(Over the next four posts I’m going to serialise a short story I’ve been sitting on for a while. Here’s the first leg – the next three will be along soon)
LEG ONE: PIETRO
Pietro first appeared in the lives of Will and Rebecca one warm, dry night when they were lying on the pavement outside the house, drinking but not drunk. It was the first such evening that year, everything fresh and new and the summer stretching ahead, empty for them to dawdle through.
On the other side of the road, Pietro seemed vaguely real. The way that he was leaning against the hedge and not sinking into it created the impression that he was a cardboard cut-out of a man and the hedge was part of a film set. And then along came some drunken rabbly crowd and one peeled away from the main body of the group and careered across the road, plunging headfirst into the hedge.
The rest of the crowd followed, roaring as they tripped and fell into the foliage, whilst Pietro just stepped calmly over the crowd, picking through the masses as if he was separate from the world, untouchable in some way.
Hello, he said as he approached. Up close Pietro seemed slight yet determinedly 3D, solid and just like a real boy – Rebecca and Will sat at his feet and touched his clothes while they talked.
Aside from the calm that surrounded Pietro, the night was beginning to burn a little, people getting carried away with the nice weather. The clear and starry sky was caving in on the town, bringing a weight of over-exuberance and heavy-handed horseplay. Will and Rebecca got up to move inside, inviting Pietro to join them. In his gentle way he followed them into the house and Will poured them all a wee drink in the front room. Rebecca asked the questions she always asked of people she had just met, but by bedtime she was no closer to knowing where Pietro had come from. Only one thing was certain – they both wanted him to stay.
The next morning Will left Rebecca in bed and got up to find debris on the streets and Pietro in his kitchen, making pasta. Will set to work on the accounts, and later he and Pietro went out with dustpans and brushes and cleaned up outside. They hauled some troublemakers out of the hedges and laid them by the roadside for collection. Will expressed his hope that it would rain, Pietro concurred and added that he expected cloud. When they went back inside, they found that Rebecca was up and working on her art. Will began a morning conversation with her. Pietro returned his pasta-making.
By lunchtime Will had finalised some accounts, Rebecca had completed a sculpture and Pietro had finished making a welcome present. It was a beautiful, full-sized cat made of potato, egg and flour. The detail of its feline cuteness expressed Pietro’s gratitude to Will and Rebecca. The three of them agreed on the name Gnocchi and after a ravioli lunch, they all headed upstairs for a siesta.
When they had gone, Gnocchi moved a front paw experimentally. Cocked her head to one side. Made a tiny noise.
The little cat padded around the room, gently exploring the carpet, looking for something to eat. She made tiny noises as she went, cast a mathematical eye over Will’s accounts, explored Rebecca’s sculpture with a critical tongue. Her movements were slow and careful as she padded up the stairs in search of the humans.
Gnocchi hopped onto the bed and then made her way up from Will’s chest to his head, stepped across on to Pietro’s face and then on to Rebecca. When she awoke she found Gnocchi curled up on her chest, purring. She made a blundered attempt at stroking the cat, let out a surprised little oh.