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The Fiction Issue 2010


“Well, that wasn’t too bad,” David West muttered as he put the car in gear and pulled out onto the high seacoast road. He was speaking, more or less, to his wife, Vivian, beside him, concerning the ease with which they had just passed the Ventimiglia...
Κείμενο Terry Southern

Carol and Terry Southern with their 1938 Citroe¨n, France, 1958. Photo © Aram Avakian.

erry lived in Geneva from 1955 to 1960. He did some of his best writing there, including many short stories (this previously unpublished piece among them) and his early novels


. When they could afford it, he and my mother, Carol (a painter and elementary school teacher), braved the Swiss Alps for France or Italy—often battling perilous conditions like black ice, gas rations, and flat tires along the way. David Tully, author of

, writes that “Janus” (named after the two-headed god of time, departures, and arrivals) is “a loving valentine to… Carol… demonstrating how the power of kindness can transform even the cynical cool of Southern himself… [in] necessary counterpoint to his own jaded hipster worldview.” While Terry usually extrapolated characters from those he knew (often lambasting them), this is one of his few stories offering a dose of good-natured self-parody

—NILE SOUTHERN “Well, that wasn’t too bad,” David West muttered as he put the car in gear and pulled out onto the high seacoast road. He was speaking, more or less, to his wife, Vivian, beside him, concerning the ease with which they had just passed the Ventimiglia customs. “Not too bad,” he went on in a burlesque of the quite ordinary way he had said it before, “and not too good!” He grimaced oddly at the swatch of sunlight on the windshield. “Should have changed some money though, goddamn it,” he added, casting a sidelong glance at his wife, his brows gathered in fierceness. “Aren’t the colors marvelous,” said Vivian happily. She was looking out the window on her side of the car. The sun was about to set, and the landscape and the sea beyond melted into a spangle of soft burning colors. “They’re so much stronger than in France… the difference is just amazing!” David grunted while reaching for a cigarette, an assent meant as marked dissent. “Oh yes,” she insisted pleasantly, squeezing his arm without taking her eyes off the scene ahead, where from the twisting road the amber rocks fell away for half a mile through darkest cypress, down to the blue white-breaking Mediterranean. He had expected to hear something like this, but it still came as an annoyance. What ideas women had about Italy! Alien, sexual, threatening. Stronger colors! Were they really? He looked; who could say? But that they would be, simply 500 yards past the frontier, that was a bit much. “OK,” he said firmly, “cut the crap.” “Oh look there,” she exclaimed, giving his arm another little squeeze. “Isn’t it lovely?” Just ahead of them at a bend in the road was a large open space set aside as a vantage point for motorists who might wish to pause and take in the view. David West knew that this would appear in their guidebook as ‘panoramic site.’ There were several stone benches on the site and room for a dozen cars; some four or five were there already, their occupants out now, standing around the cars on the edge of this great sea canyon, talking, smoking, and looking at the panorama; one or two were moving slowly about, crabwise, with bent heads, photographing it. David slowed the car and pulled out onto the site. He stopped near one of the benches and cut the motor. “All right, Viv,” he said, rubbing his hands together, “now let’s get with it! Don’t be so afraid of showing a little emotion once in a while. Christ, that’s what makes this business of living the wonderful… big business it is—the biggest darn business on earth to my way of thinking! Just try to open up, let the impressions come in. You don’t seem to have any… sensitivity—you aren’t color-blind or anything like that, are you? Hmm? Hmm?” He pinched her hip. They had gotten out of the car while he was talking and were near the balustrade now, holding hands. “Well, they do seem stronger,” she insisted calmly, looking down on it all, where out of the majestic tumble of great golden rocks sprawling down to the sea, rose a forest of wet-green cypress, rose down and down, throbbing with purple, down to the blue beating sea, to the white and inviolate beach that raced along the coast till the mountain fell and jettisoned out to a point and the white rock town of Bordighera, settled there in the shadow of a lighthouse. Between where they were standing and the town, and about a mile out to sea, was a rock, monstrous and barren, rising from the ocean like a cathedral. But it was on the shore side of the scene then that something happened. In the distance, from the very top, a hawk the size of a small airplane began to fall in a plummeting dive toward the sea, and the people at the balustrade caught their breath as one. Huge bird of prey, silent except for the rage of heaven against the great gray wings which it seemed they could almost hear, it dropped like a shell over the tops of the trees, down, down, down to the sea where it leveled off and sailed, endlessly out, only rising at last in a soundless, screaming arc, up and onto the great barren rock. No one, except perhaps the photographers, had missed it and there was a moment of silence. “Well, that seems to be that,” said David finally. He took the girl’s arm and started back to the car. “Best push on, my dear! Best push on if we’re to be at the Metcalfs’ in good time. In good time for good dinner—perhaps they’ll be having partridge.” Sitting on the bench by their car were four men, Italians, and as David got in on his side, which was nearest them, one of the four rose rather hurriedly, came over, and knelt down between David and the open car door. David leaned out of the door himself then, believing he had probably dropped something that the man was recovering for him. So they were quite close together, and in a sort of conspiratorial attitude, when the man, still kneeling on the ground by the car, and without raising his eyes, produced a fountain pen from his inside coat pocket and held it horizontally for David to see. “Parker ‘51,’” he said tersely, with an extreme accent, pointing at the letters on the clip. Then he quickly unscrewed the rear of the pen and exposed the filling mechanism, placing his finger again where it was inscribed. “Parker ‘51,’” he repeated, rising now and darting an artificially furtive look about the site, “Three thousand lire.” David had frowned from the start, now as he straightened up, he smiled. “No… grazie,” he said. The man didn’t smile, however. He was a heavy dark-faced man, wearing a pin-striped suit but no tie, and his coat was draped over his shoulders like a cape. “Two thousand lire,” he said with a false shrug, proferring the pen as David closed the car door. “No,” David said, “grazie.” “What you?” said the man, holding on to the door, “French? What you got? French? Two thousand franc.” David shook his head, smiling. “Grazie,” he said, starting the car. “What you got? American? Five dollar. Here. Five dollar.” He reached inside the window and dropped the pen in David’s lap. David groaned and picked it up; he tried to return it to the man, but he was just out of reach. “How much,” said the man, “how much you give? Four dollar?” “I have a pen,” said David, turning back his coat to indicate his own, then making another effort to return this one. “How much you give?” said the man, “three dollar?” “No, I don’t need it. Thanks anyway.” “OK, three dollar,” said the man with a gesture towards his companions on the bench to show that the deal was closed. They were staring at the car in an openly hostile way. After holding the pen at arm’s length for a minute or two, David West had an impulse to drive off with it and possibly run over the man as well. “Here you go,” he said instead, making a tentative pitching motion with his arm, “catch.” “Two dollar,” said the man, putting his hands in his pockets. David shook his head, smiled, and tossed the pen to him, lobbing it gently. The man made no effort to catch it, but let it hit his chest and fall to the ground. He didn’t look down at it either but stared at David and said something between clenched teeth in Italian; then he glanced at his companions and repeated it, jerking his head toward the car. “Sonofabitch,” David muttered as he started turning the car around, while the four men glared fixedly at him. From their expressions it appeared they might rush forward and cut his throat, but they didn’t move, only glared after the departing car with a strange, ugly hatred. “And they talk about the French being sick,” said David softly when they were under way again. “Christ, not the most outgoing whore in Paris hustles like that! Hustlers, that’s what Italians are, the lowest imaginable sort of—” “Was it really a Parker ‘51’?” asked Vivian. “Are you kidding? For two dollars?” “Well, if they were smuggled in, or stolen… I mean so that there wouldn’t be any tax—isn’t that the thing?” “Isn’t that the thing? You mean isn’t that slightly irrelevant to the point I was making? The point I was making had to do, not so much with American fountain pens, you see, but rather with the… incredibly low… vicious… pimp, whore mentality and character of the Italian people—insomuch, as I say, it was fairly typified by that guy back there. That’s the point I was making, you see.” He closed his eyes and tilted his head back somewhat to give a smug emphasis to his final words as he turned towards her, but she was—he saw, for he opened them at once—looking out the window. He noticed too that she was about to call his attention to something, her lips just apart, hand near her mouth, one finger half pointing, but then they passed it, whatever it was, too quickly, so instead she touched the finger to her lip and continued looking. She had a very pretty mouth, and the gesture struck him as one of hopeless beauty, childlike, erotic. “The curious thing,” he continued with an amiable guffaw, “is why people come to Italy at all. Of course it’s only because of the goddamn Renaissance—and I think we’re all more or less agreed now that that was just about the crassest sort of billboard sham, cant, and vulgarity conceivable. Good Christ Almighty, the romantic slop of it! God, it has about as much to do with art and life today as a Saturday Evening Post cover! Anyway it’s all in Picasso, anything that’s worthwhile. Picasso skimmed the cream there, too—and mark well, there wasn’t a hell of a lot worth using, was there? Ha! But, even so, even so—why not get it there? The essence, get to the essence, my dear, instead of wasting our precious lives wading through a veritable morass of sentimental rubbish!” “Well, the colors, in the paintings anyway, are very very nice,” said his wife, turning briefly from the window, and on this point it was clear she would stand. “Ah yes, well, the colors… ” He would concede her the colors—no harm in that, he thought. “But what a shame, shame, shame,” he said, striking his hand softly against the steering wheel and knotting his face in simulation of extreme pain, “that they couldn’t have been more serious about the content! What a shame that there couldn’t have been more insight among them—a single ounce of philosophic insight… of moral, aesthetic integrity among the lot of them… a single glimmer of individual awareness… a single grain of revolt from that great caterer’s pot of schmaltz! A single—twinkle, if you like—of humor! Pah! It’s enough to set a man retching from now till doomsday!” “Well, they were certainly devoted,” said Vivian, “you must say that, and the colors—” “Devoted!” David pretended to fall sideways with his gasping laughter. “I’ll say… I’ll say they were devoted! The biggest batch—botch, if you like—of yes-men in history! Well, H. Bosch wasn’t devoted—you’re interested in painters of past account—H. Bosch did not go along with the caterer’s trash and drivel!” “Well—” “Oh the colors are lovely, that’s true… a bit flamboyant for some tastes perhaps. El Greco was a faggot, of course, and—” “You silly,” said Vivian laughing, “El Greco wasn’t Italian!” “Well, Michelangelo was a faggot, by God, of the very first water, a raving—” “Listen, do you remember how liquor cost so little in Spain? Well, isn’t that because there’s no tax on it?” “—an absolute raving fanatic about it! No, it is not.” “I’m pretty sure that it is,” said Vivian, “on Mallorca at any rate. That’s what Carlos was saying; he talked quite a bit about it one night. Remember?” “Carlos,” David began, pausing to light a cigarette, “was just trying to get in your little white frillikins with that sort of gaff, the shifty spiv. Spain, by God, is where we should be going now. Bosch, Goya. And the Spanish people are really the greatest, don’t you think so? I mean really, can you imagine seeing any of that crap in Spain?” He referred with a jerk of his head back toward the panoramic site. “No, they’d probably be shot,” his wife said. “And how! Brother! Boy-oh-boy!” He put his chin down on his chest and, squinting his eyes, began a low guttural “uh-uh-uh-uh” imitation of a machine gun, adding a few soft whistling-bomb sounds at the end. “Just wait till we get to Venice, baby,” he said. “You’ll see some hustling in Venice, by Christ, that will make your pretty little tummy-tum turn flip-flops of nausea! I daresay you may even black out with sheer nausea and disgust!” The car moved swiftly over the looping road, past Ospedaletti and San Remo. Vivian was looking at the map in the last light of the day. “We turn off just outside Imperia,” she said, “that’s seven kilometers.” “How far is it after that?” She took a minute to add the figures. “Sixty-three.” “Good,” said David. “In good time for dinner then, my dear, in good time for dinner!” They were going to Milan first, but they were to turn off before Genoa (where the big road to Milan starts) and go inland by way of a small town called Ceva, to spend a few days with some friends who had taken a house there. They passed San Lorenzo and then Imperia, and there they took the road going north, to Ceva. It was a secondary road, of course, and whereas the coast road had been moderately trafficked, here as soon as the town was beyond a curve behind them, they were quite alone. David switched on the driving lights. “Oh, it’s going to be a mountain road!” exclaimed Vivian in a voice of mingled feelings. “Hmm. I’m afraid we’re in for a spot of trouble,” said David, making his voice husky, “this is bandit country and no mistake!” “David please don’t,” said the girl, quite excited by the sudden wild hills. “Oh look back there,” she cried, “at the light on the sea.” Behind them the sea lay vast and still, giving itself to darkness, veiled now by the dying light in a haze of softest silver. Their car was a British Ford and, by pre-fin standards, was about as large as a medium-size American car. At any rate, it seemed too large for this road, and David drove slower now as the way wound and dipped and turned sharply through the hills. “I’m surprised they didn’t mention what sort of a road it was,” said Vivian, looking at David and holding one hand against the dashboard. “Well, it really isn’t too bad,” he said seriously to reassure her, “… it’s just the absence of a guardrail on this narrow road and the sheer drop of 5,000 feet to the angry rocks below which make it seem bad.” “Good heavens,” said Vivian, leaning across him to look out his side and ascertain this; he bit her ear. “Oh do be careful, David,” she said. “Did you do that,” he asked when she was back on her side, “in order to press your chest against my shoulder?” “What?” “Just now, when you leaned across me, did you do so in order, under the guise of inadvertence, to press your chest against my shoulder?” She was laughing. “My chest.” “Yes, I had the… call it ‘feeling,’ if you like… that you were simply trying to get a—” He was cut short by an explosion, like a gunshot, just at the right rear of the car, and the car wobbled to a stop. “Oh God,” said Vivian. “What is it?” she asked, knowing only too well. David moaned. “Oh Christ, Christ, Christ,” he said, and several other things not to bear repeating. He switched off the motor and the headlights, got out of the car, walked around the back of it, and opened the trunk, scarcely looking at the blown-out tire. It was, he knew, the badly worn right rear, which they had thought to get the last use from before trading it for a new one. “Well, there’s one plan, by God,” he said, “that didn’t go awry. Ha!” The part of the road where this occurred was like a pass, with ground rising on each side of it. Fortunately the incline here was not too bad, he decided, less than ten degrees anyway, and there seemed to be just enough room between the car and the side of the hill to allow for changing the tire. In their motoring through Spain he had become proficient at this work and so proceeded rapidly now with only the taillight of the car as illumination. Feeling with his hand, he placed the jack at the right place beneath the axle and started turning the handle. As the weight took hold, the dirt on the road surface beneath the jack made a crunching sound and the turning became stiff, while in the half light he could just see the dark flatness of the tire begin to seek its shape—then something snapped, a loud cracking noise of metal tooth, and the car seemed to make a little jump backwards. “Son of a bitch!” said David, leaping aside. His first thought was that Vivian had accidentally hit the gearshift in crossing her lovely legs (the image did not escape him), putting the car in neutral, and an oath for her was ready on his lips. But he knew almost as soon, remembering the snap of tension in his hand, that it was the jack, broken, and when he turned it now, nothing at all happened, only a sort of grinding sound. He got it out and went around to the front of the car. “Turn on the lights a minute,” he said to Vivian, and felt a keen annoyance at the slight delay in her performance of this. He examined the jack, turning the socket with his hand; it turned, quite uselessly. Finally he came around and got in the car, cursing himself for not having moved it to a more level place before using the jack, and again, for not having taken the luggage out. “What is it, darling?” asked Vivian in real concern, putting a hand on his arm. “I don’t wish to discuss it for the moment,” he said, cutting off the headlights and lighting a cigarette. “The goddamn jack is broken.” “Oh no,” said Vivian. He turned on the radio. They had driven a long way since a light lunch at about noon and he felt now the first pangs of hunger. “What do you mean?” he said, looking at her. It occurred to him that her share of the luggage was a good deal more than his and had probably been crucial in breaking the jack. “Well, what do you think we should do?” she asked. “I want to think about that for a few minutes,” he said. “Where is the map?” She got out the map and turned on the dashlight. It appeared that they were halfway between Ormea, behind them, and Bagnasco ahead—two towns 24 kilometers apart. They remembered coming through Ormea and put it at about ten kilometers back, so that Bagnasco then would be 14 farther on. “Of course there could be a town before it that isn’t on the map,” said Vivian. “Yes,” said David. He had just recalled, too, that it was Sunday. Vivian stared at the map a minute longer and put it away. They sat in silence for a while; the radio, which David had not bothered to put squarely on a station, was emitting a low static and one or two distant voices. “Begin the Beguine” also started playing, barely audible. “A grand old favorite,” said David, gazing at the glowing dial. “I’m going to faire pee-pee,”said Vivian after another minute and she got out of the car. David flipped his cigarette through the window. It was quite dark now; there was no traffic on the road, nor, he imagined, was any likely—they had passed only one car since turning off at Imperia, 40 kilometers back. The question was, he supposed, whether to walk ten kilometers back to Ormea, as against 14 ahead to Bagnasco gambling the extra four kilometers on the chance of there being a small town before it not on the map. He put off making the decision and set up a keening sound in time to “Begin the Beguine.” “David!” said Vivian, appearing at the window on her side, “there’s a house over there! Did you see it?” “Yes, as a matter of fact, I did.” Vivian got in; it was apparent that the presence of the house had cheered her considerably. She leaned to his side and around him. “Look, you can see it from here.” David had seen it already; he looked at it again—about 50 yards away, on the side of the hill across the road, a squat, dark, and isolated house, where certainly never a car had been, nor a jack, nor, yet again, a telephone. Vivian was smiling happily. “I’m afraid I don’t get the connection,” said David, “seek help at the friendly cottager’s—that the idea?” “Well, we could go see.” “See what? You can see from here that there are no telephone wires, no possibility of a car ever having been there, and, apparently, nobody at home. See what, if I may ask?” “Well, see if he can help.” “Would you mind telling me why you have so much luggage?” “There might be another house nearby with a telephone.” David looked back at the house. He didn’t like the look of it; it looked primitive, and somehow sinister. “Why are you so eager to involve other people in this?” he asked, coming back to her. “Well, he could certainly tell us which is the right direction to the garage, to walk in I mean.” “Hmm.” This was a salient point. “Yes, you may be right, my dear. You may be right! Well, we’ll see what happens.” He got out of the car. “Shall I come?” Vivian asked, leaning towards the window. “Why on earth should you come?” he said, turning around. “Well—I’ll stay here and guard our things then.” “Right!” He leaned over and kissed her and gently bit her neck. “I don’t want you to think you haven’t a part in this, Viv, and a very important part indeed, but your role is here, with our things, in the home so to speak.” “Yes.” “OK. Later.” He picked up the jack and started off, but it occurred to him that, with his not knowing Italian, the man might likely think the missing handle was the problem so he went back for that. At first opportunity he stepped off the road, got on the slope, and began picking his way across the ground toward the house. The moon was out, but there were clouds enough that the light was scarcely more than adequate. When he was about halfway up, a dog began to howl and bark, rather fiercely—or was it a wolf? He was fairly certain it was. Small headlines of The Paris Herald-Tribune formed in his mind: “American Torn to Bits by Wolf Pack.” He was glad to have the jack and handle with him all right, and he put one piece in each hand. The noise of the dog grew more violent with his every step nearer the dark house. He stopped. What, after all, was the use? There was no one at home. It was time wasted, time better spent on the road to Ormea… or Bagnasco? He tightened his grip on the implements and went on. In another two minutes he was standing in the angle of the L-shaped shadow of the house. On his left were the door of the house and two shuttered windows, the edges on one lined with yellow lamplight. On his right, a sort of shed that joined the house, forming the angle—it was in there the dog raged, behind double-doors which shook under the impact of his charge. His bark, without having noticeably decreased in volume, had become a sustained and savage snarl. David knocked lightly on the door. There was no answer, but he had the feeling he was being observed. The presence of the jack and handle, such a comfort on his way up, he suddenly felt as a grotesque onus. Standing here in the shadow holding them, would he not appear rather sinister himself, even as one lurking in an ambush outside the door of this isolate cabin? He held the handle vertically flat against his leg and tried to conceal the jack by turning his body slightly sideways away from the house. Good God, he thought, he must be mad—that was much worse. Already seen and now concealing the weapon! He put them both on the ground and knocked again. The double-doors of the shed bulged as the dog’s fury reached a crescendo. Would not the dog be released against the trespasser? Why not? Perhaps with a sharp word of command: ‘The throat, Gino, the throat!’ He picked up the jack and pretended to examine it, turning the socket, and shaking his head to show its state. Or would he not, after all, be blasted at close range by some kind of primeval shotgun, which even now was being carefully aimed? Then the door opened; the dog stopped, and a very large man of about 50 stood in the raised doorway with the yellow light behind him. He had a napkin stuck in his shirt and was still moving his mouth. Interrupted his dinner, thought David, that’s a grand start. Well, here goes. “Bueno sera,” he said, “… excusa.” He raised the jack, pointing and giving the man a smile of helplessness. “Cassé,” he said, turning the socket with his hand, “… kaput.” He pointed to the road. “Automobile… pneumatico… kaput.” And he went through a little mime to clarify this. The man stepped down out of the doorway into the rectangle of light. He wiped his fingers on the napkin in his shirt and then took the jack from David and examined it. He turned the socket with his hand. He was turning it the wrong way. He said something in Italian and put his finger in the socket indicating that a handle was needed. “No, no,” said David, producing the handle, “kaput… fini… finissimo.” The man tried laboriously to fit the handle in it. David sighed inwardly. Waste, waste, he thought, taking the handle and fitting it in to demonstrate again how it wouldn’t work. The man shook his head at the jack, and it struck David that he might not know what it was. “Momento,” he said and went inside the house. A minute later he was opening the doors of the shed, holding up a lamp in one hand and pushing the doors wide apart to reveal to David the sparsity of any such equipment as the jack. He invited David to see for himself. It was a woodshed, half filled with stacked logs and a great pile of kindling. An ax was stuck in a chopping-block tree stump—he pointed that out first. Then he walked around the shed, picking up its few items, one after the other, a wedge, a hoe, a machete, discarding each with a shrug to show its impracticality in this situation. David followed him around in a daze for a minute before getting hold of himself. “Sì, sì,” he said and stepped outside the shed. The dog had come out the other door and was lying on the flat stones in front of it, apparently resting after his exercise of wrath. He seemed friendly enough now. “Una telephone?” asked David, nodding first at the house and then around at the region in general. “Dove una telephone, por favore?” “No,” said the man, raising a finger and shaking it when he had understood, “no, no.” “Dove una garage?” asked David. “Non capisco.” “Dove una… garage… por reperation? Omera?” “Omera. Sì, sì. Omera.” “Omera,” said David carefully, “o Bagnasco?” The man expressed a sudden serious affinity at this, stepping forward and tapping David on the shoulder. “Bagnasco,” he said, pointing to the north, “quattordici chilometri… quattordici!” He held up one finger on one hand and four on the other. “Omera… dieci chilometri… dieci!” He held up both hands, fingers extended. Then he shook his head at this and knelt down to the piece of light on the ground where he drew the figures 14, saying, “Bagnesco,” and 10,Omera.” “Sì, sì,” said David, nodding, “grazie.” He was quite relieved to have it over and done with, and he picked up the jack and handle and was about to thank the man once more in taking his leave. “Automobile?” asked the man, coming forward and nodding toward the road. He had a strong and pleasant face, with, David thought, a strange soft dignity to it, but because of the difficulty in communicating, he did question its amount of intelligence. “Sì,” said David, “automobile.” The man touched David’s chest and then his own and made a slow, lifting motion with his hands to show that they themselves would lift the car. David laughed, though the corners of his mouth felt stiff in doing so, and shook his head. “No, no… impossible… trop lourd… mucho, mucho.” “Troppo pesante?” said the man. “Sì, troppo pesante.” The man shrugged, and then David shrugged and smiled and turned to go, trying to think of the word for “good-bye.” “Momento,” said the man quickly, gripping David’s arm before turning back into the shed. David watched him take the ax out of the chopping-block and lay it aside, move the block to the center of the shed, and from the floor by the wall, pick up the wooden door-beam and place it across the block. His face alight, he proceeded to give a slow, dramatic demonstration of the leverage principle. David felt an absurd flutter of hope, which gave way at once to extreme annoyance. “No, no,” he said, shaking his head, “troppo pesante. No. Impossibile.” The chopping-block was about two feet high and the beam a 4x4 seven or eight feet long. Both appeared sturdy enough but there was no chance of getting the beam under the axle, and he knew that the possibility of he and the man exerting enough pressure to lift the entire side of a fairly large car was of course nil. “Ah sì, sì,” said the man, nodding vigorously. David tried to protest, but the man looked so determined as he came out of the shed, carrying the block in one arm and the beam balanced in the other, that David felt there was no graceful way out of simply allowing the negative proof to assert itself—this at the cost of more time. But he would certainly not help carry the stuff down the hill and so dissipate his needed strength in the folly; and then he realized that of course he would have to help carry it, not only down the hill but up again, so he slowly replaced the jack and handle on the ground and took the beam. They walked down the hill in silence, the man carrying the tree stump and the lamp, and David, the beam, while the dog raced wildly ahead. David was whistling, soundlessly, masochistically, as his mind caressed, with an almost psychotic calm, the hideous realities of the situation: They would have to walk six miles to Bagnasco, find the darkened garage, find the home of the garage owner (he in Sunday repose), communicate the problem, and what would be most difficult of all, and no doubt an entirely separate operation, change money. He had one traveler’s check of ten dollars—which, since they would have to eat too, would not be enough—and the rest were in 50s. They would take a terrible beating on the exchange rate for the 50, if indeed, one could even be found. His arm ached from the cumbersome beam and he stopped to switch hands. The man paused too, and said something, a question, smiling. “,” said David, in the tone of a weary parent, and they trudged on. When they reached the car, David pointed to the flat tire. Then he pointed to the axle, which was almost touching the ground, to show that it was impossible to get the beam under it. Vivian had gotten out of the car and joined them. “Buonasera, Signore,” she said with a nice smile for him, and the man smiled and nodded. He spoke at some length then, and David assumed it was some form of elementary rhetoric about how it was, after all, and through no fault of their own, quite impossible. But it was all too soon clear by the movements of his arms that they must get the car away from the wall and across the road. David was quiet for a moment while the man and Vivian looked at him, waiting. “All righty,” he said; he got in and let the car roll back and across the road, the man directing him and pushing when the ground leveled off. “What’s he going to do?” asked Vivian by the window as she helped with the pushing. David got out without answering. “David?” He coughed. “We’re going to lift the car ourselves,” he said. “Really?” said Vivian, sounding much more pleased than surprised. The car was now at the bottom of the cottager’s hill, and he stood looking at it, his hands on his hips. “Momento,” he said, then turned and went up the hill. “Can you really lift it?” asked Vivian. David cleared his throat. “No,” he said. “I wonder what he’s doing now,” she said, looking at the dark hill. “Him? Oh, didn’t you get that part of it? He’s going to round up his six brothers, and they’re coming back to kill me, rape and kill you, and quite methodically divide our things between—” “Oh David.” The man returned alone however, and quite soon, carrying several large flat stones, which David recognized as having been taken up from the ground in front of the house. At the sight of the man laboring beneath 200 pounds of rock, he momentarily forgot that they meant more useless work for himself as well, and only felt a sudden profound sadness at the ignorance and burden of all mankind. He went forward to help him, but the man was already lowering the load to the ground by the car; then he crossed one arm over his forehead and stood for a minute getting his breath and smiling at the boy and girl who watched him. “Bene,” he said, and after nodding at Vivian, he put the door-beam across the tree stump and illustrated his leverage principle for her. “Sì, sì,” she said eagerly, nodding to show ready comprehension. Her job, he went on to indicate, would be to push the pile of stones under the side of the car when they had raised it high enough. David, leaning against the car with his hands in his pockets, looked away when she expressed happy understanding of her assignment and knelt down by the pile of stones like a child at a game. He was beginning to feel sick at his stomach, and his chief concern now was that neither Vivian nor the man would think to want the luggage taken out. The man sidled about, situating the chopping-block, moving it several times before he was satisfied. Then he put one end of the beam under the side of the car, and David joined him at the other. As they leaned forward on it and began pressing down, David listened with a little smile of bitterness to the creaking sound as the body of the car started to rise upon its springs, away from the axle. He was only mildly surprised that the beam didn’t break. “It’s coming!” exclaimed Vivian. “Will you shut up,” he hissed at her. He thought if he had a free hand at that moment he would have hit her head with it. “Will you just can that… infantile enthusiasm of yours for two consecutive minutes—it isn’t coming, it’s just raising up on the springs. Look at the goddamn tire.” There was about a foot of space now between the top of the tire and the fender, but the wheel, the tire itself still rested, pressed cruelly flat, on the ground. They eased the pressure and let their end of the lever come up again. “Momento,” said the man and he stepped over and took the upper rock from the pile and put it on top of the block. David felt dizzy; he felt perversely keen to go along with it now indefinitely, to see how weird it could get—if the man were suddenly to suggest that they stop and climb a tree, he thought, he would do so with relish, cackling perhaps, and certainly switching Vivian’s bare legs ahead of him every inch of the way to the top. Then they were pressing down again. Down, down, eyes closed, he no longer thought of the waste or of conserving his strength, but only tried to escape all awareness of the moment, to lose himself in sheer exertion. And while the car creaked and moaned, and the two men shuddered, gasping in strain, Vivian took in her breath. “Now,” she said in a whisper, “it really is, David!” He opened his eyes, just enough, and saw that while there was now a great space between the tire and fender, something was happening below as well; the tire was becoming round. “By Christ!” he said, and the two men pressed on now with the kind of strength which is bedfellow only to insanity and encouragement. In another moment he heard the stones scraping over the ground, and he knew they had actually done it. He turned and shook hands with the man, and though they were both surely smiling, he wondered if, in his own eyes, there weren’t tears. He went to his work of changing the tire, his hands shaking a little with delight. Vivian and the man watched him, and he was glad he could do it well. But he was thinking too that he would give a part of his life to be able to speak enough Italian to thank the man properly. The man came over and examined the spare he was about to put on and patted it. “Buona,” he said. “,” said David, looking up at him, “buona,” then he pointed to the badly worn tire that had blown out. “Malo,” he said. “,” said the man, looking at it, “malo.” And they laughed together. It was soon down, and after raising the car again enough for Vivian to get the stones out, they started carrying the things up the hill, Vivian with the lamp and one rock, and they with the rest. Although it was considerably more, David wasn’t aware of the weight this trip. At the house they helped the man fit the rocks back into the ground in front of the door. As soon as the rocks were in place again, the dog lay down on them, and they all laughed. Then they just stood around for a moment, still smiling, both Vivian and the man looking at David as though the next move were his. And he in turn did not know what to do by way of thanks—it seemed to him that offering the man money was somehow out of the question; he thought if only they had a bottle of good wine to give him, or something like that, in friendship rather than payment. He put out his hand and patted the man’s arm at the biceps. “Molto forte,” he said, nodding, “… fortissimo!” “Sì, sì,” said Vivian, smiling, “bravo.” The man smiled. “Niente,” he said with a shrug, but he looked pleased. After another moment, David extended his hand in farewell. “Mille grazie,” he said, “mille... grazie.” Vivian shook his hand too and thanked him again. “Niente,” he said, and they started down the hill, the man and the dog standing behind them in the light of the house. “God, what is ‘good-bye’?” David asked. “I can’t remember,” said Vivian. “Adios?” “No, no, what is it?” “Arrivederci,” they said, and David knew he would have already gone inside. But no, he was there, he and the dog. He waved back. “Arrivederci,” he said, nodding and smiling, “arrivederci.” They drove in silence for a while. “What a wonderful thing,” said Vivian finally, in a sort of full-throated way, turning to David, expectant, her eyes soft and big. David started to say something, but cleared his throat instead. “Well, it takes all kinds, my dear,” he said then, in his senator’s voice, patting the inside of her leg, “it takes all kinds. A grand old maxim, and while I know you’re not one to favor tired phrases, I think you’ll find—as you grow older—there’s more truth than poetry to it!” She snuggled against him. “Yes,” she said, smiling. They only had 12 kilometers to go after Bagnasco; it looked now as though they would probably get to the Metcalfs’ in good time for dinner after all.