Week 15 – The Boy in the Tower

by H D Thompson


I wake up most mornings in the nest I made myself by the fireplace because the wind was still too strong to sleep upstairs. I awake with soot on my face and on the pages of my book. Without even trying I am evolving into Danielle de Barbarac played by Drew Barrymore in the film Ever After: A Cinderella Story starring Drew Barrymore. Except in this version, I don’t end up with a prince I just get the title deed to the castle and a weekly wine delivery subscription.

The cats of the tiny fortress town lay about and reek of opulence and regality. I sweep past them and day by day they inch less away from me, eventually, I will be able to join them in their splendour.

Came across a very sick little Hedgehog I named Scrub and desperately tried to help her. She died in my arms on the way to the nearest vet (which was not in fact near at all) and I grieved and buried her in a field. I mourned my little friend I barely knew, which was a fair indicator that I needed to get out and speak to actual people more.

Walking through the Umbrian fields brings a true magic to it. I find myself enchanted every time an explosion of birds erupts from a tree. Turns out even the most mundane things are spellbinding when you have so little going on otherwise. When I find it too distracting I read on my walks, which I’m sure only makes me weirder to the locals. My life had become the opening number of Beauty and the Beast.

Usually trips to the store at this time of year means being assaulted by Michael Bublé, but here the only noise is the inane chatter of the local women before siesta. I can’t even begin to describe how much of an improvement it is.

To try and immerse myself in the land I’m in, I watched a bunch of classic films set in Italy. Such as La Dolce Vita, Cinema Paradiso, Stealing Beauty, and Kath and Kimberella. I don’t even need to mention Under the Tuscan Sun because I’m basically living it, only without Polish handymen and my Sandra Oh best friend.

There is a pigeon who flies to the tiny window near my bed and wakes me up in the morning with its very loud cooing. I named it Fred. That I seem to have more friends that are animals than people has not escaped me and really it only solidifies my growing fairytale princess aesthetic.

One night while drunk on very strong aniseed liquor and eating Nutella from the jar, I had the hilarious thought to smear the chocolate spread on my lips and kiss the bricks as a mark to leave. When I woke up the next morning I looked at my mark and immediately went to work scrubbing it off. It looked less like a Nutella kiss and more like I had somehow stamped my shitty arsehole on the wall, which is not something I want to be reflected in my Airbnb review.

I found out that Christmas time in Italy usually lasts three weeks, during which that time children go door-to-door reciting poems and singing. I don’t care how adorable they might be with their little language if they somehow storm my fortress I have the dungeon prepped and ready.

I was so immersed in the book I was reading while out on a walk, I fell in a ditch on the side of the road. The brambles were so prickly it took me a while to get back out. It was moments like those that I am glad the valley is so devoid of life.

Walked past the cats absolutely demolishing a pigeon. No longer desire their affection. Will keep distance.

One day I went crazy trying to find the source of a rotting stench that had taken over the tower. I was certain something had crawled in and died. After two Alanis albums worth of searching, I sat down to rest and found the source. It was a bowl of parmesan cheese that I had left out. I felt embarrassed and ashamed at my ignorance. I decided to leave it out so I could get used to it, I mean, it’s basically Italian potpourri.

The village below is filling with Christmas decorations. Holly is sprouting up like herpes on the brickwork. One night I went out to get a stick of salami and I could hear carolers. I pulled my hood on and made like the country formally known as Persia – I ran.

Toby and Tom left me with an incredible amount of booze, and it’s a real struggle to get through alone. Some are stronger than others, and before I know it I’m wasted, which I usually don’t notice until I get up to pee. One night after watching a bunch of Fellini films, I was inspired by the beautiful men of Italian cinema and thought it would be a good idea to shave a mustache on my face. I woke up the next day and genuinely shocked myself at my reflection, having completely forgotten I had done it. I have grown fond of it now because it makes me look more Italian and will hopefully endear me to the locals.

One day as I was out on a walk a lady called out, “Legna!”. I looked up from my book, but couldn’t see where she was. I hope she doesn’t think I was rude for not responding, but I do like that the name has stuck.

I decided that the people in the one café/bar are not very nice. The lady in the grocery store is lovely and we have broken chats and laugh at our language barrier, the man in the salami store always greets me with a smile, but the couple who run the café seem impervious to my foreign charm. I think they see me as a burden. They might be suspicious of me though, which is a fair assumption.

One morning as I was looking out my window as per my ritual, two ladies who were walking their dogs looked up at me and pointed. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but it felt nice to be noticed.

The locals are definitely a little suspicious of me. I thought being here longer they would simply get used to me, like a pebble in one’s shoe, but they seem to have just gotten more unsure of me. I say hello to whoever I pass, and they simply glare back at me. The older ones sometimes smile, but the younger villagers scowl in silence. I want to tell them that they aren’t even that special with their stupid little town with its impossible bus system and never ending church bells that don’t even mark any kind of actual time, but I don’t know enough Italian yet to do so. The best I could do is scream, “The boy ate the apple!”, which really wouldn’t help my case.

I have decided to stop putting up with the negative energy the townsfolk have been projecting at me. Going for a coffee at the café always felt uneasy and unfriendly and my attempts at sparking conversation were always rebuked, so I am not going anymore. They don’t deserve my tourist dollar, all they will get from me is my silhouette from my tower window as I glare at them and drink coffee I made myself bought from the lady who is nice to me.

I came across the cats in some kind of secret meeting. There was one on a rock that was jutting out from the wall, and the rest were all below looking up at it. When my presence was noticed they scattered as if I had caught them in the act of plotting something. Having ceased any attempts to befriend them after the pigeon butchering, I now worry that my indifference toward them has made me a target in their revolution. My only hope now is to lock myself in the tower and never leave. I may not have my freedom, but once the felines attack I will have my safety, which is more than I can say for the snotty villagers down below. Maybe I’ll construct a rope and pull up old mate in the corner shop. Or perhaps she is in cahoots with them, I mean, they are always hanging outside her shop. If anyone begs for help I will let them in because I am merciful and throw them in my dungeon because I am petty. The whole scenario is entirely unlikely, but it’s hard not to dream of revolutions when glaring out from a 14th-century tower window.