William A. Giovinazzo

I Libri Dei Desideri 

“I wish to die, not to live to see another dawn.” 

Although I was certain no one would ever read these words, I wrote them in my finest hand, big, cursive,  rolling letters. I then closed the book to wait for the inevitable, thinking of what brought me to this  place. 

My visit to that Venice bookshop now seems so long ago. That’s where my nightmare began. The tour  guide suggested since I love books, I visit the shop. Being the oldest in Venice, she thought I might find  something interesting, and I did. In the back, among stacks of books so old that their bindings barely  held them together, I found a small black notebook. Inside the front cover, in embossed letters, were  the words, I Libri Dei Desideri. Its parchment pages were so soft and clean it seemed newly made—a perfect journal to record our trip to Italy.  

I took the book to the front of the shop. The old woman who sat in a chair behind the counter struggled  to her feet, leaning heavily on her cane. “Quanto costo?” I said as I handed her the notebook. It was a  phrase our tour guide taught us.  

Tipping her head back, she stared down through her glasses that hung at the end of a hawkish nose to  examine the notebook. She smiled. “Siamo sorrele?” she asked. 

No capito,” I said, another phrase our tour guide taught us. 

Siamo sorrelle? Sei della stessa religione, la vecchie religione?”  

“I am sorry, I don’t understand. No ka-pee-toe” I said more loudly and slowly.  

“Ah,” she smiled a crooked toothless smile, then handed me back the notebook, “è un regalo per te. Vai.  Vai.” She gestured toward the door. I tried to argue, to pay for the book, but she kept pushing it back  into my hands, repeating herself: “vai, vai.”  

So, I left.  

The next day they took us back to Rome, where the tour ended. Why do vacations seem so slow in  coming and so quick in going? We were just a working-class couple from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, living  on a tight budget. It was the first time we had done anything other than work and save. As foolish as it  might have seemed, the trip was important. My husband Max had strayed, as they say. When we  decided to try to work things out, we saw this trip as the beginning of a new phase in our relationship, a  second honeymoon for round two of our marriage.  

Unfortunately, after getting up early, rushing to the airport, hurrying through customs, and anxiously  hunting for our gate, we were left waiting to board. A mechanical failure left us sitting in Rome’s airport  for hours and hours.  

“Dear Journal,” I began to write in my notebook, “we’re stuck here at the airport waiting for our flight. I  guess I shouldn’t be in too much of a hurry to get on the plane. I am not looking forward to being stuffed  into those economy seats. Oh, how I wish we could have flown first class. It looks so luxurious.” My stomach began to growl. I turned to Max as I got up, “I am going to try to find something to eat. Watch  my stuff.” 

Everything was so expensive; all I could find was a small bag of crackers that I knew I would end up  sharing with Max. When I plopped down next to him, I opened the notebook to find written in bold  capital letters; “IT SHALL BE AS YOU WISH.”  

“Very Funny,” I said, playfully hitting Max in the arm with the closed notebook.  “What are you talking about?” he asked, confused.  

“Don’t play innocent. What you wrote in my book.” I opened the notebook, but the pages were all  blank; even what I had written was gone. “But it was…” 

“Would Max Stowe and Adrian Stowe please report to Gate 18?” When I heard them calling us to the  gate, my heart sank. They were going to bump us from our flight I feared. I had heard of things like this  happening.  

“Max and Adrian Stowe?” the woman behind the counter asked as we approached. “We had to change  to a larger plane because of mechanical issues. Since first-class is larger, we are upgrading our  passengers who have status with the airlines.” 

“I am sorry,” Max said. “But I don’t know what you mean by status. My wife and I have never even flown  before. How could we have any kind of status?” 

“Well, the computer has upgraded you. You can argue with me and stay in coach or take the upgrade.”  She smiled, then added with a wink, “I suggest you take the upgrade.”  

The flight back was a wonderful experience. As we waited to take off, they served champagne and  passed out menus for our inflight meals. It seemed as if we ate and drank all the way home. Of course,  Max drank more than he should have, but he didn’t do anything embarrassing. He just fell asleep. I  stayed awake for the entire trip; I did not want to miss one moment of it.  

Everything was perfect, at least until we walked into our front door. A pipe had burst in the second-floor  bathroom. The first floor looked like a swimming pool. Much of the ceiling had collapsed, and the  drywall was anything but. It was an old house bought from an estate sale. The previous owner, an old  woman who had died without any family, did not maintain it well. We cleaned up what we could that  night and called Mike, a neighbor who was a contractor, the next day.  

“Well, with time and labor, I am thinking it will cost ya around ten grand, but that’s just an estimate. There’s a lot to be done here. New plumbing, flooring, drywall, painting. And to tell you the truth, I’d be  concerned about the wiring. That there’s an accident waiting to happen. I wish I could give you more of  a break, you being a neighbor and all, but I would charge anyone else twice that.” 

We stood around and talked a bit more. Mike asked about our trip, but the burst pipe dampened the  excitement of Italy. And yes, that pun was intended.  

As Jim showed Mike the way out, I opened my journal sitting on the counter. Remembering what had  happened at the airport, knowing it was a silly thing to do, I wrote; “Oh how I wish that we had the 

money to fix everything. To make everything right again.” I closed it and stood looking out the kitchen  window.  

“Cute,” I heard Max say as he came up behind me. As I turned, not understanding what he meant, he  handed me the open notebook. There beneath what I had written in the same block letters as before  were the words, “IT SHALL BE AS YOU WISH.” He looked at me and laughed. “Well, while you are waiting  for that book of yours to start spitting out money, I need to get some of this mess cleaned up.” 

He walked out of the room, then not more than ten minutes later, I heard him call in his best Rocky  imitation, “Hey, Adrian.” I wondered what could be the matter now. Before I could answer, he walked  back into the kitchen carrying a grey mettle strongbox. “Do you recognize this? I found it behind the  drywall.” 

“I have never seen it before. What do you think is in it?”  

“Only one way to find out.” He went into the garage, returning with a hammer and screwdriver. He  quickly opened it, and that was when the real shock came. There was twenty thousand dollars in that  box, all twenties and fifties.  

“I don’t like this, Adrian.” Then looking over at my notebook, he said, “This ain’t good. There is some  sort of witchcraft going on here.” 

“Witchcraft!” I said as I snatched the book, holding it protectively against my chest. “What foolishness.  We finally get a break, and you are worried about witches.” I turned and left the kitchen.  

The following weeks were happy ones, at least at first. Remembering the old saying to be careful what  you wished for, I’d make little wishes in my notebook, things I didn’t think anyone would notice. I’d like  to lose ten pounds or for Max’s arthritis to go away, but a few people made comments here and there.  

They noticed that things were finally going well for us. My notebook wasn’t like the monkey’s paw,  though, the old story where you would make a wish that would backfire on you. There were no  unforeseen penalties that went with my wishes. Everything was fine. Well, they were fine, at least for a  while. 

Then Max started to go back to his old ways. As the weeks went by, he started coming home late  without explanation. Whenever I tried to call him on his cell phone, it would go right to voice mail, but  when it rang while he was home with me, he would jump up like he had been shocked, not answering it  until he was in another room. Then one day, he came home smelling like a French whorehouse. When I  confronted him, he hemmed and hawed, not having much of an answer. I’ve seen him act like this  before.  

Then, one morning while he was in the shower, I snuck a peek at his cell phone to see what he was  trying to keep from me. Even though he kept it locked, his combination was easy enough to figure out,  his mother’s birthday, 07061945. I saw his text messages to Shelly Brennan, one of the women in the  office down at the plant. “Adrian has no idea what is going on. I’ll meet you at the usual place during  lunch. Can’t wait.” Sure enough, it was the same thing all over again.  

After he left for work that morning, kissing me goodbye with all sweetness and smiles, I rushed to my  nightstand and pulled out my notebook. At first, I was unsure. Then I thought of him making a fool of  me. Just when everything was going great, he had to mess it up. I wrote, “I want Jim dead. I want him to 

die in pain.” I closed the book and opened it again. This time the page was blank, so I wrote again, “I  want Jim dead. I want him to die in pain.” I waited again, this time a bit longer, and opened the book.  There they were, the words I had hoped to see, but scribbled in letters nearly faded; “IT SHALL BE AS YOU  WISH.” 

I was not surprised when I answered the door, and two policemen were standing there.  

“Adrian Stowe? Wife of Max Stowe?” one of the officers asked. I nodded. “Mam, I am sorry, but your  husband was killed in an accident. A gasoline tanker collided with his car and … well … the tanker  exploded, and he was trapped in his car.” Then, after a pause, “We are sorry for your loss, mam.” 

During the wake, friends and family gathered around to comfort me. Of course, I played the part of the  grieving newly made widow. Tears. Heavy Sighs. Moans. Even a hysterical outburst or two. They did not  know in my heart I felt victorious, avenged. Among the visitors was Shelly Brennan. She walked straight  up to me, as bold as anything, and handed me a small box. I was confused. I opened it to find a ring with  

a diamond that looked like a doorknob.  

“This is for you,” she said as tears rolled down her cheeks. “Jim bought this for you. He had been  working overtime for months to save the money. When he told me why he was working so much, I gave  him such a hug that he complained of smelling like my perfume for the rest of the day. I introduced him  to my cousin, the jeweler, who gave him a really good deal. He was supposed to get it from me at lunch the day of the accident.”


An award-winning author, William (Bill) Giovinazzo is a journalist, blogger, and public
speaker. In addition to his blog italianita.blog, he is also a regular contributor to La Gazzetta
Italiana. His passion is all things Italian, from its history to its literature, music, language,
and, of course, food. His most recent book, Italianità: The Essence of Being Italian and
Italian-American, explores the culture and history of Italians and Italian-Americans.