Saturday, October 15, 2005

Post Number Forty-Nine: More Fiction

Most unexpectedly, one reader of my awkward Prologue posted his/her appreciation to my post. I believe that what we do, whatever it is, is meant for others to enjoy. It would be a very poor and limited conception of art, that of one who believes that the creation of an artist is intended for the artist alone. I am not an artist, but if I do something I try to give it to others. There is no point in learning if you don't teach, no point in knowing if you don't share knowledge. What progress would mankind do if the early tamer of fire kept his secrets for himself?

My unfinished novel dissatisfies me, and I plan to start a new one very soon, but if even one person appreciates what I wrote, I feel compelled to post a bit of the rest and see what reaction I get.

This is the first part of chapter 1. I hope you will enjoy it.



It was a hot, humid and exhausting day, or such it was for those that, like Elena, barely put up with summer's heat. In fact, at least in this case, Elena's unease was shared with a great majority of the people of the city, for whom even a drop of rain could be a blessing. Sunbeams instead flooded the room as they had done every day for two weeks, mercilessly, overheating its air, baking the floor and causing a real torment for someone seeking rest among those walls.
Crippled by the heat and stunned by the light, Elena lay on the bed, hot, watching the ceiling. Sleeping, simply wasn't an option, despite her being dozy, because of that vague sluggishness that often catches us after lunch under the summer's incalescence. She would have stayed there, the whole day round, lying on the mattress, covered by a sheet drenched by her incontrollable perspiration, weren't it been for the importune as much as unnerving ring of the phone. Elena considered for a few instants the quite inviting hypothesis of ignoring it. She was too exhausted, too hot, to drag her body off the mattress and force it to make the gargantuan effort to cross the room and reach the desk, where the phone lay. She felt a slight pleasure imagining that whoever was at the other end of the line was punished for the annoyance he caused to her in such an efficient way, one that at the same time cost so little effort on her side. She simply had to stay where she was, watching the ceiling… sooner or later it would have stopped ringing… a ring… another… another one…
"Damn", mumbled Elena, barely audible. She realized she couldn't cope with this. She was too hot even to stand that unbearable ring that rumbled in her head with such insistence. Elena recollected her energies and managed to sit down, although even that simple movement made her blush, and she briefly moved her wet hand across her forehead, verifying that it too was equally drenched. With a snort, the girl rose from the bed and unwillingly dragged herself to the origin of that unbearable ring.
"Coming!" she grunted, as if the phone could hear her. She lifted the receiver and brought it to her ear.
"Ah, thankfully you are there!", answered a feminine voice that Elena recognized immediately.
"Manuela… is it you?", she said, and her voice sounded much more tired and sleepy than that of her interlocutor.
"What's up, are you sick?", she said, worried, perceiving her lack of energies.
"No, it's just this heat… It’s killing me! Come on, tell me what's up, so I can fall back on the bed and forget what you said."
"I am sorry Elena…", she began, and Elena realized by her tone that by the end of the sentence she was going to share the regret, "… fact is that Mr. Valeri needs you today."
Manuela was Elena's best friend, even if in this moment Elena's only thought was that she had forced her off the bed to give her bad news. Mr Valeri, instead, was the oily and stingy owner of a small music store where both Manuela and Elena used to work, at the sole purpose of rounding up the wages they received weekly from their parents and give themselves at least the impression they were slightly more independent than they were as children. It wasn't unusual that youngsters, students, were forced by need more than by choice to ask for their parents' help to survive. On the other hand, however, not everyone liked it, and some had the luck to be able to choose. Elena, who was an adopted child and felt a sense of gratitude towards her parents for letting her in their family, had opted for a job at a music store which was not far from her house, although it would have been more appropriately called a room, since that was what she had chosen to rent; this, to help their parents save money, and because, somehow, it gave her fewer responsibilities. At least, the landlady was a good woman, although sometimes a bit strange, and she lived in a flat that she had shared with a husband and five sons, but which became too large when her children formed their own families and her husband left her for another woman. For this reason, Mistress Corte rented the empty rooms that once had seen her children grow up, to students of the nearby University. She preferred to host girls, because, as she often jokingly put it, "in a house where six men lived there is a desperate need for women to clean up". Mistress Corte asked only for her rented rooms to be kept clean and reasonably neat. In exchange for that, she cooked for all her guests (which, invariably, ended up including some guys) and chatted lively with them all, to the point that some had started calling her "second mum".So pleasant was Mistress Corte, so unpleasant was Mr. Valeri. A person devoted to a single good: his own. He had eyes for his shop only, he had heart for his money alone. Employing personnel regularly to serve customers would cost him obviously more than he meant to spend. But he had the luck to be a few hundred yards away from the University, a place he had no respect for, but that provided him with a significant amount of low-cost employees. Students had little requests, they were satisfied with ludicrous salaries and they could be mistreated at will without fear they would inform trade unions or worse. For one who chose to quit the job, there could be another right away who despaired to gain some money, and anyway, considering the expenses for a youngster who lives far from home, there certainly weren't many that chose not to catch the occasion. Among those, certainly Elena wasn't one, since she had studied at the University for ten months and since five she had worked for Mr Valeri's shop. She studied Anglo-American Literature and this gave her a chance to work and study at the same time, taking her books to her job place and reading them in her spare time between two customers, which happened frequently. She found classical English Literature very attractive, but her passion was for those fantastic novels which told of kings and princesses, knights and fire-breathing dragons, which she had started loving as a child and which she kept on being fond of now that she had grown up. As she often repeated to her schoolmates, "there is something charming with fantasy, something that transcends reality and seems to call for us, and I can't resist that call". Elena thought that a lightning was more poetic than a light bulb and the passions of princesses and knights more exciting than those of her neighbors.


(to be continued)