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The Big Chicken

Last night the ‘after dinner walk’ wound up at the outdoor café. It is a summertime place where all generations meet. They stay up late playing games, dancing, gossiping. It’s a beautiful thing to see, but I had early rising on the brain?. places to go and people to paint.

Making my way home I passes by the “tobacorria.” This is the other “bar”, the one where the old men play cards. It is also where the entire town gets their coffee, cigarettes, magazines, etc. Really, the social heartbeat of the Monte Castello DiVibio. As I rounded the corner I saw two of ‘us’. One, pleasantly inebriated, the other attempting to steer her home. “I can’t talk to him Kelly, can you help?”, she said motioning to Peitro.

I was able to get out enough Italian to great Jon Marrion and Pietro. I asked Pietro if he would sit for me ? 30 minutes in the square tomorrow was all it would take. In English he asked “why?” In Italian I answered, ?because you have a beautiful face.’ Closing in on 80, he was perfect. We made a date ? 5pm in the square. I headed home and let the ladies fend for themselves.

I woke up this morning so excited. I slept well, it looked like rain ? the first cool day ? and I had a painting date with Peter ? the type of quick practice I really need. The day egged on and the skies opened up. We had fierce rains, the kind I love to smell. I breathed deep, and the fear licked at my brain. I breathed deep again. It didn’t go away. Instead it intensified. I accepted the inconvenience of rain as a nuisance. Still, I carried an easel to the square. On my way, the skies opened up again. “Bad idea” my brain blurted. “Use it! Use the rain as a perfectly justifiable reason to mask your coweredness” some bad internal voice cried. I didn’t fight it. “Why yes, of course, painting outside in this weather is unthinkable”, I consciously concurred. It looked like it might clear, but I carried the easel away anyway.

I showed up at 5. Many of the men were inside playing cards, although the rain had subsided. The outdoor furniture was still puddled and wet. Peter was not there, but it was obvious that the others knew I was coming, and that Peter would be arriving soon. I think I broke a sweat. I explained to the proprietor that the weather was awful and perhaps tomorrow. I rushed to the studio anxious to get out of the spotlight. I tried hard to gather my wits. “Just sketch, yes, that will work, that is reasonable,” I told myself, “and not nearly as much pressure.”

Walking back to the bar I saw Peter ahead. Cane, step, cane, step. I was just behind him, sketching tools and cowardly self in tow. “Pietro?” I called. No answer, I walked a bit faster. Catching up to him, he turned and looked. “Ah, three hours I sleep, but I am here for you, I am here for you.” Agh!… what a lameooo I am right now? “But the rain Pietro, such bad weather”? we walked together. Step/ cane/ me wishing I could blurt out all of my fears so that he could understand them/ step/ cane. I wanted to invite him to my second floor studio where I could paint him out of the weather and public view, but his cane and my Italian stood in the way. “But, I am hear for you” was all I could hear.

We arrived at the door of the bar together. I’m not sure what the conversation was. Some talk about tomorrow and bad weather. I think he was genuinely disappointed. And I was genuinely? uncomfortable, at a loss, desperately wanting to speak Italian, sorry for the rain ? and blessing it all at the same time.

I sat in the bar and sketched for a little while. Soon I flung on my backpack, thanked Peter, and headed to the convent. “But why, look, occhiatta, blue sky is coming” Jon Morrino said. “It will be good.” I pulled out my dictionary and pointed to the word “afraid” coupled with a motion to indicate the many eyes in the square. Together we nodded. He got it. I got it. I went home.

Tomorrow I will drag Jody to the bar with me for morning coffee. She will translate the situation ? and hopefully I will have another chance. Still, the idea of painting in front of all of them, and wanting so badly to capture the gist of the gent sitting in front of me, is almost enough to make my chest heavy. It is so much what I want to do ? and so much the thing I am most terrified of.


5 Responses to The Big Chicken

Kelly dearest…..If, as a Senior, you were able to paint on stage at Immaculata High School with the whole auditorium looking on and managed to look so cool and calm, you WILL be able to paint Pietro in front of his cronies. Won’t he have a lot to brag about over his next game of cards. Aunt Mary

Posted by Mary Ellen Jenkins · via · 139 months ago

You are not a chicken – you are totally inspiring! You go girl, as they say =) Following you every day. Keep it up and have that time of your life.

Posted by nancy atherton cheadle · via · 139 months ago

Dear Kelly, your artcle brought back so many memories.10 years ago I made the same decision and took a leap of faith and went off to Todi with a new paint box . The results were as a domino effectand everything changed.became an oil painter from watercolourist and retired from a potter to paint full time in oil .Yes I know Montecastello di Vibo and please say hello to Jody.There are so many stories to tell and not enough space. An old man was interviewed on tv 25 yrs ago and asked if he had any regrets. yes he said , the road not taken. I try to remember that when making excuses to why I can’t to I will.Tell Jody to call me when she gets home.
Katherine Ernst

Posted by katherine Ernst · via · 139 months ago

I wouldn’t want to sit and sketch or paint in the rain. But as soon as the weather permits, JUST DO IT.
I was recently in a similar circumstance, my DH wanted me to sketch two of his young adult relatives. They don’t know me very well and vice versa, so of course, my hand was shaky. Neither was a good model, although the young woman improved over time. When all was done, I did not capture either of them very well. But to my surprise, THEY were impressed. SO JUST DO IT… You know you can..

Posted by mimi torchia boothby watercolors · via · 139 months ago

Today’s the day. Thanks for the encouragement.

Kathrine, Jody says “Katherine Ernst – ahhh, that’s great!” Cioa

Posted by kelly · via · 138 months ago


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