Altezza mezza bellezza

A Flash Fiction by Chiara Vascotto

“So, this boyfriend of yours…is he tall? Because…”.

“I know, grandad, altezza mezza bellezza”.

‘Height is beauty’ is one of grandad’s quirky mantras. He insists it’s a proverb, but I only ever heard it from him.

A year later, and I am at his funeral. He never got to meet my tall boyfriend, or to learn about the baby that was, and then wasn’t. The emptiness I feel is endless. Grandad lies in his good suit, his Partisan scarf carefully arranged round his neck.

In comes my father and, hooked on his arm, his wife. She’s clad in black lace, sobbing. A poor man’s Sofia Loren, who hardly knew him.  I look at what remains of this tall tribe, and I see no beauty, only loss.

Grandad’s last act of defiance was to dodge the religious rite; but there is no escaping the cemetery.

The pallbearers’ step on the gravel, their sombre rhythm suddenly halting. A ripple of hushed whispers and gasps: “it won’t fit”. If the casket had been made to measure, the hearse could not. Grandad will stand out, to the very end.

The men shuffle tentatively. They tilt, they crouch, their faces battling exertion and the need for composure. Trial, and error. Trial, and error. One more nudge, and the boot finally closes.

“He would have found it hilarious”, I want to say to dad, when he mumbles: “I’ll have the same problem, me”.

Altezza mezza bellezza. And a whole lot of trouble. 

Chiara Vascotto works in brand development and consumer research, and has a strong interest in creative writing. She hails from Italy, is a life-long student of dance and lives in London.

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