A SHORT STORY from THE RAGAZZO – a novel in progress.
A VICTORY FOR VITTORIO
The son of an indentured farm labourer in a tiny town (or overgrown village) called Andrea del’ Morto in the district of Groparello in Toscania , Alberto Silvestri grew up in the knowledge that he was massively different from everyone he knew. Except perhaps his father. Certainly in looks. Daddy was the most handsome man in the village, probably the province. Perfectly muscled, 6 foot, the embodiment (despite the voluminous moustache) of tall dark and lovesome.
Papa Vittorio Silvestri, farm labourer as he was, was also an accomplished violinist as well as the official Lothario of the district. His violin was the instrument of his passion, the tool which opened the bedroom doors of at least 40% of the lonely, the bereft, the man-hungry, the dreamers.
Mind you his other tool was also famous amongst those in the know. Behind his back, those who knew called him Donkey Delight.
As he grew older, rumours of his daddy’s dalliances began to penetrate into Alberto’s world of beasts and fields and bees. Of course, most of the rumours were wrong. Way wrong. Way, way wrong.
Mama in the other hand was a dumpy woman in black. Stereotypically shrewish in the way Italian mamas can be, she was the type whose setting was perpetually on autopilot mama mode. Like a black-clad machine she cooked cleaned complained gossiped shouted at her husband and was addicted to very large carrots which she seldom ate.
The match was not one made in heaven, for sure. Rather it was made in the taverna, the result of a despairing conversation between two fathers regarding the apparent lack of interest their son/daughter seemed to have in pairing up and making babies. It seemed like a good idea to put them together, even at the point of a stiletto.
They had sex just the once. Worth a try. And abracadabra, a son. Like magic!
Mama and Papa hardly ever talked amongst themselves when Alberto was around (he was an only child, much spoiled and fussed over) but often at night when father came in drunk, his violin serenading his tottering arrival, he would hear her shrieking at him, he would hear her parade of insults, imprecations, always ending in tears. And the next day, nothing. Papa would be off to the fields at dawn. Mama would make the boy a quick breakfast, then usher him fussily to Signora Castri’s house, where this formidable philanthropist widow taught reading, writing and music to twelve of the farm children. The Signora was a creature of the Enlightenment – an intellectual, a lover of classical music and books. Secretly an atheist. Well, she had to attend church on Sundays but managed somehow to avoid Confession. Her presence was good enough for the gossipy villagers.
She taught little Alberto to read and love music. He was singing at the piano with the other 11, and playing as well. He learned violin from papa who did not read music but had a fantastic ear. But above all this was where he received the virus, the bacterial infection, the obsession that is Opera. Which reached a crescendo (apologies) when, in front of a confused and bemused group of villagers in the Church Hall, her students presented Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas with Signora accompanying on the piano and Papa Silvestri on the violin, junior in the role of Dido. Well, his voice hadn’t broken yet and he was quite a pretty little boy.
For his father this was the greatest night of his life. Not only was his son performing in front of the whole village, but seeing him in full drag! He was SO proud!
I forgot to mention – Vittorio’s lovers were predominantly male. And I cannot convey the depth of the scandal this could have caused in rural Italy in the nineteenth century.
A powder keg with a fuse.
Vittorio’s “regulars” comprised a select list of men in the local area. Including the village priest and even the Bishop. Let’s face it, homosexuality has always been rampant in Italy. It’s one of those phenomena which is common knowledge but never spoken about. And should it ever be brought out into the open, several of the shits would be hit by fans. Not that I consider them shits, it’s just a pun I enjoy. And so many of the shits would be in clerical garb. Not that they are shits, just hypocrites.
It was the best evening in Junior Silvestri’s life too. For once, papa was happy, Mama was happy because Papa was happy, Junior was happy because he’d just starred in an opera and because papa was happy and mama was happy.
Everybody sing Happy We from Handel’s Acis and Galatea! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QX0u1Vlrbk
It was the last happy day for the Silvestri family for ever.
It was only a matter of time before eventually Vittorio’s carefree lifestyle would catch up with him. And her. And him too. And Giovanni, the Bishop of Inferno. And Pietro, the Parish Priest of Andrea Del Morto. I will not divulge surnames without payment.
And the battle it turns out, was for the heart, soul and pert bottom of little Alberto Silvestri.
Ahhhh poor little Alberto. For in the audience that evening for the first performance of Dido and Aeneas, the Bishop sat in the front row as an honoured guest. And he fell hopelessly in love with the beautiful Dido.
As a client of Vittorio Silvestri, he took his opportunity to interrogate the man in the cosy comfort of their holy bed about the delicious fifteen-year old youth who had so prettily taken the role of the leading lady.
“Your son, she is very pretty,” said the Bishop.
“Ahh your Holiness, you are too kind!”
“Nearly as pretty as you, my handsome prince.”
“How kind you are Holiness.”
As polite as he seemed, Vittorio felt panic and despair rising in him. What a terrible mistake to have invited this pompous queen of the priestly classes, this predator, this cynical twirler of lorgnettes, this vulpine obese cleric who possessed neither caution nor any moral consciousness, this thigh-driven thief of youth and, frankly, anything in trousers that could be persuaded, bought or stolen for what he called the privilege of his bedchamber. His catchphrase was “if you never try you never get”, and so he never stopped trying. He lived in the conviction that while every man was not homosexual, there were none who wouldn’t try it in the right circumstances. With him.
Alas Vittorio. The last thing he wanted was for his son to have to follow his path. In a secret corner of his heart there was a golden-framed picture of his son in the future as a great Opera star or conductor or violinist, adored by all of Italy and tremendously rich. Of course attached to this picture was one of himself in the magnificent villa supplied by his adoring son, a handsome or beautiful loving sex-creature at his side. Mama did not feature in this fantasy at all.
“Caro,” the Bishop playfully tweaked Vittorio’s nipple, “Caro, you will bring him to visit me, no?”
“Ah Monsignor!” (The Bishop always insisted on his title, even in bed) “I would love to. But it’s impossible.”
“For you? Nothing is impossible.” He applied his vulpine teeth to the nipple and nipped.
“Ow! Monsignore, no I would do anything for you, you know that. But the Mama is always watching. She has eyes like a vulture. She never lets him out of her sight. Just imagine what would happen if she knew – “
“You had better not be threatening me Carissimo.” He leaned over, bit the other nipple. “Because if you do…” he stretched himself across the vast bushy mound and valley of Vittorio’s chest and stomach and nipped a testicle. “Why, I’ll have your balls for breakfast!”
“And your cock for sausage!”
Look away now, because this part is a little graphic.
The Bishop emerges, takes a breath. “You bring me the pretty boy, yes?”
“Monsignore, I cannot!”
“You are making me angry now!” He rears upward, his walrus-like flubbery body looming over his victim, quite cutting out the light from the candle. “Making me angry is a biiiiig mistake. You know that.”
Vittorio is genuinely frightened now. He knows that between them there is a contract of mutual benefit which goes, if you screw me I screw you. Literally and figuratively. Well, being pedantic, just figuratively. There is also the contract of mutual fear – which goes, you expose me, I expose you. Literally and figuratively, for sure. The Bishop would have most to lose. In theory, anyway. But I am sure you know that what they would have regarded as sexual perversion permeated the Church then, as now. Homosexual practices were ingrained in the seminaries, and at every level up to and including the Vatican. Hypocrisy was everywhere, as it is now. Choir boys, for example, as well as boys in the Catholic schools, were considered appropriate targets for predation. And if there ever was a scandal the establishment would rapidly hush it up, perhaps with a reprimand and the promise of many Hail Marys.
Then, as now.
To be expected when you insist that men burdened with balls should be officially forbidden from enjoying their function? All kinds of results, including pedophiles regarding the church as a safe place from which to prey upon their victims. Was the Bishop a pedophile? He was certainly an omnivorous homosexual predator but I don’t know. And neither did Vittorio.
The Bishop could feel perfectly secure, really. His hunger for young male flesh, his predations, his conquests were regarded by many in the ranks above him in the Church as merely mildly annoyingly charming.
Whereas the poor local dick-puller could be easily disposed of if he represented a threat. He could be silenced with money. Or his tongue pulled out and dumped in a pond. Easily arranged. And the Church, as you know, is everywhere, so there is no escape.
Vittorio knew that he had made the biggest mistake of his life. The last thing he wanted was for his only son to become the plaything of this monster. He decided to resort to pleas.
“I beg you Monsignore…he is too young. He is so innocent!”
“Innocente son io!” the Bishop joked. “So am I, my little farmboy. You are very pretty and you have made something very pretty. And did you know it would be just for me? Oh you tease me!” This with twirling the curly hairs on Vittorio’s chest around two fingers and pulling.
“Ow. Monsignore, you know I would do anything for you – !”
“This is such a small thing, Caro mio. Such a very small little pretty little Putti. A cherub, I ask of you. Dido herself, I will make your little cherub rich, happy, he will swim around me, like the little fishes of Tiberius, he will be so happy. And so shall you!”
Here he takes Vittorio’s earlobe and pulls his mouth closer to his own toadlike orifice, which had been responsible for the ingestion of anything ingestible which came anywhere near this gargantuan monster. “I will give you whatever you want. He will move in here with me! He will have everything. The best education, food, money, whatever you want. And for you and his Mama, a hundred lira a month.”
Vittorio pulls away in horror.
Vittorio stands, ready to grab his trousers and run.
“Five thousand. That’s it! You get no more! Five thousand, you can buy a mansion! Never work again! My pretty Papa, what do you say?”
Vittorio feels as if his foot has been caught in a man-trap and the gamekeeper is asking him if he wants it cut off.
“Yes”, he mutters.
“Louder, my lovely. I need to remember this moment!”
“Good! Now come back to bed.”
* * * * *
A week later. A man and a boy climb out of a window of the Bishop’s Palace and jump. The boy is protesting. He doesn’t want to go. But the man, who we realize is his father, is adamant. You will. You will come with me. But I don’t want to leave Papa, what about my birds and the dog. I will get you a bird and a dog. But Papa Monsignore! He will cry. I am your Papa. He is not. He will touch you! But Papa. Alberto, shut up and jump!
And off they go into the deep depths of Italy in their coach-and four, then in the train, then another train, and on horseback, fleeing the wrath of the Monsignore and the wrath of the Church.
And Mama? I am sorry to report I have no idea. I have the horrible thought that perhaps Monsignor caught her, confined her in a dungeon in the basement of his ancient palace and tortured her for the whereabouts of father and son. Her body probably expelled through an oubliette into somewhere dark and very wet. A little too fanciful and romantic, perhaps. A little too operatic?
Perhaps not. Very Scarpia and Tosca, that scene.
But I do know these things: The Bishop accused father and son of having stolen money and jewels, and set the police after them. His fury grew with time, it did not abate. As far as the Church was concerned, they were convinced that Vittorio and Alberto Silvestri were agents of Satan who had wormed their way into the Bishop’s affections in order to steal from him and the Holy Church, to destroy Holy Relics, and to bring down all the works of Jesus. For this reason, the two became fugitives for life and it wasn’t until the death of Vittorio in mysterious circumstances and Alberto’s gaining the sinecure at Castle Schweinstein that the son felt relatively safe. Under the name, you would have guessed, of Gramaschi.
I will have to write the whole story one day. The time between the escape from the castle and the arrival of the tutor at the Castle is rich. No space or time at the moment. I am sure you want me to get on with the story of Guido now….