The Maiolica Jug by Rocío Prieto Rodríguez

Don Giordano is grinding the pestle very hard while he chants to himself.  Earthy and unwashed smells from the poppy seed and the valerian, mixed with the sweet headiness of honeysuckle, spurt from his mortar.  It’s so quiet, he loves it.

Donna Antigua comes into the apothecary shop.  They exchange pleasantries.  Donna Antigua enquiries about Lucio, Don Giordano’s son.

“Very well, very well.  Still in Peruggia.  Good apprenticeship there.  Much better than I could give him here…” Don Giordano gives a little shrug and a chuckle.

He gives Donna Antigua some St Gabriel’s Bread, “Always use scissors”, he says, “must never be cut with a knife”.

Donna Antigua pays him and leaves.

Don Giordano’s mind floats away for a second.  He breathes in the peace.  Donna Antigua’s words haven’t bothered him, not now.  He feels good about it now.

Lucio and Cara, so idle.  Apprenticeship, ha!  All Lucio wanted to learn was drinking, brawling and gambling.  His absences gave Cora permission to do nothing, “I’m not keeping house for a ghost”, she’d say.

The rare times when Lucio was in the house the shouting and the sound of shards being born from walls was endless.  Fiora, Don Giordano’s housekeeper, threatened to leave so many times!  The last straw was when her sunflower mould got smashed; Cora threw it at Lucio’s head.

With all the practice she’d had over the years her aim had become impeccable.  Lucio never got up again.  His face, still contorted with rage, was so pale lying there.  That nose of his that his mother used to call ‘noble’, you could hang your hat on that bump.

Fiora and Giordano took his body to the Ombrone, and at the stroke of midnight it splashed and sank in the water.

Cora was sleeping soundly.  Don Giordano to calm her down had given her three spoonfuls of valerian and poppy seed tincture.  Giordano listened for her breathing.  It suddenly stopped.

They dug a hole in the garden next to the ailing mandrake.  Now the mandrake is strong and healthy, all that bile from Cora’s body, just what it needed.

Don Giordano has a very fine powder now.  He puts it in a bowl and pours a little vinegar from his favourite jug.  He had it made specially and the likings are very good:  this side Cora’s face, that side Lucio’s face; the blue dragon in the middle spouting its fire.  The mixture is gloopy and starting to bubble.

Don Giordano looks at his jug: “Best place for them”, he says, “best place for them”.

About claire collison

Writer, photographer, creative facilitator, and breast cancer survivor, I am currently Artist in Residence at the Women's Art Library (WAL) My first novel was a finalist in the Dundee Book Prize, and my short stories and poetry have appeared in print and online. In 2015 I was awarded second place in the inaugural Resurgence Prize, the world's first eco poetry competition, judged by Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. This blog began as a space for words generated on my walking/writing workshops at the Mary Ward centre in Bloomsbury - Writing the City (WTC). WTC has since grown to include many other venues, including the Museum of Broken Relationships, the Barbican, the River Rom, Southwark Woods, Aylesbury Estate, and most recently, as part of Walking Women festival, An Intimate Tour of Breasts. I have worked with Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, as the recipient of the first Max Reinhardt Literacy Award, designing teaching resources; and for The Photographers' Gallery, helping school children develop visual literacy as part of 'Seeing More Things'. If you would like me to design a workshop or walk for you, please be in touch!
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