We open our columns to talented new voices, who can send in (short) stories.
This one is a short story by Eduardo Riccardo. It was some 30 pages he said, but now he tells us 'it would be more something like 50, even 60'. Hm. Okay. Only because we pity guys living on goat's milk and mountain herbs.
We publish it the old fashioned 19th century way: episodically.
“Not Stairway to heaven.”
“I’ve got a picture of it. Taken last week, remember. It belongs to the collection.”
“You wrote To Ben. It’s in there. Your handwriting. There is proof. It means that you gave it to me, Marjorie. To me, Ben. You loved me. You still do, darling. It’s buried deep inside of you, somewhere. It must be somewhere. The way you kissed me, in Riquewihr… It remains forever, don’t you understand?” She’s still standing akimbo. A piece of marble. Ammanato, Ammanato, che bel marmo hai rovinato.
“Anyway the agreement says it’s mine when I can prove it’s mine. You can’t take it.” This time he’s got the law on his side.
To be absolutely sure he’s hidden the record in the small interstice between the top of the library and the ceiling. She would need a ladder to get it.
“No it isn’t.”
“Yes it is.”
“Then take it.”
“Is there fool written on my forehead, Marjorie?” He knows it’s a trap.
“Is there book written on every book, Ben? I don’t think so. So just take it.” Now she’s starting to use female logic, he thinks. He’s in big danger.
This time he’ll prove he’s right. He’ll make an end to this Marjorie nonsense right away. Slowly, his head still aching, he walks backwards, towards the library. He reaches for the record. Walks back, cowers, flips open the sleeve. Puts it under her nose.
She looks at the text, then at him.
Where the word Ben was written a hole has been burnt in the sleeve. Above the hole she’s written ‘Lily’.
“Lily,” he says. He looks at her.
“That’s right, honey: Lily. To Lily, forever my love.” She puts a hand on his arm. “Your daughter,” she whispers in his ear, “I bet you’ve forgotten again, but it’s her birthday today. Go and give it to her.”
He runs outside, to the car. Lily is stretched out on the backseat. She’s got her headphones on. Complete noise reduction, so he has to knock on the window several times. “Hey!” He waves at her. She simply waves back. She’s always had this kind of humour. They laugh, then she opens the door.
“Congrats, princess,” he says.
“Yeah,” she answers.
“What are you listening to?” Some drum’n’bass band.
“Great lyrics,” she says. ‘Instrumental’ he reads on the little screen.
“Just shout if I have to translate,” he says. An old joke. And he indeed used to translate for her. He was the guy with the words.
“Yeah,” she says. “These days I use Google Translate, dad.” It goes straight to his heart. She looks at him accusatory.
“I’m so sorry,” he says. He holds her hand, pinches it.
“Otherwise Dave threatens to translate.” She almost spits out the name.
“Dave,” he says. He must be the lawyer.
“Yeah. He’s there every morning. We have to have breakfast with him. He smacks his lips. When there’s almost no eggs left he takes it.”
“No kidding. Really?”
“Yeah. He’s much worse than you, dad.”
“That sounds like he’s very bad.”
“Yeah. On the International Dad Scale he’s lowest of the low. Scum.”
“Sounds very bad. Thought I was lowest of the low, actually.”
“You were, dad, you were. But we were mistaken. There’s worse. I apologize on Amber’s behalf too.”
“You don’t have to, sweetheart.” He pinches her hand again. Her hand feels so good.
“We miss you, dad.” Scratching her nose. “A little bit.”
“I know,” he says, “I miss you too. A lot.” Her big, round eyes are looking at him. There’s so much sadness in them, but she thinks it doesn’t show. So many years, in one glance. He’s thinking about Dave. Would he venture to touch her? Maybe they have to kiss him goodnight.
“I’ve got a present for you. It’s from the both of us.”
“Yeah,” she says, fumbling with her headphones. She opens the sleeve. “Who’s Led Zeppelin?” she asks.
“Led Zeppelin is Nirvana,” he says. “But earlier.” She and Amber could put down quite an impersonation of the Smells like Teen Spirit video. They were on holiday in Panzano, then.
“So Led Zeppelin is The Pixies,” she says. Wisehead.
“I’m talking about the seventies,” he says.
“When I was your age.”
“So this Led Zeppelin was a minstrel, traveling from castle to castle. Great, dad. Is this with original instruments? Lutes and stuff?”
“Something like that, yes.” He’s about to mention something about the electric guitar, and Jimmy Page, but changes his mind.
“There’s a hole burnt in it.”
“That’s what they used to do in Middle Ages, when people loved someone very, very much. They just burnt a hole, and then wrote her name above it.”
“The hole has the form of a heart, don’t you think? Kind of? This one must have been burnt with lots, lots of love.”
“That’s why the first song is called Whole lotta love, isn’t it, dad?” She could always see his punchline coming from a hundred miles upfront. She sighs, puts her headphones on again, starts looking in front of her. She’s gliding off, into the other world. She smiles. He kisses and hugs her. Even though she has driven off, she’s putting her arms around him.
He runs into the house. A light green dress is lying in front of the window, on the parquetry, next to a pair of silk stockings. He looks into the kitchen. Then he runs up the stairs.
“Marjorie?” No answer, no sound even. Nobody in Lily’s room, nor in Amber’s. There’s a stack of books piled up on Amber’s desk. On her bed a portmanteau, filled to the brim with clothes, stuffed bears, exercise-books, sunglasses, all kinds of small stuff. He runs into his bedroom. Their bedroom. Empty. The bed the way he left it. Only a set of black lingerie flinging about. It belongs to Rebecca. It was in the chest of drawers. There was a red one too. He registers such things. The red is his favourite. She’s been snooping around. The upper drawer is open. The red isn’t there anymore.
“What are you searching for, Ben?” He turns around. She’s standing next to the door, against the wall.
“Why, y- you…” he stammers.
(to be continued in couple of days)
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