Donald Freed
International Playwright
and Master Teacher

Chapter One

Venice,  1873

"Emilio, don’t go far!" His mother’s voice rang out in the square like the tinkle of shattered glass.

The boy’s thin legs faltered briefly. Then, with the determination of a young swallow taking flight for the first time he took off again, tearing after his friends as they made their way past the church and over the bridge.

There! In a moment he was on the other side. On he rushed through the tangle of narrow lanes, where the old houses scowled at each other through geranium plants and lines of sheets hanging out to dry. A dull stench of rotten rope and fish catch wafted out under the dark doorways, clinging to walls cracked with age and salty air. As it dispersed through his nostrils and open mouth, the damp smell of rot made him tremble with unexpected pleasure. Purified, it landed on his ruffled hair, sparkling like the early morning drizzle.

From time to time invisible hands would grab him fiercely by the sleeve or the tail of his jacket, hands driven by an ancient fury, a dull rancor long held at bay. Then he would stomp his feet in his little boots on the stones of the grey pavement and, pushing his hands forward, would wriggle out of the grasp of those icy creatures, shouting with terror and joy. And he tore off again and ran breathlessly, without a pause, up and over the bridges large and small, his eyes like shining stars.

At that hour, the pale, late-winter sun flooded the streets and squares of Venice, blinding the city with its light, spreading like gold dust over the dark water of the lagoon. Its golden sparkles enchanted Emilio and from time to time he would slow his pace to admire them. Then he would try to catch up, his legs moving at double speed, but soon the vision of a strange animal projected onto the water by a ray of light would bewitch him, bringing him to a halt again. And so he continued to lose ground. Indifferent to the magical beauty of the golden morning light, his friends were galloping ahead with scornful indifference, or simply without any memory of him. Seeing their brightly colored caps moving further and further away, he started to beseech them: "Wait for me, you’re running too fast. Wait for me!" But his shouts fell on deaf ears. At the next bridge they slipped out of sight, disappearing into the void.

by Paola Moscarelli