excommunication

IN A FRIGHTENING CATACLYSM, I returned to America, its amber waves of grain, hallowed shores, flags waving, fortified floating fortress of a nation, America, where at once a meeting of the five families is called in the Five Points, and Don Roberto, latest patriarch of the Mulberry Street bakers, with his slanting beret and fuzzy beard, Don Roberto counts off my offenses on the fat, flour-dusted fingers of his left or evil hand, sinistra, as the Italians say, and announces to the other heads of the families that I have been a bad Italian-American and therefore must be excommunicated! What else to do? The verdict is final. Fat Billy is there with his hands on my shoulders. He is laughing. “I told you so, I told you so,” Fat Billy says. I have done too many terrible things, and among the most terrible, left America. For this, there can be no forgiveness. I have been excommunicated, you see. It’s done. Outside I encounter Giuseppe, another old padrone of one of the forgotten Canal Street pizzeria clans. He sits beneath a tall, wind-bent Aruban tree. “Ah, Giustino, my friend,” says a sad and defeated Giuseppe. “I haven’t seen you in such a long time. Such a sad and long time, Giustino. Where have you been?” Giuseppe is sad too, too sad for words, for he too has also has been excommunicated. Something to do with experimenting with pineapple. Verboten. He looks up at the branches of the tree and sighs and as he does my feet lift from the ground. Soon they are above the tree and my head is full of purple night and stars. This is how I float away like a hot air balloon over the oceans to Europe, my soul full of cosmos and astral wind. This is how I am returned to my proper slice in the world // ONCE BACK, I am of course welcomed by a dozen nude women on a sandy beach who implore me to make films of them. They are writhing all over each other, breasts descending and rising, and there is good fun to be had hiding among the limbs. There is a carnival feel to the scene, and I come to feel some kind of love for women again, even after all the carnage. At an underground crypt, a wedding is held, the women and bridesmaids all bare-breasted, and later, staggering back from this naked Sports Illustrated-worthy European reverie, I encounter no other than the town mayor, Rando Liivamägi, who is busy consulting with a young man who is showing him a portfolio of artwork. “Come here,” says good-humored Liivamägi in his brown suit with his spectacles nearly dropping from his nose. “Come here, I want you to meet someone. Allow me to introduce Hr. Petrone.” No, it can’t be. “But there are only three men in the world with our name,” I tell the young man. “And now two of them live in Estonia,” he demurs. “But you will always be the Petrone,” he says to me. I am merely a Petrone,” he says. He smiles to the mayor and Liivamägi is pleased. “I am so glad you two finally had the chance to meet,” he says. “I have taken on your namesake as an artist for the city. He specializes in drawing portraits of plane crashes, fires, and automobile accidents.” He shows me pastel-colored drawings of women leaping from windows. They both smile. I walk away feeling disturbed. Very, very disturbed. // NOT LONG AFTER, I inevitably arrive at the island estate of the familiar writer of Once Upon a Time in England. She whose wet legs once wrapped themselves about my shoulders as she implored me to live up to my talent. (“You could be better,” she had once said. “You know you’re so much better than that.”) Yet she is stressed now and her child is hungry and her well-meaning young husband has to escort me out. He even drives me to the train station. A good-humored chap. To see that face of hers, goopy make-up dripping, clad in bathrobe, yellow hair messed like straw. She wouldn’t even look at me, but I have no fear. I still have my knapsack and my soul to keep me straight. I’ll be back and she will be back, and my energy will re-entwine with hers. Then all will be right and whole, yes. The peace of the world, blanketing warm. We can sleep wondering what all that commotion was. Excommunication? Bah! I’ve got better people to do now, places to go, and things to see. I’ve got the writer and she’s got me. A knapsack and a journal and the road before me. What else could you really want?

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