Harold and I were heading toward the village of Monterone, talking about the Italian ritual of passeggiata, the promenade. In the evening you’ll see a slowly sauntering crowd on Corso Umberto, going to and from the Soccorso chapel. Young mothers pushing expensive multi-wheeled perambulators, clusters of chattering children, the girls showing off their new designer jeans or hairdos. Shuffling old men chewing on dark toxic cheroots, and old women in black dresses and their gray hair pulled back severely in buns.
“The idea is to see and be seen,” Harold said. “A thoroughly theatrical display.”
We heard horns honking.
“Well, I’ll be damned,” Harold said.
“What?” I asked.
“That’s a Mercedes-Benz 770K.”
“I don’t doubt it.”
“Also known as the Grosser Mercedes. An eight cylinder, 7655 cubic centimeter engine, with a cruising speed of 150 kilometers per hour.”
“You are an inexhaustible font of knowledge.”
“Yes, I know. Annoying, aren’t I?”
“An original? Or a reproduction?”
“Probably the latter. In 1931 Kaiser Wilhelm II, then exiled in Holland, ordered one of these legends. Specially made, of course. Cabriolet bodywork. Four doors, six side windows, room for seven. He replaced the hood ornament with the Hohenzollern coat of arms.”
“And aren’t those two newlyweds just grand?”
“Indeed they are. You know what Thoreau said of marriage, don’t you?”
“Oddballs march to the beat of a different drummer?”
“Close. He said it was a triumph of hope over reason.”
I didn’t tell Harold, but I could imagine myself in a limo like that, Vittoria at my side, both of us ready to attempt the impossible. And why not? I've always been drawn to fiction.