Fiction from NER 37.1
From the novel Renato After Alba
I went to the Daily Grind café and had a cup of coffee at the little table where we often sat, but Alba didn’t turn up, smiling and saying “I thought I’d find you here.”
Because she is dead—I know, I know. What I don’t know is where she went and why she hasn’t come back and is she someplace I can get to without dying, because though I wanted to die and told myself over and over to die, it became clear it wasn’t going to happen right away. I don’t understand why we’re born or why we love or why we bring children into the world if we and everyone we love are going to die.
I was born at my grandfather’s house in Lexington, Massachusetts, in the evening of the last snowfall of March, eighty-three years ago. You could say I was born a few days earlier, but on that snowy evening I was found in a laundry basket on my grandfather’s doorstep, so that’s my true birthday. My grandfather’s big square house was on one side of St. Brigid’s Church, and the small narrow parish house was on the other side. Everyone said I had been brought to the wrong door, but maybe my guardian angel directed the delivery to this address so that a newly married couple at the table that evening could adopt me and be my true parents, as did happen.
My grandfather’s name was Pacifico Cavallù and there were fifteen people in the house that night. He was at the head of the table, a sturdy man with a short, iron-colored beard, and his wife Marianna sat opposite him, a glorious woman such as you find carved on the prow of an old sailing ship. Their children, handsome and headstrong, were seated on both sides of the long table—Lucia and Marissa and Bianca and Candida and Dante and Sandro and Silvio and Mercurio and Regina, along with Marissa’s husband Nicolo, an aeronautical engineer, and Bianca’s husband Fidèle, a stonecutter. And, of course, there was Carmela the cook and Nora the housemaid. That’s two in the kitchen, thirteen at the table, and me in a laundry basket being set down quietly on the piazza.
Then came that KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK, so Pacifico got up from the table, his linen napkin still tucked into the top of his vest, and strolled through the grand front hall and into the vestibule to open the front door. Good God! he cries. At the table they drop their silverware and knock over chairs to come running and I am born.
Eugene Mirabelli was born in 1931 and his first novel was published in 1959. Renato After Alba, excerpted in this issue of NER and forthcoming from McPherson & Company in October, is a follow-up to his novel Renato, the Painter (McPherson, 2012). These are the last two in a series of six novels concerning Renato and the Cavallù clan. Mirabelli has published other novels, including science-fiction and fantasy, and his stories, novels, and essays have been translated into many languages. He writes about politics, economics, and science on his blog, criticalPages.com.