It was a winter evening and at the Manin restaurant business was good as usual. In a separate room was taking place a convention of a small group industrialist from Mestre, while the main area of the Manin was reserved for the usual group of German officers that used to patronize the restaurant.
A dozen of those officers were enjoying drinking Sligowich, high alcoholic prunes liquor, and they were getting noisier as they got drunker.
Those voices were an alarming bell for the industrialist that decided to close earlier their meeting and live behind the Germans alone in the restaurant. They swiftly and silently disappeared into the fog rising from Canal Grande.
A young SS Captain was the most affected from the intoxicating spirit and soon became offensive toward the Italian Army and the way they abandoned the front turning their backs on their German allies.
“Those fucking Italians are all traitors. The bastards need a lesson. We will hang them from the trees in the park, so other will see and learn.” He was saying to his comrades.
“Right Franz” retorted another German, “Italians are the worse soldiers in the world. They are traitors by nature. They have turned against us and now the roads taking to Germany aren’t any longer safe. Those Italian cowards are ambushing our convoys, shoot a few bullets, kill a couple of our soldiers, and that’s it. They don’t fight against us. They hide in the forest nearby and disappear.”
And a third German concluded, “You’re right Franz. Those traitors need a lesson.”
Franz felt patriotic with a mission. He tried to sing, but his notes were out of tune. Then he proclaimed, “The Reich will win; death to our enemies. Come on fellows, let’s sing a patriotic march.”
He rose from his seat. He had divaricated legs to maintain equilibrium over his drunkenness. The Mauser was suddenly in his hand and pointed the gun in Marco direction, and slurred, “You idiot, make music… Play our hymns so we can sing.”
Marco busied into a pile of music sheets, trying to gain some precious time.
“Have you heard me, idiot. Play the hymns…is a command, capito…or else… Boom-boom and you’re kaput!”
“Me non capito, General… musica? Waltzes, Mazurkas?”
Franz, the German captain, was furious in his drunkenness. The other officers were echoing back supporting the captain. He became infuriated and dangerous.
Marco in the meantime looked through his music, and turned his back to the mad officer. Then, with a smile spoke to the Captain.
“Si, General. Molta musica. No German war song, No Lili Marlen. Italian opera. Si Verdi, Il Nabucco a war Hymn, it’s ok?”
Marco without waiting any answer sat at the piano, concentrated for a second, then the imperious notes of the Nabucco erupted. In hid modulated baritone voice he sang,
“O mia Patria si bella e perduta…( Oh my beautiful Country and lost…)
Marco couldn’t go further. The German was furious, blinded by a bitter furor for such offense, and retorted, “Stupid musician, how dare you?”
Then he mumbled out in his drunkenness, “I’ll teach you a lesson…”
He raised the Mauser in his hand and without any other warning shoot three times.
The bullets entered Marco’s nape and exited above his eyes. His blood was mixed with the soft grey brain tissue that plastered his face. He collapsed over the piano keyboard and life left him for ever.
(N.B. The Nabucco’s Hymn was sung by the Italian patriotic insurgents during the last war of independence from the Austrian Empire.)
Marco’s funeral was a very private affair with only the few working at the Manin attending in the early morning function at San Michele’s, the city cemetery.
Annemarie had covered her head with a black shawl. Her beautiful green eyes were puffed by the constant crying of the past two days and couldn’t find relieve to her pain. Gilberto supported her in this moment of distress, even though for him it was also a great loss. Over the last few years together they had grown very fond of each other.
Two days after the funeral, Gilberto returned to the restaurant with a small vial containing a clear liquid and was locking it away in his desk.
Annemarie saw him and asked, “What you have there so important to lock away?”
“It’s something I’ll use in emergency. If something happens to me, I don’t want to be butchered up as poor Marco. I want to die with dignity. Drinking it within thirty seconds my heart will stop.”
“Annemarie eyes welled to the thought, and sorrowfully answered, “I can understand. I don’t blame you, Gilberto.”
End Part 5