LEGERDEMAIN—Italian Style – November 2009


By Jim Rambologna


exbikeEnzio Grattani was the Editor-in-Chief of a local rivista (or magazine) in Ajiermo, Italy. Locals knew him to be molto intelligente. Those who knew him best, however, knew him as a shrewd dude as well. But Enzio had a secret. He had a history in show business that he shared with no one but, of course, his Associate Editor. For nearly twenty-five years, he had been a magician in El Pasoble, a small southwestern town near Italy’s boot. Ironically, Enzio eventually got the boot out of El Pasoble for reasons that this tale may help explain.

Local scribes and wannabes in Ajiermo loved to have their fantasies recounted in Grattani’s magazine, L’Occhio del Lago.The magazine’s owner, Ricardo Tingoni, indulged Grattani and his eager contributors in their endeavors and, once a year, treated all of them to multiple slices of pepperoni pizza, washed down with dago red, at his local restaurant, “Fabbricante di Denaro” or The Money Maker.

But not even the influential Tingoni was privy to the secret of his magazine’s success Oh, he was aware that Grattani had a way with words or, at least, a way to be without too many words, but Tingoni never quite came to comprehend how it was all done. And he didn’t care, so long as the Euro kept flowing.

Grattani’s office was in cramped quarters with spartan furnishings: a desk, a wooden chair for the editor, a clothes closet, and another single chair for infrequent visitors. Much of his work load was accomplished over the internet, where he accepted submissions and transferred them into his file folder marked “Surgelare” (or deep freeze.)

His computer would then automatically send the anxious contributor a form letter indicating that the piece would be published “soon” and with many gratzis. But the real bulk of the old magician’s editorial legerdemain was accomplished right there, in the cramped office.

A recent visit by Canuti Clarconzoni was demonstrative.

The robust Clarconzoni had his heart set on the publication of a series of articles describing the Italian conquest of the Welsh in 1436. The Italians had delivered plump ravioli to the Welsh, bathed in a rich putanesca sauce and a pudding dessert, claiming it was a peace offering. Later that same night, the Italians attacked the bloated Welshmen and beat them soundly in what is now historically known as the bloody Battle of Tastings. Problem was, Clarconzoni’s six articles detailing the debacle were each over 1,200 words in length. Clarconzoni knew that this was far in excess of Grattani’s much-discussed and reviled limit of 700 words.

Nevertheless, in the editor’s office, Clarconzoni pressed hard for Grattani’s acquiescence. His Inverness cape of khaki, with crowning epaulets, wound round him as he waved the lengthy articles over his head, shouting about fundamental fairness and due process. “Whatsa up wit’ dis?” his voice boomed. The office space, such as it was, shrank even more under the heat of the confrontation.

Grattani nervously pulled on the bill of his Anjiermo Antelopes ball cap and adjusted his rose- tinted Versace sun shades. Then suddenly, to Clarconzoni’s shock, Grattani shoved him into his closet and closed the door behind him. The magician, it seemed, was up to his old tricks. Behind the closet door there was silence….for five long minutes.

Clarconzoni emerged as quickly as he had disappeared. His eyes were glazed and he shook his head in bewilderment. “Now, where was I?” he asked. The ever-shrewd Grattani smiled broadly and in a gravelly voice said, “I was just saying that I would publish your entire series, as is. Howsa dat?”

Clarconzoni leafed through the papers in his hand. Each article had magically been reduced to exactly 700 words but all the dazed author knew for certain was that there were fewer pages. Nevertheless, Clarconzoni’s smile beamed as he thanked the crafty editor and hastened out to the winding cobblestone street.

Later, over coffee with other local authors, Clarconzoni learned that they had been treated similarly. However, their complaints focused on the Associate Editor, II Signore Tiptoninni. Those complaining of Tiptoninni’s shoves into the famed closet agreed that all materials submitted to him in excess of 700 words eventually ended up either erotic or romantic, Italian Haiku. The angry group decided to confront Grattani.

The following morning the writers elbowed their way into Enzio’s office. The editor’s keen antennae sensed a problem immediately and he decided to seize the moment. He waved his paycheck, in the amount of 1,300 Euro over his head and complained loudly that Tingoni didn’t appreciate his many talents; that only the authors understood his contribution.

However, in the midst of this obvious filibuster, Clarconzoni lunged forward, grabbed Grattani by the shoulders, and shoved him into the closet. The silence was broken by the sound of the other authors’ congratulatory slaps on Clarconzoni’s back. Five minutes later, Grattani stumbled back into the room.

The editor was shaken, not stirred, by the situation. He resumed his ramble about his meager paycheck. Eventually, he stopped waving it around and brought in down near his chest, staring at it in amazement. It was no longer in the amount of 1,300 but a mere 700 Euro. Clearly, the ashen-faced Grattani had been hoisted by his own petard.

I might recount the repercussions that followed in that formerly placid writing community. However, my own word count is now exactly 916 and, as you may have already noticed, there’s a closet back there behind me!

(Ed. Note: By the writer’s own count, this particular article is well over 700 words, thus branding his accusations as utterly scurrilous. Legal action against him might be in the offing.)

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