The thieves took our money and his watch and then tossed it away.
Judge Blah’s backpack, bloated with the brown water of the Arno, sunk to the river’s floor, and there joined billfolds, fanny-packs, and other stolen things.
Our driving directions, from Florence to La Cuisa in the Italian town of Montefollonico, sopped up the water and floated away. So did an English-Italian dictionary, Lufthansa plane tickets, and credit card numbers.
We are screwed and I am stupid and I will never smile at another Italian again, I said.
How could this have happened, Cheri? I told you to watch our stuff.
I hope they go to hell (all nine circles), I said. And then the enthusiasm about our week studying Dante’s Inferno in Florence ditched me. My brown eyes, like the river, filled with the tears of the violated.
It happened like this: two guys passed by, checked me out, and one smiled at me. I smiled back. He knew I was the one, the one sucker of many he would fleece today. He had purposely dropped his lousy Italian wallet. I said in Spanish, Senor, your wallet, su cartera and at the moment when our eyes met, his conspirator, a coyote at my ankle, snatched our backpack.
What an idiot I am! Then the tears turned to torrents. The car rental company sat in a tough Florentine neighborhood and locals stood around watching me come undone.
Get in the car, Cheri, and for God’s sake, get a grip, suggested Judge Blah, an experienced traveler.
We drove to Siena in the rain and I cried the entire trip. (Judge Blah was now contending with a situation. Cheri’s had lost her virginity in that theft. Things had soured. Badly.)
Let’s get a coffee. Strong coffee is one way to my heart. But that day, my heart was about as cold as the 9th Circle of Hell. (You will remember that Satan’s endlessly beating wings created an icy wind down there.) The espresso helped but not much. My child —an ego-state perfect for exploring the narrow alleys of Piensa but hellish in reacting to the thefts of life—took control of the situation.
An opportunity for personal growth was about to happen. Shortly.
Coffee in hands, we stopped at a lonesome phone booth in Siena to call our credit-card company and Lufthansa Airlines. We stood in the plastic dome, trying to figure out the Italian phone system. Little Cheri raged. I cursed all of Italy; I cursed all evil people; I cursed myself. My Italian drama took on the themes of Vittorio Alfieri.
Judge Blah, known for his patience, almost lost it.
And then, just as my eyes had fixed on my betrayer’s and his stinking Florentine wallet only two hours previous, my eyes found another one. A worn lost Siena wallet left on top of the box housing the telephone.
An ignoramus couldn’t miss this irony.
We drove to the Siena Police Department to return the lost wallet and to report our stolen backpack.
There, Abbot and Costello met the Three Stooges.