My friend Suzanne and I wrote a screenplay together. It hasn’t sold, and I don’t think it will, but that’s okay, because we’re thinking of turning it into a novel. Maybe the novel will be a huge hit and somebody will want to buy the movie rights, and voila. We will be able to hand it over.
Suzanne and I both are half Italian on our father’s side, and we’re both eastcoast-style Italian girls adrift in the Pacific Northwest. She’s a poet, and she also writes creative non-fiction (I would put up a review of her Body Toxic, but it would be all gushy and I couldn’t find a single objective negative thing to say, so I won’t). But what we’ve really got in common is this crazy Italian family background. We can talk for hours about her Uncle Vito and my Uncle Fred, about recipes for braciole and family mythologies. Her parents are still alive, and I love to hear about the phone calls with her father. My father died in 1985, and I still miss talking to him on the phone. Here’s an example of the way it went:
Me: How’s your budget looking this month?
Arturo: Good. Good. I got money put aside for the doctor and the electric’s paid and I also put fifty dollahs away for Mr. Lanius.
Me: Mr. Lanius? Who’s that?
Arturo (yelling, in case my hearing is going): Mr. Lanius! Mr. Lanius! You know!
Me: is that somebody who did some work around the house, or what?
Arturo (hiking up the volume yet again): What, are you nuts? Mr. Lanius! Odds and ends!
Me: Oh. Miscellaneous. I gotcha.
You think I invented it, but it’s true. At any rate, Suzanne and I decided to write this screenplay which has two possible titles: Nuns with Guns (my favorite) or Miracle at Malconvento. We worked really hard on it, and I still think it would make a great movie. Maybe it will one day. The idea for the plot came to me when I was in Italy in 1994, and I was thinking about what my father would have done with himself if he had actually moved back to Italy when he retired, as he was always threatening to do. My father was… an inventive individual. So I had this idea having to do with a scam and tourists and nuns and Nazis, and Suzanne had the perfect complementary set of ideas about an abandoned convent and food history (yes, food history) and priests, and so we wrote it. We read bits of it outloud to the Gang of Three (her people — including husband Bruce, the Man of Pain, my people, and the Thor-n-Penny crowd; this are my best and closest friends). They laughed when they were supposed to, but then I repeat: these are husbands and close friends.
This is the opening voice-over:
In 1922 my grandfather Luigi
Alfonso Ventimiglia left Italy and came to Chicago. He didn’t leave out of grief when he lost his wife. He didn’t leave to make a fortune. He left because of his son. Now, Pop was really still a boy in 1922…
The bus comes to a halt and the doors fold open. Luigi Alfonso and Arturo pick up their suitcases, and Luigi climbs up the stairs first.
AGOSTINA BEVESANGUE – late fifty-ish, tiny, thin as wire and dressed all in black like a nun — comes to the door of the bakery (the sign, peeling and faded, says Panetteria Bevesangue). She is carrying a large tray of rolls.
DOMINIC (V.O. cont’d)
…but he had pretty much already outstayed his welcome.
So there’s another thing on my to-do list, and another novel to write.