Â by Gianluca Mercadante
– Look Darling, wasn’t that lovely of George and Peter?
– Is that all there is, Dear?
– No, Darling, this is what George and Peter gave us for Christmas.
– So what is it, Dear? The embodiment of their liposuction?
– Why are you being so bitchy, Darling? I don’t think George or Peter have ever had liposuction. And even if they have, that’s their own business. As far as I’m concerned, Darling, George and Peter are and always will be two fantastic people. Fan-tas-tic!
– George and Peter are and always will be two fantastic faggots, Dear.
– You’re sexist and homophobic.
– No, Dear, I’m a realist: only a gay couple would give a bar of soap as a Christmas present. And at Easter? How about some dental floss? You know, to ease removal of festering strands of the traditional lamb.
– It’s not just any old bar of soap, Darling.
– I daresay. Give it a good old rub and out jumps the Genie, granting you three wishes.
– Darling, it’s Aleppo soap!
– Oh, really? I wonder why you’re not seeing me jump for joy at this wonderful news?
– Aleppo soap costs a fortune, you know. Sweet mother Mary, Darling, it’s a wonderful present.
– Since it’s a Christmas present, I think it’s got more to do with her son, Dear.
– What do you mean, Darling?
– I mean you should exclaim, “Jesus Christ!”, not “Sweet mother Mary”.
– I’m going to have a look on Google.
– Look for what, exactly?
– Information on Aleppo soap.
– No, leave it. I’ll phone one of my hacker friends. I believe Area 51 holds an entire file on Aleppo soap. Perhaps even on the exact bar of soap that our fantastically faggot friends George and Peter gave us. Within a few hours, we’ll get access to the database and discover disturbing secrets about the strange origins of the Aleppo soap.
– Darling, what on earth are you talking about?
– My point is, Dear: do you think it’s normal to search for information online about a bar of soap?
– Aleppo soap, Darling.
– Aleppo, Tutenkhamun or Bruce Lee!… What do you think you’ll find on Google? Aleppo soap’ll be something they use at Gay Pride, it’ll be the official sponsor.
– Actually, there’s a mine of information on Aleppo soap, Darling.
– Oh God, here we go…
– Have we got any wooden containers, Darling?
– Since when have we kept our food in wood?
– Noooo, Darling, I mean a container for the bathroom. Haven’t we ever received any presents for the bathroom?
– Not from anyone except George and Peter, no.
– Have George and Peter ever given us a wooden container, Darling?
– All George and Peter had to do to ruin our lives was give us a bar of Aleppo soap, Dear. May I ask what we need a wooden container for? Or do I have to wait till September…?
– To put the Aleppo soap in, Darling.
– Oh, of course.
– Can you go out and buy one? The supermarket’s just two minutes away.
– Yes, perhaps I better had. I was going out for some cigarettes anyway.
– But you don’t smoke, Darling.
– Exactly, Dear.
– Are you saying that because you want to leave me? You’re not going to come back with a wooden container for the Aleppo soap? You’re going to go off with another woman, change your phone number and never speak to me again?
– No. I was thinking of going to an internet cafe and searching for some designer wooden containers online. Something that will match our home, that portrays who we are as people. I mean really, Dear, a wooden container for a bar of Aleppo soap isn’t just something you go and buy from your local supermarket without a thought. It’s an item which has to last forever.
– I love you so much, Darling! You really are the man of my life! But wait a minute, Darling, why do you need to go to an internet cafe..? I’ll do a search, using your Christmas present. You get me an iPhone 6s and want to disappear off to an internet cafe? Come here, we’ll have a look together.
– Yes, Darling…?
– I was being sarcastic, Dear. I was… I was joking.
– So you really DO want to leave me??!!!
Priests do what…?
– … So in the end I left him. I just couldn’t take anymore. I felt… like I was possessed by the devil, d’you get me?
– Yes, I know how it feels to be possessed. By my husband.
– I was just giving a random example.
– I wasn’t.
– Speaking of the Church, what’s become of Onofrio? Do you still hear from him? How is he?
– Have you got the hots for a Holy Joe, by any chance?
– Absolutely not, are you crazy? He had a crush on me about ten years ago, then…
– … Then you had it off with the bloke you’ve just left, and in the meantime, old Onofrio became a priest.
– Do you think those two things are linked as well?
– Apart from you, everyone thinks those two things are linked, darling. Anyway, yes, I do still hear from him. Not like I used to; we send each other e-mails now and again.
– You mean… priests send e-mails?
– Onofrio is being promoted to deacon at the end of the month. Just before he goes on holiday.
– You mean… priests go on holiday?
– The ones in his seminary do, yes. In the Dolomites.
– You mean… priests do Nordic Walking?
– Something like that. Do you know, when they’re travelling from one village to another, they carry stones in their rucksacks so that they can build an altar and serve Mass wherever they want.
– A flat-pack altar, incredible.
– That’s the power of progress.
– And… listen… – you know I’m certainly not a church-going woman — what actually is a deacon? What do they do?
– I think they can start performing a few priestly duties, but to give you a few practical examples: they’re not yet able to serve Mass, or bum little boys.
No need to explain
– Is everything ok?
– Are you sure?
– It doesn’t seem like it… are you angry with me?
– No. I mean, yes.
– There you are, you see? You’ve given yourself away.
– I’ve got to go.
– I’ve got an appointment with the dentist.
– But… but darling, it’s ten o’clock at night..!
– What do you mean “exactly”? “Exactly” what?!
– Go back a few lines.
– Go back a few lines. Go back a few messages… what language do you want me to speak?
– Noticed anything?
– So I told you I have an appointment with the dentist. Not at the dentist’s.
– You always need everything explaining to you.
– Doctor, everyone advises me to get active, to do some sport, whereas really I just want to rest.
– Have more coffee breaks.
– Actually, Doctor, when I say “rest”, I mean something a bit longer and more durable than a few coffee breaks.
– Who said anything about “a few breaks”? The exact number is 48. I’ll prescribe you 48 coffee breaks per day.
– But… but Doctor, according to statistics, 48 coffees a day will guarantee a heart attack!
– Well, have you ever heard of anyone able to have a longer and more durable rest than that? That will be two hundred euros, please.
Illustration by ManuelaCh
Gianluca Mercadante was born in 1976 in Vercelli. Dozens of his short stories have appeared in anthologies, magazines and in the Italian book series Giallo Mondadori.Â 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), “Io ho visto tutto” (Milanonera publishing, 2012), “CasinÃ² Hormonal” (Lite Editions publishing, 2013), “Caro scrittore in erba…” (Las Vegas publishing, 2013), “Noi aspettiamo fuori” (EffedÃ¬ publishing, 2014), and “CasinÃ² Hormonal — Versione Integrale” (Lite Editions publishing, 2015). Together with Daniele Manini, he has also been responsible for the anthology “Liscio assassino” (Zona publishing, 2014), appended to the band Banda Putiferio’s album with the same name. He has written literary criticism articles for the Italian daily newspaper “La Stampa” and for the magazines “Orizzonti”, “Pulp” and “Satisfiction”.
His most recent work, which has just been published, is “Caro lettore in erba…” (Las Vegas publishing, 2015).