Strange Rains #1
by Nathan Cromwell
August of 2001, and Mount Etna is drooling lava
down its slopes and coughing filth-laden steam
thousands of feet into the Sicilian sky. Having
dropped my bags at the only open hotel, I wander
Catania looking for a bar to rinse the economy
class entrée from my palate.
The crowd at
Ugliano's pays scant attention to the shirling
match on the television; their talk dwells
entirely on the erupting volcano. A river of
molten rock flows two streets down and a passer-by
has just announced that the firehouse, directly
in the path, has been engulfed.
be good," Giepetto mutters as drains his
beer. Then he begins sputtering and choking and
swearing. Someone fetches a glass of water.
"Went down the wrong pipe. I must stop
talking and drinking at the same time. I'm not a
damn ventriloquist," he laments as he downs
some water. Predictably, he chokes again, spewing
water and backwash hundreds of millimeters into
the air. Mist rains down on his son, a talking
wooden puppet with penchant for laziness. "Poor
Dad, not used to drinking," he chuckles, his
nose growing longer.
worry," says some old woman dressed in black.
"I mean, blimey! We don't want to end up
like bloody Pompeii or Herculaneum! Actually,
since were flat on our uppers, if some of
the punters hereabouts ended up cast in stone, it'd
be worth it for the odd shilling morbid touristsd
The hag has
summed up the situation perfectly: between
eruptions Catania is forgotten, and its one
tourist attraction, a life-size replica of
Michelangelo's David fashioned from beer cans and
duct tape, repels people. Jealousy toward their
more famous, volcano-prone sister cities runs
after year thousands of people go to Pompeii and
gawk at dead people, but I can't even get my son
to visit me for Christmas," grumbles Mario
Gamboeii. "Do you know anyone in the market
for excuses? I got a surplus. You send them to
Mario, I'll give them a good deal." He spits
between his fingers while staring at me. "Now
you're cursed," he casually informs me.
priest walks in. He announces that the lava
stream has widened, and now only a block
separates us. "God," he sighs looking
into his glass, "has forsaken us."
As I gather my
belongings to flee, I spy the barmaid going out
to the patio. "Ask her out, I think she
likes you," Pinocchio chuckles. Ignoring him,
I follow her.
about we go to my place for an interview?" I
ask, realizing as I speak how lame it sounds. I
can see the buildings next door burning. Isnt
the eruption spectacular?
considers, she spits between her fingers. "Sure,
but look at this mess I got to wipe. What could
be worse than ash raining down on everything?"
I look over my shoulder at the sad-faced locals
momentarily cheered by my impending failure and
think: she's right, what could be worse? I hate