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Behind the Girl's School in the Piazza Pescivendoli

by Luc Reid

Plinio had fallen in love with a statue, and it wasn't even a pretty one. She, the statue, stood in what had been part of a small piazza but was now a funny, abrupt little alley where a warehouse and the back of a girl's school touched roofs. She was in corner between the two buildings, where for hours after every rain, water drizzled onto her upraised forehead.

She was no historical figure, just an anonymous seller in the fish market, holding eels in one hand and looking up with an expression of wonder as though the sun had just come out after a storm. She was not a young woman, although she still looked young enough to bear children.

Plinio taught Latin at the girl's school to girls who didn't like Latin and weren't good at it, and he had been driven nearly crazy seeing the statue at the end of the alley every morning and evening, often with old rainwater drizzling onto her face. So he had gotten in the habit of going to her before going home and standing there beside her for a while. It was peaceful to watch the shadows climb the rough gray walls of the warehouse, to listen to the distance-garbled laughter of the girls, sometimes to feel a gentle evening rain gradually weigh down his clothes.

The girl's school closed during the war, but after a few decades it was thought a good idea to start it up again. The new school did not teach Latin, but did teach sex education, which the girls didn't like any better.

Sometimes, when they were let out to play in the afternoons, a group of the girls would gather to sit and talk and chew gum by the statues in the little alley behind the school. The statues always made them think of romance, and boys, and how far apart those two things were. It wasn't that the figures were beautiful, or that they were kissing or anything. It was just that the skinny gentleman was holding his book out over the eel woman's head so that when it rained and water dripped down from the roofs, she was kept dry. And she, for her part, looked up at him with an expression of wonder.

One of the girls, Antonia, said she thought she was falling in love with him. The other girls laughed with embarrassment and delight.


This is exquisite. Good show!

Posted by: Jeff Swanson | January 9, 2008 3:25 PM

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