Consider St. Lucy’s Solution

Excerpted from my novel, THE LAST CANNOLI, published by Legas in 1999.

Back when a prayer and a song and a hymn and a story were one and the same and when Sicily was still known as Zizily, the Siciliani celebrated the harvests of the three branches of life—the grape, olive, and wheat. For the grape harvest they mixed warm blood of the lamb with the first vintage of the season. For the olive picking, a live serpent was entwined around a branch to guard against bad fruit. And for the wheat harvest, the peasants danced the tarantella wearing blindfolds in honor of the great Santa Lucia. One of their favorite feast days was for Santa Lucia a woman with beauty of classic proportions. Her eyes were so beautiful they lit up the night when there was no moon.

Everyone knows that Saint Lucy gouged out her eyes to guard against a sin of impurity. But no one talks about how she had to first know impurity. We talk about how famine struck Siracusa and Saint Lucy of blind faith sent three crewless ships filled with wheat into port. We Sicilians prefer to chant the praises of the other hunger, of the stomach, satisfied every December 13 with la cuccía, the ceci beans cooked with whole wheat berries, swimming in warm milk, honey, and cinnamon.

Consider Saint Lucy’s solution. Had she only known Blue Moon.

As Saint Lucy of Siracusa, my patron saint of light and sight, in St. Mary’s All Saints’ Day play, I held my eyes in the palms of my hands. I closed my eyes so everyone thought they saw only the empty craters. I held my eyeballs two black olives in my hands and I heard the sounds of disgust. But I honored my namesake. I held my laugh.

I’ve feared in darkness like Saint Lucy. When we moved Rahway I had rabid nightmares. I was the oldest girl named for a woman of such courage, honor, and strength. I was ashamed to talk of the shadows. For I knew I had to be a model—a patron saint—for my younger brothers and sisters. Mario, my older brother, would have made fun of me. Our father taught him to make fun of his own fears.

I saw the shadows, big and menacing, coming toward me as I climbed the stairs to my room alone at night. I took some comfort in sharing my bed with my sisters, Rena and Maddelena. But their sleeping bodies were too still.

When I was told to fetch canned tomatoes in the cellar I saw the shadows and I imagined the figures coming out of the dark opening behind the staircase to grab me. When I passed the wall, where my father meted out punishment, I blessed myself hurriedly. Three times. I had whole nights where I slept not a wink. I heard the hangers in our clothes closet jingle. I shut my eyes tight, so I wouldn’t see what was going to come out of the closet and get me.

I considered Saint Lucy’s solution. If I couldn’t see it, it couldn’t get me—not sin, not demons, not my own desires, not my own fears. But then even without eyeballs I’d still hear the creaks and footfalls, the brushing of the shadows, the rustle, the static of the night moving about me. I pressed the pillow over my ears. Sometimes I thought the stealing figure was my father. He had had enough of us and the striving Father Herman told him was necessary to make ends meet. I was sure he was coming upstairs to do away with us, one by one, me first.

I tried everything: praying to God Himself, entreating Mary, my mother’s intermediary; I talked to Rena’s and Maddelena’s patron saints, to all the saints on our vanity and throughout our entire house—St. Jude, St. George, St. Anthony. And then after I asked everybody in heaven to save me from the horror in the dark that was going to rip out my heart, my eyes, my ears, and all my bones, I found my own solution.

Lou Cataline, one of Mom’s or Dad’s fourth or fifth cousins, died. Perhaps a blood tie, perhaps not. Lou had passed away suddenly from a heart attack. He was only 51, but my father said he died because he kept too much in and his wife let too much out—she was chiacherone, a chatterbox. That’s what really killed him, my father said.

It was a Friday night and Mario’s band, the SilkTones, was coming over for practice after supper. Mom and Dad rushed around so they could go to the wake and view the body at Cardoni’s Funeral Home in Peterstown. They were excited about getting out alone. Last time they took all nine of us kids to a viewing at Cardoni’s was for our Great Uncle Sal. Carmine had tried to touch the body and the babies, Maria and Teresa, both started wailing along with Aunt Marietta, trying to outdo her. Then Rena, who had stared at the black iron eagle over the red-velvet-papered doorway, began to scream that the eagle was trying to get her. My father’s sisters and aunts had to calm her down. So Mario and I would babysit.

It was my job to gather up my brothers and sisters so my father could tell a story before we ate. I called Mario in his room. He said he would come downstairs as soon as he finished a logarithm. I found Vinnie and Frankie out in the backyard where they were restricted for the whole summer. They had gone fishing at Squire Island Park and took the path back deep to where the brush was thick by the riverside, where the earth and water smelled so sweet in the summer, where Joe and I went to see the wild irises. Surely the big boys must have been there skinny dipping, swinging from the loose branch of an oak. Vinnie and Frankie had forgotten time and all manner of law and order that guided their life. The days had just begun to lengthen. It was about 8 p.m. when they noticed it was pretty dark. I wondered what could have happened—nobody ever forgot my father’s number one rule, to be home on time for supper. Vinnie and Frankie must have run home, the whole ten blocks together. They came through the door flushed, panting, and happy, as if the outdoors, their red cheeks, the tadpole in the bucket would redeem them from what they must have known would come next.

“Down the cellar,” my father said with the kind of quiet that comes before a storm. They had to stand against the wall. I couldn’t sleep. So, after midnight I tiptoed downstairs andbrought them coppacola sandwiches. I tripped over something at the bottom of the cellar stairs—it was the bucket with the tadpole. I heard it swish. Vinnie and Frankie were awake lying on a blanket, playing Knuckles with a deck of cards. They smelled like fish. They both had bloody knuckles. They had inflicted the only visible wounds on themselves with the deck of playing cards.

“Here’s your tadpole, too.” I handed them the half-formed creature. They giggled and could hardly contain themselves.

“Shhhh,” I said sternly, “You’ll get us all in trouble. Don’t be late anymore. Just be quiet and eat.”

“You sound like Nonnie,” said Frankie, “That’s all she knows how to say.” He gobbled down the sandwich and so did Vinnie. They fed some crumbs to the tadpole. I crept back to my room. I thought I glimpsed a shadow of someone for a second. But perhaps it was only Nonnie, praying in front of her votive candle.

Vinnie made the most of the restriction and transformed the yard into a stage where he performed for the younger kids. Appearing to cut his fingers off, he’d make them disappear and then magically reattach them, a trick that impressed the little children.

“How did you do that, Vinnie?” Rena asked.

“Tell us!” said Maria and Teresa. “Where’s the blood?”

“A true magician never ever explains his tricks,” Vinnie smiled.
“Do giant-midget,” begged Maria and Teresa.

Vinnie walked around on his wooden stilts that Carmine had made for him, with a long coat on. Then, with the coat on still, he slid around on his knees, stuck into shoes too big for him. He had salvaged the costumes from a bin in the cellar where my mother stored all the used clothing neighbors gave to us. Vinnie could enjoy himself entertaining the little kids all summer long like this. He taught them to dance. He always came up with new tricks and jokes for them. From behind a sheet or old bedspread hung over the clothesline he came on stage, announcing, “Ladies and Gentlemen and children of all ages, introducing the greatest show on earth and all of Creek Street, Amazing Vinnie!”

“C’mon Vinnie, wrap up the Greatest Show on Earth,” I yelled as soon as one of his acts was over. “C’mon Frankie, Rena, put on Maria’s and Teresa’s shoes and bring them in. Everybody into the parlor. Story time. Where’s Carmine and Maddelena?” Just as I asked I saw them off in a far corner of the yard by the Krause’s side. As I got closer to them I saw that Carmine had his strongbox of gadgets—magnets, magnifying glasses, and compasses.

“I can set your hair on fire with this,” Carmine said, shining the glass on Maddelena’s hair.

“Carmine. Cut that out!” I yelled, pulling his hand with the glass down. I sent Maddelena inside.

“Carmine, what the hell were you doing?”
“I’m telling you said a bad word, Lucy.”
“I said what did you think you were doing? Don’t sass me, young man.”

He looked up at me, his thick black-rimmed glasses sliding down his too-small nose.

“I’m trapping heat and light. What do you think I’m doing?”

“Well, if I catch you doing it again on someone’s hair I’ll beat you to a bloody pulp, you hear me? And then I’ll tell you-know-who and you’ll be taken you-know-where.”

He looked down and muttered, “What’s a bloody pope? a martyr or something, huh?” He stared at the long gangly contraption he had been assembling forever. It was made from old utensils and gadgets from our kitchen junk drawer and he had set it up on an old pastry board, so he could transport it without having to disassemble it.

“Carmine, what is this thing you’re making?”

“It’s a music trap.”

He had rigged grass, string, twisted scraps of paper to act as wicks for a flame sparked with his magnifying glass. The winds of fire would rock a little dollhouse-size metal pot of water. The water tumbled down into another basin. A ribbon of rope would pull on the knob of a Bunsen burner. The burner would heat water until it turned to steam and the steam would activate the crude music box, one that Carmine had ripped out of the bottom of an old liqueur bottle. The song was the The Anniversary Song.Carmine called this invention his music trap. It rarely worked, but it absorbed untold quantities of his energy, time, and concentration. And perhaps someday he would perfect it.

“C’mon, Carmine,” I said, “I don’t know why you think that music is something you trap. Inside on the double. Or else.”

Dad said Mom and I could be excused from the parlor where he told the stories to everyone else. We could keep an eye on the pizza dough as it rose and listen to him from the kitchen while we prepared the supper.

The most beautiful villages to grow on the island of Sicily were in the mountains, a couple hundred miles from the the Conca d’Oro, the golden hills outside of Palermo, in the Province called Agrigento.

Leaven is so fragile, yet so necessary, my mother explained to me. Without it all chaos reigns. Proofing the yeast for our pizza that night was as tricky as trying to harness chaos, because a thunderstorm was brewing. On the one hand, the storm winds might make the yeast lazy, my mother said. On the other hand, the steamy air could make it pazzo and overactive. My mother tested the temperature of the proofing water on the inside of her wrist, where she tested the milk for babies’ bottles. We added a little extra salt to the pile of flour, not just for flavor, but to inhibit runaway growth, my mother said. Salt was good discipline for the yeast. Salt helped the yeast balance itself between death and too much life. But the most important ingredient was faith. If all else failed, she said, all we had to do was believe in the yeast and it would rise up, like Lazarus from the dead. As we waited in silence for the dissolved cake of yeast to bubble and foam, we fanned ourselves and wiped our sweat. And listened.

Here in these two villages life was rooted in the land, its seasons and cycles of hot and cold. The men, women, and children knew lives of splendid health. Their hearts beat in time with the earth’s own heartbeat. For they ate what the land they stood upon offered. The earth pumped its very lifeblood through their veins and there was great fruitfulness for many, many years. Songs and prayers and wonderful stories and words of deep power fell from everybody’s lips. And everybody knew his or her place.

The yeast smelled like wine, so I knew it was growing and my faith was good. I said three aspirations to myself to Jesus and Mary for having said “hell” and losing my patience with Carmine. Mom chopped onions and fried them in olive oil, added the puree and seasonings, and stirred the pot with her long wooden spoon. The house smelled good even though it was like being inside a hot shower. I lined up the oil, oregano, and parmagiano on the counter. Mom grated the mozzarella. The dough took only 45 minutes to double in volume and droop over the bowl like a roll of soft flesh, my mother’s midriff after our last baby. I punched the dough down and kneaded it again. It took all my might and I perspired so, but I loved watching the dough shrink and swell like magic and grow into food enough to feed us all.

The men bent over the land and tilled it with their hands. The fragrance of manure stuck in their nostrils throughout the day. They stomped the grape for its sweet juice and fermented it in oak barrels that they built. They pressed the golden oil from the olive and used it for sustenance and healing. They brought farm to table and the family rejoiced in prayers that lasted a long moment through bowed heads each evening.

God was good.

The women toiled hard, too, between the gray stone walls. They peeled the pomodoro, the precious apple of gold. They strained its bitter seeds and mixed and pounded the pulp for hours in the sun until it was a rich blood-red paste. They took the ground wheat, the staff of life, mixed it with water and leavening and kneaded the dough with all their might. They raised the bread to heaven, blessed it with a few sacramental drops of olive oil. The women made sure the bread always remained right-side up. Upside-down bread was sacrilegious.

The men pinched the cheeks of the children to make sure they were well fed. The women said rosary every day.

Mom and I broke the dough in ten rounds and set them aside. We oiled the pans, ten of them, fifteen-by-eighteen inches, and stacked them up. I watched my mother stretch and pull the rounds of dough toward the four corners of the pan. I tried to do likewise, but Mom never broke the dough. I made holes and she had to show me how to patch them. I filled one pan to every three of hers. And hers were smooth and perfect.

“Get the cuppina, Lucy,” she said, “and ladle the sauce over the pies.” She sprinkled the Parmagian’ and the mozzarella, crumbled the oregano, and sprinkled the olive oil.

We were like the women of the Province of Agrigento. We knew our place. I was in charge of baking the pizzas and taking care of my brothers and sisters.

When the pies were cooked with their fat, thick crust, I cut them with Mom’s shears. Everyone brought chairs back into the kitchen, squeezed around our table, and we bowed our heads and said prayers. At last we ate. I cut two slices of pizza into little strips for Maria and Teresa. I removed the crust from Nonnie’s pizza altogether. Maria sat on my lap and Teresa sat in the high chair.

There was a brief period of calm as we ate and just as we were done a wind blew through the kitchen. We had two pies left over, enough for next morning’s breakfast. As my mother and father were trying to get out the door, Nonnie helped me clean

To get out the door or even to the next room, my mother had always to negotiate a maze of questions, baby feedings, bathing, and diaper changes. She had learned to meet her needs in the margins of others’ lives. She nursed Teresa, put her breast away briefly, then handed the baby to me. She took a quick shower. Standing in her slip in the torpor of the summer heat she remarked to Rena, “You’re buttoned all wrong. Come here.” She unbuttoned and re-buttoned Rena’s pajama tops to her bottoms. She took out half her rollers and Maddelena came by. A safety pin slid from my mother’s mouth. She secured a big fold in Maddelena’s second-hand pajama bottoms at the waist so they would stay up. She removed the rest of her rollers, then found a moment to be alone with herself in the bathroom mirror. But Frankie called to her. “Ma, I can’t get the TV to work.” He sat six inches from the black and white scramble of horizontal lines on the screen. Brushing her hair out, she yelled back, “Frankie, it hasn’t worked for two weeks and every night for two weeks one of you has sat in front of it and played with the buttons and knobs.”

“That’s because all week the Hunchback has been on Million Dollar Movie and all we can do is listen to the words. Can’t see the Quasimoto.”

“I gotta call a repair man,” she replied through lips held taut to apply her red lipstick. She dunked a dirty diaper in and out of the toilet with one hand, opening the diaper pail with the other.

“When?” pressed Frankie, making the now-vertical lines go even crazier.

“When your father draws his next paycheck.”

“That’s what you say about everything.”

She washed her hands and let Frankie, as she did everyone else, have the last word.

She called to me, “Lucy, come fix the back of my hair and spray it—it’ll never keep in this humidity.”

As I fixed her pageboy, our bathroom light flickered off and on quickly and hot flashes of lightning spilled in through the window. We could hear distant rumbles and rolls and the wind wildly rustling the top of the mulberry tree right outside our back door.

My mother whispered to my face in the mirror, “Wait until we’re gone to phone your boyfriend.” My father strolled by, fixing his tie knot. “Five minutes if you use the phone,” he said raising five outspread fingers. “That’s my orders. Don’t forget it.” My father could not understand talking to someone whose face and hands were hidden from his sight.

“Yes, Dad,” I answered. “I’ll try,” I said to myself.

At last my father and mother were dressed in black and all ready to walk out the door. They moved from room to room, making sure they kissed all nine of us. Dana had just come over to help me babysit. They hugged and kissed her, too, and told her to help herself to anything in the refrigerator. “Make her eat,” they told me.

Mario came out of his room and my father told him not to play his music too loud after 10 p.m. or Mrs. Lear would complain to the cops.

They found Nonnie, settled down in her room.

S’ benedica,” they said to her.

Sante,” she replied as she rocked in her chair.

My father lined up all nine of us and reminded the younger kids that Mario and I were in charge. He wanted no reports of squabbles.

“Yes, Dad,” they all answered.

My father was the salt that disciplined the yeast. As soon as he was gone, Vinnie put some old, scratchy 45s on the Hi-Fi. Frankie volunteered to feed Dana. He brought out a tray of still-warm pizza. He dug the screwdriver into the broken refrigerator door, then let the door swing back and bang into the kitchen cabinets. He pulled out cheese, roasted peppers, olives, leftover tomato salad, and meatballs.

“No meat!” I screamed at him, “Dana observes Friday fast with us.”

He started to fix himself a sandwich as if he hadn’t just eaten. “Frankie, you little porcetta, you ate more pizza than anyone else.”

“I’m hungry again,” he told me, dipping his cheese between a folded slice of sesame covered bread into the oil and vinegar of the tomato salad. He was dripping all over the floor.

Carmine opened a piece of Bazooka bubble gum and chewed fast and hard. He read the comic to Frankie and Rena between big chews. He filled a glass with scalding hot tap water and stood on the counter top to bring down the sugar bowl. When he was done chewing, he put the gum in the hot water, then rolled it in the sugar and passed the gum to Frankie, who chewed it until the sugar was gone, repeated the procedure and passed it to Rena. Rena passed it to Maddelena next and then it went back to Carmine. Vinnie asked to be included on the next round.

I should have scolded them for the mess they were making, but I was on the phone with Joe, counting the minutes between small talk. I wanted him to come over and join the party.

“Could have a room to ourselves?” he asked.


The doorbell rang. Mario, wearing his pink high roll shirt, tapered black pants and spit-shined black shoes, ran down from his room again to open the front door for Barry, Jack, and Tony. His slide ruler was still in his hand, beating his thigh. He only put down his slide ruler to play piano, the old black upright that was once my mother’s. It was just a month he’d been allowed to play again. He got caught last Christmas sneaking off to play at Greenwood Lake and he was punished by not being allowed to play his music for six months.

Twelve minutes had passed. Joe said he wouldn’t come over unless we could be alone. I told him it would be easier to thread a needle behind my back in the dark.

Dana held Teresa, her teething spittle softening a crust of pizza to a shapeless mass all over Dana’s shoulder. “Maria, you’re making a mess,” she said, patting her affectionately. “That one’s Teresa,” I said, covering the phone. Vinnie walked around on stilts in the parlor, where he knew he was not supposed to go, entertaining whoever walked by.

I spotted a couple of pomegranates in a bowl on top of the refrigerator and all the commotion made me think I should eat something, too. I held the phone between my head and shoulder and tore into a deep wine-colored one. The color indicated the sweetness of the nectar, my father said. Carmine, who was waiting for the bubble gum to come his way again, started in on the other pomegranates. Suddenly everybody wanted a Chinese apple, so we passed them around, each grabbing a packet of the ruby seeds. I tore my quadrant and handed the fruit’s tattered coat to my brothers and sisters.

I told Joe my time was up, and hung up. And I stood there with everyone else, crushing seeds against the roof of my mouth, relishing the sweet-tart nectar slithering down our gullets. Juicy red pulp squirts and dribbles decorated Maria’s and Teresa’s faces. Dislodged rubies lay on the floor or clung to kitchen cabinets or to children’s cheeks. Carmine shot his seeds from his mouth like pellets, machine-gun style at Frankie.

“Look at this mess, Madon,’” I screamed. I was about to grab Carmine by the collar when a bolt of deafening music shot through the house like an electrical current. Even Nonnie jumped out of her old withered skin.

Cosa?” I heard her shaky voice, shrill and pushed to its limit, and then her shuffling black shoes moving toward the bedroom door. Her unbraided head appeared from the dark. The jolt was from the cellar. Mario and his band had been setting up their instruments. Barry had hooked his electric bass guitar up to the amplifier and plucked a few runaway chords.

Va bene, no ti preoccupai, Nonnie, pensai a saluta.” I told her not to worry about anything but her own health. I only said that because I had heard my mother say it to her often.

Jack hit a roll on his drums, Tony blew the dust out of his sax, and Mario ran up and down the keys. They warmed up on Sunday Kind of Love and then Splish Splash. They played a honky tonk number. Dana gave Teresa to Carmine and showed Rena and Maddelena how to dance the jitterbug. Vinnie came down off his stilts and danced with her, too. We all tried to get Carmine to dance with Dana, but he was as stiff as a pastry board.

Maria and Teresa, started to get whiney. So I brought all the kids down the cellar and asked Mario if we could do Blue Moon.

“It’ll help me get the two babies to sleep, Mario,” I said.

“Okay,” Mario said, “Vinnie, Carmine, and Frankie sing ‘Blue, blue, blue, blue moon’ or the “dip de dip de dip de dip.’ Maddelena, Rena, Maria and Teresa do the ‘bom-boms.’ Dana and Lucy sing the ‘rama-dama ding dongs.’ I’ll sing low, Tony middle, and Barry high.”

We practiced parts, then Mario said, “A one and a two and a three, hit it!”A few seconds into the first try Mario stopped and said, “Whoa, wait a minute.”

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Who’s saying ‘new moon?'” asked Mario.

“Not me,” said Frankie, “Must’ve been Carmine or Vinnie.”

“Wasn’t me,” said Carmine, glaring at Frankie.

“Not me,” said Vinnie.

“OK, again from the top,” said Mario.

This time we sang a few more bars and Mario stopped again and yelled, “Vinnie!”

“What?” said Vinnie.

“It’s you. I heard you. It’s BLUE, not NEW. BLUE, BLUE, BLUE, for crying out loud. OK, again from the top.”

“E-nunciate,” said Frankie.

This time we all got it right. We all sang our parts right on time, even little Teresa got her bom-boms right. Nonnie came halfway down the cellar steps, sat down, and listened to us, a feeble smile lighting her wrinkled face. Just as we were about to go a second round, a fuse blew in the cellar and the lights and amp went out. We continued to sing in the dark with no accompaniment.

Mario, Barry, Tony, and Jack took a break and made sandwiches. Nonnie sat in the chair in her room again. Maddelena and Rena slipped under her long skirt and tickled her ankles until she cackled at them and they ran away giggling. I needed help.

“Carmine,” I begged, “please put Maria or Teresa in the crib. Vinnie, please rock the other one….I’ll let you stay up until Mom and Dad get home if you get her to sleep.”

We asked Mario if we could borrow some of his 45s to lull the babies.

“OK,” he said, “Just don’t get one fingerprint on them and watch how you handle them.” He brought out the case, spun the lock combination, and flipped open the lid. Vinnie and I chose the records from a list and Mario slipped them out of their sleeves carefully and placed them on the Hi-Fi stacker. Vinnie and I agreed on fourteen songs and the exact order in which we wanted them played. We started with Stagger Lee by Lloyd Price and Blue Moon by the Marcels and wound down with numbers like Daddy’s Home by Shep and the Limelites, Hushabye by the Mystics, and Gloria by the Passions.

Dana and I began to clean up the pomegranate seeds in the kitchen. I was consoled when I heard Maria’s soft coos as she dropped onto Vinnie’s shoulder. Carmine tried to quiet Teresa down. I told him to put her in her crib with a toy. He laid her in it and fixed the mobile that he had made for her so that she could hit it with her hands. Her night light was broken, so Carmine placed a table lamp with no shade on it near the crib. The light from below cast huge shadows on the ceiling.

Dana and I found pomegranate seeds everywhere, as well as oil and vinegar, stray crusts of pizza, and bubble gum stuck to the table. Frankie started to tease Rena, Rena punched him and ran away. Frankie chased her upstairs, downstairs and into the bathroom. Rena slammed the door shut just as Frankie was kicking it. His foot went right through the door. Amid this bedlam Vinnie was screaming at the top of his lungs for help. He was outdone only by Nonnie who was also screaming in a hoarse voice that the baby was burning, the baby was burning!

Vinnie had been rocking away to the music and had fallen over backwards, the post of the rocker going right through the cloth cover over the speaker and the needle skipping across Gloria.Mario would make us pay for that! When Carmine backed silently out of Teresa’s room, he had tripped over the wire and pulled the lamp right under the crib’s mattress. The bare bulb began to burn the rubber. Carmine, Dana, and I set Vinnie upright in the rocker, Maria sleeping soundly through the whole thing. Mario was already grabbing Teresa from her burning bed.

A thick mantle of bluish smoke rose up to the room’s ceiling. Teresa was still hitting her mobile when Mario picked her up.

“Poor baby, who tried to set you on fire.” We passed her out of the room. Then Mario, Dana, and I picked up the crib mattress and quickly heaved it through the window into the backyard. The rain would smother any more fire. We ran out back to make sure it was far enough away from the house. We all stood there silently, watching the mattress.As a bolt of lightning lit up the yard, I saw the rain dance on the burned spot. The smell was foul, worse than the stench of the nearby plastic and chemical factories on Linden Avenue.

I sat in my mother’s rocker with Teresa sleeping in my arms. Dread began to fill me. I went over in my head how to explain the holes to my parents. It had gotten too late and stormy for Barry, Tony, and Jack to leave. They fell asleep on the parlor floor, where it was cooler. I stepped over them and put Teresa in my parents’ bed. I climbed the stairs to my bedroom and listened for my parents’ return. I thought I heard them. My father said to my mother, “Let’s buy a fan.”

“Next time you draw a check,” replied my mother. They were stepping over sleeping bodies, hundreds of them, all over the bedroom floors and furniture. Some of the bodies were not Donitellas. It didn’t faze them. I jumped up and told them “Beware of the holes!” They told me not to worry, so long as the babies were still alive and kicking. They pinched their cheeks. They kept stepping over bodies, kissing the ones they knew.

Then I saw the shadows.

I lay my head on my pillow. As the shadows danced and teased me, I said my prayers. And then my part in the song rose to my lips and as peace came I wondered, Was it me or St. Lucy in the darkness, humming my part in Blue Moon?

Recipe for La Cuccia eaten on St. Lucy’s Feast Day.