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Italian Lessons

he chanced to glance out his office window just a few minutes
before noon, Professor Giancarlo Rosa might have seen, off in the
distance, a solitary figure making its way across the near-deserted
campus of Rhode Island College. It was the last week of May;
commencement had already come and gone, and most of the faculty,
save those teaching a summer course, had vanished along with the
students. The few laggards who remained, Rosa among them, were busy
collecting their things, finishing up last minute paperwork, and
doing whatever other odds and ends that required completion before
staff members could escape to their own summer retreats. With no
immediate plans for his vacation, and nothing particularly urgent
on his agenda for the day, the professor of music was in no great
hurry, so at the moment he was sitting at his computer, perusing
the online edition of Il Centro, an Italian newspaper.
Behind him a recording of Clementi sonatinas played on a little CD
player atop the filing cabinet—or more precisely, atop a
stack of papers, manuscripts, books, and other paraphernalia that
teetered precariously atop the cabinet.

Absorbed in his reading as he was at the moment, the world outside
his window held little interest. Not that it would have mattered
even if he had just then taken a notion to look outdoors. Had he
caught a glimpse of the person off in the distance, a young man of
twenty-two years, most likely Rosa would have taken little note of
him. There was nothing out of the ordinary about the young
man’s appearance that would have caught his attention, no
immediate indication that his journey across campus was tending in
any definitive way toward the building in which Rosa sat, and
certainly nothing to convey any augury that his path and that of
the professor would very soon intersect.

For his part, the young man strode across the campus with an air of
great purpose, though with a slight but perceptible limp, the
lingering remnant of an unfortunate, though not terribly serious
mishap on the rugby field some weeks earlier. His ankle had been
unceremoniously stomped on while he lay defenseless on the ground
at the bottom of a ruck, a pile of players struggling to obtain
possession of the ball. The injury had not yet completely
healed—every step was a reminder of the incident—yet he
took little notice of it. He was in a hurry, and the small
discomfort was of little concern. Not completely certain of the
exact location of his ultimate destination—the building
housing the college’s music department—he paused as he
passed the soccer field and the track oval and glanced ahead at the
cluster of structures before him to get his bearings.

It was a warm, pleasant day with just the hint of a breeze
whispering across the grounds, nudging the light brown hair hanging
down over the young man’s brow. Above, the brilliant blue of
the noonday sky was all but unbroken save for a smattering of puffy
white clouds gathering on the horizon far away to the west. It was
the type of day best given to lounging beneath a shady tree, or
perhaps taking an excursion to the beach or some other form of
outdoor recreation, but the young man had more serious pursuits on
his mind. He oriented himself toward what he felt certain was the
appropriate building and continued on.

By the time he reached the side entrance to the building, ascended
the stairs to the third floor, and poked his head into the corridor
to ascertain whether he had come to the right place, Rosa had
already turned away from his computer. He was not standing at his
desk, collecting into stacks the various papers and notebooks he
intended to take with him. Two of these he gathered into his hands
and dropped them into a cardboard box destined for the backseat of
his car. Taking the box into his arms, he turned and walked
headlong out of his office door just as the young man, who had
followed the lively strains of the piano music down the corridor,
was about to walk in. Only the agility of the other man, who
managed to twist himself to the side at the last moment, saved the
two from colliding.

Taking little notice of the newcomer now pressed against the wall,
Rosa  murmured a perfunctory apology as he squeezed by,
consolidated his grip on the box, and started on his way down the

“Professor Rosa?”

Rosa stopped and turned around, wondering if perhaps he had
inadvertently ignored a student from the semester just passed. His
students occasionally stopped by his office for one reason or
another before heading home for the summer—though usually
well before this late date—but he realized that he
wasn’t one of them. Dressed as he was in shorts and sneakers
and an oversized polo shirt bearing the insignia of some club or
team, he looked like any other student Rosa might have encountered
on campus, but his face was unfamiliar. He was a sturdy sort, Rosa
noted, with a thick neck and rugged shoulders. An athlete no doubt,
but there were many on campus, and Rosa paid little attention to

“Yes?” he finally said, eyeing the young man

“Excuse me, you don’t know me, Professor Rosa,”
he said in a respectful, but urgent voice, “but my name is
Carter Quinn. I was wondering, that is, if you had just a minute,
if I could talk to you.”

“Well, Carter, Carter Quinn, you’ve already started
talking,” Rosa noted with a bit of acerbity that his foreign
accent had a way of accentuating, “so I suppose whether or
not I have a minute is now a moot point.”

“Actually,” he said with a sheepish smile,
“it’s just Carter Quinn. You know, one Carter, not

“You should learn to speak more precisely.”

“Well, in a way, that’s why I’m

“Really?” said Rosa. “And how might that

“I want to learn to speak Italian.”

“You’re in the wrong place,” Rosa told him.
“This is the music department. The foreign language
department is in the next building over.”

“Actually, I already called them this morning,” said
Carter. “They’re not offering any introductory classes
this summer. But the woman I spoke with—I think her name was
Patricia—she said I should try getting in touch with you
before you left for the summer. She told me that you come from
Italy and that sometimes you give private Italian lessons, so I
took a chance I’d find you here. I would have called first,
but she said not to bother because you almost never check your
voice mail.”

“Hmm,” Rosa grunted. “That sounds just like

“Then it’s true, you do give lessons,” said

“Yes, sometimes I give lessons,” Rosa admitted,
somewhat impatiently. “Sometimes, but not always—and
not just to any stranger who walks through the door, I’m

“I never really made it through the door,” Carter
observed. “Does that help?”

“Not really,” Rosa replied. “Forgive me, my
friend, but I don’t think I’ll be giving any lessons
this summer. If you look around, perhaps in the yellow pages,
I’m sure you’ll be able to find someone who can help
you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m a little busy at the

With that the professor turned and continued on his way down the
corridor to the stairwell and out to his car.

Italian Lessons
by by Peter Pezzelli

  • Genres: Fiction
  • paperback: 346 pages
  • Publisher: Kensington
  • ISBN-10: 0758220502
  • ISBN-13: 9780758220509