The Decameron according to Barbara Alberti

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Day I, short story II

Jewish Abraham, stimulated by Giannotto di Civignì, goes to the court of Rome; and seeing the wickedness of the priests, he returned to Paris and became a Christian.

The rich Parisian merchant Giannotto, worried about the salvation of the soul of his dear friend Abraam, begs him to convert and, as a Jew, become a Christian. Abraam does not intend to do so, but, out of friendship, he tells Giannotto that he will make his decision after a trip to Rome. There he sees a great corruption in the customs of the pope and of all the ecclesiastics.

Back in Paris, he surprisingly announces his intention to convert, arguing that a religion made up of such unworthy ministers who equally prosper and grow in the world can only be protected by the Holy Spirit. Giannotto himself then baptized him in Notre-Dame, where Abraam takes the name of John. [N.d.E.]

In Solfagnano Parlesca lived a very pious old man, a retired professor, famous for his works of charity: Benedetto Guardabassi, known as Betto. A free thinker in his youth, he had converted after a dissolute life. He became a fervent Catholic. He discovered the joy of giving, and it did not seem true that by doing good he would also earn heaven. It was so enjoyable! Like a shock from head to toe, other than lust. When he gave – time, money, consolation – he felt light as a swallow. Every day he lent a hand in the parish. It was there that he met Shalo, the parish priest’s handyman, a wise and happy young man. Of Yazidi religion, he came from Mount Sinjar, in Iraq. He had fled from there, after the ISIS gangs had exterminated his people. The Islamic militiamen, gathered the inhabitants, with machine guns leveled, shouted: «Deny your god! Get converted to the true faith, and your life will be saved! ». No one answered. The Yazidis turned their backs silently, not dismissing their persecutors. The soldiers killed them all. Shalo was thought dead, and managed to save himself. Betto and Shalo, when they met, felt a sympathy for each other that was joy and emotion, like two friends who are reunited. Betto was amazed. Shalo no. He told him that as a Yazidi he believed in reincarnation, and that transport was the sign that they had met in another life, where they had been brothers, or comrades in arms, or lovers, or who knows. The pastor was jealous of Shalo and tried to hurt each other, but he could not tear them apart. Such were the affinity and the joy of being together, that Betto hired Shalo as secretary (the word “caregiver” humiliated him), and took him to live in his cottage with the garden. Their tastes coincided in everything. They got a cat, and they became a family. Together they hoed the garden, celebrated and enjoyed good deeds. Shalo spoke only the dialect of Solfagnano, and Betto found with him the language of childhood, which his studies had made him forget. It came natural to him, like stepping into the right shoe. Shalo played the sacred Yazidi melodies on the flute, Schubert’s Betto Ave Maria on the violin, and everything around became holy and beautiful.

Betto told Shalo about Jesus, the proud boy from Galilee who defied all power, and about St. Francis of Assisi, the jester of God, who had taken a step beyond the Nazarene, adding a smile to holiness. seven angels who created the world. To the most important, Auz-Melek, the Peacock Angel, the divine rogue, cheater, treacherous, capable of anything, the young man dedicated small offerings to spare him his shots. The good god, Khoda, did not need to flatter him, he being benevolent anyway. Shalo was a vegetarian, and respectful of every living thing. He also tried to spare the mosquitoes, deterring them with certain herbs he knew, instead of harming them. Betto admired that kindness towards creation. He saw Shalo so firm in his faith that it never occurred to him to convert him to his own. Even though, observing his perfection, he sometimes thought: What a great Christian he would be! So pitiful, and happy in pain … The affection grew. One evening, Betto and Shalo were playing deck-hiding in the kitchen, a nice fire was burning in the fireplace. As he spoke, Shalo lowered his voice more and more, and Betto asked him: “I love you, why did he start talking softly?” “For not lacking respect for the fire, which offends him . “

They lived in harmony. Betto said the rosary, Shalo prayed to the sun at dawn, at noon, at sunset, grateful to heaven and earth.Everyone had Christmas in his own way. Betto played Tu come down from the stars, and Shalo threw himself into the dervish dance, whirling around him. While they were enjoying themselves in this way, Betto put a hand to his chest with a groan and fell to the ground, struck by a heart attack. At the hospital, Betto was terrified: not of death, but of never seeing Shalo again for eternity. He called him to him, said to him: «I am not afraid of dying, I am sure of heaven, because I have helped the poor. But ta te ‘n you make us wines’, because if’ n infidel. You are a very good fiolo, but even if you are as good as bread they send you to hell, you are fine in limbo, because you are beaten up. And I, without you, what am I going to do in heaven? Si ‘n there if’ you, what do I dej angels and saints? ». They both began to cry, then Betto said: “‘The way would be: do it good’! But it’s only valid if you convert for davéro, sinnò ‘n it works. Convèrtite, embrace the true faith! Subbito, that I do not live much ‘». Wiping away a tear, Shalo replied, ‘Noe,’ l coconut. Manco with machine guns c’enno managed to make me deny ‘my’ faith. But ‘n you worry’, yes’ n we arvediamo ‘n heaven we arved’ n earth, with the transmigration of souls. We will leave and meet again, and we will feel the attraction that we explain to ourselves, because we are always there but we will know. It has already happened this time, and it will always burn up. ‘

«And go, ‘n fa’ ‘l stubborn! You liked the stories of Jesus and St. Francis so much … »It was true, Shalo had become fond of the Nazarene and even more so of the poor man of Assisi, but he did not think about changing his belief. Betto shook his hand. «You are an angel. To you, heaven is entitled to you. But my sky, not yours. ” And looking at him, she thought of how beautiful Shalo’s face would look up there in the heavens, bathed in divine light. He imagined paradise as their large kitchen, the cat, and the fireplace lit for eternity. Betto did not want to force any further than his friend, and was silent. His health was deteriorating. The heart attack had weakened him, and he suffered at the thought that such a pure young man was destined for hell, very far from him. Shalo was shaken, seeing him endure the evil of body and soul with such force. It was his example that convinced him. For the first time he thought that the Christian faith could be attractive, and he sought a way to reconcile love for Betto and his conscience. He said to him: «Ta te, te piacéa si become Christian, and even ta me piacéa si stevimo always ‘nsieme n’tu’ the paradise, with the cherubs who sing and sing. I know ‘willing to do me good’, but first I go to Rome and see the pope, who represents God on earth, and I also see the cardinals. And if your faith is meio of mine, artorno and I convert, so he can die quietly ». Betto was frightened. He knew that priests are not the Gospel, and he thought: Si Shalo sees them up close and returns straight to the Peacock God, that at least if he knows that he is a thief, he is not being hypocritical like clerics. She was also afraid of dying without seeing him again, and she said to him: «What did you leave me? And yes, in the meantime? «You ‘n pu’ died ‘. I have called upon your God. Gni I said: “Look, I’m about to pass’ on your side, but yes, no joke to my friend while ‘I don’t know’, you see my conversion with the lantern!”. Gods are greedy for souls, see that it touches you. ” “And did he answer you?” “None, ma ‘n me pol di’ de no.” By now Shalo had decided. On the day of his departure, while he was preparing his snack for the journey with the threads of the garden, Betto thought about how dangerous Shalo’s contact with the clergy was, for the purposes of his conversion, and put his hands on. “If by chance you see something in the Vatican that defeats you, think that there are rotten apples everywhere, and that Judas was Jesus’ companion.”

When it was time to go, Betto opened a small chest in front of Shalo. Inside was a gold ring with a ruby. He offered it to him, saying: «I thought about it ‘n bon po’ si ‘o doveo da’ or not … in the end I give it to you. It is a magic ring, which makes you invisible. In case of danger he will save your skin ». «But I’m not going to war! Are the clerics so bad? “” No, no! … but Rome is full of robbers … Pijelo, come on. He dared me as much as you artorni. ” “How did you get it?” And Betto told him that when he was a sinner he had bought it from a French magician, to enter the house of women and see them naked. “It seems to me too profane for a trip like yours.” Shalo forbade his friend to accompany him to the train. There was a great storm, and Betto’s leg ached, never healed from a wound in a duel, in the libertine season. They greeted each other with many tears. When Shalo left, Betto hugged the cat, closed his eyes and thoughtfully accompanied his friend on the way to the station. Suddenly he shook himself. God, what have I done! I love, who has the magic ring, this little bit enters the Vatican secrets, and you can touch their bruzzigli with your hand, who gets it more? He rushed out. In spite of his crazy leg, the wind, the rain, he ran after him with an old deer shot. The train was leaving. He shouted, “Shalo, Shalo! Woe to judge ‘God give on’ ministers! You think only ta Francesco, only ta Jesus! ». The young man looked out the window but did not hear. Betto’s last words were lost in the wind.

(…)

© 2021 Barbara Alberti published in agreement with Delia Literary Agency.

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