This is a little piece I did as an exercise during the Creative Writing workshop I attended on the weekend. The only information given was that ‘Liguri was questioning someone’. From that we had to create a short scene that obeyed some of the principles we had been discussing, especially creating a sense of place, embodiment of the key character, and staying in the same voice. This is the first ever try I have had at writing fiction, so I am a bit overwhelmed by the challenges that had never occurred to me.
I chose to speak in the third person about a young Italian woman living with her family on a farm in Tuscany, near the end of the war. The last year has been particularly dangerous and difficult.
Captain Liguri, Carabinieri and the local fascist leader, spoke quietly, smiling slightly. “Sit down Francesca, no harm will come to you if you answer truthfully.” The kitchen was warm, the wood stove heating a rabbit stew that smelt richly of local herbs. Oil lamps flickered, revealing Liguri, Francesca, Mario, his wife Concita, and Antonio their eldest son. All but Liguri were thin-lipped and visibly tense, especially Antonio, who was gripping the back of a chair like a weapon.
‘Francesca, we know you found a dead person. Why did you not make a report?’ For more than a week, Francesca had dreaded this; that she had been seen that night when she found a body near the orchard. But Liguri’s false smile triggered memories of the fascists and the SS in Chiusi, laughing while they rounded up suspected partisans and Jews. After months of saying almost nothing, determined to be invisible, a quiet rage was surfacing. She sat up and looked directly at Liguri. ‘There are many bodies around here Captain. Germans, partisans, innocent local people, even a child last week. Which one do you mean?’
Liguri laughed; perhaps he liked a woman with spirit. ‘My dear, you know I mean
Guiseppe, who was a worker here until recently, and suspected to be a partisan. We have identified him, and we are wondering if you might know why someone smashed his head with a rock and hid his body in that ditch. I mean, we could just say good riddance, but I dislike loose ends. Is it true that he fought with Antonio here about a local girl?’
Francesca laughed back; she was giddy with anger now, with all these men who seem to want nothing but the chance to be violent. ‘Antonio? You must be joking Captain. If Guiseppe had a rival in love he’s not here.’
Liguri turned to Antonio, quiet smile still in place. ‘I’m sure I can get the truth out of Francesca, if I take her to Chiusi. Is that what you want?’
Francesca felt her gut twist. For a few seconds, it seemed no-one breathed. Then pandemonium, as Antonio hurled the chair at Liguri and ran for the door. Liguri drew his pistol and got off one shot as Antonio disappeared into the night. Liguri turned to the others, asking them to get back in their seats, but found himself looking into the barrels of Mario’s ancient shotgun. ‘Don’t be silly old man; give me that gun now.’ But Francesca knew Mario better; no-one could threaten his daughter and try to kill his son and get away with it. Liguri’s smile was erased in a huge blast that threw him against the wall.
In the long stillness that followed, Francesca saw anger, and something new, pride, in Mario’s face. He turned to his family. ‘Today I found out the Americans are only three days away. We will clean up this mess and hide the body. Chiusi is in chaos. I think we will be safe. Now go to see if Antonio is injured.’
As she hurried up the dark road after her brother, for the first time in many months Francesca began to sob. Cracking open with wracking sobs. Maybe this was how hope felt.