Inside each vaporetto, a million storiesBy
As I have said (many times), riding the vaporetto, while frequently annoying, or crowded or cold or suffocatingly hot or drenching — being crushed into a mass of people riding outside in the rain is so invigorating — it is also prime territory to see people we know.
I like this. I’m so used to it, either seeing someone I know, or at least someone I can identify, that I wasn’t even aware of it until one day when I got home from a large circuit doing errands more or less around the city. As I walked over our bridge, it suddenly struck me. “Weird!” I thought. “I didn’t see even one person that I know.” That it occurred, and that I noticed it, were both clear signs that I had passed through another airlock into the depths of Venice.
Usually, though, we run into, or past, people Lino knows. Which means “has known.” Forever.
Last night we were trundling home on the faithful #1 vaporetto. Now that Carnival’s over, the ratio of locals to tourists has increased again, briefly, in favor of the former. So it didn’t start out as surprising when Lino recognized someone.
Then the saga began to unfold.
It went like this:
A matronly, moderately zaftig woman was the last to come inside. As she sailed majestically along the aisle, she left the doors behind her wide open. It’s fairly cold these days, so it always astonishes me that someone doesn’t connect the concepts of “warmth” and “closed doors.”
So even though we were several rows back, I got up to close them, and sat down again next to Lino making the little huffy sound that escapes me when I fulfill this task for someone too (fill in appropriate word here) to close them.
“And she’s a Venetian,” he remarked. This sometimes happens, which makes it even harder for me to understand. But that’s not the point here.
“You know her?” I offered the usual rhetorical question.
“Sure,” he said. “She lived in my old neighborhood” (near campo San Vio). “Her brother was a really close friend of Ricky.”
And Ricky was…..?
“He’s the one who killed the finanzier (member of the Guardia di Finanza) by dropping a stone from the Accademia Bridge.”
I stared at him.
“He was a very sketchy character,” Lino went on. “He was all involved in drugs and smuggling and I don’t know what. So he really had it in for the Finanza.
“So one night he called the headquarters of the Finanza on the Giudecca, all worked up, saying ‘Somebody’s set fire to a boat in the canal! You’ve got to come quick!'”
So two agents on duty leaped into one of their fast launches and zoomed across the Giudecca Canal and up the Grand Canal.
“Meanwhile, Ricky had taken a loose piece of marble” (one of the rectangular slabs of Istrian stone which delineate each step on a stone bridge here). “He carried it up to the top of the Accademia Bridge and waited for them to pass. At just the moment they started under the bridge, he let the stone fall. It killed one of the agents right there.”
Naturally he was found, tried, and put away. “Sixteen years in the criminal insane asylum,” Lino said.
“I saw him around the neighborhood after he’d gotten out. He was walking along with a beer bottle in his hand. He started to cross the Accademia Bridge, and as he went up, he put his hand out over the rail and casually let the bottle drop.
“Sixteen years, and they hadn’t cured him of anything.
“Still, he had had an extenuating circumstance. Because once a long time before, he had jumped out his first-floor apartment window into the canal and saved somebody who was drowning.
“If he hadn’t have done that, they’d have given him life.”