Things Learned From The Bad Bitches Of Literature

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In the Piazza Duomo in Syracuse, Sicily, is the Church of Santa Lucia, which holds a bit of interesting art including a large Caravaggio behind the altar. The church has barley-sugar stone columns and adheres to erratic opening hours. Tad & various family members arrived at 6 minutes to four, only to learn closing was at four, except it wasn’t because the guard overseeing the place locked the doors with a big clang, ignoring Tad’s protestations that I was outside.

At 3 mins to 4 I limped up, slower because of the twisted ankle. And I found a metal grille gate that I could neither pound nor rattle. So instead I wailed. ‘Mi famiglia!’ My voice soared into the big church – the acoustics were wonderful. I wailed again:

‘Mi famiglia! MI FAMIGLIA!!!!!!!’

And this time I got really freaking loud, which is of course a total no-no in such a place. The guard was FURIOUS. He shot across & opened the gate, snarling at me. ‘Grazie,’ I said modestly & slipped inside.

The Caravaggio is poorly lit and a challenge to view, but at least I got to do so, cuddling Tad. We couldn’t stop much longer than 5 minutes because hey, that guard. We sauntered back outside. I was so pleased with myself. In Sylvia Plath’s journals she does something rather like that: outside a French nunnery that was all closed up, she dissolved into tears and wept loud & long, face-down into the grass, whereupon the nuns admitted her & she saw everything there was to see.

It’s very useful. I’ve never forgotten this. I’ve employed it before, and it works best when it’s heartfelt drama rather than nuisance factor, although that can do the trick too. And now I’ve given it to the children in the family. Who were impressed for maybe 10 seconds, but then quite rightly drifted away because, hey, next to the church – gelati.

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