corner image   The Cafe Irreal: International Imagination 

Issue Twenty-Five

3 Short Short Stories by Alex Epstein
Planet by Matt Everett
Trolley Number 75 by Gianni Rodari
More from Pieces for Small Orchestra by Norman Lock
5 stories/150 words by R.E. Hartman
Cats & Fish, & Because We Are Precious & Brave by Kuzhali Manickavel
Our Cunning Enemy by Kenneth Losey


Trolley Number 75

by Gianni Rodari

One morning trolley number 75, departing from Monteverde Vecchio for Piazza Fiume, instead of going down towards Trastavere through Gianicolo, turned onto L'Aurelia Antica and after a few minutes was going through the fields outside Rome like a bunny on vacation.

At that time all the passengers were occupied reading the newspaper. Even those who hadn't bought a newspaper read, gazing over their neighbor's shoulder. One gentleman, as he turned the page, raised his eyes for a moment, looked outside and stood up to holler:

— Ticket boy, what's going on? Treachery, treachery!

And the other passengers raised their eyes from their newspapers, and the protests became a tempestuous chorus.

— But from here we'll go to Cittavecchia!

— What is the driver doing?

— He's gone mad! Tie him up!

— What kind of service is this!

— It's ten till nine and I have to be in court by nine o' clock — howled a lawyer — and if I lose the case, I'll sue.

The ticket boy and the driver attempted to drive back the assault by declaring that they knew nothing of it and that the trolley wouldn't obey their commands anymore, but seemed to proceed quite by its own accord. In fact, the trolley at that very moment went directly off the road and stopped on the threshold of a little fresh and fragrant forest.

— Oh, wildflowers! — exclaimed a woman. — I shall be late to the office and get quite a scolding, but all the same, seeing as how they're here I should just content myself with the wildflowers. It must have been ten years since I picked them last.

She got off the trolley and with her mouth wide open breathed the air of that strange morning, then went to make a bouquet of wildflowers.

Seeing that the trolley would have nothing to do with leaving, one after another the passengers got off to stretch their legs or smoke a cigarette and after a little while their bad temper disappeared like fog when the sun comes out. One passenger picked a daisy and placed in her buttonhole and another passenger discovered an unripe strawberry and yelled:

— I found it! Now I'll put my business card there and when it's ripe I'll come back to pick it. And woe if I don't find it!

And he took a business card from his billfold, stuck a toothpick through it, and planted the toothpick right next to the strawberry. The name: Doctor Giulio Bollati, was written on the business card.

Two busy office workers from the Department of Education rolled their newspapers into a ball and began to play a game of soccer. And every time they gave the ball a kick they would howl: — to the devil!

Overall, they were no longer the same busybodies who one moment before had wanted to lynch the trolley workers. And some passengers split a little loaf of bread and an omelet and sat on the grass for a picnic.

But — Watch out! — yelled the lawyer suddenly.

The trolley, with a jolt, started to leave all on its own at a gentle trot. The passengers made it just in time to climb on and the last one to climb up was the lady with the wildflowers, who protested: — Oh, but there's no point. I had just started to have fun.

— What time is it now? — someone demanded.

— Who knows how late!

And everyone looked to their wrists. Surprise: the watches still said ten till nine. They saw that during their entire trip into the forest the hands of their wristwatches hadn't moved. It was a gift of time, a little extra, like when one buys a carton of powder detergent and inside the box there's a toy.

— But that can't be! — marveled the woman with the wildflowers as the trolley got back on its course and hurtled down Dandolo road.

And everyone was amazed. And because some still had their newspapers they started reading again and at the top of the newspapers the date was written very clearly: March 21st. Everything is possible on the first day of spring.

(translated by Jordan Mills Pleasant)

Gianni Rodari (1920 - 1980) was an Italian writer and journalist, considered to be the greatest modern children's writer in Italy.

Jordan Mills Pleasant is a member of the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA), and his translations of Dante, Biancamaria Frabotta, and Stefano dalBianco have appeared in the Journal of Italian Translation and Gradiva Magazine. His own poetry has appeared in various journals.

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story copyright by author 2008 all rights reserved
translation copyright 2008 by Jordan Mills Pleasant all rights reserved