This is the Way it Should Always Be

Paul Pasquarella

The train moved swiftly along through the early spring Italian countryside. The day was as beautiful as one could ask for with a startlingly blue sky that had a few high fleecy clouds suspended as if by request. Dean sat on the train, looking out the window, and thought at least if he had to go, it was a rather pleasant day to die. He imagined the authorities would take care of the arrangements.

He had left Athens two days before by rent-a-car and had driven through the Greek equivalent of a typhoon up to Delphi, which was closed as were all the hotels and restaurants, and had forged ahead to Patras, arriving just in time to catch his ship back to Brindisi, Italy, twenty hours after leaving Athens. Normally, he was told, it was a six- hour trip.

Being a somewhat reluctant sailor he boarded the vessel with hesitation, but was assured that the crossing would be without incident. Apparently the crew felt that crossing the Adriatic in a violent storm did not constitute incident.

It was a thing that they were accustomed to experiencing. Dean, however, was not. Barring the storm and what he was sure was the most violent case of seasickness ever endured by one human being, the crossing was indeed without incident. Unfortunately, it was Dean who was so seasick. Had he had a gun and the strength at any given moment in his miserable state he was sure he would have shot himself.

But that was all behind, him now. The car trip and the sea voyage without food and sleep were in the past and he was now sandwiched into a second-class compartment on a twelve-hour train ride back to Rome. He felt that if the offer were made he would gladly sell his soul for a bath, a tuna fish sandwich, and fifteen hours of uninterrupted sleep.

The rather large woman sitting directly across from him, who for the first two hours of the trip had been trying to find a position that her masses of flesh found comfortable without knowingly crushing the small gentleman next to her, and who he suspected was the one in the compartment giving off the odor of garlic and oil, which did very little to help settle his stomach, suddenly stood up and took down an enormous package from the overhead rack. With great gusto she began to extract various foodstuffs from the package and arrange them neatly on her ample lap. She had done this before. It was obvious to the most casual observer.

Out came the food. Bread, pepperoni, hard salami, hot peppers, cheese, stuffed peppers, mineral water, and still the bag wasn't empty. She had enough to sustain a division of the Italian army for a week! Dean began to salivate. No food for two days had turned his stomach into a grumbling turmoil and the prospect of sitting across from this woman while she devoured all this food, and from the size of her that was a very real possibility, was driving him mad. He had not bargained for what came next. As she deftly cut the bread and made the sandwiches, she began passing them around to the other occupants of the compartment with bottles of cold mineral water. Dean accepted the proffered food in amazement and ate slowly at first, trying to conceal his ravenous hunger, but quickly abandoned the show of decorum in favor of satisfying his basic needs.

As he ate and drank the woman seemed to transform into a saint. He finished and she gave him another sandwich, which he shyly accepted. She smiled at him and said something in Italian, which he did not understand and he smiled back at her and said something in English which he was sure she did not understand. Then the small gentleman said something in Italian and everyone laughed, and he looked at Dean and said, "This is the way it should always be," and Dean nodded agreement and suddenly he really didn't care if the train ever got to Rome.

 

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