After ninety minutes of winding, narrow, and tedious backcountry roads without an English-speaking voice on the car radio, we endured a period of silence, the kind perhaps that is inevitable when traveling in close quarters with another person for ten days.
Jack and I had begun this journey with three days in Rome. Lots of sightseeing. Then Naples for a couple of days. Lots of pizza. A day and a half wandering through the excavated town of Pompeii where in 79AD Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried its buildings and people under tons of ash and pumice. Lots of wonder.
From there an arduous six hour drive in our sputtering Europcar through rugged mountain terrain to the bottom of Italy’s boot where we ferried across the Messina Straight to Sicily. Two days in Palermo. Lots of traffic, pollution, and sea food.
At breakfast in our hotel we discussed the best route south to the city of Agrigento to visit the Valley of the Temples, a vast archaeological site with well-preserved Greek temples. We studied a road map and figured driving the A19 motorway would take a tad over two hours. If we took the rural back roads it might take four but we’d get a feel for the small town life of Sicily. Pointing to a dot on the map, Jack said we could make a slight detour and visit the village of Corleone, the birthplace of the fictional eponymous characters in the Godfather movies.
Jack liked to drive. He needed control and I was OK with that. I’d work the map, my contribution throughout our vehicular travel through Italy.
For over an hour we drove east on two lane roads through undulating hills hosting deciduous trees with flaxen leaves and gray fields with bales of hay in spaced rows. We passed vineyards heaving with clusters of red grapes and acres of gnarled trunk trees bearing green olives. Occasionally we confronted a farmer in his tractor.
We were pacing over an hour behind our estimated time of arrival in Agrigento by the time we arrived in Corleone. Not much to see except the Mafia Museum which featured black and white photos of one-time local mafia figures and bloody crime scenes while video highlights of Coppola’s film whirled silently on a wall screen.
Back in the car heading south now I said, “I need to pee. The next town appears to be five or six miles. Let’s get off there. Town’s called Contessa Entellina.”
At the exit we followed an off-rank for a half mile until the town’s one street appeared consisting of five or six blocks with one and two story buildings, a mix of one story houses and retail businesses.
Jack parked the car in the first space at the beginning of the street. There was not a moving vehicle in sight.
”Must be 90 degrees,” I said.
“Yea. A little exercise won’t hurt. We’ll walk the village. Find a place to get some water and take a pee.”
We passed a hardware store and pharmacy. Across the street a movie theater that looked a century old. Its marquee read “Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.” At the corner was a food market the size of a small 7-Eleven. Peaking trough the window I saw a couple of elderly women holding baskets of foodstuffs.
To our delight the next store front was a trattoria with four tables. No customers. The hefty waitress spoke no English. A small man in a large apron behind the counter looked bemused before welcoming us with a smile. Jack said. “ Coca Cola.” I added. “Acqua, per favore.” The man acknowledged our request with a nod. The restroom was a few steps away. Upon return the waitress pointed to the menu on the wall. Jack shook his head, “Let’s wait until we get to Agrimento. There’s bound be better restaurants near the temples.”
Out the door he said, “Let’s check out the rest of the town. Brave the heat. We’re only couple of hours from the temples.” I nodded OK.
We decided to walk the next few blocks to the end of the street. The buildings were now becoming residences.
It felt a bit unsettling walking in a town without seeing a pedestrian, nor even a pigeon or a wandering dog. Like in sci-fi movie of a town taken over by invisible aliens
We stopped momentarily to examine a red telephone booth, surprised to see one still standing, when I heard a faint shuffle of footsteps and hushed voices behind us.
Three nuns in black veil and tunic and darting black eyes nodded without eye contact as they past us.
A sudden cloud slipped past the sun. A puff of welcomed breeze emerged. I credited the cloud.
A half a block another sound emerged. The vibratory purr of an automobile motor. A black American four-door sedan circa the Sixties crawled by. The driver, a man wearing an olive face, aviator sunglasses, and a customary black Sicilian fedora sent us an uninviting glance.
”Looks like a guy from the Godfather.”
Jack nodded. “Lucca Brasi, all the way.”
“Wonder what the hell’s he doing here.”
“Scouting a location for a movie, maybe. No bank worthy of robbery,” Jack said.
The sedan continued its crawl past us until stopping two blocks away beside the largest villa we’d seen. The fedora leaned out the passenger side window apparently in search of, or waiting for, someone inside. Twenty-seconds passed. The car moved again disappearing out of town, out of sight.
We continued our advance upon the imposing villa at the end of the street which grew larger with every step.
I slowed to a stop and said,”Look something’s moving in that second floor window.”
“It’s a curtain. The window is open. You’d think they’d have air conditioning.”
It was a curtain, gauzy and sheer, whirling gently boosted by another improbable gust of hot air.
Jack said, “Look. There’s something behind the curtain. Moving slightly.”
I stopped. “Looks human, like a body,” I replied.
“Jesus, it’s a woman,” Jack said.
“Damn, you’re right. It is a woman. I think she’s nude.”
Our eyes locked in. A woman in the window.
He said, “You got that right. Not a stitch on. Holy shit!”
“And looking down at us. What the hell!” Unable to hide my excitement.
Face to midriff nude. The rest of her body concealed beneath the span of the window.
The curtain no longer in sight. Only the nude woman in the window looking down upon us.
Jack said, “Damn, I think she posing for us.”
“Maybe she’s a high class hooker.”
“In this town. Be serious.”
Her face shimmered in gold glow. A hand appeared brushing back her auburn hair. Another scorching puff. The curtain receded the revealing a silhouette.
“You’re right. She’s enjoying this. What’s next?” I said.
“Maybe we should call her out. See how she reacts.”
At that, the sound of the car creeping up behind us again.
The curtain closed taking the woman in the window with it.
The car passed us and pulled to a stop in front of the villa.
The man in the fedora climbed out, glanced our way, and walked to the door.