SnapShots: Race cars, Caffè and Cards


June 1955, Italy

Michaelangelo Calavanti rolled his eyes at the slow-paced dusk. It seemed to him that the fervor of the race had bitten dusk and made it an eager audience as well. Just as the townspeople of Castello Calavanti. The cook, his eyes glued to the telly, garnished his pasta with spinach, not basil. A man juggled a mint lemonade, the flag of his favorite racer and two babies in his hands. Even the old women had come out with their knitting kits.

Michaelangelo sat in the regular cafe at the regular table, outside; gambling away his earnings of the day, as he does regularly, with his buoni amici. The only irregularity was the hot day and the growing crowd. Oh and the yearly open-road race seemed like a maddening irregularity too, whose track ran by the Caffè this time.

He brushed away sweat from his brow as Gus began to deal everyone a new hand. Some breeze began to pick up just as Michaelangelo looked up from his cards – an ace of heart and a six of diamond – to find young Paulo approaching. Michaelangelo wished Paulo managed to get a pack of cigarettes today.

“Zio Mi…ke!” came the small voice. Michaelangelo waved briskly at Paulo to run faster. Paulo smiled.

“Cigarettes?” said Michaelangelo to the panting Paulo, now beside him, palms on his knees. Luca dealt a queen of hearts, 8 of spades  and a jack of hearts.

“Here,” replied Paulo through his ragged breath, standing up and tapping on his breast pocket. Michaelangelo was glad but not very because Piero, Niccolo and Luca had raised bets.

“Hmm… good…what can I tell you…” thought Michaelangelo out loud while contemplating between a fold and a raise. Meanwhile, Paulo dragged a stool from the next table and sat beside Michaelangelo.

“About adventures in America like the teenage boy who traveled with 8 dollars and repaired toasters or..umm.. about the bad cook who sells Mac & Cheese in his “İtalian” restaurant in Brooklyn..or..or…the…” chirped Paulo. Niccolo and Piero shared a knowing glance.

“Alriiiiightt!” Michaelangelo sighed and called. “So, when Hitler came to town. Everyone wanted to leave or were leaving. Marco, a teenage boy with big eyes, was kindling a desire. He wanted to go someplace safe, away  from Mussolini and everything that he brought to İtaly…” Luca, Piero looked at Michaelangelo wide-eyed and called. Niccolo smiled a small smile as he too called. Luca dealt a ten of hearts.

“…but his elder brother didn’t want to leave his house that smelled of his mom’s jasmine flowers. Marco, knew what it meant to leave but in that corner you see Paulo, beside the chicken coop, he told me…”

The cook came out and shouted that the racers are arriving and a rippling roar erupted. Piero raised and the others called. Paulo began to say something when the first driver zoomed by, and the roar before it could die, revived again. Luca dealt a king of hearts.

The rest of the drivers zoomed past the Caffé in seconds leaving behind a wild gust of wind. İt began to falter as did the excitement in crowd and everyone began to go back to cooking, knitting or juggling.

Paulo took in a breath to say something but just then a race car crashed into the chicken coop. The driver, cursing in his Italian-Brooklyn accent, came out the smashed car. Michaelangelo ruffled his pretend-nephew’s hair and both smiled and thought if the story would find an end. All of them, setting their cards carefully on the table, along with the cook went to help the driver. Only if Michaelangelo knew it was his real nephew he was going to invite later to join them for a smoke… Luigi Calavanti

Inspıred by: A short movıe by Prada – Catello Calavantı

Lınk —


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