Chiara Barzini


What I didn’t understand was why everybody felt like they had to masturbate furiously upon the arrival of the tidal wave. It was true, the island would be submersed and this was driving everyone mad, but the way they all mingled and got off with each other while they waited for the end, baffled me.

The distant ruffles in the water would turn into something huge and steady. It would come forth like a wall, they said, and sweep us all away.

I didn’t feel like getting off before I died, or experimenting too much. I felt it was more important to show some organizational skills at that point. Maybe, I thought, if we could just get our shit together and climb to the top of the volcano, we might risk being burned to death. The island would shake and lava might erupt, but at least we wouldn’t drown or die getting hit by an old boat or an anchor flying towards us under water. Nobody cared about my proposal. They were so daring with their promiscuity. Couples traded partners, women touched themselves lonesomely on the rocks by the sea, brothers kissed each other, friends bore their naked sexes and asked other friends to be loved and licked. I retreated on top of a roof and lay on a bundle of dry sticks that formed a nest for humans. I held a steady gaze towards the horizon.

The moon would get thicker and wider when the wave was on its way, they said. That was so like me, I thought. Everyone on the shores having wild sex and me finding solace in the spikes of old sticks. I stayed alone looking at the bay. The moon became big. The wall of water was coming.


The teenagers gather around the man because he tells them he is the father they never had. He has a beard and a long snake between his legs. He drives a Rolls Royce and lives in a mansion in the hills. The girls sleep with him at night and listen to his prayers. Each child born in their home is his. Breastfeeding is the perfect, natural way, he tells them. The teenagers don’t complain. They sway towards him with hollow eyes and smoke the sacred herb. One of them was a beauty pageant queen.


My baby would receive a beautiful room filled with the wood and plastic gadgets he might need. Flavored rubber objects to suck on, amorphous ducks that emitted squeaky sounds, toddler pillows, and toilet things I could wrap him in after his baths. The room was stocked, a perfect nursery, but it would not be in my own house. I had to look for it around the world. Sooner or later I would find it.

My son was born and we went searching. I asked around if anybody had heard jingly toys in their building, or had seen shipments of rubber ducks being delivered. Nobody had a clue. We traveled far and when we found the room, in a big red brick building, the toys seemed to scowl at us for being late. They refused to exert a charm on me or the baby. The towels were dusty and fell apart when you touched them. The playthings had shriveled. They had lost volume, especially the inflatable trucks and the floating boats. “That’s the most useless form of baby shower ever,” I told my son with regret. He shook his shoulders and grabbed a pacifier from the shelf. At least it still tasted like raspberry.

Chiara Barzini is a screen and fiction writer living in Rome. Her writing has appeared in Bomb Magazine, Noon, Salt Hill Journal, The Encyclopedia Project, The NY Tyrant, as well as the Village Voice, Rolling Stone Italy, Flair, Italian Vanity Fair, and Harper’s Magazine. Her debut fiction collection, Sister Stop Breathing, was published by Calamari Press in February 2012.

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