Fiction

A Gift from Cod

A Gift from Cod

He calls me il vagabondo because he never knows when I will show up to visit. I have heard that I am “better than an Italian boy” and this is because I show up all the time. It is the way it is. It is not so hard to learn. He is used to me by now. There are many…

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Dear You

Dear You

  Dear You, And yes you’re right, it is the old letter in the bottle. I do apologize for the melodrama of it. We have all heard about such a thing but truly do not expect to be a recipient. And of course I know not if this will ever be read, still, I write as if it will. And…

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Caro, Cara

Caro, Cara

Read in English Caro, Cara, Sì hai ragione, è la solita lettera nella bottiglia. Mi scuso per la scelta melodrammatica. Ne abbiamo tutti sentito parlare ma nessuno pensa di riceverne davvero una. E ovviamente non so se questa mia sarà mai letta, eppure scrivo come se lo fosse. E se mi stai effettivamente leggendo, ti do il benvenuto nella mia…

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Drone Strike

Jihad. The billboard portrayed a masked ISIL fighter dressed in black, carrying a Kalashnikov rifle. Alone in the rear seat of the silver Hyundai sedan, Karim grimaced. Reminders of ISIL's martial grip on his town were everywhere. Slim, an d in his thirties, Karim had a penetrating gaze and light brown eyes. Since ISIL, the Islamic State in the Levant,…

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Once Upon a Pizzeria

Once Upon a Pizzeria

Once upon a pizzeria, a little pizzeria in the big big city, there lived a woman named Maria, but everyone called her Nonna Maria. Nonna means grandmother in Italian, and everyone loved to adopt Nonna Maria as their own personal grandmother. Nonna Maria didn’t exactly live in the pizzeria, she lived upstairs from it. People came from all over the big big…

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Loss of Teenage Dreams

I don’t know if he has recognized me. Frank Spadari. He’s even more handsome now with the grey at his temples. Many years have gone by and my heart still overturns at seeing him. I make myself stare outside the train’s window. I think back to a time in the ’70s. I was thirteen years old; my older sister Gina…

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Zia

Zia

I re-read the telegram for the third time. But the message would not change. Zia had died. Alone. In the small Italian village where she had lived for seventy years. Only three months ago I had seen her for the first time. She was standing at her front door, waiting. All of her life she had lived in that mountain…

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Poppy Crackers

Poppy Crackers

Cat jumped into the backseat, asked for snacks and Shawn Mendes. Rosie granted one of the two requests and they waited for Grace, as the heat blasted and Stitches played. Cat pulled out her lunchbox to scrounge for leftovers. When Rosie glanced over her shoulder to check on her, she saw a lap full of familiar orange crumbs. She was…

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Autumn Bounty

Autumn Bounty

I was born in central Italy, in a beautiful green valley. In the summer, the fields were irrigated from the river Melfa, whose pure waters rushed out from underneath a huge rock in the nearby Apennine Mountains. The lands were very fertile, and my father grew not only wheat and corn, but all sorts of green vegetables for our family’s…

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The Darkness You Hold

(for Joseph Altobelli) Imagine this: you are twenty-four years old and you long to take the world in your fingers. It’s yours for the taking. You know it’s yours, as you lie wide-awake in bed to watch the dawn spread like wonder across the sky. You watch until day fully blossoms, opening as gently as Giulia’s mouth, which yielded several…

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The Motorcycle

“Monsieur, Monsieur.”       He could hear a voice far away. Then he felt a light tap on the shoulder. He opened his eyes not knowing they had been closed.       “Monsieur, it’s your turn. A23,” said the Haitian man sitting next to him. “Look, it’s A23.” He pointed to the flashing red number above the chairs.       His number had…

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The Hog Slaughter: February 1862

The Hog Slaughter: February 1862

The hog is limp, having shuddered its last breath after a single blow to the head with a mallet. Gabriella and some of the neighbourhood women watch her father Lorenzo and his friends urging each other on with cries of “Pull,pull!” as they hoist the hog with a crude rope and pulley system. The thick ropes have been drawn through…

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Twinset

Twinset

Mum would take us out for a roll in the double pram, dressed identically in well-sucked pink jumpsuits, resembling newborn bunnies. Other mothers, grandmothers, and aunties would see the pram coming and lick their lips. Not just one baby, enough to bring on a smile and improve their mood, but two. Oh my. They would peer in at us, the…

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Touching Calabria (A Short Story in Little Time)

Touching Calabria (A Short Story in Little Time)

“I’m firing the architect,” I said, “I wouldn’t set foot in my Church.” “The best is always the next.” “You have a steady hand.” At ninety-two, my father’s bricks were as if laid by a master mason. “A church has to be solid. There’s no fudging with the walls of a church.” I stopped painting. “Says who?” My father wore…

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Queen of the Majorettes

Queen of the Majorettes

Judy needs to pee. Beyond the barricade of blankets, she feels a chill against her cheeks. If she gets out of bed, the rest of her will be cold too. She holds it, and holds it, until she feels herself leaking into the darkness under her sheets. Scrunching down to the bottom of the bed that fills the back of…

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Filò: An Olde-Tyme Christmas Story

Filò: An Olde-Tyme Christmas Story

The ritual demanded that if the girl wasn’t interested in a suitor, she would decline his request to sit next to her. But since she approved, the courtship could begin. Winter began with a fury. The ground was covered in snow and on this night a fierce wind was blowing. Tonight they might be the only ones there. They had…

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Cycling in Sardegna

Cycling in Sardegna

“Time is not a measure of distance,” Francesca’s son, Marco, says to her when she tells him the cycles last about four hours. It is the night before their first giro in Sardegna. Time is not a measure of distance. They lay on their single beds in the darkness. “Don’t worry about your mother,” she says to her eighteen-year-old son. “This isn’t…

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Flora and Bruno

  Flora and Bruno drive for hours – her fault, partly. Curled up in the front seat of the stolen Impala in a nightie and Bruno’s Blackhawks jersey, Flora demands, “Show me Niagara Falls!” Sparks fly from the tangle of wires, red-blue-green, hanging from the dashboard. Bruno is worried that if he stops, he won’t be able to get the…

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Devotion

In a flurry of sticky fingers, we drop our change in the box and nod to the man with the moustache. He says hello, or thank you, or you need six more euro, but we don’t understand because neither of us bothered to read the conversation guide, and Anne’s first year-Italian proved to be useless before we even got off…

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Angel of Petawawa

Angel of Petawawa

She looked like a pin-up of Betty Grable, hair curled into seductive blonde sausages, naked shoulders like two perfectly rounded scoops of ice cream. “Need a ride, soldier?” Mario tugged off his cap. “Oh, only if I’m not taking you out of your way, Muh-Miss. I’m headed to, to St. Catharines.” The lady laughed. Mario smiled, not certain what was…

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Moon Hill

Moon Hill

A cotton ball moon hangs over Knocknarea. I push a wider gap in the curtains and stare up at it, before turning back to Oisín’s cot. I lean over the rail and scoop his breath to my nose; it is luxuriously sweet – the lovely, frightening smell of sick baby. I am so glad that Oisín, like my other three…

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Food Companion Wanted

Food Companion Wanted

The park sits in a deep dip on Caledonia Road just before the street climbs a steep hill, probably the steepest in the city. It’s morning and nobody’s around. The grass glistens in the spring sunlight. She is sitting on a bench near the playground where they agreed to meet. Nina gives the old guy a once over. She came…

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Making Her Garden Grow

Mary, Mary quite contrary, How does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockle shells, And pretty maids all in a row. “Dreams don’t come true,” her son announced. She was taking him to his Suzuki piano lesson. It was her practice to finish at the office early the afternoon of the lesson. They would stop at San Remo Bakery…

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My Husband Lives in My Garage

My Husband Lives in My Garage

When I first told others that my husband, Andrej, was living in my garage, they thought I spoke metaphorically – that he was “in my bad books,” as they say, or that he was “in the doghouse” for bad behaviour. We really weren’t on bad terms at all; our separation had been peaceably carried out. So when I shook my…

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This is Sunday Lunch

This is Sunday Lunch

Lunches are quiet at Via Scapardini 9. Father. Mother. Son. And me, the fiancée from Toronto. We eat in the kitchen with the ticking of the clock, sometimes an Italian soap opera. We all have our places around the table. Mine is beside the radiator with my back to the television. I face an armoire bursting with all manner of…

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Fathers and Sons

Fathers and Sons

Record Sessions In the spring. You could only do it in the spring. I reach over and press “Record.” Surreptitiously. In stealth mode. There’s but a slight whirr as the tape winds and passes the recording head. Ancient technology by now, I know. For troglodytes and Luddites perhaps. But trying to manipulate a CD/DVD-read-write-recorder on the kitchen table without anyone noticing…

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Afternoon in a Garden of the Palazzo Barberini

Afternoon in a Garden of the Palazzo Barberini

“È chiuso." This is how Francesca learns there is no such thing as "closed," in Italy, no rule that somehow cannot be bent to accommodate. She stands in her khaki shorts, with her loose white blouse, different from the American tank-top, because of its chaste suggestion of a sleeve, slightly draped over the shoulders, her bare brown legs with the…

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The Birthday Suit

The Birthday Suit

Jimmy Barbucci slept peacefully through the continuing devastation of the Asian markets. He always awoke famished, unperturbed by the streak of bad news from Europe. Whether the markets were up or down, money could be made both ways with a little foresight. His bets were covered – or so he thought. As he left for work one bright summer morning,…

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Easter Morning

Easter Morning

"Can I hold your hand?” he asked softly. She looked at her hand, then at his. Their fingertips were millimetres apart as they sat across from each other in the east-end coffee shop. Nearly touching. His hand was much bigger than hers. Her nails were unpolished. She looked at the ring on her finger. She had the certificate of authenticity in…

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Cinzia

Cinzia

I wondered what my mother would think of Cinzia... and what Cinzia would think of my mother. I could tell as soon as she arrived that things wouldn’t be smooth. There would be trouble. My brother’s new wife was not like the other brides from Italy. There were four of them on our street. Sometimes they congregated on the front porch of the house…

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The Fourth Wife

The Fourth Wife

To look at Uncle Enzo you’d be hard pressed to believe that this short mild-mannered fellow who liked to make pasta sauce in the middle of the night dressed only in his underwear had already killed three wives. That’s what some family members believed. Kith and kin were sympathetic enough at the first wife’s demise, fittingly surprised and shocked with…

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Laura

Laura

A freak snowstorm diverted the London-Venice flight to Monfalcone – an industrial town nestled near the Gulf of Trieste. There was a bell tone. A sign blinked on overhead: FASTEN SEAT BELTS. The intercom crackled once, and the pilot informed the passengers (mostly tourists) that a winter storm was raging along Italy’s Adriatic coast; airports in Treviso and Venice were…

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Day After Day

I am scribbling these notes moments before departure. I have awakened from a dream which seemed to last for years. I remember nothing of the preceding day, month or year. On the dark screen of memory, fragments of images appear for a fraction of a second and are gone. The clocks of the metro - station after station - all…

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Short Espresso

Short Espresso

It was a lovely winter day. A white blanket covered the streets and sidewalks. The snow, pure and immaculate, was vulnerable to our every step. As beautiful as winter may appear, we have nonetheless developed a love-hate relationship with it. True, the pendulum in our psyche tends to swing more towards the hate "pole". By the end of February, hate…

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The Colour of Mary’s Love: A Sicilian Legend

The Colour of Mary’s Love: A Sicilian Legend

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is inconsolable after her son's death. She wants to be courageous, accept his death as he had, but she is unable to banish the painful memories. At night, she cries herself to sleep and in the morning fresh tears saturate her pillow. Most of the time, she cannot get out of bed. Early one morning,…

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Call Display

Call Display

Giovanni meets his women in bars, late on weekend nights. He meets them the easy way; he goes over to them, or they come over to him. No sweat. Especially after he's had a few beers. But lately he has begun to feel repulsion for his kind of life ... a loathing of himself. More and more, he feels like…

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