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The pizzardone

by Valentina Rizzi

“No, miss, that’s no good. We don’t understand each other”. Here comes the cop again. In Roman dialect they call him pizzardone. Or maybe he is a policeman. He could have come from a movie with Alberto Sordi. If he hadn’t it in for my three-wheeler I might even like him. You would offer him a dish of spaghetti just to hear him say, “You have provoked me, and now I’ll eat you!” My artistic display at the market entrance is like a red rag to a bull to the pizzardone, who is tempted to eat both Bibliolibrò and me: 1,200 euros and the seizure of the vehicle. “Miss, I know you do something good, you sell books for kids, and you are in full view here, everybody knows you, but the law forbids you to stay here and if some other vendor calls me I must intervene... you put me in trouble. Two minutes. You have two minutes to pack up and leave, pretty please!” And he lists all the offences I commit by selling illustrated books with a traveling sales licence in front of a market with an Apecar and a small wobbling table. It only takes me one minute, I remove the flower boxes containing a few books, I close and take the folding table aboard, I pull down the small sun roof and I am ready to go back to the Bibliobox. Bye bye pizzardone, who knows when we shall meet again.
I admit it: I almost miss you already! You might have ruined me, you were right. But even this time behind the uniform there is a grizzled gentleman that, after having shaken off his subordinate, comes back to me and says: “Why do you come here in the middle of the morning, when all the places are taken? At the Monday Market in Via Evans there are free places, you only need to be there at seven o’clock for the tallying”... The tallying, he explains, is the roll called by officers before assigning the vacant places to the street vendors. I feel like kissing your forehead and remember the letter to the students in which Pasolini defended the cops. I think of this poor guy who makes ends meet by enforcing laws that are as improper, old and disconnected as the streets around me. “I have to go, people are waiting for us at the other market”.
In the driving mirror I see you move away sneaky and I wonder whether you have children, whether at lunchtime somebody is waiting for you at home with a dish of spaghetti on the table. One thing I know for sure: you can’t sell books in the streets and have your business in order, the places at the markets are subject to public notice and these notices have been shelved for years by the council of Rome. To sell books in a shop, you have to run after rent prices that gallop without any kind of assurance in the suburbs. You become an outlaw more out of duty than of necessity. In order to guarantee to 80,000 people the survival of the only specialized bookshop for kids that is still open. It doesn’t matter whether you have won a public notice two years ago and you are the only supplier of illustrated books for libraries and schools. Before I disappear I’d like to give you a book about Miró or Paul Klee, or maybe Topsy Turvy World (the one we live in) or, even better, Rifugi (shelters that would allow us to sell books undisturbed) or, yes of course, Senzaparole, wordless, like I was left after I met this man. But I would be accused of corruption. Imprisoned for having attempted to corrupt a pizzardone through a hail of poetry.
Enough for today, the book pusher draws back smiling, followed by a crowd of mothers, grandparents and teachers galloping after me as soon as they see me leave the market. “Biblio, wait! I need a book about the sea! Biblio, are you going away? Where will we find you? What shall I say to my grandson that was looking for a book about dinosaurs? Tomorrow is Lucia’s birthday, have you got a nice illustrated book? Throw us the last issue of Illustrati, at least... See you next book. You are amazing! You make us dream!!!! Will you attend the Turin Book Fair?” It’s a strange place, Italy, and it’s a strange job being a pusher of illustrated books.