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NO BULL

No Bull, none of the time...by Stephen Prosapio


Vital Stats of the day
black and white, rossi photo, novelist
no_bull_steve

Possibly today was one of my most productive days ever...

 

Time up and out of bed:  5:45

 

Number of breakfasts purchased: 1

Number of times my waitress said “I know, right?”:  8 or 9

Percentage of tip I left her:  35%

My rating of her on a scale of 1-10:  9.75

 

Cleaning accomplished:  vacuuming, view windows washed inside and out, bathroom, kitchen, dishes.

 

Number of stores shopped at:  6

Number of banks business conducted at:  2

 

Total spent on groceries/office supplies:  $224

Total saved with coupons & sales:  $87

 

Total spent at the $1 store:  $25

Estimated total saved by shopping there:  $35

(seriously twelve $1 energy shots that normally go for $2.39. Plus other stuff.)

 

Books finished:  1

 

Cheers episodes watched:  2

 

Videos written:  1

Videos a site screwed up:  1

 

Movies watched: 1  (The Hangover)

 

Practical Jokes played on friends:  1

 

Fantasy Baseball trades completed:  1

 

Words written in my work in progress:  0

(Boooooooooooo!)

 

Time to bed:  12:35 (estimated)



My Evening
black and white, rossi photo, novelist
no_bull_steve
*  Walk 2.5 miles along the ocean to the library. Return books on demons & possession used to research my novel.

* Check out Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (although there was a hold on it, I found it on the shelf. Losers weepers kiddies!).

* Walk to Oceanside Theater. Insidious starting in 5 minutes. Use free pass. Movie is wayyy creepier than I expected.

* Walking home along the coast get a call from my niece. Talk to her and sister most of the length of the walk.

* Home. Make a nice dinner. Salad & chilli with pasta.

* Tell myself a thousand times that tonight I'll add 1,000 words to my novel.

* Diddle around online for almost 3 hours.

* Decide it's really time to start writing.

* Create a sticky post to my blog instead.

* And then write this blog entry as well.

* Research if I can get text of my blog to show up darker. Give up.

* Tell myself one more time that I really MUST get some writing done tonight.

* Decide to start reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Promise to start writing in 30 minutes...


Ode to Mike
black and white, rossi photo, novelist
no_bull_steve
Me and my practical jokes.

I got an old friend with one on April 1st. It had been a long time since we'd spoken and I told him I was engagd. He bought it, and the joke only lasted a minute. Unlike the real bad one I pulled on him...

I was 17. It was just after my junior year of high school. I'd honed "the call" a few times with other friends, but Mike was the first I really "got". I called and impersonated the voice of our Dean. By that point...I was good. I told him that he'd failed Chemistry. That his final was so low that he'd have to go to summer school to make up the class. I asked to speak to his father. And then I FINALLY let him know I was joking and that it was me. He was relieved.

Except a few days later...

When the Dean really did call to speak to Mike's father about Mike failing Chemistry and having to go to summer school, it wasn't so funny when Mike told the Dean (thinking it was me again) that, "It was funny the first time, Steve."

So that one obviously backfired on me. We can laugh about it now...

Love you Mike!


I sit and I cry.
black and white, rossi photo, novelist
no_bull_steve

I’ve gone through this thing the past couple weeks. I watched the Ken Burns documentary on Jack Johnson—the fighter, not the singer. I watched two different Muhammad Ali. I watched Spike Lee’s Malcolm X. And then I watched a touching film about Joe Lewis and Max Schmeling. Which raised my desire to revisit the film about James Braddock...called Cinderella Man.


It opens in 1928 when he makes $8,000 as a fighter one night. Moments later we’re transported five years in the future. Men are fighting for jobs. Our hero has gone from living in a big house in

New York to living in an apartment in New Jersey with his wife and family. He’s unable to complete a fight to make $50.


I relate. In the past 5 years I’ve moved from a 2,300 square foot house, to a 2 bedroom condo to a 1 bedroom apartment. Yeah, except that back then they were fighting to put food on the table. They were fighting to keep kids with their parents. Fighting just to survive.

 


So maybe it’s just Ron Howard’s brilliant filmmaking, but every time I watch this film I can’t seem to keep from tearing up at the plight that these people went though. My grandparents and my great grandparents. They didn’t have iPhones or worry about if they should buy a Kindle or an iPad. They were trying to keep from selling all they had to keep their children. They hoped to keep their kids from stealing or from having to live on a farm somewhere.

 

 

I’m humbled. I cry. I pray for those worse off than myself.


Questions. Will (FINALLY). Be. Answered!
black and white, rossi photo, novelist
no_bull_steve

It came down to the three of us.

 

What wasn’t exposed on LOST that my dream revealed to me was that it wasn’t a team contest, it was an individual contest. One of stamina, guts, intelligence. Locke (not sure if the real Locke or the smoke monster Locke) held a contest of elimination. The last person standing wins the island...but Locke’s “lost” it. He’d created so many rituals and things to do to maintain the island that no one person could do them all.

 

There were buttons on tops of hills that needed to be pressed at certain times. There were all kinds of crazy rituals that he wanted done. In my opinion not just one person could do it. Besides, we had a repopulation problem that Locke hadn’t looked at. We needed a man and a woman (I’ll not go into detail here as to why...ask your mommy). With there being just me, a vaguely familiar (ie partly a woman who was my college girlfriend) version of Kate (c’mon it couldn’t have surprised you too much that she’d be in my dream), and another guy (not Sawyer or Jack but kind of an amalgam of both).

 

So the three of us tried in vain to convince Locke that we all could live in peace on the island, but he’d have none of it. So I decided to take matters into my own hands. I remembered that we could kill Locke by getting him off the island or by breaking and scattering his sacred symbol off the island....but I’d have to sacrifice myself and never return to the island...

 

The other two contestants tried to talk me out of it, but I got a knife, Locke’s symbol and broke the blade apart. Just as I’m about to step through a portal off the island—a series of streets and overpasses—I’m back on the Hawaiian-like island with Locke there. A fixed knife is in my hand. He’s trying to trick me, but I battle through the vision.

 

I’m back at the portal again. This time when I break the knife it splinters into many mechanical parts—tiny pieces of electrical components—metal rings and transistors. When I step out onto the barren city street and fling the components away, some stick to my fingers, but I hear Locke scream and I know that I’ve ended his reign of terror. The remaining two contestants are happy at the island.

 

I go home and go to bed. When I wake up (or not) I’ve been transported back to the island at the beginning of the games. At first I’ve forgotten that it’s all happened before, but it comes back to me through the series of games and tests designed to teach us how to deal with the island. I realize that I’m in line to win—that Kate and the other guy have redesigned the game and all I need to do is survive and complete the tests as I’ve already done.

 

During a hike through the overpassed streets, I share my insights/secret with a girl I went to grade school with (although can’t place exactly who...Shelia is the name I wrote down but no Shelia was mean to me in grade school), but she doesn’t believe me. Another girl from grade school joins her. We’re now not just on a hike but in a race.

 

“Shelia” says I’m too fat to win the race or the contest. Which is odd cuz (at least in the dream) I’m not that fat.

 

I race on unafraid. I’m pissed at the silly girls, but I am still confident that I will win the contest and relieve “Kate” and “Sawyer/Jack” as the island caretakers.

 

 

So that’s it. That’s the true ending of LOST...as told to me in a vision. I hope/suspect you enjoyed this more than you did the “real” LOST finale!



Dream Within a Dream
black and white, rossi photo, novelist
no_bull_steve

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?


~~ Edgar Allan Poe

 

 

Two nights ago, I dreamt of my best friend’s deceased mother. The night before last, I dreamt that I had something wrong with my inner ear. When I picked at it a little, the entire inside of my ear came loose revealing a massive gaping hole in my head.

 

But last night/this morning’s dream takes the cake.

 

I found myself at the Wisconsin lake house of my great aunt and uncle. It’s always held a special place for me, and I’d been thinking of it just yesterday, so that’s not so strange. I did have an awesome time exploring and checking it out. I haven’t been there since I was twelve. I felt odd about being there. I didn’t really have permission to be there, but I didn’t think anyone would mind.

 

From there I went to my dorm room. Dorm room??? Yeah, I guess I could have caught the clue that I was dreaming at that point, but didn’t. I watched the last minute or so of the San Diego basketball team. The reffing was horrible, and they were losing the game. With 1 second left on the clock, the San Diego coach (who resembled a cross between Rex Ryan and Bobby Knight) was thrown out of the game! Afterward he’d say, “There’s only one reason we lost today—the refs!”

 

 It was time for a nap. So I laid down and dreamed. A vivid dream of my great uncle—the one who I’ve had paranormal experiences with. I know that we spoke in that dream, but I can’t remember what exactly about. I think he gave his blessing on my new business idea; he was quite the businessman.

 

I woke up from my nap (still dreaming) and felt a bit off...so I went down to the main floor of the dormitory. It was a hustle and bustle of activity that did nothing for me, so I went back up to the room (or maybe it was a friend’s room), but I couldn’t find it. I knew it was in the corner, but all four corners were girls rooms—and duh, it was a girls only floor! So embarrassed, I hightailed it out of there (back down to the 2nd floor) where I did find my friend’s room.

 

The corner of the hallway had been converted into a study space of sorts...with a massive big screen projection TV. Football was on—yay! Behind me was the guy whose TV it was. We chatted a bit. When he found out I was from Chicago, he told me his sister lived there. She was a good friend of a Chicago mobster who ensured she got into a really good school, and had a good job.

 

“The resolution on your TV is incredible,” said I (and it really was, almost 3D).

 

“Yeah,” said he, “I’m getting a new roommate today and I just hope he’s cool and let’s me keep it here.”

 

The thing did take up a huge amount of space.

 

It was then that two of my fraternity brothers showed up! Two pledge brothers in fact. In tow they had “John” who I took to be Big Screen Guy’s new roommate. I looked for him, but he was gone.

 

And I woke up—my clock read: 4:44.



Testosterone...Prosapio style.
black and white, rossi photo, novelist
no_bull_steve

Yep. There we were the 6 of us at the gun show. Me (with my Kindle), my Christian, Special-Ed teaching brother, his physics-teaching father-in-law, HIS engineering son, and HIS muscle-bound, tattooed roommate. Oh and my nephew who requested the event for his 9th birthday event. Some stuff you just can't make up, folks!

The show itself was interesting--not what I expected--not really many actual guns. I think part of that is CA's 10 day wait period....so there were a bunch of accessories and air rifles type stuff. Anyway, those of you who know my nephew can already picture how this event played out. Those of you not so fortunate, here's how it was:  blond and hair spiked to a point on the top of his head, Nathan is...how you say....frenetic. He's on a plane all his own and his mind churns at a rapid rate. Whatever he wants to do at any given time, BAM--he's off & running. Of course he's one-third the size of the rest of us and able to sneak under and around the throngs of people jostling for position in the crowded aisles.

But the fun part was being part of the solution and not part of the problem. By that I mean letting things just flow as they should. Letting him be an excited, energetic interested and interesting kid. As a child we were typically put into such rigid roles. Behavior at events like that was observed, criticized, objectified and condemned so that events like those weren't really all that fun or stimulating. Of course guns were something that were considered "evil" and completely off limits by my mom. I can't say that my life is better or worse because of that particular decision...but I can say that we (my brother/sisters and I) weren't encouraged to develop interests in what our minds were drawn to.

I was 8 or 9 when I told my mom that I wanted to write a book.

"Oh, Stephen,' she said. "People go to school years and years to learn to write books."

I showed her. I went to school for years and years and years and years and...you get the picture. But I never wrote a book. Not until I allowed myself the chance to expand my mind and allow the bliss I was drawn to, to manifest in my life. I'm not saying that guns is the greatest interest/hobby in the world. I just think allowing my nephew the chance to explore and learn will allow his mind ot form the habit that what he is drawn to, he can explore--and learn.

At one point today, my brother today turned to me and said, "Did you notice everyone here is so POLITE?"

It's clear from events like today that guns don't kill people. Sick people with guns kill people. And raising our children right ensures they won't be those sick people.

Of course post-lunch discussion turned to torture, politics, terrorism and the like. But that's just testosterone...Prosapio style.



Deleted Scene #7 (& final) -- Drew's 2nd Dream
black and white, rossi photo, novelist
no_bull_steve
SPOILER ALERT:  Please do not read these scenes if you've not yet read my novel DREAM WAR. Spoilers will be contained in these Deleted Scenes.

WARNING:  Please do not read these scenes if you've not yet read my novel
DREAM WAR. Out of context, these scenes will likely either mean nothing to you, or worse, they'll confuse you.

We have reached the end of my Deleted Scenes. My hope is that someone someday will read and at least somewhat enjoy these. I'm glad they didn't make it into my final novel. And yet I love these children as much as those in the book.

This is a scene (cut from Chapter 35) I really liked when I wrote it. I liked the way it played off Drew's first dream in Italy. I liked how it showed him as human and helping of others in need, but reading it with fresh eyes before the novel went live, I knew it had to go. The pace at this point in the book is becoming Mr. Hyde--this scene is Norman Rockwell. But enjoy it here.

Drew was still twenty yards away from the volcanic boulders, when he heard the voice behind him.

“I told you I want that fucking key back!”

He stopped running. This had happened before. This had already happened.

But when?

He looked down at the medallion that rested against his chest. He turned around. The cop’s gun pointed at him but Drew didn’t care.

“You’re a joke,” he said to the cop. “You are nothing but a joke!”

The policeman stammered like a stage actor denied the script. Drew cocked his arm back over his shoulder trusting a spear would materialize before he threw it. It appeared but the cop had already vanished.

“Kat, is that you?” His voice echoed over and over again in repeated staccato until he could only hear ringing.

Drew sat up in bed. The sound came from his cell phone, an annoying old-fashioned telephone ring that Nadia had downloaded. He’d probably never change it.

“Hello?”

“Drew?” He didn’t recognize the voice.

“Who’s this?”

“It’s Tommy.” The voice, timid and uncertain, seemed almost to be asking.

Drew said nothing.

“Tommy. I met you at a meeting last Saturday night?  You gave me your number and said to call if— if I needed to talk?”

It came back to him. Not just who the guy was. The whole chaotic week flashed by as his head cleared of the cop from his nightmare. Tommy was a guy who had seemed totally lost at his first AA meeting. He seemed like the kind of person who wasn’t given the chance to slowly develop the realization that he was an alcoholic, but had instead been drenched by the ice water of awareness all at once.

“Oh, yeah, Tommy, how ya doin’?”

“I’m okay.” Then he stopped. “Nah, that’s bullshit, man. I lost it last night.”

Drew got out of bed and groped the nightstand for his watch. It appeared to be twilight, but he hadn’t a clue what time it was. Hell, with all that had happened, he couldn’t even remember what day it was.

“What do you mean by ‘lost it,’ man?”

Tommy’s long silence suggested a temptation to lie, or at least minimize the truth. Drew understood that leading the man to just one moment of honesty might mean changing his life for the positive.

“Tommy?”

“Like the ‘get drunk, tell the girlfriend she’s a fuckin’ bitch, go out, and come home with your second D.U.I.-lost it.’”

While relaying a story to Tommy about his early days struggling with sobriety, Drew found his watch on the far dresser. It was almost six. He cracked the door allowing a sliver of bright light into the room. The sounds of Kat and Alexis banging around the kitchen, and aromas of Mexican food drifted into the bedroom. For a second, he felt at ease.

The bad man is coming tonight; the angel told me.

 “Hey, Tommy, I’m not going to lie and tell you now that you’re in AA, everything is going to be easy. It’s not. There are days that just plain suck.”

Drew could swear the cell phone emitted a silent transmission of tension being cut.

“But even when I take times like this week,” Drew continued, “where everyone seems hell-bent on destroying my plan for happiness, and compare it to numbing out, drinking to oblivion, and running away from it all, I’ll take days like today.”

From the other room, Alexis let loose a playful howl. Her footfalls mingled with Kat’s, and Drew couldn’t tell who was chasing whom, or what kind of game they were playing. Tommy’s contribution to the conversation was more silence.

“Even my worst days have purpose, and good eventually manages to outweigh the bad. Stick with it, man.”

There was still nothing but quiet from the other end for several seconds. Drew would never know but he suspected the other man was crying.

“Will I see you at the Saturday night meeting?” Tommy asked.

Drew looked out the window at the vacant expanse of land between the house and the tree line. While the darkening gray sky camouflaged the falling snowflakes, they appeared at eye-level against the backdrop of the forest, swirling down until they collided with the frozen earth.

“I hope so, buddy,” he said. Drew opened wide the door to the hallway, letting the warm light flood his bedroom. “God, willing, I’ll be there.”



Deleted Scene #6 - Travelogue
black and white, rossi photo, novelist
no_bull_steve
SPOILER ALERT:  Please do not read these scenes if you've not yet read my novel DREAM WAR. Spoilers will be contained in these Deleted Scenes.

WARNING:  Please do not read these scenes if you've not yet read my novel
DREAM WAR. Out of context, these scenes will likely either mean nothing to you, or worse, they'll confuse you.

BAD WRITING WARNING:  Please do not read these scenes if you've not yet read my novel
DREAM WAR ESPECIALLY IF you're deciding upon a DREAM WAR purchase. There are reasons these scenes did not make the finished book--one of the primary reasons is that many contain BAD WRITING!

Here is a scene which is substantually shorter in the finished version. In some form or another it lasted all the way until the last cut--and for all the wrong reasons. I fell in love with my descriptions of a hotel I found fascinating. Of course the passage has no real use to the book other than to show off (as well as I'd wanted the trip through the hotel to be symbolic of their journey with all the twists and turns), and it slooooowwwwwwwwwwed the pace down drastically. So here is its 15 minutes in the light of day:

      “Where are we going?” Nadia asked, sitting next to Alfonso.

      “To the Hotel Domus Sessoriana”

      “Is that far from here?” Andy asked from the backseat.  He was barely able to keep his eyes open and was too tired to think.  He had heard jetlag had something to do with less oxygen in the blood. 

      “No it is not long from here.”

      An hour into their trip, Andy filed a meek protest that the detective had not told them they were leaving Naples.  Alfonso explained that their safety demanded their departure.  Andy was too exhausted to fight and too frustrated to doze off. 

      Soon enough, they were within the walls of Rome.

      The sports car zipped through the streets of the city weaving in and out of traffic constantly.  He seemed to reverse direction a dozen times.  Andy wondered if they were going this way because it was the most efficient route, or if the detective wanted to ensure they were not being tailed.  In either case, by the time the car jerked to a halt, his head swirled and his stomach felt like it had just endured a roller coaster ride at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

      Out the window, Andy could see Detective Allegretto had parked fifty yards off the nearest street in an open, stone courtyard.  A crescent-shaped concrete path connected the piazza to the street.  On either side of the stone-tiled area, were expansive areas of green grass and trees.  For a moment, he feared that they somehow had been duped into some sort of scam, but what had they to be taken for?  Between the couple, they had seventy-eight euro and a coin that no one could identify.  Besides, Andy realized, they had stopped in the shade of a large church.

      “What the-”

      Alfonso calmed him.  “Not to worry.  Wait, I show you.”

      The man leapt from the vehicle and swirled around the sports car.  He had opened Nadia’s door before Andy had a chance to pry himself out of the backseat.  Alfonso glanced to the left and right, surveying the distant street.  It seemed he wished to make obvious to the suspicious couple his attempt to safeguard them.

      Across the stone square to Andy’s right, a blue and white sign announced the existence of the “National Museum of Musical Instruments,” but the tourist saw no other structure that would indicate they had arrived at their final destination.  He looked up at the massive facade of the church.  High above on the roof of the structure, statues of the four evangelists, accompanied by the Emperor Constantine, his sainted mother Helena, and two angels stood watch over the courtyard, if not the entire neighborhood.

      “Are you stashing us away in some choir loft?”  But he was not heard.  Andy wheeled around to see the old man arm-in-arm with Nadia, escorting her through a large doorway to the right of the church steps.  As they disappeared into the darkness, he trotted off after them. 

      An automatic glass door swooshed open as he entered the edifice.  He arrived just in time to hear Nadia’s voice echo though the cavernous hotel lobby.  “Well, this is interesting.”

      A sign welcomed them to the Hotel Domus Sessoriana.  The huge, stone walls and marble pillars stood as testament to its history as a monastery.  The glass walls that divided the hotel offices from the main lobby, as well as the flashing computer monitors, gave the room the appearance of a world where the past had collided with the future.

      Detective Allegretto rattled off something in Italian as he brushed past the man at the front desk who nodded knowingly, “Si, si, cento trenta cinque.”

      “Come this way, this way.” He motioned. “Room one-thirty-five.  It is safe.”

      Climbing a short set of marble steps, Andy and Nadia played follow-the-leader through a narrow passage into a small courtyard that appeared to have no exit until Allegretto disappeared down a short stairway off to the right.  At the bottom of that staircase, they turned left, reentered the building, and stood for a moment to behold a white hallway that looked more like more like a tunnel.  Paintings by local artists, displayed on portable easels, ornamented both sides of the walkway.  Lagging behind the detective’s trail of broken English, they passed “Internet Point,” a room that adjoined the hallway on the left.  A dozen steps farther, they made a left turn, and caught up to the old man in a small, brick room with a glass elevator door.  It opened at their arrival.  Allegretto shuffled in and pressed “1.”  Andy and Nadia trailed.

      The elevator began its accent.  They rose past two huge canvasses that depicted scenes of the Roman army crossing a river.  The soldiers brandished swords, their eyes set on killing, dying, or perhaps both.  A general riding a white horse led them out of the water.  Andy didn’t look at the medallion; it wasn’t the same image.

      The detective noticed his interest.  “That is Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon.”

      The elevator jerked to a stop and the door behind them opened to a massive wing.  The ceiling extended upwards of forty feet but, painted white and reflecting the light from massive, upper windows, it appeared to extend to the heavens.  The hallway stretched the length of a football field and was wide enough to allow at least ten men to walk side-by-side.  For hundreds of years prior to being converted to a hotel, the wing must have housed monks or nuns.  Allegretto began to make his way down the cavernous hallway but, behind him, Nadia appeared to be on the verge of a breakdown.

      “Honey!” Her tired eyes pleaded for Andy to put a halt to the journey.

      Allegretto assured them that they were almost there, his voice echoing whispered assurances back from the rafters.  The promises proved true when, a moment later, they swung left into a narrow passageway and up a short flight of stairs.  He opened up the door to room 135.  He must have sensed the couple was ready to collapse.  One last time, he guaranteed their safety and, after promising to call in the morning, departed. 

      After surviving a trying day that traversed several time zones, the pair did not even consider their unpacking race; besides, they had nothing to unpack.  Instead, they dove under the covers and, in minutes, fell fast asleep. 

      Neither suspected it would be their final night in Italy.


 



Deleted Scene #5 - Nicola
black and white, rossi photo, novelist
no_bull_steve
SPOILER ALERT:  Please do not read these scenes if you've not yet read my novel DREAM WAR. Spoilers will be contained in these Deleted Scenes.

WARNING:  Please do not read these scenes if you've not yet read my novel
DREAM WAR. Out of context, these scenes will likely either mean nothing to you, or worse, they'll confuse you.

Awwwwww. Sweet Nicola. The girl mentioned in Angela's deleted scene. She's also mentioned quite late in the novel (the girl Stanley ultimately rides with) and this scene tied that thread together. At one point in the novel, there was a short scene with Nicola looking up at Vesuvius the night before the eruption.

In the end, the scenes with her (especially once Angela's scene was cut that mentioned Nicola by name) just proved too random and discordant. They were fun though and knowing Nicola existed--if only in my creative imagination--was a fun exercise in character development that's done "offscreen".

Nicola sat behind the desk at the Palazzo Turchini Hotel.  Her long, dark curls obscured most of her face as she scanned through the pages of her Donna Moderna magazine searching for tips on the latest fashions.  She turned the volume of her radio up until the echoes of Eros Ramazzotti’s latest hit ballad drown out the tick tocks of the annoying grandfather clock. 

      The building shook. 

      Room keys, hanging from their hooks in the wooden box below the counter, rattled less violently than when the big earthquake hit but the clatter lasted longer than the aftershocks that had rumbled most of the day. 

      Outside, people flocked across Via Medina and, as they proceeded towards the piazza at the end of the block, disappeared from view.  Nicola wondered if the tremor had caused a crash.  When drivers slowed on the road to gawk at traffic accidents, she equated it to the mindset of those that seemed always prepared to pounce with criticism and judgment on her every move.  She took pride on not listening to gossip about others, and refused to slow down traffic to peer at other’s misfortune. 

      She cranked the volume higher.  The music would have been too loud had there been any guests in the hotel but it was empty.  The few guests that had stayed last night were out sightseeing.  Nicola engrossed herself in an article listing fifty ways to get the man of your dreams.  It was good advice but ultimately a girl needed only two things to snag a man, to be thin and—

      The hotel lobby door slammed against the stone wall outside.  It was Massimo!  Before she could even smile at her new boyfriend, he rushed in, his hands, positioned like a symphony conductor, motioned vigorously as he spoke.

      “What in Christ’s name are you doing?  You’re just sitting here?  Thank God you are safe!” 

      “What are you talking about?” 

      “My treasure,” his tone changed and he motioned for her to come with him.  “Vesuvius.  It’s erupting.”

      The beautiful voice of Laura Puccini echoed off marble tiles, her lyrics complaining about loves that she’d lost, or those that had forgotten her.  The words seemed as shallow as the article Nadia had just been reading.  Meaningless were her paltry grades at school, her planned trip to Prague, even the discovery of the dead body days earlier.  Nothing mattered except reuniting with her mom and baby brother south of the volcano.

      Massimo quit waiting.  He reached over, his large hand surrounding her thin wrist, and led her around the counter to the opening.  He thrust a helmet to her chest, and dragged her outside to his bike.  Two teenaged boys stood next to it and appeared ready to hijack the scooter.

      “Get the fuck out of here.  It’s mine!”

      Massimo was shorter than most of her ex boyfriends but he sounded threatening enough to scatter them in search of other transportation.  She looked back trying to catch a glimpse of the volcano.  The hotel blocked her view of Vesuvius but, in the sky above, a dark gray cloud had begun to overtake the city.