bread and salt and copper
— the sin eater

a scattering of mourners had gathered
in the foregarden of the Villa del Toro
magnificant summer home of Teodado
(Gerolamo de Magnificado de Veniccio)
who had, tragically, died that morning
some said of an ulcer, others of worry
still others, of a strategic dose of strichnine
a gift from his jealous mistress Granada
or perhaps his devoted wife Penelopia.
all were agreed it was a tragedy simply
a tragedy that he had died before the
end of the month when he would have
paid his bills but now everything was a mess.

one who would be paid was now approaching
the back gate of the villa and entered by the
servants’ entrance just as dusk was falling

this one was clad in indistinct garments of
no colour nor discernible shape nor could one
clearly see this one’s face or hands or any part

the indistinct figure was directed by gestures
to the large empty room empty save for the
corpse of the recently deceased Teodado
who was laid out naked under a white muslin sheet
on the only furniture in the room: a large cyprus table
the siesta shutters on the windows of the room were closed

at his head and foot
single tallow candles
guttered dimly
on his chest were
a loaf of fresh bread and
a large bag of salt and
on each eye was placed
a large copper coin

The sun had fully set when the figure
approached the shrouded corpse
and stopped a step away
someone closed the only door to the room

the figure was alone with the corpse
of the greatest merchant in all of Italy
the slim hand reached out and hovered
above the still waxen face and held there
all night while the candles burned down
and sputttered out

some said they heard screams that night
over the Villa del Toro
others said they were the shrieks
of the haunted from hell
one thought he clearly recognized
the sobs of his poor dead sister
who had disappeared one night
while delivering pears to the villa
another the lament of his dead father
who had died impoverished
his family in distress after a business deal
with the great merchant went wrong
others swore they saw dead climbing
out of graves and walking the streets
horribly disfigured and decayed
towards dawn there was a great flurry of wings
and unprecedented numbers of bats flew
over the villa and fell dead from the sky
smothering the back garden in bat corpses
horribly mutilated some said by the fall
others claimed every bat that fell from the sky
was scorched bleeding totally stripped of skin

then as if it had been a bad dream
all evidence of disaster disappeared
coincidentally with the departure
of the nondescript figure who took
the bread the salt and the two coins

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About riverwriter

Poet, playwright, duplicate bridge player, website designer, cottager, husband, father, grandfather, former athlete, carpenter, computer helper for my friends, theatre designer, backstage polymath, retired teacher of highschool English, drama, art, a baritone singer in a barbershop quartet, who knows what else? wordcurrents is on Facebook: Doug also has a Facebook page, "Incognitio", related to his novels.
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