A story inspired by Castello di Brolio – Episode 4

Another story inspired from a visit to an old castle in Italy.  It was, of course, written while traveling on a plane, though I’m not sure if it was from Calgary to Toronto, or New York to Vancouver.

But, there’s more to come.  Those were long flights…

 

Another fifty or so feet along, I stopped at an overhead grill.  The metal was showing on the tunnel side, but on the other, I could see bushes.

I think I knew where we were.  This was where the road crossed a small bridge and headed towards the castle entrance.  It was on the northeastern side of the old battlements, and going straight under the road would take us to the eastern wall.

Whether we could get out of the castle there remained to be seen.

I took a step and saw Jack stop and turn around to look back the way we had come.  A moment later a beam of light came from the break in the roof of the tunnel.  Perhaps the man had decided there might not be ghosts in the hole.

I heard the man’s voice travel up the tunnel.  “Looks like a cavern of something.”

That something he might guess to be a tunnel.

We had to go.

I moved quickly in the opposite direction, into the dark, the sound of more rocks falling from the roof following us.

Another hundred feet or so we reached a wall, a dead end to the tunnel.  It looked to me that it had been bricked in the recent past because it consisted of house bricks, not cobblestones.

The surface was wet, and there was the sound of dripping nearby.

Jack sat on the floor.  Nowhere to go, for him it was time to rest.

We couldn’t go back.

I pulled out a knife and poked it into the mortar, and the blade disappeared when I pushed it.  The mortar was soft.

I pushed hard on the wall midway up, and it moved.  I decided it might be easier to kick at the wall, making it easier if it collapsed.

It created a hole about a foot round.  Further kicking made it bigger so that I could stoop down and climb through.  Jack went first, and I followed.

It came out into a clearing surrounded by trees.  Through the branches, I could see the forest on the other side of a paddock.

Jack once again stopped.

Voices.

Jackerby and one of his men.

“I’m sure there used to be a drainage tunnel somewhere here.  Those men got into the tunnel yet?”

“Working on making a hole so they can jump down.  No long now.”

“Go back and help them.  I’ll keep an eye out here in case they find the exit.”

I heard the other man leave.

A minute passed, then two.  Then Jackerby said, “I know you’re there Sam.  I’m alone out here, and I’m on your side.”

 

© Charles Heath 2019

Conversations with my cat – 14

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This is Chester, the literary critic

 

It’s important to get that first sentence right

So, I’m rattling off a few lines to get his reaction

‘It was a day like no other’

‘Yes, I know’, says the all knowledgeable Chester looking down his nose at me, ‘it’s been used before’.

We are sitting in the writing room and as usual, Chester is trying to ignore me.

I’m trying to start a new novel, looking for that first line that’s going to hook the reader.

I read him a few lines.

He gives me a disdainful look, ‘Heard it all before old boy, try again’.

Once Upon a time?

‘You’ve been watching too much TV’.

It was a dark and stormy night.

He yawns widely, ‘As if you haven’t used that before’.

He’s right, damn him.

Why am I talking to this cat anyway?

He jumps up onto the desk and sits on the keyboard.

Ok, writing is over for the day.

Are you keeping any secrets?

It’s a theme I have used in a number of stories because it fascinates me the propensity some people have for explaining the unexplainable, and actually, believe they have convinced the other person.

It works sometimes, but not everybody is prepared to accept their lies.  Especially when their alibi crumbles before their eyes.

Better not to have said anything in the first place.

Or, better still, don’t do anything that you have to cover up later on.

Or perhaps I’m turning a molehill into a mountain.

I’m suffering from indecision, one of those moments in a writer’s life where either you get on with it, take a holiday, start a new story, or finish another one.

I want to get on with it, finish it, sent it to the editor, and then move on, but I can’t.

I’ve written three different endings to this story and I’m not happy with any of them.

Over the last few days, I have taken a break away from it.  Every time I load it up and sit on the page where I want the end to start (a rather curious mix of opposites) it draws a blank.

Will I take it out with a ‘bang’?

Will I let a few of the secrets out of the bag?

Will I try to set it up for a sequel?

Wow!  So many possibilities.

The crux of the matter is relationships where people keep secrets from each other rarely survive, though sometimes it depends on how big the secret is.  In my mind, if I was the one who was thinking about keeping a secret (most likely impossible because I can’t keep a straight face) I would share it.

If it was my partner keeping the secret, I wonder how I would react.

It’s an interesting question and begs the question of how much of ourselves is woven into the fabric of our characters.

We can if we haven’t the experience of keeping secrets only guess at the outcome.  Or if we do, how much easier might it be?

Perhaps I’ll sleep on it one more night.

Monday came and went, and now it’s Thursday

I had so many things planned, those little bits and pieces that seem to get away from you.

It’s now Wednesday night and I have only just come back to this post to write some more or maybe finish it, but that should you some idea of how easy the simple things can get away from me.

To fill in the gaps in the story, I started to make a list of those bits and pieces, and that was the first mistake.

I frightened myself.

Tuesday disappeared in writing down what was on my writing slate. For instance,

Episode 10 of the helicopter story

Episode 3 of the treasure hunt

Episode 5 of the Castello di Brolio story

Episode 1 of the WW2 story – this has a start but is it Episode 1.  What bothers me is that I wrote some of this on the plane, but it disappeared somewhere, so I’m not sure when this may get done.

Episode 6 of Writing instead of insomnia

Episodes 36 through 40 of Being Inspired, Maybe. This is a series of photographs, and the story inspired by them

Episode 46 through 50 of PI Walthenson’s first case rewrite, still without a title. But, before Episode 46 there needs to be an introduction because for a few episodes we are off on a slight tangent that will feed into the story later on.

So, in addition, it will need an Intro Episode and a rerun of Episodes 1 and 2 which set up the next part of the story.

And, don’t get me started on where I am with Strangers We’ve Become, because the rewrite seems to have stalled at page 360ish. The book is done but rereading told me, or the cat did far more emphatically, there a few gaps.  This needs to get done, and I need to stick the courage to the sticking point.

Wednesday arrived and I was looking at the list wondering what I was going to do next and realized that I’d been putting off writing the next few posts on the traveling blog which desperately need to be done.

So…

Traveling blog times two, and now it’s Thursday.

Damn, where did the week go?

Back on the treasure hunt

Here’s the thing.

Every time I close my eyes, I see something different.

I’d like to think the cinema of my dreams is playing a double feature but it’s a bit like a comedy cartoon night on Fox.

But these dreams are nothing to laugh about.

 

I never realized Boggs had this thing for treasure.  Seems a long time ago one of his relatives was a diver, found a wreck, and with it gold bullion.  He became rich, and the wealth in the family lasted till Boggs’ grandfather, who frittered away the last of the fortune on dodgy land schemes and supposed match tree forests in Ecuador.

It was up to him, Boggs told me, to restore the family fortune.

I couldn’t see how this was going to happen sitting in a bar that openly advertised treasure maps and an owner who was only too happy to tell the story of the Spaniard to anyone who’d listen.

The problem was, no two versions of the story were the same.

Whilst Boggs was taking in the fourth or fifth rendition of the story, I looked around at the clientele.  They were certainly more interesting than the treasure.

Mostly here for the sun and surf, there were two notable exceptions, and if I was to guess, they looked Spanish.

Or was it my imagination working overtime.

They seemed very interested in Boggs, from time to time looking over at him, and then muttering to each other.  Conveniently, they were along the path to the restroom, so I took a stroll, and lingering a moment near their table, I listened to the conversation.

In Spanish.

My Spanish was a little rusty but what I thought I heard, “Boy, map, find out what he knows, gold, and it’s in the hills somewhere.

The phrase, there’s gold in them thar hills came to mind.

But for the moment I think we had a problem.

When I came out of the restroom, the first thing I noticed was the two Spaniards had left.  When I looked over towards the bar, where I left Boggs, I noticed he too, was missing.

All of a sudden I had a very bad feeling.

I ran outside, just in time to see the two men bundling Boggs into the back of a car, and drive off.

 

That’s where I fell asleep

© Charles Heath 2019

Having something to say is one thing, saying it is something else

As accomplished as we can be at putting words on paper, what is it that makes it so difficult to sit in a chair with a camera on you, and saying words rather than writing them?

Er and um seem to crop up a lot in verbal speech.

OK, it was a simple question; “What motivates you to write?”

Damn.

My brain just turned to mush, and the words come out sounding like a drunken sailor after a night out on the town.

The written answer to the question is simple; “The idea that someone will read what I have written, and quite possible enjoy it; that is motivation enough.”

It highlights the difficulties of the novice author.

Not only are there the constant demands of creating a ‘brand’ and building a ‘following’, there is also the need to market oneself, and the interview is one of the more effective ways of doing this.

If only I can settle the nerves.

I mean, really, it is only my granddaughter who is conducting the interview, and the questions are relatively simple.

The trouble is, I’ve never had to do it before, well, perhaps in an interview for a job, but that is less daunting.  That usually sticks to a predefined format.

Here the narrative can go in any direction.  There are set questions, but the interviewer, in her inimitable manner, can sometimes slide a question in out of left field.

For instance, “Your character Zoe the assassin, is she based on someone you know, or an amalgam of other characters you’ve read about or seen in movies?”

That was an interesting question, and one that has several answers, but the one most relevant was; “It was the secret alter ego of one of the women I used to work with.  I asked her one day if she wasn’t doing what she was, what she would like to do.  It fascinated me that other people had a desire to be something more exotic in an alter ego.”

Of course the next question was about what I wanted to be in an alter ego.

Maybe I’ll tell you next time.

Travel is part of the story – Rome

Sadly, my passion for travel fuels my passion for writing, and we take any chance we can to go away, and hopefully, I can find an interesting location to incorporate into one of my stories.

One location did, eventually, the Trevi Fountain.

But…

We visited Rome in August

It was hot.

It was verrrry hot.

We flew into Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino airport after a rather bumpy flight from London.  Unlike most other airports the plane parked at a satellite terminal and after we disembarked we had to catch a train to the main terminal.

The most notable memory of this airport was my daughter’s discovery of a salami shop.

We had booked a transfer to take us to the hotel the Roma Corso Trieste Mercure in Via Gradisca from the airport.  It was a white air-conditioned van and so far we had avoided the heat.

One of the rooms had a faulty air conditioning an absolute must as the rooms were very hot without it and necessitated a room change which was done quickly and efficiently.

The hotel was in the suburbs and without a car we were dependent on public transport.  According to the reception staff, there was a bus stop nearby, and a longer walk to the tram or light railway.  The bus seemed to be the best option as it would take us to the central terminal near the railway station, where all tour buses also operated from, and particularly the open top buses that went to all the major tourist attractions.

That first day basically was given over to traveling, arriving by plane and settling into the hotel, thus we didn’t get to feel the force of the heat.  That came the next day.

After a walk around the hotel precinct to get our bearings and see what shops and restaurants were available, on returning to the hotel we were faced with the limited choices of room service or to go out for dinner.

My daughter and l go for a long walk up Via Nomentana to find several shops and a restaurant.  We went into the restaurant and sat down.   We waited for 10 minutes and got no service nor did anyone come and ask us if we wanted to order food so instead we left somewhat disappointed and go next door to what seems to be the Italian version of a delicatessen and order sandwiches and beer.   I bought a half dozen cans of Moretti beer two of which I drank on the way home.

It was still very hot even at eight at night and the sandwiches are delicious.  It just might be by that time we were starving and anything would have tasted great.

The next morning we are up and ready to chance the weather and some history.  Breakfast at the hotel is limited but very good.

We were going to use public transport and I’d studied up on the Internet.

Traveling on the bus required pre-purchase of tickets which could be bought in certain shops and locally when exploring the area near the hotel, l found a tobacconist.

Next, we needed to understand how to use the tickets. There was no one on the bus who could help so when l tried to scan the tickets and it failed, l gave up.  We had the same issue each day and in the end, the tickets never got used.

The trip to central Rome by bus took about 15 minutes.  In the morning it was reasonably cool and showed us a little of suburban Rome.  We also saw the trams but we would not be able to use them because our hotel not on a direct route.

That first full day we decided to go and see the Vatican.

Not understanding buses and which one we needed to get to the Vatican, we took a taxi.

Wow.  It was the metaphorical equivalent of driving over the edge of a cliff with a daredevil.  It was quite literally terrifying.

Or maybe we just didn’t know that this was probably the way people drove in Rome.

Shaken but delivered in one piece we found ourselves in the square opposite St Peters Basilica.

The square is impressive, with the statues atop a circular colonnaded walkway.  The church is incredible and took a few hours to take in and to top off the day we did a tour of the Vatican museum which took the rest of the afternoon.

Then it was back to the delicatessen for more sandwiches and beer, and an interesting discussion with several elderly Italian ladies, of which I did not understand one word.

The second full day we decided to use one of the open top bus tours and eventually decided on the hop on hop off tour simply because the bus was at the central transport terminal for trains and buses and it was getting hotter.

Our first stop was the Colosseum.  There were other monuments nearby, such as the Arch of Constantine, but as the heat factor increased we joined the queue to go into the Colosseum and gladly welcomed the shade once we got inside.

The queue was long and the wait equally so, but it was worth the wait.  It would be more interesting if they could restore part of it to its former glory so we could get a sense of the place as it once was.  But alas that may never happen, but even so, it is still magnificent as a ruin.

Outside in the heat, it was off to the ruins which was a longish walk from the Colosseum, taking Via Sacra, not far from the Arch of Constantine.  This day in the walkway there were a number of illegal vendors, selling knockoff goods such as handbags and watches, and who, at the first sight of the police, packed up their wares in a blanket and ran.

Included in these ruins were The Roman Forum, or just a few columns remaining, the Palatine Hill, Imperial Fori, including the Forum of Augustus, the Forum of Caesar, and more specifically the Forum of Trajan.  It was, unfortunately very hot and dusty in the ruins the day we visited.

We walked all the way to the Foro Romano and the Septimus Severo Arch at the other end of the ruins, past the Temple of Caesar.  I found it very difficult to picture what it was like when the buildings were intact, so I bought a guide to the ruins which showed the buildings as ruins and an overlay of how they would have looked.  The buildings, then, would be as amazing as the Colosseum, and it would have been interesting to have lived back then, though perhaps not as a Christian.

I lost count of the number of bottles of water we bought, but the word ‘frizzante’ was ringing in my ears by the end of the day.  Fortunately, water did not cost a lot to buy.

At the end of the day, we caught the hop on hop off bus at the Colosseum and decided not to get off and see any more monuments but observe them from the bus.  The only one I remember seeing was Circo Massimo.  Perhaps if we’d know it was going to be twice as hot on the bus, yes, there was no air-conditioning; we may have chosen another form of transport to get back to the hotel.

The third and last day in Rome we decided to go to the Trevi Fountain, see the pantheon and walk up the Spanish Steps.  We spent most of the morning in the cool of a café watching the tourists at the fountain.  By the time we reached the top of the Spanish Steps, we were finished.

It was time to move on to Paris.