Short stories




Welcome to my blog. 

Here my short stories. 

Greetings.

EM




BLOG SECTIONS

Letters from the Johnny’s pub - Imaginary stories of rock music

Books, social and communication 

Music and events - Notes and insights

Books Translated - My books translated into English

Utopias Between dreams and reality

Debate - Controversy and a bit of malice

Remark - My thoughts collected. 

Super Cashiers - New humorous format on supermarket cashiers



© ENRICO MATTIOLI 2018




The doormat




Translated by Emilia Maiella


Old Alvaro’s bad mood, exhausted by senility, shows through when, getting home from a walking, he cleans his shoes in front of the door: if the doormat is not well aligned, it is certain that the atmosphere at Malacostas’ gets menacing.

That rug, a despised present from his son-in-law he hardly can stand, portrays a watermelon, but above all represents his aversion towards that young man named Odoacre, a general practitioner who has the studio on the first floor of the same building and whom, in two years, married his daughter, putting his life upside down. In fact, it was him who forbade Alvaro from smoking not to worsen Alvaro’s emphysema. The old man, however, now firmly asserts that he does not feel how he used to, but it is not clear whether Alvaro means it for the kinship or for the lack of cigarettes. This is why he vent his frustrations by vigorously beating his shoes on the doormat. It seems that instead of cleaning them, he would to slam them on someone's face.


Matilde Malacosta, on the other hand, is the one who takes pride in this relationship with all the building’s residents. She is also Alvaro's wife, clearly, and the doormat often becomes the reason for their disputes.

It is half-morning. The chairs are above the table. In an abrupt, surly way, as she almost wanted to still give a rhythm to her life by those mops, Donna Matilde sweeps the kitchen. It is raining outside. In the background, the radio news: Still no turning point on the escape of the bandits who raided the post office yesterday at noon.

Alvaro sits in the living room, on the armchair just below the picture of his three grandchildren. Hard working, he peels the beans.

From the kitchen, in a tone of reproach, his wife catches him: - Did you notice that the oil is over?

- How come, if I took three bottles last week...

- Are you sure?

- Yes, sure! You, rather: where did you put them?

 

He moves towards the kitchen: - Don’t you see you hold them in your hands? - He tells her.

- I just found them! - She answers him. He shakes his head, she takes the coat.

- You don’t want to go out with this weather, do you? - He says.

- I’m going to the market: fruit is over – she replies, annoyed.

- Then I'll go. You better take care of yourself.

Matilde is surprised. – Are you able to choose the oranges?

- Oh, well!

- Go to Ms. Valeria, who is so nice. She has the stand at the bottom, after the old Marcello.

- At the bottom where? - Alvaro screams.

- After the old Marcello's stand...

- Marcello has moved: now he is right at the entrance.

- Exactly: at the bottom from the beginning!



 Alvaro with a slow gesture takes his hat and umbrella. Matilde recommends: - And do not be late, and do not take all that chili, and leave the doormat in order when you come back because you know that a rug is the mirror of the house: what will people think?

She wanders around the living room and thinks: since Odoacre prevented him from smoking, he got worse: could possibly the smoke strengthen the brain?

Alvaro opens and softly accompanies the door, leaving inside his wife's recommendations that, moreover, he knows by heart. At the same time Mrs. Tabacci from the third floor, comes out slamming her armoured door; the echo shakes the railing of the stairs.

 

- Good morning sir. Alvaro.

- Mrs. Tabacci, you are always in shape...

- The stairs are a wonderful gym for the heart.

- I have to tell my wife. Palpitations, arrhythmia...

- Poor. She must keep it slow then...

- And why? Never seen a shot!

- You’re a jokester as always...

- Madam, I am a victim!

- Back to the market?

- I'm going to get some fruits. Vitamins are needed...

- What are you doing with all those chilies?

- If one day I'll see you for a coffee, I'll tell you!

- You know how to cover your back... Can I leave you the mandate for tomorrow's meeting? I'm always in a hurry...

- Of course. It’s a pleasure.

- Goodbye Mr. Malacosta, I have to go.


The woman flees leaving the old man alone. Always running, always running... - mumbles him.

She arrives in front of the guardhouse. The porter is immersed in reading sports newspapers and does not even notice the beautiful lady greeting him. Alvaro stares at him and shouts: - Ah! Fifteen years less!

 

The porter gives a start, then looks at him and sends him to hell: - Screw you, Mr. Chili...

 

Alvaro stops in front of the mailbox. He searches for the key; he looks around and opens the door furtively. He takes out a pack of cigarettes and goes out. Greet the other retirees on the front door.

 

- Hello, old fogeys!

- Hey Alvaro... is it chili pepper's time?

 

The old Malacosta chuckles satisfied and lights a cigarette. 


At home, Matilde cleans sea breams and basses. Ciccia, the cat, stares at the scraps and rubs herself between Matilde’s legs. Matilde, distracted by a vague buzz, thinks: helicopters! Maybe they're looking for someone or something happened. That dotard just got out, I hope he didn’t pull one of his usual stunts…

She gives the cat the bass’ head, keeping hearing the noise from above, the same feeling of fifty years ago, when a bombing destroyed her parents’ house.

She puts the parsley and garlic, a pinch of chili inside the sea breams; sprinkles a dash of lemon and a tablespoon of oil. She arranges everything and turns the oven on.

She goes out to the balcony to read the newspaper and is not able to do it. Ciccia is at her feet. Matilde looks at the chimneys of the opposite building and higher, to see the helicopter of which keeps hearing the noise.

She is distracted by from the grill. Half an hour and the fish is nice and cooked. Ciccia hangs around her and with her paw she cleans her grey tigerskin fur.

Alvaro is coming back. He enters the door and puts the cigarette pack in the mailbox. He dumps in the vase in front of the guardhouse the cigarette butt he was holding between his lips. He pulls a chili out from the bag: he rubs it all over his coat and starts chewing it. He calls the elevator, which certainly has no silent noise.

Matilde feels her husband coming back and approaches the entrance.

Alvaro turns the key and opens. His wife is waiting for him on the corridor with her hands folded. Matilde takes the shopping bags and checks the shopping, continuing to mumble.

What will he do with all this chili... old dotard!

Outside, the doormat is in perfect order. Ciccia goes out and sits on the rug, with the typical snore like a helicopter in flight.

 



© ENRICO MATTIOLI 2018




Armed gang



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Translated by Emilia Maiella


A karst river of incandescent lava, here is my current state of mind. I am at the public park, walking with my mother's dog, and I observe the world running slowly around me with the slowness of a pachyderm.

Slightly blurred images depict couples with a three-wheeled sporty stroller, pushed with vigorous pride by the man; a child on the swing with youthful grandmothers who flirt on their cell phones, not giving a shit to the child’s tears; dejection of animals whose only fault is to be companions of uncivilized people; broken glasses; traces of vomit from no future teenagers lead to have so much fun to almost die.

When we were young, we did not even think about death, even if it was dancing around offering cigarettes; we thought our present was scaffolding on which we would have built a future, and yet, to be clear, rather than a scaffolding ours were like barricades from which we attacked and within which we blurred ourselves. We got lost, we lost, and that is what it was, in the end.



In this park, we came when we had to meet without giving too much attention and especially for fear of being heard: we were more terrified by the bugs than by the slugs because that type of insect, even if not attacking, killed anyway, even if in a different way. We were the ones who were wrong.

Lucilla joined the organization directly from the university and at first I thought she was a bug herself, because of her super-fast insertion that I considered reckless. I looked at her with scepticism, and that time was undoubtedly hard for her. I wanted to kill her, I confided my purpose to the others, but I would have made a mistake, I did not have, fortunately, the permission of the group. She served our same amount of years, has never spoken, although she almost always disagreed with us: this was the aspect that I did not accept and that made me ask a thousand questions about her. Who and what made her do the jump?

She would have been a letters teacher if she had not chosen illegality, after all, each of us would have had another life. Lucilla used to bore us with paradoxes and reflections that thinking about it, the only deep thing was her presumption. She argued that the synthesis of our existence lay (it lay, this indeed is an opportune predicate) in the first singular person between present and simple past tenses of the auxiliary verb being. Beautiful discovery, I thought, moreover, was a distorted thought because anyone can say "I am" but no one can say "I was", the dead do not speak, at most, they let others talk.


I look around me, now, here at the park, these blurred images seem so much a lazy flow of the river and they do not belong to me as they did not back then; in the same way, in a certain sense, my life did not belong to me even if those of the others was imputed to me. At sixty-one, I served all I had to. My father died of heart attack, a heartbreak, someone told me, they told me three months later because the news does not filter in isolation. My mother, well, my mother does not even take the dog for a walk.

It was three months ago that I saw Lucilla again. I was on the bus going to the Cain association, created by the Radical Party for the recovery of former political prisoners. Our meetings, during the trials, had been fleeting, just the time for the greetings. My anger had calmed down. She looked at me, however, always with a look that extremely annoyed me. I do not know why, one day I stopped to stare into her eyes. She said "I was right, w...". For a moment, I was irritated like the old times, I had heard her sentence well, but there was no longer any right now, there was only to wait for time to run its course.

I was saying, I was on the bus and I saw her at the bus stop. I was unprepared for the meeting and stayed where I was. In the next two or three days I could not see her. I saw her again the following week and I convinced myself to get off the bus. Freedom or semi-liberty lead you to loneliness, you do not have much space (or even much time) to make a new life, you have to be satisfied because what you already have is a lot, but for heaven's sake, this is not a complaint, just an observation. After all, today's state of mind is the same as in the times of trials: waiting for time to run its course. People know who you are and that you carry your burden, at the beginning I also felt uncomfortable to let a fake smile slip. After so many years behind the bars watching the sun in chess holes, when you know that most of the public opinion, not without reason, would want you dead, all this freedom is something that even scares.

I slowly got off the bus steps, she did not immediately notice me. Another bus stopped and almost everyone got in. We stood alone at the bus stop, except for two old ladies with their shopping bags. Lucilla turned and saw me. We looked at each other for a few minutes, without saying anything or hugging each other. Then she started to move, but without haste. She turned to look at me and I followed her. Walking we loosened up, we talked about this and that, what you do and with whom, I asked, today was her day off, coincidentally, and this reminded me to call the association to warn that I had some accident and that I would be late. His mother passed away the previous month, Lucilla informed me. We walked a bit to the historical centre, more or less in silence with the traffic on the background. An English-style bus, open upstairs, stopped at the traffic lights and the tourists on it waved at us. We laughed, almost incredulous of doing it and we returned the waving: Lucilla was moved (even if I avoided to point it out), as if for anything, even the most trivial, we had to be grateful. We kept on walking and then we stopped in front of the theatre poster under the porticoes to look at the spectacles’ programming. We arrived at an outdoor cafe and we sat down. I asked for a coffee with a splash and she for a simple espresso, they also brought us chocolates. We sat, mute, smoking and watching the coming and going. On the square, a mime improvised a show with a tape player that played movie soundtracks and he imitated the protagonists of the films. The most requested was Charlie Chaplin, the mime made a ridiculous version of it using a huge ball like that of the Great Dictator, which he had deflated sending it in all directions and then clumsily groping to grab it. Some kids looked at him, sitting on the ground with their mouths open.


Lucilla stood up, asking me to follow her, I'll show you where I work, she said, it’s near. She led me around the corner, where there was a conference room. I organize conferences, she said, next week there is "The discreet charm of the goods", if you have time and you want to come, you can find me here. She left and I watched her leave.

While sharing the silence, feeling the presence of the other was comforting, we still had the dry smell of gunpowder, of iron and fire, the moral and juridical responsibility of a country set on fire, the conviction of spreading, through the acts, the social redemption rather than the terror that left us isolated. If Lucilla, with her foresight, perceived all this already beck then at the time of the facts, I am not able to say it today, certainly it is still unclear, if it had been so, the reason of her submission to the armed fight, it is likely, perhaps, that she lived with the conscience of those who knew, in addition to what I listed, they were living in an unhealthy country, as the chronicle and the history have shown at a later time, and therefore, to feel legitimized to... make mistakes.

I am still here, at the park, walking with my mother's dog, among the waste of Easter Monday picnic, couples pushing a stroller, vomit of teenagers who want to die, and how they say, in fact, the slow flow. It was here that, during one of our meetings, they arrested part of the gang and I was one of them. Lucilla claimed to be right, but I was too. I failed to identify it, but there was a bug among us, even if now it does not make sense to revive the past and some things would have happened in any case, maybe in a different way. It is not about losing or turning the world upside down, our world or other’s: it is all about what we waste of those remains we did not care of.



Playing with the dog, I throw a flat ball that he earlier found in the trash. He brings it back to my feet like an keepsake. He looks at my fake throwing with his tongue out, he takes the bite, he goes back on his steps, barks scolding me, and then I make a long throw up to the soccer field where some guys do some goal shootings. Bobby would like to exchange his flat ball for the one they are playing with. The boys pass the ball with quick touches, scared by the enthusiasm of the dog. I tell them not to worry, Bobby certainly does not bite, he is a quiet and playful animal. I recall him, he comes back with the flat ball and his tongue out for the ride. He leaves the ball at my feet again and lies down to rest. I look at the sky, it will rain soon. I start walking back home, Bobby follows me with this ball in his teeth that really does not want to give up. It heavy starts to rain, the April rain characterizes the first days of spring. In front of us there is the canopy of a pub with wooden benches. I cross the road through long steps and I take a seat. So I order a red one. The speakers in the background play the blues song Happy birthday to you by BB King. I always liked the blues, during the school years I played a harmonica. I sip my beer, smoking and watching the rain go down. Bobby is at my feet still chewing the ball. Years have passed, only now I can understand what Lucilla meant with her paradoxical "I was right, we were wrong".

As I think about this, I realize I keep the rhythm of the song by slapping the side of the pub table, while the rain descends and beats in countertops, washing that initial river of incandescent lava. 




 © ENRICO MATTIOLI 2018




Women



Translated by Emilia Maiella


At four in the morning, while I’m having a beautiful dream, suddenly the phone in the corridor rings. The one that only rings when a call-centre employee calls to sell me something I don’t want, that telephone that should never ever ring in the middle of the night. I drag myself to answer, saying “Hello?” in a drunken slur, and on the other side, I hear a raspy voice gasping quietly “Sergio?”.

“You got the wrong number ma’am, there is no Sergio here”.

“Sergio…”.

“Look, it’s four in the morning, frankly… have some patience.”



Frankly, have some patience is the best I could process at this time of the night. I just sit on the window chair trying to remember the dream, but the phone call cleared my recent memory history. I haven’t been having good dreams in a long time.  I drag my legs to walking, I stop to look at my face in the corridor’s mirror. A woman tossed across the bed at four in the morning: what can I say? It’s something a phone call can’t erase for sure. I feel the exit less peace of this moment straddling the night and the day. I breathe, I hear the steps of Skittle: he approaches me, sniffs me, licks my hand. I pet his big head while I hug him, feeling his breath on my cheeks. Then he goes towards the door, turns himself and makes a chocked sound. Yeah, c’mon! Let’s have a walk, it’s better! I put on a tracksuit an grab the keys.

Along the boulevard, Skittle walks a few feet away from me. The street lighting is still on. Anxiety wiped out any sleepiness. I have to smoke, while I light my cigarette I notice we already turned the corner and that Skittle is running to a female dog that is walking with her owner.


“Skittle! Skittle come here! I’m sorry!” I say to the man with the dog I recognise as the lodger of the ground floor. “Don’t worry, it’s not a big deal” he says. “It’s the solemn hour of the beast and its owner, isn’t it?” he adds. “I guess so, even though it’s Skittle who brings me to walk” I say. He laughs. “Speaking about time, doesn’t it turn to summer-time today?” “Yes, you’re right, it does today”. “So, now it must be…” “Oh God, I don’t know, it’s too early to be clear-headed”. “But you… you recently moved here, didn’t you?” “Yes, it’s been two months. Well, see you then, have a good morning.” “Well, I grew up here instead. I’m the son of the doorman, when my parents died the condo left me the apartment. Oh, I pay the rent of course” “Yeah, sure. Well, have a good day then. I keep on walking” “No, wait: just tell me your name” “Adriana. I’m Adriana and he is Skittle” “Nice to meet you, I’m Michele and she’s Peggy”. “Ok then, bye Michele, bye Peggy!”

We move away, Skittle and I. So, the summer-time, today is Sunday. I’m out of time and I lost the track. We reach the playground on the square. Skittle drinks water from the fountain then declares war to the pigeons. He runs, jumps, maybe he wish he could fly, barks breaking the silence on the desert square. Pigeons make an army too big for him to fight. Defeated, he comes to the bench I was sitting on. He lies down on my feet. I look at him, scratching his head. My attention is stolen by a flock of swallows over our heads. Fresh air confirms that spring arrived, but I didn’t wake up and I’m a kid even less.  I think I’ve been in a coma for years. It’s the only mood I can accept for myself. I check the time on the phone: a quarter to six A.M.. Skittle decides it’s time to go back home. I get up and we walk back along the boulevard. Soon it will be light out. I pick up the peace, I don’t want to see the sunset, to me the born of a new day doesn’t make sense, it’s always the same thing in the end, it doesn’t matter to me.

We reach the front door, I open it. Skittle sneaks in before I do, he’s not familiar with gallantry. We get through the lobby and arrive in front of the lift. The door of the ground floor apartment opens. It’s that Michele, and now he appears on the door. “I made coffee, do you want some?” “Look, you are very kind, but I’d like to sleep a couple of hours, if I can. But, thank you” “Fine. But next time you can’t refuse.” “Have a good Sunday, Michele.”


He must have sensed our presence: maybe he waited behind the door all the time? There are more things among loneliness then above and over the Earth, dear Michele, and I prefer the things among loneliness. We go up to the fourth floor, I get inside, and undress. I lay down on the bed and try to get some sleep. It’s still quiet in the condo, I don’t even listen to those far sound that in these cases induce rest.

Alessandro chose Skittle from a shelter and named it with Rocky Balboa’s dog name. It was a funny Spinone, he looked just like a skittle. Alessandro liked to go to the city centre and surprise me with a carriage ride. It was an old dimension I really loved, the one of wandering through the closed-to-traffic old town’s streets. There was a particular time of the day, after the twilight, when the daylight was decreasing and the streetlights were turning on: in that very moment, as of enchantment, there was this yellowish filter like an old photo that melted my heart. It was like to be out of time.

Skittle refused to sit in front of us on the carriage and demanded his sit between us. I was laughing as Alessandro pretended to get offended with Skittle: “Silly dog, go find a job and rise a family of your own” he said as Skittle was playfully barking at him.

I was happy, even if Alessandro and I were just a couple and not a family. I liked being with him, I was a lot “into” him: “too much” sentenced my girlfriends. But, when love comes it comes, to me it was a beautiful period of my life and I wasn’t hiding it. Happiness is something you should treasure with reserve, but it’s obvious to the eyes that it manifests itself, you can’t mask it.

Alessandro kept bursts of enthusiasm nearly until the end, even though the chemo sessions wore down his senses. And my - his partner - dignity. Who seeks justice finds laws, doctors just follow practice, it’s the black and white of existence, it took me awhile to figure it out. Nine years, already, but it’s like the time stopped. The demonstrations and the rights of cohabiting couples, the debates and forums that followed by the time, they don’t concern me anymore because at just 26 I already paid life my bill.

I toss and turn. There is no way to remember the beautiful dream, only agony is sitting right next to me. I didn’t had a man in nine years. I never slept with a man again. “You haven’t fucked with a man since then”, my girlfriends say. Sometimes it seems like this observation sounds more like an accusation. The fact is, I like being with my sorrow. I can’t do anything about it, I don’t want to do anything about it, I no longer intend to make any effort. I think I made enough of them. So, even friendships frayed. People get tired of the usual “Hi girls, here is my new partner: old numb pain that never leaves me”.



My feminine dignity hits its all-time low. I always wear trouser to hide my hair, I guess even Mother Nature have been sympathetic to me because it seems the regrowth recessed.

The other day I was overhearing my male colleagues talking about us female colleagues. About me, they said I’m “dead”: “Not even a necrophiliac would find satisfaction with Adriana!” I remained indifferent, I thought about it, I can’t blame them.

I get up, it’s useless to sleep. Useless “trying” to sleep. To be asleep or awake doesn’t make difference since I can only rest my body. I drink a glass of water and prepare some tea. I heat a croissant in the microwave. I stare at the turn off television while I consume my breakfast. I yawn repeatedly. I grab the remote, but I skip the channels at supersonic speed, as I had to get through this day with the same speed. I turn it off and stay staring at the screen of the TV. Suddenly, I remember the lost dream: a carriage slowly goes on. It’s empty, there is not even the coachman inside. It goes away, and away, and away: slowly. I find it’s not a beautiful dream, even the memories lose their colours. Spring is a verse less poetry. I go taking a shower. I undress. Years haven’t been a burden on my body, I didn’t gained a pound even if I eat regularly. I enter in the box, I let the water flow. It flows on my hair, on my breasts, on my legs. On my waist. Not all that has been evaporates like a physic phenomenon. I turn the knob off. I stay some minutes to let the water drain. I get out the shower, wear the bathrobe and dry myself. Yes, I should shave my legs. I sit on the bidet and lean my feet against the toilet bowl. While I reach out to cut my nails, the phone rings again. I get up, I’m still wet so I leave a track of water behind me on the corridor’s floor. I pick up the phone. It’s the same voice of last night: “Sergio, Sergio…”

The voice tone is still raspy and gasping. She must have cried. “Sergio” she keeps saying. I hear her sobs and panting. “Ma’am, I’m sorry but there is no Sergio here, she must have called the wrong number again, Sergio is not here, there is nobody called Sergio ma’am”

I can’t get off the phone so I silently keep on the line. I hear the crying of the lady and look at my tears over the corridor’s mirror.   

  


© ENRICO MATTIOLI 2018


    



© Enrico Mattioli 2018