72 comments

American Romance

“Carmine, you don’t have to help,” Rosemarie says. “You’ve done enough.”

“Where’s all the ladies from the Women’s Guild? Widows aren’t supposed to clean up after their own husbands’ funerals. Mannaggia!” Carmine shakes his head, shoving a final piece of coppia ferrarese into his mouth. 

“There’s been three funerals this week already. What’s one more?” she replies, tossing a handful of paper plates, greasy with olive oil from Linda Petrucci’s second-rate meat and ricotta cannelloni. Typical of Linda to use cheap ground beef when a ground pork combination would have made it so much better. “The Guild has been nothing but there for me during Sal’s illness. And I’m happy to keep busy. Who wants to go home to an empty house?”

“At least the priest should be here. Who’s gonna lock up?” 

“Father Cavetti is in the rectory. He’ll be back. I’m sure he must be exhausted.”

“Father Cavetti is raking it in. How much did he charge you?

“Father Cavetti doesn’t charge,” Rosemarie says, a little defensively. “I made a free-will offering for the funeral mass.”

“Hate to break it to you, Rosie, but buying a mass is not going to help Sal get in any place better than he’s in right now.”

Rosemarie ignores Carmine. Carmine starts folding up the chairs, neatly stacking them in the multipurpose room’s closet. She surveys the reception area. Not much more to do. Wash out the punchbowl. Wrap up the leftovers for the priests. Take out the trash.

“You want to take the shrimp conchiglie home?” Rosemarie upends the 9 x 13 tinfoil pan into a Tupperware container. “Looks like most of the shrimp have been pinched.” 

“Just toss it, Rosie. It should be against the law to save food from a buffet,” Carmine responds, wiping down the tables with a red-checkered dishcloth. “Just imagine the germs from all those people. Trough feeding like animals at the zoo.”

“I think most of them came to the funeral for Gina Zuccarello’s chicken parm,” she says, dumping the remains of the shrimp and pasta into the trash. 

“They sure didn’t come for Sal,” Carmine quips. Rosemarie laughs. It’s funny because it’s true. 

“You want coffee?”

“Is there any left?” Rosemarie asks. 

“I think so. Just sit. I’ll get you a cup,” Carmine says, busying himself with the task. Rosemarie sits in one of the two remaining folding chairs. 

He returns shortly with two cups in one hand and a small plate of cannoli.

“Ta da!”

Rosemarie smiles, picking a small cannoli and popping it into her mouth. “Thanks, Carmine. I don’t think in all our years of marriage that Sal brought me anything—except agita.”

“He was a bum, Rosie.”

She shrugs her shoulders.

“You were too good for him. Especially at the end,” Carmine mutters, looking at his coffee. 

“Well—what are you going to do. In sickness and in health, right? I made a vow.” 

“Yeah, he made vows, too. Broke every one of them,” Carmine spat the words bitterly. 

“That’s not my fault. People choose how to live their lives. I was his wife. C’mon Carmine, marriage is one of the holy sacraments. We learned that at CCD, remember? You sat next to me, reading comic books, instead of preparing for communion,” she lightly slaps his shoulder. “You just don’t promise God something and welsh on it,” she says, unconvincingly. The decades had been long.

“You can’t say ‘welsh on it,’ Rosie. That isn’t politically correct.” Carmine grins. Still a boyish scamp sixty years later.

“Good. Neither am I. And neither are you for that matter.” She helps herself to a second cannoli. They are small. Why not eat two?

They sit in companionable silence for a bit.

“Why did you marry Sal?” Carmine ventures, words clear and direct in the empty room.

“Because he asked me,” Rosemarie sighs. “His mother was a friend of my mother’s. It just seemed like the thing to do at the time.” She pauses, furrowing her brow. “I was young. Too young.”

“But I asked you, too,” Carmine says quietly.

“You were kidding,” she replies, pulling back to get a better look at Carmine. 

“I was serious.”

Ma, che sei grullo?! Are you crazy?”

“Probably. I was always crazy about you. Even when we were kids,” he explains, blushing. How do seventy-year-old men still blush? 

“So why’d you marry Giana?”

“I thought Giana would have made a good wife. And mother.” He looks back down at his coffee. “I was only half right.”

“No one saw her running off with Anthony. È terribile.

“I don’t think the kids ever forgave her,” Carmine whispered wistfully. “Especially the girls.”

“You do have beautiful daughters.” Rosemarie puts her left hand on his right knee, attempting to console him. 

She watches him blink back a few tears before clearing his throat. Carmine was always a softie. 

“I think they live upstate now. I don’t really keep in touch. Only Natalie, my youngest, tells me things from time to time,” Carmine says. “But at our age? Let bygones be bygones. I don’t hold any grudges.”

“Healthier that way,” Rosemarie agrees. 

“Besides, Rosie. Truth be told, I never really loved Giana. I mean, at first, it was all new and we had good times. She was a decent cook, and then the kids. But I don’t know . . .”

“What don’t you know, Carmine?”

“It was never easy. This? You and I talking? This is easy.” He sips his coffee. “I like doing things for you, bringing you things, making you laugh. With Giana, everything was always too hard. Like I had to walk on eggshells whenever I said something. Whatever I did—she’d find a way to criticize. In the end, she seemed to be offended at everything. I couldn’t even walk into the house right.”

Rosemarie nods. She folds her hands in her lap, stunned by what Carmine says. It has been exactly her own experience. With Sal, nothing ever came easy. Not even his death.

"Maybe that’s just marriage—or just marriages to the wrong people?" Carmine suggested. They both sat in the stillness. No words were needed.

“We should take out the trash on the way out,” Rosemarie finally says. They both stand, silently finishing the last touches on cleaning up together. 

“Can I walk you home, Rosie?” 

“Of course, Carmine. I would like that,” she replies. “One thing though—?”

“Yes?”

“Grab the rest of Sofia Berlusconi’s cannolis. They’re really to die for.” 




May 09, 2021 20:11

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72 comments

Virginia Rand
10:38 May 15, 2021

It's a quiet little story, but it brings you in. I got a little lost because I was unsure which culture it was happening in (Italian? Italian American?) until you mentioned the daughters moving upstate near the end.

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Deidra Lovegren
16:10 May 19, 2021

I was going for an Italian American, maybe Little Italy in Baltimore vibe.

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Virginia Rand
16:24 May 19, 2021

I think half the problem was because I'm from England. Italy proper is a lot more familiar so it's what came to mind.

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Deidra Lovegren
17:33 May 19, 2021

My family is from England, too. But like 400 years ago...we left because of the Puritans. And THEN they came here. They're STILL here... :)

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Aloe Plant
04:39 May 13, 2021

Can't say much besides this story was touching and sweet. Felt real, and not a lot of people can manage that. Amazing work as always!

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Deidra Lovegren
16:11 May 19, 2021

Thanks, Plant! Always nice to achieve verisimilitude.

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19:26 May 11, 2021

deidra, my latest story's quality is at critical condition. assistance, maybe? critiques? it's my very first beginning-part-to-a-series-type-thing, and, predictably, i despise it.

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Deidra Lovegren
16:09 May 19, 2021

Yikes. I just saw this. Sorry I missed the Batman signal! Let me know if I can help in the future. :))

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19:30 May 19, 2021

<3.

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Keya M.
15:48 May 10, 2021

I LOVE THIS STORY! I think the names are beautiful, and I love the Italian culture that you've mixed in! Fabulous, as always my friend!

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Deidra Lovegren
16:00 May 10, 2021

Not surprisingly, THIS STORY REALLY LOVES KEYA M. Now go have a nice bowl of pasta and watch "The Godfather," but only the 1st and 2nd ones. The 3rd movie should be thrown into a volcano.

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Keya M.
16:07 May 10, 2021

Music to my ears!

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13:12 May 10, 2021

ooh, lookit us, we're early-submittin' prompt twins!! this was a lovely story- great flow, realistic dialogue, and hilarious old-lady insults woven in throughout all upheld its old-school charm. putting in the italicized comments was a good call. great job.

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Deidra Lovegren
14:10 May 10, 2021

I guess the muses were busy last weekend! Old ladies have the best zingers. Old men just walk around and bump into things. Haha

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22:43 May 10, 2021

True that! My grandmother always has something snarky, witty, or quirky to say!

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Deidra Lovegren
00:24 May 11, 2021

I love her already

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00:27 May 11, 2021

Good to know. I might tell her that to calm her down because she's yelling at me right now! HELP! XD

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Deidra Lovegren
00:32 May 11, 2021

Just give her candy. Old people are all about sugar and ice cream and cookies.

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Cathryn V
23:42 May 09, 2021

Hi Deidra, A well-told, realistic snapshot of old friends at a wake. I like the way you've shown the ethnicity and culture in this short piece. The dialogue is realistic and easy. I wonder about the italics which seem to be Rosie's thoughts. But in two places it feels more like someone (narrator?) else. "The decades had been long" "How do seventy-year-old men still blush?" Small edits. I enjoyed this a lot! Thanks for writing.

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Deidra Lovegren
14:10 May 10, 2021

CV, you definitely had a point with the internal monologue. I tightened it up a bit. Hopefully it holds more true. Thank you so much for the editing commentary. Good catch :)

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Ruth Kurowski
19:57 May 19, 2021

What a fantastic story, so well-written. Completely blown away. I felt like I was in the room with Rosemarie and Carmine, and like I knew who they were! Thank you for sharing this :)

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Deidra Lovegren
20:26 May 19, 2021

Thanks for hanging out with Rosie & Carmine. Never too late for true love ❤️

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19:08 May 19, 2021

I absolutely loved this story. The dialogue is brilliant, so natural and flowing. The ending left me feeling very satisfied.

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Deidra Lovegren
19:11 May 19, 2021

Carmine and Rosie. Together at last 💕

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00:31 May 19, 2021

I felt like I was there with them, watching them clean up after the party, great job.

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Deidra Lovegren
16:12 May 19, 2021

Cleaning up after parties seems to be the best time to have deeper conversations, or at least make fun of people with a like-minded soul hahahaha

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Carmen Schaller
23:52 May 18, 2021

This story is beautiful. I love how it's not exactly an event with a huge climax, it's just people living (and dying, in Sal's case). Yet, it's super interesting to read. I try to write things like that but I'm pretty bad at making it interesting :/ While it makes me sad that both characters had dissatisfying marriages, I relished how truly they seemed to care for each other how easily they understood each other.

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Deidra Lovegren
16:13 May 19, 2021

Sometimes that is just enough: having someone somewhere at sometime actually understand the authentic you.

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Charlie Murphy
00:55 May 18, 2021

Great story and dialogue! It reads fast.

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Deidra Lovegren
00:57 May 18, 2021

Great compliment -- YAY -- I'll take that as a big win. Stories that I have to SLOG THROUGH to read and understand are exhausting.

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Charlie Murphy
01:05 May 18, 2021

I understand that. =] Can you read mine? The Path to Passive Teenage World Domination

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Alison Brewis
18:55 May 17, 2021

Love the idea- romance at a funeral! I thought the dialogue was good. You've put it in present tense which works well, and I think someone else mentioned the few places where you've slipped into past tense by mistake. Where you put "I think they live upstate now" at first I thought you meant his daughters because that's who Rosemarie just mentioned, but then I worked out you must mean Giana and Anthony. Maybe make this clearer.

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Angelina Jeong
18:10 May 17, 2021

What an amazing story :)

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Deidra Lovegren
16:14 May 19, 2021

Thanks, AJ :)

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Matthew Gonzalez
16:47 May 17, 2021

Like this story because of the bond between Rosie and Carmine. The strong the relationship between the two is.

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Deidra Lovegren
17:34 May 17, 2021

Strong bonds = communication That’s pretty much it

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Lilia May
13:20 May 17, 2021

Hahaha very sweet and emotional, I loved how comfortable they were with each other

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Deidra Lovegren
13:28 May 17, 2021

Thanks :) One of the advantages of getting older is that you can say whatever you want. You just don't care about keeping up pretenses and what others think of you. It's quite refreshing :) haha

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Sam Reeves
06:28 May 17, 2021

This story is so beautiful! You did such a good job on showing how far back their friendship runs and that it is easy for them to be around each other. I loved the Italian culture throughout and I loved the dialogue - so realistic, I could fully visualise the conversation. Loved it!

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Deidra Lovegren
13:27 May 17, 2021

Thanks, Sam. I love when old people fall in love. Something so life affirming :)

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Sam Reeves
15:57 May 17, 2021

Definitely! Especially if they've know each other for so long, it's like they were meant to be (if you believe in that, ofc)

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19:36 May 16, 2021

Deidra, I need the help of an old English teacher (that's you!). I am writing a story for one of this week's prompts and I find myself stuck on whether this sentence makes sense. Can you please help me? Sentence: "The sun planted soft kisses on their light brown skin and the moving air tossed their golden locks about in the wind." Does this make sense? I'm confused by my own writing. Anxiously, Ruthy_May

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Deidra Lovegren
20:28 May 16, 2021

How about: "The sun kissed their light brown skin, a warm zephyr tossing their golden locks about in the wind."

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22:25 May 16, 2021

Perfect! Thank you so much!

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22:26 May 16, 2021

Absolutely perfect! Thank you for teaching me a new word! Thank you so much!

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Deidra Lovegren
13:25 May 17, 2021

Whenever you need old English teacher advice, I am she. :)

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Arwen Dove
05:16 May 16, 2021

This is such an amazing story! You did such a great job of portraying the essence of the characters. Love it! :)

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Deidra Lovegren
16:14 May 19, 2021

Appreciate the kudos, Arwen. Onward and upward :)

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Arwen Dove
23:17 May 19, 2021

:)

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Phoenix Langston
21:20 May 15, 2021

Aw, man, now I really want Rosie and Carmine to get together! After everything they've been through, they could use some more companionable moments together. That was so sweet. And the bits of internal monologue really helped express Rosie's feelings, too. I'm not sure if you can edit this, but in a couple of places you switched to past tense. "Carmine spat the words bitterly," "whispered wistfully," and "Carmine suggested. They both sat in the stillness. No words were needed." Lavoro eccellente, Deidra!

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Deidra Lovegren
21:28 May 15, 2021

Aghhhhhhh Writing in present tense slays me!! Phoenix—you are the best. Of course these two end up together—eventually the universe recalibrates. Thanks ❤️ for the kind remarks

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Phoenix Langston
23:41 May 15, 2021

It's all right, Deidra, you'll get there one day. Everyone's got their weak spots. Aw, you're welcome! As for the universe getting it right -- better late than never, I suppose.

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15:29 May 15, 2021

This story was very well executed. I love how even though it was set at the end of a funeral you found a way to still make it such a sweet tale. Well done!

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Deidra Lovegren
15:42 May 15, 2021

Thanks Jacquelene -- always fun to write a quiet romance. :)

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