When I read the professor my diary account of my experience in the village, and the thing about Maria Marrella, he steepled his fingers and thought for a few moments.
“You, lad,” he said, “are a natural born storyteller. There’s some heavy symbolism in that little tale of yours.”
“Not by intent,” I said. “I just wrote down what I saw.”
“Yes, but nothing that comes from the mind of an artist is without significance. Employing symbols is an almost automatic process.”
“What symbols do you perceive, then?”
“I thought you’d never ask!”
I laughed. “By all means, proceed.”
“Well, first off, that rushing stream down the mountain road is the Liffey of Finnegans Wake, heading for the sea, passing between the North and South walls of Dublin. No?”
I smiled. “Yes, that well might have been gurgling down there in my subconscious.”
“Your detached parabola is the ear of Van Gogh. No, forget it. Doesn’t work, because where’s the whore? All right, more obviously it’s a symbol of Vittoria’s silence.”
“I’ll buy that.”
“The fight in the village, now that’s interesting. What you saw first was the young girl, spreading her tanned legs, as you so elegantly put it. What a provocative image, lad! I can see it clearly. And there you place yourself—the nexus between sex and violence. One leads naturally to the other, and vice versa.”
“So what about Vittoria’s birth mother? Maria Marrella, the famous movie star.”
“As it happens, I saw her on television last night.”
“Really? An old movie?”
“No. She was among the luminaries walking the red carpet at the entrance to the Venice Film Festival. She’s still a beautiful woman. I didn’t recognize the handsome young man who was escorting her.”
“I wish I’d seen it. I can only wonder if Vittoria saw it as well.”
“She’s apparently having great difficulty absorbing the idea of being adopted.”
“Yes, and I feel enormous frustration. I wish I could help her.”
The professor rose, went to his satchel. “That reminds me—I have something for you,” he said.
He handed me a book, and a square piece of plywood, on which was inscribed a five pointed star within a circle.
“Yes. To go with Raven Grimassi’s ‘Ways of the Strega.’ All about Italian witchcraft, its lore, magic, and spells.”
“What are you suggesting?”
“Remember a conversation we had a long time ago about pre-historical shamans in Africa? That art was part of a healing process? ”
“Well, you’re a storyteller, aren’t you?”
“So that makes you a shaman as well.”
“This sounds awfully strange.”
“Listen, I know that you can’t bear doing nothing. So why not throw a few spells Vittoria’s way and see what happens? Perhaps in an earlier incarnation you were a Stregone.”
“You are absoutely unbelievable.”
“I know, lad. I know.”
By elegant coincidence, the moon was full that night. I lit a candle. In the center of the pentagram I put a small piece of cloth that I had clipped from Vittoria’s red silk robe, which I had brought with me from America. I keep that robe of hers in my closet, for her to use when she finally comes to visit me.
I put the fingers and thumb of my right hand on the star’s five points. I chanted aloud:
And then—I’m not making this up—the candle flickered. I felt chillbumps on my arm. Something was happening, I could feel it.
After a while I blew out the candle and went to bed.