by Gianluca Mercadante
10:00am, post office.
I’ve got a bill to pay and another type of payment to make. Both of these are classed as one type of service, which I select in order to get my customer number. Three people are in front of me. I wait.
At twenty past ten, it’s my turn. Paying my bill doesn’t pose any problems. When I ask to make my other payment, the computer freezes.
– You have to fill out a questionnaire by the 22nd of this month, otherwise you won’t be able to make any more transactions of this kind, – the cashier tells me. — Shall we do it now, or another time? —
I glance to the side. The clock on the left-hand wall shows twenty-five minutes past ten.
– It’ll take two minutes. — The cashier reassures me. And the procedure really is almost instant: once my tax code has been entered into the database, all he needs to do is reconfirm all the entries and click print.
Handing me the sheet of paper, the cashier says:
– By signing this document, you confirm that none of your relatives are MPs, and that you have no intention of committing acts of terrorism. —
I sign it, and whilst doing so I think about what I am signing. Hardly an Italian attitude, I realise.
– No, I don’t have any relatives in government -, I say. — But as soon as I get an urge to stuff my clothes with TNT and blow myself to smithereens in the vicinity of a sensitive location, such as the Parliament, I’ll make sure I pop back in here to fill out the form, don’t you worry. —
And I leave, among amused and suspicious glances.
Here’s what I have to say to the suspicious ones: sarcasm still exists, an ideal antidote in a world which seems to be going crazy, a world which imposes security measures as a concept rather than ensuring that they are complied with.
Besides, if I really were a terrorist, would I be so stupid as to admit it at half past ten in the morning in a ridiculous post office questionnaire?
– Mum, I want to be a pussy designer when I grow up.â€¨- A what?!!â€¨- A pussy designer.â€¨- You want to own a pussy cat farm?â€¨- Not exactly. Have you washed your ears out lately?â€¨- Watched what, dear?â€¨- Never mind.
THE ADVENTURES OF A PUSSY DESIGNER
– Good morning.
– Good morning.
– As you can see, my hairline is quite high.
– Yes, I think you’re right. May I ask you when you last shaved?
– A year ago. Does it look like it’s been a long time?
– To be frank, yes. Besides, bushes are out of fashion.
– Well it’s not like I use it, no-one’s going to notice, are they?
– Now now, don’t say things like that. You’re a stunning woman.
– I’m intelligent too, unfortunately.
– Why unfortunately? Intelligence is such a rare gift…
– Do you know what a bloke once told me?
– That people don’t fuck with intelligence.
– Let’s come back to the task in hand, dear: if you want to keep the sides unchanged, I could do a good amount of thinning out and then put in some layers. Otherwise, we’ve got… ahem… well, enough material to develop quite a few alternative solutions. Would you like to look at a pattern?
– No thank you. Go ahead and make it into a spider web.
– A spider web…?!
– Yes, a spider web. You see, besides intelligence, I have another gift which is just as rare and anti-sex.
– And what would that be?
– I don’t take myself seriously.
I call my GP.
– Hello doctor, it’s Mr Mercadante.
– Good afternoon.
– You prescribed me with the usual tablets for my asthma.
– Aren’t they any good?
– They appear to be out of production.
– Really? Who told you that?
– The pharmacist.
– I understand.
– I don’t, really. Is there any alternative?
– There might be.
– What do you mean “there might be”? Is there or isn’t there? I haven’t had any training in holding my breath, you know.
– I’ll prepare the prescription for you now. You can come and get it tomorrow. I’m leaving the surgery in ten minutes.
– I’ll be there in nine.
I ring the surgery doorbell. No answer.
I ring again. Still nothing.
I call his mobile.
– How can I help you, Mr Mercadante?
I sum up the situation.
– Don’t worry. My last patient will be coming out in two minutes, holding an envelope for you. You can’t mistake him: he’s short and ugly.
– Are you kidding…?!
– Thank you, speak to you later.
The two minutes are up.
Not a single soul has come out of the front door. I start to imagine unsavoury happenings starring my GP, with his damned, wretched — and heated — surgery as the set. I’m at risk of freezing to death out here. It’s worth distracting myself from the thought of dying by mixing in bits of fiction which are so indecent that I don’t even dare to admit them.
I’m conversing with my inner animal. I hope he takes control of the situation and moves my legs far away from here, but not before he has moved my mouth, and my vocal cords, and my face muscles so that they can emit a resounding FUCK YOU to the doctor, and to the pharmaceutical industry which creates its legalised dependencies. I’m ready to confront the low resulting from my prolonged abstinence. I’m ready to collapse to the floor gasping for breath. I’m not ready to go into hibernation.
I’ve heard that mountaineers, lacking any better method, piss on their fingers to prevent them from freezing. I’m about to follow suit. I need a wee anyway. The cold is a diuretic, you know.
How about this: if a good-looking bird emerges from that fucking door, I’ll forgive him. I mean, we are men after all. But if it really is the bloke he described earlier who comes out, I’m going to contact my local health authority and get a new doctor, I swear.
It really is the bloke he described earlier who comes out of that fucking door. With an envelope for me in his hand.
I take it, almost dropping it, between my frozen index and middle fingers, which I have not actually pissed on as planned.
Why should I change my doctor, I think to myself. I love this man. What other GP would provide me with so much material to write about?
Illustration by ManuelaCh
Gianluca MercadanteÂ was born in 1976 in Vercelli, Italy, where he resides and works. He has published “McLoveMenu” (Stampa Alternativa publishing, 2002, Parole di Sale prize), “Il Banco dei Somari” (NoReply publishing, 2005), “Nodo al Pettine — Confessioni di un parrucchiere anarchico” (AlacrÃ n publishing, 2006), “Polaroid” (Las Vegas publishing, 2008), “Il giardino nel recinto di vetro” (Birichino publishing, 2009), “Cherosene” (Las Vegas publishing, 2010), as well as the e-books “Io ho visto tutto” (Milanonera publishing, 2012), “CasinÃ² Hormonal” (Lite Editions publishing, 2013 — which has become a small literary sensation on the e-book market) and “Caro scrittore in erba…” (Las Vegas publishing, 2013). Dozens of his short stories have appeared in anthologies, specialised magazines and in the Italian book series Giallo Mondadori. He has written literary criticism articles for the Italian daily newspaper “La Stampa” and for the magazines “Pulp” and “Satisfiction”. His most recent work is entitled “Noi aspettiamo fuori” (EffedÃ¬ publishing, 2014).