My investigation into the case of the dead rat found in the branches of a lemon tree in Elena’s garden continues apace. I ran into Sylvia and her friend Monica at La Piazzetta this morning. I shared with them my theory that a feral cat killed the rat and had flung it up into the branches.
Sylvia shook her head. “Absolutely not,” she said. “For one thing the rats are too big for these lazy cats. For another, I know exactly how that rat got there. And why.”
“By all means please tell me,” I said.
The story is this. Sylvia once had a tenant in the apartment above hers named…well, let’s not use her real name. Let’s just call her Brunhilde. She was from Berlin, and visited the island every summer. Anyway Brunhilde was very frightened of anything crawling around the grounds of the villa. Those green speckled lizzards, for instance. And the occassional rat.
Now these rats in Forio are not like the sewer rats in Napoli, who rummage in garbage. These are, instead, topi volante, or flying rats. They are totally vegetarian, they eat oranges, the bark of trees, even the small leaves up at the top, and they jump from branch to branch, which is how they got their name.
Anyway, Brunhilde decided to get rid of the rat she saw slinking about so she got some powerful poison and set it out. Well, that was not a good idea because she put down too much, and killed everything. The ground was covered with dead ants, lizzards, and so on.
Which made Sylvia very angry. The woman obviously had no sense. That rat was harmless. So to teach Brunhilde a lesson, Sylvia placed the corpse of the rat in the branches of a tree, right next to Brunhilde’s bedroom window. When she saw it, she screamed.
“So what does that have to do with the rat carcass at Elena’s place?” I asked.
Sylvia smiled. “Elena calls me every day," she said, "and asks me what’s new. We discuss everything that has happened. Before long, topics become exhausted and there is no longer anything to talk about.”
“I still don’t see the connection between that and Elena's garden,” I said.
“Elena put the rat in the lemon tree.”
“You’re kidding! Why would she do that?”
“Don’t you see? She wanted to create a stir, so she copied what I did to Brunhilde. So tell me. What has occupied everyone's attention for the past two days?”
Sylvia, Monica and I laughed out loud. Indeed, what else is there to discuss around here?