*Kadnas Rusan *
very brief flashes
Giorgio had the idea to hold a seance.
Those things scare me, but I was there in Portalbera on vacation at my aunt and uncle’s and I couldn’t let myself be humiliated by those four snot-nosed kids, not me from the city, and I was also big and strong and had already established my role for that summer with my fists.
Giorgio had just finished fifth grade and he wasn’t very bright, for this reason his dares were more about courage and, obviously, none of the kids had the guts to back down. And I didn’t have them either, even though I was the oldest.
It was set up for that evening in Matteo’s parents’ barn. The sun hadn’t completely gone down yet, it was unbelievably hot, and you could hear the crickets and cicadas crazily singing. Climbing the ladder without being seen would have been easy enough, with the women in the yard shucking corn, gossiping, and smacking horseflies, and the men down at the tavern drinking bad wine, singing, and cursing so loudly that at times they could be heard all the way to the farmhouse.
The scent of hay was intense enough to stun the senses while we sat in a circle all together around the remains of a cardboard box with a glass placed on top. The letters of the alphabet were drawn on the cardboard.
“What is this stuff for?” Paolo asked.
“The spirits don’t speak, but they can move the glass over the letters and form words,” said Giorgio gloomily.
An icy veil of terror descended upon us.
“So then chickens, who shall we call?”
No one had the courage to open his mouth. I already regretted being there, Paolo was shaking like jello, and Nello was as white as a ghost. Only Matteo, who lived there, had the strength to whisper:
“Let’s call my grandfather…”, he stammered.
“So be it!”, Giorgio declared, giving him a strong pat on the back.
Trembling and scared, we held hands to form a chain: giving up at that point would have meant a summer of jeers with penitence and humiliation.
“Matteo’s grandfather! If you’re here knock once!”, cried Giorgio.
Nothing happened. He tried to repeat the exhortation but the result was equally disappointing, and instead, as if making fun of us, a meat fly landed on the immobile glass.
We looked at one another and, I admit, I saw the same state of mind that I had on my friends’ faces: an expression of relief and narrow escape. Maybe that stupid summer adventure would have ended there.
But we hadn’t counted on Giorgio’s obstinacy.
“Matteo’s grandfather! If you’re here knock once!”, he stubbornly barked in a loud voice.
It was at that point that a terrifying shadow rose from the bottom of the barn and moved threateningly toward us: the grandfather!
“Are you fucking done bothering me?”, he hissed angrily.
He had fiery eyes, heaving breath, and the fly of his pants was open. More than looking like a spirit, he looked possessed.
Giorgio grabbed Matteo by the ear and dragged him halfway through the farm kicking and insulting him.
“Idiot. To hold a seance the grandfather has to be dead!”.
But the grandfather was alive, very much alive. That was confirmed when, behind him, I saw the overflowing bare bust of Anna, the young and timid servant girl.
She had straw in her long unkempt hair.
THE LAST JOURNEY
1. He descended slowly, driven by the majestic current of the great river, rocked by the eddies that acted like water funnels, dragging foam and leaves to the muddy bottom.
That day the Po flowed somber and solemn, lightly touching the deserted shores, lapping gray sands trampled by sad lonely seagulls.
Still a short time and then, from behind the bend, the top of the bell tower would emerge; if he remembered well, that was the last big curve that preceded the shore where his home village rose up.
2. He had left Portalbera almost thirty years before, at night, running away from a murder charge: a moment of madness after a quarrel with a husband, armed with a knife and disarmed of his honor. Women, then, were his weakness. The women of others, especially: for them he had cried, laughed, suffered, and relished without ever regretting it. Except that night. When he betrayed his best friend.
3. While proceeding towards the valley, a small whitish fish came up to him and soon left, as if it sensed the corruption that pervaded him. A water snake slithered against his legs without him feeling fright or disgust: life had forged him to endure much worse things.
The water of the river, dark and murky thanks to the churning sand, smelled of rotting seaweed and naphtha. But he didn’t smell any stench, he just wanted to pass by his home for the last time.
4. He had remained in France for all those long years, working with blast furnaces, spending days drinking cheap wine and evenings consoling himself with cheap prostitutes. Only at night, when the conscience does not grant respite, he thought back to his village, to his friends, and to her. She who had bewitched him with her smile, she who belonged to another. And the other had been his best friend for the first twenty years of his life.
5. There it is, finally, the tip of the bell tower peeping over the tops of the poplars, there, as always, for hundreds of years. A little further down, the church, an immutable and perpetual reference to a population accustomed to struggle against mosquitoes and floods, used to fatigue and disillusionment. Finally his house: a decrepit peeling wall, moist from a thousand rains.
He only now understands the mistake made, he realizes he dared too much in challenging fate, while he ferociously holds on to those smells he lost by leaving his birthplace. He only understands now, while he passes in front of it, slowly, heaving, without any chance of being able to turn and go up the river in order to correct the mistake and make a new life there, with his former friends.
6. Portalbera, there it is, among the foliage of the trees and the dust of its courtyards. He feels it, smells it, breathes it, and would like to see it one more time. But how? How, since he no longer has eyes?
7. So he goes quietly and still, around the bend that leads to another big bend and then another, until who knows where, to the sea, maybe…
And silently he moves away, disappearing forever, a floating drowned corpse.
It was a summer evening like many others in San Pietro, a small cluster of houses near Portalbera.
A group of loud kids in shorts, some perpetually perplexed adult, a miserable odd soccer ball and the Po River in the background. The playing field was a large space created by the intersection of two dirt roads, one that came from Arena and one for Stradella, as posts the edges of two houses and as a crossbar a very low hanging wire strung between the farm and the tavern. In those days the traffic was scarce, the last to pass had been three hours before: a hothead Landini driven by a skinny guy missing an eye. I used to play as a goalie because running is hard, but defending a ten meter goal still had something heroic about it.
Those matches included the usual obvious episodes: dust, ankle kicking, grinding gravel under the soles of our feet, skinned knees, shoving, broken glass, or a sheet to wash again. If someone kicked really strong and I did not catch it, the ball (a tangle made of rags and held together with dung and engine grease) would roll onto the stony road and then down, ending its race in a bush or against a beached barge or worse, falling into the river. Our audience was some toothless old men who smoked shredded tobacco, spitting heaps of phlegm and blackish saliva on the ground. They smiled the whole time, apparently without having the slightest interest in the game’s progress. That’s how we had fun then, while from afar came crackling news from the radio that we kids didn’t always understand.
That night, distracted by the joy of the game and the beauty of the sunset, we didn’t hear a vehicle coming. We noticed it when it had already rounded the small corner and crossed the gentle slope leading to the crossroad. It was a police truck.
The ball disappeared like magic, but even a fool would have noticed that we were playing soccer in the middle of the street.
The vehicle stopped and a brigadier got out. Someone greeted him by raising his arm limply, but most hesitated, some nervously dusting off their pants, some exploring the depths of their noses.
“What the fuck is going on here? Do you know that it’s forbidden to play soccer in the middle of a public road or not?”
No one said anything. The old men watched continuing to hawk mud lumps.
“But we were just playing hide and seek…”, someone suggested.
The brigadier’s face puffed up, becoming red like a watermelon.
“Who the hell do you think you’re trying to fool? For this time I’ll let it slip, but if I catch you again I’ll throw you in jail.”
With that, he turned to get back into the truck.
I sighed: we got lucky.
Just then Maciste, the innkeeper’s dog, entered the scene happily yelping and gleefully pushing the rag ball ahead of him.
“You were playing hide and seek, huh?”, the brigadier asked sarcastically.
None of us said a word. The situation was already quite compromised.
The gaze of the policeman was strangely fixed on the little dog hopping happily along. I thought I saw the shadow of an old regret on the young man’s face, something that could have been and, most probably, never would be.
Abandoning his thoughts who knows where, the brigadier approached Maciste, who fled into a courtyard frightened.
He picked up the ball and, to our surprise, instead of destroying it or taking it away he placed it on the ground, moving back to run before kicking it.
“Now I’ll show you how you shoot, idiots. I was the best goal scorer of Ragusa…”.
Without a second thought I immediately decided to let him score, even if I had to move away if he kicked the ball at me, otherwise he would have taken the ball away out of spite.
He kicked strongly, too hard for that poor tattered bundle; he kicked in anger, I could tell from the way his face contorted. The ball passed well above my head and I didn’t even attempt to raise my arms to block it. For our game rules, that would have been judged as a shot far above even a regular series crossbar, let alone our laundry wire. I turned back and saw the ball rolling inexorably into the Po, mockingly floating a few meters from the shore but still out of my reach. The current would take it away for good after a few moments. We would have to make a new one. Oh well.
The brigadier, recklessly kicking so strongly, had injured a muscle. He tried not to show it but while he was heading toward the van he was visibly limping while cursing in his incomprehensible dialect. He clambered into the truck with difficulty and, with admirable composure, gave the order to leave.
While the vehicle was already in motion, leaning out the window, he turned toward me smiling.
“Shit, goalkeeper, did you see? A stunningshot!”
Like the announcement that Mussolini made that same evening.
IT WAS ABOUT TIME
It was the spring of 1894. The whole of London and all the most fashionable circles were impressed and appalled by the assassination of Mr. Mostess, one of the most influential politicians of the Kingdom. Someone had hanged the man from the minute hand of the Clock Tower. The story strongly shocked the public and caused quite a stir in the press around the world for its bizarre dynamic that put a strain on the Scotland Yard Commissioner’s coronary arteries. Disconcerting was the fact that the murderer had, presumably around six thirty in the morning, tied a rope around the neck of the politician, securing the other end to the outermost part of the hand which measures more than four meters in length. Poor Mostess spent the last moments of his life knowing that at a quarter to seven his life would end by virtue of the fact that he would not be able to touch the ground with his feet anymore.
As soon as dawn came the dangling corpse was spotted by a street sweeper and, right away, bets rained down about the exact minute of his death. In the early afternoon in the midst of an anxiously awaiting and raucous crowd, the coroner officially established that according to the stature of the dead and the loop length, at six forty-one that morning, Mostess had already reasonably died of asphyxiation, and, in any case, he was dead by ten minutes to seven because of the breaking of the neck bone.
The next morning the police seized cheesy souvenirs of Big Ben with the corpse hanging on the dial and the hands stopped on the hour of death.
The funeral took place the following Thursday. The young widow, Lady Janet, took part in the funeral ceremony entrenched behind an impenetrable black veil, collecting the endless condolences of the participants. But her thoughts were not with her dead husband, but with Roger, the athletic tower clockmaker, who had long been her lover. While the gravediggers covered the coffin of her deceased husband with soil, Lady Janet smiled. A few more shovelfuls and everything would be over.
It was about time.
LACK OF LOVE
“Madam, I’m about to give you indisputable proof that your wishes are orders I cannot refuse.”
The Marquis de Sade finished preparing the whip, anointing it with hot lard, spreading it slowly and placing meticulous care to let the grease penetrate every little crack of the leather. He took a few minutes to complete the operation and, in this time, never took his eyes off the woman who stood motionlessly tied before him.
After having dared, she seemed absent. Her nakedness, not yet complete, now seemed to inhibit her and in her eyes one could read a distant glimmer of regret.
“You have always been the most beautiful female in France…”, he said while covering her eyes with a black satin blindfold.
“Donatien, please. I don’t…”.
“You what? You’re just a whore. Like all women, for that matter.”
The firmness of his manhood had gentle synchronous beats in time with his heart as the two organs, so different from each other, were mutually exchanging the blood they had in common.
The smell of the emitted humors began to mingle in the darkened room’s acrid air.
The Marquis lifted the woman’s clothes and knelt behind her, carefully sniffing her rear.
After a few minutes his congested face contorted and his atavistic fury had to be freed.
The blow was struck.
The woman screamed. And then again and again, as the pain and enjoyment enveloped her at the same time.
“I do not care to return to where I came from, I seek asylum in your ass. Every other orifice is just a repository of unclean filth. I want your ass. And you know very well how ardently you wish to grant it to me”, he whispered mounting her.
“No… Donatien… no…”.
But his decisive assault choked the weak and unconvinced protest.
Finally the release occurred for both because, after such a fast and disorderly erection of the temple, the collapse was inevitable.
She was crying now, but not because of the pain.
“What shame. What horror. I’ll die struck by lightning. Now what will I do? But you… you are divine.”
“I am divine, you say? Then you may start worshipping, mother of mine.”
The Kadnas Rusan Project – 2016
All right reserve.