“Si, I talk English, French, and, how do you say, German. My German not so good, but English is excellent.”
“I would like to buy a present for someone. She likes art and history. Where could I go to find something special, something Italian, something memorable.”
A broad smile and the boy said, “Senior, I know just such a place. You’re lady friend, she is beautiful, no?”
“You want something to impress the beautiful lady?”
He stood and said again, “Si, but only a small gift.”
The boy motioned to follow and they walked into the street. “It is not far. See the church, you go a sinistra…sorry, to the left. You walk until you smell Pasticceria Romolo.”
“Do you mean see?”
“No, I mean smell. Their desserts are bellissimo and you always smell them before you can see them. At the shop, you turn right and you will find the perfect little shop. It is my cousin’s place, tell him Agapito sent you and he will give you great deal.”
Everyone has a cousin, uncle, or aunt who can get you the best deal. I love Italy, he thought as he patted Agapito on the shoulder and said, “Grazie”.
“You know what, I call him and say you’re coming. What is your name, Senior?”
Agapito had his cell phone out and had dialed before he knew what had happened. “Mitchell Bessemer”
A flurry of Italian ensued and with hand gestures and nods, it seemed he would be getting the deal of a lifetime. Mitchell thanked Agapito, again, and added another bill to the tip.
Mitch, as his friends called him, pulled his Moleskin out and wrote down Agapito’s name, the Cafe, and a couple of quick thoughts. He had been writing a travel blog for just over a year, it was a hobby more than anything, but it had developed a following and he looked forward to writing each new post. The best part was that nobody knew it was his, as he had used the pen name Angry Travel Mongerer. His best friend from college had even sent him a link to his post on Paris, writing that I think you’ll enjoy this guys sense of humor.
He turned at the church, walked no more than 100 meters, and it hit him, baked goods that might well change one’s life. For a moment he considered putting off the shopping for another day, but somewhere up the road was a cousin waiting to give him the “family” discount. It would have to wait.
Shopping was, without question, one of his least favorite things to do. Buying a gift for another, added a level of discomfort that was nearly unbearable. Choosing something for “The Girl” might prove fatal. He could already feel his blood pressure rising as he neared the shop. Stress was his kryptonite and he had become an artist at avoiding that which does not please.
He would not buy just any gift, it would need to strike him as unassailable in its qualifications for the mission. It would sing to him. At least, that was the hope, because if he had to think and ponder, it would surely be the death of him.
The man in the light weight Italian suit had followed him from the Cafe. He, too, had a moleskin. For the last eleven days he had been watching, waiting, and taking note. The moment that Mitchell had put his hand on the waiter’s shoulder, it started. There was a click, deep inside his mind, and the gears began to turn. A week and a half, thousands of miles, and the crossing of an ocean, all without purpose or reason, and now he had it.
Clarity, so bright and blinding, that a lifetime of fog had been lifted. All the success that hadn’t filled the emptiness, suddenly had a purpose. He understood why he had gone to M.I.T. and how his relentless pursuit of ideas that seemed to server no other purpose than to make huge piles of cash had been part of a grander scheme. A scheme that hadn’t been known to him until three minutes ago. He noted the time.
Editor’s Note: If you keep saying nice things in the comments, I’ll be unable to stop writing this story. I’m powerless against your kind words and will continue to do your story telling bidding. This is how I accidentally wrote my first novel.