Tuscan Chatter Box (Cont’d.)

Yes, yes. The dentist is having another vision. For the third night this week. The stars are in the attic this time. And this is how it goes:

Smoke is rising from the chimney. In the bedroom, the girls of the harem tangle in delicate satins. The Duke has come for the weekend to visit his daughter. But there is still time for Eros. However, tonight he cannot sleep. Out in the garden, by the high wall a little ruckus is afoot. There are three pigeons–Racing Homers to be exact–clamoring their way through the outer porthole to sip from the well. Moonlight squeezes in behind them. Rainclouds, big and pregnant, hang like guillotines over the hills. With the exception of the pigeons, everything is quiet. In the chapel, a pair of cornflower cataracts glow in the dark. They follow the pigeons to the well. These are the eyes of the blind prophetess. And she is distressed. Not because of the Homers. Though you couldn’t tell by the way she’s looking at them. Their little claws drag along the stone. The sound grates on her ears. But this is not why she’s distressed. For the third night this week, the ritual has failed. The Medici girl is still dying of a high fever. It’s drying out her organs, shriveling them like giant raisins in the afternoon sun. And nothing is working. A somber hush has swallowed the Villa. The incense does not burn. The fountain waters do not dance with the same vigor. The myrtle blossoms wilt. The cedar trees look pale and depressed. And little Bia’s coughs can be heard all the way from the grotto.

The Duke has assigned to the Prophetess the task of divining a remedy for his daughter. The apothecaries have failed. And the physician thinks the fever has to do with the girl’s molars. Specifically the anteriors. What a crock. When he heard this bit of dental drivel, Cosimo had half a mind to rapier the man right in his gut. But cooler thoughts did prevail. Or rather, esoteric thoughts did prevail. In his desperation, Cosimo thought the Prophetess might be able to divine a cure from the future. That she has unintentionally managed to channel a dentist name Abernathy from the year 2018 would have tickled the physician pink, were he to believe in such nonsense. And even if he did, the Duke had him expelled from Villa di Castello days ago. Meanwhile Cosimo’s daughter is dying at a voracious pace; her cough has become more pronounced in recent weeks. Her diarrhea more insistent. Sweat fills her little bed at all hours of the day. It’s like a Venetian lagoon in her bedroom. And poor Cosimo… there is nothing he can do. So now his anxieties rest in the calloused hands of a blind mystic who spits gibberish at the Taurus constellation while pigeons sully the well water. For little Bia, hope is nothing more than a four letter word.

But larger events are unfolding amidst all this madness. There is after all a disembodied voice babbling on the Ponte Vecchio. And this very night, a crowd is starting to gather outside the butcher’s shop. Not to mention in a poorly lit tavern west of the city, members of the Republic are plotting secret treasons. They sit in there, sipping straight from the caraffe, all sullen and anxious. Memories of the failed uprising still fester like soured pustules in their minds. But now is not the time for upheaval. They must wait. They must bide their days.

From the bushes outside the citadel wall, a squirrel remains coiled in a low squat, watching the birds. He rolls his eyes at the foolish pigeons; sniffs the scent of the poisoned well, the flecks of marble dust coating the inner walls. He has explored the citadel’s crevices as modern man has explored the match end of a matchlock. He knows what they put in the well–what it’s for. He has watched the Prophetess going about her rites, gazing at the stars. Somehow it didn’t matter that she was blind. Whatever message the heavens had, she received it. Even now she sits on the marble bench with its purple cushions, listening intently while the moons of Jupiter align in conjunction. And the stars spill into the attic where an old deck of Tarot cards has been left in the cross formation. Where violet moonbows dance in the dusty windowsills and strange noises escape from the trunk with the golden latches. Strange things are happening up in that attic. But the squirrel will not get too close. As the prophetess knows the heavens, so does the squirrel know the citadel.


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