Palio woke up flat on his back on ancient concrete. He blinked a few times to make certain he wasn’t dreaming. He’d often seen this view of the building tops leaning over the narrow canal, but usually in the upright position while walking home from work.
He reached into his pants pocket for his wallet. Still there. He checked the contents and found it stuffed with money, more than expected.
He rose to his knees, surprised he moved without pain.
“Beggar,” yelled an approaching old woman. She raised her broom. Old women were always sweeping the pavement on his block. She stopped short, “Palio, como sta?”
He rose to his feet. “Mi scusi.”
She laughed at him and swatted his buttock with the broom as she passed.
It’s not every day I wake up with more money than I thought I had. Ah, it must have been the card game. But why don’t I remember and why was I on the ground? No headache? Life is wonderful.
He unlocked the door to his second floor, one-room apartment. Everything was in place. In fact, it was too tidy. Someone had cleaned it.
He was still standing in the kitchen when there was a knock at the door. It was a gentle knock, friendly. Palio opened the door. It was Fredo, Gina’s brother. Fredo hugged him.
“You bring us great joy,” said Fredo. “I hope the homemade grappa wasn’t too much. I spent the night on my knees in front of the toilet.“
It was as if Palio had been splashed with cold water. The evening was coming back to him. He was woozy with liquor while the pile of money on the table grew. The words echoed in his head: “I will marry Gina with this pot.” He hadn’t meant it–It was the damn grappa. How could he undo his foolishness? Fredo’s older brother, Gino, was at the table—a witness with an iron fist.
“Hey, you like the way my sister cleans,” said Fredo.
Palio saw Gino’s giant fist and nodded.