by Siegfried Haug
The man squints and takes his cigarette out of his mouth. It is a signal for his neighbor to lean in a bit closer. The bar spills onto the sidewalk, steps away from our door.
“Gatino.” I can see the lips forming the word. Kitten.
Both men hold a morning-glass of Vermentino in their fists — nothing long-stemmed here — and, looking over their left shoulder, watch me limp by.
Everybody at the cafe nods a polite buongiorno.
It is ten in the morning in Seneghe, Provincia Oristano, Sardegna, Italy, and the Americans have arrived at the Mastinu’s.
The white-haired one – meaning: me — stepped on a kitten’s tail. He twisted his knee, the left. He is hobbling off now with his drawing-pad.
Which is correct. All of it, and I am off to sketch the Chiesa Santa Maria Della Rosa. The church is abandoned most of the year except for one day in spring when serious men ride large horses round and round its weedy grounds at breakneck speeds. It goes way back this commemoration, hundreds, maybe thousands of years — a Saracen invasion? Arab pirates? The Arragonese?
Our adoptive family has lived here for many generations.
A sepia wedding picture shows a young couple sitting on a horse. She looks like one unhappy bride. “She never got over her misery,” Maria says. “She was just a girl.” And he so dashing! And her clothes so diligently made!
It is all so romantic, so picturesque, so history-soaked, so family-bound.
I am sketching an ancient iron door-knocker on a ratty gate — blue bale-twine secured — when Maria, my brother’s Sardinian wife, sits down next to me.
The gate, she says in German, our one common language — vowels just a smidgen too long — the gate goes into Beppo’s property. Beppo goes out only at night, and only to water his cows.
“With a wheelbarrow.”
“Mhmm,” I say.
Presumably watering cows with a wheelbarrow makes Sardinian sense.
For Maria to sit with me, mid-morning, on a stone wall opposite Beppo’s is only permissible because she sits with ME, the American-Who-Draws.
Her people have lived here for a hundred years and she had never been in Via Pippia just around the corner from her house.
“There was no reason to.”
A good reason would have been going to the store or visiting a relative. But the store is behind the church and the closest relative is incommunicado because of an ancient inheritance dispute.
“Beppo asked me the other night which of the wires – she lifts her chin towards the house wall — belongs to me and which is Josephina’s.”
I look up from my sketch.
“He wants to cut hers.”
“Because he got a parking ticket.”
“He the guy who always parks on the bus-stop?”
“He thinks Josephina ratted him out.”
“Why would she do that?”
“Because he talked to the major about her.”
I give her a blank look.
“Because of her flower pots.”
She grows still. Sardinia, rural Germany – it’s stories like these that made me leave home. I look over at my sister-in-law. How well I know this: being-of-two-minds.
Leaving home as a young man is one thing; returning home in retirement, as Maria has, quite another. Holding on to that condo in Milano as they are, might be wise indeed.
Siegfried Haug is the author of I WANT TO SLEEP, a workbook for insomniacs. A suspense novel, BAD SLEEP, caught the interest of a local publisher. Retired now from clinical work and teaching, he lives with his wife, a ceramic artist, in the foothills of the Berkshires. When warmth is hard to come by they migrate to Key West.
Siegfried Haug is the author BAD SLEEP, a suspense novel published in 2019 by Levellers Press. He is also the author of I WANT TO SLEEP, a workbook for insomniacs. Retired now from clinical work and teaching, he lives with his wife, a ceramic artist, in the foothills of the Berkshires. When warmth is hard to come by they migrate to Key West.