THE MAESTRO

Here is another Six “Sentence” Story challenge/invitation from my friends at GirlieOnTheEdge, the prompt word being BOOKMARK. In the (alleged) words of William Faulkner: “Punctuation be damned!” 😎

My cousin Nina and I went to Italy during the late 80s, stopping in various cities along the way including the ever-glorious Florence, famous for her art museums, precious gold markets and some of the best leather products in the world – the perfect place for two 30-something savvy American women to leisurely stroll – and it was where I fell in love with a beautifully aged and well-preserved leather bookmark engraved with the image of La Scala Opera House in Milan with the name in script below the image – soft as butter to the touch and a lovely fawn color, it immediately became my favorite accessory which I slipped into my purse after bargaining with the vendor for a ridiculously low price leaving him muttering something about “irresistible American women” and he smiled devilishly at me remarking that he could never resist a woman with eyes as green as the Mediterranean.

Nestled between the many gold and leather stores was a tiny book shop which beckoned to me and I found myself in a cramped yet delightfully appointed treasure trove overflowing with tomes of every sort, including a volume which drew me in like the proverbial moth to a flame: Grandissimo Pavarotti ­– A Celebration of the Career of the World’s Greatest Tenor on the Silver Anniversary of his Debut; as a musician and huge fan of The Maestro, I knew I had to own this jewel of a picture book and I held it in my trembling hands, opening the front cover only to discover to my amazement that it was a signed copy, one of a limited number of editions, forcing me to quickly snap the cover closed but not before sneaking another peek to make sure I hadn’t imagined seeing what was clearly there in black and white – the honest-to-goodness signature of the greatest tenor ever – which then made me glance at the price while holding my breath; there was obviously a mistake as the cost of this gem was insanely low for a first edition signed copy of anything let alone a gorgeous photo album of the magnificent Pavarotti.

Acting as nonchalant as possible for someone about to pee her panties, I gracefully waltzed up to the register, handing my selection to the young male clerk who gazed into my sea-green eyes and scanned the label without so much as a second thought; I said a silent prayer to The Creator for gracing me with such apparently mesmerizing eyes, purred a “Mille grazie” to the love-struck cashier and left the store while cradling the book in my arms like a newborn baby, not even daring to show Nina my impressive find until we were safely back in our hotel room which I insisted we return to immediately, acting more like a secret agent than even I realized, praying no one in the area noticed while being extra-careful not to look directly at anyone with my dangerously alluring occhi il colore dell’acqua del Mediterraneo.

Upon our return to the hotel, I lovingly wrapped my precious new purchases in layers of tissue paper and placed them between newly-bought scarves made of silk from Como (gifts for my mother and sister); Nina laughed at the care I took in packing, exclaiming they were just paper and leather, not the Hope Diamond, to which I explained that to me they were as fine as any jewel and she wouldn’t understand because she did not possess the heart of a musician which didn’t seem to faze her at all; however, I was very content knowing my goods were safely locked away in my suitcase and would remain there until we were back home in The States.

We were met at JFK airport by our family members who smothered us with Italian hugs and kisses, loudly thanking God for our safe flight and equally loudly admiring our tans and new Florentine gold necklaces; I’m sure the women were wondering if we had jewelry in our luggage for them – which we did – but I knew I had something even more valuable, at least to me, and I couldn’t wait to display my new book on my coffee table at home (of course, the bookmark would travel with me always in whichever book I was reading but The Maestro would remain at home, center stage, for friends to gaze upon in awe).

Now settled into my usual routine, I returned to my job in Manhattan via the Metro North train from my apartment in New Rochelle; it was a pleasant ride and I had a book with me and, of course, my beloved bookmark which was standing guard in this week’s book of choice – Agatha Christie’s “Appointment with Death”– mysteries being one of my favorite genres; however, it was an unhappy and puzzling realization when I returned home from work one day to discover my book and treasured La Scala bookmark were nowhere to be found and I had no idea what happened to them or where I last saw them (having gotten distracted by a lengthy conversation with a friend preventing me from enjoying my daily read the entire train ride); I repeatedly emptied my purse praying they would turn up but they did not so I sat at the piano to calm myself when suddenly the phone rang and an unfamiliar female voice asked for me, saying she found my book and bookmark on the Metro North (thank heavens for taping that label on the inside cover of the book with my name and phone number); fortunately the woman who found my priceless belongings lived nearby and delivered them to me that very night, and by the sparkle in her eyes I believed she knew in her soul that my beloved bookmark held a place not only in my book but in my heart as well.

NAR © 2022

AN OFFER THEY COULDN’T REFUSE

The year was 1980. My husband Frank and I were excited to be back in Italy to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary and Frank’s 30th birthday. Frank was a big sports fan so the timing couldn’t have been better; we would be in Rome for the Italian Golf Open at the prestigious Acquasanta Golf Club.

Founded in 1903 by British Embassy workers, Acquasanta is the oldest golf course in Italy and one of the most memorable places to play anywhere in the world. The club is located along the Appian Way, just a few kilometers from the heart of Rome. The views of the ruins of ancient Roman aqueducts on the front nine are nothing short of spectacular. We planned to spend a beautiful day walking the roughs and watching the tournament; in the evening we would celebrate Frank’s birthday in the elegant dining room.

Fate brought us together in 1974 when we both signed up for a backpacking tour of Europe. We had seats next to each other on the flight from New York and we hit it off great. We were both Italian; Frank spoke the language fluently while I barely knew enough to put a sentence together. The in-flight movie was The Godfather and Frank delighted in translating much of the dialogue for me.

Neither of us knew anyone else on the tour so we spent all our time together, sharing the stories of our lives. We enjoyed each other’s company and found we had much in common. By the time the tour was over, we were in love. We tied the knot in New York in 1975 and now we were back in the place where it all began.

Our first day at Acquasanta was fantastic; the sky was clear, the sun shining and the temperature mild. The place was busy but not overly crowded and everyone looked quite pleased to be there. Smiling, friendly people greeted us with “Ciao! Come stai oggi?”.

We decided to stop at one of the concession stands for a bite to eat; a few bistro tables and chairs were set up for spectators to sit quietly without distracting the players or disturbing the other visitors. Everywhere we looked the scenery was breathtaking with Mediterranean pines, cypresses and eucalyptus trees dotting the undulating terrain.

As I glanced around enjoying the view I couldn’t help noticing a group of men running in the opposite direction of the greens. More and more people joined the group; curious, Frank and I followed. As we got closer we saw a gorgeous young woman wearing a bikini; the sash she wore revealed she was Miss Italy 1980. There was a sign where she stood and a long line of eager men of all ages.

Frank suddenly started roaring with laughter. I asked him what was so funny; he pointed to the sign, doubled over with laughter as tears ran down his face. Practically hyperventilating, he managed to gasp out the words “It seems they got the translations wrong. What it really says is ‘For good luck, Miss Italy will kiss your balls’. It should say ‘kiss your golf balls’!”

I guess they made those men an offer they couldn’t refuse!

NAR © 2022

PER BUONA FORTUNA, MISS ITALIA
TI BACERÀ LE PALLE