2 Replies to “8.2.2013 Journal Prompt”

  1. It’s always busy in Cicero’s Café, day or night. Men in work clothes and hard shoes are there, and girls with too short skirts, and women who’ve lost their husbands and want for company. Extra tables and chairs were moved in and the whole place rearranged to maximize the numbers. Still it was so busy sometimes that the people took to standing on the street and so tables and chairs were put out there, too.

    We serve strong coffee and iced beer and tall glasses of limonata that fizz and pop on the tongue. And pasta served in deep bowls, fettucine Alfredo and Ravioli Verde and Tortellini Panna. And chicken and veal and shrimp. And plates of ricotta cannoli, and biscotti di Prato and sunshine yellow slices of pandoro.

    And Mama makes it her business to know the people who come in regularly, their names and their families and where they work and the money in their pockets. And she calls to them when they arrive, like they are lost dear friends just found. And everybody laughing and slapping hands and kissing cheeks. That’s the busy that Cicero’s is. And that maybe explains it.

    The police said someone should have seen something and maybe someone should have been watching. But it was the middle of the day and Mama’s head was dizzy with the orders she’d taken and making sure that she talked with Marcello and asked after his old mother. And the rest of us rushed off our feet and trying to smile through it all. And there were tourists looking for lost words in books and trying to make themselves understood, and Fausto had called in sick so we were a man down, and the coffee machine was playing up again. And a hundred other things all taking our attention. So we didn’t see.

    How long she’d been there, nobody could say. Just a girl. Maybe three years old and her red dress pretty and fine and clean, and her hair shiny like sunlight and caught in ribbons, and she sat so quiet and so still. It was only when the lunchtime customers began to leave that she was noticed and we thought she must belong to somebody in the shop. Mama bent her knees and tried to talk to her, but not even Mama could bring a word from the child. Not even with the offer of chiacchierre. The child looked away as if it did not wish to be noticed.

    Mama found a scribbled note in the pocket of the child’s dress and some money in small notes. The note asked that Mama take care of the child. That was it. No mention of any name or when the mother might return. We carried the child into the café and made a fuss of her inside and debated in whispers what we should do. Mama thought we might just look after the child till the mother returned and there was no need to involve anybody else and cause trouble. It was Mama Cicero’s café and so we nodded even when we didn’t agree.

    The child slept in the late afternoon and we took it in turns to watch over her. When she woke, she did not know where she was and kept looking to the door as if she was expecting someone. Mama tried talking to her again and this time she took the offer of chiacchiere but without the exchange of words.

    The police took the child away and her story made the papers and her picture got onto the television. She was a pretty child and she had no name and no mother either. That sort of thing sells papers. And Mama was distracted after that and she kept her eye on the door of the café for days, as if to make up for not having watched so carefully before. If this was a story in a book it would have a neat and tidy ending. But in real life it is not always so; stories drift or just end or they fold into other stories without a break. In a week Mama was back to herself again, and the pretty nameless child was not in the papers anymore and only something told in stories when it was late, and Cicero’s Café was back to its busy self and the coffee machine playing up again.

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