I’ve lived in Italy for nearly 30 years and I still don’t get it. Not at all. What am I talking about? How Italians operate. There are Rules. I forget them. Rule Numero Uno is: I don’t think like an Italian. My excuse is I am an America. We are a direct, forthright people. We have nothing to hide… yet. The Italians do. That’s Rule Numero Due. They’ve learned to, otherwise, they’d be dead with their throats slit. That was years ago though… many years ago. Today, they get house arrest, nabbed by the tax authority or, worse still, ignored… Rule Numero Tre. However, I may have the numbers of the Rules mixed up because, The Most Important Rule for an Italian is: divulge as little info as possible!!! No matter who the other person is: mamma, papa, fratello, sorella, zii, fidanzati, colleghi al lavoro, persone sull’autobus, bank director… Carabinieri!!! It’s the bi-product of being a conquered peoples from Time Zero, I suppose.
So, what has provoked this tirade? A dog. You see, for the last few weeks, we of Codiponte have suffered the incessant barking of a dog once belonging to a man dead since January. His family… all women who live in another town on the other side of the hills from Codiponte. Paris is psychologically closer… have been entrusted by the man’s premature death in keeping his creature fed, watered & aired. Its constant barking indicates the opposite. The dog’s pen is full face towards the sun, propped against a rock wall which radiates even more the sun’s heat, the temps of late have hovered around 100F at 2PM and no-one has seen a soul go to this dog’s pen in days. The barking was non-stop.
A next door neighbor hunted me down the other evening… I made the mistake to be in the garden on the side closest to her glaring-yellow abode… to tell me we must do something, implying I must do something. Why me? I’m the foreigner. I shared her concern about the dog’s well-being, for I too have thought this animal is grievously neglected. The neighbor went on and on about her anxiety. That was all I was given to know. I asked why she just didn’t go straight to the women… she’s known them for ever & ever… and ask what’s being done for this dog. O! No, non potrei, non potrei a fatto. Lei deve farci questa favore. OK. I promised to speak to one, if not all, of the women.
I corralled the daughter of the dead man in her FORD before she sped off. I made my little speech about how concerned I was… and others too in the village… about the dog’s well-being, worried the barking was a sign of little or no care and asked how & when the family provided the dog with food, water & attention. The daughter assured me the dog was being given all which was necessary. The girl’s look told me she was lying. And that I had also crossed a line, mixed myself up in something which was none of my darn business. But, the dog?
I kept thinking why the neighbor hadn’t spoken directly to the family, if she was so torn-up about the dog. I had to resort to the Math. I thought back over the last five years of Our Residence in Codiponte, living between the neighbor and the family of women now minus-one-man. It dawned on me… from previous & odd-lots of info mentioned by others… that the neighbor already had a few bones of contention with this family about the unkempt land around the her house & yard: weeds 5 feet tall, threat of snakes, ugly to look at and domineering her anal-retentive perfection of a garden below all that mess. More math. They’ve been arguing years over water rights from the over-spill of the water supply we pay tons of money. The neighbor denied the family of women any right of passage to supply their land with water because, they had refused to sell her their piece of property. Spite, I suppose. These and a few additional reasons is why the neighbor refuse to talk to the women. She would have found herself embroiled in controversies she’d rather not have wished to confront… again. So, I unknowingly did her dirty work. And I looked the fool too. I should have just said… Si, si, si, si, si… and let the matter rest. But that dog? Yet, had she spoken plainly to me about the situation between the interested parties, of her not wishing to brew more ill-feelings, etc. I might have found a way to intercede over the dog without looking like an idiot stepping over an imaginary line I cannot see. But no. The neighbor respected her Italian roots, telling me as little as possible, A)… and B) getting me to do the dirty work. So now, I am the bad guy. Next time… it’ll be different. In the meantime, the dog’s barking has abated, maybe because, You helped prepare a week’s worth of dog-chow with the head of the family of women-minus-one-man. Gads.