“Welcome back,” I said. “How was the literary conference in Trieste?”
“Words, words, words,” The Professor said.
“Precisely. What’s that in your hand? A packet of photographs?”
“Of your excursion to Isola d’ Ventotene?”
“Turn them over, lad.”
The Professor put on his glasses, turned his chair toward the window. “Let’s see. Hmmm. What was this gull saying to you?”
“Absolutely nothing,” I replied.
“Perhaps you weren’t listening carefully enough.”
“No, by now I’ve learned to keep my ears open. In this case the bird was utterly silent the whole time. He and the others of his flock just stood there on the rock, open mouthed.”
“Merely the appearance of speech. Kind of like that Trieste conference of mine, eh?”
The Professor turned to the next image.
“Ah! Now we’re getting somewhere. Who is this?”
“I took her to be the ghost of Giuila Agrippina.”
“Delightful! Had she any words for you?”
“And of course you immediately put your camera down because you didn’t wish to offend.”
“Yes. But then as she departed I raised it again. I wanted to get a shot of her dog.”
The Professor grinned. “You are truly amusing,” he said.
lived with her 24 servants.”
“Exile did not stop her wanton, promiscuous ways.”
“She got pregnant, didn’t she?”
“That’s what they say.”
“That island on the horizon is Santo Stefano.”
“What is the significance of the Coke can and glass?”
I was going to tell The Professor about the restaurant’s white plastic table, and the gushing of soda when I popped the tab, and the gusts of wind, and the can eerily turning on its axis as if by the hand of a spirit. But I wasn’t in the mood for that kind of discussion.
Instead I said, “Red, white and blue.”
“Ah, yes,” he smiled. “The land of the free
“And what have they unearthed here?” The Professor asked. “Roman villas?”
“Yes, this is the palace where Giuila and the home of the brave. Do you miss it?”
I thought a few moments.
“No, I’m quite comfortable as an expatriate. I’ve always wanted to be one.”
“Me too,” he said.