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viernes, 14 de abril de 2017

The bird

   The bird was simply majestic. It had entered the canyon unexpectedly but the people that were there couldn’t take their eyes off of it. It’s wings were very large, so large in fact that the shadow that the creature casted over the terrain was huge. Some of the tourists near the river were a bit afraid of this because of the disproportionate size of the creature. Maybe it was precisely that feature that made it seem like it was flying very slow and close to the water. It was just like a dream.

 As it passed near the group of people, the bird let out a sound. It made all hairs stand on every human that heard it, as it was the most metallic sound a bird could ever do. It was as if the creature was not a biological being but that was impossible because of the eyes of the bird. No mechanical bird would look around like that. The bird continued to fly through the canyon until it reached a tight turn. Then it elevated it’s body toward the sky and soon it had disappeared completely from their sight.

 Every person there starting talking when the creature went away. It was as if the volume had been turned off for a moment and now it had made a comeback. The kids that had been playing in the water went back to it, but with much less enthusiasm than before and all the adults started mumbling and then openly talking about what they had just seen. It was obvious that gigantic birds were not really the norm in the region or out of it. They had just been in the presence of a unique event.

 The group was made of family members from all branches: grandparents, sons, daughters, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces and so on. Every single one of them had decided to do a little picnic down in the canyon, which was located only an hour away from the town where they were all staying overnight. That town was the one where their family had begun so they were essentially coming back to their roots, teaching their children all about the region that they had known so well when younger.

 As they had been cooking meat just before the bird had made its appearance, they soon realized it had been burned by fire. So much so, that they had to throw it away and put some new pieces of meat and start all over again. As they ate, some time later that day, the obvious topic was the gigantic bird and everything about it. One of the women said that she new a biologist from the university she worked in. She would talk to him about it as soon as they went back to the city, in order to know if that creature was known to science or if it was a new discovery.

  Weeks later, when she got to talk to the biologist, she realized something that made her look and feel very dumb: no one in her family had thought of taking a picture of the creature with a cellphone or a camera and they had lots of those that day, laying around as every silly thing they did was awarded with the taking of a picture. Her friend told her that it would have been easier that way but that she could describe the creature in detail and that way they could recognized it from archival footage.

 It wasn’t a surprise when the biologist almost fainted as the woman told him everything about the bird: its size, the silvery color of its feathers, its very particular cry and all other features she could remember. At first he was scared but then he decided his friend was not telling him the truth. He tried to convince himself of that. But the woman was so adamant he knew that there was something big there. After consultation of the archive, they didn’t find any bird even remotely similar.

 The woman was about to leave when she asked the man that, if they creature was a new discovery, her family would love to see their last name being celebrated on the bird’s scientific name. For them, it would be an honor to serve as the people that discovered a brand new creature, not known to mankind before it had appeared on that canyon, the day they had decided to go for a picnic. She said goodbye and the biologist stood there in silence, thinking what to do next.

 He decided to form a group and leave for the canyon as soon as possible. Contrary to what one may think, not many people knew about that access the family had use to the inner side of the canyon. Most people stayed on the higher level, in order to look into the rock formation from above. It was a spectacular creation of nature, with the red rock perfectly worked by the river and the wind, as well as the passage of time. It was a wonderful place to find something great.

 The scientific group was made of five people. They decided to probe different areas of the canyon in order to look for new form of life. At the beginning, they thought it was going to be very easy, as the size of the bird wouldn’t make it very easy for it to hide, but they soon realized that it was going to be much more complicated than that. The first day, they didn’t see a thing. However, they did discover two new species of butterflies, as well as a new type of fungus that grew near the river. It was very exciting but not exactly what they had come for.

 The second day was the same, although they did discover a new bat and several other bugs that science didn’t know nothing about. By the third day, they decided to move along the river and see where they could end up. Supposedly, it wasn’t possible to that for the whole extension of the canyon, as the river was bigger in some parts than in others. They walked for two day in one direction but didn’t find more than some other bugs and other minor creatures.

 They turned around when a huge boulder fell down on them, almost killing one of the scientists. They decided to go up the river this time, which was apparently easier. But after three days, the new animals became scarce and it was obvious they were not going to see any huge birds soon. It started to rain soon enough and the fact that they were in a canyon became a very dangerous thing. They didn’t even stay one whole day more. The group had to exit the canyon in order not to be taken away by the engorged river.

 They camped in the upper area of the rock formation and analyzed several of the specimens that they had discovered. They could do that in an actual laboratory but the truth was they all wanted to see the gigantic bird. But how to attract it, how to make it come to them? They wanted to know, at least, more details about where they could find it. But there was nothing to tell them anything new about it. They had to be patient and realize it even may not happen for them.

 They stayed for two more days but the bird never appeared. The scientist went back to the city, as they had tons of information to process. It hadn’t been a wasted journey because of the many discoveries they had made but the crown jewel of the whole thing had not been found. Some had even decided to doubt the story and they openly said the bird was probably an illusion or something of the sort. The rest agreed, even if with all their heart they wanted the creature to be real.

 Many years later, the same family went back to the canyon. The elders had passed away and their ashes were going to be spread on the river, near the place where they had grown up. It was a very sentimental moment, everyone was in silence, mourning.

Suddenly, the bird appeared again. It looked exactly as it had look years ago. However, this time it landed near the family, bowed and then left again. Everyone had been taken aback by the bird except one of the youngest children, who did turn on her cellphone just in the right moment.

viernes, 10 de octubre de 2014

Signore Mazzanti

Fyodor Mazzanti, was born to an odd couple: an italian father and a russian mother. He was born in Kazan in 1916, but a year after his family fled to the west. They eventually came back to his father's hometown, Laurenzana, locate in southern Italy.

The kid, born between communism and fascism, grew up with a lot of love around: his mother, an only child, gave him all that she could, including a younger brother. His father always came from work with candies or toys.

Lorenzo, his brother, and him, grew up happy. That was the most important. But their parents suddenly became enthralled by the governing party in the country. Soon enough, they were attending rallies and supporting causes they did not fully understand.

When he turned eighteen, he had the chance to leave the country to study and their parents wanted him to go to Berlin. They said the german language was the future and that he and Lorenzo should know all about it.
But Fyodor felt his place was in Italy, as his love for this country, his adoptive one, grew exponentially since he was a little boy. He wanted to study history or art. His parents finally accepted his decision and he went on to live alone in small flat above a bakery in Rome, in the Trastevere district.

Lorenzo turned eighteen the same year Italy entered the war against the Allies and he didn't let his parents say a word: he went to Sicily and boarded a ship from there, on to New York. Fyodor would only know about him until five years later.

The war ravaged the continent and it was worst for the Mazzanti family towards the end, when the allies bombarded cities all over Italy. Fyodor himself was saved by a lover, who kept him a little bit too long in her room, saving his life as a bomb hit his house.

In Laurenzana, his parents were safe and received the American troops by asking them how to get in touch with their son. No one knew how to help, as communications to the outside had been cut for months. And both mother and father suffered for the faith of their children.

As soon as the government fell, Fyodor travelled to his former house and found that no one was there. His family had disappeared, leaving no word or letter behind. He returned to Rome, finished his studies and went on to work with the Capitoline Museums. They were gathering a lot of damaged paintings and sculptures from every single part of the country.

He was happy for his job and now lived in a very nice house, near his first flat in the city. Every day he got to see great pieces of artwork. But at the same time, he thought of his family, the face of his mother when cooking a brilliant new dish, his father when carving a nice piece of wood and his brother Lorenzo playing with his favorite toy train.

He had looked for them all over, visiting Laurenzana often but he found very little information. A neighbor told him they had left after the American arrived, towards Sicily. Fyodor went to Palermo but the trail died there as no one knew if they had ever boarded a ship or if they had decided to go back.

Death was not an option, he thought. He felt of them as alive as every single moment he wasn't working, restoring old pieces in the museum or traveling for them, he went on to check every fact he knew about his parents and his brother.

He had even visited New York a couple of times, looking for his parents. He knew that was useless as many immigrants had changed their names when arriving through Ellis Island but he insisted without success.

Fyodor grew bitter because of this. His family had given him so much love as a child and then they just vanished. He was a grown man but he missed them all and not knowing anything about what had happened, was just heartbreaking.

It had affected his love life too. Women grew tired of trying to make him fall in love with them as he never paid much attention. His work was the thing that distracted him from the pain of having been left alone. Besides, he was afraid that if he had a child, he would do the same. He couldn't think of breaking someone into pieces like that, he just didn't want to do what his parents did to him.

In 1978, after more than thirty years on the job, he finally decided to step out to give room for a new generation. His eyesight was everything for him and now he was slowly loosing it. The staff of the museum made a party, with cake and champagne and all kinds of songs and music. It was the first time in years that he cried, in public no les. People thought it was because of his job, but that wasn't the cause.

During those years he had a dog called Caesar. A gray great dane that just loved him. As tall and strong as he had always being, it was the perfect pet for Fyodor.

Now, with all the time in the world, he decided to try one last time and he looked for the help of an institution to track down his family. He gave them all the information he had and they told him to be patient, to wait and that sometimes, nothing happened.

Fyodor waited for almost fifteen years until a young woman called Maria, called him to tell him she had found his file and that she had been investigating. She had found her brother. When he asked about his parents, she said they had died years ago in California.

Weak but now on the verge of finally getting answers, he flew to San Francisco and, with Maria, visited the cemetery were his parents were buried. He cried and cried, kneeling and just crying, without saying a word. Maria could only stand there.

The day after that, they went to Las Vegas. Lorenzo had become the owner of a fast food restaurant chain and now was retired in a house on the outskirts of Las Vegas.
They hugged and cried together and Maria smiled, as she was happy to reunite family.

Fyodor went back to Rome after a week and asked Lorenzo to visit him sometime.

Just a few weeks after that, he went to take a stroll around his neighborhood with Caesar. They sat in a park bench and watched people go by. And he then fell asleep. And died there, finally at peace.