An exploration of Italy Fiction - The Grape Harvest Part 7 is the story of a newly published author, his daughter, and their passion for Italian food, life, and danger.
The Grape Harvest
Mike really enjoyed driving the Ape. As close to wine as he was he had never been a winemaker and the discomfort of the sulfured-overalls did not affect the joy he derived from the costume. Much like a play from his youth dressing the part somehow made him the character. This was a dress rehearsal for deception and Mike would have it no other way.
The miniature truck whined along the road towards Alba and the train station. Trains were slow in this part of the world but anonymity was worth the nuisance. There was a prevailing oncoming wind from the east and the Ape did not make good time under a patch of clouds. Along the wine roads there was not a car nor even an opposing work vehicle to be seen until Mike happened along a grove of trees at the apex of a hill. There was Pino the truffle hunter perfunctorily pointing out the secrets of fungus finding to the soon-to-be devastated German family. The boy was far more interested in the truffle-sniffing dog than the lecture and the little girl twirled at her department store scarf while the mom looked as though she might have felt a hint of moisture in the presence of the handsome Pino. The gun-toting author slowed the Ape to a crawl as he drove by. The little girl made eye contact with him and they gave each other a cutesy wave.
He called out to the family in Italian: “in boca al lupo Tedeschi!”, good luck Germans, as he twisted the handlebar accelerator and the bumblebee crawled back to top speed. Pino yelled out something profane and esoteric about the Teutonics as the writer disappeared down the back of the hill.
When they pulled away from the villa Viola told Franco she would indeed go to Genova even though she knew she would be returning to Perugia. Her father had always been the most intriguing man she knew and while she had accepted long ago his heart was good, she finally allowed herself to consider it a good heart, inside a very bad guy.
She wondered if she might not ever see him again and that thought gave her a bit of comfort even as the tears formed in the back of her brow and the tingle of loss made its way to her stomach. “we were eating fucking Robiola!...there was going to be carne crudo with white truffle for lunch!...now I want to vomit” she thought as Franco took another corner way too fast for most of the 3 billion non-Italian drivers on earth.
Roberto had given them all time and while Mike could not have known this his leisurely drive in the Ape suggested he indeed expected the winemaker’s running of interference. What he also could not have known was that he would still enjoy a walk with his daughter on this day.
Mike parked the Ape inconspicuously (for Italy) on the sidewalk behind the Alba train station. He tore away the overalls and left them in the cab along with a 50 euro bill to cover the gas. At a tourist shop on the main street he purchased an ITALIA football jersey and baseball cap from the Juventus Italian soccer club. One look in the bathroom mirror confirmed his suspicion that he would look like the biggest idiot first time Italy traveler on the train and it pained him almost as much as tossing his black V-Neck T into the restroom trash. Wet paper towel on the chest and armpits was a telling reminder of just where this day had gone and while he was happy to clear away the sweat, the residual aroma of sulfur disgusted him and he hoped no one would make the mistake of sitting close to him on the train.
The father and daughter met at the electronic ticket kiosk. Viola completely ignored Mike’s existence not recognizing him in the slightest. He knew her immediately and thought how he might simply walk away, but fortune favored the brave and he spoke:
Mike: (in midwest USA accent) do you know where I can get a ticket for Rome?
Viola: (brushing off the question) non parlo Inglese!
Mike: hai capito stavo parlando in Inglese, ma non ti parli Inglese?
Viola: fuck off old man, not the time or day for bullshit!
Mike: Viola (removing the accent and the hat revealing his wiry hair and grey streak)
Viola: Dad! (loud then whispering) dad..what the fuck?
Mike: where you headed?
Viola: where do you think?
Viola: you buying?
Mike: do I have a choice?
Viola: you never have
Mike: truer words…..
The two purchased first class tickets to Perugia and made their way to the regional train for Milano Centrale station. Of course there was no first class car for the local train and the two sat quietly among elderly men and women on their way to the city to see loved ones who had migrated to the factories and shops of Italy’s ugliest city.
Mike explained what had happened with the German and how he had narrowly escaped death. Viola questioned him incessantly as to the whats and whys with only vague answers and non-sequiturs in return. This was not going to be the day when it all came to light, not yet.
Mike was enamored with his daughter’s mind and her patterns of speech which mirrored his in so many ways. He had always assumed genetics was a bit of bullshit and at the same time he was very clearly created from the molds of his own father and his late grandfather. Complexities of human interaction were the principal studies of his characters when he wrote, and he had learned long ago that the best information comes from the most open and vaguely leading interaction.
While it was true he had killed someone that morning, he knew intimately the details of that chapter and preferred to satisfy his curiosity questioning his daughter. What was her story? What had she seen? Assuming she was not a very good girl, he wondered where she might have broken bad.
As they chewed on breaded chicken sandwiches from the Chef Express just outside track 11 at Milano Centrale he quickly knew he would not be disappointed….
To be continued.