The Grape Harvest Part 6 is the continuation of my Italy Travel Fiction segment that I began in April. This is a 7-10 part series following Mike, a newly successful author along his travels in Italy. Do not let the innocuous description steer you away from this story of introspection, compulsion, and deviance. Here are links to the first 5 chapters.
- Previously - Mike fired another round through the bridge of the German’s nose and he died. At that moment the iPhone text tone sounded and the message said “have you finished your business Dad? ready for that walk?”
He stared at the message all too aware that Viola was wandering through the vineyards with the winemaker and waiting on him to join. 4 gunshots although muffled a bit by the thick walls and the annoying bathroom exhaust fan were more than a little obvious. In the quiet space that exists only in the most fleeting moments Mike knew he had to go. Viola would have to forgive her father again for an unannounced departure which gave him a sad pause.
Just as quickly as the quiet began it ended with the sounds of shouts from below. Mike’s Italian was clouded and tone was all he could detect. Fear, confusion, and panic were pitching higher in the female shouts as he pushed open the blood-spattered windows and hopped down onto the ivy covered ledge below. Above all forms of literature he despised action thrillers the most. Everyday Joes succeeding at near impossible feats of will, intelligence, and agility while under pressure from extraordinary circumstances actually offended his sense of reality and pragmatism.
He tucked the .380 into his waist and enjoyed the curious cool steel along the upper initial separation of his ass crack. Gripping the terra-cotta tiles along the edge of the lower easement Mike scaled down the ivy much more adroitly than he believed was possible. Now, on the back of the villa Mike knew going for the car would be certain folly, so he made for the vineyard house where Roberto kept the Ape.
An Ape (ah-pay) is a 3 wheeled vehicle with a fully enclosed cab and a small bed like a pickup in the back, used for hauling. Every farmer in Italy owns at least one Ape (which means Bumblebee) and they can often be seen taking their wives on weekend dates into towns motoring at 20 miles per hour along wine roads, dirt roads, highways, and sidewalks.
Mike reached the shed and slipped on a pair of Italian denim overalls covered in noxious sulfur powder. He did his best to dust them as he slid open the small barn door of the 15th century shrine, which had been at one time abandoned and was recently converted to a tool shed and storage for the Ape and other vineyard equipment. A statue of the Blessed Virgin hung above the sliding door and the light shown through the small cracks over her head. At that instant the desperate writer noticed the keys in the ignition, fired the Ape to the sound of a chorus of bees and sped away down the oldest wine road in Canale. It would not be unusual to see a man in overalls driving an Ape and while the neighbors would certainly know who it belonged to this was truffle season and lunches would be long and the roads empty
Viola stared at her phone as the desperate shouting reached she and Roberto down in the cellar. The magnum of 1990 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Riserva Red Label had only been opened for 5 minutes and the sanctum created was near Eucharistic levels just as the chaos began.
Viola (in Italian but translated here for ease to readers) – what happened?
Roberto – there has been a terrible tragedy
Hotel Desk Clerk – the German man is dead, he is dead! mother of God, mother of God!
Roberto – calm down, have you called the police?
HDC- no, we are looking for you
Roberto – good do not call! seal the doors and tell Eugenio to go to the road and not let anyone in or out. Most of the guests are in town?
HDC – only the very old man remains
Roberto – he could not have heard..leave him…rather, bring him his coffee at the normal time. Tell Elena to leave the room as it is and do nothing of it till I say. If any guests return have Eugenio tell them there has been a gas leak and the villa is off-limits. send them to town and call Maurizio at the bar and tell him all coffees are on me. Do this now and report to me.
Viola – it’s my father?
Roberto – I am not sure.
Viola- what? is he OK?
Roberto – he is missing, so I can say he is maybe OK
Viola – what do we do?
Roberto – we have a glass of this sacred wine
Viola – now?
Roberto – these are the first moments of life for this very wise child. we cannot leave it here to share its knowledge with only the walls and the ghosts my dear. we will drink now, then you will go having never been here
Viola knew Roberto was “one of those guys” she knew that her father was “one of those guys”. She felt the strongest urge to cry she had experienced in years. Instead she breathed deeply and watched as Roberto poured a splash of wine from the 1 and a half liter bottle into the first glass then rolled the goblet along the edge of the massive countertop. Seasoning the glass was something she learned before she could write and the calming image of orange tinged 25-year-old Barbaresco swirling in kaleidoscopic turns inside the dark and protected cellar gave her momentary serenity.
As they drank their first sips from the enormous hand-blown glasses a man with dark skin, thick hands, and a trucker hat moved down the stairs and handed Roberto a wadded brown paper sack then silently marched back up the stairs. Viola assumed it must have been a weapon of some kind and was relieved when the winemaker pulled warm, cracked, and salted chestnuts from the bag and offered them to her.
Roberto – eat this in remembrance of me
Viola – body of Christ?
Roberto – now taste the wine
Viola – blood?
Roberto – you see how they are at once different and then the same? you must see how even in life it is like this. now go in Peace, Franco is parked just outside and will deliver you to the station. I suggest the regional train to Genova…you will like it there
Viola – the sacrament?
Roberto – it is done, this is done…the last. peace be with you
Viola – thank you…you are a good man
Roberto – of this, I am not so sure.
…..to be continued