In Maremma

In Maremma by David Leavitt Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: In Maremma by David Leavitt Read Free Book Online
Authors: David Leavitt
agree. They must agree.”
    Here the language teacher entered the fray, assuring the examiner that DL was not lying: Pittsburgh really was a city in Pennsylvania. He went on to explain, with the remarkable calm of a teacher, that in America, the state of birth is always given on passports, just as in Italy the city of birth is given. No doubt the doctor put down the city in order to remain in accordance with Italian rules.
    â€œBut they don’t agree,” the examiner repeated. “The documents must agree.”
    â€œPittsburgh is the second largest city in Pennsylvania;” DL threw in hopefully.
    It was no use. The examiner was intractable. DL was ordered out and told to make a new appointment.
    When he told MM what had happened, MM looked at his own documents, and discovered the same discrepancy: his medical certificate said that he had been born in Biloxi, while his passport said that he had been born in Mississippi.
    We went to Bruno’s office. He was as implacable as the examiner was intractable. First he looked at the medical forms. Then he looked at the passports. “Well, the examiner was right,” he said after a moment. “This is the doctor’s fault. The documents must agree.”
    We thought about it. We grew calmer. Of course the
documents must agree, we acknowledged. There was no reason to be angry with the examiner. He had ragione. He was just doing his job.
    Only hours later, once we were back at Podere Fiume, did we realize what really happened that morning: for a few moments we thought like Italians.

    Six weeks later, we returned to the Motorizzazione and this time actually took the test. MM went first, along with an Arab and an Albanian. For forty-five minutes, DL watched through an open door while the candidates sat hunched across the desk from the examiner, who made diagrams with his hands in the air. Not a word could be heard, though if one watched carefully one could see, intermittently, that MM was laughing.
    â€œDid you pass?” DL asked anxiously, when the three men emerged.
    â€œSono promosso” (“I am promoted”), he said.
    It was now DL’s turn. While he and two other candidates—both Romanian—responded to questions in the trapezoid-shaped room, MM answered the questions of those who had yet to be tested. Tension fostered an atmosphere of intimacy. For a time MM, the Tunisian woman who worked at the Saudi Arabian embassy, and the elegant lady from Bangladesh formed a little community. Worriedly they listened while he told them what had been asked (why is it dangerous to drive quickly on a curve?) and what had not (nothing about precedenza; a sigh of collective relief). A quarter of an hour passed. All at once one of the Romanians came flying out of the room, as if he had quite literally been ejected.
“Ha bocciato,” a driving teacher murmured darkly.
    â€œIt’s the second time, too,” said another.
    Half an hour after that, his countryman stormed out. He too had failed. DL was now alone with the examiner. Another quarter of an hour passed—by now the women were beside themselves—when at last he came out.
    â€œ Anch’io sono promosso,” he said—which meant only that he too had won the right to take another test.

    A few days later, we were talking with Pina and Giampaolo, who ran our favorite restaurant in Maremma—Il Mulino in Semproniano—about the driving test. “Why do they make it so hard to pass?” we asked.
    â€œIt goes back to Fascism;” Giampaolo said. “In those days, the state was sadistic. The idea was to make private life as difficult as possible, to discourage independent thinking.”
    â€œAnd to encourage corruption,” Pina added. “Bribery. This way, people who worked for the state could make extra money.”
    The Fascist attitude also led to the invention of a whole industry: the industry of the agente.
    How odd that we were having

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