Communion: A Short Story

the cover that the author references in the first parargraph

the cover that the author references in the first parargraph

Acile Zidane is an 11th grader in the HGM and a student in Ms. Underwood’s AP Language class. She entered her following story in the Beverly Hills Literary Society essay writing contest and was the first runner up.


                     My mother gave it to me, annotated from her college days.

                    Marcovaldo’s scuffed white cover is a cozy welcome, akin to the warmth behind the weathered skin of my mother’s hands, or to the drift of spring airs through the dull city that Italo Calvino paints. It is in such hidden comforts that poor laborer Marcovaldo is introduced. With little more than his wife and children, Marcovaldo must devise odd antics to nab whatever scraps of nature, luxury, and excitement are left to savor in industrial Italy. Though his antics draw trouble, there is laughter found along the way, fleeting moments of prosperity and family bonds that stick – simple novelties that feed the joys of life.

                   In Calvino’s words, I hear my mother’s tales of sewing sweaters and crafting trinkets to cobble together a living; the coarse whispers of ‘poverty’ become distant, buried sands; it is an impossibly quiet and rich ‘simplicity’. The laughter and dinners and family. No words could taste more of honey than these; warmth weighs heavy on my palms – uncalloused, unused – on my eyelids, and I think that the ache of these communions was always meant to be in my throat, it was always meant to feel more tangible on my tongue than the croak of my heartbeat through delicate wrists.

                 Bittersweet: there is a wall of alienation between our tales. I have grown up with the comforts that cost my mother and her family decades of labor. I will never grasp the camaraderie built from toiling in hot summers together, never feel the strain of trudging uphill for clean water, never understand what it is like to build up from nothing but family support – I am disconnected. Uncalloused, unused, my hands only grasp empty imaginations

                Yet, in the words of Calvino, I have found a connection. Marcovaldo draws me into the world of impoverished living, and though I may never ache with labor, I feel the quiet and rich simplicity in the stories of mushroom-picking and bird-hunting and city-exploring, stories between parents, spouses, children, siblings – I understand the warmth of laughter and dinners and family in the determination to live on. His words chip away at the wall.

              Life shifts, rumbling onwards, but the world of Marcovaldo stays rooted alongside that of my mother; it has taught me how to shape the ache in my throat into words and actions, and as I read on, I find more pieces of myself and those I love.

             I make planters with my mother and tell her I want to learn how to sew – together, we build our own simple communions.