How it is in Vico by Devan Collins Del Conte

How it is in Vico

In Vico there’s one bar and a herd of stray dogs that everybody knows. The old men play chess in the square and feed the dogs. The kids, they mostly grow up to take jobs with computers in towns that have more than one bar. On a hilltop there’s a restaurant that shares my name but is no relation; it’s open only in the summer.

From our apartment, you can jog twenty minutes past a field with two donkeys — perhaps brothers, perhaps mother and son — and beyond the field you reach a view of the sea, but you cannot reach the water. By the sea, beyond a stretch of swaying grass that might be wheat and is just as gold, there’s a tower that town kids sneak to in the evening. Drunk on salt and double dares, they seek edges.

One day, my brothers buy a jug of wine that is pink in a way that looks accidental.

We are not trying to drink this whole jug of wine, one of them says.

But we aren’t not trying to drink this whole jug of wine, says the other, and they fill each other’s glasses. I make a big salad for our dinner and add parsley by the handful. I drink from a separate wine bottle so I don’t spoil their game.

I go down the stairs of our apartment to the street. A woman yells at her grandchildren in a dialect they don’t understand, having gotten their words from their parents out of town, and from school, and from the television. It is summer, and school is out. They are visitors here too, those kids.

In the street, I pet a shaggy black dog I call Franco after my cousin who I met a few weeks earlier. Human Franco lives in Bologna and doesn’t talk to his father because of a falling out that I didn’t understand, because I don’t understand the language, not really. And I don’t understand that tearing of seams, ripping at blood, cutting family off like a necrotic limb. My brothers tried to mend the rift and, failing, still felt valiant in their efforts. Yesterday, Franco’s father died, vomited in his sleep and choked. Yesterday marked two months since I last got my period. I crave parsley, chop it up and mix it into everything, tear mouthfuls from the stem and spend long minutes cleaning it from my teeth. Soon I will tell one or the other of my brothers — maybe the nice one, maybe the one who likes to feel in charge — and they will do what they will do.

I brush Dog Franco with my own hairbrush and eventually cry because of all the wine and because Franco looks tired and as though he’d rather sleep indoors. We have been here twelve weeks; we know everyone in town but only slightly. They don’t understand why we stay but they like it; they encourage us to buy things, and we do. At night the kids drink at the bar and spill into the square and walk up and down streets in outfits and flashy jewelry and their teeth flash too and their voices are ripe and sharp at once. Those kids are all somebody’s cousin, but they steal kisses and handfuls of flesh indiscriminately; they know they will leave this place, and their memories will go grainy but for those flashes of sensation. They grab what they can.

When my brothers finish the wine I am drunk and the apartment has flooded again and we bail out the kitchen floor with saucepans. My brothers say, Let’s never leave. They say, This is perfection. I climb the stairs to bed and bar the door.

The kids sneak to the tower once the bar closes, and from the top window of the apartment, I watch them. How their bodies split the grass like arrows. At the base of the tower the boys shout demands and the girls giggle and lean on each other and eat sugary snacks they carried in their bags. There have been times I believed I saw a face in the tower window, when the faint light from downtown hit the stone right, but I could never be certain. Let down your hair, the boys call up to the now empty window, deepening their voices and clenching their fists. They bang at the boarded door that doesn’t budge. They’ll never get in that way. The girls laugh and scold them for their volume but each time they wait, not a little afraid. A hank of hair like gold ribbon might unfold itself from the window to trail at their feet, inviting the boys up to stay, demanding the girls decide, whether or not to follow.


How It Is In Vico


Devan Collins Del Conte is a queer writer living in Memphis, Tennessee. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Hobart, Cosmonauts Avenue, Lunch Ticket and elsewhere. Find her at


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