Authors: Harry Cipriani
Copyright © 1986, 1991, 2011 by Arrigo Cipriani
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To My Faithful Olivetti,
For Writing This Tale with
Almost No Help from the Author
Not a Word
Let the Sounds
Of Your Splendid Body
Be the Splash of the Spent Wave
Breaking on a Silent Shore
The Murmur of the Breeze
Through a Stand of Fir Trees
The Groan of Riggings
In a Boat
The Mournful Creaking of the Stays
The Howling Rage in Every Storm
The Still Calm
Of a Sun-flayed Desert Vastness
But Speak Not
I Beg You
Not a Word
Then he said calmly, “Maria, send me the tug.”
Her curiosity was aroused, and for a moment she looked at the terribly pale face that had not moved.
Little puffs of steam from his nostrils condensed and froze on the tips of his thick white beard.
She came close and brought her moist lips to his ear. Very softly she whispered, “I can send you the cruiser, my darling, or a destroyer, if you like, but not the tugboat. 1 can t.
A shiver ran through him, and one by one the icicles slowly broke away from his beard.
Two frozen tears, hard and hopeless, shattered his pupils forever.
Only the last page of a long novel was found on the beach at Acapulco roughly forty years after the big cracker went off
Exhaustive research on the man with the beard showed that he was anything but the hero of the book—quite the contrary, he appeared inexplicably only in the last twenty lines. What was established with certainty is that he was born in the year 2001 in Alabama, the son of a Czech mother and an Austro-American father. His family name was Smith, because he had been legitimized by his father, but his given name was never known
The sad story was set in the port ofBarletta and had to do with the unrequited love of a young tugboat for a pretty little pilot boat
It also turned out that Smith, the man with the beard, was devastated by the thought that there was no way he could change what was a hopeless situation. That very afternoon he practically gulped down three liter-bottles of Chateau d’Yquem. Totally drunk, he identified with the little pilot boat and, as we just saw, asked Maria, the wife of the doorman at the Göteborg Hilton, to place the tugboat in Ms hands
No plausible reason was ever found for Maria to call him “darling. “ Aside from their fleeting romance of no importance, the only explanation for her use of that term of endearment might be the subsequently
discovered fact that at the start of the afternoon there had actually been six bottles of Chateau d’Yquem, and no trace was ever found of the three bottles that should have been left over after the three that Smith drank
It also needs saying that by the end of the book, the year 2040, he had gone blind. And, as mentioned, his birthplace and the identity of his parents were the subject of extensive and interesting research
His parents had met quite by chance in Beirut on July 14 of the year 2000
His mother, Heloise Svejk, had been a widow for just two days. Her late husband, a guerrilla fighter in the Christian militia, died from the consequences of being kicked by a horse. She did not love him, but two years earlier she had gone with him from Czechoslovakia to Beirut solely to get out from behind the Iron Curtain, which in the late 1990s had come crashing back down in a number of East European countries
His parents’ story began around eleven o ‘clock on that scorching day in July
Around eleven o’clock on the morning of Friday July 14, 2000, Private George Smith was breathlessly chasing a hand grenade along the sidewalk of the Avenue d’Angleterre in Beirut; he had forgotten to pull the pin before he threw it.
At that very moment Mrs. Heloise Svejk was crossing the same street from east to west. She balanced the empty coffin of her husband on her right shoulder. Three of his former comrades, guerrillas of the Christian militia, effortfully helped her. They were on their way back from the common grave in the cemetery They were returning the coffin to the undertaker, who usually bought back returns at half price.
A platoon of Fusiliers of Christ stopped Mrs. Svejk and her companions and asked to see the papers for the coffin at the very moment that Private Smith, a few steps away, was busy retrieving his unexploded grenade. Things looked very bad for Mrs. Svejk, because she had bought the coffin on the black market without a certificate of purchase. But what was taken for the threatening presence of peace-loving Private Smith sent the fusiliers rushing off, together with the guerrillas. Left alone with her heavy burden, Mrs. Svejk made a strenuous effort to lift the coffin onto her head. George Smith suddenly caught sight of her as she moved slowly down the avenue, quivering from the exertion. George was a private in the peacekeeping armed forces of the United States of America. He had been in Beirut for two years, and it had been two years since he set eyes on a real woman.
It would not be true, however, to say that any woman would have aroused such keen interest in George; the truth is that Mrs. Svejk was altogether special. It is absolutely true that the strain of her exertions made her quiver as she moved slowly down the avenue, but it is just as true that the best possible way of describing Mrs. Svejk would be to say that she was a beautiful woman always all aquiver. So without further ado: Mrs. Svejk was a beautiful woman all aquiver. Just so.
Indeed, the only part of her body that did not quiver as she walked perilously balanced on the high heels of two dusty black evening shoes sheathing two slender feet that supported not-too-thin but perfectly proportioned ankles, was her smooth, streamlined calves. Every other part of her exceptional physique seemed to be set aquiver together—-from the stupendous thighs to the hips marked ever so faintly by the outline of her almost invisible panties, hips that suddenly narrowed at the waist, a stem that supported in delicate balance a marvelous quivering bosom that descended in front of two slender, sinuous shoulders, to which was grafted a long neck barely shadowed by a jaw that jutted slightly forward. The lips were somewhat pouty, slashed out under an extremely delicate Greek nose that separated two dark eyes—surprised, wide open, frowning, as clear as they could be, and a bit innocently guilty as well, with the right eye occasionally covered by a stray lock of unkempt ebony hair. Her purple silk dress, scarcely more than a rag torn in hundreds of places, allowed a glimpse of small areas of wonderfully healthy olive-toned breast, stomach, and marvelously smooth thighs.
END OF CHAPTER ONE
So it is no surprise that George Smith was totally overwhelmed by sudden desire the moment he saw Mrs. Svejk. He quickly slipped the grenade into one of his socks, along with a pack of Lucky Strikes, and asked: “Pardon me, can I be of any help?”
Mrs. Svejk’s tone was resigned, as if she had seen everything and accepted everything: “If you like.”
George was a good giant. The pointed face he had inherited from his Austro-Hungarian father seemed always on the verge of an ironic smile. His blond hair and blue eyes came from an American mother of Swedish descent.
George was so overcome by emotion that he stood motionless for a long time without uttering a word. He walked alongside Mrs. Svejk in the burning sun, and his sweat seemed to be the only source of coolness. After walking side by side for an hour, they reached the undertaker’s premises. George said: “Let me handle it.”
The undertaker was standing in the doorway of a shed full of coffins, “Want to sell it?” he asked. “Yes.”