2017


  1. 幕后生活

         Spuntone或“La Pizza Punta[1]”,是皮佐梦想之帆的船头。从那个礁石之上的点,太阳自地平线向大海铺就了一条银毯,梦想就在上面自由航行。就是在那个海角隆起的地方,你可以在每个傍晚眯起眼睛观察落日。从那里,你能看到海岸线在海浪中间蜿蜒。远处,包含一座活火山的斯特龙博利岛(Stromboli[2])周期性地喷出一股股的烟。云彩在这里呈现出富有创意的映像及反射,与将逝的日光惺惺相惜。也就是在这个地点,你会思考下一天会带来什么,下一天的下一天会是什么样子。



那天下午,当我回到Chiazza广场时,也就是在那里,我发现了马尔凯塞。他以极有个人特色的姿势坐在那里,手交叉置于手杖的柄上,下巴靠在手上。他的手绢没有作为装饰品放在亚麻外套的前兜,而是握在他的左手里。我靠近他的时候发现他的眼睛看上去湿湿的,于是我问道,“Tutto bene[3]?”

他用手绢擦了下右眼,笑了笑,再次扫了一眼天际,只是说,“上了年纪难免发癫!我们走吧!你父亲和其他人在这儿有一阵子了,正在等你。我们去猫吧。”说着,忘了用手杖敲打我的肩膀,他抓起我的左臂,就势把自己从长凳上拉起来。相互挽着手臂,我们在严肃的翁贝托一世(Re Umberto Primo[4])半身雕像监督下,向在tavolino餐桌旁的朋友们走过去。翁贝托一世正是传说中“长胡子的男人”的灵感来源。在我们去Chiazza广场中央的时候,马尔凯塞从他突然的伤感中恢复过来,对行人尊敬的致意,报以一如既往的神秘微笑


教授已经迫不及待要继续讲故事了。“Buona sera, buona sera cari signori miei [5]”他跟马尔凯塞和我打个招呼。“坐下来享受一下这个凉爽的夜晚!一杯内格罗尼鸡尾酒给少爷,一杯咖啡酒给我们的马尔凯塞。” 各种暖场之后,我们都坐下来等着聆听故事。



“那是亚历山大第一次的性经历… ”





表姐二十出头,中等身材,她还是小女孩的时候就遭到父母的无故遗弃,然后被这个家族收养。她穿着的浅色衬衫很透,其间隐约可见。她的胸部很细小,但很有形态,尤其是大多情况下她都不戴胸罩。她的身材很吸引:小巧雅致。走路来像芭蕾舞演员,转头却不转身,手部轻柔摆动,如同飘浮在池塘上的水莲花。她一头黑褐色的头发,经常以一束花,甚至是从地上捡起的小树枝作为头饰。她深褐色的皮肤看起来像铜造般,微笑着的碧蓝色眼睛不知为何总是同时闪烁着惊讶和调皮。她态度温柔,怜惜穷苦病弱之人,关心村里的傻子、植物以及那些她称为“Orfanelli[6] ”的流浪动物。亚历山大还记得十年前当他只有四岁,而她大概十多岁的时候,她为一只死于食物中毒的小猫而哭泣。当阿喀琉斯调侃她过于软弱时,她拿手绢砸他,然后带着亚历山大把这个可怜的小东西埋到露台的一个大罐里,让那里的柠檬树为它提供长眠的避难所。












         “她确实是个人物!她很少过来忏悔,但一旦忏悔,就能让Addolorata[7]也哭起来!” 唐·皮诺说。


“我经常会想,她的故事是否真有其事,还是她想编造了一些故事来考验或是挑战我。” 唐·皮诺继续说,“老实说,她好几次都达到目的了!”


















































我意识到自己处于求助无门的处境,没有任何盟友,即使是我为了时髦的反叛可以寻求庇护的卡尔梅洛·纳蒂也没站在我这边——推断出无论如何,我也不会有耐心玩宾戈游戏。为了避免亚历山大式的难题,我接受了历史教训。我让步说道:“好吧,爸爸。请告诉李奥纳多先生(Signor Leonardo)我明天早上八点会去那儿。”




















[1] 直译为“皮佐的尖顶”

[2] 在第勒尼安海的一处小岛,位于西西里北部海岸,包括意大利三座活火山之一。

[3] 一切还好吧?

[4] 翁贝托国王一世(King Umberto I)从1878年至1900年统治意大利,后在接近米兰的蒙扎(Monza)被一位意大利美国混血的无政府主义者暗杀。他典型的特征是留有明显的胡子。

[5] 晚上好哇,晚上好哇,亲爱的绅士们!

[6] 小孤儿

[7] 七苦圣母。圣母玛利亚的代表,身着黑色,哀悼基督之死。其雕像位于皮佐圣乔治大教堂的右侧。

[8] 维博(Vibo),距离皮佐很近的镇,地区高中所在地。

[9] 意大利北方人对南方人的带有贬低的表达,意为“那些在田里劳作灰头土脸的人”。

[10] 小前菜

[11] 直译为“老鼠“,但实际上这是当地称呼一种可口的鱼的说法,此鱼捕于皮佐岸上,其特征是鼓出锋利的牙齿,很像老鼠的牙齿。

[12] 意大利南部风俗,在大斋节期间以白色布帘装饰十字架。










iii. 皮佐的智者 Alessandro comes of age – 亚历山大的成年

Here is Chapter 3 of “The wise men of Pizzo” mandarin version: “Alessandro comes of age

Here is the index with links to the chapters:

I.  The Chiazza 广场
II.  亚历山大的故事
III.  亚历山大的成年
IV.  幕后生活
V.  三个强盗, 一场刀战, 以及一起谋杀
VI. 祖母之死
VII.  蒙特卡洛之旅
VIII.  一个爱情故事
IX.  尾声

Pizzo with snow January 2020

Rare snow in Pizzo – Photo by Matteo Betro’, Winder of 2020


  1. 亚历山大的成年

        故事到现在碰到了一个非常微妙的话题,我要请读者们保密,克制住不要越过这几页把秘密透露出去。在餐桌旁,跟现在已经很熟悉的一群人坐在一起的是唐·皮诺(Don Pino)——他是皮佐镇圣乔治(San Giorgio[1])教堂的il Sacerdote[2],即是在镇上每日敲钟提醒时间的教堂牧师。我之所以如此小心翼翼,是因为一向不屈从的唐·皮诺作为皮佐最顶级的教士参与了这个进行消费享受的世俗场合。事实上,他从不屈服于诱惑,别说那些他出于好意而不得不跟人群接触的场合,就连被尊贵的马尔凯塞一而再、再而三noblesse oblige[3]的场合他也从不屈服。于是,根据里加医生以身作则教育民众应该在物质世界里避免什么的努力原则,唐·皮诺也以他的方式努力描述精神世界,以及包含了懊悔、愧疚、救赎的天主教所显示的仁慈一面——无论犯下的罪本质是什么,有几桩。

这并不是说唐·皮诺是一个坏牧师。事实上,他正是皮佐——一个无法容忍盲目沙文主义者的城镇所需要的:一个对于所有可以想象的罪恶都能感到同情的可信者。据称唐·皮诺对大多数罪恶都有第一手的经验(但不是每个人都敢在这个事儿上质询他)。这个城镇需要的是一个很早就受洗,却又在不可避免的情况下结婚的牧师,为那些离开皮佐再也不回来的人提供安慰和希望。在他看来,死亡不是终结,而是更好生活的开始。当然,前提是在离开之前与全能上帝解决妥当潜在的冲突。“Dio perdona tante cose per un atto di misericordia” – 出于仁慈,上帝宽恕了很多事情–他会提醒忏悔者,从小说《约婚夫妇》(Betrothed)那里转述其中人物露西亚(Lucia Mondella)的话,暗示即使是对圣乔治最少的捐赠都足够偿还一生未必满足上帝要求的努力,从而进入天国。



唐·皮诺判定律师代表了这群人中最没有自信的那个。出于典型的慈善心,他决定展现自己的同情和忠诚,给自己点了一杯茴香酒来迎合邻座的这位。同时,唐·皮诺的出现也在安其罗·贝尔韦代雷(Angelo Belvedere)心里激发不安的预感,他想到自己有一天也会终结,尤其是沉溺于吸烟喝酒将加快这一进程。为了拉拢这位天堂谈判者大师,贝尔韦代雷先生自己做主,送来冰激凌三明治,包括切成两半的奶油蛋糕、装满自家做的香草冰激凌,此外还有脆饼以及抹了pasta di mandorla[4]的蛋糕。这些相应地迫使唐·皮诺两根手指戳到脖子后面,松开白色塑料衣领取下来,如此才能让食物因着重力作用顺利通过他的食道,而不是被牧师那像鸬鹚[5]一般的传统着装限制住。为了更好地让食物前往终点站,唐·皮诺又点了一杯茴香酒,接着是加入果渣白兰地的浓咖啡。依照他的所谓愚见,茴香酒的美味跟咖啡的苦并不配。“咖啡里的果渣白兰地,就像是用玛利亚的眼泪稀释耶稣受难之苦,”他会这样说,使得在座的听众对这一原本充满亵渎意味的想象突然变成了带有诗意的描绘一脸敬畏,他自己则一脸严肃地继续咀嚼运动。





“所以意大利人的默认设置就是基督徒,”律师说,“因为他们大部分时间都预先设定了最重要的事情,基督教——包括一切圣礼是确保他们的母亲和妻子忙碌的灵丹妙药。我们这一代人只是被动地吃盘子上盛给你的东西,我的结论是‘ 宗教选择’是偶然事件。不要试着说服我,宗教偏好依照地理和种族只是个巧合。断言世界上每个种族的每个个体在考虑所有选项之后达成了某种共识的话,那简直是荒唐!”






“在我看来,佛教可以总结成‘ 放轻松!’一种苦行僧版本的百忧解(一种治疗精神抑郁的药)”里加医生补充说。









教授又看了马尔凯塞一眼寻求鼓励,开始说,“我很确定你们都记得唐娜·乔凡娜(Donna Giovanna)…”












        关于亚历山大温顺的性格,其实还有另外一个颇有代表性的故事,这个故事直接来自他的日记。祖母定了很多规则,其中一条尤其坚不可摧:在contrura 小憩期间必须保持绝对安静。无论炎暑酷寒,孩子们都必须衣着整齐地在餐桌旁吃饭。如果他们刚刚从海滩回来,还需要先洗一个澡。祖母对着装的要求是:刚刚熨好和上过浆的衬衫。孩子们都要行为端正,腿放在桌子底下,手置于桌上,但不能放手肘,咀嚼时不能发出声响。在家庭聚餐之后,孩子们要回到各自的房间,换下衣服,躺下直到“对抗时间的时间”结束。



自六岁被这个家族收养开始,莎拉就跟他们在一起。最初,她是亚历山大父亲的保姆,接着又成了两个孩子的保姆。随着时间的流逝,她在家庭中的地位也越来越高,到达了类似现今社会“祖母的行政助理”的高度。这个角色的重要职责之一,就是坚决忠诚地管理执行家族日常事务。她尤其适合为具有支配人格的祖母工作。多年来,她已经能够毫不迟疑地接受来自唐娜·乔凡娜的任何指令或指导。她只要消化理解指令之后,就会坚持到底,仿佛这一切都来自她之手。她执行起来就像是单方向的线程:鱼儿从嘴里吞进水,然后通过鳃排出去,一气呵成,自然简单。身着仆人的典型红黑长袍,莎拉头顶盘着圆髻,走起来摇摇晃晃。从远处看,当她反手背到身后时,会放在不对称的臀部。她一只手拿着木勺,仿佛是君主的权杖,要求服从。她管这个叫“la ragione[8]”,是对付恶作剧的戒尺。


当阿喀琉斯对当前弟弟的困境一无所知、无法施以援手时,亚历山大出现在卡尔梅洛·纳蒂(Carmelo Natti)的家门口。纳蒂先生是皮佐的电工,跟亚历山大家的关系就如同西乔·佩尔科科与我们家的关系,这也很有可能与亚历山大祖父的出轨故事有关。亚历山大怀揣王者风范通知纳蒂先生说他发起了反对唐娜·乔凡娜的叛乱。亚历山大计划搬到纳蒂先生家,因为他相信后者是个体面人,能够为他提供逃离祖母暴君的避难所。卡尔梅洛·纳蒂意识到要谨慎地接待这位叛乱分子,如果放任不管,也许他会图谋更愚蠢的计划。因此,他允许亚历山大在自己家里建立暴乱总部。他家里有忠诚的妻子和两个女儿——其中比较大的那个叫玛鲁西亚(Mariuccia),比亚历山大大一岁,非常漂亮。他家还有一条小杂种狗。




唐娜无法从已经离世的亡夫画像寻求到任何帮助——她几十年前就对此了然。她不得不独自应对眼下孙子的造反。她调整回以往的步频,刚好看到莎拉和纳蒂先生,后者紧张地单手持帽,并把帽转到另一只手上。他刚要开口讲话,“Baciamo le mani[9],唐娜·乔凡娜,”她打断了他说,“Un uomo coi baffi[10]告诉我,他去烦你了!”












她一边讲着,一边反复列举之前在类似情形下听到的例子,然而亚历山大的决心丝毫没有动摇。再一次地,他摸着莎拉的肩膀,轻轻捏了捏,一脸宽慰地笑着对她说,“别担心。Il Diavolo non é brutto come lo si dipinge[12]。唐娜·乔凡娜没有他们说的那么坏。一切都会好的。就原原本本把我这句话捎给她。”无奈,莎拉背过双手放到臀部,快速摇晃着返回,将这一失败的信息传递给她之前战无不胜的总指挥官那里。


与此同时,在“联盟国”总部,唐娜·乔凡娜正准备宽宏大量地伸开臂膀,迎接浪子孙子的回归。她不断地演习这一场景,在祖先的大厅走来走去,闻了下胡椒粉[13]自我镇定,仪态端庄地坐在带有家族徽章的皮质扶手椅上。但当她听说莎拉回来之后,她放下一切,迅速跑到门口。唐娜·乔凡娜发现亚历山大没有跟莎拉回家,内心所产生的骚动无法用文字形容——即使这些文字是出自包括荷马、维吉尔和但丁在内的专家团,或者是出自莎士比亚、杜思妥耶夫斯基、契诃夫、海明威或斯坦贝克等世界一流文学家之手也是徒然。因此,我打算绕道而行,简要描述唐娜·乔凡娜在床上休息的写实肖像。窗帘紧闭,一块浸有醋的布置于前额,她像一只怀孕的母牛那样呻吟,抱怨自己犯了最可怕的头疼。对于这位被击败的女王来说,唯一安慰的是莎拉以所有家族祖先的灵魂担保,亚历山大在纳蒂那里被照顾得很好。唐娜·乔凡娜听到这里呜咽着说,“Bonu, Bonu[14]”,然后又开始呻吟。




























[1] 皮佐大教堂,坐落于我屋前,以若阿尚·缪拉坟墓所在地而知名(关于缪拉,后边我们会听到更多)

[2] 牧师,首席牧师

[3] 法语,直译为“优雅的迫使”

[4] 杏仁酱

[5] 一种在中国、日本和希腊被渔民使用了多个世纪的鸟。该鸟的脖子底部会放置套子,只被允许吞食小鱼。当大鱼被吞下的时候,会被卡在脖颈处,使得该鸟回到渔夫的船上,渔夫松开套子使其解脱,然后将大鱼卖往市场。

[6] 西尔维奥·贝卢斯科尼(Silvio Berlusconi),意大利首相,在位九年,是历史上在位时间最长的意大利首相(1994-1995, 2001-2006, and 2008-2011)。他的生活充满了与其他女性的各种桃色丑闻

[7] 船坞。位于小镇下面,沿着海岸的最初渔民的住处,包括酒吧、餐馆和夜生活等区域。

[8] 口语,意为“正确“。

[9] 尊敬的表达方式,直译为“吻手”。

[10] “长胡子的男人”:皮佐民间故事里的神话人物,所有的年轻人都惧怕他,因为人们看不到他,他到处逡巡,打听所有的事情,向尊敬的祖母报告任何调皮的活动行为。

[11] 称谓,用于称呼意大利国会成员。

[12] 魔鬼没有他们描绘的那么可怕。出自意大利作家亚历山德罗·曼佐尼(Alessandro Manzoni)的《约婚夫妇》(The Betrothed)第三章。

[13] 旧时用来嗅闻,以刺激触感,防止晕倒的咒法。

[14] 好吧,好吧

[15] 罗伯斯皮尔(Robespierre),法国大革命期间的英雄,最后被送上断头台。



ii. 皮佐的智者- The story of Alessandro 亚历山大的故事

Here comes chapter 2 of the “Wise men of Pizzo” in Mandarin: “The story of Alessandro

Here is the index with links to the chapters:

I.  The Chiazza 广场
II.  亚历山大的故事
III.  亚历山大的成年
IV.  幕后生活
V.  三个强盗, 一场刀战, 以及一起谋杀
VI. 祖母之死
VII.  蒙特卡洛之旅
VIII.  一个爱情故事
IX.  尾声

Pizzo La Dolce Vita

“La  Dolce Vita” at the Angitola – Photo by F. Marincola  July 2018

  1. 亚历山大的故事














他有一次跟我说:“对于女人来说只有两种男人:猎人和情人。猎人将女人看作战利品,在各个女人中穿梭,像西部牛仔在他们的左轮手枪上贴标签,吹嘘他们杀的每个印第安人一样,或是相反像印第安人收藏牛仔的头皮一样。另一方面,情人则希望取悦女人,仿佛她是他们的母亲,仍然记得她温暖舒适的胸。他们需要爱抚和认可。我两者都不是。我甚至不确定为什么要做这些;也许是好奇?如果我已经不想闻这朵新的鲜花,我能从中学到什么呢?我们需要练习才能保持自己的技能!但现实是,我得不到任何满足,也没有任何欢愉。这只不过是还在活着的片刻刺激,以及暂时从命运赋予我的责任中豁免而已。我做这些,仿佛是因为他人对我的期待,而且这是我能够做得很好的几件事之一… 在这方面我有很好的训练。”然后,他告诉我他表姐的故事,读者们从之前机打的笔记中已经熟悉了这一段。不过,他当时并没有提到她不幸的结局,他只是简单地说:“我在想她发生了什么。”但是,从他的语气中,我能察觉到他的痛苦,一种在他谈及其他女人时从未出现过的脆弱情感。

他继续,“我已经不再听女人们的奉承。女人们看我时看到的那个男人跟真正的我是完全不同的人。从表面上看,他看起来像我,但在他内里,她们看到的不过是任何符合她们幻想的魅力王子形象,他们在现实中根本不存在。那些女人爱我,直到她们了解我为止。但即使她们最终会意识到我根本空无一物…”,他指向心脏,“…她们仍然希望继续救赎我,仿佛她们是不能放弃拯救米迪亚·卡拉马佐夫(Mitya Karamazov[1])的卡捷琳娜·伊万诺夫娜(Katarina Ivanovna)一样。可是跟陀思妥耶夫斯基塑造的人物相反,我没有心。”








但是亚历山大再也不能忍受他自己的谎言了。他会测试我,“想象一下你在《危险边缘》游戏里…现在,价值1亿里拉[5]的问题!‘先生, 上帝是否存在?’奖金成败在此一举,你会怎么猜?”然后他会回答自己:“我肯定会猜,上帝根本不存在。我不想失去钱!但是我们永远都无法得到真相。我们可以像光速一般前行,射向空中,但是从现在直到我们死去,我们也不能超出我们宇宙中的邻居。我们一旦出生,就注定活在这个监牢里。我们,都因为罪恶而存在。”他会这样得出结论。正如我们将从他的笔记中看到,他对悲观主义有更深的根源,而这一点他从没有跟我分享过。



接受了这个听上去别别扭扭的鼓励,亚历山大拥抱了父亲,然后是母亲,之后他把包放到车的后备箱里离开。在车里,他承认道,“我不知道要做什么。他们希望我成为律师或是医生,也许做他们希望我做的是最好的方案,但是某种意义上来说,这是我一生中都在做的事情。当我开始接受一件事之后,这件事就会导致另外一件事的发生,然后是下一件事。我没有任何资源对抗,因为让我接受第一件事所出现的错误逻辑,会同样发生在第二件事上。一点点地,我的脚步越来越沉重,天空看起来越来越远,我意识到自己已经习惯于呼吸因为自己的决定,或是缺乏决定而导致的污浊空气。可是,随着时间的流逝,我已经陷入到预先设定的生活里,想要飞升变得越来越难,陷入旋涡里面变得越来越容易。我已经不再期待一个更美好的未来。有人说‘未来的大多数都在前方等待’, 但对我来说,过去的日子里,未来只不过是唤起了过去:好的但更多是坏的时光,成就和失败,努力寻找那些我无法清晰表述的问题的答案,结果我只是继续腐蚀自己的灵魂。这些反思是自私的魔鬼,从我的血管里吸走任何可能的幸福。但现在是时候了,我要忘记过去,继续向前。”





当我接近餐桌的时候,我的父亲显然已经等了很久,他急切地打开Corriere della Sera[9]报纸,翻到第三页,上有一篇讲述了一个意大利美国人发现癌症治疗方法的长文章。我马上就知道这不过是假信息,并澄清这一重大突破适用范围有限——有幸得益的大概是另外一些哺乳动物。对于不是老鼠的我们来说,最重要的还是要保持耐心。我多年致力于研究癌症,所以在这个问题上有自信解释清楚,不过我的清晰评论还是激发了律师的长篇大论。作为一位镇上退休的律师,他下意识地想使用自己的辩证法技能。毕竟退休之后,他面对相关听众的机会并不多。他一只手握着第一杯茴香酒举过头顶,另一只手的中指和食指里夹着香烟,他开始发表声明,说在美国有很多成功的科学家获得极为尊贵的大奖,研究也是世界领先,但他并没看到结果。“这使我想起两个葡萄酒商带着十瓶珍稀酒去市场的故事…”


“那是炎热的一天”,律师继续,“他们走在去市场的路上,其中一人说道,‘我说,你觉得我们喝掉一瓶酒怎么样?’他朋友提醒他,他们酿酒是为了盈利,他不希望免费给出去。第一个葡萄酒商回复说,‘那我们要卖多少钱呢?’‘ 1欧元’,另一个这样回复说。‘我刚好有1欧元,给我一瓶,把钱拿去。’第二个酒商觉得这个逻辑无懈可击,很满意地接受了交易。然后他们继续走。当他们在烈日下走的时候,第二个酒商也意识到自己想要尽快喝到冷的带味儿的液体,以驱散炎热以及路途的无聊。考虑到好生意需要公平交易,他把这1欧元还给了朋友,换了一瓶酒。据说,酒其实不是很好的解渴之物,一瓶空了,需要另外一瓶来确保达到效果。等到这对朋友到了市场,他们一瓶酒也没有了,只剩下1欧元。”

正当我们纠结如何在简明而又有意义的争论中融入智慧的时候,律师帮助了我们,“其实都是一样的,在我看来,所有这些所谓的‘ 学者’都在沾沾自喜地生存,互相交换奖项,互相拍拍肩膀鼓励自称取得的成就,却忽视了证实他们是否真正做出任何有益的事情,以及对于那些支持他们沉溺于自我消遣的人究竟产生什么实在的回报。”

马尔凯塞耐心地等待故事的结束,冲贝尔韦代雷先生挥挥雨伞,说,“能给我们来两杯latte di mandorla[10]吗?一杯给我,一杯给朱塞佩少爷。多谢!”转向我,他补充说,“我打赌你肯定忘了它的味道。”











但在皮佐购物一点儿也不一样。首先,我走进皮佐的任何一家商店,我不是人群中的一员,而是会被尊称,从朱塞佩少爷到Signor Dottore[12],或是教授先生,根据跟我打招呼的人的社会地位而定。我想着如果一个更低的角色存在的话,我还能有什么更高的尊称。对于一些不解或是不明事理的顾客,为了证实遵从这种称呼的无可辩驳的原因,店主会宣称:“他是唐·保罗的儿子!”如此这般平息任何残存的争议。不管看起来如何,这并不是奉承,更多的是对于远距离外来事物的真诚欣赏,而这,只有通过表达深深的崇敬才能间接传达。






[1] 出自陀思妥耶夫斯基小说《卡拉马佐夫兄弟》

[2] 支架屋


[4] 巴克斯,掌管葡萄丰收、酿酒和葡萄酒的希腊神


[6] 米兰,意大利北部的大城市

[7] 意大利语,意为简餐。

[8] 意大利语,意为律师。

[9] 来自米兰的日报名,但流行于整个意大利。

[10] 杏仁牛奶,南部特色饮品,包括压榨的杏仁汁和糖,看起来像牛奶,但喝起来更像是其来源的坚果味道。

[11] 方言表达,用于形容毛毛雨。

[12] 意大利语,指医生。




皮佐的智者 i. The Chiazza广场

Here is chapter 1 of “The wise men of Pizzo” – The Chiazza 广场

Here is the index with links to the chapters:

I.  The Chiazza 广场
II.  亚历山大的故事
III.  亚历山大的成年
IV.  幕后生活
V.  三个强盗, 一场刀战, 以及一起谋杀
VI. 祖母之死
VII.  蒙特卡洛之旅
VIII.  一个爱情故事
IX.  尾声

Pizzo Bar Ercole

Bar Ercole at “La Chiazza” – Photo by F. Marincola – July 2018



i. The Chiazza广场

皮佐(Pizzo)是坐落在第勒尼安(Tyrrhenian)海岸礁石上的一座小镇。它的古称为Napitia,来源于一位领袖的名字福塞西·纳佩托(Focesi Napeto),他在公元前十二世纪创建了这个城镇。因此,这里的居民也被称为Pizzitani或Napitini,选择哪种称呼取决于人们的教育水平、情绪、倾向以及对话者的习性。在意大利语中,有时甚至称皮佐(Pizzo)为“ridente”,字面意思为“微笑”。的确,在晴朗的日子,从远处看向这个镇子,并且加上足够的想象力,你就能看到那些不规则的房屋建筑重重叠叠所勾勒出的微笑,场面就如同耶稣诞生的情景一样。不过观察者切不可因而对这里居民产生错误的印象,因为皮佐的微笑和眼泪、幸福和悲伤都是对半的,如同意大利以及世界上的其他小镇一样。
突然间,一个手提gozza 在喷泉处取水的女人出现在小广场(chiazzetta)中央,紧随她的是村里那个不能讲话也听不见的傻子。当女人弯下腰取水时,他极为猥琐地摸了她;女人转身,扇了他的脸。他冲天空举起手,似乎想要抓取一个不能说出的词语,另一只手则捂住了仍觉灼热的脸。再一次地,小广场恢复了平静。这些具有相似性质的事件一度占据了我们访客的注意力,直到无聊再次袭来,他决定要做一开始就该做的事情:上床,等待睡眠仁慈地到来。
…一阵门铃突然把我惊醒。现在仍是白天,虽然也已将晚。一阵愉悦凉爽的微风吹开窗帘,温柔地抚过我的肌肤。我等着有人开门,但没有——他们一定是都出去了。又一阵拉长的、粗暴的、侮慢甚至带有侮辱性的铃声再次响起,迫使我不得不下床。我心不在焉地拖着脚步走向门禁,没有询问来者何人便按了可以打开楼下大门的键。一阵窸窸窣窣,有人上了楼梯,是西乔·佩尔科科(Ciccio Percuoco)——我们家的一个老熟人出现了。因为他看上去跟我们家的一些成员有很不寻常的相似性,于是有人戳戳点点说他的存在和我们的家庭之间有些不清不楚的关系,很大程度上也因为我的祖父经常有些可以理解的出轨行为,这在他那个年代也不是什么稀罕事。我们每次在城里的时候,西乔都是会前来照顾我们的忠实仆人。
“我们亲吻您的手,尊敬的朱塞佩(Signorino Giuseppe)少爷。您父亲在Chiazza广场等您。”
Chiazza 广场可以说是皮佐的客厅,非常古老,来源不明。一方面,它延展出通往小镇所有边界的道路,另一方面,它终止于一处类似舞台的开阔地,择西而居,面朝大海。日复一日,太阳以千变万化的日落,来致敬皮佐人(Napitini)。Chiazza广场不会同意访客们,包括我在内的所谓皮佐无大事的观点,说什么这块土地的本质就是无聊。现在皮佐的居民,已经过了cuntrura 的戒严时间,他们突然出现,一切又忙碌喧闹起来。这都给人一种这样的印象:无论他们的生意看上去对于外来人来说有多么不相干,对他们来说却是顶顶重要。
然后是萨利诺(Sarino)叔叔的店。店里售卖布满尘土、仿佛考古挖掘出的不知名玩意儿。萨利诺叔叔坐在门口那把摇摇晃晃、极为危险的麦秆椅子上,就像那些老辈人一样。店里没有子孙,首先,是因为他没有孩子,其次,店里也不需要其他人,因为没人进来买东西。没人跟他讲话的时候,他就从这个令人沮丧的“主教席”处观察Chiazza广场。从这个位置看过去,他发现过去的60年并没什么大变化。他透明的蓝眼睛显得极为顺从,像是一只终生困于牢笼的动物的眼睛。对他来说,过度的探索并无意义,这个充满过时记忆和错失机会的虚拟的封闭空间已经足够。我问他:“一切还好吧?”(Come va ?)抚摸着在自己脚边玩耍的小a男孩(这孩子或许会让他想起半个世纪前失去的儿子)的黑发,他微微一笑,机械地回答,“Accussi”,也即“未经测量的标准”,意思是“还成,还成”。但人们很难辨认出他的声音,因为楼上露台突然放起很大声的音乐,此外,还有汽车喇叭声,销售员的叫卖声,城里人日渐高亢的聊天声。左边来了一个女人,平衡着头顶上的鸡蛋篮,右边来了一个卖水牛奶酪(buffalo mozzarella)的男孩。有人说,这是黑手党控制的生意。不过,这镇上有什么不是这样的呢?
还有很多我不准备进一步细想的事情在Chiazza广场发生过,通常那时太阳让渡出在白天毋庸置疑的控制权,让凉爽的海风重新掌管,并将这个沉睡的小城变为具有大都市野心的熙熙攘攘的场所。此时只有猫保持既有的风度,继续在cuntrura期间逗留的地方打哈欠小憩。就是在这样的骚动里,我重返往事。而我,还要去见父亲(paterfamilias )呢。这些真实生活的闪回只能像素描一样来追溯,因为它们在我的记忆中零碎地分布着,像是脏墙上的涂鸦一般。在这样的闪回里,我匆匆走向目的地:“猫”(Gatto )吧。
在这个特定时刻,我应该跟全然不知的读者交代一个事实:去猫吧不是件寻常事。这是值得洗礼的经验,因为猫吧不仅是一个酒吧,它还是个圣坛,其定位可提升到与神圣场所同列,根据各自不同的信仰,这猫吧相当于帕提农神殿(Parthenon)、密涅瓦神庙(Temple of Minerva)、圣彼得大教堂(St. Peter)、麦加(Mecca)或是泰姬陵(the Taj Mahal)。对于不知情的游客来说,猫吧或许只是一个冰激凌店,售卖经典的冰激凌如黑松露或是白松露(Tartufo )、西西里冰激凌(Cassata Siciliana )、以店主命名的贝尔韦代雷蛋糕(Torta Belvedere )等,并与煎饼及冰镇的圣培露牌(San Pellegrino)矿泉水等一同供应的地方。但对于本地人以及像我一样的跟他们有关系的人并不这样认为。在猫吧,日常生活都能被讨论,并被提升成概念,之后甚至组装成广义的哲学,经过反刍消化后转变成建议,提供给那些可能在生存边缘游走的假想中的受益者。当我接近父亲和他的朋友围坐的tavolino 桌时,我知道,我将要,不管是否愿意,学到一些道理——即使从《赫基默必备手册》(Herkimer’s handbook of indispensable information )中汲取知识精华的普拉特先生(Mr.Pratt)也无法想象的那种。
在tavolini桌旁站立的是“猫”先生本人,或为了历史准确性,贝尔韦代雷先生(Sig. Belvedere)父子都是gelatai 手艺人的一种名称表达。他们的家谱根系简直像地中海的无底洞,已不可考。几十年来,他们每个人都被称为“Gatto”(也即“猫”),原因不明。猫先生的耳朵垂着,像猎犬的那样,而不像猫耳那样直立,不过创造了文艺复兴的意大利人善于巧思妙想,会将他眯起来的眼睛,视为与日光下照射的猫眼相似。贝尔韦代雷先生不留胡须。或许,跟这一称号相符的更为显著的特征是他的姿势。如同猫一样,他不知疲倦地审查Chiazza广场,看上去像是随时要对潜在的顾客进行突袭,叼住他们的脖颈到第一张空着的tavolino桌。
“Volaru acei” 是他的回答,因为猫先生对客人上桌率从来都不满意,即使因为拥挤的Chiazza广场没有空地儿,客人几乎要上下摞起来也不行。“鸟都飞走了!”是这句话的翻译,意味着鸟儿在八月底要遵循祖先的迁徙模式,就如同我到来的那天所发生的那样,夏季的住客开始返回他们的都市,或是根据他的夸张表达,他们都已彻底消失了。伴随季节周期的摧毁性事件会带来经营的窘境,为了表达对他的深切同情,我说:“好吧,我希望下一季尽快到来!”或是类似的严肃态度。
唐·保罗(Don Paolo)坐在那里,向后倚靠在塑料扶手椅上,交叉着腿,一只手托着下巴,另一只手懒洋洋地敲着tavolino桌:那是我父亲。旁边是他的兄弟,唐·朱斯托(Don Giusto),几乎有着跟我父亲对称的姿势。他也是向后倚靠着,正对着父亲的腿和手不经意地做着一样的动作,就像是镜子创造的视觉效果一样。一个穿着白衣的男人坐在他俩前面。他是马尔凯塞(il Marchese),人称“侯爵夫人”,这称号不仅是因为他的出生背景已不可考,还因为他的优雅着装:他夏天穿白色亚麻,冬天则配有领结及手杖,身穿黑灰羊绒西服。他总是在cuntrura之后,伴随着有规律的教堂钟声,极为雅致地出现在Chiazza广场。日复一日,天知道,得有好几十年了。他极为贵族风范地分配自己出现的地点,前往不同的酒吧,他的陪伴使得酒吧的其他顾客也熠熠生辉,使听众备受尊重,活跃谈话气氛,因此他将这个因出生权而赋予的称号提升为一种正统荣耀的职业。在他旁边坐着的是“教授”唐·西乔(Don Ciccio),他是一名退休的学校校长,他自称自己是古典文学学者。据说,他写了也发表了一篇名为《Calabria 的希腊人住所》的论文,就我所知,没人读过,也没人看到过。跟这四位有一点距离,但仍属于这个群体的是安东尼奥师傅(Mastro Antonio),他经营木工生意。他是唯一一位只代表行业,而不是职业,或是出生等级的人。他可以说是坐在tavolino桌旁资格最轻的一位,但是,就像是点缀皮佐生活的诸多不一致性一样,这也没什么明确的解释,至少不值得探究。
我到了之后,马尔凯塞第一个站起来。他左手扶住我的右肩,用手杖的象牙把手拍了下左肩,在我脸颊两边亲吻后说道:“Onorato, onoratissimo ”安其罗的儿子过来,调整tavolino桌,以便新增的客人能坐下。这一礼仪确保每个人围绕tavolini桌都能有平衡的坐席,包括直觉上需要保持一定距离的安东尼奥师傅。
就在那时,里加医生(Dr. Riga)出现了。他是个胖乎乎的老人,站在那里像是代谢综合症的活证明。这个镇上的基层保健医生,既吸烟又喝酒,可能想着通过亲身示范来教育病人,拒绝有害行为。他止不住地嘟嘟囔囔、哼哼唧唧,偶尔停下来穿插一些词语,绝少整句。他以抱持左翼政治观点著称:他是一个共产主义分子。像所有的那时参与意大利政治格局的共产主义分子、法西斯分子、其他“…分子”和喊冤者一样,他们存在的原因(rason d’etre)更多是为了对话的目的,或者更准确地说,激怒那些持有温和观点的人。事实上,他们中没有人会幻想自己名义上声称相信的这些观点会与那些在政府中代表他们的人保持一致,相应产生任何实质的行为或真实的变化。
带着有些讥讽的微笑,里加医生问我:“Che si dice in America? ”我嗫嚅着,正要考虑如何回答才能代表55个州3亿多美国人的心声。我的叔叔,不像我父亲那般总是政治左倾并且总是喜欢激怒我,过来帮忙:“美国总是做得很好,他们更实际,不像我们这样总是浪费时间聊天。人家只关心自己的事儿!” 虽然这话不无嘲讽,但是我还是很感激叔叔替我圆场。我像儿时一样坐在亲戚中间,他们保护我,使我能够逃避更多的审问。
当我再次被堵到一角,试图想出一个条理清晰的回答,安其罗,未经询问就为带来了我常喝的内格罗尼(Negroni )鸡尾酒,以及橄榄和薯片,为我解了围。“双份的杜松子酒给少爷!我们希望他经常过来!”
就在我任由对话被那些Aeolus 一般的头脑带着离岸漂浮的时候,我注意到教授手里握着一个笔记本。笔记本以黑皮装订,上有英文金色题字,“致我最亲爱的自己”。我情不自禁地询问这是什么。
“ 我当然认识他!”我大叫。“我能看看这本书吗?”
“ 当然,你可以把它带走。我想知道你的想法。”
那天晚上我打电话回家,我试图让自己听上去条理清晰,但其实我听上去更像是心不在焉。我以一种创新的方式,再一次惹恼了我的妻子。我为我俩感到遗憾,原因并不是为了我俩的核心问题,而是因为遥远的距离让我无法聚焦在这些问题上。我为自己如此的冷漠而懊恼,为自己的品格被一种自闭症般的无能玷污,以至无法在电话口头表达共情而悔恨。正当我看着变得沉默的电话,教堂钟声如约敲响。我关上了Kindle、 iPad和其他电子设备,将书码齐放在床边桌上,然后躺下来。


相对于亚历山大而言,他的哥哥阿喀琉斯知道的更多。亚历山大四岁时,阿喀琉斯告诉他耶稣宝宝(Gesú Bambino )并不存在,并在圣诞节之前给他看父母藏在柜子里的礼物来证明。从那时起,被父母和圣诞老人背叛的他再也不相信无法被证明的事物。在很长一段时间里,他也因自己缺乏信仰而责怪阿喀琉斯。在桌上,他从不靠着哥哥坐。这两个兄弟有好些表兄弟姐妹,在家庭中共享财富。有个年龄大的孩子在年纪轻的孩子们中间有着特别的名声。据说她天生会教导,处在发育期的表兄弟们都很欣赏她的教学。她声称为种马进行过性教育,并在一对一课程中进行实际操作演示。很多孩子都经受了这样的教育,并无怨言。作为一个青少年,亚历山大对她的崇拜就像是对大学教授的崇拜那般。她对他一直很好,但又有点距离,她以自己的身体进行鼓励,但她的灵魂却无从探索。当轮到他来进行培训的时候,他没说过不。最开始自然是没经验,但他虔诚地汲取来自她知识的每一滴甘泉。由于他是个勤勉的学生,没过多久就能结合学习实践,进入超纲的领域。即使多年过去,他仍然将她视为尴尬和尊重的混合体,就像是见证他拼写苦恼的一年级老师。当他们在Chiazza广场偶遇时,她对过去表现得自然美好,仿佛什么都没发生过一样。最终,她犯了一个错误:冲动地结婚了。但是,如同你可以想到的,她很快背叛了自己的丈夫。发现了实情之后,这个头脑简单的男人自杀了。于是她带着孩子和家具,从这个愤怒的城镇离开了。或许有人知道她去了哪里,发生了什么,但是她的故事在亚历山大的生命里留下了深刻的印记。
表兄弟姐妹们在桌旁坐的次序,最好的解释方式可能是熵的无序理论。但是,重力作用使得年纪大一些的男孩子们聚集到桌子的一边,另外一些年纪小的孩子则围绕年纪大一些的女孩子们坐,像隶属于一个小太阳系的彗星那样兴奋。邻近的是为大人们预留的另一个餐厅。亲戚和客人们会在那里用餐。也不知是从哪一刻开始,孩子开始变成大人,转移到另一个房间。至于是谁能够被转移到另一个房间则取决于Nonna 的决定。看上去,男孩子们要比女孩子们更早转移过去,也许是因为他们对讨论政治更感兴趣,又或许是因为他们不需要照顾年纪更小的孩子,更大的可能是,这纯粹是那个小镇那个时期的一种惯常方式。没人知道真正的原因,或是当中的筛选方法,也许就连祖母自己也不知道,然而从来没有人对此有任何异议。亚历山大清楚地记得阿喀琉斯被另外一个房间吞没的那天。他一点也不想念他,并且他对自己预测到大概知道什么时间将成为大人而感到欣慰。
在诸多的表兄弟姐妹之间有一位叫安娜·玛利亚(Anna Maria),一个拥有精致身体的精致灵魂。她褐色的眼睛大得可以包含亚历山大童年所有的梦想。她的笑容像是餐桌的中央摆饰。她柔和的声音是聚餐乐团里的独奏小提琴。根据家族传说,她还是小女孩时,遭受过雷电之击,几乎致命。幸运的是,她幸存下来。随后,自然的伟力仍然伴随着她,使她与众不同。她不能受惊吓,因为这会使她的心脏停止跳动;她不能被粗暴地触摸,因为这会让她的身体发抖;她不能被追逐,因为她不能跑。我们只剩一件事可做:爱她。多年间,亚历山大热忱地、沉默地、安静地爱着她,直到有一天,他厌倦了。因此他生命中曾经最爱的那个人,永远不知道他的感受。





皮佐的智者 The Wise Men of Pizzo


I have been asked by several Chinese friends to post the Mandarin version of my novel “The wise men of Pizzo” since it is not readily available in China

Here is the index with links to the chapters:

I.  The Chiazza 广场
II.  亚历山大的故事
III.  亚历山大的成年
IV.  幕后生活
V.  三个强盗, 一场刀战, 以及一起谋杀
VI. 祖母之死
VII.  蒙特卡洛之旅
VIII.  一个爱情故事
IX.  尾声

So here it is! It will be presented according to chapters starting with the preface.

Blue sunset in Pizzo

Blue sunset from the author’s terrace in Pizzo – Photo by F. Marincola – Summer of 2018



我一向坚信我们应该赋予小镇以平等的机会,尤其是意大利南岸的小镇。不妨以陪伴我度过大部分青春时光的皮佐(Pizzo)为例,在方圆五十公里以外,几乎从没有人听说过此地——你必须向陌生人耐心解释皮佐(Pizzo)位于拥有闻名斜塔的比萨(Pisa)城。另外,它也不是比萨(pizza),后者是一种食物。历史学家会声称皮佐在他们的著作中根本不值一提,原因很简单:在其三千年的历史中,除了拿破仑一世时期的元帅若阿尚·缪拉(Joachim Murat)在这里被处决之外,并无任何大事发生,而且刚才提及的这点成就实在太牵强了,很难大书特书。是的,我的确很难对此进行事实上的反驳,但是我想指出,这个出产世界上最好冰激凌的小镇的确发生了一些事情,而且跟其他地方相比,这里的人所选择的是极有尊严的生存方式。


And the index:




I.  The Chiazza 广场
II.  亚历山大的故事
III.  亚历山大的成年
IV.  幕后生活
V.  三个强盗, 一场刀战, 以及一起谋杀
VI. 祖母之死
VII.  蒙特卡洛之旅
VIII.  一个爱情故事
IX.  尾声


And the foreword:


我最初构思这个故事的时候,将其命名为:“皮佐那些聪明的家伙”(The Wise Guys of Pizzo)。后来我又把它改成了现在的名字,以顺应故事中的人物角色。这些角色一度无所事事,其后却意外地开始了一项从学术角度、系统性探讨和解决生命中一些(如果不是全部)重大难题的神圣任务。不过,读者们在读完本书之后,完全可以自行判断,选择你认为最适合的书名。



Local News

Folks! Nothing like living in El Granada, California (3,585 people not including me; I moved in after the census!) on the Pacific Coast a few miles South of San Francisco, AKA Princeton by the Beach (Westbound across Highway 1), AKA Pillar Point, AKA Mavericks Beach etc. Some say that strictly-speaking they are not part of El Granada but I do not buy it! Anyways, a mini paradise a few miles from Stanford, Google, Facebook, Apple, Uber, Tesla, Airbnb etc. They sit all there on the other side of the hill in Silicon Valley while we are here, with our own echo-system and microclimate, cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

Poppies in the front yard

Poppies in the front yard – Photo by F. Marincola – EL Granada, April 2020


Sure, a few young or aging preppies live here, but mostly retirees with nothing better to do than being creative (as we will see later) and then those fishermen. Boy, I am so envious of them fishermen; self-conscious biotech nerd dawdling around the piers, pretending to read the winds out there and gauge the red flags flapping over the Harbor Master! Yet keeping an eye on those sea wolves! You can catch the reverberation of the 80 foot waves in their fearless eyes. And when you walk by, they barely see you, as if you were just a sardine not worthy of their attention. In fact, they talk over great whites and whales as if they were mere sardines while they set to sail! I really wish I was one of them. Anyways, this is just my problem. Nothing to do with the story.

And of course there are the “penguins” (as my friend calls the surfers in the black wetsuits) perpetually waiting for the king wave at Surfers’ Beach!  Again off-topic, I apologize.

Bottom line we are a tiny community but rich and autocratic. We even have our own news: “Next-door El Granada”. You just have to sign up and you will know, who is missing a cat, a dog or a parakeet, and who found them; know who is selling what or who was ticketed by the Sheriff for running a stop sign, and you will receive updates with recordings on mountain lions prowling in the neighbor’s backyard at night and caught on motion-sensing cameras, and about the coyotes, the barn owls or the barking sea lions, the harbor-seal pups, the blue herons, the peregrine falcons, and the lady bugs or monarch caterpillars, or the cute but obnoxious gofers. All you may wish to know (or not), is there. And of course wonderful pictures pile up each day of spectacular sunsets besides Pillar Point like this one by Alexander Ortiz.

Sunset ray at Moss Beach

Sunset at Moss Beach – Photo by Alexander Ortiz – April 2020

or of “fogbows” in the early morning. And these are the local news, reported by anyone for everybody’s consumption …in case, …whatever you need, …just ask! And you will find out how many things you didn’t know you missed: in fact, I just realized that I don’t have a bear-spray, just in case I encounter a cougar during my hikes up the hill. But watch the wind! You may get it all in your eyes and then you are doomed at the mercy of the mountain lion!

And we have external correspondents, who read the blogs and reply from far away. My Washington D.C. correspondent Wendy assures us that natural blue chrysanthemums do indeed exist (contrary to what was implied by a recent story of mine). In fact, one can even buy the seeds on line: https://parkseed.com/blue-knoll-heteropappus-flower-seeds/p/03108-PK-P1/ or http://www.anniesannuals.com/signs/h/heteopappus_bk.htm

Now let’s walk to Pillar Point Harbor.

There is the black cod man. He goes all the way to the Farallones to get those darn cods. He tells me that when there are too many great whites at open sea around the islands, the sea lions jump on the boat and there is no way you can get rid of them! And what about the sea urchins and the Buddhist monks praying for them?

Sea Urching Diver

The “sea urchin diver” with the author at Pillar Point Fishermen Pier and the Buddhist monks praying for the sea urchins in the background  – Photo by E. Wang – October 2018

And James and his driftwood sculptures. They are all over the harbor outside and inside restaurants and shops!


Nonno and captain Hook

The author’s father with Captain Hook, a sculpture by James – Photo by F. Marincola, Pillar Point Harbor – March 2019


And there is Jim, the guy with the long hair and a faded beard that runs down to the flanks like moss dressing a redwood tree, who want to start a business with me, in honor of my Italianism:

“Let’s spike Prilosec in the Prosecco and call it Prilosecco! Avoid heartburns while enjoying life!” Great idea, but I will leave it for after retirement.

And so much more around there like Barbara’s Fish Trap depicted in a previous blog, the Brewery, Mezza Luna Restaurant and the funky Yacht Club where sea lions seem to hang out more than people. Each one is worth a story on its own (next time) like I did before for Asian King Kitchen, a few miles down South on Highway 1.

OK let’s leave the harbor now and go back to El Granada.

The best news are the ones the you get first hand from the neighbors. Let me give you some examples. Take last Sunday. The doorbell rings and here comes Rich (Riccardo) Croce, who lives across the street. Donning the proper mask and glove attire according to the COVID etiquette, he offers me his new book! Riccardo is Italian from the Bevento area; his wife’s name is Ara!

Rich wrote “La Guida Divina” (“The Divine Guide”, copyright 2020 by R. Croce) with contribution by citizens of EG including Roberto Pugliese, the owner of Mezza Luna Restaurant, also from Southern Italy, from Paola, a coastal town just a few miles from my home town Pizzo, in Calabria.

La Guida Divina.

You can “reach/Rich” at: rich@aracroce.com  

It starts with opening quotes from Dante, who, like Riccardo for English, played a significant role in replacing Latin with the Italian language. So, it is fitting that the title of the book is inspired by his great work; Divina Commedia. It is his hope that “La Guida Divina will guide the journey through the hell of proper pronunciation and usage to the heavenly beauty of the Italian language”.

Words from Dante’s Paradiso in the Divina Commedia (translation by Allen Mandelbaum) can be used to describe the difficulty of the goal:

“And to the mortal world, when you return’

tell this, lest men continue to trespass

and set their steps toward such a reachless goal”

The guide starts with the sounds of vowels and vowel combinations in Section 1, and then shows how the sounds combine with the sounds of consonants, in Section 2, These are followed by hints for proper pronunciation and syllable formation; in Section 3, it should be cautioned that regional Italian dialects may vary and, although one may have trouble understanding them, Italians are used to accommodating different dialects and will normally be able to understand the pronunciations contained in this guide. Section 4 contains guidance for the proper use of the troublesome pronouns ci, ne, and da. Section 5 provides a guide to Italian verb usage by providing a direct comparison between Italian and English verb tenses. Section 6 contains some hard to find rules for adjectives and some grammar rules that, although not as hard to find, are often forgotten or not taught. The final Section 7 describes the difficulties one may encounter with certain Italian words, phrases, regional dialects, and punctuations; and suggests a couple of things to practice. And the pictures in La Guida Divina are intended to be an incentive to visit Italy where the proper Italian pronunciation will be greeted with appreciative smiles.

In Riccardo’s self-description: “I am a student of the Italian language whose native language is English; although, some people would dispute that since I am originally from the Bronx and have never lost my accent. My nonno and nonna on my father’s side came from Montesarchio outside of Benevento, Italy; my grandparents on my mother’s side came from Stockholm, Sweden. Neither Italian nor Swedish was ever spoken in my home. Over the years I have reached out to my relatives in Italy, and I have become obsessed with being able to communicate in Italian. As such, I often try to talk to my Italian friends at the Mezza Luna restaurant who are from Italy; but I quickly discovered that no matter how well one knows vocabulary or grammar, if your pronunciation is not precise, Italians will simply not understand you. Even worse, unless you know the Italians really well and ask them to correct your pronunciation, they will prefer to talk in English and let your poor attempts go unchecked.

I also discovered that in all the Italian classes that I have taken there is not a lot of time spent on pronunciation. This is not too surprising since English classes do not spend time teaching pronunciation either. After all, we were brought up speaking English and we just know when something does not sound right. Since most Italian courses are taught by native Italian speakers, the same mind set prevails, and the real problem is not addressed – students need to know how words are supposed to sound. Hence the motivation for the La Guide Divina that uses common English sounds as an aid to pronouncing Italian words.

There have been endless discussions on proper word pronunciation and usage with my Italian friends Nilde Belcastro and Roberto Pugliese (who also supplied wine at the Mezza Luna restaurant), and my wonderfully patient Italian teacher Ilia Salomone. In order to see if there was any value for other students, I have asked Cheryl Nannetti Laura Camodeca and Timothy Smith for comments that have proven invaluable; in addition to being good friends, they are serious students of Italian who are native English speakers. My wife Ara and our good friends Kathryn Rettenbacher and Robin Flynn have provided critical editorial and publication comments. Ara appears in some of the pictures that are in this Guide, most of which were taken by us during our travels in Italy.

Since common English sounds were selected as a basis for the sounds found in this Guide, source material ended up being many of the common reference books used by English students (Living Language by Antonella Ansani is an excellent basic Italian course book), google translate, endless hours on the internet (forum.duolingo.com is one such resource), and the aforementioned collaborators who never got tired of my endless questions or told me to stop pursuing this “reachless goal”. This approach is different from the traditional approach found in most dictionaries that use phonetic symbols as tools for proper pronunciation. However, since most students are not proficient in phonetics, dictionaries were not used as source material for pronunciation in this Guide.

I have been told that because this guide is based upon using English sounds and not phonetics, it is not valuable to anyone who is not a native English speaker. Although this may be true, if this Guide is useful for English speaking students perhaps rather than abandon this approach, similar Guides for students of other nationalities should be developed. In addition, native Italian speakers have told me the Guide is useful in understanding English versus Italian verb tenses and even why Italians use certain sentence constructions.

So, here it is. Although imperfect, it is better to make a start than to languish at the entrance to the journey. My wish is that this attempt will be a help to fellow students and will be the “spark” for the “fires” that will come from others. That is why I bother.”

Riccardo and Ara Crocce in Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi

Riccardo and Ara Croce at the “Don Alfonso” restaurant in Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi, Italy – Phot0 by unknown


…And just an hour later on the same Sunday, Tom Clifford knocked at the door, this time to collect a few old cameras and lenses the he repurposes into the art of optics. Retired from his previous rocket scientist job, he now does many creating things including useful interactive toys for children similar to what one finds at the Exploratorium; this entitled for example: “This may be ugly, but it’s fragile and does nothing!

This is his feedback after he went home to dismantle my old cameras including a sixty-year-old reflex Minolta:

I’ve tackled two lenses so far, and have gleaned:

     two shutter-action toys,

           seven gears,

               six big units that will soon yield their precious optics

                   nineteen big ring items, and

                     eighty-two tiny screws!

   I will attack the other goodies soon, and will send you pictures of the results of the bounty.”

Tom Clifford

Tom Clifford and all his “Back to the Future” paraphernalia – From “All this fun. and a paycheck too?

Tom was born in Texas, one of nine kids into a heritage of academics and engineers! Another creative writer and artist, who used to be a rocket scientist! Tom worked on the birth of space travel including Gemini at McDonnel, the Space Shuttle and satellites at Lockheed). And so many other engineering achievements in Silicon Valley.

He wrote a collection of short stories, “All this fun, and a paycheck, too?” The latter a collection of short stories from a long and satisfying engineering career; showing how much fun, worthy and enriching a technical life can be. And an autobiographical gallery of photographs concentrating on his life experiences: “A day in the life of a rocket scientist”.  He is also involved in ‘green” initiatives and now retired enjoys kayaking, fishing, hiking, photography often from his wife aerobatic airplane.

As we mentioned, he is now a recovering-engineer/wanna-be artist. I should mention his quirk of restoring vintage Brit sports-cars and his quest to encourage STEM decisions (his book, plus his plans to offer kids’ workshop sessions at the Exploratorium, Hiller and/or Tech Museum). Yup, you should see the “interactive tech toys” of his creation. You would need to wear the hat of a bright curious 5-year old, which he apparently is, to appreciate his vision of fun STEM-triggers for kids (for the zero-geeks like me STEM = Science Technology Engineering Math).  All of these creations are an assemblage (static and interactive) art, plus STEM toys for kids, salvaged from discarded items that come his way.

In any case, for more info contact Tom directly at tom-clifford@sbcglobal.net

And there is Ena Wang’s art. I have been encouraging her to get involved with Coastal Arts League and forget biotechnology (maybe when I will start the Prilosecco business!):

Water Lilly but EW

Sun rays peeking over the progress of the water lily painting by Ena Wang – Photo by F. Marincola, El Gradada – May 2020


…And there is so much more going on in El Granada that I cannot even imagine to cover in this story. This is why I am considering a local news section of my blog dedicated to these kind of news that catch the pulse of our community.

Anyways, for those who stump on this blog and are not from here, please keep it low key. And, if you are attracted by the aforementioned gold nuggets to visit El Granada and surroundings, keep in mind that apparently for the time being, we do not much appreciate invaders! At least this is what our welcome signs say with flashing lights:

If you live more than five miles from here, turn your car and go back!

How is that for “Antisocial distancing!




How to discover what others ignore? 如何发现别人忽视的东西? By Yao Peck Lu on “The blue Chrisanthemum”

As I must have mentioned sometimes in another blog (I can’t believe I didn’t), Karel Capek’s “Blue Chrysanthemum” is my favorite short story of all (sorry my beloved Anton).  Now, Yao Lu listened to my suggestion to read it (nobody is forced of course but why not during this time of forced meditation?). And for Yao Lu, reading is breathing the essence of life. So she now shares her thoughts, which once again I believe are worth posting:

April 2020 Happy Buddah at Hangzhou

Happy Buddha at Lingyin Temple, Hangzhou – Photo by F. Marincola, Hangzhou, October 2019


How to discover what others ignore?


I only heard about it, but I have never seen it. In the chrysanthemum family, there are several colors, but there is no blue chrysanthemum; it sounds mysterious and precious. Even if you want to cultivate a blue chrysanthemum, it must be extremely difficult.


But Klara discovered it. Where did she find the blue chrysanthemums? Its existence is conceivable; clues indicate that these melancholic, romantic blue flowers are not far away, someone has seen and found them. I am curious where Klara found them!


Well, we know how to derive answers based on apparent phenomena, but this is not enough. If you always follow the conventional path of knowledge, you will be destined to the mediocrity of the obvious. Common sense tells us not to go somewhere; that it is the wrong place! But, is it really the wrong place? Try reverse thinking, when ninety-nine per cent of people hold a negative attitude towards something, can you be the one who sees the positive side of it?


The truth belongs to a few people.We may just haven’t figured out the core of the matter, excessive frivolous information is distracting us.


…And seeing the blue chrysanthemum does not necessarily mean owning it. It takes time to take ownership and care good of it. I divided the crowd into three types. …Those who have never seen a blue chrysanthemum. …Those who found a blue chrysanthemum, but did not take good care of it. As the environment changes, the blue chrysanthemum withers. Perhaps this may explain the failure of some successful people. …And those who keep thinking about how to take care of it if they could find one someday.

I now belong to the first category. This is not the worst situation and that’s why I am proud of myself sometimes: because I learned that there are people who don’t even know that there are blue chrysanthemums in this world.





The Magic Herb by Heer Patel

Another new story by Heer (the author of Adventure in Candy Island) for the young readers, those particularly who like Harry Potter stories! A contemporary interpretation of adventures in the Land of COVID-19. A solution perhaps not scientifically substantiated but definitely more likely to help than the mythical chloroquine!

And talking about special pursuits in the vegetable kingdom, this story reminds me of one of my most adored short stories: The Blue Chrysanthemum by Karel Capek. I guess the pursuit solved serendipitously two different troubles : the one of the body by the former, and by the latter, the one of the soul.

I hope that you will enjoy. Thanks Heer!

Magic Mint 2020

The Magic Herb – Photo by Dharmesh Patel, April 20th 2020


The Magic Herb by Heer Patel



Chapter 1 – The Special Find.

Chapter 2 –  The Unexpected Meet.

Chapter 3 – Dream Come True.

Chapter 4 – The Kingdom Above.

Chapter 5 – The Quest to Find the Cure.

Chapter 6 – The Way Back Home.


Chapter 1 – The Special Find

Cari Miller was sitting at her white, neatly polished desk and was doing her chemistry homework. She loved chemistry, especially with her 6th grade teacher, Mr. Williams, so she took a while understanding the concepts of the book and what she needed to learn. Cari was a tall girl with twinkling light brown eyes and chestnut brown hair that had streaks of turquoise in the long, flowing hair. She was currently 12 years old, and it was her last year at Silver Sage Elementary, her school, which was in Carson City, Nevada.

Then Cari remembered. Tomorrow, they were going to Universal Studios for spring break. She quickly finished her homework, got up, and packed the last of her stuff in her bag, as they were going to stay in a hotel the whole spring break. Cari was so excited because she really wanted to go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the rides there. Her least favorite part was waiting until they got there, and they had to drive for almost 9 hours! She didn’t forget to pack her books because she really wanted to win in the contest that her book club, Battle for Books, had started. Her friends at school, Jessy and Laurie, were also in the Battle for Books club. She did a flip onto her bed (she was really good at gymnastics) and landed perfectly. She turned off the lights and went to bed, waiting for the next day to begin…

In the morning, Cari woke up and she jumped out of her bed. She quickly went downstairs happily, to eat her breakfast. She saw her dog, Stella, who was a cute golden retriever and she hugged her fluffy dog before making her way to the kitchen.

“Good morning, Mom” she cheerfully greeted her mom who was making waffles for Cari, “And good morning Dad.”

Cari told her dad who was on the couch reading a newspaper.

“Good morning Cari! You look so energetic this morning! Look, I made your favorite, waffles for breakfast!” replied her mom.

Cari took a deep breath of the delicious waffles that were ready. She grabbed the maple syrup and berries and added them as toppings on her waffle. She sat down at the dining table and dug right into her waffles without a word. When she finished, she put her plate in the dishwasher and helped her mom clean up.

“Cari, are you done packing your stuff so I can put it in the trailer?” asked her dad.

“Yes, you can take my stuff. I’m so excited!” replied Cari. Her dad took her heavy bag, which was mostly full of Harry Potter books and put it in the trailer. Cari, her mom, dad, and Stella all got settled in the trailer and Cari’s dad started driving at 9:00 a.m…

They were driving for a while and Cari got bored. She got out a book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and started reading it peacefully until Stella started whining. Cari petted Stella to calm her down but Stella kept making growling noises. They were soon at a rest area to take a break and because of Stella’s growling. Cari took Stella to the grass and let Stella run free. Immediately, Stella started running towards the bushes and Cari had to run after her. Stella sniffing something, something that she wanted. Cari followed Stella and saw that her dog had found a Chocolate Frog. Cari picked up the Chocolate Frog with great interest because she knew that this Chocolate Frog was from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and each of them included a card of a great witch of wizard from the stories.

Cari opened the wrapper, and threw away the chocolate very carefully so that Stella wouldn’t eat it, and took out the card. She examined the card very carefully: it was a card the shape of a pentagon, with a 3D picture of the great wizard and headmaster Albus Dumbledore. The back of the card said: “Considered by many the greatest wizard of modern times, Dumbledore is particularly famous for his defeat of the Dark Wizard Grindelwald in 1945, for the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon’s blood, and his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicolas Flamel. Professor Dumbledore enjoys chamber music and tenpin bowling.” Cari had remembered this when she had read the first book of Harry Potter.

“Cari, it’s time to go! Bring Stella and come quickly!” called her dad. Cari took Stella’s leash and rushed toward the minivan. They sat in the trailer and started driving again…


Chapter 2 –  The Unexpected Meet

Soon, Cari and her family were at their hotel, which had a huge pool, a hot tub, a cafetería, and much more luxury. She put all of her stuff and decided to go to the pool and explore a bit.

“Mom, I’m going to the pool to explore, but I’ll be back at 7:30!” informed Cari to her mom as she went out the door. She walked down the endless hall and turned left. Cari didn’t really know where she was going, so she just kept on winding up in the long hall. Soon, she got lost and looked around to seek help. But, there was no one. Then a lady came, and she looked like she was a custodian, so Cari decided to ask her. Cari walked up to her and saw that the badge on the lady’s shirt read “Margaret”, so she asked,

“Ummm, Miss or Mrs. Margaret? Could you please help me? I am lost and can’t find the way to the pool.”

Margaret smiled and answered, “Of course! Seems like you got a bit lost too much, but I can give you a map. These long, endless halls are quite confusing. Oh, and the pool closes by 8:00!” She handed Cari a map and said goodbye. Cari looked at the map and saw that she had come wandering too far. She headed towards the swimming pool. When she got there, she went to the pool and sat on the edge, dipping her feet in the water. She looked into the water for a while and then she heard a voice.

“Cari?” asked a familiar voice. Cari looked up and saw who it was…

It was Laurie Nelson, her best friend who lived down the street from Cari’s house. Laurie was part of Cari’s book club and in the same class as her, but what was she doing here? She was taller than Cari, and she had eyes as blue as the ocean, blonde hair, and tan skin.

“Laurie, how come you’re here?” questioned Cari in shock and surprise.

“My family is here to visit Universal Studios, especially Harry Potter World! Seems like yours is too! Maybe we could explore Universal Studios tomorrow?” she replied.

“Yeah, of course! That would be really fun! See you soon!” Cari said, excitedly.

They both went to their rooms after saying bye and a big hug. When Cari got to her hotel room, she ate a yummy dinner and told her mom and dad what had happened. They agreed to the invitation that Laurie had given Cari. They went to bed, and soon, all the lights were off. Cari was wondering how it would be to see Universal Studios after dreaming about it for a long time. When she was tired of all that wondering, she soon fell fast asleep…


Chapter 3 – Dream Come True

Cari woke up the next morning, all cheery and jumpy. She saw that her parents had already woken up and were on a phone call.

“…We will be very happy to join you on your trip! See you at 10:00! Bye!” ended Cari’s mom.

“Mom, who were you talking to?” wondered Cari.

Her mom turned to Cari and explained, “Cari, I was talking to Laurie’s mom about exploring Universal Studios together. Why don’t you go to the kitchen and have your breakfast?”

Cari got dressed, then went out of the room, started walking down the hall. Then, Cari remembered the map from yesterday. She took it out from her pocket, then walked to the kitchen. She grabbed a plate, then put a piece of toast, butter, some fruit, and yogurt with granola on the plate. She walked to an empty spot and sat down. Cari started eating peacefully and soon finished. She went back to her room, using the map, careful not to get lost again. When Cari got back, she, her parents, and Stella went out of the hotel and into their car. They drove to the entrance of Universal Studios.

When they got there, Cari took a picture of herself at the entrance and they all waited there for Laurie’s family. When Laurie and her family came, they all greeted each other, and then they walked into the fantasy wonderland. They went on some rides, ate popcorn and watched a movie, played games, and had fun! Then, Cari thought that this was her favorite part, when they went to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Cari was so fascinated because she had read all about Harry Potter and now she was in that world herself. She and Laurie got to explore around, as Laurie also loved the Harry Potter series, and they saw a portkey that was a shoe, a common item used to transport anyone that is touching it to a fixed location. They saw the portkey was glowing, which meant it was about to transport the person to the place they were thinking of. Cari looked at Laurie, and they had one thing in common: they were daring. They nodded and touched the portkey in time. This portkey was different though, as Cari or Laurie did not have to think of anything and the portkey just transported them somewhere…


Chapter 4 – The Kingdom Above

They landed quite softly for a harsh push through the portal from the portkey. Cari looked around and saw that the ground was covered with clouds?! She shivered, brrr… It was cold.

I wish I had a coat, earmuffs, and boots.” she thought. Suddenly, Cari got what she wanted. Cari was surprised and she looked at Laurie. She had no luck.

“Try imagining what you want or need.” she suggested to Laurie. Laurie tried that and she soon had warm clothing.

They got up and started walking. They saw people around them that were skinny and looked as if they were hovering. There were only a few people and each one of them wore masks on their face.

“Where are we? And why are those people wearing masks?” Laurie inquired.

“I don’t know, but I have a feeling we should wear masks too.” They agreed and thought of a mask. They instantly got masks on their faces.

While walking, they saw an enormous castle that was hovering in the air in front of them. The two walked up to it and went inside…

“Welcome. And may I know who you two are? What are you doing here, you should be inside your house. At least you are wearing a mask.” advised a deep voice.

Cari and Laurie looked around to see the person that had spoken. “W-we are umm… I’m Cari a-and this is Laurie.” Cari stuttered, pointing to Laurie, and continued, “We came from a different world, and we don’t know what you are talking about.”

A shadow emerged from behind them,

“Well, I’m the king of The Kingdom Above. It seems like you came from the world under? Ahh, well, what I’m talking about is the new world pandemic, COVID-19 a.k.a. the coronavirus.” the shadow told them.

When the shadow came out, he was careful to stay far away from the strangers and now he was visible to Cari and Laurie. The king was thin; like the other people they had seen earlier. He had blue skin, and was wearing a gold crown and heavy jewels on his neck and fingers. On his face was a mask, that was quite a frequent sight here.

“COVID-19 is a very dangerous disease and we need to find a way to stop it. Could you two help us with this problem?” asked the king.

“Of course, but we need to know more about it. And how do we go back to our world?” Laurie comforted the king.

“Well, I can make a portal to your world, but this virus has to be destroyed first.” the king assured.

“First, COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that spreads by person-to-person contact. It causes coughing, shortness of breath, and fevers. It may cause deaths, too.” the king said gravely, “You need to find the secret ingredient of the cure from the Floating Meadows. You may face problems, but I can trust you to find it. Good luck, and keep a safe distance from each fairy you see.” the king informed them, “Now you must be leaving.” and he handed them a map and a bottle of hand sanitizer.

Laurie took the hand sanitizer and map, and she and Cari examined the map very closely. They saw various places marked in the map, and in the corner, they saw the Floating Meadows. The places were mysterious, such as the Howling Caves and the Cloudy Village.

“You must pass the Stormy Forest, Midnight Mountains and the Lightning Bridge. There must be a guardian there to help you find your way. Of course, they were tested negative.” he added when Cari and Laurie looked at him uncertainly.

“Okay, then we are supposed to go to the Floating Meadows and get the ingredient which is a… And what do we add it to?” Cari asked.

“The ingredient is a magical herb that will help cure any respiratory disease when added to a potion. It is a leaf that looks like mint and its name remains unknown. But you will have to be careful as there are dangerous and good plants in the Floating Meadows. When you find it, bring it to us and I will put it in the cauldron that holds the rest of the ingredients to the cure for everyone.” the king clarified.


Chapter 5 – The Quest to Find the Cure

Cari and Laurie soon left the castle and followed their path to the first place they had to pass through: the Lightning Bridge. They soon found themselves at the Lightning Bridge, which was a huge bridge made of storm clouds.

How are we supposed to cross the bridge?” Cari wondered. Then, a letter appeared in front of them. Laurie took it and read it out loud,

“As this bridge is made of lightning, there is a time when it is not. Just say ‘foudre disparaître’ and you can cross easily.” Cari looked ahead of her and boldly exclaimed,

“Foudre disparaître!” Cari also went to French class, and she figured that the words that she had just said were french for ‘lightning disappear!’ They quickly crossed the bridge and out on the foggy side of the bridge…

Then the sky became darker and they could start to hear thunder and lightning. Trees began to appear beside them as they walked into the Stormy Forest. Then they saw seven horses galloping towards them in the distance. When the horses reached the two, they stopped. The horses were white and their coats gleamed in the moonlight.

“Climb onto us – we have been sent to guide you through the Stormy Forest, as you are looking for the cure. We can see much better in the dark so you will have no worries, except the entrance.” a horse said in a deep voice.

Wait, am I imagining this, or did this horse just actually talk?!” pondered Cari.

Cari looked at the forest behind the horses. The horses did have a point, as Cari couldn’t see anything ahead of them.

“Okay, but who are you?” Laurie said after some hesitation.

“We are the Seven Horses of the Skies. I am Moonlight and this is Sunlight. We will be taking you across to the Midnight Mountains. Now you may climb onto us so we don’t waste time.” replied another horse named Moonlight.

Cari climbed onto Moonlight, and Laurie climbed onto Sunlight. The horses started galloping and then soon stopped.

“Why did you stop? We are only at the entrance of the forest.” asked Cari.

“Sorry, but as we said earlier you have to worry about the entrance. You have to solve a riddle in order to get inside because you are strangers to the forest.” Sunlight apologized.

Words showed up on some trees that were bright and luminescent. The words were the riddle for them to pass into and out of the forest. The riddle said:

A precious stone, as clear as diamond.

Seek it out while the sun’s near the horizon.

Though you can walk on water with its power,

try to keep it, and it’ll vanish in an hour.

 This riddle was very confusing. “It’s clear as a diamond, you can walk on water with its power, and it will vanish in an hour? Oh, maybe the vanishing part is talking about melting. Well, what melts, is clear, and you can walk on water with its power?” Cari pondered about. When she got the answer, she told Laurie. She agreed with her and asked Sunlight,

“If we know our answer, then what do we do?”

Sunlight replied thoughtfully,

“You announce your answer to the forest itself.”

Cari nodded and looked at the forest. It felt funny to talk to a bunch of trees, but she went for it,

“Ice.” she said.

The words disappeared and the horses trotted forward. They went through the dark forest and onto the other side.

On the other side, there were many giant mountains, and it was very dark on this side. Cari looked at the map and saw this was the final place they had to pass through in order to get the magical herb for the cure. They got off the horses and said goodbye. They had to wait for the other animals to take them across the mountains. Then, when the horses had gone, five giant owls came swooping down at them. They were snowy owls, and their feathers were sparkling in the beautiful midnight moon. The owls landed next to them and bowed at them.

“We are the Five Owls of the Night and we have come to take you across the mountains. You may have to battle a monster, but we will try and get you across safely.” reassured the lead owl.

“So how do we fight the monster? We don’t have any weapons or anything.” asked Laurie.

The owl tossed them each a bag. They each looked inside the bag and saw a fancy stick with swirls and a book.

“This is your new wand. And the book is a spell book, to cast a spell with your wand and destroy the opponent. Just read a couple spells and remember them to cast them later.” the owl remarked. They soon climbed onto an owl’s soft, feathery back and they started flying above the mountains.

Suddenly, arrows started flying towards them. They ducked, and the arrows missed them.

“Oh no! It’s a monster! But don’t worry, it’s small, so it won’t be able to harm you a lot.” a high pitched owl said and then added, “And we are experts at flying.”

Cari and Laurie understood, and took out their wands and spell books. Cari opened to a page in her spell book and tried to find a spell that would help her. She scanned the pages and finally saw the spell she wanted. She had to read how to cast it correctly and she had to look up to dodge arrows that the monster was shooting. When she looked up, she couldn’t see the monster, but when she looked around her, she saw a strange creature shooting arrows on the right of her. The creature was very odd, it was a dog-like creature that was covered in ice and had a pair of wings. Then she went back to her spell. Her spell was a spell that would protect them from harm and they could safely pass. The instructions in the spell book were:

Hold your wand gently in your right hand. Make a tapping, then flicking motions with your wand hand. Make sure you tap towards your target of who you want to cast the spell on. As you do the motions, say the words “protéger nous” and the spell will be cast to protect you and your party.

Cari followed what the spell book had told her and exclaimed the words,

“Protéger nous!”

She also realized that the words that she had just spoken meant “protect us” in French. Then, a strip of light burst from her wand and made a bubble shape around the five owls, Laurie, and herself. The owls started flying again and the monster’s arrows were not effective on the bubble at all. It shot many arrows at them and all the arrows bounced off the bubble harmlessly.

“Great job, Cari! That was really cool.” marveled Laurie.

“Oh, you welcome. It seemed pretty easy to me.” Cari responded.

The owls started to fly lower and lower until they landed and the mountains were behind them. They had passed all of the dangerous places and they would reach the Floating Meadows.

“Thank you, Cari.” one of the owls thanked her after they landed, “Now you must walk to the Floating Meadows. There must be something or someone to help you, but be careful, stay away a safe distance from everyone.”

Hearing this, Laurie remembered what the king had given them: hand sanitizer. She gave Cari and herself a squirt of it and as they rubbed their hands together, they could smell the scent of the sanitizer…

They started walking towards the way that the owls had pointed out to them, and it seemed as if the sun was coming out of its hiding. But when they looked back, the sky behind them was as black as coal. Then they came to a pleasant smelling place that was filled with flowers, trees, and bushes of all kinds. The plants and herbs of all kinds were shimmering and they went on forever.

“How are we supposed to find the herb in all of this?” asked Laurie in surprise.

“I don’t know, but there must be some kind of clue in all of this…” replied Cari, looking around.

Then, Laurie remembered what the king had described it as and told Cari. They started searching for a mint-like plant, and they discovered that all the plants had labels by them, describing what it was. They remembered that the king had told them that the ingredient had no name, so they looked for one without a label. They searched and searched for quite a long time, and they tried to do it fast, because they had to go back to their world fast. They didn’t know if their parents were looking for them. Then they gave up looking for the plant.

Suddenly, Cari saw a board with some words on it that said,

The answer you seek, lies in plain sight before you.” Cari told Laurie,

“Hey, look! The answer lies in plain sight… Could it be our answer?” Laurie read the board and then started pondering about.

“I think that’s it! The plant is probably small, and it’s probably right in front of us! Check for a small mint leaf-like plant in front of you!” she exclaimed once he knew the answer. They crouched down and started searching for the answer in front of them.

Then, Laurie saw something exactly as she thought of it and called Cari over.

“Look Cari! It’s exactly like the one we imagined!” she exclaimed. Cari saw it too and replied excitedly,

“Yeah, and it has no label by it… So it’s probably the one we need.”

She picked the small plant out of the ground gently, and put it in the sack that the owls had given her. Then, they started walking back towards the way they came from.

“How will we get back fast enough?” Laurie asked.

As soon as she said those words, something flying came and started hovering over them. Cari looked up and she saw a magical flying carpet. The carpet came down on the ground next to them and waited for them to get on. Cari and Laurie looked at each other and they could read each other’s minds that they wanted to go on. They got on and made themselves comfortable. The carpet did not move an inch.

“Why isn’t it moving?” asked Laurie.

“I think you have to tell him where you want to go. Since we want to go to the castle…” she looked at the map and announced,

“To the Cloud Castle!” Then the carpet started zooming over the Midnight Mountains, the Stormy Forest, and the Lightning Bridge. Soon, they found themselves over the fluffy Cloud Castle, where their quest had begun.


Chapter 6 – The Way Back Home

The carpet lowered itself down by the entrance of the castle and waited for the two passengers to get down. It waved goodbye to them and flew off. They went inside with their masks on, and went back to the throne room. They saw the king there once again.

“Ahh, you have found the ingredient, I see. Thank you my friends!” the king said as he greeted them from far away, then instructed,

“Now just place it on the ground and back off when I am taking the plant.”

Cari took out the plant and placed it on the ground. She and Laurie backed away and the king took the plant. He walked over to a cauldron on the side of the room, which Cari or Laurie had not seen there before and he put the plant inside the bubbling contents. The contents turned dark green and the king looked satisfied.

“Now, I must distribute this to all of my fairies, and you will be able to go back home, as I promised.”

There was a pedestal in the middle of the room, so the king poured out the soup-like cure into a big container and put it on the pedestal.

“This will teleport a glass of the cure to each fairies and they will get cured.” the king explained, then he took a giant megaphone and declared,

“Attention fairies of The Kingdom Above! There is a glass of the unknown cure in front of your door. You and your household members must each drink a sip of the cure, and you will be instantly cured. And thank Cari and Laurie for this very good deed!”

Cari and Laurie beamed, though no one could see them.

The king waited a few moments then happily said,

“Now let’s get to the farewell part.” He focused on the ground and chanted some mysterious words that sounded like an incantation. A swirling purple oval emerged from the ground.

“Good bye! We will miss you very much. Here, take these. They are cloud lockets, so that you can come back here anytime you want. They only have enough of our clouds for one time, but you can refill it when you are here! Just open it and sprinkle the dust over you.” the king said as he gave them each a locket. They stepped through the portal and stumbled through the darkness…

Then, they were back at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and it seemed as if only five minutes had passed.

“Cari, Laurie, let’s go! It’s our turn to go on the Flight of the Hippogriff ride!” Cari’s mom exclaimed, as if everything was normal. Laurie looked like she was thinking the same thing. She shrugged and they started running towards their families. Their masks and coats had disappeared, but they still had their cloud lockets from the king.

“If our world ever gets the outbreak of COVID-19, we can go to The Kingdom Above and get the cure.” Cari grinned.

The End!





A comment about Scrooge 2011 by old faithfull Yao Lu


I received several comments about Scrooge 2011 but this deserves publication.

Thanks again Yao Lu for insightfulness and for her Chinese culture pearls.



The red rose by John Mark

“The red rose: mosquito blood or cinnabar mole?” – Photo collection by John Mark


A female Chinese writer once wrote:

Maybe every man has had two such women; at least two. If he marries a red rose, over time, the red rose becomes mosquito blood on the wall, and the white rose is still the moonlight in front of the bed; if he marries a white rose, the white rose is a rice stick on the clothes, but the red rose is the cinnabar mole in his heart. [1]

This quote is so famous that people do not bother to mention it in their articles anymore, so am I. But it is so close to the theme of your story.

Susan is the moonlight in front of the bed and cinnabar mole on Julius’s heart, Sabrina is the mosquito blood on the wall and a rice stick on the clothes. At the same time, although you tell readers how self-righteous Julius is, the woman he didn’t marry doesn’t think so in spite of the fact that she withstood the cruelty of marriage, choosing a suitable person to accompany her, like a business that needs to be run. Marriage is against human nature and is essentially a financial deed.

Of course, marriage and love are not necessarily mutually exclusive. How far can a couple go? Only time can tell us the answer. So, congratulations and good luck to Sabrina and Julius!

And for Julius, going to “Scrooge 2011” story itself:

“…In other words, it appeared to him, for the first time, in a long time, that life was there to be lived.”

… I add this quote to remind all of us that life is the one we live:

The moon in the sea is actually the moon in the sky, and the one in front of you is your true lover. You look at everything as if you were a silent audience, but in fact you are a player in the script.[2]

Scrooge 2011 (Conclusion)

Here comes part 2 of Scrooge 2011. Enjoy!



California Poppy 2020 Follow up A

California Poppy 2020 Follow up B

California Poppies follow up: “The happy couple” – Photo by F. Marincola – El Granada  April 3rd 2020



Scrooge 2011 (Part 2)

And people smiled and said they envied him whenever he entered the grocery store, or the barber shop and he was forced to report about the life in the big city about which, in reality, he knew and cared very little beyond the walls of his office.


Still living in what used to be her parents’ house, Susan was busying herself with domestic chores, with the kids still playing outside and the husband working in the shed immersed in loud Christmas music.

It was the most joyful welcome that Susan reserved for Julius when she opened the door, almost as if she had been expecting the surprise.

She jumped on him as if she was still a little girl and she hugged him with the enthusiasm of when they saw each other again after summer camp.

And, for a few seconds, he reminisced the same happiness.

But then, gently, he pushed her away as he remembered that time had passed, that she was married and had children and that he had sworn eternal devotion only from a distance, fancying that he could pursue an old dream without interfering with her current life.

“Perhaps,” he had almost subconsciously thought a long time ago: “she chose Paul because he is more handsome than I am, but I will show her that I am a clever man and one day, when I will be powerful, she will regret her choice and she will long for me”.

And this naïve thought had surprisingly sculpted the life of this otherwise smart man.

But she was difficult to keep away.  She held his arm and ruffled him up left and right, as if they were still two little kids, totally irreverent of his important status.

Susan still treated him as if he was still the scrawny, introverted little boy of thirty years ago.

Then she yelled:

“Paul, come here, see who is here. Mister Scrooge came to spend Christmas in the silly old town!”

And because Paul did not hear her, she dragged Julius to the shed, inadvertently forcing him to admire the realization of his dreams inside another body.

Finally, Paul’s attention was conquered and, recognizing an old friend, he dropped the saw and, with a big manly hug, he lifted Julius up and down a few times.

“Let’s go inside and have a beer,” said Paul with a warm smile. “How are things? What brings you here? Is your Dad OK? I drop by to see him almost every day and to bring him some treats and he looks just fine, better than all of us. Do not worry. I will take good care of the old man for you. How long are you going to stay?”

But while he was being dragged by Paul into the kitchen, dreading to spend a precious part of the afternoon with the least of the persons he wanted to be with, Susan came down bundled up in a furry coat and, with the most coquettish smile, took him by the arm and said:

“Paul, you take care of the kids and I will go for a walk with Prince Charming!”

Paul smiled and, slapping him on the shoulder, said:

“Take good care of the old lady; I guess she needs a little excitement from the city mouse”.

Susan had changed very little. She still could not walk slowly, and she jumped two–tree steps ahead and then waited. She looked forward while saying something and then turned back to look at him at the end of each sentence to examine the effect of her words:

“So, do you have a girl friend?”

They were at the riverbank, where the smooth flow of the water transforms suddenly into a rapid current and the majestic and reserved silence of the upper river translates into the refreshing murmur of an awakening.

“No” he said, but then he remembered Sabrina:

“Actually, I am seeing somebody”

“How is she?”

“She is a petite Chinese woman, very pretty actually, I have been seeing her for three years and she seems to be nice, low maintenance.”

“I meant, how is she as a person?”

“She is a doctor, an internist, they say she is a good one with a successful practice in New York. She even won an award last year…”

“Julius, this is not what I am asking about, are you ever going to grow up? What I meant was, does she love you and do you love her. Do you know that you are starting to get some white hair and it is time for you to…”?

“I think she cares for me, but she has never told me that she loves me. Also, I am not Chinese and maybe her parents are strict about this, you know how the Asian culture is; but maybe she loves me.”

“Did you ever ask her? Did you ever tell her that you love her? Or are you going to do what you did to me? Are you still waiting for a miracle to make things happen? Listen Julius, I loved you and you know that, and I still love you and I will forever. I am the sister you never had, but now it is time for you to move on, it is time for you to be happy as you deserve. Just go tell her that you love her and marry her, for Christ sake!”

“I can’t”

“And why?”

“Because the day you married, I swore to myself that I would devote the rest of my life to you in spite of all, and I would be devoted to you forever just as we used to say when we were kids: that we will stand by each other forever …like that time under the oak tree. As you know, I might be excessively compulsive, but I am what I am; I have to keep my promises.

Life has been good to me. I live well in my own crate without emotions. I know my business better than most, only few can compete with me and even they respect me. I do not have friends but I also do not have enemies. I fairly treat those who deserve it. I do not ask for anything from anybody except that they do their job, and I live contently because one really does not need to be happy to survive.

And this is the way my life will be. And one day, maybe, when you will be tired of Paul, the kids will have grown, or maybe Paul will not be there anymore, then maybe, you will come to me that day.”

If you have ever been on a snowy Christmas Eve at the side of a rushing river, listening to your own words, and then returning your attention to the moving waters, you might picture how Julius heard his own; it seemed to him that his words, or what provoked them and, more specifically, his entire life up to then was being washed away by the river.

Susan was thoughtfully looking at a whirlpool and at a log stuck in it when she said:

“Julius, that will never happen, or even if it will, the chances are so low that you do not even want to think about it. Life is here to be lived and the truth is that you care for Sabrina. I could see how proud you were talking about her. Wake up! How can you even imagine a woman staying with somebody for three years, particularly an egocentric jerk like you, if she does not love him?”

“Julius, I am serious now,” and she looked straight into his eyes like the little girl that used to scold him when he was being too silly on summer evenings at the fair.

“You have to learn to listen to the silence of people. She never told you that she loves you because she understands you, she knows that you may not want to hear that. But believe me, I can tell you as a woman, knowing how a woman thinks, that she loves you and I want you to marry her. You are relieved of your silly promise to me and to yourself… Go and be free as a bird out of a cage, that is the best Christmas present I can bestow upon you and that you could bestow upon me.”



Back at home, the two kids greeted Susan and “uncle” Julius. Paul once again offered the beer and started talking with a smile about how miserable life was with such a bossy wife and two terrorists for children; and his complains felt as joyful and insincere as the sorrow of the man who had too much wine and food.

Then, Paul said:

“Come on, get your Dad here and you can have dinner with us. It will not be as fancy as the dinner you are used to in the Big Apple, but I promise it will be good. The old lady here knows some good tricks to keep a man’s belly happy!”

But Julius answered:

“Thanks Paul, maybe next time. I think I will go to Jersey to a friend’s home for dinner”.

And a few tears trickled down Susan’s eyes.

“Do not forget to tell her that you love her!” she screamed as the swirling snow and the descending night swallowed Julius’ image.


“Sabrina, it is me, what do you think if I come for dinner to your place in Jersey?”

“Where are you?”

“I am upstate at my Dad’s place”

“Yes, of course and what about your Dad? Bring him with you!”


“Hi Toni, check out of the hotel and pick me up in 15 minutes, we are driving to Jersey for dinner. I want to be there soon.”


When he entered his Dad’s house, Julius said to him:

“Dad, we are going to Jersey for dinner, to a friend’s home”.

And the Dad replied:

“Is it a woman?”

“Yes, she is Chinese and her parents are Chinese too, and they speak only Chinese and eat Chinese food using chopsticks. I hope it is OK! Come on, let’s go!”

“I guess somebody had to come all the way from China to put some sense onto you!” mumbled his Dad while walking obediently to his bedroom.

“And Dad, do not forget to wear a tie!”

“Of course, I always put a tie on when I go out of state”.

“And bring the pecan pie we were having for tonight”.

As they were walking toward the limo, the Dad suddenly stopped and, taking a few steps in the snow, went under a tree and pinched a leaf that still bore a few green traits of life off the old bush. He squeezed it in between his hands and blew the trumpet’s sound.

“Come on Dad, let’s go, it is late!”

In the car, the Dad asked:

“How do you say hi in Chinese?”

“Ni hao, which means: you good”.

“niaoww, niaoww… niaowww…” muttered his Dad thoughtfully.


When they arrived, the whole family came to greet them at the door.

Sabrina took Julius’ Dad from Toni’s care and brought him in, and the old Chinese lady smiled and nodded her head while the Chinese Dad looked sternly at the son and his Dad.

The latter said “niaowww, niaowww” a few times, but even a cat could not have related to that sound.

Then, as Julius’ Dad was brought in the house by the old woman to enjoy the ghost of Christmas present, Sabrina’s Dad said to his wife something in Chinese that meant:

“Should we ask him to take off his shoes?”

But the old lady pretended not to hear.

Then, Julius held Sabrina in the atrium and asked:

“Do you have 200 dollars? I have no cash”.

She opened her wallet and gave him the money.

He went out and, while she was waiting at the door, he held Toni by his shoulder and said:

“Go home, I can go back to New York with my friend tomorrow after dropping off my dad at his place… and take this, good night and Merry Christmas.”

Then, he went back to his shivering woman, who was waiting for him at the doorstep, and he held her in his arms and said:

“I love you,” and he kissed her.

And this kiss felt different from those before. There was the tenderness that one feels only for a wife, a sense of eternity that is deeper than infinite itself.

And when he let her go, she had tears in her eyes and she said:

“I love you too”.

I will let the readers imagine the obvious end to this story and the ghosts of Christmas future that followed with full of cheerful sounds from children. To those of you who are more interested in details and may wonder how Julius’ Dad enjoyed a whole Chinese Christmas meal, I will happily report that it went just fine. In fact, he even refused to use Western utensils. And as for the Chinese Dad, who used to be a teacher, he patiently taught him how to use chopsticks so that far from mastering the technique, the American Dad managed to bring the food to his mouth and, in the end, this is all that really counts.


The End


Scrooge 2011 (Part 1)


As promised to some of my reader, I am concluding with this old story: “Scrooge 2011” the complete posting of my already published short stories. In fact, this one was the first story that I wrote long time ago (way before “The Wise Men of Pizzo“) inspired by a recent re-reading of “A Christmas Carol“. It has been published in two collections already: “The Leopard and other stories” and “Cat behind the window“. Although it is naively romantic simple story, I hope that you will enjoy it!

See conclusion here


California Poppy 2020

Spring of 2020 – “Welcome” by the California Poppy in my front yard – Photo by F. Marincola, El Granada, March 29th 2020


Scrooge 2011


The alarm went off at 6:30 and mechanically, as if pre–programmed, Julius stood up, scratched the back of his neck, and turned off the alarm. Then, still following his long-established routine, with a firm gait he approached the window and looked down at the deserted, still lit, street. Soon, a few cars will start their engine and the early risers will be walking swiftly to the metro to get to their jobs. Observing from the height of his apartment that momentary peace and silence, he felt empowered as if it all belonged to him.

He then turned back and looked at her still sleeping, at her beautiful shoulders and the straight black Asian hair flowing down her side.

He could have thought about what a perfect companion she had been for the last three years; how she had always been there for him when he wanted her and left him alone and free when he needed space. And how she remembered everything that mattered to him and never complained that he never remembered anything that mattered to her, from her birthday, to the anniversary of the day they met, to her little preferences such as whether she liked sugar in her coffee or not.

Alternatively, he could have thought about how lucky he was to own this beautiful woman, who despite having the perfect body, the most charming smile, the most passionate affection was still loyal and unassuming: a perfect toy for an important and handsome man like he was, who could have had all he wanted but preferred a relatively simple and programmable life; with all the conveniences that a man needs around the only thing he truly cares about: his work.

But, most likely, he did not think about anything close to those thoughts as he quickly recovered from the spell and remembered that a meeting was soon going to happen at work, where a decision needed to be made about something he had not made up his mind yet. What would have happened, he did not know – and this idea excited him and made him long to be already in the office with a cup of coffee at his side and his people around the conference table briefing him and trying hard to impress him with their alacrity.

Therefore, he hurriedly went to the bathroom, turned on the light – that shone in the bedroom, straight on her face – while he took his shower.

Then, after recovering his clothes scattered around the floor from the previous night, he dressed and, before leaving, he sat at the bedside and, admiring his toy, he touched her hair and bent to kiss her forehead, perhaps to absolve a duty, perhaps giving into a burst of spontaneity.

In response, she lifted her arm and wrapped it around his waist. Then, she said:

“Merry Christmas… if I do not see you again before”.

“Merry Christmas to you Sabrina, what are you going to do for Christmas?”

“I am going to Jersey to stay with my parents. Of course, you are invited. You are very welcome to come if you would like”.

“No thanks, I will stay in New York… bye.” and checking the time once again, he left.

In the elevator, he thought that it was nice of her to invite him – but why should he go? Having Christmas with an old Chinese couple and their only daughter, without knowing what to say …just smiling and nodding?

Besides, he hated Christmas and holidays in general.

Nobody would be at the office to plan and discuss new concepts, even stores would be closed and, in any case, it would not have mattered since he did not care about shopping. Just as well, shows, movies, bars, restaurants, meals with the family, and walks in the park were not the kind of activities he could relate to. Even watching TV, whether sports or family shows, was not of any interest to him.

Tomorrow, he would spend Christmas as always: sleeping an extra half hour, adding a little extra cream to the coffee, reading the newspaper, and maybe finding some book to read about finance. He condescended most of that finance and economy literature written by people who had gone to fancy schools but had made no money starting from scratch as he had done. All that theoretical gibberish that did not take into account the most important aspects of success: hard work, dedication, perseveration, focus, shrewdness, and intuition. All those naïve attempts to create formulas that would fit it all. Still, it was amusing for him to read those treatises as it would be for an anthropologist informing himself about how the Neanderthals prepared a meal.

By the time he reached the ground floor, he had forgotten about Sabrina, her parents in Jersey, and most importantly, about Christmas. Today, for others, was Christmas Eve, but for him, it was a day like any other and he was going to fully enjoy it by working hard and forgetting about the upcoming misery of the following day.


When he stepped into the conference room, everybody was already waiting for him except for his CFO.

Things were not exactly “business as usual”. People wore childish red and green stuff on their business attire and silly jokes sprouted from side to side while everybody was waiting for the meeting to start. It was just the kind of environment perfectly tailored to rouse Julius’ irritation.

It took a few cold glances to restore the behavior of the insubordinates and get everybody focused even in the foreplay of the meeting on what they were there to do.

At exactly 8 o’clock, the CFO entered the room being, together with Julius, the only one dressed properly without any unnecessary fringes.

Though he knew that the CFO would be there, Julius was relieved to see him.

His CFO was the most reliable person Julius had ever dealt with, the only one who could even closely match his own character and, for this reason, he respected him and his judgment.

Let’s put it this way: he represented his second opinion, whether it was matters of finances, marketing, product design or whatever else. Whether it was directly relevant to the CFO’s job or not, it was equally important for Julius to solicit his opinion, and pretty much a “…not sure about this…” from the CFO was enough to kill anybody else’s enthusiasm.

At 8:03, the meeting started.

It revolved around some important decision about future investments.

In truth, it could have been postponed to another day as there was nothing urgent about it but, at the same time, why postpone something that can be done on a regular business day?

As the various opinions where dealt around the table, Julius observed, through the glass walls of the conference room, that the snow was heavily coming down and for some reason, that snow, chaotically twirling around without control, that impertinent snow that was not obeying the rule of gravity, stuck in his mind as he was trying to refocus on the meeting.

Yet, disobediently, his thoughts kept returning to the twirling snow and to some memories attached to that vision, and soon, he saw his Mom busying herself in the kitchen while he was watching her from the table. And then he saw his Dad come in, neatly dressed for the Holidays and, holding his hand, take him for a walk up the little town while waiting for supper.

And then, he saw his Dad bending toward the ground to collect a leaf from the fresh snow mantle that still sported a wisp of life in the form of a few green veins along the yellow stem. And his Dad was holding the leaf between his thumb and index finger blowing in between them to spawn a trumpet’s sound.

Then, he remembered trying to imitate his Dad without being able to reproduce the sound, and his Dad would smile, patting him on his bushy hair and telling him that one day he will be able to: he just needed more practice.

And then, he saw himself with a friend on the snowy riverbank, fishing in the silence of Christmas Eve when nobody, not even a fish, was around.

And he recollected the river’s flow, slow and majestic in a pledge for eternity and the landscape that rested indifferent and harmonious, boasting a supernatural peace that did not belong to him and that he could only envy.


“So what do you think?”

Everybody was looking at him suddenly as he woke up from dreaming about the ghost of Christmas past:

“I do not know, I will have to think about it,” he said, buying time.

Then, turning to the CFO, he asked:

“Jack, what do you think?”

“It sounds reasonable to me.”

“OK, let’s go ahead then” and in this way, he made the first impetuous decision of his life and as he realized that, he did not seem to care too much, after all, this was not that big of a deal and there was not much to lose.

As the meeting was adjourning, he saw people looking at him with expectation, some standing, and some still sitting, as if they were waiting for him to say something.

He knew that they were trying to remind him with their stare that it was Christmas Eve, but he pretended not to notice and, with a forcedly gay tone, he said:

“OK, let’s go back to work!”


Back in his office, he suddenly felt conscious that he had let a decision slip away without having thought it through and he felt uncomfortable.

He walked to the CFO’s office to seek reassurance and there he saw Jack with his concentrated look as usual, frowning in front of the computer.

As he walked closer, he saw that he was looking at clothes and other amenities online.

Disregarding this vision as an illusion, he went on and asked:

“So, what do you think, Jack, was it really a good decision? I am not quite sure about it, what do you really think?”.

But Jack was distracted and, turning toward him, he said:

“I am so sorry, I was distracted, I was looking last minute online for something for my wife and kids, to get at least something ordered online; there is no way I can get out of here in time to buy anything before driving out of town and I totally forgot to get them anything the last days, we have been so busy. At least I could show them the pictures of what is to come …Sorry, what were you asking?”

Julius, bit his lower lip gently, another way to buy time, and then said:

“Nothing, I just came here to say that you are doing a great job; remind me to talk about a raise next week, and… Merry Christmas to you and your family.”


Back in his office again, Julius could not find a thing to do next, but rather, he walked to the glass wall that was sheltering him from the rest of the world.

And he looked down toward the street. It was 73 floor removed, but the people busying themselves, engaging each other in the streets, sorting their path in the crowd, no longer looked like ants to him, but now it seemed that each one of them was as big as he was, but, differently from him, had a family to go to, sounds and cheers to look forward to, children running at the door to merrily yell: “daddy is home!”

In other words, it appeared to him, for the first time, in a long time, that life was there to be lived.

And he imagined the traffic sounds down there and, for the first time, in a long time, he thought of it not as an irksome noise but a cheerful Christmas Carol.

Back at his desk, he thought that he also had sort of a family, or if not family, he had at least Sabrina. She was a close friend after all. Probably, he should have bought a present for her. But then, she did not get one for him, and that thought made him at par with a menacing sense of guilt.

But, as he was moving on to more constructive thoughts, he remembered spotting that morning a nicely wrapped box on his bedside table. Obviously, it was a present for him as she had managed to trick him the previous years.

He honestly thought that he should buy her something this year, but what? A ring? No way, he would not want to give her false expectations, and in any case, he did not even know what she would like.

She was so simple and easy to please! She had been wearing for two years that silly necklace from Tiffany that he bought impulsively one-day walking down 5th avenue. He just purchased it because it looked like a good deal: a real sale! It was a little platinum heart hanging from an invisible platinum chain.

“I guess it is time to upgrade that necklace” he thought, and he knew that he had enough billions to buy for her half of New York City, but he really could not see the point of wasting it on something as indulgent as a diamond necklace.

Even though they say that jewelry keeps its value and you can always sell it, you really never get the true worth when you do, so it’s nothing like a really good investment.

Giving her a valuable jewel would probably not be as wise of an investment as giving her some money that she could use for something more tangible any time, even after he would leave her.

“Maybe I will write her a check” he thought; “or maybe I will try to remember next year”.

And relieved by having solved this nuisance, he went back to work.

Or he thought he would, when another annoying consideration crept up his mind:

…This time, it was his Dad. Mom died almost a year ago, just after Christmas, and his Dad found himself alone for the first time. True that he had called him last Sunday and his Dad told him that all was fine, to not worry about Christmas, that in fact, he liked being alone, shuffling around the home without worrying about anything, just reading or watching TV. He did miss his wife a little, but being alone gave him a chance to think about her and paradoxically feel closer to her. After all, his Dad had always been a positive and jaunty person, a pathologic optimist, and he would have really been just fine.

Still, the idea of leaving the Dad alone bothered Julius:

“I am still his son, and I think he would not mind seeing me”.

Impetuously, Julius got up from his desk and walked out of the office:

“Sarah, call early dismissal… everybody home! Also call Toni and tell him to pick me up with the limo in 15 minutes, I am going upstate to see my Dad. Tell him to be prepared to spend the night there too.”

And, to Sarah’s incredulous face, he added with a cheerful and natural smile:

“And, Merry Christmas to you!”

The drive to upstate New York, where he was born and where he lived till he moved for college, had been routine for him. He had done it at least once a month till last year when Mom died. It had become less regular after then – not because he was not as close to his Dad, but his Dad was less vigilant about visitation. He had lower expectations and devotion to routines. So, like for everybody else around him, he had taken his Dad for granted simply because his Dad did not have the courage or the willingness to ask.

But this time, the white hills, the impertinent snow, the humming of the driver, had changed the trip from a dutiful chore to a lively adventure.

He started imaging how his Dad would deal with the surprise. He would probably act as if nothing was happening, give him a hug and while shuffling around the house, invite him to start a fire, or ask whether he wanted coffee, or may be show him the fixing he had done around the house.

He then would have asked about his work, listening with the biased ears of a provincial Dad, who, far from caring to understand subtleties, was prone to catch a few words that best suited his fancy and that he could boisterously repeat to his friends in the days to come… and, indeed, that is exactly what happened when he arrived.


But Julius was not someone who could stay still for long, and as much as he loved his Dad and enjoyed the thought of being with him, pretty soon became bored and, with the excuse of taking a walk and going to buy something “special” for dinner, he left the house.

And, step after step, with the day still being young, he found himself following an old path that brought him to the home of an old girl friend of his.

If anybody would have asked him whether he had ever loved anybody, he would have pointed at her. They had been classmates since kindergarten. They had played together with snowballs in the winter or climbed trees in the summer. They had been a couple of lovebirds that was looked upon with a smile by the whole town.

But as he grew up, he had become more sensitive to the complexities that govern the rules of engagement between genders and, while she flourished into a wonderful young woman ready to be loved, he never had the initiative, intention or perhaps even the thought of telling her that he loved her. As for most of his relations, he had grown accustomed to taking love from others for granted without considering the need to demonstrate reciprocity.

So, as time passed, the pretty girl, Susan was her name, got courted by handsome suitors and, on one hand observing Julius’ indifference to her attempts to stir his jealousy, and on the other hand, accepting the possibility that another man could be as good, after refusing proposals a few times, she eventually yielded to Paul, the handsome son of the town’s Mayor.

At her wedding, Julius felt a pang in his chest; a strange impetus to cry. He had suddenly realized that he had lost something that should have belonged to him. He decided to leave town. This resulted in a very productive move. Whatever ensued was done with zeal and commitment. Whatever he did was successful: studying, mastering his business, and becoming a legend for the little people in that little world, who now greeted him with awe.

And people smiled and said they envied him whenever he entered the grocery store, or the barber shop and he was forced to report about the life in the big city about which, in reality, he knew and cared very little beyond the walls of his office.



The premonition of “The Eve”

Read “The Eve” by Jamie Marincola first!

Chinese lantern flower

Chinese Lantern Flower in the author’s backyard: the light at the end of the tunnel! – Photo by F. Marincola – El Granada, March 29th 2020

These days, I spend time at home in my shelter enjoying creative reading, thinking and writing both professionally and as an indulgence. But my thoughts go back to my son’s Jamie short story “The Eve” which I read and re-read quite a few times. Maybe that story was not that far fetched! Maybe it was a premonition for the current predicament of COVID-19

The author shelter

The author’s cell (shelter): time for creativity! -Photo by F. Marincola – El Granada, April 3rd 2020

The premonition of “The Eve”


Dear Jamie Son,

In these apocalyptic times of parallel seclusion, I cannot help but think about the multiverse theory so dear to theoretical physicists. Perhaps, we do live in isolated oblivion of other universes. Or instead, as per your story: “The Eve” there is life no more on Earth beyond the walls of our home. All that is left is the result of memory and imagination as for Jeremy’s recurrent awakenings in his death row cell in the “The Leopard Story”:

…Ten thousand miles away, in the United States of America, Jeremy Scarpa had just awakened. As usual, he struggled to recall where he was. He was not a quick thinker and the thoughts, like the warmth of the sun rays is needed to gradually dissipate the early morning fog, had to be recalled one at the time from the murkiness of the night by his lethargic brain.

Nonetheless, a perfunctory glance at the bare walls of the cell reaffirmed his monotonous routine quickly dissipating any possible confusion bequeathed by nocturnal dreams. No matter how vast life could be in the outside, those four walls had somberly encrypted his existence for almost two decades…




Each morning there is little to worry for the fortunate ones like us, who still have a job and can pay their bills: brushing the teeth and maintain the hygiene, exercising indoor …preferably, eating, watching the news and go to bed in vague anticipation of the next day. And we can resort into creative reading, thinking and writing, in an illusion of purpose, while reprogramming our perspective on the meaning of life in empathy with chickens, whose dreams do not dare to trespass the wires of their pen, or at best, their sight.

When I look ahead, I recollect a comic that I contributed a decade ago to the now quiescent Duller Image in the occasion of another turn of bad times, Sequestration:



Indeed, there may not be light at the end of the tunnel, and no hope for our emotions to recover from this experience. People say that COVID-19 will make us better, will encourage appreciation for what we took for granted. it may very well be. But, I am afraid that we will also see each other differently, when will we reunite; disillusioned we will look at each other with suspicion; we will feel betrayed not by our voluntary choices but by the circumstances of life that are out of our hands and dictate everything and make us live alone to die alone.

…And I wonder…

…What it will be like when we will go out again, and we will see people around? Will we go back to normal? Or will we wonder whether the surrounding world is just the fruit of our imagination? Part of an irrelevant comedy that we can spare?

As in “The Eve”:

…Years went by like this and the couple continued on their stationary way. As their health deteriorated, they cared for each other and treated each other with any medicine they could find. Their routine remained intact despite the nothing that happened.  One weekend evening, as they sat together outside in the dusk, he became overwhelmed with doubts over his existence. He confided this doubt to his wife: 

“What if this is it?” 

“This is what?” his wife was confused, but intrigued. 

“What if this is life? What if we are life? What if there is nothing else and it’s just us?




I will be afraid when all of this will be over. I will be afraid to look into the mirror.

Will I recognize myself? And, yet I was the lucky one! What about those, who could not pay the last visit to their beloved? What will they see in the mirror? Perhaps, the luckiest of all are those who departed for:

YE who read are still among the living; but I who write shall have long since gone my way into the region of shadows. For indeed strange things shall happen, and secret things be known, and many centuries shall pass away, ere these memorials be seen of men. And, when seen, there will be some to disbelieve, and some to doubt, and yet a few who will find much to ponder upon in the characters here graven with a stylus of iron.

The year had been a year of terror, and of feelings more intense than terror for which there is no name upon the earth. For many prodigies and signs had taken place, and far and wide, over sea and land, the black wings of the Pestilence were spread abroad.

… And then did we, the seven, start from our seats in horror, and stand trembling, and shuddering, and aghast, for the tones in the voice of the shadow were not the tones of any one being, but of a multitude of beings, and, varying in their cadences from syllable to syllable fell duskly upon our ears in the well-remembered and familiar accents of many thousand departed friends.”[1]


I conclude with the final words from the poem “Disappeared” by Yao Perk Lu:

…Anyway, I disappeared, …like an extinguished lamp.

Relight me!

Hang me in the night sky of the big world,

Always shining with bright stars,

…so I can watch you gradually forget me.”



[1] From: Shadow – A parable by Edgar Allan Poe





Gifted Life by Yao Peck Lu



Dear Franco,

I opened a personal account and tried to publish my short story:  Gifted Life. I received some comments from readers: praises and criticisms, I translated their comments …Maybe there will be no second part.

Reader 1: “You write in Chinese, but when I read it, it seems to be taking an English test. I try to understand it and give you praise. But when I finish reading, I find it is a French test.”

Reader 2: “Original? Amazing!”

Reader 3: “Not sure what you’re writing, maybe there is something wrong with my brain.”

Reader 4: “I don’t understand.”

Reader 5: “I followed you and the system reminded me that a friend of mine followed you too. Did you force him to follow you?“

Is my writing style that strange? I would like to know your thoughts.




My thoughts:

I am not sure about the Chinese version but focusing on the English adaptation …yes, you do have a distinctive style. It is rather a collection of images than a narrative, closer to the structure of a poem. Some other readers see your style almost as a musical piece and they found inspiration; this particularly for “Disappeared”. It is difficult to follow because you jump from concept to concept without bridging. It is like a puzzle to reconstruct, a mystery to unravel, an enigma to decipher that require multiple readings. Quite different from my plain prose and definitely more intriguing. I do like it because it leaves a lot of room for the imagination.

Moreover, to make you feel better, the negative comments that you received are amusing! Welcome to the world of literature whether scientific or fictional and the judgment of critics! Whatever you do, it will never be good enough, and someone will always find faults! But remember! “You can’t please everybody!”

And also, you do not want to conform to the common denominator of mass expectations. This will turn you into another blade of grass among millions rather than a special flower. Thus, do not be discouraged; those who like your style are the ones that count.

In the end, critics are the least tamable of creatures as the publisher told another Paul in my short story: “Tiger

“…Paul brought up the concern that his life, save for the music, had been a complete blunder. He had no friends, no family: his parents had died and there were no siblings or progeny. The only acquaintances consisted of an unsophisticated ranger who just got married with his servant, a Thai teacher in the mainland who was nice (bless her heart) but talked too much, a kitten, and a few tigers.

This latter argument, rather than deterring intrigued further the publisher, who pointed out that tigers, granted that they are less ferocious than critics and definitely more tameable, still represent a respectable challenge and…”

To all our readers …enjoy!


The quite ordinary rose

The quite ordinary rose” – Photo by F. Marincola – El Granada, March 29th, 2020



Gifted life



Paul was convinced that birth is an art. Although his looks were like those of a gravel by the seashore that cannot attract anyone’s attention, he was born without worries about food and clothes, just enough to prove that he was a man, who was cared for by providence. In the previous century, his ancestors went to South Africa to pan for gold, thus accumulating wealth for the entire family. He never had to understand the meaning of hard work and life ran without preoccupations …until his 40th birthday, when his elderly mother wished for him to have a good and decent wife.



“This is a really big problem. Women are all the same, aren’t they? There are only two types of women, simple and complicated.”

A few glasses of wine had entered into his stomach, and a red cloud floated on Paul’s face, as he began to complain with me; …he sprinkled a net into the pond, hoping to fetch an extraordinary fish, but every time that he pulled in the net, he found in it a red carp that he could only throw back into the pond.




As his friend, I could empathize. I shrugged: “Maybe women also think that men are all the same.”

In fact, my relationship was not going well just as Paul’s. In the end, I attributed the source of failure to my dark green plaid shirt. I noticed that Paul’s leather coat was as shiny as a brushed shoe under the restaurant’s pale yellow light.

“Your new coat looks special.”




“I have to say that you do have good aesthetics, maybe it doesn’t suit me well, but I have to wear it because it’s really expensive.” Paul glanced at me admiringly.

Paul was not happy, and he was even looking for troubles. Yes, worries are always with us. Sometimes I feel that I’m so close to my fantasy life that I can almost appreciate what it really looks like. I look at it through a hole in a wall of confusion. I just can’t help but want to live a fantasy life. In the middle of endless illusion, another day of my life is wasted again. I am destined to fantasize about the life I had lived in front of the wall of confusion.






“How about you? Why have you drifted in the long river of life so long?”

Paul asked me.

A stone fell into the calm lake, causing a circle of ripples while sinking to the bottom. Perhaps, my story will start and end with a rose.

“Paul, you know, I traveled for a long time. I used to take care of a rose. It was a quite ordinary rose, and I bought it from an old woman at the entrance of the subway station without spending too much money. I let her live on the balcony, while the sun and the moon took turns, and its existence was as natural as the air. If I were going to board NASA’s next shuttle to the moon, I would take it with me, put it in a pot and bring the best soil and sufficient fertilizer. Until one day, the rose stabbed me and left me without hesitation.

My lover Maria knew this and tried to comfort me: “Why? In my opinion it’s just a haughty rose.”





“I don’t know. I just think I could have taken better care of it.”

Maria hugged me tenderly, and I was temporarily distracted by the softness I felt on my face. Then we laid on the surface of the sea as usual, and the white waves jumped in front of my eyes.

In the dimness I heard Maria weep softly. Obviously she was a woman with sad nipple syndrome. I kissed her forehead superficially and asked, “Are you feeling sick?”

“No. I dreamed that we were on the same green train, and a wonderful feeling flew through my body.”


和她的状态相反,我难以入睡,时钟指向凌晨2:50,滴答声搅得人心神不宁,我坐在客厅的沙发上打开电视机,屏幕中一对年轻的男女正在下国际象棋, “为什么王后牺牲,国王就选择缴械投降了?他明明还可以继续战斗。”


Contrary to her, I had difficulty falling asleep. The clock was pointing at 2:50 am. The ticking sound disturbed me. I sat on the sofa in the living room and turned on the TV. A young man and woman were playing chess on the screen.

“Why did the Queen die? The king chose to surrender his arms. He could clearly have continued to fight. ”

“Maybe he’s just too sad and unwilling to fight.”



The cold moonlight shined through the window into the room, intertwined with the light emitted by a globe-style table lamp. The chilly frost fell on the old-fashioned woolen blanket and the grey wall covered with the hanging world map, …and the thought that my rose could be in any of these places made me decide to start the long journey the next day.





Disappeared a “text” by Yao “Peck” Lu

I received this “text” from Yao Lu:

This text is written for ordinary adults who died of the coronavirus, especially those elderly left alone.  I just want to express the sadness. Death  simply means that one stops breathing, but the real death is to be forgotten by everyone.

I added a recent photo taken from my cousin Roberta from the terrace of her home in Pizzo. Even the innocent departure of the sun behind Stromboli feels like a desolate and ominous farewell in these times.

Suset at the time so COVID19.

Sunset at the time of COVID-19 – Pizzo March 2020, Photo by Roberta Marincola




I disappeared, forever.

I don’t know why I disappeared forever.

They said a disease took me away.


Before I disappeared, it seemed that my ADHD was cured.

Before I disappeared, I drove the car in intimate contact with the unobtrusive roadside tree.

Before I disappeared, I had a successful orthopedic operation after a failed walk,

Before I disappeared, I realized that I forgot the name of an old friend,

Before I disappeared, I occasionally thought of my young lover,


Before I disappeared, I accepted that I was an ordinary adult,

Before I disappeared, my hair started to disappear,

My old friend’s hair also started to disappear.


Invisible and evil forces attacked me,


Anyway, I disappeared,
…like an extinguished lamp.

Relight me,
Hang me in the night sky of the big world,
Always shining with bright stars,

…so I can watch you gradually forget me.




























A rebellious story


This is an old story of mine published already twice in “The leopard and other stories” and again in “Cat behind the window“. I have been asked by several to put my stories on the blog so their are more easily accessible and this is why it is published now and “Scrooge 2011” will be out soon. I hope that you will enjoy.

Night at Pillar Point Harbor

Night at Pillar Point Harbor – February 2020


A Rebellious Story

Whether Otto was a good, or at least a decent writer, we will leave it to his readers to pronounce. Here, I will describe the technique that he used to develop a plot and how once it went awry.

Otto enjoyed letting his imagination wander. On the plane, waiting in line, driving to work and, most of all, lying down during sleepless nights, he would propose a theme and would then let the characters build the story by giving them utmost freedom.

In fact, Otto carried with his characters a symbiotic existence or, more precisely, his characters followed him wherever he would go and, though others would perceive him as a loner and a withdrawn character, he was circled by a wealth of relationships that kept him busy like a bush surrounded by bees in hot summer days.

Besides, it was easy for him to settle and relax while watching the story evolve along uncharted territories rather than obsessing on minute details to please the demanding hypothetical reader. This way, stories took on their own life while he rested aside, enjoying the evolving comedy as a spectator on a velvet armchair at the theater.

But once, things did not exactly go the way they were supposed to. The theme itself was quite straightforward. The characters needed to reach a catharsis during a holiday after a dysfunctional period in their relationship – a way, through heartfelt conversations, to open their hearts to each other.

He had tested something similar in a previous story where he asked his main character to verify the existence and define the significance of evil.

What is evil? Is it just a social convention? Does evil really exist, or is it a way by which humans set rules to avoid self–destruction? In the end, the character which, like Otto, was agnostic and even materialistic, concluded that evil exists as a material thing that can be uncovered in the faces of those who suffer, in their pain – both physical or emotional. The character also concluded as a corollarium that those who cannot see and empathize with others’ pain are, according to all human standards, evil or, in medical terms, sociopaths.

Granted that this theory cannot compete in depth with the perspicacity of Ivan Karamazov’s views in Dostoyevsky’s story, it was still good enough to keep a reader busy on a rainy afternoon.


This time, however, the characters refused to follow the plot. The patriarch went to the family room after lunch to watch TV and kept dozing off. When he was awake, he went on telling old and foolish anecdotes that everyone had heard thousands of times.

The matron busied herself in the kitchen or in the laundry room, and when she would appear, she would either scold the husband because he was not sitting correctly, the son for the mess in which his hair was, or the daughter for not helping, leaving her to deal with everything by herself.

The daughter, on the other hand, was incessantly on the phone – talking to her friends or texting, and the son, pretending to read something, was hypnotizing himself with computer games.

In vain, Otto kept trying to discipline each character one at a time. As one was languidly trying to listen and follow the orders, the others wondered around in different rooms, or took a walk outside or got on the phone again and again so that it never happened that all of them were in the same room at the same time and could even initiate any meaningful conversation whether constructive or destructive.

Eventually, in a desperate final attempt, Otto was able to arouse from his torpor the son, who as a character was the most related to his own personality.

Making himself invisible to the other characters, he sat at the coffee table in front of Michael, firmly removed the computer game from his hands and, looking straight into his eyes, told him:

“Listen, this may be your last chance to become a real character in a published story and, more importantly, to come to a closure with your own family. Your parents are getting old; who knows how many chances you will have to chat with them, to let them know that you love them after all, to let them tell you that they are proud of you for what you are.

With a little effort, you can go far in solving the anger that lingers in you when you think about your family and we can both gain. You will be happier and I will have a decent story to relate to my readers. Come on, you can do this! I will let you be now,” and as magically as he appeared, he quickly disappeared wrapped in guilt for, contrary to his principles, interjecting his will into the story.

After Otto’s disappearance, Michael did not grab the computer game but, rather stunned by the thought that his parents were getting old, began meditating.


Michael was an angry person. He was angry with his mother because she never listened to him but was just worried about the color of his socks or the length of his hair. He was angry with his sister because she was dumb. He was angry with his employer because he exploited him, and with acquaintances because they had demands that he did not want to satisfy. And he was angry at the world because it was too big and indifferent, and with those who were happy because he was not.

He was also angry with himself for being paralyzed in such a funk and doing nothing about it, but most of all, he was angry with his Dad. He felt that he never had a deep relationship with him and that this impasse was not his fault. He agreed with Otto that he should take this opportunity and make an effort to finally straighten things up with his Dad.

To be truthful, his Dad was not a bad person. He had taken care of and provided for his family throughout. He had been a devoted husband, he never spent a penny for anything unnecessary and had lived a humble and boring life, swinging from work to home as regularly and precisely as a pendulum.

Yet, he never made any effort to communicate with his children. He did take Mike to school every day when he was a little boy and picked him up in the afternoons, and he would hold his hands too, but he would barely say a word to him.

When Michael would ask him a question, he would shrug his shoulders and say:

“I do not know, you should ask your uncle who went to college” or…

“This is not something I would know anything about,” and he would let his hand loose, pat Michael’s shoulder opposite to him and then hold his hand again while saying:

“One day, if you will do well in school, you will have the answers to all these questions”.

And to compensate for his dismissiveness, in the cold weather, he would stop at the store and buy him a hot chocolate, and when it was warm, an ice cream.

As he grew a little older, while they were walking down Main Street on a Sunday, Michael had asked his Dad whether he believed that God really existed.

“I do not know,” he replied, “You should ask your Mom, who goes to church and listens to the sermons”.

Often, like in this occasion, he would attach a barely relevant story or joke to these miser conversations.

“What I know is that I am not God; like that father who asked his daughter’s Ascetic Jew boyfriend what he was planning to do if they would get married and, after he repeated several times that God would provide while he would spend his time in prayer and meditation, the Dad concluded that the boyfriend meant that he expected for him to be the God!”.

This sort of conversations was as deep as his relationship with his Dad could go. Yet, his father was, otherwise, fond of him and was even too fond – often in an embarrassing way.

In front of his Dad, he felt like an exotic pet or an imaginary hero like a modern Don Quixote, ready to confront windmills of any size and shape as the Dad would boast with his friends about truthful achievements that grew disproportionately with each word, forcing the son to correct and disclaim with embarrassment the queries of the admiring crowds.

What really irritated Michael most of all was that his father was not dumb. In fact, he had managed all his personal and business life quite successfully and was as wise of a man as any person who had received a formal education.

Michael felt that his dad just did not want to express his thoughts and feelings. He sported this dismissive attitude for which he had no clear explanation: was he afraid to be caught in an unpleasant confrontation? Was he simply lazy? Was he embarrassed for not having received formal education? Was he too busy to waste his time to talk to his own son?

Michael just could not find a reasonable explanation and, by so meditating, he once again thought that Otto was correct, that it was time for closure and, therefore, he said:


To which the Dad, staring at the TV, replied:


“I thought we could talk a little.”

To which the Dad, still staring at the TV and holding the remote, replied:

“About what?”

Encouraged by the established contact, Michael thought of ways to switch the channel of his father’s thoughts from the football game to a more substantive subject.

“Maybe we could talk about our lives, about the way you think we came out as your children. Are you disappointed? Are we the way you hoped for us to be?”

“You were a fine boy and your sister was quite a fine little lady indeed,” said the Dad, trying to look thoughtful.


“That is all, I cannot complain, everything went just fine,” he added, but all of a sudden, he was distracted by the fireplace and realized that right at that moment, more wood was needed.

He got up, went to the fireplace, rearranged the burning wood, and stepped out to get more.

“Dad, do you ever read anything or do anything other than vegetate in front of the TV? Why did you even bother having a family, why did you bring us to this world – just to eat, sleep, barely communicate with each other, and wait to die? What was the point?” Michael said after the Dad had settled himself again on the armchair.

The Dad did not answer but kept watching the TV.

Then, he pursed his lips as if he was going to blow on a trumpet, and then he rubbed his neck, keeping Michael hanging while he was waiting for his Dad to blow out some words assembled under such herculean efforts.

But little followed this pantomime and, releasing a big sigh, the Dad said:

“I don’t have much to say, I am not like you kids who went to college and know how to debate about everything. I could teach you how to make a cabinet, that is all I know, but you would not care, would you?”.

“Dad, I am trying to tell you that I do care. Stop pretending that you are not a clever man. You lived a savvy life, you took care of the family, of our education, we are fine now around you and not many children can say that”.

And again, the Patriarch pursed his lips and held his breath and, when he was about to expire, released a bigger sigh and said:

“Yes, I had my share, you should ask the old lady in the kitchen, she has seen quite a few things,” and Michael heard the rattling of dishes and wondered about what could the old lady have seen besides dirty socks and lost buttons.

“What was it Dad, what did the old lady see?”

“Never mind, the past is the past; you have to always look ahead,” replied the Dad.

“But then, why did you bring it up? Stop playing games, talk to us like grownups for once.”

“You know, this reminds me of the joke about that guy who wants to buy a parrot, and the first one he sees is beautiful but too expensive, then he sees one that was a little older and less opulent and he asks for the price; when he learns that it is even more expensive, he wonders why and the seller explains that it is because he is a Doctor: “it cannot only say “Hello…how are you,” but if you ask him: “I have a headache, what should I do?” you will see that the parrot will help. In fact, the parrot prescribed: “Take an aspirin!”. The guy dropped his jaw, but still, that parrot was too expensive for his pocket. Finally, the same guy sees a very old parrot, with few feathers hanging around its neck and he asks: how much for this? And the store owner replies: “Oh, this is even more expensive, he is the Chairman of the Department!”

…And the Dad waited for a laugh. But Michael was distracted as he was trying to reaffirm in his mind what they had been talking about before the joke and to understand why that story was relevant at all to the previous discussion.

“I guess, once again you managed to avoid talking to us,” Michael finally concluded.

“I just do not understand why you always try to express yourself through apocryphal conversations. Can you just think out loud for yourself and say what you think through your own words? We are not judging you for your literacy!”

“A–po–crfl” pronounced the Dad, probably trying to memorize one more piece of evidence that could be repeated to his friends in the morrow as a testament of his son’s sophistication.

And then, after the “neologism” was safely stored in his memory, the Dad said:

“Mike, I am trying my best to tell you what I know. Do you remember the story of the priest who always prayed to God? And one day, a flood came and the church was flooded, and everybody fled… but he stayed and prayed and, as the waters swelled, he went to the roof to continue to pray. A boat came to rescue him but he refused to go – rather, he continued to pray to his Lord for help. Then the water reached the base of the steeple. Another boat came and, again, he refused to go, saying: “God will take care of His sheep,” and the water went up to the top of the steeple. Finally, one more boat came, but he was praying so intently that he shushed the boatmen off with a wave of his hand: “God will take care of His sheep”. Eventually, he drowned and his soul reached Paradise where he was warmly welcomed. But when he was in front of God, he respectfully asked: “How come, My Omnipotent Sir, you did not help Your faithful sheep?” and God replied: “What do you mean? I sent three boats to get you out of there!”

“I guess you are telling us that we do not understand and appreciate you as you are. I just have no idea what you are talking about Dad, can you just be normal?”

But the Dad got up and slowly walked to the powder room, leaving Michael shaking his head.

“Why did you have to harass Dad like that? What is in your mind? Who are you to drive him crazy with this nonsense?” asked his sister.

“I do not know, I wish I could have an adult conversation with him for once, without jokes, just with some logic attached to it, some ways for me to feel respected as a person and not just patronized.”

“He is not patronizing you. This is the only way he knows how to communicate: by images. He has never learnt to express his feelings ‘congruently’” she said with an effort before she went back to texting her boyfriend.

Michael felt uneasy and, to put behind his unnecessary belligerence toward his Dad, he attacked his sister and her possessed texting:

“You should stop worrying about that idiot, or if you are really worried that he is going to leave you, just worry about your weight. Men do not like fat, trust me, and just try to look better”.

And he observed his sister get up and go to what used to be her room when they still lived there.

Alone, in the living room, Michael, not willing to accept his faults for ruining a perfectly fine day, started commiserating with himself: how stupid everything was and how miserable it was to be stuck on that couch.

Mother came and wondered where everybody went. But, as Michael was about to explain, she interrupted him upon noticing some spots on Michael’s shirt:

“You spilled the sauce on your shirt, give it to me, I can put some talc on it to absorb the fat”.

Then the Dad came out of the powder room looking a little frail and pale, but most remarkably with the fly open.

“George, look at you, what is going on here? Button up that thing!”

And as she was saying this, a catastrophic metallic sound arose from the kitchen:

“Someday, I will kill that cat,” she said, rushing to the scene of the crime.

Then, Michael and his Dad were left alone, and Michael was about to apologize when the Dad said:

“I have some sort of indigestion. Don’t feel too well,” and he lied down in the armchair one more time and, after a deep breath, he turned his head toward the other side.

“OK Dad, I got it, you got out of it one more time,” and putting his jacket on, he went to the kitchen, kissed his mother on her temple and went back to the living room. There, he said:

“I am sorry Dad; I love you,” but the Dad did not reply and, with his head reclined, kept his eyes closed.


Driving back, Michael was remorseful for his behavior and thought angrily about Otto.

“What was the point of stirring all of this? Was he trying to put sense into life? Why ask ourselves questions that cannot be answered? A philosopher may not know the answer to the simplest questions and we bother each other with existentialism? Let Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche, and Sartre argue about this stuff in their spare time! Why us on a lazy Sunday? What is life aside from being a blind jump into a journey that begins by chance and leads to nowhere? Maybe Dad is the true philosopher, maybe Dad is correct in turning everything into a joke… isn’t life itself just a joke?”

And, keeping his mind absorbed in such and similar thoughts, he unexpectedly found himself home.

After parking, while walking to the apartment, he turned on his cellphone and noticed a voice mail waiting, but he did not check it. Rather, he walked to the apartment like a hermit crab, instinctually feeling more comfortable in recovering in his own shell, from which he could stare suspiciously at the world outside.

In the apartment, after depositing the mail, and taking off his jacket and scarf, he dialed with his thumb his phone’s passcode and opened the voice mail:

“Michael, Dad is dead! I have been calling you forever! When I came back from my room, he was lying unconscious on the armchair. I tried to wake him up but he had no pulse. We called the meds, they did CPR and gave him a shock; they took him to the emergency room and there, they pronounced him dead. Come as soon as you get this”.


But Michael did not go right away. Instead, he walked to the bathroom, put his head under the trickling water and let the flow of cold water run over his head – perhaps to wash away the news, perhaps, in an attempt to wake up from a nightmare.

Then he looked up – around the bathroom and around the apartment. Everything seemed unfamiliar. The living room reminded him of pictures of the Gobi Desert he had recently seen: the same indifference and desolation, the same emptiness buried under infinity, the absurdness of any hope for interaction.

He tried to remember what happened. He recalled the phone call, recalled his Dad’s head quietly reclined to the side, and recalled the joke of the old parrot and, looking at the mirror, he saw himself smiling.


After finally jotting the story down, turning off the computer, Otto reflected on the unexpected events and, while partly proud of his clairvoyance for predicting the demise of the Dad, he felt guilty at the same time for not creating a more perspicacious character in the son.

“Perhaps, if the son was less self–absorbed, he would have noticed that the Dad was laying down gray on the arm chair and he could have checked on him – perhaps even saving his life”.

But, most importantly, if he had created a more sensitive character, he would not have gone through an insensible rampage of anger with his family on the last day of his father’s life. He would have controlled himself and a more constructive end to this story would have been written”.

Of course, Otto was well aware that, being the writer, he could easily modify the story, but this was against his principles, and besides, he treated his stories the way he treated his own life, of which he felt he retained very little control.


That night, Otto called his Dad:

“Hi Dad,”

“Otto my boy, what’s up?”

“Nothing, just felt like telling you that I love you”.

Silence and then…

“Gotcha! You remind me of the Budweiser commercial. Remember the one of the son and his dad fishing together on the Golden pond, and the son telling the Dad how much he loves him etc. etc. and the Dad:

“Still you are not getting my Bud!”.

And they both laughed and, for the first time in a long time, Otto appreciated the humor in his Dad’s stories.

Adventure in Candy Island by Heer Patel


This is a story by a very very young and promising writer! Thanks you Heer for sending it to me! And to the readers: enjoy it.

Heer Patel

Heer Patel lives in California with her family of four, where she moved from Minnesota. Reading, writing, and doing gymnastics are her interests. She used to read quite a lot when she was little, which made her interested in being a writer. She really loves art, including drawing and sketching. In her spare time, she loves to sit outside in the sun, listen to music, and sketch. Her future goals are to achieve good grades, be an architect, and have many good books written. She also wants to run an art studio as her own business.



Adventure in Candy Island

By: Heer Patel

Table of Contents


The Journey・2


To Candy Island!・3


The Danger Arrives・4

Four:  Home Again・6


Chapter 1 – The Journey

On July 15, 2025, a girl with shimmering green eyes and chocolate brown hair was looking out the window. She wore a clever but impatient look on her face. “Leah, are you done packing  yet?” her mom yelled from downstairs. “Almost, Mom!” the girl, Leah, shouted back. Leah hurried to her bag and stuffed the last things in there. Her family was going camping with their neighbors to Minnesota. The Smiths’, their neighbors, had a son who was the same age as Leah, and his name was Seth. He had dark blond hair and friendly brown eyes and was very adventurous. Leah had known him since they were little. While in the Smiths’ house, Seth’s dad yelled, “Let’s go Seth, the Evans are probably waiting!” Seth quickly heaved his heavy bag downstairs and out the door. Then he saw Leah. “Oy, Leah, ready?” “Yeah, you? Although, I’m not sure if the jackets I packed are warm enough. I’ve heard it is very cold in Minnesota.” Seth and Leah’s families live in Ohio, and have never been to Minnesota. Seth, all he talks about is sports, but luckily Leah reads… a lot. She knows a lot about Minnesota, even if she hasn’t been there. “Enough chatting here”, Leah’s dad chuckled, “Save some of your energy for later!” Once they got in the car and settled in, they started their long journey.


Many hours later, Seth’s mom says, “Wake up Seth, we’re almost there.” During the trip, Seth was watching videos on his phone and sleeping while Leah was reading and enjoying the scenery. A few minutes later, Seth woke up, leaned towards Leah and whispered, “Do you think this is the ‘journey’?”. This question sparked at Leah. A few days ago, Seth and Leah were playing soccer when Leah accidentally kicked the ball into the bushes. Seth and Leah were looking for the ball and when they found it, there was a note with glittering blue words on it that revealed, “Your journey awaits”. Seth and Leah have always wondered what it meant and when their ‘journey’ will happen. Now that Leah thought of it, Seth might actually be right. When they arrived at the campsite, they unpacked and set up their tents. Then Seth and Leah went exploring. This is where the story begins…


Chapter 2 – To Candy Island!

Leah was afraid a monster would jump out of the shadows and attack them so she stayed close to Seth. Then they came to the darkest part of the woods. “Let’s stick together so we don’t get lost.” Seth muttered. “Y-yes” stammered Leah. So they went deeper into the woods, staying close. Then all of a sudden, a bright white light started to glow in the middle of the forest. As they went closer, the light started turning blue. Then black words appeared saying, “Step in to begin your journey”. Seth was excited and was about to jump in when Leah stopped him. “Wait, what about our parents? Won’t they worry about us?” “Don’t worry, we’ll just pop in and come right back, okay? Besides, this place is probably magical since it has a portal, so the time there is possibly different.” Seth replied. “Okay…” Leah agreed. They held hands and stepped into the portal. The moment they stepped into the portal, they could feel a rushing coolness inside their bodies and then started falling down…


“Oof!” Leah cried when she had landed on something soft. They had apparently fallen out of the sky. “What is this stuff? Cake or marshmallow?” Seth asked, trying some of the stuff. “Mmm, marshmallow.” Leah rolled her eyes. “Enough? Where is the portal home now?” she said sarcastically. “Umm, maybe if we explore, we might find the portal?” They walked up the marshmallow mountain and found a door. Seth looked at Leah and Leah nodded. Seth opened the door and went inside, Leah followed. When they came to the other side, what they saw left them in awe. Right in front of them was… Candy Land.

“Candy Land” they breathed. They could see a cake castle, a river of melted ice cream, a donut pool and more. “Actually, this is Candy Island.” remarked an unfamiliar voice. Seth and Leah whipped around to see a kind looking, plump sort of creature. It was holding a donut, was dressed in white, and a donut shaped hat rested on its head. “Hello strangers, who are you and what do you want?” it said in a high pitched voice. “I’m Seth and this is Leah.” Seth said pointing to Leah. He said a bit more. “Oh, my name is Donuteria.” the small thing finally said, “Let me take you to the king. Follow me.” Donuteria started walking towards the cake castle. Seth and Leah followed. Then they went through another door and got to the castle. The room was long with similar creatures sitting on both sides of the room with the king sitting on a throne at the far end of the room. Donuteria ran over to him and whispered something to him. “Welcome to Candy Island! You may stay here until you find your portal home.” he greeted.


Chapter 3 – The Danger Arrives

Seth and Leah had their own house, that was made of candy. They had stayed here for a couple hours (they discovered 1 hour here was 1 minute at home) when a candot (that’s what the creatures were called) ran into their house and exclaimed, “Our world is in danger! Our king turned evil and soon everyone will, too! Because of the Dark Force!” “Oh, no! Can we help?” Leah asked as she jumped to her feet. The candot nodded and said, “But you’ll need to answer 3 riddles of the Dark Force so you can save this world and get home!” Seth and Leah hurried out and saw the northern part was dark and black. They rushed that way… fast.


When they got there they heard an evil voice say, “Mwah ha ha! It took you long enough! Now answer my riddles, or else doom!” “Okay, monster, we’re not afraid of you!” Seth boasted bravely. Then a strong wind swept by and wrote in the air:

You can see me in the light, I am no more in the night.

I follow you wherever you walk, I tow along you as you talk.

What am I?

Leah knew she had seen this in a book and yelled into the air, “Shadow!”. The Dark Force hissed disappointingly, “You are correct. You won’t survive my next one.” Again, new words appeared and the old ones disappeared:

I look dry, but I am wet. In the air is where I set. The ocean is where I fill, Tomorrow I will see you ‘till.

What am I?

They thought about it for a while, then Seth answered, “The answer is a cloud!”. Leah was confused. How could Seth be sure that this was the correct answer? Angrily the Dark Force roared, “You are correct once more. But be ready for the next one because it is the hardest!”. For the last time words appeared:

You use me every day,

I am natural and artificial.

You can find me natural in May, And artificial in your house.

What am I?


This one was indeed hard. This one was opposite. It was natural and fake? What could it be? They thought and thought until Leah came to a decision. She whispered it to Seth. They both answered together, “Light!”. “You turned out to be smarter than I expected. You are correct.”


As soon as the Dark Force grumbled that, the darkness turned bright and colorful again and the Dark Force turned into their portal home. Then they heard the king’s voice behind them, “Thank you very much for saving our world and for coming here. But before you go I would like to give something to remember your adventure.” They turned around. The king was wearing a colorful suit with a gold cupcake crown on his head. He held two boxes which he gave to Leah and Seth. “These are boxes of never ending cupcakes. Now, I think you must be going. Bye! See you around soon!”


Seth looked at his watch. 9:29. They needed to get back by 9:30. Seth and Leah held hands once more and stepped through the portal. They felt the same feeling they had when they came here. Then they were sucked upwards…


Chapter 4 – Home Again

Seth and Leah landed in the forest and hurried to their campsite. They didn’t want to be late. When they got there, their moms made them go to bed. All they dreamt about was the amazing adventure they had. All the yummy sweets, dangerous riddles, and most of all the fun of the adventure. They had to remember this day. But they were wondering, should they tell their parents? They decided not to. Best day ever!


The End!



Tidal Lock (The story of Giselle, part 2)

Giselle is growing up in the size of her bones on one side and on the other side in the mind of several of my readers. Many ask me about her; she is getting more attention than any of my characters before. I am glad for her and I hope that she will keep up with the expectations. So here it comes: part two! 

Dandelion puff

Dandelion puff – El Granada, February 2020 – Photo by F. Marincola

Giselle grew up more of a tomboy than a suave ballerina. When the boys derided her for being a girl, she punched and kicked them, making them laugh even more. And when the girls looked at her dumbfounded, she shrugged the shoulders and shook her head. A boy instead, developed affection and followed her everywhere like a dog follows the master. He was a tiny boy of docile temperament whose name was Sasha. Soon the two chevaliers bonded and Giselle walked proudly across the village followed by her minuscule army.

She also soon realized that it was impractical to compete with boys on the grounds of physical might. Hence, she resorted to the power of the mind, and whatever teaching the children received in the tiny hut in the middle of the commons that was called school, it stuck into her head and make her stand out among her peers. Anything mentioned by the old teacher was scripted in stone to be rehashed at any opportunity. Soon the teacher, an old man named Borysko, to whom most referred to as “Uncle Borysko”, began to take Giselle into special consideration.

One day, Uncle Borysko asked Giselle in front of Sasha:

“Giselle, what do you want to become when you grow up?”

With decisiveness, Giselle answered:

“I want to be better than all the boys! I want to be the chief of the village!”

And while Sasha was nodding in approbation, she climbed on a chair and posed as if she was the latest hetman of the Cossacks.

Uncle Borysko smiled and said:

“Giselle, there is a big world out there, nothing will come to you by worrying about the boys of this town. Don’t ever look behind but look ahead of you. Pretend that you are the captain of a liner searching for a magic island beyond the horizon. Besides, not all boys are wicked. One day, I am sure, you will meet someone who deserves you and you will fall in love!”

To which Sasha stopped nodding, while Giselle retorted with a skeptical but inquisitive look.

She also became interested in movement. Nobody knows why, but she decided to stand upside-down against the wall of the barn to impress Sasha and she pushed him to emulate her. She then realized that she could move away from the wall and stand upside down all by herself! Still to impress her friend, she started to walk on her hands and perform acrobatics such as cartwheels and somersaults. Poor Sasha! After a few tries, he resorted to sit and watch Giselle perform, particularly when flexibility and strength were required. There were no monkey bars in that village, no rings or other equipment, but there was plenty of trees and meadows, slopes, fences and other hurdles and none of them deterred Giselle that took everything as a challenge climbing and jumping at any opportunity.

But the meaning of motion dawned all of a sudden when a fiddler came to play in the town marketplace. He was a short and skinny man with a big nose and severe moustaches that zigzagged up the cheeks like vines all the way to the sideburns.  He wore a velvet vest and stained pants. Under the vest there was a shirt that must had seen better days. But, there was magic when he played. It wasn’t just the fiddle, but it was the tapping of the foot and the rocking of the body. Everything else followed! The whole band followed, players and instruments; all juddering after the tapping of that supernatural foot!

Music comes in a script, but what gives it life is rhythm. So Giselle began to tap her foot too, and then she tapped in turn one or the other and clapping the hands, and because she was light as a feather, she started spinning, and performing pirouettes, and jumping, and running from one side to the other of the little square as if she had invented all by herself what others have called for centuries ahead: …ballet.

She was so fired that she could not stop and it was only at the end, when the band ended the performance and she saw a few good soul toss one or two kopecks in the old man’s papakhas, that she ran home to fetch in front of the astonished Grandma a few precious coins that she had accumulated birthday after birthday to be saved for an indeterminate future. She ran out of the hut holding them tight in her fist and proudly leaned to depose them in the fiddler’s cap.

But the fiddler shook the head, and, perhaps in awareness through the word of mouth of the little girl’s modest means, said:

“Sorry my magnanimous young lady, we do not accept money from children.”

Then, noticing embarrassment on the rosy cheeks, he frowned and pretending to ponder, he added:

“We do not take money but, since you are such a good ballerina, maybe you can help us by coming again tomorrow. That will be Sunday’s great performance and you can dance for our band! And, you know what?  You can also get up early in the morning and run in the fields to fetch the firstling blossoms of spring that we can use to decorate our humble stage for the occasion.”

And so it was that impromptu, Giselle submitted to the fate imposed upon her by the given name and became a weekend ballerina. And she did it in such earnest that the band decided to share with her a few kopeks. This idea resonated with uncle Borysko, who suddenly realized that some flowers could improve the status of that humble hut called school and, therefore, for a few kopeks he negotiated special deliveries of wild flowers by Giselle for any foreseeable special occasion. All of these beneficences by the elders converging into crumbles of wealth that one day could serve Giselle in that indeterminate future.

Uncle Borysko also took notice of Giselle performances and with the intent of educating her about what had naturally sprang from the heart, he went through dusty boxes to find a book that among several obsolete stories comprised a synopsis of Giselle’s celebrated ballet with a picture of a lovely ballerina:

“I want to show you something, …look! This is the real Giselle: a real ballerina!”

To which the little girl quickly replied:

“I am the real Giselle!”

Uncle Borysko smiled, then turning serious looked straight into her eyes with corrugated eyebrows:

“Yes of course, you are the real Giselle! How dumb of me! And perhaps this ballet was made specially for you!”

“And what is the story about?”

“It is the story of a peasant girl, who falls in love with an upper class boy and she continues to love him even after she dies and protects him from the evil spirits that want to hurt him!”

And since Giselle was attentive listening to him, he continued:

“But you see, this is not a true story, it was made for a ballet, one of the most famous ballets and only very special ballerinas can perform it!”

“Can I do it? Can I see it?”

“Of course you will! Never put limits to your dreams and aspirations. But not in this village, where nothing happens! As I told you, there is a big world out there where things that you cannot even imagine can happen.”


So Giselle was nurtured and raised by a community that respected the old Grandma and her granddaughter, who both bore in their veins the blood of the Cossacks.

One day, sitting astride a branch of a pomegranate tree, Giselle told Sasha:

“If you want to marry me one day, you have to learn to climb trees and do somersaults.”

Sasha looked at her from the ground not knowing what to respond on account of both prospects.

Poor Sasha! He never had a chance, whether he wanted it or not, to reach any of those goals. Just a few days later, he started to suffer nose bleeds that kept recurring ever more often. A few days later the gums began also to ooze. So they took Sasha to the closest town and when he returned, it was in a coffin.

A well-meaning but insensitive soul convinced Grandma to lock Giselle in the chicken run to spare her the pain of the funeral. But Gisele did not concede and piling a few baskets on top of each other and using all the self-taught skills of equilibrium to counter gravity, she managed to reach the top of the fence and jump to the other side, where a blackberry bush welcomed her with its spiny thorns. Extricating her bare legs and arms, she searched for the way to the cemetery when she saw one of the village boys, Demetri approaching her. Demetri was a handsome young boy against whom she used to fight at any opportunity just for the sake of it, but this was not the moment to be cornered. So Giselle ran away from the village and the past that it represented and she kept running, darting across meadows, leaping over creeks, hopping from stone to stone, climbing fences and leaping over bushes. But the determinate boy kept following her and he was faster.

In the end, Giselle gave up and climbing to the top a tiny hill, where a big oak tree stood, she turned around and, ready to confront Demetri, she questioned:

“Why are you following me?”

Perplexed the boy answered:

“I don’t know, because you were running.”

“What do you want from me?”

“Nothing …I just wanted to say something to you!”


“I want to tell you that I am sorry for Sasha.”

“…And for you” he added.

Giselle looked at Demetri with suspicion at the beginning, but then we acquiescence. Maybe the old teacher was right, not all boys are destined to be wicked. So she sat on a rock under the oak tree, hugged her knees and looking far toward the Don that could be seen in the distance she muttered:

“Thank you.”

Demetri came to sit at her side and they both stared at the infinite, till Giselle rested her head on Demetri’s shoulder. For both, it was the first encounter with the finality of death.


Ivanna was attending the chicken run and the small chest that served as a chicken coop. The hens were shadowing her steps while she kept sweeping and piling the manure into a corner and adding fresh hay to the coop. At other times, it would have been an enjoyable chore, an occasion to spends good time with the loyal friends that reliably produced the eggs that nurtured Giselle. But of lately, even that simple routine was turning into hard work; the legs were shaking, the knees made cracking sounds and the breath had to pay a heavy toll to escape from the depth of the lungs. Granting herself an excuse for a break, she stopped the sweeping and looked up and around as if she was concerned about the weather:

“Another good day tomorrow; I tell you! The clouds are high and the sky is blue. But do you know what? We need the rain. I cannot fetch water for you anymore, my good girls. And you drink a lot you know? And you mess up the waterer. You are so messy! Maybe I should just get rid of you!” And she placed a hand on top of her right buttock, stretching the spine to ease the path for the breath out of the lungs.

The hens did not seem worried and kept pecking as if they very well knew that the old lady was all talk but no action when it came to inflicting grief to any living being.

Meanwhile, the old rooster had approached and was looking at her with suspicion, perhaps, sensing that something was different. He had been an earnest defender of his harem for so many years. Stalwart that no weasel, fox or raccoon dared to confront, day or night. At least that was what Ivanna thought at that moment. Indeed, for whatever reason the hens had been safe in that tiny sanctuary; that parcel of heaven where she had lived her entire life.

Old rooster had indeed noticed the unusual interruption of activities and cautiously approached as if he was truly concerned. When it came close he squatted; definitely an acquired habit for a rooster, taught by Giselle, who could not understand why only hens would do it in her presence.

“Why the hens and not you?” She would reprimand. “Squat down!” she would command pushing him down gently toward the ground, …and, lo and behold, the rooster managed to figure out what Giselle meant. That poor Oldie, who had a predilection for the little girl, had learnt with time to squat and let her pick him up to pet his feathers and crest.

Ivanna, copying Giselle, lifted Oldie and said:

“Thank you my dear for crowing in the morning. If it wasn’t for your reminder, I would not get up anymore. The old bones are not listening to their master and so the legs and arms. But they obey your call out of habit, and thanks to you, each day starts anew! I don’t know how much more we will have to worry about it, do you know? We are both old and tired. You do not even fly on top of the fence at sunrise. Do you think that I didn’t notice? Yes, I know that you also can’t wait to rest in eternal peace! But what about your lovely hens, who is going to take care of them…and what about our Giselle if we both go?”

“After Daria died, remember her? You are all that is left!”

Oldie cackled with empathy something indecipherable, while Grandma released him intending to resume her chore. But as she was about to reach for the broom, Uncle Borysko’s voice called from the other side of the fence.

“Ivanna, are you here? Good day to you. Can you come to open to an old friend?”

Ivanna opened the wobbly gate of the chicken run to find the old teacher standing in front of the hut with a little package in the right hand.

“Where have you been? I have not seen you around much lately. Are you turning into a hen yourself? Anyhow, I brought you some tea, can you let me in?”

“I have work to do; don’t you see? I have no time for anything else, not even to worry about anything else. What brought you here, what did Giselle do this time!” Said Ivanna as she walked passed the old teacher to open the door of the hut.

As they entered, she went to the blackened samovar, fetched the pot, filled it with water and returned on top of it checking for kindling. Uncle Borysko foresaw her next move.

“Wait” he said “I can go fetch some wood sticks myself. You wait here”.

Ivanna would not have tolerated such an insult to her abilities in other times and would have nailed the intruder to his chair just with a glance, but this time, she took a deep breath and set on the opposite chair facing the entrance.

“So what did she do this time?” Ivanna asked when they were both sitting in front of each other and the water was heating.

“Nothing, …I mean nothing bad. You know, now we have a new system and we send progress reports to families about our students. It is a mandate from the Ministry of Education, and I am responsible for it. We need to document scores and achievements and send the scorecard for signature.” Said Uncle Borysko casually scanning the premise but keeping sight of Ivanna with the corner of the eye. Since no reaction occurred, he changed the subject and looking around he asked:

“Where is Daria?”

“She is in a better place! She is waiting for me, …hopefully not for long.”

“Way, way, way! What is going on lady Ivanna? You are not known for being a sweet mouth but this is too much! You look better than a spring flower and charming as you have ever been! What are you talking about? Let Daria sleep in peace and I promise that I can get you another cat that will be just as good, or pardon me, …almost as good!”

“You don’t know what you are talking about, if it wasn’t for Giselle I would have already given up. But I can’t. You know that. She still needs me.”

And then, looking straight into the teacher eyes she asked:

“So, spit it out, what did she do this time?”

“Going back to the reports; didn’t you get one from me? Didn’t Giselle bring a letter home for you?”

Ivanna, stood up and went to the old dresser, opened the top drawer that for a time used to be Giselle’s cradle, and took out a sealed envelope. Returning to the table, she pitched it in front of the visitor’s nose.

“You mean this thing?”

“Yes! You didn’t even open it?”

“What’s the point? My glasses are getting old and I cannot see through them anymore.”

“My fair lady, forgive me for breaking it to you but are not the glasses that get old. Your eyes are! You should get new glasses, at least reading glasses!”

“What’s the point? A big waste of money, whom could I leave them to? Giselle can see better than an owl in a moonless night.”

“Well, I will read to you then” said Uncle Borysko opening the envelope with the shaft of the tea spoon. Then he changed his mind:

“Forget the details, let’s get to the point: your granddaughter received outstanding scores. She is by far the best in the school. Her personality may be challenging sometimes but her brain is as sharp as a Cossack’s sward and her will indomitable.  You should be proud of your Giselle!”

“I am, I am, I have always been! Others come to report what a brigand she is, but I killed myself for her, and I know she would do it for me.”

“Well, those were the good news.” Continued Uncle Borysko. “The bad news is that I think she is wasted here. I know Ivanna, that she is all you have. But she needs to move on.”

Ivanna didn’t react. She rose, went to the steaming pot, picked it up and poured a touch of hot water into a porcelain cup that had been sitting on a shelf for years, drained the water after shaking it a few times and then she added the water and the tea for Uncle Borysko. Then, she went to the bucket close to the stove and fetched an old clay cup, poured more water and tea for herself and returned to sit.

“Giselle is life, I am death. She is the future while I am the past. She is almost seven now! She gave me seven blessed years of joy, seven years stolen by destine from her mom. What could I want more? God already blessed me with more than I deserved. What is good for her is all that counts. Now it is her future and nothing else that matters. Besides, I still Oldie to talk to if I feel lonely.”

“I have a niece, the daughter of my sister, who lives in Vienna. My sister loathed our place and she ran away as soon as she could. She went to Moscow and married a Jew there. When the Berlin wall fell they moved away and went to Austria. Her daughter Maria eventually moved to Milan to study fashion and there she met and married a doctor and there is where they live now. My sister died a few years ago, but Maria still writes to me. I never met her, but she heard about me from her mother. I guess she did not completely forget me. She wrote that sometimes she would like to come and visit. They have no children for whatever reason. I told her about Giselle. I am sure that they would love to raise her. They are well to do. Giselle could have a good upbringing.”

That evening, Ivanna looked at Giselle, at her thick and shiny black hair, and the pale forehead below which the pensive eyebrows were framing wide black eyes intently staring at the steaming egg and tomato soup. She could not refrain from admiring that young version of herself and reckoned that she was seeking to imprint that image forever into her mind, and image that would soon belong exclusively to the past. While Giselle was eating, Grandma said:

“Giselle, there are moments, when a page needs to be turned. When what is familiar, turns into precious memories, while new opportunities demand our consideration. When your mom died, it was nevertheless a beginning because things had to continue. And we both made it happen! But now, a new chapter is about to open. Life is like a dandelion puff with the seeds that are freed by the breeze to fly away to start something anew. I am sure that this is what your mom would want for you. Uncle Borysko thinks that it is time for you to go where you can bloom into your destiny. A place that is far from this little village. …And I think that we should follow his advice.

“And what about you Grandma?”

“I will wait here for you, each evening I will pray for you and each morning I will look at the sky querying the clouds for good omens. And I will wait for your letters. I will buy new glasses if I have to. And you remember to write often, and no chicken scratch! Write big letters, just as big as your heart. Remember Grandma’s old eyes.”

Nobody had ever heard or seen Giselle cry. But that night, in the darkness, Ivanna heard a soft sobbing.

“Giselle” she asked “Why are you crying?”

“I am sad.”

“Don’t be sad! You will see, you will have new friends and you will live in beautiful places that you cannot even imagine!”

“I am not sad for myself Grandma. I am sad when I think how much you will miss me!”


The show must go on (a translation from Tullio Moreschi)

This is a translation from a short commentary from Tullio Moreschi, an old friend of mine from Milan, whom I have not seen for decades to find out, through social media, that not only is one of the most esteem dentists in the City but also a quite successful playwright. His last play, “La storia di Zhang” (‘The story of Zhang“) was just premiered in Milan and apparently enjoyed a great success. Following it, Tullio wrote a curious summary of the experience, which I found amusing and I translated in English for my readers perusal. I hope that you will enjoy it:


Tullio Moreshi

Tullio recently


The show must go on


In the film “Shakespeare in love“, there is a scene set in the legendary Globe Theater in London, where the premiere of a show is being organized.

In wild commotion, everyone is frantic, while nothing seems to go right

The only composed fellow is manager.

“How can you be calm? … nothing works here and in an hour we are on stage!”

In apparent phlegmatic control, he says: “… I know. It is always like this. Nothing works until the moment the curtain is raised; then, who knows how, … or why, everything works out ”

In every culture there is a God to protect the arts … including the plays. If we didn’t believe in it, we wouldn’t even try because the production of a show is there or thereabouts always the same as I am about to concisely recap …

First time going over the script with the actors: “… Perhaps better to forget about it

Second attempt: “Ditto!

Third try: “As above … but maybe

Fourth: “You can do it!”

First role assignment: “It is not going to work!

Second role assignment: “…Who knows?

Third role assignment: “Let’s go back to the first

Memorize 1: “Nobody knows the part

Memorize 2: “It seems a nonsensical comedy

Memorize 3: “You can start guessing the plot

Memorize4: “…Sort of

Memorize 5: “Getting there, …perhaps …adding motion usually helps …

Movement in scene take 1: “…Well as far as moving is concerned, …they are moving

Movement 2: “The body language is better but the memorization is lost

From 3 to 30: “Here we are!

31: The director asks for integration to the text

Integration does not work: “Back to the drawing board!

Suddenly, it works: “Try it! …All right!

Take number 57; The director changes everything.

Try again: “Memorization is retained, keep working on the movement …It’s getting better!

The main actress falls ill. It gets worse

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to him, the director changes his mind again

The actress returns recovered from illness to find herself in another role

Nervous Breakdown

Let’s restart with the movements

Panic crisis

It does not work …Maybe a bit …OK!

Let’s account for the dimensions of the stage

Everything needs to be changed. “Changed! OK!

Memorization: OK! Movement: OK! Geometry: OK!

The day before going on stage they allow us into the theater. Scenography needs to be organized but first one has to run to the carpenter to modify a few pieces!

In the meantime, the firefighters step in for a surprise drill: “Everybody out!

Everyone back in …three hours late!

Test lights; three headlights don’t work

The headlights are fixed …six hours late …the theater manager is pissed because all is beyond schedule and threatens retaliation

The director is pissed because a red jelly is missing that cover three seconds in the play but without it one can’t go on stage …it seems … there is a green one but he hates green because of a childhood trauma about which he doesn’t want to talk.

Jelly found! Let’s turn on the lights!

Let’s do it again: OK!

The technician screws up the sequence for the light transitions: “Gotta restart again …from the beginning

And by what time do weed to be ready with the stage lights?

“… Twenty minutes before the show goes on…”

No time for rehearsal … it’s a jump in the dark

…And if you survive the début that thrives on nerves and tension, adrenaline and coffee, you must go through the second performance, which is usually meek and stale after the stress is gone.

Then we can start to reason!

Finally, you can start the real work … because the show is reborn and improvements can be considered.

To sum up, when one would want claim victory, the real work begins

Do you think I exaggerated? A little, perhaps, but only a petite perhaps

Because at the theater “Exams never end

And so it happens in life …

A comment on the encounter by Yao Lu

Yao Lu is my most devoted reader and thoughtful critic in spite of some language barriers. Thank you so much for spending time over my stories and commenting . I decided to add this comment as a separate blog rather than attaching it to the story because I believe it merits (as for many other ones from Yao Lu) a separate title.

But I want to remind the readers that although the details used to build “The Encounter” are the fruit of my imagination, the story really happened and was narrated to me by a friend who did indeed meet the woman during a flight, they fell in love, and lived together till she died of cancer many decades later.

So, serendipity can generate love and permanent unions and the story it is not that unrealistic.


Barbara Fish Trap Jan 2020 (2)

Barbara Fishtrap at night – Princeton by the Beach, January 2020 – Photo by F. Marincola


Comment about the The Encounter

Love at first sight” is rooted on appearance and appeal, and it may drive interest toward a stranger. Such stories may happen every minute around the world and can be appraised like the most ordinary of goods. People most often think that they can have spiritual connection with others, but the true spiritual connection is extremely precious; sadness and joy cannot be shared most of the times. Readers may think that George and Umeiyama’s love is unreasonable, at least the simple dialogue lacks touching power. This makes love like a lie that he made up in his mind, that only touched himself …but introspection may be the spring of true love. Empathy is an important ability that helps us understand others sometimes through barely perceptible sensations: whether they ended up loving each other we do not know but they lived together forever after. Maybe something could be sensed on the first encounter that could ne be explained in ordinary terms. Otherwise the relationship would not have lasted.

The most amazing thing about love stories is that the process and the ending cannot be predicted. Sometimes misinterpretation can cause regret, and the loved one will disappear forever. Does this matter? Because it seems that we can move on to love the next person.

The best love stories are most often tragedies; the unavailability of love makes us keep the best part of the person we love in our memories. This magnificent love stories happen against family barriers, in times of war or sunken ships! And the best moment of love is the first encounter. He or she are an unsolved riddle that cannot be touched, flying high in the sky at an uncertain distance like clouds written by the winds. Maybe people don’t need love, they just need fresh air constantly. We should ask ourselves: “do you love someone or do you just love that feeling?” If they live together, will their love be defeated by the triviality of daily life? We do not know. The only thing we can do is to not regret the process and respect the end of the story”. Flying in the wind with the one you love, whether in reunion or as separation cannot be controlled.

The Mandarin version of “The Wise Men of Pizzo” is out!

The translation in Mandarin of “The Wise Men of Pizzo” is out: “皮佐的智者”!*

Thank you George Sandbar for making it happen! And the translator and all my voluntary mandarin-speaking editors, who helped and are telling me that it is a good story and perhaps even better in Chinese. Special thanks also to Yao Lu who has been a benevolent critic of my work and not only helped with the review of the translation but also prepared a preface in Mandarin with English translation (see below). So now we have three versions of the WMP! The original in English, the Italian one and the Chinese one (I wish I could read it). 

  • Now available at your local Amazon online store or your favorite major online stores worldwide. For our friends in China, the book will soon be distributed by Xinhua while you can also get copies from Dang Dang, JD.com and many other major online platforms


Franto page





Thanks to those who contributed to the Chinese translation of this book, they are equivalent to new readers, completely unaware that they spawned a new novel.

This book is a spiritual journey toward the roots of an Italian-American writer. But if you, like me, are “wise men” from an unknown town, you will find that things are beyond that. This book is more likely to be the offspring of a scientist neglecting his primary occupation. If you can sort  in between the lines through cultural differences and similarities, you will taste different philosophies in the daily conversations of ordinary people, while you will smell the mixed aromas coming from the windward terrace that  faces the Tyrrhenian sea. It will be more than a brief holiday staged in the small Southern Italian town of Pizzo and a memoir of a playboy. I don’t care if readers will have the impulse to search for the real world described in the book. What we will learn is that what is important is that when we will reach today’s sunset, it will be like the sunset that Sisyphus saw when he pushed the stone to the top of the mountain. One can build the courage to arrange a sacred task that is to get rid of established labels and useless shackles, and set us free.

姚露 (Yao Lu)



An additional comment by Sabrina about “The seasons of time”


I received an unexpected and inspiring comment about Luca’s character referring to the final chapter of the short novel The strange case of Clara’s eyes: “The seasons of time” quite discorant with previous comments. To be honest I agree more with the latest interpretation of Luca’s character. As a writer, I want to emphasize, however, that the ethical stature of a character is not the primary goal of a narrative. No matter what the intrinsic qualities of a character may be, the aim is to represent it accurately and in a captivating way to entice the reader. In other words, the point for a writer, is not whether a character deserves Paradise or Hell, whether is an angelic savior or a cruel dictator. What matters is its credibility and appeal as I discussed before in “how people read fiction
In any case, thank you for your comments my beloved readers whether focused on content or style.

Birds and men

Of birds and men – A resident heron waiting for a treat at Pillar Point Harbor – Photo by F. Marincola, Princeton by the Sea, December 31st, 2019.


The comment

I do not agree with others’ comments on Luca’s character and the ending chapter of his story: “The seasons of time”. The story is beautiful and I am in love with Luca, because his character is made to be loved by women.

Do you know why I like him that much? Because Luca knew how to love with true passion when he had feelings for a woman. This is why each woman told him: “I love you!

Luca did not want to love or be loved because he sensed the pain of love, others’ and his, the fear of separation, the fragility of the surrounding reality, the anguish of the passing of time. Luca never learned to trust others particularly on matters of emotions. He did not indulge in relinquishing happiness to the mercy of a charitable soul. This is why Luca, choose solitude over the anxiety of separation. Luca would have lived for the woman who loved him, but he could not accept the idea of being loved, particularly after the divorce that shook his confidence.

I believe that Luca was afraid of love, not because he desired freedom but rather feared the risk of disappointing. He felt safety in building a barrier by preempting expectations.

And I am pleased to see that Clara could touch Luca’s heart, with her shiny blue eyes, the deep scrutiny reaching his soul. It may appear that Clara is an imaginary figure in her perfection, but it is not the case. Clara existed in Luca’s heart till the end when the curtains were lowered on the stage of life and he could see no more.

Tidal Lock (The story of Giselle – part one)

This is a new story divided into different chapters – The first chapter, “The story of Giselle“, dissects how a tomboy blooms into an unexpected flower confirming that life’s outcomes often originate from circumstances that, when we are lucky, depend upon the goodwill of others. I hope you will enjoy and Happy New Year!

Lucy Deccember 2019

Seasons greetings from Lucy – El Granada, December 4th 2019 – Photo by E. Wang

Tidal Lock

When by chance two celestial bodies cross paths and the smaller one is drawn into the others’ orbit, an eternal bond is established and a marvel occurs: in tidal attraction, both slow their spin to face each other. The gradual process first locks the rotational period of the smaller one to match its orbital pace. Then imperceptibly, the dominant abides to the same fate. It is such a common occurrence in the universe that one pays almost no attention to it. This is how our Moon pointed her seductive face to Earth for billions of years past. And the Earth will have no choice but to reciprocate in the billions to come …unless a premature death will part them beforehand, when the Sun, as a giant red explosion, will engulf both in a mass suicide. But till then, the fatal attraction will persevere.

…And so is the fate of true love.



(Translation in Mandarin by Yao Lu)


This is the tale of Giselle and of her improbable love story.

(Part one)


In the haze of a chilly autumn morning, a door squeaked ahead of opening to let an elder woman out of a gray and rusty hut from which a languid swell of dark smoke levitated unhurriedly on its way to the clouds above. It was the first commotion since dawn to break the majestic silence that hovered above the snow of the steppe. The whisper of a chilly breeze had been playing an inconsequential cadence through the naked trees and it was of no interest to a shiny black crow. The crow instead sharpened its beak against the branch upon which it was perched and returned to observe the scene with the indifference of a seasoned veteran. With comparable heedlessness the bird followed the steps of the woman.

The elder marched nimbly over the slippery mud holding a tiny bundle with the left arm that she zealously covered with the right forearm. The tip of the index finger was dipped into the bundle and gently stroked the tiny cheeks of a newborn girl, who had just come into the world.

Soon, she reached a slightly bigger hut, somewhat less rusty and not as gray around which a few early riser chickens were scraping the dust under the supervision of a proud rooster. She pushed the door with the right shoulder and entered the darkness. In the penumbra, she walked to an old dresser and pulled out with the right hand the top drawer. She took a blanket from the adjacent bed, wrapped the baby into it and reposed the bundle in the drawer repurposed as a cradle for the time being. The grandma then turned toward the wood burning stove that was dead cold. She opened the door of the stove, inspected the damper and sighed. Then she cleared the ashes from the previous day and prepared for the new one. She went out to fetch wood, wrapped it into a log canvas, carried it back and swiftly piled it into the stove on top of dry autumn leaves. She searched for a match and it was that necessity that brought back the events of the previous day.

In the middle of the night, she had brought the matchbox to the other hut to start a fire where the birth was supposed to happen, and where her daughter Anna, the baby’s mother, was now resting in eternal peace. The midwife had been summoned from the village the day before because Anna’s contractions had begun. Her name was Kateryna, an old acquaintance from her youth, who pledged to help at no cost thanks to the enduring friendship.

In the evening, since the delivery was taking its time, Kateryna encouraged the elder to go back for a short nap and return to help when she would wake up. But instead the night was still young when the midwife rushed in to wake her up. There was blood coming from everywhere, the baby was alive but the bleeding would not stop. The elder rushed to the hut with sheets and buckets, and she searched for wood in the darkness and went back to fetch the matchbox to start the fire. All activities done with the alacrity of desperation, the fussing that can bring distraction but cannot prevent the inevitable.

She fretted by cleaning, washing and by following the midwife frantic orders till there was only silence and Kateryna went to close Anna’s eyes forever. Then, they remembered the little orphan, who unaware slept peacefully at the side of the dead mother.

The dad had died under unclear circumstances just a few months before. He was a handsome lad carrying Cossack blood and the genuine pride of a horse rider. He had spent most of life on a horse rather than on land and that had made Anna loose her mind. But Cossacks at the time of our story were only a memory of the past. In the modern times, horses and their riders were of little use in war and in peace since there was no cause to keep the Cossacks going after their repatriation. So the valiant spirit of a warrior turned him into a truculent drunkard and after escalating quarrels they eventually found him with a smashed head along a brook that ran into the Don a few kilometers South of his hometown. Nobody seemed eager to find the perpetrator and even the police captain shrug his shoulders:

“It was going to happen sooner or later.”

And because the body was found out of his district, he turned the case to the other municipality, which in turn by the time it pursued the incident found nothing at the scene but an empty pack of cigarettes, a rotten booth and a dirty sock.

The grandma remembered that in slurred speech, the dad had once voiced that he cared for his son to be named “the invincible”. But he had left no entitlement for respect, nor he had prepared for the contingency of a female product.

Anna had died without having a chance to say good-bye to her little baby, least giving her a name. But the grandma remembered Anna’s affection for Giselle’s story, told by a teacher though she had never been to a ballet. So, she grabbed the baby from the bed and said:

“Come Giselle, say goodbye to your Mom and let’s go to your new home!”

But the new home was cold, the stove was empty and there were no matches.

Daria, the cat was sleeping on a chair close to the stove likely waiting for warmth in remembrance. When the old lady gently shushed her away to move the chair to the front of the stove and sit on it, the cat arched, stretched, yawned and walked toward the door. There, she sensed the whiff of the cold breeze coming from a fissure and decided better to keep inside. So she grunted a meow (as much as cats could grunt), turned around and wandered back toward the master, who was by then sitting on the same chair. Poor Daria! Like the old lady, she had seen one too many days in her long life, and had gone through God only knows how many litters. She was a retired cat now, and as such she only desired her well-deserved respite for what remained of this life in preparation for the ultimate repose. So she yawned, stretched again and jumped on grandma’s lap.

Grandma caressed Daria mechanically with one hand while on the other she rested her own chin. She recognized that she had to go back to fetch the matches but she had no energy. She also could not bear the thought of looking at the body of what used to be her beautiful daughter, so healthy and strong just a day ago. That cheerful girl, whom everyone loved! The last of her children, who had chosen to stay by her rather than moving to the city like the other ones! Anna with her smiling dark eyes and that black air that framed the palest skin had been the only company for the strong widower, who never remarried after the husband died, and who raised each of her little ones with no money or asset other than the strength of her arms and mind and the loving respect of the neighbors. Now, Anna was gone and had left her alone to rear the baby. But that idea did not falter her for long. The heart pumped warm blood into the head when she thought of Giselle! An overpowering resurgence sparked the hold woman’s resolve when she heard a gurgle coming from the drawer. Caressing Daria she asked:

“What do you think, can we go through another litter?”

Daria burped a consenting meow underlined by a yawn to make it clear that for both of them it was just ordinary business. What’s another litter after all?

Encouraged by the unequivocal assent, grandma turned to the dresser:

“You know Giselle, you will be the best of all, you will make your mom proud one day. You will see! You shall overcome!”

Having said that, the grandma rose and stepped toward to the drawer. She stared at Giselle. She rubbed her fingers against each other to warm them and touch the baby’s cheeks. The newborn opened her eyes and stared at her with a resilient gaze as if she could already gauge the magnitude of the adversity and she was prepared for whatever was about to come.

“Yes, you shall overcome!” the grandma repeated looking firmly into Giselle’s eyes.


With reinvigorated resolve, she told herself:

“Need to feed this baby, need to warm the room, need to thank Kateryna, need to fetch the matches …need to take care of Anna”.

She stepped toward the door to return to the hut where Anna was left but she suddenly stopped. Could she leave the baby alone? She turned toward Daria and said:

“Now you look after Giselle, she is our new girl, you keep her company and I will be right back!”

Daria, recognizing her name, raised the head skeptically and looked into grandma’s eyes trying to understand. Then she jumped on the chair one more time, at intervals flickered her ears in concentration and turned her back toward the entrance.


Kateryna had cleaned and recomposed the body and Anna now was peacefully resting under a clean sheet. She did not seem worried and even eager to undertake the ultimate journey as if she had already forgotten about her baby. Yulia, Ivan’s wife, who had dropped by to check on the status was now helping too. She had yelled at Ivan to help with the preparations for the funeral. Everyone wanted to help the old lady as she had done for decades before when they were little ones and she was full of energy.