The basket of fresh, warm garlic bread sticks, mid-conversation over the construction of racial identity and art in the 21st Century, sat in the middle of a table-for-one around lunchtime at the Olive Garden in Columbus, Ohio.
“I think, Marcello De Laurentiis, that you have said all there is to say. I agree with you wholeheartedly. The young garlic bread sticks must look back to their rustic Italian heritage for inspiration and to the old masters for form.” said Paolo Pappalardo.
“What rustic Italian heritage?” retorted Bradino with a snort.
“Why, from your ancestors, of course.” said Paolo Pappalardo.
“Which ones?” said Bradino.
“The Italian ones!” said Paolo Pappalardo, feeling as though he were speaking to a strip of uncooked dough.
“What about the rest?” said Bradino.
“What rest?” said Marcello De Laurentiis.
“My Mexican, Irish and German ancestors,” Bradino answered honestly. “How can I go back to the ovens of Tuscany when their fingertips have never even graced my buttery crust? I have no personal connection with them at all…”
“I think you’ve missed the point entirely, Bradino.” interrupted Paolo Pappalardo.
“And I,” Giuseppe Farina, who had been brooding in anxiety-ridden immobility, joined in, “think he has hit the nail on the head. Is there really any reason at all that we must continue with this silly charade? I, for one, have no personal connection to Italy, other than in name alone.”
“I don’t mean that, I mean you should develop your own inherited spirit.” beamed Marcello De Laurentiis.
“You don’t have any fucking Tuscan spirit!” said Bradino. “We all come from the same batch. We were first mixed together by Kristin, kneaded by Juan Carlos, formed and first buttered by Friedrich, then twice and thrice buttered and salted by Allison. The only possible Italian-American that touched us was Marco Frazetti, and all he did was put us on the table. Besides, in the outside world, his name is Mark. He only tacked on the “o” to try to get a promotion to lunch hour assistant manager. I’m not Italian,” Bradino continued, “I’m an American and a perfect product of the mixing bowl.”
There was a stunned silence among the oven baked bread sticks. Paolo Pappalardo seemed to harden ever so slightly throughout the onslaught. He looked as though he might throw the first punch.
Suddenly, Giuseppe Farina was lifted with great force as if by the fingertips of the gods. His comrades tried to grab his hands, but to no avail. They watched on as his crisp, flakey feet approached the sharp abyss, munching and chomping at his toes. The blood curdling screams abruptly ended the group discussion, as they watched Giuseppe Farina’s meticulously goldened knees slowly disappear. There was nothing to talk about anymore, the inevitable existence of pain and nothingness swallowed their tongues. Giuseppe Farina’s once enviable neck separated from his head as the last guttural gasp left his bronze lips.
A delicate crumb drifted down towards the onlookers like the last leaf from a wintered tree, landing gracefully on Marcello De Laurentiis’s lap. He looked down to find a mangled index finger, the last remaining testament to Giuseppe Farina’s once promising life. Marcello De Laurentiis kissed it softly and held it in his warm garlicky hands. There was no more argument left in him, his beliefs would not hold up to the dark, unavoidable truth. As he ascended toward his slow, torturous death, he couldn’t help but hope for a quick, head first, guillotine-like decapitation. He squeezed Giuseppe Farina’s garbled index finger, for in the end, though he knew there was no point, he still did not want to lose the last buttery memento of his Tuscan brother.